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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Saudi cleric threatens death penalty for airing immodest TV shows

Airing immodest shows could incur death penalty - Saudi cleric
Reuters - 13 September, 2008

The head of Saudi Arabia's Islamic Sharia courts has said owners of Arabic television stations airing immodest shows in Ramadan could face execution, Saudi web sites said on Friday.

Sheikh Saleh al-Lohaidan, one of the most powerful clerics in the world's biggest oil exporter, was responding to a question on a radio phone-in programme on Wednesday about the owners of TV stations airing programmes that "offend modesty", especially during the holy month of Ramadan.

"If the evil of those who promote corruption in belief and actions cannot be held back through lesser punishments, then they can be put to death through the judicial process," Lohaidan, head of the Supreme Judicial Council said.

Recordings of the show were posted on web sites and passed around by mobile phone message in Saudi Arabia.

He appeared to be referring to Turkish soap operas that became hugely popular in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries this year, provoking a storm of anger among conservatives in Saudi Arabia who fear the spread of secular culture.

They gained huge popularity partly because they were dubbed into colloquial Arabic and focussed on a Muslim country whose culture many Arabs can relate to. The characters would fast in Ramadan but also drink wine.

The government's official advisor on religious affairs, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdelaziz Al al-Sheikh, said in July it was not Islamically permissible to watch the Turkish serials.

The shows, "Nour" and "Lost Years", were aired by MBC, a satellite television group owned by a brother-in-law of former Saudi King Fahd and based in the United Arab Emirates.

Concerned about the country's international image, some key members of the Saudi royal family have promoted liberal reforms but others have stayed close to the powerful clerics.

Ramadan is a month of fasting when Muslims are supposed to focus on God, but critics say it becomes an orgy of TV and food consumption once the fast ends at sunset.

(Reporting by Andrew Hammond; editing by Philippa Fletcher; Riyadh newsroom)

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Proposed Palestinian transitional government would exclude Fatah and Hamas

An Egyptian propoal to end the internal Palestinian crisis calls for a transitional government that would not include members from either faction, in order to overcome the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip imposed after Hamas took control.

The transitional government would prepare for the holding of early elections and aim to rebuild the security services on a professional, rather than factional basis. The plan would be presented to the factions later this month.
Hamas claims that Palestinian National Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has to retire in January after four years, necessitating new elections, while Fatah claims his term was extended for another year. Most Palestinians agree with the Hamas position, even though they would vote for Fateh accoding to the polls.
Later in September, evidently on September 22, Egyptian officials will meet separately with Hamas and Fatah leaders to propose the plan and get their acceptance.

The Palestinian crisis began with the election of a Hamas majority in January of 2006. After a brief unity government, Hamas staged a violent coup in Gaza, setting up a separate government in June of 2007.  Hamas fired on checkpoints and made it impossible to bring goods into Gaza, and then claimed that Gaza is under siege.
Ami Isseroff  

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An apologist for Hamas TV - Censored article

The Jerusalem Post recently published and then removed, an article by Edwin Bennatan that reviewed a comment by Seth Freedman in the Guardian. Freedman asserted that Hamas television is accurate and no different from Western Media. Perhaps better in fact.
The Jerusalem Post was under the impression that the article below was threatening, and therefore they removed it and apologized.
It is hard to see how this article is any more unfair or libelous than Mr. Freedman's article. Evidently, the Jerusalem Post was "gotten too" by the same sort of people who shut down Hurry Up Harry for writing up the story about UCU linking to the David Duke Web site.  See UCU anti-Zionists, Harry's Place, censorship and anti-Zionism vs Anti-Semitism.
The article below was retrieved from the Google Cache.
Ami Isseroff

An apologist for Hamas TV

Counterpoint to

Harsh words: but true

People object to the wanton destruction meted out in [Palestinian] villages by the IDF being likened to pogroms - the word having been somehow arrogated by certain Jewish people for their exclusive use."

Seth Freedman
The Guardian (London)
August 21, 2008

At which point do absurd comparisons become blatantly offensive? The Guardian's Seth Freedman recently compared the western media to the Al-Aqsa television station. You need to realize just how perverse this station really is in order to fully grasp the absurdity of Freedman's comparison.

Here's a brief glimpse of Al-Aqsa TV, which was launched by Hamas in 2006 as part of its campaign to counter what it saw as Israeli propaganda in the western media. The station transmits news, documentaries, and children's programs from Gaza.

A Mickey Mouse lookalike character tells children that he will eat the Jews, and then sings "We will never recognize Israel", while a little girl joins in for the refrain: "Until we liberate our homeland from the Zionist filth."

A TV bunny is tempted by Satan to steal, and is sentenced by children viewers to be punished according to the Koran, by having his hand chopped off.  He then threatens to kill the people of Denmark for the publication of a cartoon that illustrates the prophet Muhammad.

And in a particular potent strain of edification, Arab children are stuffed into a crematorium embellished with a nazi swastika and a Jewish Star of David, while for more mature viewers, a Hamas documentary program explains that it was the Jews who planned the Holocaust in order to kill other Jews who were handicapped.

The station's news broadcast reports that Israel is creating artificial earthquakes to shake the foundations of the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, and in an interview with Agence France-Presse, the station's news manager, Ibrahim Daher, explains: "We adapt news so that it is compatible with our culture, the values of our people, and Islam".

Freedman recently summarized his impressions of the television station after having spent some time with a Palestinian family in the West Bank watching the news with two of his host's sons.

He implies that there is a balance of bias between the way the supposedly pro-Israel media disseminates information from the Middle East and the way Hamas television reports its version of events. He states: "The abandoning of western media parlance... in favor of an entirely different lexicon was a rude awakening for me, having been fed on a vastly different diet over the years." (Freedman is a fairly recent immigrant to Israel from Britain.)

Freedman sees an equitable parallel between the Hamas broadcasts on the one hand and the Israel and Western media (he combines the two) on the other; they are basically two sides of the same coin.  " would be "wholly understandable" if a viewer of al-Aqsa TV who tuned into any western station from the BBC to Sky News and beyond felt a mirror-image outrage simply because of the terms used to describe the conflict."

And regarding the news broadcast that he was watching with his host's sons, he adds, "...the terms used ...were indicative of how wide the gulf is between ordinary citizens "on either side of the divide".

Freedman's lengthy introduction leads up to his main point: the vocabulary that is used to describe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is always unavoidably offensive to one side and acceptable to the other, due to the sides' different perspectives of the conflict. Thus, whenever Freedman tries "to call a spade a spade" he inevitably finds himself under fire from one side or the other. (Of course in his case the fire almost exclusively come from the Israeli side, because he rarely, if ever, has anything good to say about his newfound homeland.)

Freedman gives examples of his difficulty in calling a spade a spade. According to Freedman, the Palestinians are upset with the use of the terms settlers instead of colonists, and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) instead of the more appropriate (according to Freedman) Israel Occupying Forces. 

On the other hand, Israelis are upset with the term apartheid despite it being the more appropriate term for the situation in the West Bank (according to Freedman), and with the term pogrom to describe the destruction by the IDF in Palestinians villages, which is a term that Freedman believes has been "arrogated by certain Jewish people for their exclusive use, and only then in relation to the Jews' own historical suffering." (Freedman is apparently unaware that the term 'pogrom' entered English from Yiddish/Russian where it described the carnage of Jews in Eastern Europe.)
By his defense of these egregious descriptors, Freedman has set himself up as an apologist for the excesses of the Al-Aqsa station. In particular, his attempt to explain away the sensitivity of Israelis towards the careless use of the term 'pogrom' is inexcusable, considering that as a Jew and an Israeli he cannot claim ignorance. 

Freedman concludes with one of his more remarkable statements. "While I understand how emotionally invested people (myself included) become when focusing on the conflict," he says, "we should not allow a situation where plainly-spoken facts are dismissed simply because the reader or viewer feels uncomfortable with the truth."  In other words, those who reject the use of descriptors such as apartheid, Israel Occupying Forces, and pogroms, are clearly doing so because they are "uncomfortable with the truth".  The possibility doesn't even enter Freedman's mind that they are rejecting these terms because they are uncomfortable with falsehoods.

While Freedman's most extreme allegations have been omitted here, he himself is a living rebuttal to his own claims.  In Israel, he can call a spade a spade whenever he wishes; in fact he can even call it a pogrom.  This is one of the benefits of living in a free society, - a privilege certainly not afforded by Hamas to the Gaza viewers of Al-Aqsa TV. 

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Free Speech in Berkeley--Except for Zionists

Pro-Palestinian extremists defaced a Jewish - Arab coexistence poster at Berkeley, as Dr Mike tells on in Free Speech in Berkeley--Except for Zionists:  
Berkeley California is where the "Free Speech Movement" originated in the 1960's. Unfortunately, it appears that such ideals are no longer applicable when it comes to pro-Israel speech. The latest evidence for that statement is the defacing of a poster from BlueStar PR in a bus shelter. BlueStarPR, for those who missed our previous post about them, is an innovative firm located in San Francisco that creates novel pro-Israel advertisements--some are political, some are cultural, some are environmental.

In the world of "political correctness", however, pro-Israel sentiments are apparently not acceptable so
one of the posters was vandalized by someone with an obvious political agenda. Interestingly, the poster in question showed an Israeli Arab soccer player and discussed coexistence between Jews and Arabs. It wasn't anti-Arab, or defending the occupation of the West Bank, or really in any way political-- except that it supported Israel's existence.
More about that here: Free Speech in Berkeley--Except for Zionists


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Antony Lerman defends Jewish anti-Semites in Ha'aretz

The thesis that anti-Zionism == anti-Semitism in practice, whatever the theoretical issues might be, was proven when Boycott Israel activitists linked to the neo-Nazi David Duke Web site (see UCU anti-Zionists, Harry's Place, censorship and anti-Zionism vs Anti-Semitism). Even if they had never heard of David Duke, the fact is that they could not distinguish Nazi propaganda from their concept of "legitimate criticism" of Israel.
The sight of anti-"Zionist" Jews embracing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at this Holocaust Denial conference likewise provided incontroverible proof of the existence of anti-Semitic Jews, regardless of the Zionism question. A further proof, if one was needed, might be found in the ranting of Jews for Jesus head Brickner, who explained that the Jews are cursed for rejecting Jesus and are a rebellious people (see Jewish anti-Semites I: Jews for Jesus). But Antony Lerman has ignored the facts to produce his own whitewash of anti-Zionism. Simply Jews comments on Antony Lerman and the Jewish question:
The first thought I had reading the Haaretz article Jews attacking Jews by Antony Lerman wasn't totally dissimilar to that battle cry: who the heck is the editor that published this one? He definitely needs some killing. On the other hand, it could have been a slow day in the office of Haaretz, and this thing just happened in the inbox - who knows, let's be charitable.

One cannot, of course, keep a straight face and blame the author - he is too daft, it looks like, to be held responsible for the drivel he spouts. For example:
When Jew-hatred is identified, it's mostly in the form of what many call the "new anti-Semitism" - essentially, anti-Zionism. Others (this writer included) fundamentally dispute that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are synonymous.
"Many" usually say that the new anti-Semitism is using anti-Zionism as a cover - not that all anti-Zionists are automatically anti-Semites. So "others" (Antony Lerman included) could go and screw themselves vigorously, instead of "fundamentally dispute" the false strawman these "others" created to publicly destroy to their own satisfaction.

Another good one:
Anything from strong criticism of Israel's policies, through sympathetic critiques of Zionism, to advocacy of a one-state solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict, is defined as anti-Zionism, when none of these positions are prima facie anti-Zionist.
So the advocates of a one-state solution are not anti-Zionist? Yeah. But in this passage Antony Lerman makes his dimness outstandingly clear:
The new EU-approved definition fundamentally subverts the term because to warrant the charge of anti-Semitism, it is sufficient to hold any view ranging from criticism of the policies of the current Israeli government, to denial of Israel's right to exist - without having to subscribe to any of the elements that historians have traditionally regarded as constituting an anti-Semitic view. And it puts out of bounds the perfectly legitimate discussion of whether increased anti-Semitism is a result of Israel's actions.
Notice the last sentence, which is a final giveaway: these pesky Israelis are making Lerman's life hard by their ill-considered behavior. Repeating many an anti-Zionist (and many an anti-Semitic) "thinker", starting with incomparable Seumas Milne who several years ago claimed that Jews in Europe would feel much better were Israel to behave...
If Lerman had stated that some criticisms of anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism are unfair, I think his point would be acceptable. But Lerman is trying to legitimize everyone from the Neturei Karteh to Israel Shamir as "critics of Israeli policy." Moreover, by repeating the thesis that Israeli actions are responsible  for anti-Semitism, Lerman proves what he himself is. Blaming anti-Semitism on the Jews is not a new idea, and we know where it comes from.
The editorial policies of some newspapers are beyond human understanding. In the case of Ha'aretz however, it is all too easy to understand why they published that particular article.
Ami Isseroff

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Egypt to get TOW missiles, US Blackhawks and anti-radar equipment

US government is required to state by law in announcements to congress:
The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not affect the basic military balance in the region.
This is stated whether it is true or not. The announcement claims:
Egypt needs these helicopters to support a newly established military Search and Rescue Operations Center and to assist with border security missions. The helicopters will be used to perform search and rescue, surveillance, observation missions, and to modernize Egypt's existing aircraft inventory.

But the package includes devices to foil enemy radar detection, which is not needed for "border security" or search and rescue. What is the application of the following in search and rescue missions?
4 AN/APR-39A(V)2 Radar Signal Detecting Sets, 4 AN/ALQ-144A(V)1 Infrared Countermeasure Sets, 4 AN/AAR-57 Common Missile Warning Systems (CMWS), 4 AN/AVR-2A Laser Warning Sets, and 4 Improved Hover Infrared Suppression Systems (IHIRSS).
The anti-armor guided missiles will presumably not be used in search and rescue missions either. On the other hand, there is a high probability they will find their way into Gaza.
Ami Isseroff
Egypt - UH-60M BLACK HAWK Helicopters
(Source: US Defense Security Cooperation Agency; issued Sept. 9, 2008)
WASHINGTON --- The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Egypt of UH-60M BLACK HAWK Helicopters as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $176 million.

The Government of Egypt has requested a possible sale of 4 UH-60M BLACK HAWK helicopters with 8 T-700-GE-701D engines, 1 spare T-700-GE-701D engine, 4 AN/APR-39A(V)2 Radar Signal Detecting Sets, 4 AN/ALQ-144A(V)1 Infrared Countermeasure Sets, 4 AN/AAR-57 Common Missile Warning Systems (CMWS), 4 AN/AVR-2A Laser Warning Sets, and 4 Improved Hover Infrared Suppression Systems (IHIRSS).

Also included: SAFIRE/II/HD Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR), M130 Flare and Chaff Dispensers, and AN/ALE-47 Countermeasures Dispenser Systems (CMDS), spare and repair parts, tools and support equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. government and contractor technical and logistics personnel services, and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost is $176 million.

This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country which has been and continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East.

Egypt needs these helicopters to support a newly established military Search and Rescue Operations Center and to assist with border security missions. The helicopters will be used to perform search and rescue, surveillance, observation missions, and to modernize Egypt's existing aircraft inventory.

Egypt will have no difficulty absorbing these additional aircraft into its armed forces.

The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not affect the basic military balance in the region.

The principal contractors will be: Sikorsky Aircraft (United Technologies) Corporation of Stratford, Connecticut, Schweizer Aircraft Company of Horseheads, New York, and General Electric Aircraft Company of Lynn, Massachusetts. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.

Implementation of this proposed sale will not require the assignment of any additional U. S. Government or contractor personnel in Egypt.

There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale.

This notice of a potential sale is required by law; it does not mean that the sale has been concluded. (ends)
 Egypt - TOW 2A Anti-Armor Guided Missiles
(Source: US Defense Security Cooperation Agency; issued Sept. 9, 2008)
WASHINGTON --- The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Egypt of TOW 2A Anti-Armor Guided Missiles as well as associated equipment and services.

The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $319 million.

The Government of Egypt has requested a possible sale of 6,900 TOW 2A anti-armor guided missiles, plus 28 fly-to-buy missiles. Also included: containers, test sets and support equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical data, maintenance, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor technical and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost is $319 million.

This sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country which has been and continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East.

Egypt needs these TOW 2A missiles to replenish its aging inventory. Egypt will have no difficulty absorbing these additional missiles into its armed

The sale of this equipment and support will not affect the basic military balance in the region.

Implementation of this proposed sale will not require the assignment of any additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives to Egypt.

The prime contractor will be Raytheon Company, Tucson, AZ. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.

There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale.

This notice of a potential sale is required by law; it does not mean that the sale has been concluded. (ends)

Egypt - 120MM High Explosive with Tracer (HE-T) Cartridges
(Source: US Defense Security Cooperation Agency; issued Sept. 9, 2008)

WASHINGTON --- The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Egypt of 120MM High Explosive with Tracer (HE-T) Cartridges as well as associated equipment and services.

The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $69 million.

The Government of Egypt has requested a possible sale of 15,500 120mm High Explosive with Tracer (HE-T) Cartridges, 200 Dummy 120mm HE-T Cartridges, and 100 Cutaway 120mm HE-T, field implementation, testing, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, U. S. Government logistics
personnel services, and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost is $69 million.

This sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country which has been and continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East.

Egypt needs these 120mm HE-T cartridges to maintain a strategic munitions inventory for its M1A1 tank fleet. Egypt will have no difficulty absorbing these additional munitions into its armed forces since it already has this type of munition in its inventory.

The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not affect the basic military balance in the region.

The principal contractor is General Dynamics Ordnance Tactical Systems of St. Petersburg, Florida. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.

Implementation of this proposed sale will not require the assignment of any additional U. S. Government or contractor personnel in Egypt.

There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale.

This notice of a potential sale is required by law; it does not mean that the sale has been concluded.


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US blocking package to support Israeli attack on Iran

The US has blocked approval of a military aid and support package for Israel over the past few months, because of obvious concern that Israel would use it to attack nuclear facilities in Iran. The packaged included a request for a large shipment  of "bunker-buster" bombs, permission to for overflights of Iraq, an advanced technological system and refueling aircraft.
Israelis and US officials have been discussing the Israeli request over the past few months. Rejection would make it very difficult for Israel to attack Iran.
Bunker-buster GBU-28 bombs reportedly requested by Israel can penetrate six meters of reinforced concrete, presumably sufficient for hardened underground nuclear development facilities. An attack on Iran would be easiest if Israel had rights of passage through Iraqi air space.  Americans may have told Israel to try to get such permission from Iraqi PM al Maliki. Since only the US air force could interdict passage, the ruse is transparent.
Given the known range of Israeli F-15 and F-16 aircraft, an attack would require midair refuelingIsrael Channel 10 reported recently that  U.S. rejected an Israeli request for Boeing 767 refueling tankers. Israel could modify commercially purchased aircraft for this purpose. The IDF is overhauling a Boeing 707 that previously served as the prime minister's plane to serve as a refueling aircraft.
The advanced technological systems Israel requested have not been specified publicly. They may involve cloaking systems to foil radar detection. 
Defence Minister Barak made these requests in Washington in July and was evidently turned down. Americans are supposedly pursuing diplomatic options to halt the Iranian nuclear project, However, the U.S. has agreed to provide Israel with an advanced  U.S. radar system would be stationed in the Negev. The system would double to 2,000 kilometers the range of identification of missiles launched from the direction of Iran, and would be connected to an American early warning system.
Israeli leaders reportedly believe the US has abandoned any plans to attack Iran during the Bush administration's remaining tenure. Diplomatic efforts can only be successful in restraining Iran if there is a credible threat of armed intervention by Israel or the United States. Thus, the rejection of Israeli requests and the apparent reluctance of the US to commit to attacking Iran, stymie diplomatic efforts. Though many advocate engaging Iran, US representative Burns returned empty handed from a meeting with Iranian negotiators and it is not likely that their stance will change in present circumstances.
Even if Israel were to get the equipment to carry out an attack, it is very unlikely that a military solution would be adopted. An Israeli attack would invite retaliation by Hezbollah using long range rockets and by Iran using missiles, as well as blockade of the straits of Hormuz. The straits are a major route for transportation of the world's oil supplies. A blockade would cause a steep rise in oil prices and a world economic crisis. 
Since 1967, Israel has become increasingly dependent on the United States for military aid. This dependence is partly necessitated by the increasing scope and sophistication of modern warfare and escalation in armaments introduced into the Middle East following the Six Day War. Dependence is also fostered intentionally by the United States to maintain some control over Israeli policies, and is convenient for Israel, which enjoys a controversial $3 billion aid package.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Jordan prosecutes criticism of Islam

Actually, criticism of Islam or "blasphemy" is outlawed in many Muslim countries. In some, it carries the death penalty. Americans are very naive if the Jordanian move surprises them. 

Criminalizing Criticism of Islam

September 10, 2008

There are strange happenings in the world of international jurisprudence that do not bode well for the future of free speech. In an unprecedented case, a Jordanian court is prosecuting 12 Europeans in an extraterritorial attempt to silence the debate on radical Islam.

The prosecutor general in Amman charged the 12 with blasphemy, demeaning Islam and Muslim feelings, and slandering and insulting the prophet Muhammad in violation of the Jordanian Penal Code. The charges are especially unusual because the alleged violations were not committed on Jordanian soil.

Among the defendants is the Danish cartoonist whose alleged crime was to draw in 2005 one of the Muhammad illustrations that instigators then used to spark Muslim riots around the world. His co-defendants include 10 editors of Danish newspapers that published the images. The 12th accused man is Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, who supposedly broke Jordanian law by releasing on the Web his recent film, "Fitna," which tries to examine how the Quran inspires Islamic terrorism.

Jordan's attempt at criminalizing free speech beyond its own borders wouldn't be so serious if it were an isolated case. Unfortunately, it is part of a larger campaign to use the law and international forums to intimidate critics of militant Islam. For instance, in December the United Nations General Assembly passed the Resolution on Combating Defamation of Religions; the only religion mentioned by name was Islam. While such resolutions aren't legally binding, national governments sometimes cite them as justification for legislation or other actions.

More worrying, the U.N. Human Rights Council in June said it would refrain from condemning human-rights abuses related to "a particular religion." The ban applies to all religions, but it was prompted by Muslim countries that complained about linking Islamic law, Shariah, to such outrages as female genital mutilation and death by stoning for adulterers. This kind of self-censorship could prove dangerous for people suffering abuse, and it follows the council's March decision to have its expert on free speech investigate individuals and the media for negative comments about Islam.

Given this trend, it's worth taking a closer look at the Jordanian case.

The prosecutor is relying on a 2006 amendment to the Jordanian Justice Act that casts a worryingly wide net for such prosecution. Passed in response to the Danish cartoons incident, the law allows the prosecution of individuals whose actions affect the Jordanian people by "electronic means," such as the Internet. The 2006 amendment, in theory, means anyone who publishes on the Internet could be subject to prosecution in Jordan. If the case against the 12 defendants is allowed to go forward, they will be the first but probably not the last Westerners to be hit by Jordan's law.

Amman has already requested that Interpol apprehend Mr. Wilders and the Danes and bring them to stand before its court for an act that is not a crime in their home countries. To the contrary. Dutch prosecutors said in July that although some of Mr. Wilders's statements may be offensive, they are protected under Dutch free-speech legislation. Likewise, Danish law protects the rights of the Danish cartoonists and newspapers to express their views.

Neither Denmark nor the Netherlands will turn over its citizens to Interpol, as the premise of Jordan's extradition request is an affront to the very principles that define democracies. It is thus unlikely that any Western country would do so, either. But there is no guarantee for the defendants' protection if they travel to countries that are more sympathetic to the Jordanian court.

Unless democratic countries stand up to this challenge to free speech, other nations may be emboldened to follow the Jordanian example. Kangaroo courts across the globe will be ready to charge free people with obscure violations of other societies' norms and customs, and send Interpol to bring them to stand trial in frivolous litigation.

A new form of forum shopping would soon take root. Activists would be able to choose countries whose laws and policies are informed by their religious values to prosecute critical voices in other countries. The case before the Jordanian court is not just about Mr. Wilders and the Danes. It is about the subjugation of Western standards of free speech to fear and coercion by foreign courts.

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Israeli scientists participate in CERN particle accelerator experiment

Israeli scientists are participating, along with many others, in the CERN particle accelerator project. The most powerful particle accelerator ever built will eventually test predictions of what is known as the "Standard Model" of modern physics.
The standard model replaced the simpler world of protons, neutrons and electrons with an apparently infinite and bewildering progression of even more evanescent particles produced by ever more powerful accelerators. Each accelerator finds new particles predicted from experiments in smaller accelerators, but also causes the models to predict new particles required to explain the behavior of those found. Popular journals are billing the experiment as eventually "proving or disproving" the Standard Model and explaining the origins of the universe. It will do no such thing. It might provide evidence for or against the standard model and different current cosmogeny theories. In particular, physicists are hoping to identify a Higgs Boson particle, predicted since 1964. The Higgs Boson is named after Scottish physicist Peter Higgs who first proposed it in 1964, claiming it can explain how matter gains mass.
The huge underground CERN accelerator project near Geneva is the latest in a series of such accelerators. A similar project in the United States was delayed or cancelled due to lack of funds. The "experiment" at CERN, or rather series of experiments are planned for 20 years, by which time the accelerator will no doubt be obsolete. A more powerful accelerator will be needed to prove the existence of particles predicted from this series of experiments.

The accelerator is called the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC.  The LHC runs underground between France and Switzerland. It  uses giant magnets housed in cathedral-size man-made caverns to fire beams of energy particles around a 27-km tunnel where they collide at speeds approaching the speed of light. Computers  record each experiment. The data will be analyzed by some 10,000 scientists around the globe.
"The LHC was conceived to radically change our vision of the universe," said CERN's French Director-General Robert Aymar. "Whatever discoveries it brings, mankind's understanding of our world's origins will be greatly enriched."
CERN scientists have been at pains to deny a rumor started by some critics that the experiment could create tiny black holes of intense gravity that could suck in the entire planet. These rumors caused some panic in Israel and elsewhere.
The CERN project, begins with a relatively simple procedure: sending a particle beam around the underground tunnel. The initial experiments are designed to test the system and calibrate it.
When and if that trial is successful, beams will be sent in both direction at increasing intensities. Detectors will monitor the billions of particles that will emerge from the collisions, capturing on computer the way they come together, fly apart or just simply dissolve.

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Iraqi parliamentarian opens Herzliya anti-terror conference in Israel

Iraqi parliamentarian Mithal al-Alousi, Secretary General of the Nation Party,  delivered the opening statements at the Herzliyah Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) Conference Wednesday. 
Al-Alousi called for stronger relations between Iraq and Israel and stronger cooperation between Iraq and Israel in fighting terror. He harshly condemned Iran, which he accused of meddling in Iraqi affairs.
Al Alousi is the sole representative of the Nation (Ummah) party, which got 0.3% of the vote. He is an outspoken proponent of democracy and supporter of the United States and Israel. He spoke at the ICT conference on two previous occasions. His visit in 2004 elicited harsh criticism in Iraq and several attacks were launched against them, including one that left his two sons dead.
Al Alousi has dual Iraqi-German citizenship, having lived in exile in Germany during the rule of Saddam Hussein. This makes it possible for him to travel to Israel.


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Israel prevented two planned attacks on Israelis abroad

On Wednesday, Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced that security officials managed to stop two attacks against Israelis on foreign soil.
"We've prevented, with the help of international agencies, at least two attacks against Israelis in different corners of the world," Barak stated. "Clearly there is a risk, especially to former high-ranking officers who go to Muslim countries without prior security arrangements."
Barak urged such officers to take precautions. "Being Israeli implies great pride but also great responsibility. IDF officers and Israeli official as well as unofficial envoys should be alert and abide by the warnings."

Israel's security services have lately warned that the Lebanese guerilla organization Hezbollah will try to kidnap reserve Israel Defense Forces officers, to avenge the death of the organization's top commander Imad Mughniyeh. Moughniyeh died when a car bomb exploded in his vehicle in Damascus Syria. Hezbollah and Syria blame Israel, but have not produced any evidence of Israeli involved or any explanation of how Israeli agents could operate in Damascus, under the eyes of the Syrian secret police. Moughniyeh was responsible for the attack on the Jewish center in Buenos Aires, the attack on the Israeli embassy in Argentina, the suicide bombings of Americans in Beirut and many other bloody operations against American, Israeli and Arab world targets. His killers are unknown.
Barak also commented on the rearming of Hezbollah, "We are all concerned about Hezbollah's increased capabilities, which have reached an unprecedented peak. They now have 40,000 missiles capable of hitting  Yeruham, Dimona and Arad [distant targets in the Negev]."

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Israel Air Forces Cobra helicopter crashes

An Israel Air Force Cobra helicopter crashed in the Jezreel Valley on Wednesday, during a routine training exercise near Kibbutz Ginegar. The Cobra carries only two crewmen, a pilot and a gunner. The helicopter caught fire and exploded when it hit the ground . Rescue teams summoned to the area have had difficulty reaching the wreckage due to the size of the fire.The two crewmen may be assumed to be dead.

The two Cobra attack helicopters were flying in formation when one pilot noticed the other was no longer in the air and landed.
Police have closed off the area, out of fear that bystanders could be hurt by ammunition on the helicopter.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Aliyah to Dothan Alabama?

Many Jews will live anywhere except Israel, and support "Aliya" to anywhere except Israel: Germany, Afghanistan and now Dothan Alabama. The main attraction of this town seems to be large fiberglass peanuts. The rabbi of the new Zion states:
"The Northeast has a really warped perception of what the South is all about, and I found out it was all wrong," she said. "The South is a wonderful place to be. The people are warm and friendly. There's very little traffic. And best of all, there's no snow."
"I love those dear hearts and gentle people
That live in my home town."
Come to Israel instead. The people are warm and friendly, and there's no snow either. And best of all, there are no fiberglass peanuts.  Where are the Jewish foundations are offering $50,000 for families to move to Israel??
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 23:03 08/09/2008       
Group offers Jews $50,000 to move to U.S. Bible Belt town
By The Associated Press
Larry Blumberg is looking for a few good Jews to move to his heavily Christian corner of the U.S. South.
Blumberg is chairman of the Blumberg Family Relocation Fund, which is offering Jewish families as much as $50,000 to relocate to Dothan, an overwhelmingly Christian town of 58,000 that calls itself the Peanut Capital of the World.
Get involved at Temple Emanu-El and stay at least five years, the group's leaders say, and the money doesn't have to be repaid.
More Jews are living in the southeastern U.S. than ever - about 386,00 at last count in 2001, according to Stuart Rockoff, historian at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, Mississippi.
But young Jews are leaving small places like Dothan in favor of big southern cities like Atlanta and Birmingham, Rockoff said, and dozens of small-town synagogues in the so-called Bible Belt have closed.
"A lot of the older people have died, and not many of the younger ones have stayed," said Thelma Nomberg, a member of the Dothan temple who grew up in nearby Ozark, where she was the only Jewish student in public school in the 1940s. "We are dying."
Trying to lure Jewish families to a quiet Southern town in a state with a reputation for hard-right politics and racial intolerance might be difficult. About 20 Jewish families have sought information about Dothan, though none has made the move.
Being outside the Christian majority was never a problem, Nomberg said, even six decades ago: She won the Miss Ozark beauty pageant at 14 and sometimes attended church with friends after sleep-overs.
Now a widow, Nomberg has watched two of her four adult children leave for Florida as Temple Emanu-El lost nearly half its membership, down to about 50 families. She can only hope the recruitment plan works for her synagogue.
Launched in June, the Blumberg program has put advertisements in Jewish newspapers in Boston, Miami, Providence, Rhode Island, and Washington, and it plans to expand the campaign.
I think it's important that we try to find young people that we could use in our religious school, our Sunday school and help in the way of trying to create more of a family-type atmosphere in our temple, Blumberg said.
Groups offered financial aid for Jews to return to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and Jewish organizations around the country offer moving assistance for relocating families. A congregation has loans and other benefits for Jewish families moving into an area near Boston.
Our program is distinctive because it's Dothan, but it's also distinctive because of the type of financial assistance, said Rob Goldsmith, executive director of Blumberg Family Jewish Community Services, which will screen applicants and administer the grant program.
Rockoff credits Blumberg and the rest of the congregation with fighting to remain in Dothan, where the synagogue has a full-time rabbi and the temple, which is aligned with the reform movement.
"It is a small community, but they have some deep pockets to be able to do this," said Rockoff. "As a historian, it is fascinating to see them trying to buck this trend."
Dothan lies at the heart of the South's peanut region, in Alabama's southeastern corner, just minutes from Florida and Georgia. It's dotted with big fiberglass peanuts painted to resemble characters and people - there's even an Elvis peanut.
But the Blumberg foundation is selling prospective Jewish residents on Dothan's quality of life - its low cost of living, the heritage of its synagogue and its proximity to Florida beaches, about 80 miles away.
Downtown is filled with quaint red-brick buildings and colorful murals, and traffic never gets too bad.
Rabbi Lynne Goldsmith didn't know quite what to expect when she moved to Dothan a year ago to serve as pastor at Temple Emanu-El, which was founded in 1929. She came with her husband, who directs the Jewish community services group.
A Connecticut native, the rabbi halfway expected the Alabama of old with wide-open racism and dirt roads.
"The Northeast has a really warped perception of what the South is all about, and I found out it was all wrong," she said. "The South is a wonderful place to be. The people are warm and friendly. There's very little traffic. And best of all, there's no snow."

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Monday, September 8, 2008

Zionist plotz and Shariah finance in Britain

Continued (Permanent Link)

Progressives for Genocide and Religious Reaction

The rising star of the Hamas murderers is admired by many, especially the humanitarian and progressive "peace" activists who came to Gaza in a boat to pay tribute to their new progress heros:
"International peace activists came bearing their own gift, in a boat that broke the international blockade of the Hamas in Gaza - balloons and hearing aids. What could be more appropriate than for humanitarian peace activists to support an illegal and despotic regime that came to power by pushing its opponents off rooftops, that stands for Jihad in the violent meaning of the word and for genocide, and that stays in power by terrorizing the population of Gaza? Surely despotism, religious reaction, racism and violence are causes worthy of the support of all progressive and right thinking people! What could be more cheering and desperately needed by the hungry children. police thugs rocket makers of Gaza than nice balloons? "

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Breaking the Palestine Siege

JTA tells the story of the real rescue boats that broke a real Palestine siege in a really progressive cause, over 60 years ago. These were the sailors of  MACHAL who brought Jewish Holocaust survivors to "Palestine" in rickety boats like the Exodus.

TEL AVIV (JTA) -- One by one, until they numbered more than a thousand, they clambered up the bobbing rope and twine that God-fearing sailors centuries ago dubbed Jacob's Ladder.
It was Italy, May 1947. A bottomless sea lay below, a dark night sky above. The Jewish refugees finally were leaving Europe and the ashes of the Holocaust. They only had the bags on their backs and the will to climb, rung by rung.

"Don't lose your footing! Don't get blown off!"
They climbed higher and higher.

Out of the darkness came pairs of hands and shouts of "Kumarof!" -- "Come on!" in Yiddish. Jewish sailors from America – "Imagine, Jewish sailors from America!" the refugees marveled -- were reaching down and pulling them up over the sides of a ship called Hope, "Hatikvah."

"It was like a miracle," said Irit Avriel, one of those refugees, her face lighting up with the memory six decades later. "For us they were not just sailors; they were angels."

More than 32,000 Jewish refugees from Europe, just over half of the total 60,000 who came to prestate Palestine, were brought over by North American sailors -- most of them young Jewish men who served at sea during World War II.

They were part of a clandestine operation known as Aliyah Bet, which included the famed Exodus ship.

At a gathering last year for passengers of Hatikvah hosted by one of those Jewish sailors, the young people who had climbed the rope ladder to freedom so many years ago were full of questions for the two former sailors who came to share their stories.

"How were you recruited? Why did you leave America to do this? When did you know about the camps?" they asked.

The Jewish ex-sailors spoke about their own European relatives and the obligation they felt to help after the Holocaust.

A new documentary film about North American Jewish sailors from the Aliyah Bet operation, "Waves of Freedom," which was shown at the Jerusalem Film Festival this summer, is scheduled to come soon to Jewish film festivals in the United States.

In late 1946, word had gone out in the streets of U.S. cities such as New York and Chicago that young Jewish men with sailing experience were needed to help smuggle Holocaust survivors across the Mediterranean to Palestine. The mission was to be top secret because the British had declared such immigration illegal and created a blockade to stop the effort.

Murray Greenfield -- "Greeny," as the survivors would quickly nickname him -- had just been discharged from three years in the U.S. Merchant Marines. Others had finished tours of duty in the Navy fighting in Europe or against the Japanese in the Pacific.
"What an idea," Greenfield, 82, a native of Long Island, N.Y., said he remembered thinking. "I was just discharged and here they were looking for guys who knew how to sail."
Greenfield, who hosted the reunion in Israel last year, went on to co-author a book on the subject titled "The Jews' Secret Fleet." He told his mother that he would not be going to college as planned that fall, but was going to do something for the Jewish people.
It was a secret; he could not say where he was going or for how long. The news of the Nazi genocide was still fresh -- horrible reports of death camps and gassings. Greenfield's mother stroked the arm of her son and gave her blessing.

Harold Katz, a former U.S. Navy officer who spent three years in the Pacific, also decided to join the effort. A first-year student at Harvard Law School at the time, he was so enthusiastic about the journey that he managed to convince a classmate who was Irish Catholic to join him.
Katz went on to become an established trial lawyer in Boston, but the memories of the Hatikvah and his part in history eventually brought him back to Israel as an immigrant in the early 1970s.
"You don't always know what will be a turning point in your life. You realize it only later on," said Katz, 86. "When you do, you see how it fits in with the rest of your life. This was a watershed, a transformative experience."

Katz and Greenfield would sail on a hulking and aging Canadian ice-breaker, one of 10 ships a group of American Jews bought for the operation to bring Jewish refugees to Palestine from Europe.
The details of the operation were worked out through a thick cloud of cigarette smoke on the top floor of a building on East 60th Street in Manhattan, high above the din of music at the famous club below, the Copacabana.

A mix of businesspeople, Zionist activists and representatives of the Jewish community in Palestine hunkered down to figure out how to buy and fix up old ships and recruit sailing crews.
There was the wealthy industrialist to sign the checks, the New Orleans Jew with connections in the Central American shipping industry who managed to bribe the right people in Honduras and Panama to get permission to fly ships with their country's flags, and the Jewish volunteers who agreed to work only for pocket money to buy cigarettes.

Most of these young men had some experience at sea, but others had been infantrymen, paratroopers and pilots. Veterans of the Pacific theater and the Battle of the Bulge, again they were heading into uncertain waters.

Greenfield pulled out a map and traced the route from which the Hatikvah came – all 13 stops. It set sail in Miami, went to places such as Charleston and Baltimore for repairs, and eventually refueled in the Azores Islands off the coast of Portugal. From there the ship sailed to Italy, where the passengers secretly boarded.

The ship never did reach the shores of Palestine. A British destroyer pulled up alongside about a week into its journey and issued the standard warning: "Your voyage is illegal, your ship is un-seaworthy. In the name of humanity, surrender."

Passengers in the next 14 months would live in Cyprus at a hot and crowded displaced persons camp. Those who had been locked away in concentration camps again found themselves behind barbed wire.
But in Cyprus, at least there were moments of joy -- and many marriages. Among the newlyweds were Reuven and Hedva Gil, survivors from Poland who had met in Italy awaiting the Hatikvah. They shared their first kiss on its deck.

"We could not resist," said Reuven, 81, a sheepish smile creeping across his face. "Maybe it was the moonlight, the sea or maybe our youth."

By the time Hatikvah's passengers finally landed in Haifa, the Jewish state had been declared and Israel's War of Independence was raging.

Greenfield never went back to live in New York. He settled in Israel, where he worked in business and publishing. He also established the Association for Americans and Canadians in Israel.
Greenfield smiled as he listened to Fela Shapira, one of the survivors he helped bring to Israel, recount her memories.

"We were proud to have Jewish sailors," said Shapira, 81. "We did not know such a thing even existed."

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Israel US to hold first forum to discuss Israeli high tech defense exports

Israel US to hold first forum to discuss Israeli high tech defense exports

Israel, US to hold first defense forum
Yaakov Katz , THE JERUSALEM POST Sep. 7, 2008

Israel and the United States will hold their first-ever joint High Technology Forum this week near Washington. It is aimed at easing
regulations for exports to Israel on dual-use products that have both a military and civilian use.

The forum will meet Tuesday at the Sheraton National Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. It will be led by Defense Ministry director-general Pinchas Buchris and US Undersecretary for Industry and Security Mario Mancuso.

The decision to hold the forum was made last year during a visit Mancuso made to Israel.

"Israel is a dynamic technology market and a strategic partner of the United States," Mancuso said at the time. "The High Technology Forum will accelerate, elevate and institutionalize a senior-level dialogue to address bilateral high technology trade, investment and related security issues within the context of our larger strategic relationship."

Mancuso agreed to create the forum after Israel established the Defense Export Controls Division two years ago. The division was created to ease US concerns that Israel does not maintain a tight export regime.

Israeli defense officials said they would use the forum to try to convince the Americans to ease restrictions on the export of dual-use products to Israel, such as supercomputers that have both military and civilian applications. Other examples are certain radars as well as night-vision goggles.

Until now, the US has imposed strict restrictions on the export of such products out of fear that they would be used for unapproved purposes.

The Israeli delegation, which will also include Eli Pincu, director of the ministry's Defense Export Controls Division, will tell the Americans that Israel has sufficient safeguards in place to ensure US interests.

"We believe that there is good enough supervision here and they can trust us," one official said.

The forum will also be used as an opportunity for representatives from Israeli and American defense industries to meet and discuss potential joint ventures and investments.

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Oops! - What about Pakistani nukes?

Sep 3, 2008 21:04 | Updated Sep 3, 2008 21:15
Washington Watch: Iran may be bombastic, but Pakistan has the Bomb
If you think Iran is scary, just consider what would happen if Islamic extremists took over Pakistan. It's a very real possibility in that increasing worrisome country that helped spawn to the Taliban, and which Foreign Policy magazine has called "the country most likely to transfer nuclear technology to terrorists." That is the conclusion of 69 of 100 national security experts surveyed for the publication's "Terrorism Index 2008." More than half responded that Pakistan is "most likely to serve as al-Qaida's next home base."
"We're all really worried that a radical theocracy like Iran will get the bomb, but what if the bomb gets a radical theocracy?" asked a Washington defense analyst speaking on background.
Iran may be getting all the attention from Israel and the United States, but shaky Pakistan is the only Islamic nuclear power.
Iran may boast of great strides in its pursuit of nuclear, missile and satellite technology, but analysts say its progress is no match for its overblown rhetoric.
BUT PAKISTAN doesn't need to boast. It already has a stockpile estimated at 60 or more nuclear warheads and North Korean ballistic missiles and US-made F-16s to deliver them; target one is India, but in the hands of an extremist Islamist regime that could easily shift to Israel.
Washington has reportedly spent more than $100 million to help secure Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, although it does not even know its size or location.
Pakistan is a failed nation state. It has an unstable government on the verge of collapse, a tenuous flirtation with democracy, a coup-inclined military with ties to the Taliban, and an upcoming presidential election in which the front-runner's lawyers contend he suffers from dementia and depression. It also has sold nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.
Growing Islamization of state institutions and policies, notably the schools, is legitimizing religious extremism. Many Taliban trace their roots to Pakistani madrassas.
MOST IMPORTANT, Pakistan's porous border with Afghanistan is a sanctuary and training ground for the Taliban resurgence and al-Qaida. Osama bin Laden is believed to be holed up in those areas which are more hospitable to the Islamic extremists than the Pakistani government and army, which has been unable or unwilling to do much about it.
In fact, Western experts believe elements of Pakistan's military and its powerful intelligence service, ISI, are working with the Taliban. The new army leader, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, recently stepped down as head of the agency.
Pakistan, said the defense analyst, is "the scariest place on Earth." It could splinter if powerful ethnic groups like the Pashtun and the Baluch seek to break away and form their own states. Or there could be yet another military coup, this time led by the ISI elements close to the Taliban.
Hamid Karzai, the pro-US president of Afghanistan, has accused Pakistan of giving the Taliban sanctuary and bases to attack his country, and ISI has been accused of being behind attempts on his life.
A recent Council on Foreign Relations report said ISI is believed to have links to terrorist groups in several countries, including England, India, Afghanistan and Iraq.
ISI-Taliban cooperation goes back nearly 30 years, and many of its agents "have ethnic and cultural ties to Afghan insurgents and naturally sympathize with them," according to Frederic Grare of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Author Steve Coll, an expert on the Taliban, has called it "an asset of the ISI" and "a proxy force, a client of the Pakistan army." The Pentagon sees the deteriorating situation in Pakistan as increasingly dangerous. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, flew out to the Indian Ocean last week to convene a highly unusual secret meeting of senior American and Pakistani commanders aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.
His message: You've got to do more to combat the militants who have found sanctuary in the border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan and are responsible for the rising number of US and NATO casualties. He wants Pakistan to allow US Special Operations forces to operate more freely in those areas.
THERE ARE serious questions as to which side the Pakistani military and ISI are really on. US President George W. Bush has reportedly complained that some ISI elements are leaking US intelligence information to the Taliban and aiding militants' attacks on US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
A coup led by pro-Taliban elements would put that country's nuclear arsenal in the hands of some of the world's most dangerous Islamic extremists.
Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid writes that "Islamic extremism is gaining strength" in his country, and warns that the army may insist that a pro-Taliban Islamic party, the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, be part of any future government.
Pakistan may be the greatest challenge awaiting the next president of the United States, but so far it has been getting scant

Continued (Permanent Link)

US-Israel: The Empty Alliance

Bygone Days: The strategic agreement that never was

Sep. 6, 2008

US president Ronald Reagan had a craving for jelly beans. He started chewing them in the early 1960s when he gave up smoking. On entering the White House in 1981, he had crystal jars of jelly beans placed on his desk in the Oval Office, on the table in the cabinet room, in the suites of his guest house and on Air Force One, where a receptacle was fashioned to prevent spillage during turbulence. Guests at Ronald Reagan's inaugural balls consumed 40 million jelly beans, almost equaling the number of votes he received in the election, or so the tabloids blazed.

"I can hardly start a meeting or make a decision without first passing around a jar of jelly beans," Reagan quipped to prime minister Menachem Begin when they met for the first time in early September 1981. "You can tell a lot about a fella's character by whether he picks out all of one color, or just grabs a fistful. Here, take a few."

Begin grinned and obliged, scooping up a small handful. Having once been an ardent movie-goer, he could not resist a passing reference to the president's past acting career, to which Reagan laughed in a deep, jovial way, and joked, "You know, someone asked me how can an actor become a president, and I answered, how can a president not be an actor?" The jest had them both in a fit of laughter.

Without a doubt, the president's genial tone and infectious bonhomie were giving Begin a sense of uncommon ease, and when the Californian beseeched, "Please, call me Ron. And may I call you Menachem?" (He pronounced it Menakem.) Begin responded with the widest of smiles and with the falsest of modesty: "Oh, no, Mr. President; I'm a mere prime minister and you are the president of the mightiest power on earth. So by all means call me by my first name, but I cannot call you by yours."

"You sure can, Menakem. I insist," said the president.

"In that case, Ron, I shall," said the prime minister, elated.

THEY WERE sitting across from one another on cheery, floral-patterned settees in the Oval Office, with a view of the sunny rose garden through the tall windows, the presidential colors draped next to a prominent portrait of Thomas Jefferson and, elsewhere, mementos, plaques, signed photographs - all the bric-a-brac of a public man who had once been a middling film star and then a popular state governor. Begin could not be totally certain how much of his affability was Hollywood and how much was sincere, but having learned that the man had a genuine admiration for Israel, he allowed himself the euphoria of being cuddled in this big man's bighearted welcome.

It seemed to Begin that Reagan was deliberately seeking to break the ice in a demonstrative display of camaraderie, giving him a rare opportunity to open up his heart and to say what was on his mind in a free-wheeling tête-à-tête. Imagine, then, his astonishment, nay bewilderment, when hardly had he opened his mouth to talk about the burning issues of the day when Reagan interrupted him to say: "You must forgive me, Menakem, but we have only a quarter of an hour before we have to join the others in the cabinet room. So I would just like to make" - he slipped his hand into his pocket and extracted a pack of 3x5 cards - "a few points. The first is..."

Begin stared in disbelief as the American president began reciting in mechanical tones a series of typed "talking points" consisting largely of a standard reaffirmation of America's known positions on Israel and the Middle East. And when he paused, which he did twice, the premier assumed it was to allow him to engage. But it wasn't. It was simply Reagan making sure of his lines.

Was the president of the United States so uninformed that he needed to read by rote elementary issues from cue cards, like a third-rate actor? So Begin sat and listened. Never before had he deliberated with a world leader - the world leader - who was such an abysmal interlocutor.

Reagan was destined to enter history as a brilliant public communicator, the man who reinvigorated the American people after the lackluster years of Jimmy Carter, who restored his country's prosperity and who initiated what pundits described as a pie-in-the-sky "Star Wars" enterprise but which, ultimately, brought the communist empire to its knees. Little of this, however, was evident at that first encounter, which ended with the president repocketing his talking points and saying, "And that, Menakem, is how America sees things," to which Begin responded with a gracious, "I thank you, Ron, for that comprehensive review."

"Now let's join the people in the cabinet room," said the president, and he led the way into the adjacent chamber, with its Colonial-style cream-paneled walls, immense brass chandelier, golden drapes and a grand oak conference table with high-backed leather chairs behind which senior advisers stood in respectful attendance.

Seating himself at the table's center, facing the prime minister, Reagan extracted another pack of cards, and in the practiced style of a late-night talk show host, suavely welcomed Begin and his entourage (which included defense minister Ariel Sharon), describing Israel as "a strategic asset," and inviting the premier to make any comments he wished.

Begin obliged, delving into a tour d'horizon, and ending with the cautiously chosen words: "You, Mr. President [he did not think it proper to call him by his first name in this setting], kindly referred to my country just now as a strategic asset to yours. While that, certainly, has a positive ring to it I find it, nevertheless, a little patronizing. Given the bipolar world in which we live - democracy versus communism - the cherished values we share and our confluence of interests on so many fundamental issues, might I suggest the time has come to publicly acknowledge that Israel is not just a strategic asset, but a strategic ally."

SOME AROUND the table looked at the premier in a faintly disconcerted manner. Caspar Weinberger, the secretary of defense, a rather diminutive man with sleek black hair and of vague Jewish origin, was actually frowning. But the president continued to give the premier his fullest attention, and he chuckled when Begin jocularly remarked: "You know, Mr. President, I sometimes get the impression that our relationship is a little like Heinrich Heine's famous couplet about the Berlin bourgeoisie gentleman who implores his mistress not to acknowledge him in public in that city's most fashionable boulevard, begging her: 'Greet me not Unter den Linden,' I fear there are some who would say much the same to us."

On all sides American faces seemed either bemused or irritated, but not the president's. He looked at the prime minister with respect, and chortled, "I'd be proud to acknowledge you in public anywhere, any time."

"Certainly, in this alliance," continued Begin, "Israel is very much the junior partner, but a partner we are. And I dare say" - a faint smile curled his lips and his voice sank into understatement - "over the decades Israel has done a thing or two which might have contributed to the American strategic interest in our region. And much as we deeply appreciate the military and economic aid we receive, I venture to suggest it is not an entirely one-way street - not a charity, so to speak."

There, he had said it; he had spelled it out. No other Israeli premier had quite put it that way before - that Israel was not merely a receiver but also a giver. And as he spoke he noted that Reagan was nodding in agreement. The president looked to his right and to his left, invited discussion, but since most everyone seemed taciturn Begin seized the moment and said: "Might I suggest, Mr. President, that consideration be given to an agreed document on this matter - on the strategic relationship between our two countries."

Weinberger's cold gray eyes glared back at him, and he grunted some sort of reservation, but secretary of state Alexander Haig seemed eminently amenable.

"What the prime minister proposes sounds like a good idea to me," said the president. "Let's look into it."

Menachem Begin sat up abruptly; energy coursed through him. He had been waiting for this moment for a long time, the moment when the United States of America would grant the State of Israel the status of a full-fledged strategic ally. So, with alacrity he said, "With your permission, Mr. President, may I call on defense minister Sharon to share with you and your colleagues a number of ideas which might give expression to this concept?"

"By all means," said Reagan. "Go ahead."

Sharon, known as "the Bulldozer" because of his girth, his autocratic style, his military daring and his craggy features, stood up, and with a set of maps proceeded to give an elaborate presentation of the ways Israel and America might cooperate strategically. Weinberger reddened at Sharon's swashbuckling audaciousness. Others on the American side exchanged uneasy glances. But Sharon plowed on imperviously, proposing what was tantamount to a wide-ranging mutual defense treaty. Begin, sensing the growing uneasiness, suggested the president authorize the two defense ministers to confer with the intent of finding a mutually acceptable formula.

"Good idea," said Haig.

"Why don't you two fellas get together and see if you can work something out in this area?" said Reagan.

Weinberger seemed dumbfounded. One could see he was seething - stuck with a presidential request to deliberate with a man he could not abide about an agreement to which he was totally opposed.

On the morrow, Weinberger summoned his chief aides to his Pentagon conference room and told them, "I want no publicity about this. The Israelis are going to do just the opposite. They'll want lots of publicity, and they'll want a binding document with lots of detail. We're not going to subscribe to that at all. Whatever we'll sign will be so general and so empty of content that we'll be able to defend it in the Arab world. And I want the negotiations to be held right here in Washington. I intend to control them myself." And control them he did.

THE TALKS began with the Israeli Defense Ministry presenting the Pentagon negotiators with a 29-page booklet containing a sweeping list of military cooperation proposals. This spawned a plethora of acrimonious negotiations which, in the words of one American participant, "was like being in a washing machine where sometimes things went very smoothly and the water was warm. Then suddenly cold water would come out of nowhere and you'd be turned the other way and get hit across the head with some unexpected action. It was a funny time: On one hand, things were done at the president's behest, but then undone by his secretary of defense."

At one point Sharon so lost his temper that he began shouting and banging on the table, at which Weinberger coolly remarked to an aide," Do you suppose minister Sharon has taken a dislike to that table?" Soon enough, Sharon became so disenchanted he decided to wash his hands of the whole thing, but Begin insisted he persist. He wanted a symbol of the alliance, if not a formal treaty. What he got was a brief 700-word memorandum of understanding that contained little that was new or substantive.

It was signed in November 1981 without fanfare by Sharon and Weinberger at an informal dinner at the National Geographic Society in Washington. No press was invited, and the Pentagon did not even issue its customary briefing. In what was an extraordinarily calculated intent to play down the whole exercise, nowhere is there a photograph of the two defense ministers signing the agreement.

And that is how Caspar Weinberger got his way and Menachem Begin his document.

The writer was on the personal staff of five prime ministers, including Menachem Begin.


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US schools encouraging Israeli 'brain drain'

US universities are sending a record-breaking number of headhunters to scout for Israeli scholars dissatisfied with Israel's higher education, amounting to a significant rise in immigration
Yaheli Moran Zelikovich
Published:  09.08.08, 00:55 / Israel News
"Studying in Israel means you're compromising," says Nili Lerner, an MBA student at Tel Aviv University. Like Lerner, a great many Israeli students have their sights, and hearts, set on America's prestigious business schools.

Next week the students will see a record-breaking number of US college scouts at an MBA convention aimed at creating connections between American schools and Israeli scholars. The brain drain, it would seem, has reached a whole new level.
"Israeli students have proven themselves to be excellent scholars on an academic level, with outstanding motivational and social skills, some of which are acquired during army service," says Galit Edsman, and advisor for the US-Israel Educational Foundation (USIEF).

In return for crossing the Atlantic, the universities provide students with the mandatory paperwork and ease admissions, prioritizing interviews rather than GMAT grades, for example. Another way to woo Israeli applicants, Edsman claims, is to drop the names of famous American companies such as McKenzie and Citibank.

The foundation's convention has drawn headhunters from many top-notch universities such as MIT, Duke, and Harvard. But there are still a number of admissions obstacles Israelis may have a hard time handling.

"The major obstruction was the GMAT," says Lerner. "Had I gotten a good enough grade in English I would have wanted to study abroad – but only at a good university."

There are currently 3,000 Israelis studying in the US. Tal Reisenfeld, a Harvard graduate who returned to Israel, explained the attraction. "You form business connections with people in international companies, much more than in Israel," he said.

"Every school wants Israeli representation. At Harvard they constitute five out of every 900 students. I am an example of a brain that wasn't 'drained', but a lot of people stay there in order to reimburse their financial investment."

Struggling to keep up
Israel is struggling with the brain drain, which is slowly eroding the country's higher education. Tel Aviv University's Dr. Dan Ben-David has published a study called, 'Soaring Minds: The Flight of Israel's Economists', in which he demonstrates that the country's scholarly emigration rate is 4-6 times higher than other Western countries.
But Israel is also attempting to attract foreign students to its own quarters. The Israel Institute for Technology, for example, has established an entire division awaiting the flocking immigrants.

"Israeli universities are well-ranked," says Galit Eisman, of the Council for Higher Education. "But foreign exchange programs are not really working – people are not arriving and there are not many programs encouraging them to do so. This is why we have decided to establish more English-language courses, which are also necessary for Israeli students."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Amos Oz novel brings Zionism to the Arab world

From Ha'aret:  
Last update - 08:18 08/09/2008    
Arab terror victim's family funds Arabic translation of Oz novel
By Shiri Lev-Ari
Amos Oz's autobiographical novel, "A Tale of Love and Darkness," has been translated into Arabic thanks to a contribution by the family of an Arab man killed in a terror attack in 2004.
George Khoury, an Israeli Arab student, was doing his evening run in Jerusalem's French Hill neighborhood when a terrorist, who took him for a Jew, shot and killed him. The Khoury family, also from Jerusalem, decided to contribute funding to translate Oz's book, in an effort to help the cause of coexistence.
Two other books of Oz's have been translated into Arabic. "My Michael," translated in the 1990s, received favorable reviews in Egypt. The other book, "Soumchi" was distributed in Jordan.
Oz's "Tale of Love and Darkness," published in Hebrew by Keter, was translated by Jamal Gnaim and is being published by Yedioth Books, which also published the book's Russian translation.
The translation was assisted by the Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature. It is to be sold in the Israeli Arab sector and later in Egypt and other Arab countries as well.
The novel presents the full Jewish-Zionist narrative....

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran completes control over Hezbollah

Iran solidifies control over Hizbullah
Sep. 8, 2008
Iran is consolidating its grip on Hizbullah and has instituted a number of structural changes to the Lebanese group, under which Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah no longer enjoys exclusive command over its military wing, top Israeli defense officials have revealed.
According to the officials, following the Second Lebanon War, Iran decided to step up its involvement in the Hizbullah decision-making process and has instituted a number of changes to the terror group's hierarchy, under which Nasrallah has to receive Iranian permission prior to certain operations.
"There is real Iranian command now over Hizbullah," a top IDF officer said. "This doesn't mean that Nasrallah is a puppet, but it does mean that whenever he pops his head out of his bunker he sees an Iranian official standing over him."
Reports of Iranian discontent with Nasrallah had begun to surface following the 2006 war, which Teheran reportedly was not interested in at the time. Several reports in the Arab press claimed that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had ousted Nasrallah from his post as Hizbullah secretary-general and replaced him with Naim Qassem, Hizbullah's second in command. Iran has denied the reports.
"Iranian supervision grew tremendously following the war," the top officer explained. "Nasrallah is still in a decision-making position but Iran's influence has dramatically increased."
A report in a Syrian opposition paper claimed Sunday that a high-level delegation of Iranian Revolutionary Guards visited Beirut last week to coordinate the integration of some Hizbullah branches into the Guards' Al-Quds Force, which is in charge of Iran's terror activities in Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere.
According to the Reform Party of Syria, parts of the Hizbullah operation structure will now be under the command of Brig.-Gen. Faramaz Ghasem Suleimani, commander of the Al-Quds Force. Suleimani is listed by the US as a terrorist and the Guards was declared a terror group in 2007.
The paper claimed that Iran's ultimate plan was to dilute Syrian influence over Hizbullah in case Damascus strikes a peace deal with Israel.
Iran's solidification of its control over Hizbullah is seen as an attempt to direct its military forces in the event of a conflict in the Middle East. If Iran is attacked by the US or Israel, it may now be able to order Hizbullah to retaliate on its behalf.
In the past, IDF Military Intelligence has speculated about what Nasrallah would do in such a situation, raising the possibility that Hizbullah would not immediately attack Israel if Iran was attacked.
In another development, Hizbullah's Al-Manar satellite television station has begun using an Indonesian satellite to broadcast across Asia and Australia. Hizbullah asked Indonesia for permission to use the satellite after Thailand kicked Al-Manar TV broadcasts off its satellite in January.
Israel expressed its disappointment with Indonesia's decision, since Al-Manar is full of anti-Israel and anti-US propaganda.
Indonesia's decision to allow the Al-Manar hookup undermines US and European efforts to limit the reach of Hizbullah's broadcasts, the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center said.
This article can also be read at

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Essay: Self-censorship and the BBC

Essay: Self-censorship and the BBC
Sep. 4, 2008

Far in the distance, a protracted scream comes out of a dark tunnel. As it rises, the ground begins to shake. A dot of light speeds toward the viewer.   In seconds, it fills the screen and a rattling blur of cold steel shrieks past the camera.  The action cuts to the forecourt of King's Cross station. Hasib Hussein, a gawky 18-year-old with soft eyes, looks imploringly at the authoritative figure of Sidique Khan.

"Sidique... wait... ," he says, with a voice full of fear and uncertainty.   The older man calms the boy with a bear hug.

"There is nothing to fear in death, Hasib," he says. "When the time comes, we'll face toward Mecca together, as one." He looks Hussein in the eyes.   "Our lives begin today." Hussein nods. Khan ruffles his hair and disappears to slaughter commuters on the London Underground. Hussein screws up his courage and prepares to murder an equally random collection of passengers on a bus heading out from King's Cross.
So begins The London Bombers, one of the most thoroughly researched and politically important drama-documentaries commissioned by British television. A team of journalists, at least one of whom was a British Muslim, reported to Terry Cafolla, a writer who won many awards for his dramatization of the religious hatred which engulfed the Holy Cross School in Belfast. The reporters spent months in Beeston, the Leeds slum where three of the four 7/7 bombers - Sidique Khan, Hasib Hussein and Shehzad Tanweer - grew up. They didn't find that the "root cause" of murderous rage was justifiable anger at the "humiliation" America, Israel, Britain and Denmark and her tactless cartoonists had inflicted on Muslims.

Instead, they inadvertently confirmed the ideas of Ernest Gellner, the late professor of anthropology at Cambridge. In Postmodernism, Reason and Religion (1992), Gellner asked why a puritanical version of Islam was in the ascendant when godlessness was flourishing everywhere else.
His answer was that Wahhabism and its ever-more-zealous theocratic variants could appear as modern as secular humanism. They represented the pure religion of scholars and the city, which could free Muslims from their peasant parents' embarrassingly superstitious faith.
Accepting fanaticism was a mark of superiority: a visible sign of upward mobility from rural idiocy to urban sophistication.   And so it proved in
Leeds. The picture of Beeston the BBC presents is a disorientating mixture of the provincial and the cosmopolitan. On one hand, Beeston is almost as much of a village as the ancestral homes of its Pakistani inhabitants. On the other, its parochialism is an illusion. Cheap flights take the bombers to the madrassas and terrorist training camps of Pakistan. The Internet connects them to the global jihadi network.  In one scene, Hasib Hussein hears a message ping on his mobile. He flips it open and finds a beheading video. He watches the snuff movie impassively,
showing no emotion when the killer cuts a hostage's throat.

Later Khan and Hussein learn how to make a bomb, not by infiltrating an army regiment, but by the simple expedient of going to an Internet cafe and logging on to an Arab jihadi site. "What did people do before Google?" the admiring Hussein asks.

SIDIQUE KHAN is the dominant figure. He turns against the traditional Sufism of his father, who remains stuck in the tribal and religious loyalties of the subcontinent. By breaking with both, Khan escapes an arranged marriage designed to keep wealth within the extended family, and enters into a love match with a fellow student at Leeds Metropolitan University. His father's pir, or Sufi priest, demands a hearing.  While Khan waits to talk to him, he sees the elder hang a miracle cure - a miniature Koran - round a child's neck. Khan looks on in disgust. "What you
do here is not harmless, it's dangerous," he thunders. "How dare you contaminate Islam? There is only one Allah, and He does not share His power, not with anyone... Your tradition of Islam, your parlor tricks, they belong in the hills of Pakistan."

The London Bombers works so well because it's a family drama about intergenerational conflict as well as an account of the largest massacre in Britain since Lockerbie. The BBC captures the claustrophobic milieu of bodybuilding and vigilantism into which the men retreat. The bomb-making in a tiny terraced house becomes a male-bonding ritual in which the members of a cult of death squash each other's doubts.    "How can we keep Muslims off the Tube that day?" asks Abdullah Jamal, the fourth bomber. "They'll go straight to paradise," answers Sidique. "It is quadaa [fate] that they're there. And if it is Allah's wish... [pause ] We need more acetone."

SO PSYCHOLOGICALLY convincing is the portrayal of macho loyalty and the lure of barbarism that viewers can understand how these men turn into mass murderers. Except that they can't and won't understand, because the BBC will not give them the opportunity to understand. This is a review of a drama that was never made.

The reporters convinced the families of three of the four bombers to cooperate. By the end, they agreed that the BBC's account of their sons and brothers' lives and deaths was accurate. Cafolla submitted five versions of the script. He was working up to a final draft when the BBC abandoned the project. The official reason is that the drama didn't make the grade. The script is circulating in samizdat form, which is how it reached Standpoint, and every writer and director who has read it disagrees. As do the journalists. They say that BBC managers did not tell them they were stopping production because their work was substandard but because it was "Islamophobic."

Eh? The defining characteristic of Islamophobic prejudice is the belief that all Muslims are potential terrorists, and yet here, apparently, is the BBC seconding that motion by arguing that a dramatic examination of terrorism would be offensive to all Muslims.   It makes no sense until you understand the moral contortions of the postmodern liberal establishment. In the past few years, the Foreign Office, the Home Office, the West Midlands Police, the liberal press, the Liberal Democrats, the Metropolitan Police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the lord chief justice and the archbishop of Canterbury have either supported ultra-reactionary doctrines or made libelous accusations against the critics of radical Islam. All have sought to prove their liberal tolerance by supporting the most illiberal and intolerant wing of British Islam, and by blocking out the voices of its Muslim and non-Muslim critics as they do it.

As the sorry history of The London Bombers shows, they have left us a country that cannot tell its own stories, a land so debilitated by anxiety and stupefied by relativism that it dare not meet the eyes of the face that stares back at it from the mirror.  
This article first appeared in Standpoint, the new British cultural and political monthly. The writer is Standpoint's TV critic and the author of What's Left - How Liberals Lost Their Way.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinian Soap Opera Cancelled - not Anti-Israe Enough!

A European funded Palestinian soap opera cannot be aired on Palestinian TV because it is not hateful enough. According to Haaretz:
The official Palestine Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) has cancelled the airing scheduled for this week of a new soap series, Matabb (Arabic for "speed bump").
....some scenes were found offensive to the general Palestinian public and therefore could not be aired on Palestine TV, an official and nationalist institution.

Among others, certain scenes failed to show the Israeli occupation in a negative enough light, they charged. The officials mentioned one scene in which a Palestinian gives a flower to Israeli soldiers at an army checkpoint in the West Bank.

They insinuated the series was influenced by the fact that it was funded by Germany's Goethe Institute and the European Commission, which would not back programs that do not encourage coexistence between Israel and the Palestinians.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Global Labor Notes / Russia invades - and the labour movement is silent

Global Labor Notes / Russia invades – and the labour movement is silent
by Eric Lee
London, 2008,  5. pp.

Eric Lee

Russia, it was said, was still reeling from the loss of its empire. It had formally accepted the right of countries like Ukraine to self-determination. But among its leaders, some sought ways to bring the 'near abroad' back into the fold. As a result, all the countries on Russia's borders were actively seeking the protection of European powers and America. This, in turn, was interpreted by the Kremlin as a kind of encirclement. Tensions with Poland were running especially high. And then the Russian army invaded Georgia.
The response of the trade union movement and the democratic Left was swift – universal condemnation of a blatant act of aggression, an obvious attempt to seize control over a country whose independence Russia had recognised. Georgia had no better friend than the international labour movement which stood by its side at a difficult moment.
That was in 1921 – not 2008.
The parallels between the two invasions – the one organised by Stalin behind Lenin and Trotsky's back, and the one Putin organised behind Medvedev's back – are too numerous to list.
And of course there are differences too. The regime in Georgia back in 1921 was something unique in history, a genuinely revolutionary democratic socialist society, dominated by a mass social democratic party, trade unions and cooperatives. Georgia today, though a democracy, is run by a right-wing party and promotes liberal, free market values.
Russia today is not the Russia of 1921 – certainly no longer making the claim that when it sends it troops into neighbouring countries it is somehow promoting a better future for all mankind. Stripped of Leninist-Stalinist ideology, Russian aggression directed against Georgia (and other neighbours) increasingly resembles the imperial foreign policy of the tsarist regime.
One of the biggest differences between the Russian invasion of Georgia in 1921 and the one that took place this summer has been the reaction of the Left around the world. Of course the knee-jerk anti-American Left instantly blamed George Bush for the war, and looked for evidence of sneaky neo-cons putting in appearances in Tbilisi in the days leading up to the outbreak of fighting.
One expects no more from the Chomsky-Galloway Left, but the reaction of the mainstream trade union movement was muted, to say the least. Especially when contrasted with the vigorous defense of democratic Georgia that unions and their labour parties in the 1920s carried out.
Regardless of Georgian unions' dislike for Saakashvili and his right-wing, anti-union policies, they united in defense of their homeland when faced with the bullying and then the open aggression of Putin's Russia.
Many leaders of the Georgian unions volunteered to join the country's armed forces – armed forces which like those in 1921 were quickly routed by a far superior Russian force.
The head of the Georgian Trade Union Confederation (GTUC), Irakli Petriashvili, issued an appeal to the unions of the world in which he wrote, 'I am writing to you to draw your and international trade union movement's attention to the unprecedented fact of aggression that is being carried out by the Russian Federation against the independent state of Georgia and that has already taken away the lives of hundreds of civilians among them ordinary working men and women, members of trade unions affiliated to GTUC.'
Petriashvili pointed out the deaths of dockers, union members in the port city of Poti. He mentioned that unions in countries bordering Russia (particularly the Baltics and Ukraine) had already indicated their solidarity with Georgia.
And he ended his appeal by saying, 'We would appreciate very much any help in this crucial moment from the international trade union movement that would alleviate the consequences of this catastrophe.'
I don't think this was just an appeal for humanitarian assistance. The Georgian unions were expecting their brothers and sisters in other countries to offer them political support and to condemn the Russian invasion.
In late August, Georgian unions held a rally at a Russian checkpoint at the village of Igoeti. 'You cannot bring Georgia to its knees with bombing,' they said. 'There is no place for aggressors in Georgia.' Petriashvili spoke at the rally and said the unions would hold protests every day until the occupiers leave Georgia.
So, how did unions – and in particular the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), to which the Georgian unions are affiliated – react?
The response of the international labour movement so far has been to call for humanitarian aid – and not to say a negative word about what Russia has done.
The ITUC, which claims to represent 168 million workers in 155 countries, initially called on all sides to cease firing and to withdraw to their positions prior to 7 August.
But when Russia blatantly violated the European-brokered agreement and kept troops inside Georgia (and then recognised the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia) the ITUC had nothing further to say.
One reason why this is happening is that unions in Russia – which are also ITUC affiliates – have not come out against the aggression committed by their government. The ITUC finds itself between a rock and a hard place, not wishing to take sides when two of its affiliates are having a little spat.
In normal times, that might make some sense. Even in conflicts, the historic role of the international trade union movement has been to play the role of honest broker – and has done an excellent job, especially recently, with Israeli and Palestinian unions.
The fear of saying something controversial, of alienating or angering the Russian unions – or perhaps the fear of angering the Putin regime, which might then take it out on Russian unions – has immobilised the international labour movement.
Instead of leading the way as it did in the 1920s, unions have lagged behind politicians. The British and French foreign secretaries – both socialists – have been outspoken in their expressions of solidarity with Georgia when faced with Russian aggression. But the unions are saying nothing.
Back in the 1940s, a book was published in New York called The Russian Menace to Europe. It was a collection of articles explaining how Russian aggression was built-in to the nature of the regime, and needed to be answered by collective security in the West.
The authors of the book were Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The editors, themselves democratic socialists, argued that Stalin's Russia was continuing the aggressive, expansionist policies of the tsarist regime.
What was true of Stalin is even truer of Putin. The only difference today is that the ideological nonsense of Leninism-Stalinism has been stripped away and all that remains is naked Russian aggression.
The Russian Menace to Europe deserves to be reprinted – and its message passed on to a new generation on the Left and in the trade union movement.
As Russian tanks crossed into Georgia in August, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by re-enacting it in the Caucasus, the silence of the international labour movement was and is unacceptable.
Eric Lee is the founding editor of LabourStart, the news and campaigning website of the international trade union movement. He writes in a personal capacity.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Russia to increase nuclear aid to Tehran

Is the cold war beginning in earnest? Do the Russians really want an Islamist nuclear power near their southern border?
Mark Franchetti in Moscow
Russia is considering increasing its assistance to Iran's nuclear programme in response to America's calls for Nato expansion eastwards and the presence of US Navy vessels in the Black Sea delivering aid to Georgia.
The Kremlin is discussing sending teams of Russian nuclear experts to Tehran and inviting Iranian nuclear scientists to Moscow for training, according to sources close to the Russian military.
Moscow has been angered by Washington's promise to give Georgia £564m in aid following the Russian invasion of parts of the country last month after Tbilisi's military offensive. Kremlin officials suspect the US is planning to rearm the former Soviet republic and is furious at renewed support for attempts by Georgia and Ukraine to join Nato.
Last week a third US Navy ship entered the Black Sea with aid bound for Georgia. Moscow has accused the Americans of using the vessels to deliver weapons but has failed to provide any evidence.
Vladimir Putin, the prime minister of Russia, who has been the driving force during the crisis, has declared he will take unspecified action in response.
"Everything has changed since the war in Georgia," said one source. "What seemed impossible before, is more than possible now when our friends become our enemies and our enemies our friends. What are American ships doing off our coast? Do you see Russian warships off the coast of America?
"Russia will respond. A number of possibilities are being considered, including hitting America there where it hurts most – Iran."
Increasing nuclear assistance to Iran would sharply escalate tensions between Moscow and Washington. Over the past 10 years Russia has helped Iran build its first nuclear power station in Bushehr. Iran claims the plant is for civilian purposes. Officially at least, Moscow accepts that. The West has little doubt the aim is to build a nuclear bomb.
But diplomats say that despite its help with the Bushehr plant, Moscow has so far played a constructive role as a mediator between the regime in Tehran and the West and by backing United Nations sanctions.
Earlier this year, in one of his last actions as president, Putin added Russia's stamp of approval to a UN security council resolution imposing fresh sanctions against Iran.
The document bans, with the exception of the Bushehr project, dual-technology exports that could be used for civil nuclear purposes and missile production.
"After the war in Georgia it's difficult to imagine relations between Russia and America getting worse," said a western diplomat. "Russia giving greater nuclear assistance to the Iranians would do the trick – that's for sure."
Last month Russia agreed to sell missiles to Syria. "The mood among the hawks is very bullish indeed," said one source who did not rule out a resumption of Russian military action in Georgia to take the port of Batumi, where American vessels are delivering aid.
Hardliners were infuriated last week by the visit to Georgia of Dick Cheney, the American vice-president. "Georgia will be in our alliance," Cheney said. He also visited Ukraine, whose Nato aspirations could make it the next flashpoint between Russia and America.
However in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, events appeared to be moving Moscow's way. Viktor Yushchenko, the pro-western president, is fighting to stay in power in a crisis that could see him impeached.
"I'm amused by claims in the West that Russia is the loser in this crisis," said a former Putin aide. "What would Washington do if we were arming Cuba the way it armed Georgia? The post Soviet days when we could be pushed around are over."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Can Israel Count on the US?

Can Israel count on the US? Common sense says it is never a good idea for an independent nation to sell out its independence.
I don't think there is much of substance in the article below that you won't find in Israel, Europe and the future and The future of US-Israel relations, which I wrote several months before the Georgia debacle. Why is it surprising that the US will not risk a major confrontation in Europe to save a tiny ally? It would be foolhardy of the US to do so, and not in its interests, even if John Wayne was president and McGyver was secretary of defense.  At the height of the Cold War, when Ike was president, the US did nothing at all to aid Hungarians against the USSR. Israel and other countries should not count on Harry S Truman being president of the United States, and even he let the Soviets take over Eastern Europe.
In addition to dictates of common sense, we can all see that America seems to be in a recessional mood, and that allies are beginning to look elsewhere for support.
America's non-feasance in Georgia follows its miserable record in Sudan. If I am not greatly mistaken, it will be followed by nonfeasance regarding Iran. They won't solve our problems because they cannot solve our problems.
Israel has to become financially and militarily independent of the United States, a process that will be costly and unpleasant. The end of the process will improve our relations with the United States, as they will become relations of respect.

Ami Isseroff

Yaniv Ronen says Georgia war shows that relying on America may lead to isolation, defeat
Yaniv Ronen Published:  09.05.08, 00:44 / Israel Opinion 
The recent war in Georgia should alarm officials in Jerusalem. Georgia, a small country entangled in an ongoing internal conflict, gambled on a military move while relying on American support. The gamble turned out to be a failure once the US support was proven to be unreliable, and the tiny Georgia found itself facing the Russian giant. The unavoidable outcome was a humiliating defeat that at this time raises doubts over the country's sovereignty and independence.
Meanwhile, for four decades now, Israel has been exclusively relying on America's friendship and support. The ties started with modest civilian assistance in the wake of the State's establishment, continued in the form of arms supplies following the Six-Day War (to replace French arms,) grew stronger in the form of extensive civilian and military aid in the wake of the Yom Kippur War, and reached the point of virtually absolute coordination in the past decade and a half.
In the latter period, any Israeli policy, particularly in respect to the conflict with the Palestinians, was granted automatic support and acquiescence from the White House: Starting from the Rabin government's Oslo process, through Netanyahu moves, Barak's talks on a final-status agreement, Sharon's path of siege and disengagement, and back to the current government's attempts to secure a final-status agreement. This support and acquiescence came in addition to the international backing for Israel on the part of the American giant at global institutions.
Create new alliances
The reliance on the American superpower was possible and proper in the bipolar world of the Cold War, and also in a reality whereby the United States remained the sole global power, starting in the 1990s. Yet the exclusive reliance on the US, which appeared to be a promising policy, is becoming dangerous for Israel in the new world emerging in recent years. In this world, American power no longer enjoys exclusivity – rather, the globe features several centers of power. Russia is quickly regaining its status as a global power, China and India's power is growing quickly, and the European Union has already become an economic and diplomatic power (although in military terms it still depends on American power, via the NATO alliance.)
The Israeli conclusion from recent events in Georgia should be that it is no longer possible to rely on the US to come and save us from any trouble, and that we should simultaneously create alliances of cooperation with other global powers. As opposed to voices in Israel urging the government "not to surprise or entangle our only ally," Israel needs to find additional allies in the international arena. Such policy will boost Israel's maneuverability and enable it to adopt various actions in order to address existing threats and maximize the chances inherent in the regional and global system.
The current elections campaign in the US shows that the era of automatic American support for any Israeli policy is apparently ending, regardless of the winner. Under such circumstances, it is important for Israel to maintain strong ties with other global centers of power. In a reality of ongoing conflict at home and growing external threats beyond our borders, Israel cannot remain alone in the international theater.
Yaniv Ronen is a Ph.D. candidate at Bar-Ilan University's Middle Eastern Studies department

Continued (Permanent Link)

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