View Full Version : The Middle East Map for Palestine

August 25th, 2003, 02:44 PM
Personally, I think the intifada will continue for many years to come. Israel wants complete peace before negotiations on Palestine independance. Palestine wants negotiations in parallel to a disarmament of terrorist groups. Welcome to the great paradox.

(Edited by LF22 at 2:56 pm on Aug. 25, 2003)

NyC MaNiAc
August 25th, 2003, 08:47 PM
Not to be biased, but I don't know how Israel can discuss peace when people are still detonating themselves to kill innocent citizens-these people are giving their life to kill others.

I can't even say truthfully that I would give myself to SAVE another person...

There's so much hate...

Freedom Tower
August 25th, 2003, 10:36 PM
LF22, just so you know, Israel was giving back some cities to the palestinians and releasing some palestinian terrorists(which should never be done anyway). While they were doing this the Palestinians did nothing in return except blow up a bus a few weeks later. How can you criticize Israel for wanting a caese of attacks before negotiations? I'm surprised Israel wants to negotiate at all. Every day innocent Israelis are blown up by terrorists. Then the palestinians complain that they are being occupied. They should realize that the Israeli army is in their cities to protect Israel, and unless they don't stop blowing up Israelis the IDF will have to continue to hunt terrorists.

August 26th, 2003, 01:22 PM
I can't help but detect a slight bit of anti-palestinian pro-israeli sentiments here but thats not what I'm here to debate. To anwser freedomtower's question, "How can you criticize Israel for wanting a caese of attacks before negotiations?" negotiations are the only way to cease the attacks at all. When Israel and Palestine were negotiating on Palestine Independance from the Oslo Accords in 1992 (or 1993 I don't remember) to 1998 less than 100 Israeli's died in terrorist attacks by palestinians. Every since the breakoff's in negotaiations in 1998 over 2000 both israelis and palestinians have died in the resulting intifada. *Also it's not just Israeli civilians that are being killed. A good deal of innocent palestinians have also been killed from coolateral damage when Israeli heliecoper have targeted the palestinian leadership. These rounds of innocent killings continue to enflame the hatred between Israelis and palestinians. The PLO needs to round up it's terrorists factions at all costs and the Israeli government needs to stop continue expanding it's settlements and withdraw back to pre1967 borders. I'm beginning to think neither Sharon or Arafat want peace after all.

August 26th, 2003, 02:09 PM
As a result of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel occupied the entire Sinai penninsula, a considerable landmass. In 1979, when Eqypt and Israel signed a peace treaty and normalized relations, Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt. To enforce the agreement, the Israeli military forcibly removed Jewish settlers from the area.

At a time when their security as a nation was much more threatened than today, the government demonstrated that it would exchange land for peace.

I can't say what the consensus of opinion among its people would be, but I'm pretty sure that an agreement of this sort with the Palestinians would be upheld by Israel.

Sadly, there is no person or group that can make that guarantee on the behalf of the Palestinians.

NyC MaNiAc
August 26th, 2003, 06:53 PM
Palestinians need to stop blowing themselves up, and Israel needs to...I guess, stop defending themselves?

Whatever the case, this juvenille war needs to end, now. I want to go to Israel, yet, I don't feel entirely safe.

TLOZ Link5
August 26th, 2003, 11:36 PM
Suicide bombing is wrong, but when Israel was first founded many Palestinian families were evicted from properties they had owned for generations, which were subsequently taken over by Jewish immigrants. *This must have left a simmering, deep-seated hatred through subsequent generations who live in large refugee camps, crumbling projects in Gaza, and stagnating West Bank cities. *And then religious leaders, who might not even believe in God but use Islam to manipulate the disgruntled Palestinians, spearhead the jihad movement and give the Palestinians something to aspire to: Paradise. *It happened during the Crusades with the Assassins; it's happening again today.

In all honesty, IMHO this drive-the-Jews-to-the-sea rhetoric will lose its momentum if Israel can guarantee a respectable quality of life for the Palestinians on the road to independence. *Everyone wants to live comfortably, even affluently, and many of these suicide bombers came from poor families. *It's the same thing with black militants in South Africa and Native Americans here. *I'm the last one to point fingers; I have friends who live in Israel and I fear for them daily. *But why can't everyone be sane and reasonable like we are on this forum?

Feel free to correct me if you want; I'm just being level with y'all.

August 27th, 2003, 12:17 AM
Lack of Palestinian leadership is to blame. *These poor people are stewing with hatred and there is no one they can look to for help except the militants.

Israel drives a hard bargain, yes, but all the more reason for competent sophisticated Palestinian leadership.

Perhaps the Arab world likes a confused and fragmented Palestinian gov't so they can point to Israel as the cause of the problem.
Wouldn't it be nicer for the Arab world to be able to point to a leader who gave credibility to the Palestinian cause?

August 27th, 2003, 11:18 AM
Some see end of road for Abbas, peace plan

By Charles A. Radin, Globe Staff, 8/27/2003

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- The government of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, which was established last spring as a result of US and Israeli pressure to sideline longtime Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, is on the ropes, challenged by both violent Islamic radical groups and a resurgent Arafat who seems able to thwart Abbas at every turn.

In recent days, Arafat has blocked Abbas' attempts to unify Palestinian security organs under Palestinian Authority command, stopped Abbas' appointment of an interior minister, and appointed his own defense adviser to a job that seems to undercut the position of Abbas' security chief.

Key politicians and analysts are suggesting that Abbas may resign and take down with him the so-called "road map" to Palestinian-Israeli peace. Some say the road map already is dead.

"I advise him to try to resign," Nabil Amr, minister of information and chief spokesman for the Abbas government, said in an interview. "It might put an end to some of this nonsense. Let the others" -- Arafat, with whom the US and Israelis still will not deal, and the many Israeli and US officials who think highly of Abbas -- "see how the situation will be then. Who will be the new prime minister?"

Abbas, who long was second-in-command of the Palestinian national movement, opposed Arafat's decision to embark on the armed struggle that has bloodied Palestinians and Israelis alike over the past three years. Immediately after his appointment, he embraced the road map -- a joint effort of the European Union, United Nations, Russia, and the United States that won strong backing from President Bush.

Initially, Abbas made progress both in restoring the Palestinian Authority's international relations and in easing constraints imposed on Palestinians' daily lives by the Israelis in the interest of security. But all of that is now collapsing under the combined pressures of Arafat's opposition, the resumption of terror attacks, and Israel's strikes against extremist leaders.

Abbas also seems unwilling to respond to US and Israeli insistence that he fulfill his commitment under the road map to disarm and disband the radical groups. Abbas and his supporters have resisted such a step, saying it would lead to civil war between Palestinian factions.

"If there is an item in the road map and I cannot do it, then you must help me," says Amr. "Don't deal with me in terms of your wishes or my commitment, deal with me according to what I can do. The Israelis . . . have to support [Abbas], but they want settlements, they want the fence, they want a state for the Palestinians on 42 percent" of the land the Palestinian government claims.

Gideon Meir, deputy director-general of Israel's foreign ministry, disagreed.

"The ball is completely in the Palestinian court" to act against the extremist groups, which reject Israel's right to exist and glorify suicide bombings, Meir said. "The Palestinian government would have immediate dividends if they started to fight terror."

Khalil Shikaki, a respected pollster and analyst with strong contacts in Palestinian political circles, said the road map already has failed. He said it "didn't give Palestinians enough incentive to move forward when moving forward meant risking civil war" with Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

"This motivation could only come if [the Abbas government] knew what they would be getting in the end," Shikaki said -- including specifying the borders of the provisional state promised to them in the road map, identifying the Israeli settlements that would be be removed, and clarifying the degree of sovereignty the Palestinians would have during the period of provisional statehood.

"If you want Palestinians to engage in civil war from day one," he said, "they should know what they are going to get for it from day one."

Now, Shikaki said, it is too late for that. "The dynamics of escalation are dominant," he said, predicting that Israel will reoccupy the Gaza Strip and West Bank and expel Arafat. "Israel will then have to decide whether to fully reoccupy the West Bank and Gaza," with a civil administration, as before the Oslo peace process of the 1990s, "or determine its own borders and unilaterally withdraw."

Ali Jerbawi, a political scientist at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank who leads the new Palestinian elections commission, said Arafat, Abbas, the Palestinian Authority, and the two-state concept, which has formed the basis for peace talks since the Oslo accords, all have failed and serve merely to disguise the face of Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

"They are all irrelevant," Jerbawi said, asserting that because of extensive Israeli settlement in the West Bank, "a two-state solution is no longer a valid solution. We are headed toward a single, bi-national state, not by design but by default.

"It is better for the Palestinians if the occupation is known for what it is," Jerbawi said. "Let the Israelis be responsible for educating our children, and cleaning our streets. Let them be responsible for their security and our security too. Twenty years down the road" -- when Arabs in Israel and the occupied territories, who have higher birth rates, will outnumber Jews-- "we will ask for our rights as citizens."

A senior Israeli official, a committed Zionist who spoke on condition of anonymity, said this approach would present a genuine opportunity for Palestinians to overwhelm the Jewish state. "It is legitimate, because it is not terrorism. It is a school of thought."

© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

Freedom Tower
August 27th, 2003, 11:41 AM
TLOZ, you said to correct you if you were wrong. You weren't wrong, but there was just one thing you forgot to mention. Although many of the Jews that went to Israel were from Russia, or Europe after WWII there were many Jews already living in Palestine. Back when there was no Israel at all and there were just Jews living in Palestine there was a lot of discrimination. They weren't allowed to do things the Palestinians could do, even though they were also technically palestinians. They were treated as if they were inferior. So they were more than happy to take away the houses of some of the people that use to treat them so badly, when Israel was formed. The problem is, when the Palestinians were the ones on top, they weren't complaining. Now that Israel is the country and they are the minority or people without a country, they decide to murder innocent Israelis. Back when there was a Palestine and the Jews were just second class residents in it, there were no bombings or murderings of the Palestinians. Now everyone criticizes Israel for defending itself. LF22, I don't want to get into an argument with you, but why would you call me pro-Israeli? I am just saying what I think is correct. Do you not agree that terrorist attacks need to stop before there can be a negotiation? Would you go and talk to people who are simultaneously blowing your country up? I just think both sides need to first have a cease fire and then negotiate. However, I believe the Palestinians broke the cease fire this time by killing 20 people on a bus and wounding over a hundred. Then Israel is criticized for killing 3 terrorists afterwards. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think it's me that is Pro-Israeli, I think the world is just Pro-Palestinian.

August 28th, 2003, 03:06 PM
(Edited by LF22 at 3:34 pm on Aug. 28, 2003)

August 28th, 2003, 03:33 PM
Arguments are fine as long as they are within respectable bondaries like the debates on this forum. Calling you pro-israeli was a bad idea, so if it helps then, I'm sorry. Looking closely you would have realized I criticized both sides the best to my opinion. Actually Freedom Tower, there were bombings and murderings of palestinians before the creation of the Israeli state. In one famous incident in 1947 a hotel was bombed by Israeli nationals which killed several foreigners and palestinians which was part of the cataylst that lead to an independant jewish state in 1948. But that was 50 years ago and I don't want to delve into history. And with this thing about ceasefires and negotaiting, I couldn't care less which one was first. In the many months spent arguing between the palestinians and israeli's on which should be first many lives could have been saved. It's not so much the process as the result that matters (peace in the middle east) I actually would go and start talking with the enemy even as they blow up the country if it actually got me the peace. After all, thats how Germany and Japan saved themselves from complete obliteration in World War II, not that Israeli might actually lose to palestinians. *I got no beef with Israeli's killing terrorists. They are terrible people misguided into thier actions by the few crazy radicals. But why can't Israel kill them "á la silent assasins" in the night like they used to instead of using apache helicopters firing missiles in marketplaces and roads killing 10 other civilians. That really screws up your public image. From my opinion, most people sympathize with the death of israeli civilians but less with the death of palestinian civilians. Are Israeli lives worth more than palestinian lives? I think not. And of course there is going to be more coverage on palestinian deaths some times than israeli civilian deaths simply because more palestinian civilians have died since the uprising began. Yes, I do agree Freedom, that the palestinians screwed up big this time blowing up that bus.

(Edited by LF22 at 3:34 pm on Aug. 28, 2003)

(Edited by LF22 at 3:43 pm on Aug. 28, 2003)

Freedom Tower
August 28th, 2003, 11:07 PM
Well LF22, thanks for clearing that up. I had no idea there were Israeli terrorists many years ago. All terrorists are bad no matter what country they are from. Intentionally killing civilians is bad no matter what your goal or cause. That is why I may have sounded slightly pro-Israeli. Currently I do not see Israel targetting any Palestinian civilians. Some do, sadly, get killed in the crossfire, but they are not the target. I see Israel targetting terrorists, whereas I see the Palestinians targeting civilians. It can be said that the Palestinians want peace, but from what I see everytime there is a bus bombing they are all cheering. I think generally the Palestinians support the terrorists, which is a bad thing. I'm all for peace in the middle east, but when Israel starts giving back the land the attacks should immediately cease. I think part of the problem is that nobody can control some of the Palestinian terrorists. Neither Abbas nor Arafat have the power to stop them. Also, most of these groups like Hamas claim they will never stop the attacks until there is no Israel left. Unless the palestinian prime minister can somehow stop the terrorists the attacks will continue and Israel will need to continue to defend themselves. This will never end becuase when Israel goes after the leaders then Hamas agains swears to get revenge. The best solution is for all the of the terrorists to be rounded up - by the Palestinian Leadership - and jailed somewhere in the palestinian areas. Then there can be peace talks and then there can be two states and the attacks on both sides can stop. Since Israel is only targetting the Hamas membors, arresting all of them would ensure Israel would have nobody to target. In addition to that, Hamas could not carry out attacks. It's the terrorists that keep screwing up the peace plan.

August 29th, 2003, 01:20 PM
The palestinians aren't *all cheering everytime a bus bomb blows up, though it certainly looks like it. The media simply shows these rallies against because they are so much more exciting than palestinians saying they want peace. It litterally grabs the headlines. There is deep dessent within the PLO leadership itself but the PLO tries to hid it. They and the media both exaggerate the hatred of the palestinians towards the Israeli's to mask internal problems which plague the palestinian leadership. I do agree that palestinians rounding up palestinian terrorists would be a great solution but I doubt Israel has the patience and the palestinians seem to be too incompetent.

Freedom Tower
August 29th, 2003, 03:08 PM
I think Israel would be patient enough to let the get rounded up. However if a bombing occurred during the round up they would probably retaliate and then the whole thing would be in shambles because the Palestinians would then release the terrorists. It's a huge mess and I doubt it will go away for a very long time.

September 6th, 2003, 08:29 AM
September 6, 2003

Palestinian Prime Minister Submits Resignation


Filed at 7:40 a.m. ET

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) -- Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, increasingly unpopular and worn out by a power struggle with Yasser Arafat, submitted his resignation Saturday, dealing a serious blow to a U.S.-backed peace plan.

The resignation of Abbas after just four turbulent months in office prompted a call for Arafat's expulsion by at least one senior Israeli official. Israel's government warned it would not accept a new government controlled by Arafat or one of his loyalists, but did not make clear what action it would take, if any.

There was some uncertainty as to whether the resignation was final.

Abbas, widely known as Abu Mazen, told parliament in a closed-door session Saturday that he would not change his mind about stepping down. ``Abu Mazen has made his decision,'' said Abdel Fatah Hamayel, a legislator from the ruling Fatah movement. ``He's insisting it's a final decision.''

Arafat aides initially said he had accepted the resignation. However, Arafat adviser Nabil Abu Rdeneh later said Arafat was still studying Abbas' letter, suggesting he might not accept the resignation.

If the resignation becomes final, Arafat would have two weeks to appoint a replacement, and in the meantime, Abbas and his Cabinet would serve as caretakers.

The U.S. State Department had no official comment.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office said in a statement that the resignation was an internal Palestinian matter, but that Israel ``will not accept a state of affairs in which control over the Palestinian Authority reverts back to Yasser Arafat or one of his loyalists.''

The statement did not say what action Israel might take.

Abbas' resignation could lower the threshold for possible Israeli action against Arafat; Israel's defense minister has raised the possibility of sending Arafat into exile.

Abbas' possible departure would mean even greater uncertainty for the ``road map'' peace plan, already in serious trouble because of a major spike in violence in recent weeks and the collapse of a unilateral truce by militants.

With Abbas gone, Israel and the United States would not have a negotiating partner, at least temporarily. The two nations shun Arafat, saying he is an obstacle to peacemaking.

Speaking in Italy, U.S. Secretary for Homeland Security Tom Ridge said Abbas' resignation would not deter President Bush from pursuing peace prospects between Palestinians and Israelis, even though the process will likely be delayed.

``There was great promise there, great hope there, but he was consistently being undermined by elements within the Palestinian Authority,'' Ridge said, speaking at a conference of political and business leaders in the Italian town of Cernobbio.

Israeli Cabinet Minister Danny Naveh on Saturday called for Arafat's expulsion. ``The state of Israel needs to ensure the security of its citizens, and the first step for that is expelling the terrorist Yasser Arafat,'' Naveh said in a statement.

Abbas had his resignation letter delivered to Arafat by two senior officials Saturday before addressing the legislature in a closed-door session to explain his decision.

Palestinian officials said they feared the resignation would lead the region into further chaos.

``We are entering a new crisis and the price of this crisis will be the shedding of a lot of blood,'' said Kadoura Fares, a legislator from the ruling Fatah movement.

Abbas had been frustrated by the constant wrangling with Arafat, his aides said. He was also hurt by the near-collapse of the road map and his inability to improve the daily lives of Palestinians.

Abbas' resignation could end up being a blow to Arafat, even if at first it appeared the veteran leader had outmaneuvered his politically inexperienced prime minister.

Israel's defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, said earlier this week that Israel might have to expel Arafat before the end of the year, if Arafat keeps getting into the way of peace efforts. Israeli analysts have said Abbas' departure was one scenario in which Israel might decide to act.

Until now, Sharon had held back on expulsion, both because of U.S. opposition and because of warnings from his security advisers that sending Arafat abroad would do more harm than keeping him relatively isolated at his West Bank headquarters.

Abbas and Arafat have been at odds ever since Arafat reluctantly appointed the prime minister under intense international pressure in April. The latest standoff was over control of the security forces. Abbas, backed by the United States, demanded command over all men under arms, but Arafat refused to relinquish control over four of the eight security branches.

Abbas said he would not clamp down on militants, as required by the U.S.-backed ``road map'' peace plan. However, being in control of all the security forces would have given him greater authority in renewed negotiations with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and renegades from his own Fatah movement.

Earlier this week, Abbas told parliament it must either back him or strip him of his post, saying he was not clinging to the job and would just as soon step down.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press

September 23rd, 2003, 07:37 AM
September 23, 2003

Efforts to Bring Down Arafat Seem Only to Prop Him Up


GAZA, Sept. 22 — President Bush called him a failed leader, and Israel said he should be removed or even killed. But in the logic of occupation, such threats and epithets count as pluses.

Despite months of efforts to sideline him, Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, has re-emerged to claim support among Palestinians in places as disparate as the Firas Market between the unadorned concrete apartment houses of Gaza City and the Palestine Coffee Shop in Ramallah, on the West Bank.

Indeed, with the collapse of one Palestinian government led by Mahmoud Abbas — who was favored by Washington as an alternative to Mr. Arafat — and still inconclusive efforts to form a new one under Ahmed Qurei, a longtime Arafat associate, many Palestinians see Mr. Arafat as lofted back onto center stage by the very people who most sought his eclipse — Mr. Bush and Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon.

But the rapid series of changes seems to have left many Palestinians in an uneasy limbo.

"It's a sense of helplessness rather than hopelessness," said Iyad Sarraj, a psychiatrist and human rights campaigner, sitting in his airy office overlooking the Mediterranean here. "Nobody can predict. Nobody can tell you whether there'll be a government or not, whether Arafat will be there or not."

"There's a kind of resignation, a fatalistic resignation," he said.

At the core of the issue is the fraught question of Israel's security, with both Washington and Israel blaming Mr. Arafat for failing to rein in the Islamic militants of the Hamas movement who are behind the wave of suicide bombings that have killed hundreds of Israelis.

Mr. Qurei, the designated prime minister, traveled to Gaza on Sunday, but failed to persuade either of the leading militant groups, Hamas or Islamic Jihad, to join his government, which may be announced this week. After he met Mr. Arafat today at the Mokatta — the wrecked walled compound in Ramallah where Mr. Arafat is confined by Israeli decree — Mr. Qurei promised only to try to end the "chaos" of illegal weapons in Palestinian areas. Significantly, he shied away from saying he would try to disarm the militants.

Israel, for its part, has tried to eradicate Islamic militants, singling out individual Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere for attack. One more Hamas member, Basel Kawasmeh, was killed today when Israeli troops with tanks raided a hide-out in Hebron in the West Bank.

But those killings do not resolve the question of whether Mr. Arafat is in any position to move against the militants, as Palestinian leaders are supposed to do under the stalled Middle East peace plan, called the road map. Indeed, his supporters do not seem to want him to.

"Is it rational to attack Hamas and Islamic Jihad?" asked Mahmoud Azrui, an 80-year-old retiree wearing a white headdress as he played cards in Ramallah on Sunday. "Do you think anyone will agree to attack Hamas and Jihad? Then what? Israel will continue to attack our own people."

In recent days, for instance, after Israeli ministers threatened variously to kill, expel or "remove" Mr. Arafat, an uneasy calm has settled, although few people seem to believe that it will last.

"I don't know what the reason is for the quiet," Mr. Sharon was quoted as saying by the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot today. "But it is certainly possible that this stems from the fact that Arafat is frightened and working to prevent terror attacks."

Mr. Arafat's followers cast him in a more pivotal role, particularly since the Israeli threats against him. "Arafat is the leader of the Palestinian people," said Basel Ahmed, a 25-year-old bakery worker in Ramallah. "He initiated armed struggle. He initiated peace. Nobody can achieve anything without the green light of approval from Arafat."

Even in Gaza, where militant groups like Hamas are traditionally stronger, Mr. Arafat's popularity appears to have risen, along with the quandaries surrounding him. For instance, Mr. Arafat renewed an offer of a cease-fire and a demand for international guarantees in a letter to the so-called quartet — the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia — which devised the current peace plan.

But, Dr. Sarraj said, "everybody knows that Arafat, no matter how popular he is, cannot achieve peace since the Americans and Israelis reject him."

Of course, Mr. Arafat's current surge of popularity could well fizzle out if he is seen to be moving against those who take responsibility for suicide bombings, regarded by some Palestinians as their only effective response to Israel's overwhelming military force.

"This is the only weapon we have," said Hanin al-Amwas, a 19-year-old math student shopping for stationery with her friends.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

October 4th, 2003, 10:06 PM
Israel Strikes Back After Suicide Blast

By PETER ENAV, Associated Press Writer

HAIFA, Israel - A Palestinian woman wrapped in explosives blew herself up Saturday inside a seaside restaurant popular with both Arabs and Jews, killing 19 bystanders, including four children. The bombing prompted new calls for Israel to act on threats to expel Yasser Arafat.

Hours later, Israeli helicopters fired missiles at an empty home near the beach in Gaza City and at a house belonging to an Islamic Jihad leader in the Boureij refugee camp in central Gaza, witnesses said. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The lunchtime suicide attack, which wounded at least 55, ended nearly a month of relative calm. One of the deadliest in three years of violence, the bombing came on the Jewish Sabbath and a day before the start of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

President Bush, who has opposed Arafat's expulsion, condemned "the despicable attack" and said Palestinian authorities must take responsibility for stopping terrorism. Arafat supporters appealed for international intervention to guarantee his safety.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called his advisers for an emergency meeting Saturday evening, and the helicopter attacks happened shortly after.

"The world will have to accept our decisions," Ehud Olmert, Israel's vice premier said before the meeting.

The Gaza house targeted by the helicopters belonged to the Kanita family, one of Gaza's largest, but had been empty for a long time. The Kanita family has members in all the main Palestinian groups, including the violent Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Palestinians said.

The attack at the Boureij camp targeted the home of Islamic Jihad leader Morshet Shahin, but residents said he escaped.

The blast at the Maxim restaurant went off shortly after 2 p.m., shattering windows and leaving the white walls cracked and charred black. Most of the ceiling had collapsed, with lights and wires dangling.

Broken plates, glass, chairs and human remains covered the floor of the one-story building. Outside, the body of the restaurant's security guard lay broken and bloody on the steps.

Police said the bomber and 19 bystanders were killed. A 1-year-old and two other children, ages five and six, were among the dead, emergency officials said.

Also among the dead were four Arabs, and the wounded included several members of the local pro soccer team, Maccabi Haifa, who meet at the restaurant every Saturday.

ZAKA, a group that aids rescue workers and gathers body parts for burial, said that five members of one family and three from another died.

Gideon Zilberstein, a 63-year-old accountant, was eating lunch with his wife, son and daughter-in-law when the bomber attacked. "Suddenly we heard a huge boom all around us. People were dead or dying next to our table," he said.

Haifa, a Mediterranean port city of about 270,000 with a reputation for tolerance, has been the target of repeated attacks by militant groups — perhaps because attackers are better able to blend in here with the Arab community of 47,000.

Despite a Sept. 11 Cabinet decision to "remove" Arafat at some point, Israel might shy from carrying out the threat because of strong U.S. opposition and concerns about an international backlash.

Instead, Israel could settle for a lesser step, such as increasing Arafat's isolation by installing more tanks and troops around his West Bank headquarters, where he has been confined for nearly two years. The helicopter attacks may have been just such a step.

An Israeli Foreign Ministry official said the next two days would be crucial for the survival of a U.S.-backed peace plan, suggesting Israel might not take any immediate drastic action.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell called Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom on Saturday to discuss the situation. Earlier, Shalom had reassured Powell that Israel would consult with the Washington before acting against the Palestinian leader.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Jonathan Peled said Israel expected Arafat to take swift action against the militants. The Palestinian leader "will have to come up with something very, very different or serious this time to get off the hook," Peled said, adding that "the next 24 to 48 hours are crucial for the future of the ... peace process."

Arafat condemned the suicide attack and said it endangered Palestinian interests. Incoming Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia called the Haifa mayor to express his condolences.

Eight Israelis joined 18 members of the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement at Arafat's battered compound, pledging to act as a human shield to prevent Israeli action. The ISM activists came from the United States, Canada and four other countries.

Sharon holds Arafat responsible for the suicide attacks, even those carried out by Islamic militant groups opposed to the Palestinian leader's rule.

The United States is looking to the new Palestinian prime minister to crack down on militants; the bombing came on the eve of the expected announcement of a new cabinet by Qureia, who was an architect of the 1993 Oslo peace agreements.

The Islamic Jihad group said it organized the bombing, identifying the assailant as Hanadi Jaradat, a 27-year-old law school graduate from the West Bank town of Jenin. Her brother and a cousin, an Islamic Jihad member, were killed in an Israeli military raid in June.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair also condemned the attack — the first suicide bombing since twin attacks killed 15 people on Sept. 9, near an army base outside Tel Aviv and at a Jerusalem coffee shop.

Those attacks prompted the Israeli security Cabinet to vote to "remove" Arafat, a threat interpreted as either expelling or killing the Palestinian leader.

Sharon had hinted Israel might act against Arafat in response to an attack with many casualties. The United States opposes expelling Arafat, and Israel's security chiefs are divided on the issue. Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, who has spoken in favor of expulsion, have the final say and need no Cabinet approval.

Israeli Health Minister Dan Naveh said Israel must not hesitate. "This awful attack today is definitely an opportunity, the correct opportunity, to implement the Cabinet decision to get rid of Arafat," he said. "It is clear to all of us that he is the biggest obstacle to reaching better days."

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat appealed to international mediators to intercede on behalf of the Palestinian leader, saying he is "worried about an Israeli action against President Arafat or against the Palestinian people that may just add to the complexities."

There were conflicting reports about how the attack began, with some saying the bomber shot the security guard at the entrance before rushing into the restaurant.

If true, that would represent a new tactic. In the past, security guards stopped several bombers outside restaurants, cafes and shopping malls. Police Commissioner Shlomo Aharonishki said it was not clear whether shots were fired.

Saturday's bombing brought to 103 the number of suicide bombings in the past three years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting. At least 431 people have been killed in these attacks.

The attack came despite a blanket closure Israel had imposed Friday on the West Bank and Gaza Strip ahead of Yom Kippur, which begins at sundown Sunday and ends at sundown Monday. Such closures are generally imposed during Jewish holidays because of increased concerns about attacks.

Also Saturday, a Palestinian militant suspected in a deadly attack on an Israeli communal farm was killed in an exchange of fire with Israeli commandos in the West Bank town of Tulkarem, the army said. A 9-year-old Palestinian boy was also killed, hospital doctors said.

Israel charges that Sirhan Sirhan, 20, slipped into Kibbutz Metzer near the West Bank and shot dead five people, including a mother and her two small children, last November.

Sirhan, from the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades — a militia loosely affiliated to Arafat's Fatah (news - web sites) faction — escaped after the attack and despite intensive efforts by Israeli forces managed to avoid capture for nearly a year. Sirhan is not related to the assassin of the same name who shot and killed Robert Kennedy in 1968.

January 5th, 2004, 11:06 PM
Associated Press

Sharon: Some Israeli Settlements Must Go

Mon Jan 5, 6:31 PM ET

By LAURIE COPANS, Associated Press Writer

TEL AVIV, Israel - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told jeering leaders of his Likud Party on Monday that Israel will have to dismantle Jewish settlements as part of any peace deal and he was prepared to act despite their opposition.

Sharon's speech was his first appearance before his party's hard-line central committee since he unveiled his plan last month to dismantle some settlements and unilaterally draw a boundary with the Palestinians if peace efforts remain stalled. He refused to back down Monday, despite a hail of boos from infuriated committee members who reject a Palestinian state and oppose any removal of settlements.

"The disengagement plans are mine and I will carry them out," Sharon declared.

Critics remain skeptical of Sharon's seeming conversion from one of the great patrons of the settlement movement to a leader willing to make significant territorial concessions.

Though his rhetoric has changed, he has done little to fulfill his obligations under the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan. Many accuse him of trying to placate the Americans with pragmatic-sounding pronouncements while playing for time in the belief the Palestinians will torpedo any progress before he has to act.

Before Sharon's speech Monday, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said he had called off plans to schedule a summit with Sharon intended to restart peace moves. Such a meeting, Qureia said, would be meaningless while violence continues.

Top aides of the two leaders have met repeatedly in recent weeks to prepare for the meeting, but Qureia said even those contacts have stopped.

In his speech, Sharon told the nearly 3,000-member Likud Central Committee he remained committed to the road map, which would almost certainly require Israel to evacuate some settlements to make way for a Palestinian state. "It is clear that in a permanent peace accord, we will have to give up some of the Jewish settlements," Sharon said.

However, if there is no progress toward peace soon, Sharon said he would order a unilateral disengagement from the Palestinians that would include moving some Jewish settlements.

Vice Premier Ehud Olmert said Sharon was trying to lead the public "down a different road" that would lead to new boundaries and fewer settlements.

According to Sharon, the main test would be whether the Palestinians would start meeting their key road map obligation of dismantling and disarming militant groups that have killed almost 1,000 Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks during over three years of violence.

The Palestinian Authority has instead attempted, without success, to persuade the groups to voluntarily end attacks.

"If the Palestinians continue to reject our peace offers ... and remain in the camp of the enemies of humanity ... we will disengage from them politically and militarily and prevent any contact between them and us," Sharon said.

Olmert told Channel Two TV he estimated it would be half a year before Israel would conclude there was no alternative to unilateral steps.

Labor Party leader Shimon Peres said Sharon's speech was nothing new.

"The continued rule of this government promises only continued confrontation and further deterioration of our standing in the world," Peres said.

Earlier Monday, Qureia put off plans for a meeting with Sharon that was intended to rejuvenate peace efforts.

"I am sorry to say destruction continues, aggression continues, bombardment continues and I don't think that in this situation that any (summit) meeting will have significant results," Qureia said. "We are not looking for a meeting that is a photo opportunity."

In the past week, Israeli soldiers have killed nine Palestinians. The latest death came Monday, when Israeli troops shot and killed a 17-year-old Palestinian violating curfew in the West Bank city of Nablus. The family of Taj Saif, 17, said he was shot while returning from a junk-collecting trip. Israeli military sources said troops shot a Palestinian who threw a fire bomb.

The most recent suicide bombing, on Dec. 25, killed four Israelis near Tel Aviv.

Qureia also criticized the route of a barrier Israel is building, which is to dip deep into the West Bank in several areas, calling it "illegal" and "an act of occupation."

Israel says the barrier of fences, walls, trenches and razor wire is needed to keep suicide bombers out. Palestinians see it as an Israeli effort to grab land they want for a future state.

Israel has also been criticized for not fulfilling its own road map requirement to dismantle scores of West Bank settlement outposts — though the government recently signed orders to have six removed — and to freeze all construction in veteran Jewish settlements.

Following an appeal to Israel's Supreme Court, the government agreed Monday to give the settlers 15 days to appeal the evacuation order.

February 3rd, 2004, 08:29 AM
February 3, 2004

Angering Settlers, Sharon Says Most May Have to Leave Gaza


JERUSALEM, Feb. 2 — Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Monday that he might seek to evacuate almost all Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip, outraging members of the settlement movement he helped create.

"I am working on the assumption that in the future there will be no Jews in Gaza," Mr. Sharon told the liberal daily Haaretz. He made similar comments in a very tense meeting of legislators from his Likud Party, said people who took part.

It was Mr. Sharon's most specific disclosure to date about what he calls "unilateral disengagement" from the Palestinians, a step he has said he will take if he judges that the Bush administration's peace initiative, known as the road map, has failed.

Mr. Sharon said he had given orders to plan for the evacuation of 17 of at least 20 settlements in Gaza. But his spokesman, Ranaan Gissin, cautioned that that was the most far-reaching of three options that Mr. Sharon was preparing to submit for the approval of his cabinet.

"It may be less settlements that have to be evacuated," Mr. Gissin said. "We have to prepare for an interim plan that will maximize security for our citizens and minimize friction with the Palestinians."

Mr. Sharon set no timeline for a withdrawal, though his allies said it could begin by summer. His opponents on the right and skeptics on the left were quick to accuse him of posturing to divert public attention from a bribery investigation. Mr. Sharon has not been charged in the scandal.

Settlers warned of political action to bring down Mr. Sharon's government, but far-right parties did not immediately bolt from his governing coalition, an indication that they did not consider action against settlements to be imminent or inevitable.

Palestinian officials suggested that the announcement might be nothing more than a public relations maneuver.

Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, reacted with scorn, saying Mr. Sharon was referring only to removing 17 trailers. "What, so they can replace them with another 170?" he asked.

Mr. Sharon astonished even some of his own ministers with his comments on Monday. Told by an Israeli reporter of the Haaretz interview, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said, "I don't know of this decision." He added, "My view is clear and has not changed, that unilateral steps will not bring less conflict and friction. They might even increase it."

In the last 18 months, Mr. Sharon has made a series of statements that have alarmed longtime allies on the right. He has endorsed the idea of an eventual Palestinian state, criticized Israel's "occupation" of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and, most recently, said he intended to remove some isolated settlements. During that period, settlements continued to expand.

But even among rightist Likud politicians, there is new support for relinquishing territory, for fear that Arabs will soon outnumber Jews in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In the Likud meeting, Mr. Sharon warned that Israel must now prepare to act should the Bush administration's peace initiative fail. "He spoke about a situation in which it will become evident that the road map is dying," said Yuval Steinitz, a Likud member of Parliament.

Mr. Steinitz said Mr. Sharon would seek the support of the United States and major European countries. Mr. Gissin said Mr. Sharon would discuss his plans "in detail" with President Bush.

Likud politicians said Mr. Sharon also intended to evacuate a smaller number of West Bank settlements.

Mr. Sharon told Haaretz, "It is my intention to carry out an evacuation — sorry, a relocation — of settlements that cause us problems and of places that we will not hold onto anyway in a final settlement, like the Gaza settlements."

Eran Sternberg, a spokesman for the Gush Qatif settlement bloc in Gaza, said, "We are quite sorry for these miserable declarations of Sharon, which probably come from the pressure of the investigations."

He promised a "tough struggle" against Mr. Sharon, and like other settler leaders warned that a unilateral Israeli withdrawal would embolden terrorists.

"Today Gush Qatif is the finger in the dike that blocks terrorists from flooding the world," he said.

Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan and the Gaza Strip from Egypt in the Arab-Israeli war of June 1967. Gaza, which is bracketed against the Mediterranean Sea by a closely guarded Israeli fence, is about 7 miles wide and 25 miles long. It is home to 7,500 Israeli settlers and more than 1.2 million Palestinians.

In the West Bank, which is slightly smaller than Delaware, about 230,000 settlers live in 125 settlements, among more than two million Palestinians.

Within Israel there is broad support for evacuating the Gaza settlements, which are widely seen as extremist redoubts that drain Israel's resources and needlessly endanger its soldiers.

Mr. Sharon said Monday that he would evacuate Gaza settlements only after reaching an agreement with their residents.

Gaza settlers argue that the territory is part of Jews' biblical birthright. But though Mr. Sharon has long made common cause with religious settlers, he came to the settlement movement from a different perspective, focusing on Israel's modern security needs more than its ancient claims.

In April 2002, referring to Netzarim, one of the most isolated Gaza settlements, he said, "The fate of Netzarim is the fate of Tel Aviv." But his remarks to Haaretz suggest that he now views the Gaza settlements as creating "problems." Haaretz published only excerpts of its interview on its Web site on Monday.

Mr. Gissin said Mr. Sharon was concerned about growing chaos in the Palestinian Authority. He said Mr. Sharon wanted to "seize the initiative" rather than risk having a settlement imposed on Israel that might force it to return to its pre-1967 borders. Mr. Sharon calls those borders impossible to defend.

Mr. Gissin said that if the Palestinian Authority collapsed, the Palestinians might "shout to the Security Council, `Send an international force to the territories' " and " `push Israel back to the '67 borders.' "

Palestinian officials say Mr. Sharon has deliberately undermined the Palestinian Authority, sowing chaos to avoid political negotiations and impose his own preferred borders.

Israeli politicians are increasingly preoccupied with what they call the demographic threat, the danger that within a few years more Arabs than Jews will live in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. The fear is that Israel would then have to sacrifice either its Jewish identity or its democratic character. Ehud Olmert, the deputy prime minister, has raised the concern that Israel may come to be regarded as an apartheid state.

To avoid that, some members of Likud argue that Israel must draw borders in a way to part with as many Arabs — but as little land — as possible. But many hard-line settlers argue that to give up one settlement is to start down a slippery slope.

In the Gaza Strip on Monday, Israeli forces killed four Palestinian gunmen during a raid that the Israeli Army said had been intended to arrest one of them.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

March 22nd, 2004, 09:14 AM
March 22, 2004

Thousands of Palestinians Mourn and Chant for Revenge

GAZA, March 22 — Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader and founder of the militant Palestinian group Hamas, was killed early Monday by an Israeli missile that struck him as he left a mosque in Gaza City, his family and Hamas officials said. They said at least two bodyguards had been killed with him.

Sheik Yassin, a symbol to Palestinians of resistance to Israel and to Israelis of Palestinian terrorism, was by far the most significant Palestinian militant killed by Israel in more than three years of conflict.

Black smoke curled over Gaza City as Palestinians began burning tires in the streets and demonstrators chanted for revenge. Mosque loudspeakers blared a message across Gaza of mourning for Sheik Yassin in the name of Hamas and another militant group, Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades.

Thousands of Palestinians took part in a funeral procession for the Sheik and others killed in the attack.

The Israeli military confirmed the killing, saying in a statement that the sheik was "responsible for numerous murderous terror attacks, resulting in the deaths of many civilians, both Israeli and foreign."

The army said it had targeted a car carrying Sheik Yassin, but Palestinians at the scene said that the Sheik was not in car when he was hit.

The Israeli weapons punctured the pavement of the street where Sheik Yassin, a quadriplegic, was being escorted home. Blood spattered the walls of surrounding buildings. "I could not recognize the sheik, only his wheelchair," said one witness, Maher al-Beek.

In interviews with American television stations this morning, the White House's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said that the United States did not have advance warning of the assassination, and urged calm in the region.

In refugee camps like Rafa and Khan Yunis, strongholds of Palestinian militancy, thousands of people took to the streets. Ismail Haniya, a political leader of Hamas, addressed more than a thousand people who gathered outside the autopsy center at Shiffa Hospital in Gaza City.

"You don't have to cry," he said. "You have to be steadfast, and you have to be ready for revenge, because the sheik has implanted the soul and the spirit of martyrdom and courage in your souls."

He said that "the blood of Sheik Yassin will run in the veins of all Palestinians," and predicted that his death would give "more momentum for the liberation of Palestinians from the criminals, the Jews."

Hospital officials said the sheik's body had been smashed in the attack.

Like other political leaders of Hamas, Sheik Yassin denied involvement in planning specific attacks, but Israeli officials said he was directly connected to terrorism.

Ahmed Qurei, the Palestinian prime minister, condemned the attack. "This is a crazy and very dangerous act," he said, according to Reuters. "It opens the door wide to chaos. Yassin is known for his moderation, and he was controlling Hamas, and therefore this is a dangerous, cowardly act."

The Israeli Army said it had closed off the Gaza Strip, which is bracketed against the Mediterranean by an Israeli fence, and shut checkpoints that effectively divide it into three sections.

Israel has again stepped up its pressure on militants in Gaza since two Palestinian suicide bombers from a Gaza refugee camp blew themselves up last Sunday at the Israeli port of Ashdod, killing 10 Israelis. That attack was jointly claimed by Hamas and Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades.

The country has also appeared eager to show that a plan announced by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to withdraw Israeli settlers and soldiers from Gaza did not amount to a victory for Palestinian militants, as some of them had claimed.

Israel tried to kill Sheik Yassin on Sept. 6, dropping a 550-pound bomb on a Gaza apartment building where he was holding a meeting. The sheik escaped with a slight shrapnel wound to his right hand, and 14 other people were wounded. That strike came as Israel declared "all-out war" on the group after a suicide bombing in Jerusalem in August.

On Jan. 16, the Israeli deputy defense minister, Zeev Boim, said Sheik Yassin was "marked for death" by Israel.

"He should hide himself deep underground where he won't know the difference between day and night," Mr. Boim said at the time. "And we will find him in the tunnels, and we will eliminate him."

Sheik Yassin responded: "We do not fear death threats. We are seekers of martyrdom."

Hamas is officially committed to Israel's destruction, not just a withdrawal from the occupied territories. The word means `zeal` in Arabic, and that is an acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement.

The group runs a network of low-cost clinics and schools that have broadened its ideological reach while helping to give its popularity a boost among Palestinians. Israeli security officials regard it as the most organized and disciplined of the militant groups.

Sheik Yassin helped found Hamas in 1987. He later spent eight years in an Israeli prison, before being freed in 1997 as a gesture to King Hussein of Jordan after a bungled assassination attempt on a Hamas leader in Amman, the capital.

The targeted killing followed an Israeli raid on Sunday into the southern Gaza Strip that left four Hamas militants and one Palestinian woman dead. Israel said it had been seeking to arrest one of the Hamas men who died in the operation.

Also on Sunday, Prime Minister Sharon gained qualified backing from his top right-wing rival, Benjamin Netanyahu, for Mr. Sharon's plan for a Gaza withdrawal. Mr. Netanyahu said he might back the plan if Mr. Sharon achieved an "appropriate return," including support for retraining some blocks of settlements in the West Bank, from the United States.

He also said Israel must remain free to act militarily in Gaza after any withdrawal.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

May 21st, 2004, 07:23 AM
May 21, 2004


Children Fill Ledger of Death, No Matter How, or How Many


RAFAH REFUGEE CAMP, Gaza Strip, May 20 — Set in fields of white, pink and red carnations, the giant cooler here, which usually holds vegetables or flowers for sale to an Israeli company, has been turned over to the dead.

It was to this cooler that, inevitably, the Palestinian doctor came Wednesday morning, when, just as inevitably, the latest Israeli Army raid touched off a parallel struggle to define reality. Were there, in fact, children among the dead, as the Palestinians claimed? How many? Did they die from Israeli sniper fire or from militants' explosives?

The doctor, Ahmed Abu Nikera, had had enough of these questions. In the dank, shadowy room, he yanked and pulled to open the bloodstained white cloth wrapping one of the bodies as tightly as a mummy.

"This is a child," he said, after he revealed the pale gray face of Ibrahim al Qun, 14. "This is the exit wound." He pointed at the ragged, softball-sized black hole where the boy's left eye had been. A sniper's bullet entered at the back of the boy's head, he said.

Still, in the icy book of accounts that one carries to follow this conflict day after day, something else also had to be noted: During the fighting Tuesday night, Dr. Ali Moussa of Al Najar hospital had said there were seven people under the age of 18 among the dead; a list of names and ages compiled by Palestinian hospital officials Wednesday morning showed four people under 18.

Along with the chaos of gunshots, tank shells, planted bombs and armored bulldozers that accompanies life here, there is a dense fog of war. There is also a war of fog, of often fuzzily presented but always sharply conflicting versions of reality.

Like so many characteristics of this conflict, the tension over competing truths is shared across the desert, in Iraq. There, American soldiers and insurgents are not only fighting very different kinds of battles, but also describing very different ones. In the end, it seems that the contest of descriptions matters more, at least to the leaders and to the analysts who guide them.

Whether the casualties on any given day are on one side or the other or both, there is also, in a dark space somewhere, a reality. There is a dead child; there is an exit wound.

How many dead children is too many is a question often asked by Palestinians and Israelis, but it shows no hint of being resolved.

A couple of hours after the visit to the cooler, life here took another cruel and bewildering twist. On Wednesday afternoon, an Israeli helicopter gunship and a tank opened fire as demonstrators approached a neighborhood on Rafah's outskirts that the Israelis seized Tuesday.

Men with agony in their faces ran carrying little boys who bled from many shrapnel wounds. It was bedlam, panic, a vertiginous glimpse of hell.

There were dead and there were wounded, covering the beds and even the floors of Al Najar hospital. Television reports were of more than 20 killed. But one had to ask, hovering ghoulishly with pen in hand and account book at the ready: Where were the bodies?

Palestinian health officials said at least 10 were killed. But Dr. Moussa acknowledged Wednesday night that he could not "guarantee" that number. He said that some families had taken their dead for burial before the bodies reached the hospital.

Muslims bury their dead as swiftly as possible. The bodies of 14 Palestinians were in the flower cooler only because their families were trapped under Israeli curfew and unable to bury them.

Dr. Moussa's uncertainty contrasted with Israelis' precision in gathering their own dead. A few days ago, Israeli soldiers on their knees formed a line in the sand not far from here, to sift for tiny fragments of comrades killed when militants blew up an armored vehicle.

Israeli officials did not publicly contest the sum of Palestinian dead on Wednesday. They generated a different kind of fog.

In a statement by the army, and in disciplined remarks by many officials, the Israeli government expressed sorrow for any deaths of civilians. It called the incident very grave. It said that the incident might have been caused by tank fire. It also suggested that the cause might have been explosives planted by militants. The helicopter and tank fire was legitimate, the government said, because there were gunmen in the crowd of protesters.

Many witnesses said there were no gunmen. The matter is under investigation, the army said.

Some things here are what they seem, and some are not. Israeli soldiers have camouflaged themselves in Palestinian vehicles. Militants have hidden smuggling tunnels in the basements of houses. Each side plays on what it considers the other's habit of deception to cast doubt on claims about the killing.

On Tuesday night, Palestinian officials reported that Israeli snipers had killed two other children while they were taking in laundry on the family's roof. They were Asma al-Moghair, 16, and her brother, Ahmad, 13.

But an Israeli officer leading the operation, whom the army would identify only as Colonel Erez, said an initial army investigation of the deaths was inconclusive. He noted that Palestinians had planted many bombs in hopes of killing soldiers.

"We don't rule out the possibility that these youngsters were killed by the bombs," he said. "I can say unequivocally that no one in our unit put this boy and girl in his cross hairs with the aim of killing them."

Colonel Erez said that Israel had asked that the bodies be turned over for the investigation.

Asma's body was in the morgue of Al Najar hospital, which, with a capacity of only six corpses, had quickly filled.

Dr. Nikara untied a cord binding the cloth around the child's neck, then pulled back Asma's hair to reveal a hole the size of a half dollar over her left ear — an exit wound. She had no sign of shrapnel wounds.

"This is what the Israelis call an accident," the doctor said.

Ahmad lay in the flower cooler. He had a similar hole in his head, above his right ear, and he did not have shrapnel wounds.

Last week, two Israeli soldiers were shot dead as they guarded the search for body parts of five other Israeli troops killed when Palestinian militants destroyed their armored vehicle.

Many of these differing accounts will never be balanced. Each side prefers its version of the facts. The violence continues, and the accounting can seem beside the point.

As the tumult quieted in Al Najar hospital after the wounded were rushed in Wednesday, an exhausted doctor dropped into a chair, his blue tie loose around his neck.

"It doesn't make any difference," he said of the casualties. "Life equals death, for all of us."

He asked that his name not be published; he was worried that Israel might deny him a permit to travel out of Gaza. In the hallways outside, workers with buckets of water were washing the blood off the crushed-gravel tiles.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

July 20th, 2004, 09:43 PM
UN Assembly Tells Israel to Tear Down Barrier

By Irwin Arieff

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Israel must obey a World Court ruling and tear down its West Bank barrier, the U.N. General Assembly demanded in a resolution adopted by an overwhelming vote on Tuesday.

The vote in the 191-nation assembly was 150-6, with 10 abstentions, to adopt the measure aimed at dismantling the 370-mile barrier that Israel says is needed to keep out suicide bombers but Palestinians see as a land-grab aimed at dashing their hopes for eventual statehood.

All 25 European Union countries voted in support of the Palestinian-drafted measure after its Arab sponsors accepted a series of EU amendments over days of intense negotiations.

However, the United States, Israel's closest ally, voted "no" after U.S. Deputy Ambassador James Cunningham warned the resolution was unbalanced and could further undermine the goal of a Middle East in which Israeli and Palestinian states lived side by side in peace.

"All sides are now focused on Gaza and partial West Bank withdrawal as a way to restart the progress toward this vision," Cunningham told the assembly.

Israel also voted 'no,' along with Australia, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau.

Abstaining were Canada, Cameroon, El Salvador, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Uganda, Uruguay and Vanuatu.

"Thank God that the fate of Israel and of the Jewish people is not decided in this hall," Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman said after the vote. "When all is said and done, it is simply outrageous to respond with such vigor to a measure that saves lives and respond with such casual indifference and apathy to a Palestinian campaign that takes lives."


Palestinian U.N. observer Nasser al-Kidwa praised the vote as "a historic development."

"This indeed could be the most important resolution of the General Assembly since the adoption of Resolution 181 of 1947," he said. That measure called for the partition of British-ruled Palestine into independent Jewish and Arab states.

The General Assembly acted after the World Court ruled in a July 9 "advisory opinion" that the barrier, which is still under construction, was illegal because it cut deep into West Bank land to shield settlements built by Israel on territory it seized in the 1967 Middle East War.

The court, formally known as the International Court of Justice and based in The Hague, is the top U.N. legal body.

The assembly resolution, like the court ruling, is not legally binding but carries great symbolic weight in the international community.

The resolution demanded that Israel comply with the court finding that it was legally obliged to dismantle the barrier and pay reparations for damages caused during construction.

In response to EU proposals, it also condemned all acts of terrorism and urged both Israel and the Palestinians to meet their obligations under the road map to peace set out by the quartet of Middle East mediators -- the United States, European Union, United Nations (news - web sites) and Russia.

Sponsors also accepted an EU demand that the measure specify that states have the right to defend themselves against attacks on their people. A section of the court ruling had suggested that under the U.N. Charter, a state had the right to defend itself against an attack from another state but not, for example, from a suicide bomber.

The measure also softened a demand that Switzerland, as keeper of the Fourth Geneva Convention, convene a meeting of parties to the treaty to ensure it was being observed.

The final version said only that Switzerland could consider convening such a meeting. The 1949 pact deals with the protection of civilians in time of war. A key provision bars a government building settlements on land acquired by force.

Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

November 8th, 2004, 11:03 AM
November 7, 2004

Footprints in the Sand


It is a sad but fitting coda to Yasir Arafat's career that the prospect of his death seemed to unlock more hope and possibilities than the reality of his life.

His corrupt, self-interested rule had created a situation whereby Palestinian aspirations seemed to have gotten locked away with him, under house arrest in Ramallah, well beyond the reach of creative diplomacy. Only human biology could liberate them again - and so it has.

In the early 1990's, I sided with those Israelis who, though no fans of Arafat, were ready to deal with him at Oslo in the name of normalcy for both Israelis and Palestinians. But once it became clear, after the collapse of the Camp David talks, that no deal was possible with Arafat, I wished for his speedy disappearance. He was a bad man, not simply for the way he introduced a whole new level of terrorism to world politics, but because of the crimes he committed against his own people. There, history will judge him very harshly.

Google is a wonderful tool. I spent time the other day Googling every variation I could of the words: "Yasir Arafat and Palestine and education." I couldn't come up with a single speech, or even full paragraph, in which Arafat laid out his vision for how Palestinians would educate their youth and nurture their talents. Maybe all his speeches on that subject were never translated from Arabic. Or maybe they just don't exist - because this was never his priority. His obsession was with Palestinian "land," not Palestinian "life." Google the words "Yasir Arafat and martyrdom and jihad," and the matches go on for pages.

After every defeat, Arafat stood on the ruins and flashed a victory sign. While his wife lived in Paris and his cronies lined their pockets, two generations of Palestinians remained in their poverty and displacement, because he never had the courage to tell them the truth: "Palestine will have to be divided with the Jews forever. We must make the best final deal we can over the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem - without double talk about getting the rest later - and then build the finest society that we can." Had he ever given that speech - in Arabic - had he ever adopted the nonviolence of Gandhi, Arafat would have had three Palestinian states by now - Israel's reckless settlements notwithstanding.

The fact that he didn't was not a mistake in judgment but an expression of character. For him, it was better to die in Paris, and have two generations of Palestinians die in exile, than be the Arab leader who officially and unambiguously agreed to share Jerusalem with the Jews. I can understand why stateless Palestinians would revere Arafat for the way he put their cause on the world map - but that became an end for him rather than a means, which is why his historical impact will be as lasting as a footprint in the desert.

Arafat's exit from the stage, combined with the downfall of Saddam Hussein, is a real moment of opportunity for the Arab world: Under Saddam and Arafat, Iraqi and Palestinian nationalisms were devoid of any positive agenda for developing all the men and women in those two societies. They were focused on the negative agendas of resisting outsiders and buying more weapons than computers - because that is what served their one-man rulers. This negative nationalism kept their people mobilized, externally focused and never able to ask about education budgets, let alone democracy. As the Arabic saying went, "No voice should be louder than the battle." And no voices were louder in insisting on that than Arafat's and Saddam's.

But if you have societies held together by a voluntary social contract among its constituent populations, and by institutions, you don't need one-man rule. You don't need to mobilize the whole society around resistance to outsiders. And you don't need the suppression of every group in the society, other than the tribe of the one-man ruler - with all the violence and extremism that such suppression brings.

And that's why so much is riding on how Palestinians and Iraqis replace the one-man rulers who so distorted their societies. Will they each use this moment to hold elections and build a bridge to a society of institutions and laws, or will they simply build a bridge to another one-man ruler? If it is the latter, then the U.N. is going to continue putting out reports about the lack of human development in the Arab world. If it is the former, I am certain that within a decade when you Google the words "Iraq, Palestine, educational innovation and scientific breakthroughs," you will actually come up with some matches.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

January 16th, 2005, 08:47 AM
January 16, 2005

Abbas Takes Office, Already Facing Battles


RAMALLAH, West Bank, Jan. 15 - Mahmoud Abbas was sworn in as Palestinian president on Saturday, already embroiled in crisis.

Israel, responding to an attack on a Gaza Strip crossing point that left six Israeli civilians dead on Thursday, has cut off official contacts with the Palestinians. And in two confrontations in Gaza on Saturday, Israeli troops killed seven Palestinians. Also, 46 Palestinian election officials resigned Saturday, citing irregularities in voting procedures last Sunday.

In the brief ceremony in the West Bank city of Ramallah to inaugurate him president of the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Abbas struck a mostly conciliatory note and called for a cease-fire to end more than four years of violence.

"Our hand is extended toward an Israeli partner for making peace," Mr. Abbas said at the compound where his predecessor, the late Yasir Arafat, was confined for the final three years of his life.

Mr. Abbas reiterated the goal of establishing a Palestinian state that would include the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with a capital in East Jerusalem and a "just" settlement for Palestinian refugees.

Israelis and Palestinians are "destined to live side by side and to share this land," he said.

Mr. Abbas's victory in the election last Sunday raised hopes that the Israelis and Palestinians could resume a dialogue and perhaps end, or at least reduce, the daily violence that has claimed more than 3,000 Palestinian lives and about 1,000 Israeli lives since September 2000.

But the Thursday attack inflamed tensions, and overnight Friday, Israeli soldiers raided a neighborhood in southern Gaza City that has been the source of rocket fire on a Jewish settlement. Five Palestinians were killed and several wounded in the shooting, which lasted much of Saturday, Shifa Hospital reported.

While the raid was under way, Palestinians fired a mortar at the settlement, Netzarim, which landed near a synagogue and wounded two Israeli children. One, a 7-year-old boy, lost an arm, the Israeli military said.

Also, three Israelis were wounded by a Palestinian rocket attack that struck in Sederot, just outside Gaza's perimeter fence. In southern Gaza, near the border with Egypt, some 30 Palestinians tried to enter an empty Israeli military post, said Palestinian witnesses and officials at Najar Hospital in the town of Rafah. Responding Israeli soldiers fired warning shots and then fired on armed men in the group, the military said. Two Palestinians were killed, according to the hospital.

Mr. Abbas had repeatedly expressed his opposition to Palestinian attacks against Israel, and he did so again on Saturday, while also denouncing Israeli military raids.

"In the last few days, a number of incidents have taken place," he said. "We condemn these actions, whether by the Israeli occupation forces or the reactions of some Palestinian factions. This does not help bring about the calm needed to enable a credible, serious peace process."

Israel says Mr. Abbas's comments are welcome but insists that he take action.

Mr. Abbas plans to travel to Gaza on Monday for talks with the Palestinian factions, said Nabil Shaath, the Palestinian foreign minister. Mr. Abbas says he will try to persuade the factions to halt attacks but will not call on Palestinian security forces to crack down.

In another development, 46 Palestinian election officials resigned Saturday, saying they were pressed to change voting procedures on election day, The Associated Press reported.

In the final hours of the election, voting was extended for two hours and all Palestinians with identification cards were allowed to cast ballots, even if they had not registered in advance. The changes harmed the integrity of the election, the officials said, but did not have a significant impact on the final results.

"I was personally threatened and pressured," Ammar Dwaik, a senior election official, told The A.P. "I am therefore announcing my resignation publicly, so that everyone knows that in the upcoming legislative election, this could happen again."

Those elections are set for July.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

February 8th, 2005, 12:41 AM
February 8, 2005

2 Mideast Rivals to State Intent to Halt Attacks

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/t.gifEL AVIV, Feb. 7 - Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority will declare at a summit meeting in Egypt on Tuesday their intention to suspend attacks after four years of conflict, Israeli and Palestinian officials said Monday.

In a related step, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in effect renewed direct American involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the first time in a year and a half, announcing that President Bush will meet separately in the spring with each leader and appointing an American "senior security coordinator" to help train and equip Palestinian forces and monitor Israeli and Palestinian promises. It would be the first meeting between an American president and a leader of the Palestinian Authority in nearly five years.

Together, the announcements added to the growing momentum toward reviving a peace effort that was stalled until the death of Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, in November. But while these were considered the most hopeful signs in more than a year, there were also warnings of potential pitfalls ahead.

Israeli and Palestinian officials characterized the actions to be announced in Egypt at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik as a cease-fire, but there will be no joint declarations or signatures on a document. Mr. Sharon and Mr. Abbas will unilaterally declare their intent to stop attacks, but each will emphasize that progress will depend on steps taken by the other side.

"We expect a declaration on the Palestinian side on the cessation of armed conflict, the intifada," said Raanan Gissin, Mr. Sharon's spokesman. "Israel will also make a unilateral declaration that says if the Palestinians cease fire, we will refrain from military activity."

Mr. Gissin cautioned that in the past four years, 10 announcements of cease-fires had been followed by a resumption of violence, but added that the new announcement "has a greater chance of success than before" because of a new determination to cooperate after the death of Mr. Arafat.

Much will depend on the ability of Mr. Abbas to rein in the militant Palestinian factions, particularly Hamas, which has agreed to suspend attacks temporarily but is withholding further comment until after hearing from Mr. Abbas about the Tuesday meeting.

"We are waiting for Mahmoud Abbas to return and speak with us," said Dr. Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader, who met with Egyptian officials in Gaza City on Monday. "When we see what has been achieved, we will declare our position. We are not under any kind of pressure."

Hamas has always rejected peace talks with Israel, which it refuses to recognize. But when Mr. Abbas was the prime minister in 2003, he did persuade Hamas to halt attacks for a brief period, and he has been in regular contact with the group in recent weeks.

A senior Palestinian official said the summit meeting would declare "a resumption of political relations and a mutual cease-fire." But Palestinian officials cautioned that Israel would have to follow through on its promises to pull back its forces from West Bank cities and discontinue its attacks on Palestinians if the new arrangement were to work.

Nonetheless, what makes the current situation more hopeful, according to American, Israeli and Palestinian officials, is the apparently productive effort to carry out more specific steps in coming weeks, which are to be enshrined in the joint statements to come at Sharm el Sheik.

Since the late 1990's, the United States has played an on-again-off-again role as a "monitor" to push peace talks, each time starting with high hopes but ending in disappointment.

This time, all sides are proceeding cautiously, avoiding triumphant announcements that might prove hollow. A senior Israeli official said the Israelis and Palestinians were heading toward "understandings, not a formal agreement."

Palestinians, for example, are to halt attacks on Israel by all Palestinian militant groups, with a particular focus on the Palestinian takeover of Gaza when Israel carries out its planned pullout of settlers and forces starting next summer.

Mr. Abbas, in Ramallah with Ms. Rice, made it clear that he expected prompt Israeli action on a number of fronts, not on just security but also on freezing the expansion of settlements and not taking any steps to seize property or let settlements grow in the vicinity of Jerusalem, which Palestinians and Israelis claim as their capital.

"There have to be more meetings held at the highest levels between us and the Israelis as well as follow-up on all these matters," he said.

As for the Israelis, they have indicated that they would respond to the cease-fire, if it holds, by halting killings of leading Palestinian militants, releasing up to 900 Palestinian prisoners, and limiting their hot pursuit of Palestinian perpetrators to cases of people known to be planning imminent attacks.

Israel has also announced a pullback of its military forces from Bethlehem, Jericho, Ramallah and other population centers in the West Bank and has promised the United States to lift checkpoints and roadblocks that have hampered the ability of Palestinians to earn a livelihood.

The developments were so momentous that they all but overshadowed the selection of Lt. Gen. William E. Ward, deputy commanding general of the United States Army in Europe, as senior security coordinator, with wide responsibilities for overseeing the steps that are to be started at Sharm el Sheik and supervising the upgrading and reorganizing of Palestinian security forces.

Among General Ward's roles, American officials said, would be to monitor violent incidents on both sides, facilitating Palestinian-Israeli communication over what to do in the face of imminent attacks and making sure that Israel takes steps of its own, including withdrawing armed forces from West Bank population centers.

"This is the most promising moment of progress between Palestinians and Israelis in recent years," Ms. Rice said at the end of 23 hours in Israel and the West Bank. "The United States is determined to do all that we can to take advantage of this moment of opportunity in the weeks and months ahead."

Ms. Rice then left for Rome to continue her weeklong tour of Europe and the Middle East, her first overseas trip as secretary of state.

Earlier, Ms. Rice stood in Ramallah with Mr. Abbas at the rain-swept Palestinian headquarters, which is still bombed out from Israeli attacks a few years ago. Her news conference there was only steps away from the grave site of Mr. Arafat, whose death ushered in the renewed talks coming to a head this week.

To help the Palestinians, Ms. Rice said the United States would channel an immediate $40 million infusion of aid for job-creating programs and infrastructure in Palestinian areas, on top of the $350 million in aid that Mr. Bush announced last week.

The administration hopes that hundreds of millions of dollars in additional aid will flow from Europe and Arab countries in coming weeks.

The Sharm el Sheik summit meeting is to be attended by Mr. Abbas, Mr. Sharon, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah II of Jordan. Ms. Rice will not attend. As she left Israel, she said the antagonists were better off making progress on their own, if possible.

A furious debate has erupted in Mr. Sharon's cabinet between advocates of responding to the cease-fire with positive steps and opponents who fear that the cease-fire is only "a timeout" from violent attacks, giving the Palestinian attackers time to regroup.

So far, Israeli officials say, the advocates of concessions have won the day, but Mr. Sharon is not going to be able to go much further - for example, to meet American and Palestinian demands for dismantling scores of illegal settlement "outposts" in the West Bank and freezing the growth of settlements near Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

February 8, 2005


Hope, Skepticism and Fear: Back on the Road to Civility


http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/s.gifHARM EL SHEIK, Egypt, Feb. 7 - The Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas, meet here on Tuesday to seal a tentative cease-fire, in the highest-level contact between the two sides since the second intifada began in 2000. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt is the host, and King Abdullah II of Jordan will also attend.

So expectations are high - unreasonably high, American, Israeli and Palestinian officials all privately agree. But after more than four years of suicide bombings and military raids, of bitterness and blood, all sides also want this meeting to symbolize the start of better relations or even, just possibly, a step back onto the road toward an eventual peace.

Public image matters, too - the art of how relations seem to be, or might become, not necessarily how they actually are.

Both sides are tired of war and conflict, but both are also fearful of a peace that is not real but merely for show. Whatever trust the Oslo accords of 1993 were supposed to engender has entirely disappeared; the disappointment on both sides about the failure of that agreement, after the euphoria that greeted it, has a lasting tang of bitterness and mutual betrayal.

Even now, the two sides are far from being engaged in negotiations about a peace settlement. Instead, they are having the first civil discourse in years, in the hope that a fragile quiet will lead to a long-term cease-fire and then, perhaps, enough trust on both sides to make the painful sacrifices required for peace.

At the summit meeting on Tuesday, Mr. Abbas is expected to declare broad Palestinian agreement on a long-term cease-fire with the Israelis. A senior Palestinian official says Mr. Abbas may even declare "a cessation of armed conflict," which would effectively be a declaration of a halt to the armed intifada after the deaths of more than 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians.

Such a declaration would itself be a bold step for the cautious Mr. Abbas, who has barely begun to solidify his hold on real power. But senior Israeli officials caution that intent is not deed. To declare a halt to violence, they say, does not mean an actual halt, which can only be proved over time.

So they say that Mr. Sharon, for his part, is willing to announce that if the Palestinians hold to a cease-fire and then move to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism, Israel will refrain from military activity. "In other words," a senior Israeli military official said, "we just defend ourselves. If the Palestinians say they're committed to ending the violence, then we would be committed not to act militarily."

But there will be no mutual declaration or anything that has the force of a treaty, Israeli officials insist. Instead, this meeting and the statements made there will represent the hopes and aspirations of both leaders - hopes and aspirations that will be tested over time, that will be challenged by powerful groups within both societies and that may create, if successful, their own momentum toward peace.

There is enormous skepticism among Israeli officials, both political and military, that a cease-fire will last, or that Mr. Abbas will then move to dismantle the factories that make Qassam rockets and explosives and seize the weapons of the militants.

"If he doesn't move this way against Hamas, to establish that only official Palestinian security forces should have weapons, then Hamas retains a veto over any cease-fire," the senior Israeli military official said. The Israeli foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, an influential and hawkish member of Mr. Sharon's Likud Party, puts it more bluntly, and on the record: "A cease-fire," he says, "is a ticking bomb."

Inside the Israeli cabinet itself there have been fierce debates in recent days about how much risk to take to try to lift Mr. Abbas. The director of the Shin Bet counterterrorism agency, Avi Dichter, has sharply opposed suggestions by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and the army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, that Israel consent to Mr. Abbas's request for the release of some Palestinian prisoners who attacked Israelis before the Oslo accords were signed.

Mr. Dichter lost the argument, but his fears are shared even by those who won it. And if Mr. Abbas, known as Abu Mazen, cannot deliver the militants, or if attacks continue against Israeli civilians and settlers, Israel officials make it very clear that their "freeze on military activity," as they call it, will melt very rapidly.

"My counsel is to be patient and tolerant, so long as Abu Mazen is sincerely trying every day to end the violence," the military official said. "Now we see some positive signs. In the last few days the Palestinian forces have stopped some rocket and mortar launches in Gaza and destroyed two weapons-smuggling tunnels. But we wait for Abu Mazen to implement security reforms and to name his security officials. He has time, but not lots of time."

Even an announcement of a lasting cease-fire, so soon after the death of Yasir Arafat on Nov. 11, would itself be an enormous accomplishment for Mr. Abbas, Palestinian officials say. He emerged smoothly out of the confusion surrounding Mr. Arafat's illness and moved just as smoothly to seem inevitable as Mr. Arafat's successor. He won an impressive victory in a relatively free and fair election on Jan. 9, and did so on a clear platform of an end to violence and a resumption of diplomacy and negotiations with Israel.

And he has won reluctant agreement from the militants to let him try diplomacy. But Mr. Abbas is too weak to confront Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Instead he wants to co-opt them, offering them a share of political decision-making and urging them to take part in legislative elections this summer. Few Israelis or Palestinians, though, believe that the radicals want what Mr. Abbas wants: stability and negotiations leading to a less than maximalist Palestinian state.

The Israelis want Mr. Abbas to succeed, in large part because a cease-fire will make Mr. Sharon's plan to dismantle Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip much easier to carry out. And the Americans want the Israelis to help him succeed, to provide some momentum toward a Palestinian state and help America's image in the Arab Middle East after the Iraq invasion.

An absence of violence, of course, is not peace. But it is the prerequisite to the difficult political decisions required to make peace, for both sides.

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

February 14th, 2005, 09:03 AM
This may be more important than the Iraqi elections.

February 14, 2005

Abbas Declares War With Israel Effectively Over


http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/g.gifAZA, Feb. 13 - The new Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, said in an interview this weekend that the war with the Israelis is effectively over and that the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, is speaking "a different language" to the Palestinians. Mr. Sharon's commitment to withdraw from Gaza and dismantle all Israeli settlements there and four in the West Bank, despite "how much pressure is on him from the Israeli Likud rightists," Mr. Abbas said, "is a good sign to start with" on the road to real peace.

"And now he has a partner," Mr. Abbas said.

In a 40-minute interview in his Gaza office late on Saturday night, Mr. Abbas spoke with pride about persuading the radical groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad to respect the mutual declaration of a truce that he and Mr. Sharon announced last Tuesday at their first meeting, in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt, which was the highest-level meeting between Israelis and Palestinians in four years.

Mr. Abbas said the war with the Israelis would be over "when the Israelis declare that they will comply with the agreement I made in Sharm el Sheik, and today our comrades in Hamas and Jihad said they are committed to the truce, the cooling down of the whole situation, and I believe we will start a new era."

In the interview with The New York Times, his first with a Western news organization since he was elected president of the Palestinian Authority five weeks ago, on Jan. 9, Mr. Abbas spoke with confidence and humor in nearly fluent English. He also spoke of several developments.

¶Hamas made a commitment to him to run in the July elections for the Palestinian legislature, continuing the group's "conversion into a political party."

¶Mr. Abbas fired nine senior police and security officials in Gaza and was prepared to fire more if they did not get "the first message" that they are to enforce his cease-fire.

¶He set the release of Palestinian prisoners as his first priority, and said it would be a measure of how much tensions have eased in the West Bank and Gaza.

¶He rejected any idea of a sovereign Palestinian state in temporary borders before a final settlement.

¶The Americans were talking to him "in a very helpful way," and he hoped the Bush administration would deliver on its promises of political and economic aid.

¶At nearly 70, he expected to retire after one term of five years.

Mr. Abbas wants progress to continue so that the two sides can move quickly to political discussions about the road map, a diplomatic process meant to lead to tackling the most difficult issues that have deeply stymied both sides: questions of final borders, refugees, Jerusalem and now, "President Bush's initiative about a democratic Palestinian state," Mr. Abbas said.

While he is happy to coordinate Israel's withdrawal from Gaza with Mr. Sharon, he says, the Palestinians need a political horizon looking toward a real state. At their meeting in Sharm el Sheik, Mr. Sharon made many positive commitments, Mr. Abbas said, offering to form a joint committee to discuss releasing the 200 or so Palestinian prisoners held since before the 1993 Oslo accords, and the pullback of the Israeli military in the West Bank and the reopening of Gaza's seaport.

Israel acted further on Sunday to improve relations by agreeing to release 500 prisoners.

Mr. Sharon also spoke "about the Palestinian independent democratic state" and "about the occupation, never to be an occupier anymore," Mr. Abbas said. "So on all these things he was positive, but what we want to know is the implementation on the ground."

Asked about his first priority, Mr. Abbas was quick and explicit. "Prisoners, prisoners are our priority, and we told everyone about it," he said, from the American secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, to President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. "The situation will be stabilized and will cool down in Gaza and the West Bank" to the degree that Mr. Sharon "helps us to release the prisoners," Mr. Abbas said. The Palestinian Authority says Israel holds nearly 8,000 Palestinians, but the Israeli government has had fierce debates about whether to release Palestinians held for attacks against Israelis, with Mr. Sharon expressing public understanding of Mr. Abbas's need to show Palestinians quick benefits from the new quiet.

But Mr. Abbas then wants to move quickly to political discussions with Mr. Sharon about carrying out the road map. He said he would be happy to coordinate Israel's withdrawal from Gaza with Mr. Sharon, but said the Palestinians need a political horizon looking toward a real state.

Although the road map mentions the option of declaring a sovereign "Palestinian state within provisional borders" while talks continue about a final settlement, Mr. Abbas said, "If it is up to me, I will reject it." Palestinians will see an interim solution as a trap, replacing a final settlement, and "peace will not prevail anymore in the region," he said.

"So it's better for us and for the Israelis to go directly to final status," he said. "I told Mr. Sharon that it's better for both sides to establish this back channel to deal with final status and go in parallel with the stages of the road map."

What did Mr. Sharon say, Mr. Abbas was asked. He laughed. "He didn't respond," he said. "But we'll talk more about it. Maybe he didn't like it. We have to repeat it more and more in our ongoing negotiations."

Less than a month after he took office on Jan. 15, Mr. Abbas spoke with surprising optimism. The Israelis say he started slowly and timidly, and then has done better, showing more courage when challenged. Mr. Abbas contends much has been accomplished, given the deterioration of the Palestinian Authority under Yasir Arafat, "but we can't negotiate everything in 10 days."

With his upbeat mood, he may be trying to instill hope in the Palestinians, who, as he says, "are observing, and they see progress, and they are happy with it, but they want more."

"They want job creation, they want to eat, and they want security," he said.

But Mr. Abbas will undoubtedly face serious challenges from Hamas and other radicals, whose support may be tactical, and some of whom want him dead.

Mr. Abbas said he was surprised that the armed militants, many wanted by Israel, embraced his candidacy. "All the fugitives came to me from all factions and said: 'We are for you. You were with us, and we want you to solve our problems,' " he said. They want real jobs in the security forces of the Palestinian Authority "and to be secure from Israeli assassination and attacks," he said. "I promised them, and now it is realized."

Was the armed intifada of the last four and a half years a mistake? "We cannot say it was a mistake," he said. "But any war will have an end. And what is the end? To sit around the table and talk. And they realize that this is the time to come to the table and talk and negotiate."

Asked if Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which are labeled terrorist organizations by the United States, want what he wants, he laughed and said: "No, of course they don't want what I want! They want to come to power if they can. For that they ran in municipal elections and after that they will go" to the legislative elections. "And if they win, of course they want power. And it is their right. It is the competition" of democracy.

Asked about Hamas's recent victories in local elections in 7 of the 10 cities and villages in Gaza, Mr. Abbas said: "This is democracy. We have to congratulate Hamas and say, 'O.K., you won.' Why not?" His own mainstream Fatah faction made many mistakes, he said. The vote "is a good lesson for Fatah to realize its position toward this and that and prepare themselves for the coming elections" for Parliament on July 17.

Fatah is already working to renew itself and bring in a younger generation "in parallel" with preparations for the elections, Mr. Abbas said, including work to form a new government, expected within the next week. Some in Fatah worry that Hamas could win more a substantial share of the vote, and Mr. Abbas is negotiating a new law with Hamas about how much proportional representation, which Hamas favors, will be used to elect legislators.

Mr. Abbas argued that democracy would help tame the radicals. "Of course they should be converted into a political party," he said. "It's good for us. We're talking about national unity."

He said he was not bothered that Hamas could construe the acceptance of Israel merely as a stage toward a Palestinian state, to be followed by a renewed desire to eliminate Israel. "Whether they consider it a stage or not, they will accept an Israeli state within the 1967 borders and they declare it," he said. "For me it is not a stage; for them it is a stage - O.K."

The Israeli foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, speaking for the right, has said that a cease-fire is not enough, and is just a "ticking bomb" until Mr. Abbas confronts and dismantles Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Mr. Abbas rejected the argument, but not entirely, saying: "If he will put preconditions, it will not work. It will not start. We say, 'We are now in a truce. Let's strengthen it, let us work to stabilize the whole situation.' Now Hamas and Jihad are running for the elections, and what does it mean? It means that they will be converted in time into political parties."

Mr. Abbas, who will be 70 on March 26, is a refugee, and says he will insist on the right of Palestinian refugees, under United Nations Resolution 194 of 1948, "to return back or to be compensated." But he says he is willing to negotiate this, as all other matters, with the Israelis.

"I don't think the Israelis have the right to say, 'No, we won't discuss it,' " he said. "We will ask them to discuss this resolution, and when we come to an agreement, on anything, of course we will accept it."

Mr. Abbas was born in Safed, in what was then British Mandate Palestine. He was 13 in 1948, during the Arab-Israeli war that followed Israel's establishment as a state. "I remember everything," he said. "It was 1948 when we have been deported from Safed to the Golan Heights to Damascus, and I remember every specific point," he said. "There was a war. We had to leave the city. The Israelis invaded the city, the Haganah at the time. We left our country."

With Safed in Israeli hands, Mr. Abbas said, he could not return until 1995, after the leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization were allowed to return to the territories after the 1993 Oslo accords. He wanted to go sooner, but the mayor of Safed organized demonstrations against the visit, he said.But in 1995, "I did go back, but secretly," he said. "The Israeli Ministry of Interior helped me to go discreetly there." He stopped, his face suddenly softer. "I was there for 5 or 10 minutes only," he said. "I was very, very sad. I was very sad."

He looked off toward the far wall, then continued, "Every place, every quarter, every building I remember. I saw my house. But I didn't go inside."

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

March 20th, 2005, 09:03 AM
March 20, 2005

Jews in Gaza Recoil at Idea of Expulsion

By STEVEN ERLANGER (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=STEVEN ERLANGER&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=STEVEN ERLANGER&inline=nyt-per)
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/n.gifETZER HAZANI, Gaza Strip - The green tanks in their berms and the protective walls around the Israeli settlements here are surrounded by yellow daisies and deep pink oleander. But this is probably the last spring for the Jews of Gaza.

Slogans and bumper stickers denounce Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a dictator and an enemy of the Jewish people, on a par with Nebuchadnezzar and Titus, who destroyed the first two Temples. Most cars fly the orange-and-blue flags of those opposed to Mr. Sharon's plan to dismantle all 21 Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip and to help the nearly 9,000 people here find new homes and new lives.

The late winter sun is California bright, and a salty breeze comes off the nearby beaches, which the settlers here can see but not visit.

Except for two small areas, the beaches belong to the 1.3 million Palestinians of Gaza, who will soon, if Mr. Sharon gets his way, inherit these community centers, schools and hospitals, which were built by the settlers, with government backing, to lay claim to the biblical land of Israel. With so many Palestinians and so few Jews in Gaza, Mr. Sharon and his aides contend, defending the settlers here is too expensive and difficult, both militarily and diplomatically.

If the Israelis here do not leave on their own, in late July their own police and army forces will begin to remove them, in an operation expected to take three to four weeks.

For Kobi Hadad, the prospect is a nightmare that stays with him all his waking hours, which are many more than before. Like other settlers here, he feels frozen, he says, paralyzed by a future that he detests and cannot believe will come, but which he does not know how to avert.

"I live day to day," he said. "Every day has its problems, including not sleeping. I walk around a lot at night, and I smoke a lot - that's on the rise," he said, as he snuffed out another cigarette.

"If I think rationally," he said, "I know I have to prepare myself to go, because it might happen. But the irrational side is causing me to freeze in my place and take no action. Something could happen, some outside event - who knows? My wife and I try to talk about it; she looks at me and she doesn't have to ask."

Mr. Hadad, 45, came to Gaza in 1986, after serving in the army, living for a few years in Jerusalem and missing the earth. "We were brought up that you have to settle the land," he said. "I decided I wanted to live in a moshav," a cooperative farm, "and I wanted to start something." With 10 families, at first in mobile homes, the Hadads began an agricultural settlement in southern Gaza, Rafiah Yam, which now has 26 families. They practice high-tech farming, growing organic vegetables - peppers, lettuces and spices - in the sand dunes, under greenhouses of fabric. Nearly all of the produce is sold to Europe. Gaza is responsible for 15 percent of Israel's agricultural exports.

"It was difficult to learn how to grow in the sand, but we succeeded," he said proudly, then grew melancholy again. "Where shall we go? Where will we find our place?" Mr. Hadad says he cannot even begin to answer. Yet in his heart of hearts, where he does not want to reach, he knows that he and his family will have to go.

Like most Israelis here, he is disgusted by Mr. Sharon's failure to discuss his Gaza plans when he ran for election - in fact, Mr. Sharon rejected a similar plan proposed by his Labor opponent, Amram Mitzna - and by Mr. Sharon's refusal to hold a national referendum on the issue. "It feels undemocratic, even if it's totally legal according to the law," Mr. Hadad said.

But he considers it almost worse that Mr. Sharon refuses "to come here and meet us and say, 'I still love you, but this is the new situation, and that's why I'm changing my mind and have to evacuate you.' "

Instead, Mr. Hadad said, "people now look at us like we're lawbreakers, when everything we did here was legal, and as obstacles to peace, instead of praising us for what we've built and defended here as pioneers of modern farming."

For the Palestinians of Gaza, of course, most of them refugees themselves, the settlers are not just lawbreakers but colonizers, and their departure is welcome. And even some Israelis see settlers as maddened religious fanatics, some of whom may violently resist evacuation by the Israeli Army and police.

"We will never harm the messenger," Mr. Hadad said. "The soldier is our son, and our neighbor's son or our relative's son. Most people here feel that way, and they have an enormous appreciation for the army here and for the investment they make for our safety."

Sam and Bryna Hilburg know that well. Their son, Yochanan, was one of 11 Israeli Navy commandos who died in an undercover operation on the coast of Lebanon in September 1997. The Kalashnikov rifle he used in the raid hangs in their house, and they have buried their son in the cemetery here, his grave covered with seashells. The local youth club is named after him.

"He's the only one of my children who wanted to come back here to live," said Mr. Hilburg, 55, a wiry man who was a marine in Vietnam before emigrating in 1972.

Now the Hilburgs must expatriate their dead son, too. "No matter how awful it is for us to leave our home, imagine having to carry a coffin around with you," said Ms. Hilburg, 54, her eyes both fiery and wet. "Hanging over everything is Yochanan."

The Hilburgs came to Netzer Hazani in 1979, bringing up six children, part of a cooperative farm now with 80 other families. They grow cherry tomatoes from the sand and sell them to Europe. "They're too expensive for the Israelis," Mr. Hilburg said.

The collective, which is in sight of the Palestinian refugee camp of Khan Yunis across the fences, is holding together. No one, the Hilburgs said, has explored an alternative home or contacted the government's Disengagement Administration, headed by Yonatan Bassi, which is responsible for finding the people here new communities.

Mr. Bassi said that 800 of Gaza's 1,700 families had expressed willingness to leave and discuss compensation and that he expected 600 more to do so soon, with the rest waiting until the very end.

It is hard to confirm Mr. Bassi's confidence here. The Hilburgs, like the Hadads, continue to hold out hope that Mr. Sharon will be toppled, that Israel will attack Iran or that somehow God will intervene.

At one moment Ms. Hilburg says she is not resigned to leaving. Then she says, "But we can't put our heads in the sand." And then she says, "We're doing what we can to make sure it doesn't happen." And then: "With my hand on my heart, I say I don't know what we'll do."

Yigal Kirshenzaft, who became a Lubavitch rabbi after his army service, has no such doubts. In his house decorated for Purim, with an effigy of the evil Haman hanging, plastic cellphone in pocket, from a gallows outside, he sits surrounded by 7 of his 12 children, who show off the remains of a Qassam rocket that landed in the backyard.

"God will stop it," he said with complete assurance. "We will be here for many years to come." He came 23 years ago, in 1982, after he was expelled from Yamit in the Sinai Peninsula by the Israeli Army after a peace treaty with Egypt - the last time an Israeli settlement was dismantled.

Gaza is different, he said, part of the land of Israel. "I was in the army of Israel, and now I'm in the army of God," he said. "There is a war going on here, and everyone is a soldier, even the children. This is our country and our destiny, the Holy Land."

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

March 22nd, 2005, 08:11 AM
March 22, 2005

Israel to Expand Largest West Bank Settlement

By GREG MYRE (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=GREG MYRE&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=GREG MYRE&inline=nyt-per)
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/m.gifAALE ADUMIM, West Bank, March 21 - Israel on Monday publicly confirmed plans to build 3,500 new housing units in the largest Jewish settlement in the West Bank, Maale Adumim. Palestinians angrily responded that such an action would violate the Middle East peace plan and would be a major obstacle to resolving bitter disputes over nearby Jerusalem.

After reports in the Israeli news media, the Defense Ministry confirmed Monday that Shaul Mofaz, the defense minister, had approved the new building plan for Maale Adumim two months ago, based on government proposals dating back several years.

In another development on Monday, Israel handed over security control to the Palestinians in the West Bank town of Tulkarm, a hotbed of Palestinian militants. Last month Israel agreed to transfer security control of five Palestinian towns in the West Bank, and Tulkarm is the second one to be handed over, after Jericho last week.

The Maale Adumim settlement, with nearly 30,000 residents, a spacious shopping mall that includes Blockbuster Video and Ace Hardware, and streets lined with palm trees and flower beds in full bloom, already resembles a well-ordered suburb in the hills a few miles east of Jerusalem.

Residents welcomed the planned expansion as a natural development for the fast-growing settlement. "This is very good news," said Roni Hai, 52, a taxi driver and a 20-year resident. "We just keep getting bigger and bigger."

Cranes, bulldozers and trucks were all in motion on Monday, working on dozens of residential buildings that had been approved before this latest move. A billboard promoting one new neighborhood, "Views of Sevilla," promises apartments with "breathtaking views." To the west is the skyline of Jerusalem, and to the east are stark desert hills dotted with Palestinian villages.

But Palestinians criticized the expansion plan disclosed Monday as a flagrant attempt to expand the Jewish presence in and around the traditionally Arab eastern parts of Jerusalem and to seal them off even further from Palestinian areas in the West Bank.

"If this is carried out, Israel will be dictating the outcome of negotiations on the future of Jerusalem before they even begin," said Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator with the Israelis.

"I really urge President Bush to intervene directly and prevent Israel from doing this," Mr. Erekat said. "The land that is supposed to be for a future Palestinian state is being eaten up. With this settlement building, and the wall that is being built, the question for President Bush is: What is left to be negotiated?"

Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, and government officials often describe Maale Adumim as part of "greater Jerusalem" that will be part of Israel in any future peace agreement. The Palestinians are seeking all of the West Bank as part of a future state, with its capital in the eastern sector of Jerusalem.

In practical terms, the expansion of Maale Adumim creates two major problems, say Palestinians and other critics of the Israeli plan. First, Palestinians living in East Jerusalem and nearby areas will be effectively boxed in, with no room to grow.

"This project may be one of the biggest obstacles to reaching a two-state solution," said Yariv Oppenheimer of Peace Now, an Israeli group that monitors settlements. "This will cut off Jerusalem to the east with Jewish settlements."

Also, an expanded Maale Adumim would serve as a barrier between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank. Palestinians traveling between the two parts would face a lengthy detour, though Israeli officials have hinted that they may build a bypass road.

Critics also called the expansion a violation of Israel's pledge under the Middle East peace plan known as the road map, which calls for a freeze of all settlement activity.

Israel, though, has interpreted that to mean that it can continue building in existing settlements, at least for now. Israel also says the peace plan is not currently being carried out because the Palestinian leadership has yet to act against Palestinian factions responsible for attacks on Israelis, as the plan requires.

In Washington, Adam Ereli, a State Department spokesman asked to comment on Israel's announcement about the settlement, said: "The road map calls for an end to settlement activity and action against terrorist infrastructure. Those are important commitments that both sides have made, and that we look forward to both sides following through on."

He added that he did not have any specific comment on the new report of settlement activity but added, "Obviously that's - it's something we'll be looking into, something we're regularly engaged with the government of Israel on."

Kinneret Eliyahu, 28, who runs a jewelry store at the settlement's shopping mall, was born in Maale Adumim. Her family was among the first settlers here and initially lacked electricity and running water.

"When I was growing up, this was a tiny place and there wasn't any entertainment," said Ms. Eliyahu, who had to commute to Jerusalem to attend high school. "But now we have everything, and there's hardly any reason to leave."

The settlement is a magnet for young couples and includes 39 kindergartens. Housing here costs at least one-third less than in Jerusalem. The commute used to include regular traffic jams and, on occasion, stone-throwing Palestinian youths.

But a highway that opened two years ago tunnels through a hillside, avoiding Palestinian areas and allowing commuters to zip into the center of Jerusalem in less than 10 minutes.

About 230,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank, and the number is increasing by at least 10,000 each year. In addition, more than 200,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed after capturing it in the Arab-Israeli war of 1967.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon intends to remove all Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip; they now number about 8,800. But Mr. Sharon also has made it clear that he intends to strengthen Israel's hold on the main West Bank settlements, where a vast majority of settlers live.

In addition to formal settlements like Maale Adumim, settlers have established about 100 unauthorized outposts in recent years. Earlier this month, a government-sponsored report said Israeli governments had systematically broken the law by providing assistance to the outposts in the last decade.

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

Ninja Mantis
April 9th, 2005, 06:33 AM
As a result of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel occupied the entire Sinai penninsula, a considerable landmass. In 1979, when Eqypt and Israel signed a peace treaty and normalized relations, Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt. To enforce the agreement, the Israeli military forcibly removed Jewish settlers from the area.

At a time when their security as a nation was much more threatened than today, the government demonstrated that it would exchange land for peace.

I can't say what the consensus of opinion among its people would be, but I'm pretty sure that an agreement of this sort with the Palestinians would be upheld by Israel.

Sadly, there is no person or group that can make that guarantee on the behalf of the Palestinians.

Well said Zippy.

I think peace is totally possible. Here in the US...all we basically get is the Israeli side of the story (concerning the never ending conflict) but just as I believe Israelis deserve a homeland, which I always supported...so to do Palestinians deserve a homeland. And not to be a conquered people who are treated like animals in their own lands where they lived for centuries.

I think the pre 67' borders would be as fair as can be. Allow Jerusalem to remain a city of 3 religions, controlled by none. Maybe even an independent state...like the Vatican in Rome.

It is unfortunate that the only way Palestinians can get the attention of the world is to commit suicide and kill usually innocent people in the process.

Unlike the infotainment media would have you believe...there are MANY Israelis who DO want peace and are willing to compromise. The same goes for Palestinians.

August 14th, 2005, 04:28 PM
So, we are being fed the soundbites and 30 second images of the peace-loving Israeli's leaving occupied areas. Israel, so dedicated to peace and regional stability (despite the lopsided toll of Paletstinian rock throwers dead vs. well armed Israelis.)

Now, we are being fed the horrors of Iran - who we don't even have relations with and who we have zero danger from - if we just mind our own damned business. But, wait, now we are being told by the administration that Iran is supplying insugents - even though, last week, our American generals on the ground in Iraq say it isn't so.

So, are we going in? If yes, why? If no, why? And why does Israel get to have nukes and no one else in the mideast?

August 18th, 2005, 10:49 AM
I am surprised noone here is talking about this.

What do you think? Am I the only one that is surprised at the fact that 95% of the protestors there are either teenagers OR not natives to the area?

I can understand people being sad to leave their homes, but they make it look like they killed their siblings or something.

Youth is so much like gasoline, you can get so much work out of it if you harness it properly, or it can just explode.

August 18th, 2005, 11:45 AM
Merged last post into existing thread.

The thread has been here for 2 years. As you can see from the lack of response, many in the U.S. do not give this issue the attention it deserves, characteristic of the skewed perception we have of the Middle East.

The Israeli-Palestinian dispute has been at the heart of Middle East problems for decades. The Palestinians may finally be eager to end the confrontation, and Israel, having lost its way as an occupier of land (Gaza Strip) it never really wanted, may be on the road back to a reasonable approach.

Lessons apparently not learned by the U.S.government, which has become an occupier of Iraq, and regardless of intentions,will be blamed for all of the country's problems. And like in Israel, terrorism will not stop by hunting them down; they are born faster than we can kill them. The society that produces them must see the better alternative.

November 1st, 2005, 04:37 PM
Merged the Iran and Israel thread into this one.

November 1st, 2005, 04:49 PM
Let's see. If we wrote down all the countries in the Middle East, and had to choose only one that was permitted to have nuclear weapons, I wonder which one would get the most votes?

All the votes?

November 26th, 2005, 01:15 AM
November 26, 2005

Palestinians Taking Control of a Gaza Border Crossing

By GREG MYRE (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=GREG MYRE&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=GREG MYRE&inline=nyt-per)

RAFAH, Gaza Strip, Nov. 25 - Mahmoud Abbas (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/a/mahmoud_abbas/index.html?inline=nyt-per), the Palestinian president, formally reopened the Gaza Strip's border crossing with Egypt on Friday, giving Palestinians control over one of their frontiers for the first time.

"I think every Palestinian now has his passport ready in his pocket; let them come to cross at this terminal whenever they want," Mr. Abbas said to more than 1,000 guests assembled under a tent. He then cut a ribbon inside the refurbished terminal building at this ragged border town.

Palestinians consider taking control of the Rafah crossing as an important step in both practical and symbolic terms in their quest for statehood.

Starting Saturday, Palestinians in Gaza will be able to come and go to Egypt and the wider world without passing through Israeli security. At the same time, the Palestinian Authority will take on the responsibility of managing a sensitive border, although European Union monitors will also be present.

The reopening of the Rafah crossing also settles an important question, which was left hanging when Israel withdrew from Gaza. The pullout was completed more than two months ago, but the two sides could not agree on how the 1.4 million Palestinians would move in and out of Gaza, a tiny, impoverished territory.

After weeks of inconclusive talks between the sides, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/r/condoleezza_rice/index.html?inline=nyt-per) brokered an agreement on Rafah and other Gaza crossing points during a visit to Jerusalem last week.

Many Gazans regard Rafah as the territory's most important crossing because it is the one that does not lead to Israel.

Israel had controlled all of Gaza's borders since capturing the territory in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. For Palestinians, it has been particularly difficult to cross Gaza's boundaries since the Palestinians began an uprising five years ago.

Palestinian gunmen have frequently battled Israeli soldiers posted along the frontier. Israeli bulldozers flattened hundreds of homes on the southern edge of Rafah that the military said were being used for cover. The border crossing was frequently closed, while Palestinians smuggled weapons through tunnels that ran beneath the frontier.

Travelers were supposed to start passing through Rafah on Friday, but that was delayed a day, apparently to accommodate the ceremony. However, not all Gazans received the word. Dozens of anxious travelers, many sitting on their suitcases, waited in vain outside the terminal building on Friday.

They included Attallah Abu Assi, 65, who was among 15 family members trying to reach Egypt to visit relatives. Over the past five years, Mr. Assi and relatives have tried about 30 times to pass through Rafah, but have always been turned back, he said.

The Israelis did not give a reason, Mr. Assi said, though he suspected it was because other relatives had been arrested by the Israelis.

"Even if we have to wait until tomorrow, this is still a day of happiness because of all the obstacles we have faced for the last five years," he said.

Gazans go to Egypt for vacation, to study or to receive medical care, and ties have long been close. The border actually splits the town of Rafah in two, with many on the Gazan side related to those on the Egyptian side.

The Egyptians, who controlled Gaza from 1948 until the 1967 war, were requiring Palestinian men aged 18 to 40 to obtain visas before entering Egypt, Palestinian officials said. Egypt is likely to have economic as well as security concerns: many young Gazan men are unemployed, and some have links to militant groups.

Several days before its soldiers completed a withdrawal from Gaza on Sept. 12, Israel closed the Rafah crossing. Chaos broke out the following week, with residents on both sides slipping across the border before the Egyptian and Palestinian security forces restored order.

Since then, the border at Rafah has been open intermittently. Beginning on Saturday, it will open four hours a day, and the Palestinians hope to keep it open 24 hours a day soon.

The European Union is supplying 70 monitors to help at the crossing. In addition, cameras at the border will relay video to a control center a few miles away, at the point where the Gaza, Egyptian and Israeli borders converge. Israel will have access to the video and can raise objections if it sees someone whose entry into Gaza it opposes. The two sides are to discuss such cases, but Palestinians will have the final say, according to the deal worked out by Ms. Rice.

As part of the Gaza travel agreement, buses are to begin shuttling Palestinians between Gaza and the West Bank beginning Dec. 15.
Abdul Rahman al-Burae, 73, and his wife, Habda, who live in central Gaza, are counting the days.

Their daughter Safaa al-Burae was studying at Bir Zeit University in Ramallah, on the West Bank, when the Palestinian uprising began, and travel between the two territories became extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Ms. Burae graduated, but the couple was not able to attend the ceremony. She married, but her parents could not go to the service. Two years ago, the couple met Ms. Burae in the United Arab Emirates, but only for one day, because she could manage only a short-term transit visa from the Emirates.

In January, the daughter gave birth to a child whom the grandparents have yet to see.

"So much has happened," Habda Burae said. "Our daughter graduated, got married and had a child, and I only hear about these things on the telephone."

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

December 5th, 2005, 07:44 AM
December 5, 2005

Suicide Bomber Attacks Israeli Mall


NETANYA, Israel (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/israel/index.html?inline=nyt-geo) (AP) -- A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up among people waiting to enter a shopping mall in the northern Israeli town of Netanya on Monday, killing at least four shoppers and wounding 35.

Ami Klein, a lawyer who witnessed the explosion from a nearby courthouse, told Israel Radio that the attacker reached the entrance to the mall but wasn't able to enter. ''The boom shook the entire courthouse,'' Klein said.

Police said the bomber blew himself up in a line of people going through a customary security check at the mall's entrance. Police blocked off the area, fearing a second bomber was nearby.

The blast was likely to dash new hopes for progress in Mideast peacemaking following a recent decision by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/s/ariel_sharon/index.html?inline=nyt-per) to break away from his hard-line Likud party and form a new centrist coalition presumably more amenable to compromise.

Sharon has said repeatedly that long deadlocked peace negotiations cannot resume until militant violence stops, and Monday's attack was likely to set back renewed efforts to return to the internationally sponsored ''road map'' peace talks.

''The Palestinian Authority continues to refuse to take the most elementary steps to prevent terrorism. They refuse to incarcerate terrorists. They refuse to dismantle the terror organizations and put them out of business once and for all. And we've seen these results today in Netanya,'' said David Baker, an official in Sharon's office.

The attack followed growing tensions along Israel's border with the Gaza Strip. Palestinian militants on Sunday fired two rockets from Gaza into Israel at nightfall Sunday, following the first Israeli airstrikes in Gaza in more than a month. Israel withdrew from Gaza in September, and has promised a tough response to any attacks coming out of the area.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat condemned the attack. ''I believe that this harms Palestinian interests and is another act to sabotage efforts to revive the peace process and to sabotage the Palestinian elections,'' he said, referring to a parliamentary vote set for January.

During five years of fighting, Netanya, a coastal city about 20 miles north of Tel Aviv, has been a frequent target of suicide bombings due to its close proximity to the West Bank.

But following Israel's construction of its West Bank separation barrier in the area, along with a cease-fire declaration in February, there has been a sharp drop in such attacks.

Monday's attack was the fifth since the cease-fire declaration, and the first suicide bombing in Israel since Oct. 26, when a 20-year-old Palestinian blew himself up at a falafel stand in the town of Hadera, killing five Israelis.

On July 12, a suicide bomber blew himself up among a group of teens near a shopping mall in Netanya, killing himself and two women.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press (http://www.ap.org/)

December 14th, 2005, 04:53 PM
Events are slowed down .... well' I mean no suicide bomber each week (but only every three months or so) and daily fire and refire. Palestinians have their election in few days and then we'll see how the Palestinians will get back for full gear and bombing.

The main issue is: Do the Arabs in Palestine accept the idea that Jews in Palestine can also have their own state. Unfortunately, the Arabs are not prepared yet.

December 14th, 2005, 05:33 PM
Hmm, Alaska, eh? Maybe up around the North Slope ... supposedly lots of oil there ...

Iranian President Calls Holocaust a 'Myth'

Yahoo News
December 14, 2005
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051214/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iran_holocaust;_ylt=Ajja.Vd8RyI3.ZLv4fyki.Cs0NUE;_ ylu=X3oDMTA2Z2szazkxBHNlYwN0bQ--

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's hard-line president lashed out with a new outburst at Israel on Wednesday, calling the Nazi Holocaust a "myth" used as a pretext for carving out a Jewish state in the heart of the Muslim world...

During a tour of southeastern Iran, Ahmadinejad said that if Europeans insist the Holocaust occurred, then they are responsible and should pay the price.

"Today, they have created a myth in the name of Holocaust and consider it to be above God, religion and the prophets," Ahmadinejad told thousands of people in Zahedan. "If you committed this big crime, then why should the oppressed Palestinian nation pay the price?"

"This is our proposal: If you committed the crime, then give a part of your own land in Europe, the United States, Canada or Alaska to them so that the Jews can establish their country," he said.

December 15th, 2005, 08:54 AM
He does have a semi-valid point there.

The holacaust did happen, but why did the jewish people get an area that did not belong to any of them? Why wasn't Germany split up to accomodate them?

The only problem I see is that land is holy to everyone. It SHOULD really be something like an international Washington DC.....Not officially part of any country, but free for association with all of them...

December 18th, 2005, 07:17 AM
Research the British Mandate of Palestine after WWI.

The area included present day Israel and the much larger TransJordan (across the Jordan River). There was no nationality called "Jordanians" at the time.

December 18th, 2005, 07:19 AM
December 18, 2005

In Era After Arafat, Islamic Militants Are Edging Into Power


JERUSALEM, Dec. 17 - The success of the militant Islamic group Hamas in the latest round of Palestinian local elections is just the latest indication of the deterioration of the main Palestinian faction, Fatah, after the death of Yasir Arafat last year.

To some degree, the decline has been accelerated by the policy choices and the distant, uninspiring personality of Mr. Arafat's successor, Mahmoud Abbas. Without the binding charisma of Mr. Arafat, and without the ability or will to use his aggressive tactics, Mr. Abbas is struggling to manage a renewed struggle between his secular Fatah faction and the Islamists that Mr. Arafat repressed and delayed.

"The success of Hamas," said Khaled Duzdar, a Palestinian who is an analyst at the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, "is only due to Fatah's failures."

Those failures long precede the death of Mr. Arafat. He relished the role of revolutionary, but he was no administrator, and his Palestinian Authority was criticized for corruption, indolence and a failure to care about ordinary Palestinians. And Mr. Arafat's decision to recognize Israel and negotiate with it over the 1993 Oslo accords, which allowed him to return from exile, did not produce a Palestinian state.

All that was ripe ground for Hamas, with its reputation for piety, its social-welfare network and its military wing, which carried out attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians.

But Mr. Arafat was also revered by Palestinians as the founder of their nascent nation, the man who turned Palestinian from an adjective that included anyone who lived in the British Mandate for Palestine to a specific appellation for a people.

In Leon Uris's 1958 novel of the founding of the state of Israel, "Exodus," the Jewish hero, Ari Ben Canaan, is invariably referred to as "the Palestinian." It reads oddly today, largely because of Mr. Arafat, who took a scattered people and gave them a new identity.

Mr. Arafat was also willing to exercise a strong hand. He kept Hamas - created in 1987 as the fighting arm of the religious Muslim Brotherhood - in line and out of power. In negotiations in the early 1990's, he rejected proposals that Hamas join the secular Palestine Liberation Organization with up to 40 percent of seats, and he refused to give Hamas a share of power in the Palestinian Authority, which the P.L.O., dominated by Fatah, controlled.

Mr. Arafat always insisted that the P.L.O. was "the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people" - specifically excluding Hamas and the other Islamists, like Islamic Jihad. And he cracked down intermittently on them.

His successor, Mr. Abbas, is entirely different, lacking the charisma of Mr. Arafat, a natural politician. A negotiator and man of logic, who opposes terrorism and the war against Israel as counterproductive, Mr. Abbas, at 70, carries all the weight of Mr. Arafat's failures without any credit for his successes.

Mr. Abbas has told intimates he feels lonely, with few real allies, in a Palestinian polity that sees little movement from Israel, that resents its powerlessness and despises its corrupt leadership. He has described himself as transitional, opening the gates to his rivals. Yet he has refused to jettison the old guard or to crack down and provide law and order in the streets.

The municipalities battle is only a forerunner to the battle for parliament in an election set for Jan. 25. And the battle for parliament is really a battle for the P.L.O., to which the Palestinian Authority is subordinate.

Still, Mr. Abbas believes that the politicization of Hamas is a great accomplishment, the only way to moderate the group, and that democratic politics are the only path to genuine national unity.

Many in Fatah, let alone in Israel, are unconvinced. Faced with the Hamas challenge, Fatah itself is splitting, with another long-repressed conflict coming into the open - the generational struggle between those who were Arafat cronies and went into exile with him and those in their 40's who grew up at home after the 1967 war, under Israeli occupation, learning Hebrew in Israeli jails and feeling excluded from power.

Led by Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five consecutive life sentences plus 40 years in an Israeli prison, the younger generation has its own slate in the January elections, a direct challenge to Mr. Abbas that he is trying to forestall.

On Saturday, negotiations were going on between representatives of Mr. Abbas and Mr. Barghouti about how to rally Fatah around a slate that gives the younger, indigenous generation more power and retires some of the old guard. Shaken by the Hamas surge, Fatah is finally seeing the value of unity.

Despite the threat, polls still show Fatah with an edge. So what would define success for Hamas in January? Forty percent of the vote could be seen as a huge accomplishment, even if Palestinian and Israeli analysts are talking excitedly about a possible Hamas majority. In any case, Hamas will have a much broader influence on Palestinian politics.

That already has Israeli politicians who are engaged in their own campaigns making broad statements about how a Hamas victory will mean the end of negotiations and the troubled peace plan known as the road map. On Saturday, Silvan Shalom, the foreign minister who is trying to win the leadership of battle to lead the Likud Party that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has abandoned, warned that a Hamas victory could "put us back 50 years."

Mr. Shalom praised a resolution of Friday evening from the United States House of Representatives warning that the Palestinian Authority risks losing American aid if Hamas participates in an election that is only six weeks away. Hamas, after all, has carried out many attacks against Israelis, and it has been designated a terrorist group by Israel, Europe and the United States.

But the Palestinian election is also bound to be clarifying, a relatively realistic measure of Palestinian sentiment a year after Mr. Arafat's death. The election will also signify the reintegration of a significant minority of Palestinian opinion into politics and perhaps government.

In any case, a successful Hamas will have to adapt to a new role of responsibility, while accepting the previous commitment of the P.L.O. and the Palestinian Authority to a negotiated, two-state solution with Israel, even if it insists that Israel will be gone in the fullness of time.

Hamas, which believes, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, that politics and armed resistance must go hand in hand, may never give up its "right to resist" or its weapons, but it may find itself forced politically not to use them, or not very often.

Haim Malka, a permanent fellow with the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, argued in The Washington Quarterly of autumn 2005 that Hamas had already won a historic victory. He wrote that the group's agreement to participate in electoral politics on a national level was "nothing less than an earthquake in Palestinian politics, signaling the clear end of one-party rule."

A more representative Palestinian government is much more likely to stabilize Palestinian society, Mr. Malka said, and he maintained that it would also "ultimately strengthen any future agreement between Israel and the Palestinians."

* Copyright 2005The New York Times Company

January 11th, 2006, 07:57 AM
January 11, 2006

Israel May Relax Stand on Palestinian Voting in Jerusalem; Sharon Improves


JERUSALEM, Jan. 10 - Israel now appears likely to allow Palestinians to vote in East Jerusalem in parliamentary elections this month, a move that would resolve a pressing dispute with the Palestinians.

Israel's government has not announced any major decisions since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke on Jan. 4, and political quarrels have largely been put on hold. Mr. Sharon remained in a medically induced coma on Tuesday, though he showed small improvements, his doctors said.

Even so, the cabinet, led by Ehud Olmert, the acting prime minister, plans to vote Sunday on a proposal that would allow Palestinians to cast ballots in East Jerusalem in the Jan. 25 elections. Israeli officials had said they would oppose voting in the city, which each side claims as its capital, because the ballots include candidates from Hamas, a faction that calls for Israel's destruction.

Shaul Mofaz, the defense minister, appeared to settle the dispute on Tuesday. Palestinians in East Jerusalem have been allowed to vote in some contests in the past, he said, and "Israel's policy regarding elections in East Jerusalem will stay like it was."

Palestinians voted at Israeli post offices in East Jerusalem in their one previous parliamentary election, in 1996, and in the election for president a year ago. Palestinian leaders insisted on the same arrangement this time, saying they might cancel the voting if Israel bans it.

But shortly after Mr. Mofaz spoke, the foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, said no final decision had been made. On Tuesday evening, the prime minister's office announced the vote on Sunday.

Israeli leaders have said this election is different because Hamas is taking part for the first time.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said Israel was trying to work out a solution but would not accept an arrangement that would "give legitimacy to a terror group and undermine Israel's sovereignty."

Meanwhile, Mr. Olmert told a group of 60 visiting Jewish legislators from around the world that Palestinian voting would take place in East Jerusalem, according to Representative Gary L. Ackerman, a Democratic of New York who led the delegation.

"He told us that Israel would not be the excuse for any decision to postpone the election," Mr. Ackerman said.

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said the Palestinians had received no new word from Israel on the voting.

In the previous Palestinian elections, few East Jerusalem residents voted in the city. But the issue symbolizes the battle for Jerusalem.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem after capturing it in 1967, and considers all of the city its capital, a position that has not been recognized internationally. The Palestinians, in turn, demand the eastern part as a capital for a future state.

In western Jerusalem, at the Hadassah-Ein Kerem Hospital, Mr. Sharon showed further improvements in his neurological functions as doctors gradually reduced the sedatives that have kept him in a coma since shortly after his stroke.

He moved his left arm for the first time since the stroke, his doctors said. He also moved his right arm and right leg for the second day, and in ways that were "more significant" than on Monday, according to Dr. Sholmo Mor-Yosef, the hospital's director.

American stroke experts not involved in Mr. Sharon's care expressed cautious optimism over such developments. Movement of the left arm "obviously is a favorable sign, though he remains in a quite critical condition and things may change rapidly," said Dr. David S. Liebeskind, an associate director of the U.C.L.A. Stroke Center in California.

Dr. Lee H. Schwamm, who directs acute-stroke services at Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston, cautioned that the absence of movement of the left leg showed a distinct asymmetry between Mr. Sharon's left and right sides.

"Right now, we are having the degree of brain injury revealed to us," Dr. Schwamm said. "As the coma lightens further, the more dramatic the asymmetry will be, and that time will tell us a lot about the potential for recovery."

Doctors said the process of bringing Mr. Sharon out of a coma could last for days.

In an effort to stimulate Mr. Sharon's senses, Mozart was being played in his room, and Mr. Sharon's favorite food, schwarma, a slow-roasted meat, was brought in for him to smell, according to Israel Radio.

Lawrence K. Altman contributed reporting from New Yorkfor this article.

* Copyright 2006The New York Times Company

January 27th, 2006, 07:43 AM
January 27, 2006
News Analysis

After Hamas Victory, Israel's Likely Course


JERUSALEM, Jan. 26 — The Hamas landslide in Palestinian elections has stunned Israelis, but it may also have brought them a rare moment of clarity: with peace talks off the table, Israel will most likely pursue unilateral actions, drawing its own borders and separating itself from the Palestinians.

Ehud Olmert, the acting prime minister, made it clear after an emergency cabinet meeting that talks with Hamas, a Palestinian party sworn to Israel's destruction, were out of the question, while experts said Israel was now freer to establish its future on its own.

They said Israel — whose own elections in two months could be heavily influenced by the Palestinian results — was likely to focus on speeding up construction of the separation barrier, which runs along and through parts of the West Bank. After more than three years of building, it remains less than half finished, but Israeli officials say it has contributed enormously to the reduction of suicide bombings and other attacks. Palestinians, on the other hand, say the barrier takes land they want for a future state.

"The differences between the sides are now much deeper, and the chances for negotiations are much more remote," said Shlomo Avineri, a liberal political scientist at Hebrew University. "The only realistic steps may be Israeli unilateral steps."

Unilateralism was the approach taken by Ariel Sharon, the prime minister for the last five years, who now lies in a coma. He withdrew Israeli settlers and soldiers from Gaza last summer without negotiating the move with the Palestinians, and left open the possibility of more such moves in the West Bank.

Since on-and-off peace talks began more than a decade ago, Israelis have been deeply divided over what sorts of concessions to make, how much territory to keep and whether the talks would lead to an end to the decades-old conflict. On Thursday, it seemed there were few such doubts.

From Israeli hawks who oppose concessions to doves who constantly pressed for renewed peace talks, Israelis said there could be no negotiations with Hamas.

Ami Ayalon, the former head of Israel's Shin Bet security service and now a parliamentary candidate for the left-leaning Labor Party, said the absence of a negotiating partner should not halt Israeli actions aimed at separating from the Palestinians.

Israel, he said, should seek "to create a situation where Israel disengages from the Palestinians and preserves the character of Israel as a Jewish democracy." Israel should continue, he said, "to move fast and independently to our goal."

Mr. Olmert hopes to become prime minister in elections on March 28 as head of the centrist Kadima Party started by Mr. Sharon.

But Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the right-wing Likud Party, made clear that the Palestinian results offered an opportunity for his more hawkish message to be heard. He said the Hamas victory was a result of the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and proved that no more withdrawals should occur.

Yuval Steinitz, a member of Parliament from Likud, said Israel should have prevented or canceled the Palestinian elections. He cited the 1993 Oslo accords, an interim peace agreement that bars the participation of armed groups and those that do not recognize Israel.

Mr. Steinitz noted that Palestinian terror attacks against Israel had gone down in recent years, but that Hamas's popularity had gone up. "This is a major loss in our war against terror despite all our tactical successes," he said.

Since the Oslo accords, the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships have maintained a dialogue at some level.

But Israel and Hamas have never had contact with each other, aside from exchanging bullets and bombs. Their relationship is similar to the one that existed in the 1980's and earlier between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, with their refusal to recognize each other.

Hamas's electoral triumph comes at a time when Israel is going through its own political upheavals, and the government is unlikely to make any major moves until after the Israeli election.

"Election time means time out," Mr. Avineri said. "There is a strong argument for refraining from doing dramatic things right now."

The campaign may also mean that Mr. Olmert and his party will have to take a tougher tone to ensure that they are not outflanked on the security issue by Likud.

Israelis are beginning to debate whether the reality of being in power will tame or moderate Hamas. Mr. Avineri suggested a Hamas-led government might not be as threatening as some Israelis feared. He cited the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah, which battled Israeli troops for years in southern Lebanon and now takes part in Lebanese politics.

"Hamas may behave like Hezbollah," Mr. Avineri said. "The rhetoric will be harsh, and they will still be armed, but they will be part of the political system, and their actions may be more restrained."

Others, like Mr. Steinitz, argue that Hamas wants Jews pushed into the sea, and did not enter politics to change its goals but to advance them.

Still, the Hamas victory injects uncertainty into the Israeli election. In previous Israeli campaigns, Hamas and other Palestinian factions have staged deadly attacks that pushed the Israeli electorate to the right.

In 1996, the Labor Party, led by the dovish Shimon Peres, seemed headed for victory after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin by an ultranationalist Israeli. But after a series of Palestinian suicide bombings during the Israeli campaign, Mr. Netanyahu, of Likud, won a narrow victory.

The Palestinians started an uprising in September 2000, and in a February 2001 election for prime minister, Mr. Sharon trounced Ehud Barak, the Labor Party leader, who had tried but failed to reach a comprehensive accord with the Palestinians.

* Copyright 2006The New York Times Company

January 27th, 2006, 10:47 AM
The Palestinians just held democratic elections. It was the goal of this country and likewise the goal of Israel to create democracies in the Middle East. At this point, I think Israel is choosing a dangerous and provocative path.

January 27th, 2006, 10:56 AM
And the Palestinians have not?

January 29th, 2006, 09:26 AM
January 29, 2006

Hamas Leader Sees No Change Toward Israelis


JERUSALEM, Jan. 28 — The exiled political head of the radical Islamic group Hamas said Saturday in Damascus, Syria, that the group would adopt "a very realistic approach" toward governing the Palestinian Authority and would work with the Fatah president, Mahmoud Abbas, on an acceptable political program.

But the leader, Khaled Meshal, also said Hamas would not "submit to pressure to recognize Israel, because the occupation is illegitimate and we will not abandon our rights," nor would it disarm, but would work to create a unified Palestinian army.

He insisted that "resistance is a legitimate right that we will practice and protect," and he defended attacks on Israeli civilians, which included many suicide bombings until a cease-fire nearly a year ago. Then he said Hamas was "ready to work with Europe and even the United States if they wish."

The Meshal news conference was a good example of the mixture of messages coming from Hamas. Since its victory on Wednesday, an urgent debate has erupted over whether Hamas will be able to modify its positions once in power, disavow violence and terrorism and come to recognize the existence of the state of Israel. Israel, Europe and the United States say they will not have dealings with Hamas until it does so.

The history of the Palestine Liberation Organization, dominated by the now defeated Fatah movement, argues to some that it might. The P.L.O. altered some of its own tenets in the late 1980's and early 1990's, under the pressure of the United States, and agreed to condemn terrorism, recognize Israel's right to exist and negotiate for a two-state solution.

During the campaign, Hamas leaders made statements representing a range of responses about the possibility of negotiating with Israel, extending the current cease-fire and declaring a long-term truce, as long as Israel pulled back to its 1967 boundaries, including the ceding of East Jerusalem. Its election platform did not repeat its direct calls for the destruction of Israel.

But arguing against any fundamental changes are Hamas's deeply held religious views, as expressed in its charter, sermons and election platform.

Those views suggest that the kind of transformation that the secular P.L.O. took 25 years to make will be highly unlikely for a fundamentalist religious organization that regards all Israeli territory as irrevocably Muslim land.

So how committed is Hamas to its stated positions?

"It's a revolutionary situation," said Yossi Alpher, co-editor of bitterlemons.org, an Israeli-Palestinian journal. "This is the first time that the Muslim Brotherhood or any Islamic group has been elected to run an Arab polity, and there are no real precedents. Are we looking at a hard-core movement that may make some tactical gestures but remains totally committed to destroying Israel and transforming Palestinian society, or are they pragmatists and will change these beliefs?"

Unfortunately, he said, "I think we have to take Hamas at its words and assume that as Islamists, they have some core beliefs that won't change."

The most fundamental of those beliefs, says Hisham Ahmed, a political scientist at Birzeit University in Ramallah and a student of Hamas, is that the entire land of Palestine belongs to God and is Muslim holy land.

The 9,000-word Hamas charter, written in 1988, is explicit about the struggle for Palestine as a religious obligation. It describes the land as a "waqf," or endowment, saying that Hamas "believes that the land of Palestine has been an Islamic waqf throughout the generations and until the Day of Resurrection, no one can renounce it or part of it, or abandon it or part of it."

In the charter, Hamas describes itself as "a distinct Palestinian Movement which owes its loyalty to Allah, derives from Islam its way of life and strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine."

It calls for the elimination of Israel and Jews from Islamic holy land and portrays the Jews as evil, citing an anti-Semitic version of history going back to the Crusades. It also includes a reference to the noted czarist forgery of a plan for world domination, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," and condemnation of supposedly Zionist organizations like the Rotary Club and the Masons.

It describes the struggle against the Jews as a religious obligation for every Muslim, saying, "For our struggle against the Jews is extremely wide-ranging and grave, so much so that it will need all the loyal efforts we can wield, to be followed by further steps and reinforced by successive battalions from the multifarious Arab and Islamic world, until the enemies are defeated and Allah's victory prevails."

Hamas has moved politically a great distance, choosing to run in elections for the Palestinian Authority, for municipal and legislative councils. It has done so, its leaders have consistently said, to improve the lives of Palestinians, to move them toward an Islamic way of life and to "protect the resistance" to Israeli occupation — first in the areas seized in the 1967 war, like the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and then, in stages, the rest of the waqf land now occupied by the state of Israel.

Mokhaimer Abu Sada, a political scientist at Al Azhar University in Gaza, says he believes that "Hamas has already moderated its stance toward Israel," pointing to its election platform.

"Hamas is a very coherent and disciplined organization," Mr. Sada said. "But that doesn't mean there's a consensus in the leadership." Even when its founder, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, was alive, he said, "there were hard-liners and pragmatists." Mr. Sada believes the pragmatists will eventually win.

The Hamas election platform concentrated on justifying its decision to run because of the collapse of the Oslo accords, on purifying Palestinian political life and on the need — the first goal mentioned — for "protecting the path of resistance and using the legislative council's platform to protect it."

The platform repeated Hamas's vow to liberate Jerusalem and to fight for the right of all refugees to return to their now-Israeli homes.

"The issue of Palestine," the platform said, "is the holiest and more important and most dangerous both in the Arabic and Islamic worlds. No power or no person can lead this conflict with the enemy," it said, except Hamas.

Despite the platform's relative moderation, a Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, vehemently denied any contradictions with the charter. "The platform refers to details and implementation methods for the next four years, while the charter lays out our permanent strategic views," he said.

Salah al-Bardawil, a Hamas candidate, said that "had we spoken of eliminating and eradicating Israel within this period, we would have been deceiving our people and repeating false slogans." Still, he said, Hamas emphasizes "the elimination and nonrecognition of Israel."

Various Hamas officials have spoken differently about talks with Israel, and some of their comments were collected and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

Even the two most prominent leaders in Gaza, Mahmoud Zahar and Ismail Haniya, have had slightly different tones.

Mr. Zahar is normally harder-line, closest to Mr. Meshal in Damascus, while Mr. Haniya, who led the Hamas list and could be prime minister, takes a slightly softer tone, and the jailed Hamas leader in the West Bank, Sheik Hussein Youssef, is softer still.

Mr. Meshal rules out negotiating with Israel entirely. Mr. Haniya says that negotiations are "not on the Hamas agenda, since past negotiations have been unsuccessful."

But Mr. Zahar said, "There is no prohibition on negotiating with Israel, but the political crime is to sit with the Israelis, exchange smile and say there is progress, when in reality there is not progress."

If Hamas won the elections, he said the day before the vote, Hamas "will be able to come up with thousands of appropriate ways" to talk to Israel, perhaps through third parties, "provided that the Israeli side has anything to offer in terms of stopping the aggression, withdrawal and release of prisoners."

And Hamas candidates spoke of Hamas participation ensuring that any talks by other Palestinians, like Mr. Abbas and the P.L.O., with Israel will be more aggressive and less supine.

Hamas also appears willing, on the evidence of Hamas mayors elected in big towns like Qalqilya, Nablus and Deir al Baleh, to talk to lower-level Israeli officials from the army or the electricity company about needed services to Palestinian constituents.

But no Hamas leader or candidate is on record as sanctioning a permanent recognition of Israel's right to exist side by side with an independent Palestinian state, which has been the cornerstone assumption of peace negotiations since the Oslo accords in 1993.

As Mr. Zahar also said, "We do not recognize the Israeli enemy, nor his right to be our neighbor, nor to stay, nor his ownership of any inch of land."

Nor is any Hamas leader on record as expressing a willingness to disarm or to stop attacks on Israel and Israelis, or to make a distinction between Israeli soldiers and civilians, especially settlers living on occupied land, however defined.

A senior Israeli official said that statements by Hamas, even if forthcoming, would not be enough, and that Israel would not deal with an Authority dominated by Hamas, even if titularly led by Mr. Abbas.

More important, he said, is to try to appeal to the two-thirds or more of Palestinians who say they support a permanent settlement with Israel and to understand that many Palestinians voted for Hamas for reasons of internal reform, not to support jihad or terrorism.

Nothing will happen quickly now, the official said, but the rest of the world should help ensure that Hamas is isolated — not to try to compromise with Hamas, but to try to ensure that Palestinian support for it declines.

* Copyright 2006The New York Times Company

January 29th, 2006, 10:53 PM
And the Palestinians have not?

No, the Palestinians have not. The Fatah Party of Arafat was corrupt and billions of dollars contributed to the PLO and the Palestinian Authority were stolen and spirited to foreign banks. That is not new news.

The Palestinians voted for the party they thought would best represent their interests. Abbas had gotten nowhere and the Israeli version of the Berlin Wall continued being built unchecked. Perhaps if there was another viable alternative there would have been a different outcome. I think that, when people feel helpless and hopeless, they just might be willing to vote for a party of individuals who have shown a willingness to fight to the death for their principles.

Now we'll get to see how quickly this country and our "leaders" will compromise our "most cherished values" like "democracy." This is the genie Bush has uncorked. We are 0 and 2 in Middle East democratic elections now. Both democracies having produced anti-American governments. Freedom on the march - yeehaw!

January 29th, 2006, 11:32 PM
The Palestinians voted for the party they thought would best represent their interests.
And the Israelis are not permitted to do the same?

The first Intifada brought Sharon into power.

This election of a group whose platform includes the destruction of Israel will probably bring Netanyahu into power.

The lack of equivalence in your viewpoint regarding Palestinian vs Israeli actions seems to be clouded by the fact that Israelis an ally of the U.S. The same diplomatic relations existed between the two countries when Clinton was president, and there was no genuine peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. No matter what the U.S., or Europe, or anyone else does, Israel will not negotiate with Hamas unless they officially renounce their platform.

If they don't, then the Palestinian people will continue to be used as pawns to advance an ideology that will never succeed.

January 30th, 2006, 08:21 AM
Israeli press struggles with Hamas

The prospect of a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority sharply divides commentators in Israel's press.

Those who adopt a wait-and-see approach, or even welcome Hamas into power, contend with those who believe Israel must harden its stance against an organisation "deeply complicit in terrorism".

One paper calls for Israel to reassess its own use of force against the Palestinians, while another argues that Hamas' victory is precisely what will legitimise this kind of force in the future.


The good news from the occupied territories is that Hamas won the elections... Most of the Palestinians, it can safely be said, don't want a religious state; they want a free state. Also, both Israelis and Palestinians can learn some important lessons from the results of the election. The Israelis have finally to learn that using force will not get the desired results... A peace deal with Hamas will be a lot more stable and viable than any agreement we sign with the PLO but which is opposed by Hamas.


Hamas could also surprise us with political pragmatism due to both the weight of responsibility in being a partner in government and the emergence of a consensus on the left with regards to compromise with Israel. Therefore, Hamas should be tested and judged by its policies and deeds, not by its declarations on the eve of the elections.


Looking at the world through the barrel of a gun has caused Israel to behave in the way it has over the last five years with regards to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. It also made a decisive contribution - that is second only to that of Yasser Arafat and his corrupt regime - to the rise of Hamas to power last week.


If a Hamas government concentrates power in its hands, Hamas will hold the terror trigger and the reins of government at the same time, and it will then be possible to conduct an effective policy against it and exact the price for hostile acts. If responsibility for water, work, food, electricity, health and sewage rests on Hamas' shoulders... it will discover for instance that it depends on Israeli tax collection and EU and US financial aid. Therefore, Israel and also Europe and the US should refrain from turning off the taps or any attempt to topple the new fundamentalist regime... There are not insignificant advantages here and it is worth exploiting them.


It strains credulity to imagine that a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority (PA) will disarm militias and combat Palestinian terrorism more than a Fatah-led PA did... Here it is clear that the international community, including Israel and the US, must be willing to pull the financial plug on the PA... Such an entity should have no 'trial period' in which the West continues to financially sustain a regime that is deeply complicit in terrorism.


We warned, in this newspaper, that the disengagement would strengthen Hamas. We warned that a unilateral escape from the [Gaza] Strip would send a message of surrender to Hamas-led Palestinian terrorism... And Hamas has indeed arisen... Perhaps for once you will listen to our warnings?


None other than Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] is responsible for Hamas' victory in the Palestinian elections. Abu Mazen preferred not to dismantle the terrorist organisations, including Hamas, and did not even disarm them... The US and Europe - who did not support Israel's position against Hamas' participation in the elections - must also do some soul-searching not only in relation to the past but also, more importantly, in relation to the future.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2006/01/30 12:29:53 GMT


February 18th, 2006, 10:37 PM
February 19, 2006

Hamas and Abbas Clash Over Path for Palestinians


RAMALLAH, West Bank, Feb. 18 — A new Palestinian parliament dominated by the militant group Hamas was installed here Saturday, and immediately President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas lawmakers set out on a collision course over the need to honor existing agreements with Israel and conduct negotiations with it to achieve Palestinian statehood.

In a speech to new lawmakers at his headquarters in Ramallah, Mr. Abbas congratulated Hamas on its victory but warned the legislature that it could not disavow agreements and commitments by the Palestinian leadership dating back to the late 1980's. Those include United Nations resolutions and the 1993 Oslo accords, ratified by the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization, that commit the Palestinians to a peace solution based on an independent state side by side with Israel.

"We have accepted and respected the right of every individual, group or political faction to voice its complaints about the Oslo accords, but we have not and will not accept any questioning of the accords' legitimacy," Mr. Abbas said. "Indeed, from the hour the accords were endorsed, they became a part of reality to which we remain committed."

As he spoke, screens in the room carried the images of Hamas legislators taking part in the ceremony through a videoconference link in Gaza; they were barred from traveling to the West Bank because of Israeli restrictions.

"To reach a peaceful and just solution, we must resume negotiations according to the international and Arab initiatives," Mr. Abbas said. "The presidency and the government," he added, with emphasis, "will continue to respect our commitment to the negotiations as a strategic, pragmatic political choice."

But in Gaza City, Hamas leaders promptly made their opposition clear.

"There were many points of disagreement," said Ismail Haniya, a senior Hamas leader who is expected to become the group's candidate for prime minister. Mr. Abbas "was elected according to his program, and we were elected according to a different program," he said.

Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas spokesman and legislator, said negotiations with Israel "are not on our agenda." Like many Hamas leaders, Mr. Haniya and Mr. Masri consider the Oslo accords a dead letter and often cite Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel as having said the same thing.

Still, on Saturday, Mr. Haniya, like Mr. Abbas, promised to deal with their differences "through dialogue and understanding, to preserve the national unity of the Palestinian people and promote their higher interests."

In warning the legislators not to reinvent the wheel of Israeli-Palestinian relations, Mr. Abbas seemed intent on showing a strong hand: in effect, reminding the group that even though it had won 74 of 132 parliamentary seats, he remains in the top Palestinian post and still has a range of powers, including his role as commander in chief of Palestinian security forces.

That message was underscored later Saturday by a statement from his spokesman, Saeb Erekat, who said that if Hamas did not cooperate, Mr. Abbas would consider replacing the group's chosen prime minister or, in the event of complete stalemate, even calling new elections.

Even the site for Mr. Abbas's speech — his headquarters, the Muqata, and not in the legislature's building in Ramallah — was a clear effort to assert symbolic control, with almost all of the legislators coming to him in person or by a videoconference transmission for the swearing-in. Fourteen new legislators were elected from inside Israeli jails and were not allowed to attend.

Fatah members entered the hall in Ramallah in suits and ties, with women in dress suits, their hair uncovered. They greeted each other warmly, with handshakes and kisses, and many members went to speak to Muhammad Dahlan, a Gazan who is considered a crucial figure in a future, younger Fatah.

The Hamas delegation in Ramallah, those elected in the West Bank, came in together and sat in a block at the back of the room; the women wore head scarves and sat together.

When Mr. Abbas finished his speech, many Fatah members stood and clapped. Many Hamas members kept their seats, and few applauded. After the speech, before they voted to elect a new parliamentary speaker, Aziz Dweik, a Hamas member and a professor of geography, many Hamas members used a corner of the hall to pray.

Mr. Dweik asked Muslim countries to step up their assistance to the Palestinians, and he said that in the next legislative session, on Feb. 27, there would be a review of laws, including a new constitutional court appointed by the president, that were passed quickly on the last day of the old legislature.

Senior Fatah legislators said Mr. Abbas had laid down clear lines to Hamas. Mr. Erekat, who was re-elected to the legislature, said Mr. Abbas had given "a firm, clear, specific speech" that set out his program, "telling Hamas what you may do in my program," which calls for a two-state solution, negotiations with Israel and the renunciation of violence in favor of "peaceful forms of resistance to the Israeli occupation."

Rawhi Fattouh, the departing Fatah speaker of the parliament, said the battle lines were clear. "This is the most critical point now in our relations," Mr. Fattouh said in an interview. "The crisis has already started on the political level."

The vision of the P.L.O. and Mr. Abbas and Fatah was now on the table, he said. "What is needed is for Hamas to move in the direction of this vision. If Hamas contradicts it, we will have two contradictory paths."

Nasser Abdaljawad, a new Hamas legislator from Salfit, said Hamas would concentrate on domestic reform and the fight against corruption and lawlessness. "We'll leave the political level for now to the P.L.O.," he said, but another Hamas legislator, Ahmad Mubarak, said, "We will go into the P.L.O. to work and to rebuild it."

Mr. Abdaljawad warned the United States and Israel against trying to undermine the new Hamas government by cutting financial assistance. "They should deal with the new reality," he said. "It's not for them to obstruct the democratic choice of the Palestinian people."

Hamas has said that the years of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority were futile, and it insists that only armed resistance, including suicide bombings, drove Israel out of the Gaza Strip. The Islamic faction, which is listed by Israel, the United States and the European Union as a terrorist organization, has generally abided by a truce for the past year but says it will not lay down its weapons.

Israel and the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations have said that a new Palestinian government must recognize Israel's right to exist in perpetuity, forswear violence and respect previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements or face international isolation and the loss of much of its financial aid.

After the ceremony in the West Bank, Mouna Mansour, a new Hamas legislator from Nablus, said that she was happy but that she also felt "the responsibility to the nation and the people that put their trust in us." She said that the next few months would "an interesting challenge" and that she hoped other Palestinian factions would work with Hamas. But then she added, "The winner is the one who can hold on to the end." When asked whether Hamas means to win, she smiled and said, "Inshallah, God willing."

Hanan Ashrawi, who won re-election as an independent, said that Mr. Abbas's speech was an effort "to tell Hamas what is expected" and that much would depend on the response. "It wasn't a warning so much as a guide for them to succeed," she said. "if they are serious they will take it to heart." She noted that Mr. Abbas did not call for an explicit recognition of Israel's right to exist. "They don't have to become Christians," she said.

Indeed, Mr. Abbas had harsh criticism for Israel, which he accused of trying to ignore a Palestinian partner ready to negotiate peace. "The continuation of occupation and settlement expansion, recent measures targeting the Jordan Valley to isolate it from the remainder of Palestinian lands in the West Bank, the checkpoints, arbitrary killings, the separation wall and arrests will only lead to hatred, despair and continued conflict," he said.

He also appealed to Israel, saying, "We are sure there is no military solution to this conflict," and adding, "There is a Palestinian partner ready to sit with Israel at the negotiating table."

Mr. Abbas was elected in January 2005, and despite his persistent calls to resume negotiations, there has been no progress. Israel has said that the Palestinian Authority must live up to its commitment to end terrorism and dismantle armed factions as specified in the dormant peace plan, known as the road map. Instead, Israel says, the Palestinians have elected one of those factions, Hamas, turning the Palestinian Authority, according to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, into "a terrorist authority."

The Israeli cabinet will meet as usual on Sunday and will debate a list of sanctions drawn up by the security services and the Defense Ministry, although the Foreign Ministry is reportedly arguing that sanctions should be phased in and, except for cutting off money transfers, should wait until Hamas forms a government, as the United States and the European Union favor.

But Israel is in the midst of an election campaign. If it takes its measures now, the cabinet will not have to approve the payment of February's customs duties and taxes that Israel collects for the Palestinian Authority, about $50 million a month.

The recommendations are aimed at an effective severing of the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip from Israel and the West Bank and include:

¶Separation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with the banning of workers from Gaza entering Israel and the movement of Palestinians between the West Bank and Gaza except in emergencies.

¶Restriction of the Karni crossing between Gaza and Israel to basic goods, fuel, water and relief aid.

¶Cancellation of permission to build a Gaza seaport.

¶Cancellation of V.I.P. permits for Palestinian legislators, who have been able to use them to pass easily from the West Bank to Gaza.

Israel will not cut off water, fuel or electricity supplies to the Palestinian Authority, but it will continue to deduct the costs from the tax receipts held in escrow. Nor is Israel expected to immediately turn the Erez and Karni crossings from Gaza into international borders, but it is expected to study how it might be done.

Israel is ordering a review of private groups that work with the Palestinians, not including United Nations or government agencies, to see if their work can be said to benefit a Hamas-run Palestinian Authority. Israel also is looking into its ability to cut off transfers of funds from abroad, in particular from the Arab world, that Hamas may want to use to make up for the loss of tax and customs revenues.

Steven Erlanger reported from Ramallah for this article, and Greg Myre from Gaza City.

* Copyright 2006The New York Times Company

February 18th, 2006, 10:40 PM
February 19, 2006

The World

A Lesson From Hamas: Read the Voting Law's Fine Print


DEMOCRACY rests on the will of the majority. Or so the speeches say. But in reality, election systems are almost never designed to achieve majority rule alone. Like the famous checks and balances of the American system, they also try to give a wide range of groups a portion of power. But sometimes the framers of an election law can wildly miscalculate, allowing one faction to game the system and gain power far out of proportion to its share of the vote.

That's what seems to have happened in Hamas's victory in the Palestinian territories, according to a new analysis by an American who advised the Palestinian Authority on the elections. It represents a cautionary tale for other new democracies, like Iraq's, whose systems are being designed with the help of outside experts.

The reasons behind the overwhelming Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections go beyond a vote that was split among the numerous candidates backed by Fatah, the former ruling party, this new analysis shows. It strongly suggests that a quirk in the electoral law itself helped convert a slight margin in the popular vote into a landslide for the group.

The analysis was performed by Jarrett Blanc, the American elections expert, who also has worked on elections in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Nepal. The lesson is that the way a new election law turns votes into representatives — the fine print of election laws — can have as much of an impact on who will be running a country as an occupying army.

That observation has implications far beyond the Palestinian vote, particularly for countries like the United States and other Western nations that seek to promote new democracies.

Iraq offers another example. There, a very complicated election law sought to concentrate the voting strength of Kurds who had become dispersed outside traditional Kurdish areas. But it didn't work. The effect, in fact, was to add about 10 seats to the total amassed by the victorious Shiite parties, Mr. Blanc said.

Among the Palestinians, Mr. Blanc attributes Hamas's unanticipated landslide in part to an obscure balloting method called "bloc voting," which was used in local districts to promote candidates whose support was geographically concentrated. It was first used by the Palestinians in 1996, when Fatah was the pre-eminent political organization and bloc voting's skewing effect simply shut out much smaller parties.

"Election systems always seem arcane until the day after the election," Mr. Blanc said in an interview. "It's always difficult to get people interest in the details of the rules, but the rules matter tremendously."

"In the case of Hamas," he said, "the consequences were revolutionary."

The perils of electoral law are well known to the small community that studies and monitors elections worldwide. A handbook published by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance in Stockholm notes that the systems chosen "may have consequences that were unforeseen when they are introduced." And in the country involved, the handbook says, such choices "can have disastrous consequences for its democratic prospects."

The electoral system the Palestinians chose has seldom been used before on a national scale. In this election, half of the 132 members of Parliament were elected by a national vote on party lists, and half by direct voting for candidates in 16 districts.

The number of seats available in each district varied according to population. Jerusalem had six, for example, and Jericho one. In multiseat districts, a voter could cast as many votes as there were seats at stake, in what is called a bloc vote.

Bloc voting "is not an especially fair system," Mr. Blanc said. "It has a kind of feeling of fairness because you're selecting your representatives in a very direct way." Most commentary on the Hamas victory has emphasized that it played to the movement's strength because Hamas was the most disciplined party and offered fewer candidates than the previously dominant Fatah, which had internal rivalries and put forward long lists that split its voters.

But Mr. Blanc's analysis found that vote-splitting was not the only way in which the system intensified the value of Hamas's organizational skills. Mr. Blanc, who works for an international democracy organization known simply as IFES (it used to be the International Foundation for Election Systems), illustrated what he meant by describing what could have happened if the system had been used in the 2004 Georgia Congressional elections. In those elections, with 13 seats up for grabs, 1.8 million votes were cast for Republicans, who won 7 seats, and 1.1 million for Democrats, who won 6.

But if, instead of 13 one-seat races, the election had been decided by a statewide bloc vote, then even if both parties had offered lists of only 13 candidates apiece, Republicans could have swept all 13 races — assuming that enough supporters voted a straight ticket.

Ghazi Hamad, a Hamas candidate who did not win, said in a telephone interview that his party won far more seats than it expected, but he attributed it mainly to voter dissatisfaction with Fatah. He did not give a direct answer to several questions on whether Hamas designed some electoral tactics to take advantage of the bloc vote.

Khalil Shikaki, the respected Palestinian pollster, said that both Fatah and Hamas had an inkling of what the system would mean for their prospects. But when it came to playing the system, Mr. Shikaki said, "Fatah, the leaderless, failed the test and Hamas did not."

* Copyright 2006The New York Times Company

February 20th, 2006, 12:51 PM

The Democracy Game

Issue of 2006-02-27
Posted 2006-02-20

This week in the magazine, David Remnick reports from the West Bank on the rise to power of the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Here, with Amy Davidson, he discusses Hamas and the Middle East.

AMY DAVIDSON:A few weeks ago, Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, and the European Union, won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council. Their victory was a surprise—even, as you write, to Hamas itself. What happened?

DAVID REMNICK: The simple question of why Hamas won yields a completely complex answer. The best that I can tell, from talking to a lot of Hamas people in the West Bank and Gaza—and other journalists have come to a similar conclusion—is that Hamas won because of an enormous protest vote against the Palestinian Authority, which has been the government of this proto-state since 1994. What were they protesting against? Any number of things, but first and foremost, corruption. Officials in Fatah, the secular movement begun by Arafat—people who run the bureaucracies in Gaza and the West Bank—are seen, from the top down, as corrupt in the deepest sense. And they’re also immensely unpopular because these bureaucracies don’t get run very well and daily life is impossible. You’d also have to say that many Palestinians were profoundly frustrated by the lack of progress in the P.A.’s dealings with Israel: the Oslo process has collapsed. Palestinians saw no progress or desire for concessions coming from the Israeli side under either Arafat or Mahmoud Abbas. And certainly some voters also admired Hamas for its role in taking up arms against Israel, in carrying out operations against Israeli soldiers and citizens.

You wrote about Jibril Rajoub, a senior Fatah official, and his brothers, Yasir and Nayef, who are Hamas officials. One Palestinian you spoke to said that those brothers together gave “the shape of history” in the area. How so?

I’m certainly not the first journalist to look at the Rajoub brothers—in fact, my colleague, Jeff Goldberg, did a piece on the Rajoub brothers some years ago, for the New York Times magazine. But at the time, Jibril Rajoub was the more powerful one, and it was a curiosity that he had a brother who was religious and a regional leader of Hamas. That rather neat story has been turned on its head by these elections. A number of factors—including the failure of the Oslo accords, poverty, isolation from globalization, and a general rise in Islamic practice throughout the region—have led to an upturn in Islamism in the Palestinian territories. The important thing to remember is that when the Soviet Union collapsed, in 1991, all sorts of things went out of whack. One of them was that the Arab national movement could no longer depend on socialism as an ideological force, or on the Soviet Union as a political force to back it. So it had to search elsewhere. And Islam is what it came to. For many people, it was the Muslim Brotherhood, in Egypt and in Jordan, and other Islamic movements throughout the region that served as an ideological foundation.

Has the relationship between Palestinian nationalism and Islam also changed? Has the Palestinian identity become more and more Islamic?

I don’t want to overestimate it, just going by the January 25th elections, and I don’t want to say that Palestinian nationalism has become an Islamic movement, full stop. I think that would be a mistake. But certainly the influence of Islam has increased dramatically, and it was clear to the Palestinian leadership—it was clear to Arafat—that it was something they had to contend with. It showed up forcefully in the first intifada. When the intifada began, Islamic leaders were mostly concerned with spreading the faith, but when the rocks started flying, in 1987, Sheikh Yassin, who would become the leader and the spiritual head of Hamas, recognized that a lot of his young men were getting involved. Yassin and his circle did not want to be left out or cast aside as irrelevant in the struggle against the Israelis. And so Hamas was formed, and it became a player in the initifada. And then it became an immensely more important player in the second intifada, at the turn of the century. Hamas brought the weapon of suicide bombing into the game in the mid-nineties and, ironically, was largely responsible for the victory of the right-wing Likud candidate Bibi Netanyahu in the 1996 Israeli elections.

You call your piece “The Democracy Game,” which is how some in Hamas have referred to the electoral process. That suggests a certain cynicism on their part.

That’s the big question secularists throughout the Islamic world have: If an Islamist group comes to power in an election, will there be another election? In other words, are Islamist groups using the mechanism of democracy to gain power and then hold it, or are they playing the democracy game in a better sense—in other words, as legitimate, competing powers in an ongoing democratic process? That, to some people, is an open question. Naturally, the Hamas leaders say that they are competing in these elections, and if they lose they will abide by the rules.

Spreading democracy in the Middle East is something that President Bush speaks about a lot. The implicit idea is that a democratic region will be more stable, and also friendlier to the West.

I think what everybody is discovering is that to call elections “democracy” and to leave it at that is simplistic and even potentially dangerous. Even President Bush’s guru on these issues, Natan Sharansky, who wrote a book that was very influential on Bush’s thinking, said to me, when I was in Jerusalem last week, that the only way for this all to work is to create the conditions of democracy, and elections are only a part of that—and they’re not necessarily the first part. Again, this is a much broader and more complicated question, but what’s obvious is that democracy does not equal elections. There’s a lot more going on, a great deal more required: institution-building and the rest. On the other hand, does that create an excuse for authoritarian regimes to eliminate the seeds of democracy? Clearly, the leadership in Egypt—Hosni Mubarak—wants to turn to the United States and say, Look what happened in the West Bank and Gaza. Do you want that to happen here? Because it surely will. Recently, in elections that were quite limited in every sense, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt took around a quarter of the seats in the parliament and would do a great deal better if permitted. Does the Bush Administration want to see that happen? Take the Iraqi elections: I doubt the Bush Administration got the result it had hoped for, and certainly democracy itself is not yet at hand. Some of the early pronouncements about democracy-building in the Middle East now seem, in the rearview mirror, incredibly simplistic.

So how do you make the Middle East safe for democracy?

This is a gigantic subject: how democracies develop; what time is necessary, what preconditions are required; do you have to go through a period of enlightened authoritarianism, as some thinkers suggest. These are pressing questions everywhere, especially in places like Russia and the former Soviet Union, too. Russia had a breakthrough moment in 1991—the totalitarian structures, the imperial structures seemed hollow at the center once certain pressures were brought to bear, once certain freedoms were extended. But the aftermath has proved to be unbelievably complicated, and Vladimir Putin is in the midst of carrying out what’s usually called “soft” authoritarianism. Not so soft if you are a political opponent of any kind! So this is an enormously complex, potentially dangerous process. Hamas is, at the moment, certainly having a very good time, saying to the United States and Europe and Israel: Look, you wanted us to be democrats, we had a transparent election, and we won. And they did.

Speaking about the preconditions of democracy—like freedom of the press—you write that one of the huge topics of discussion in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip during your trip wasn’t the elections but the Danish cartoons. How did they play there?

You did not see the level of violence you saw in Beirut and in Damascus. But clearly the religious leaders and others had gotten the message. It’s hard for me to believe that very many people who were at these demonstrations actually saw these cartoons. They, like many others, were responding to the imprecations of their leaders to get out on the streets and demonstrate. I went to Friday morning prayers in Dura, a town of about thirty-five thousand people, and the imam there is Sheikh Nayef Rajoub—Jibril Rajoub’s brother. This was the first Friday after the elections, so I thought I’d hear him talk about Hamas. But, no, the subject of the day was the Danish cartoons. What was interesting is what it meant to him and, by extension, to the people in the mosque: for them, it was a symbol of the impunity with which the West insults the Islamic world, power having its way. And any notion of freedom of press was seen as a lame and irrelevant excuse.

You write that while you were in the mosque, people asked if you were Danish.

I don’t look very Danish. But I don’t think people in Hebron and in Dura have a lot of experience with people from Denmark. So I got asked that quite a lot, and my translator, thank God, was able to explain—and usually, by the way, being an American is no great bargain in situations like that. But on that particular Friday, it was good enough.

Let me ask you about being an American in places like that. How do you weigh the risks?

I’m not only American, I’m Jewish. And I’ve never—I don’t want to pretend I’ve spent years in the occupied territories; all told, a matter of weeks—but I’ve never had a problem. Colleagues of mine have had terrible things happen—the photographer I was with in the West Bank was shot in the knee by an Israeli soldier during the intifada—but it is not to be compared to Iraq, not even remotely like what George Packer and Jon Lee Anderson and everybody else in Iraq experiences. (I’m talking now only about reporters, not about ordinary people, who suffer all kinds of privations.) In some ways, covering this story in Israel and the occupied territories is geographically easy—you can get in a car in Jerusalem in the morning and you set out for Gaza or Hebron or wherever, and you go through the checkpoint, and because you’re holding an American passport you go through fine, and through the use of fixers—that great and valuable tool of foreign correspondents everywhere—you are able to meet with the leaders of Hamas or Fatah and are treated civilly. My colleagues in Iraq and many other places can’t say that even remotely.

You’re also an editor. What about the decisions you make, with regard to security, in that role?

It’s very hard for me, because I’ve been a correspondent, and still do it from time to time, and it’s painful for me to ask correspondents to do something that I might not do, or no longer do. This is very particular to the experience with Iraq. It worries me to death when they’re there, and their devotion to doing the work, despite the danger, is extraordinary. I try to take every precaution I can, and urge them to take every precaution that they can, and we keep in close, constant touch. But no precautions are foolproof.

Do you think the harder thing, often, is telling them that they can’t do something they want to do, because of security?

I remember when Jon Lee Anderson was in Baghdad—I think he was one of only a couple of magazine people there when the United States started bombing—there was a big question in the journalistic community about whether to leave people in or take them out. And you bet I had conversations with foreign editors at the Washington Post and the New York Times, just to see what they were doing, what precautions they were taking. Jon Lee and I talked about it a lot, and he was very firm in wanting to stay. I have to trust the good sense of people who are close to the action and also more experienced—Jon Lee is infinitely more experienced than I am at figuring out what to do in Iraq. But I have to give him as much information as I can. You make these decisions the best you can, and you make them sometimes with your heart in your throat.

Back to Hamas. Some of the comments that they made to you, and that they’ve made elsewhere—it was shocking how starkly anti-Semitic they were. How deep is that strain, and how inextricable is it?

It’s a very good question. A lot of the language that sounds pathetic and absurd to our ears—the notion of worldwide conspiracies and Jews sparking everything from the French Revolution to the First World War, all of which is in the Hamas charter—is clearly a remnant of a form of anti-Semitism that was very prevalent when the Muslim Brotherhood began, this kind of atavistic clinging to the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and all the rest. I will tell you, if you ask most Hamas people about this, they don’t disavow it. It is part of the language. Now, I don’t know how to go about thinking about how that fades or disappears. Without for a second excusing that kind of bigotry, without “explaining” it to the point of saying it has no weight, I would say that the conditions of occupation, the isolation, and the surround-sound of propaganda are not exactly ideal for the rise of broadmindedness.

You also saw a Palestinian school where the girls were dressed in hijab. What does Hamas’s victory mean for Palestinian women?

The fear among some secular Palestinians is that Hamas will interpret its victory as a license to instigate social change, and maybe even coercive social change, such as having women wear hijab. The notion that I got, from reporting, is that Hamas is well aware of the limitations of its mandate, and knows that a lot of its victory is due to a protest against Fatah and not a strong mandate for theocratic legislation. Like everyone else, they know that, while Islamic practice is greater than it was, there is still a large part of the population that is secular. That said, the anxiety among some people is still there.

You write that some Israelis are gambling that Hamas, given the choice between moderation, on the one hand, and poverty and war, on the other, would choose moderation. How good a bet is that? One Palestinian you spoke to worried about how radical fundamentalism draws strength from poverty.

The context is, Israel is trying to figure out what to do now that Hamas is, at least to some extent, in power. Remember, Mahmoud Abbas is still the president of the Palestinian Authority, although Hamas is dominant in the legislature; he is still in charge of many functions, not least in negotiating with Israel (insofar as there are any negotiations).

Steve Erlanger at the Times had a very good piece the other day saying that there are now discussions in the top levels of the Israeli government, and even with the Americans, about what it should do about the taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinians. Should it hold them up and put them in escrow? Should the European Union continue to fund the Palestinian Authority? If other tactics come into play to further isolate and impoverish Palestinian society, what would be the result? Will it cause Palestinian society to rise up and say, No more Hamas, now we’ll turn back to Fatah? Or will it further radicalize Palestinian society? That’s the gamble, and its a very significant gamble. One official, Dov Weissglas, said that Israel would be like a dietician, putting the Palestinians on a diet without starving them. They want to punish them without causing a bloodbath.

Might the experience of—as someone in your article puts it—“having to make sure that the garbage is collected” have a moderating influence on Hamas?

There is that hope or prediction, but it is far from a sure thing. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the new President of Iran, was not elected to deny the Holocaust, to make threatening overtures in the direction of Israel. That was not the main platform on which Iranians voted for him. They voted for him because they saw him as the anti-poverty, anti-corruption, social-services candidate. But he’s used his mandate the way he’s used his mandate. That said, without being soft-headed about it, there is clearly debate going on within Hamas about what kind of language to use, how to pitch their rhetoric, how to play the political game vis-à-vis Israel. Their first big move has been to promote one of their own, Ismail Haniyeh, as Prime Minister. Initially they’d been talking about getting a Prime Minister who was, above all, an effective technocrat, someone who could make things work, But Haniyeh is not that. He’s simply the guy who was at the top of the national slate. So they’re not backing off their own victory, certainly not two weeks later.

What’s also of interest, speaking of Iran, is the degree to which Iran will act as a support to Hamas.

How big a concern is that now, the ties between Hamas and Iran?

Enormous. U.S. and Israeli intelligence have long believed that, in one way or another, Iran has been very helpful to Hamas. Now, again, it’s an interesting tactical question: If support diminishes from the West, will that allow Iran to fill a vacuum? I do know from conversations with military people and intelligence people in Israel that their biggest concern is Iranian influence there. Even the more liberal heads are concerned above all with chaos. There’s a very interesting scholar of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Emmanuel Sivan, who told me that the biggest danger is chaos, particularly in Gaza. Because the thing the Israelis fear is Al Qaeda moving into this whole equation. Innately, Al Qaeda and Hamas have enormous differences. Hamas is focused on national questions, on its conflict with Israel; Al Qaeda is an avant-garde, outsider group that foments disorder and fear, and is focused on the more distant enemy––it’s a very different organization. But Al Qaeda feeds on chaotic situations. It did it in Afghanistan, now it’s doing it in Iraq.

The idea of democracy has been enormously important for the Israeli center and left, in terms of why a lot of them now support a two-state solution—that Israel can’t be both a Jewish state and a democratic state, given the demographics, the size of the Palestinian population.

I think at this point what you find in the Israeli polity is a broad consensus that transcends party. Remember, the Likud Party was greatly diminished once Sharon left it and created Kadima; the Labour Party, since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, in 1995, has also narrowed, and its leader is unpopular. What you have now is a broad Israeli consensus on the following things: the real, final settlement with the Palestinians is off in the future; what we need to do is separate the best we can, to create a kind of rough peace, Israelis here, Palestinians over there, and it has to be accomplished more or less unilaterally because the notion of a partnership has fallen through, with the collapse of the Oslo accords, the inability to deal with Arafat, and now the rise of Hamas; so we’re going to throw up this big wall and we’re going to disengage from Gaza and soon we’re going to disengage from dozens more settlements in the West Bank. That’s certainly not going to leave the Palestinians with what they wanted, or even with what was on offer at Camp David in 2000, but it’s going to create a kind of disengagement from each other, and that’s what it’s going to be for a while. The Israelis, or most of them, know that occupation is untenable: it is morally untenable, a financial and military sinkhole, a demographic disaster, and it isolates Israel from most of the world.

And if that second, Palestinian state is not democratic, if it’s a religious state—

I doubt it will be, but, one way or the other, Israel can’t dictate whether a Palestinian state becomes Islamist or not Islamist. What would they prefer? They’d of course prefer a peaceful, satisfied neighbor, but peace and satisfaction is not likely in the offing. This problem of two peoples contending for one land, the problem of how to form divisions, how to create a lasting peace, is a problem that’s going to go on for many years. The victory of Hamas, which denies the legitimacy of Israel and any agreements that were made between Israel and the P.L.O. in years past, does little to enhance the prospects of a settlement.

What can we—that is, the United States—do about it? Does the United States have a role?

The United States continues to have an enormous role in this region. The United States remains the potential broker of any settlement, whether interim or final, in the region. The question is, who are we talking with? The game got a lot more complicated for everybody, Hamas included, on January 25th. And it’s an open question on all sides about how the various players are going to behave. And the United States is otherwise occupied. It’s not a very pretty picture in Iraq.

February 20th, 2006, 04:09 PM
This is the best solution whom will make everyone happy.
Bomb everyone in gaza to death so they can meet allah right away.
Send all arabs from west bank to syriah/egypt or send them to meet
allah as well. Thats where they want to be anyways.

February 20th, 2006, 04:32 PM
Well, it would make you happy.

February 20th, 2006, 06:00 PM
What we need is to do is get Jesus and Muhammad in a boxing ring. Let them settle it like the men they were.

February 20th, 2006, 06:23 PM
What we need is to do is get Jesus and Muhammad in a boxing ring. Let them settle it like the men they were.
Only one of them would fight.

February 20th, 2006, 08:07 PM
http://www.jesusandmo.net/masthead.jpg (http://www.jesusandmo.net/)



February 28th, 2006, 09:29 AM
The climate of fear reaches the NY theatre world ...

Rickman slams 'censorship' of play about US Gaza activist

Julian Borger in Washington
Tuesday February 28, 2006
The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/)


Photograph: Mark Mainz/Getty
'All of us are the losers' ... Alan Rickman.

A New York theatre company has put off plans to stage a play about an American activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza because of the current "political climate" - a decision the play's British director, Alan Rickman, denounced yesterday as "censorship".

James Nicola, the artistic director of the New York Theatre Workshop, said it had never formally announced it would be staging the play, My Name is Rachel Corrie, but it had been considering staging it in March.

"In our pre-production planning and our talking around and listening in our communities in New York, what we heard was that after Ariel Sharon's illness and the election of Hamas, we had a very edgy situation," Mr Nicola said.

"We found that our plan to present a work of art would be seen as us taking a stand in a political conflict, that we didn't want to take."

He said he had suggested a postponement until next year.

Mr Rickman, best known for his film acting roles in Love, Actually and the Harry Potter series and who directed the play at London's Royal Court Theatre, denounced the decision.

"I can only guess at the pressures of funding an independent theatre company in New York, but calling this production "postponed" does not disguise the fact that it has been cancelled," Mr Rickman said in a statement.

"This is censorship born out of fear, and the New York Theatre Workshop, the Royal Court, New York audiences - all of us are the losers."

Rachel Corrie was a 23-year-old activist from Washington state crushed in March 2003 when she put herself between an Israeli army bulldozer and a Palestinian home it was about to demolish in Rafah, on the Egyptian border.

The International Solidarity Movement, of which she was a member, claimed the bulldozer driver ran her over deliberately. The Israeli Defence Forces said it was an accident, and that she was killed by falling debris.

The Israeli government said the demolitions were aimed at creating a "security zone" along the border. The Palestinians say they are a form of collective punishment.

"Rachel Corrie lived in nobody's pocket but her own. Whether one is sympathetic with her or not, her voice is like a clarion in the fog and should be heard," Mr Rickman said.

My Name is Rachel Corrie consists of her diary entries and emails home, edited by Mr Rickman and Katharine Viner, features editor of The Guardian. It won the best new play prize at this year's Theatregoers' Choice Awards in London.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

February 28th, 2006, 09:35 AM
What NYC will miss out on ...


Jerwood Theatre Upstairs



Photo: Megan Dodds.
Photography by Stephen Cummiskey.

Passion, poetry and the death of an activist

Political theatre takes many forms. It can be an engrossing judicial inquiry like Bloody Sunday. It can be a family saga like Wesker's Chicken Soup With Barley. Or it can be a deeply moving personal testimony like this selection from the writings of Rachel Corrie, edited by Alan Rickman and Katherine Viner, editor of Guardian Weekend Magazine, and performed by Megan Dodds.

In the course of 90 minutes you feel you have not just had a night at the theatre: you have encountered an extraordinary woman.

Most readers will know the bare facts about Rachel Corrie: that she was a 23-year-old American who went to aid Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and in March 2003 was killed by an Israeli bulldozer. But what comes as a shock is realising that she combined an activist's passion with an artist's sensibility. Louis MacNeice once yearned for a poet who was informed in economics, actively interested in politics. Rachel Corrie emerges as just such a person.

Writing was clearly in her blood. She started a diary when she was 12 and the first third of the evening shows her, at high school and at college in Olympia, Washington, using it to discover who she was. As a compulsive list-maker, she itemises the people she would like to hang out with in eternity; significantly, they are mainly writers, including Rilke, ee cummings, Gertrude Stein and Zelda Fitzgerald.

And Corrie herself has the artist's ability to see the significance of her own life. Writing of a boyfriend who ditched her, she says percipiently: Colin always wanted to walk faster and I wanted to trudge and identify ferns.

But Corrie was always a progressive with a conscience and in January 2003 she went to work with the International Solidarity Movement in Gaza. What makes this part of the evening so stirring is her ability to set down precisely what she sees. She records the exact amount of time Palestinians spend waiting at Israeli checkpoints. She talks to a doctor who knows that the house that it took him 30 years to afford can be destroyed in three hours, but who still says: I trust in my god, so no problem.

She also records the surreal experience of watching Pet Sematary on cable TV and ducking in horror from its fictional violence. An obvious comparison is with David Hare's Via Dolorosa. But that was a conscious, and very fine, piece of theatrical reportage in which Hare talked to both Israelis and Palestinians at all levels. Corrie went to Gaza specifically to support Palestinians whose homes were being demolished and makes no attempt to hide her partiality.

And, while she distinguishes between Jewish people and Israeli politicians, she is appalled by what she sees: the checkpoints that prevent people getting to jobs and places of education, the casual destruction of wells, the children who grow up with tank-shell holes in their walls.

Theatre has no obligation to give a complete picture. Its only duty is to be honest. And what you get here is a stunning account of one woman's passionate response to a particular situation.

And the passion comes blazing through in Corrie's eloquent reaction to her father's inquiry about Palestinian violence. As she says, if we lived where tanks and soldiers and bulldozers could destroy our homes at any moment and where our lives were completely strangled, wouldn't we defend ourselves as best we could?

The danger of right-on propaganda is avoided by the specificity of Rickman's Theatre Upstairs production. Above all, this is a portrait of a woman. And Megan Dodds doesn't play down Corrie's early moments of precocious self-absorption. But what she captures above all is Corrie's boundless curiosity, nomadic spirit and rage against injustice. Dodds also conveys some essential human decency that makes Corrie feel guilty about her parents' tender concern for her own endangered existence.

Hildegard Bechtler has designed a remarkable set that encompasses both the young Corrie's clothes-strewn American bedroom and the sun-bleached, bullet-marked Palestinian walls in front of which she ends her tragically brief life.

But although the aesthetics are important, they matter less than the show's content. And what that offers is a jolting reminder of the daily realities of Palestinian life and a portrait of a remarkable woman who tried to alleviate suffering.

Theatre can't change the world. But what it can do, when it's as good as this, is to send us out enriched by other people's passionate concern.

Michael Billington, THE GUARDIAN

February 28th, 2006, 10:22 AM
Play About Demonstrator's Death Is Delayed

NY Times
February 28, 2006


A potential Off Broadway production of "My Name Is Rachel Corrie," an acclaimed solo show about an American demonstrator killed by an Israeli bulldozer while trying to stop the destruction of a Palestinian home, has been postponed because of concerns about the show's political content.

The production, a hit at the Royal Court Theater in London last year, had been tentatively scheduled to start performances at the New York Theater Workshop in the East Village on March 22. But yesterday, James C. Nicola, the artistic director of the workshop, said he had decided to postpone the show after polling local Jewish religious and community leaders as to their feelings about the work.

"The uniform answer we got was that the fantasy that we could present the work of this writer simply as a work of art without appearing to take a position was just that, a fantasy," he said.

In particular, the recent electoral upset by Hamas, the militant Palestinian group, and the sickness of Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, had made "this community very defensive and very edgy," Mr. Nicola said, "and that seemed reasonable to me."

The play, which received strong reviews in London, follows the story of Rachel Corrie, an idealistic American demonstrator and Palestinian-rights activist who was crushed to death in March 2003 in the Gaza Strip.

The play was written by the actor Alan Rickman, who directed the piece, and Katherine Viner, a journalist at The Guardian newspaper in London, who pieced together snippets of Ms. Corrie's journals and e-mail messages to create the script. And while the show had not been formally announced, Ms. Viner said yesterday that she and Mr. Rickman had already bought plane tickets to see the production at the workshop.

"I was devastated and really surprised," Ms. Viner said in a telephone interview from London. "And in my view, I think they're misjudging the New York audience. It's a piece of art, not a piece of agitprop."

But Mr. Nicola said he was less worried about those who saw the show than those who simply heard about it
"I don't think we were worried about the audience," he said. "I think we were more worried that those who had never encountered her writing, never encountered the piece, would be using this as an opportunity to position their arguments."

Mr. Nicola said that he still hoped to produce the play during the 2006-7 season but that he hadn't heard back from the Royal Court yet. A call for comment to the Royal Court's general manager, Diane Borger, was not returned.

"It seemed as though if we proceeded, we would be taking a stand we didn't want to take," he said.

Copyright 2006 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html)The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

March 7th, 2006, 01:02 AM
Tensions Increase Over Delay of a Play

NY Times
March 7, 2006


Just a week after a potential production of the controversial British play "My Name Is Rachel Corrie" was delayed at the New York Theater Workshop because of political concerns, the Royal Court Theater in London said it was considering several other offers to take the play to New York.

Ewan Thomson, a spokesman for the Royal Court, confirmed that officials there wanted to stage it in New York "as soon as we possibly can" and have talked to other producers. Mr. Thomson said the company was hoping to capitalize on the show's momentum from a coming run in London's West End, where it will play from March 28 to May 7, approximately the same dates it had been tentatively scheduled to run at New York Theater Workshop.

And in a sign of heightened tensions between the two theaters, the Royal Court also issued a statement to address "factual inaccuracies" in a letter posted on the workshop's Web site and assertions made by James C. Nicola, the workshop's artistic director.

In particular, the Royal Court's statement took issue with the workshop's assertion that the planned production of "Rachel Corrie" was not definite, saying that press releases had been finalized, previews set, budgets approved, flights booked and tickets listed for sale. "I don't want this to become a spat between two theaters," said Mr. Thomson, who faxed a copy of the statement to The New York Times. "But there were certain factual inaccuracies we wanted to address."

Mr. Nicola was traveling yesterday and unavailable for comment, but Lynn Moffat, the workshop's managing director, disputed the Royal Court's statement, saying that many production details and creative elements were still being settled when the show was delayed.

"Everything was in the soup," Ms. Moffat said. "But we were going on good faith. We were moving forward."

Mr. Nicola said last week that he had decided to postpone the show after polling local Jewish leaders as to their feelings about the play, which follows the story of Rachel Corrie, an idealistic American demonstrator who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in March 2003 while trying to prevent the destruction of a home in the Gaza Strip.

Written by Alan Rickman (http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/filmography.html?p_id=60157&inline=nyt-per), the actor, and Katherine Viner, a journalist with The Guardian newspaper in London, and pieced together from Ms. Corrie's own journals and e-mail messages, the show was a hit in London and garnered strong reviews. But Mr. Nicola said recent conversations with Jewish leaders had uncovered an unease about the play's message at a time when Hamas (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/h/hamas/index.html?inline=nyt-org), the militant Palestinian group, had scored a victory in recent elections.

The workshop later posted a statement on its Web site elaborating on the decision, saying it had not canceled or censored the production and that time pressures — particularly "Alan Rickman's pre-existing film commitments" — had driven it to delay the show.

"We asked a rather routine question, or so we thought, to our London colleagues about altering the time frame," the workshop's statement read.

"Our intent in asking for the postponement was to allow us enough time to contextualize the work so Rachel Corrie's powerful voice could best be heard above the din of others shouting for their own purposes."

But the announcement of the play's delay caused some concern in artistic circles on both sides of the Atlantic. In a letter posted on the political Web site Counterpunch.org, for example, the actress Vanessa Redgrave (http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/filmography.html?p_id=59206&inline=nyt-per), a longtime supporter of the Palestinian cause, called the workshop's decision "censorship of the worst kind" and the "blacklisting of a dead girl and her diaries."

In New York, the playwright Christopher Shinn — a member of the workshop's extended artistic ensemble, the Usual Suspects — also published a short essay online calling for more playwrights to come forward to protest the workshop's decision. "If I were a young playwright, I would get the message loud and clear: don't write political plays if you want to get them produced," Mr. Shinn wrote. "And if you write a play that gets scheduled, and then pulled for political reasons, don't expect the theater community to come out and support your freedom of expression. This is a ghastly message to send."

Ms. Moffat said that she and Mr. Nicola were surprised by the reaction, in particular an op-ed piece by Ms. Viner in The Los Angeles Times that accused Mr. Nicola of "exercising prior censorship."

"The charge of censorship is what's really distressing to us," Ms. Moffat said. "We didn't take the word postponement to mean censorship."

Ms. Moffat added that the workshop still intended to present "Rachel Corrie" next season.

But the Royal Court's statement yesterday made that seem less likely.

"A postponement at any time, but especially at this late stage, is not the action of an organization committed to producing 'My Name Is Rachel Corrie,' " the statement read, adding that there was no assurance that the political climate in the Middle East would change anytime soon.

Copyright 2006 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html)The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

March 7th, 2006, 01:08 AM
NYTW Con't

More on Rachel Corrie

March 03, 2006


I'd love to write really long, complicated, in depth and intelligent analysis of this whole NYTW/Rachel Corrie fracas. After all, few political issues have been as important to me over the past few years as the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, which (along with the Florida Recount/Bloodless Coup) was a major part of my political re-awakening from several years of apathy.

The problem is that George (http://ghunka.com/) and Garrett (http://playgoer.blogspot.com/) are doing really masterful jobs of writing about it, and so I guess I'm just happy to be hosting a really great conversation about the politics involved.

Garrett's post (http://playgoer.blogspot.com/2006/03/bigger-picture.html) today I specifically recommend. And since he is asking "Broader Picture" questions, here's one to put to all you theater people out there:
How much do you think this is about Jim Nicola polling some Zionist organizations, getting flack and retreating and how much of this is about the Board of NYTW? I have this sneaking suspicion that there is a story behind the story. One which we will never know unless someone leaks something.

This is based on nothing other than my own experiences with theater politics, I have no inside information, I just have to think that the board is somehow involved in this.

Speaking of which, here's (http://nytw.org/board.asp) a list of the board members of NYTW. This list includes Doug Wright, whose plays I Am My Own Wife and Qullis both deal with issues thematically that are, well, related to say the least. Hopefully if we are not hearing from him publicly, it is because he is handling it privately with the theater.


Christopher Shinn wrote in a letter to Garrett Eisler's "Playgoer" which he has posted in full. I am re-blogging it here (hope there's no offense, Garrett) as I think it gets to the heart of the issue:

I was so surprised by the silence after the Times article came out on Monday that I felt I must be missing something, that there must be a rational reason for the lack of response from my community. I remembered protesting with my colleagues outside of Manhattan Theatre Club when they pulled "Corpus Christi," and expected a similar if not identical response here -- as you point out, the circumstances are in some ways different. But the basic principle is the same.

I decided to speak out on Thursday when I played the following imagined scenario out in my head: I am a young playwright, just finishing up with school and getting ready to write plays I hope will get produced. I consider myself a political playwright with aspirations to speak to the mainstream. New York Theatre Workshop, having produced Kushner and Churchill and many others, is a theatre I dream about one day being produced at.

Monday morning I open up the New York Times. I read that "James C. Nicola, the artistic director of the workshop, said he had decided to postpone [My Name is Rachel Corrie] after polling local Jewish religious and community leaders as to their feelings about the work."

In the same section of the paper, I read a review of another play about terrorism. The play gets a rave review but also alerts me, "Don't expect deep psychological portraiture or specific political insights."

In the following days, I scour the internet, waiting to see how the theatre community responds to Nicola's decision to postpone "Rachel Corrie" because of its political content. But I find nothing.

Instead I read that the play about terrorism sans "deep
psychological portraiture or specific political insights" is moving to Broadway, and that "Rachel Corrie" will not be seen either on the Lower East Side or anywhere in New York.

I have not seen or read Martin McDonagh's play, but the point is this: if I were a young playwright, I would get the message loud and clear -- don't write political plays if you want to get them produced. And if you write a play that gets scheduled, and then pulled for political reasons, don't expect the theatre community to come out and support your freedom of expression. This is a ghastly message to send.

The kinds of plays our future playwrights produce will in part be a result of what values we are willing to support and defend in public forums. Plays do not happen in a vacuum; we have to speak out.

March 7th, 2006, 01:18 AM
Wanna do something to tell NYTW that you disapprove of them cancelling My Name is Rachel Corrie?

Why not sign this E-Petition (http://www.petitiononline.com/nytw/petition.html)

March 7th, 2006, 01:20 PM
Thanks. 234 sigs as of just now.

March 9th, 2006, 11:03 AM
And then there is this ( http://time.blogs.com/daily_dish/2006/03/eleven_year_old.html ) ...

Eleven Year Olds as Martyrs (http://time.blogs.com/daily_dish/2006/03/eleven_year_old.html)

08 Mar 2006

Check out this video (http://www.standwithus.com/shahada.asp?style=blue) from Palestinian television. And weep.

Shahada comes from the word similar to the Hebrew: "AID" or Witness.
Shahada means two things.

SHAHADA: —To die for Allah—one's death is "witness" that death was for Allah.
SHAHADA: To make a statement to "testify" that "Allah is God and Mohammed his prophet"By using the same term as the "testimony" for death, the act of dying for Allah is elevated by the declaration of faith. Please watch the tape to understand more fully the use of the term, and its current application in Palestinian culture. You will hear children, a TV personality and clerics use the term to describe MARTYRDOM, and you will hear songs expressing Shahada as martyrdom as well.

Please send this tape to your contacts so that everyone is very clear about the definition of this term.

March 9th, 2006, 02:05 PM
Petition is over 350 signatures now.

March 9th, 2006, 10:44 PM
A Scandal for Our Time:
Rachel Corrie Ignites Uproar

By John Heilpern
NY Observer

March 13, 2006


For me, the most disturbing aspect of the craven postponement of the production of My Name Is Rachel Corrie isn’t that it happened, but that it was the adventurous downtown New York Theatre Workshop that did the postponing.

We have reached the unacceptable face of the New York arts scene when the theater that produced the original Rent—and, more to the point, the conscience plays of Tony Kushner and Caryl Churchill—should cave in like this to peculiar, unspecific pressure.

We’ve heard about unnamed Zionist pressure groups and anonymous theater donors who object to the telling of a humane story about a utopian 23-year-old American girl who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in the Gaza Strip as she protested the destruction of a Palestinian’s home. We’ve heard the theater’s cornered artistic director, James Nicola, talk darkly about realizing suddenly that there existed “a very edgy situation” that had taken root in the city “after Ariel Sharon’s illness and the election of Hamas.” We’ve heard it all—including the whirring sound of the New York Theatre Workshop backpedaling all it can to rationalize its weird decisions.

But when I asked Mr. Nicola, as well as the president of the board of trustees and the New York Theatre Workshop’s managing director, exactly who—and how many—have been protesting about the play, no one could tell me. Mr. Nicola was in Italy last week, and he kindly responded to my questions via e-mail. Here’s the substance of our exchange:

“How many members of the Jewish community in New York have made their feelings known to you opposing the play?”

“I haven’t personally spoken to any members of the Jewish community who’ve opposed the play,” he replied. “I have spoken to many Jewish friends who have had degrees of discomfort with the topic.”

“When you said in The Times that it was a ‘fantasy’ to present the piece as a work of art ‘without appearing to take a position’—what is the position that would prevent you from doing what you do?”

“ … when I first read this play, it affected me deeply,” he said. “I thought it presented an opportunity to share with our community a powerful message that the good fortune to be born into comfortable circumstances comes with the responsibility of conscience. One must always be aware of the misery of others and take compassionate action.”

He went on to explain that “there was much unsubstantiated speculation from different quarters on the circumstances of Rachel’s time in Gaza. It became apparent that by presenting the play on the current schedule this speculation might become the event itself instead of the play …. ”

What do we have so far? Mr. Nicola hasn’t actually spoken to anyone who opposes the play. He has spoken to Jewish friends only “with degrees of discomfort with the topic.” The play itself affected him deeply. But he fears its production would open him and his theater to the accusation of “taking a position.” While he empathized with the tragedy of the young American activist with a conscience, the “unsubstantiated speculation” about the play might become bigger than the play. He therefore postponed the play.

Almost all of us, I might add—including myself—had never heard of the play until its postponement. But in a tight production schedule, Mr. Nicola said, “our goal … was to enable ourselves more time to thoughtfully prepare.” He explained, for example, that Homebody/Kabul, Tony Kushner’s clairvoyant epic about Afghanistan, was twice delayed before its production.

But Homebody/Kabul was pre-empted by a New York in darkest trauma and mourning (and Mr. Kushner agreed with the postponement). My Name Is Rachel Corrie is a one-woman show that was due to arrive later this month via its successful—and peaceful—run at the Royal Court Theatre. It’s about to transfer to the West End.

Katharine Viner of The Guardian, the co-author of My Name Is … with the renowned actor Alan Rickman, believes the play has been censored here for political reasons. “The political climate, we were told, had changed dramatically since the play was booked,” she wrote, and asked, “If a voice like this cannot be heard on a New York stage, what hope is there for anyone else?”

She also criticized Mr. Nicola for telling The Times that it wasn’t the people who saw the play he was actually worried about. “I don’t think we were worried about the audience,” he said. “I think we were worried that those who had never encountered her writing, never encountered the piece, would be using this as an opportunity to position their arguments.”

Ms. Viner then asked, “Since when did theater come to be about those who don’t go to see it?”

I asked Mr. Nicola: “Why do you think the play was produced without difficulty or apparent protest in London?”

“I think it’s dangerous to speculate as to why an audience did or did not behave in a particular way, because I don’t know the London community nearly as well as I know my own,” he said.

The London community either lives far more dangerously than the New York theater scene (and Mr. Nicola), or its nonprofit theater is more phlegmatically open to risk. England also possesses a strong element of anti-Zionism. But there’s a powerful Jewish community whose vigilant Jewish Board of Deputies has been known to prosecute all forms of anti-Semitism.

“What do you think your decision is saying to the Arab community?” I asked Mr. Nicola.

He replied, “We haven’t heard from anyone in that community, and I can’t speculate as to their reactions.”

“Dangerous to speculate …. ” “Can’t speculate …. ” The enraged American Arabs with whom I’ve spoken find Mr. Nicola’s decision to postpone the play condescending and naïve. He talks a lot about “our community,” they point out, but it excludes them.

“Who produces a play according to opinion polls?” asked the Palestinian-American comedienne Maysoon Zayid derisively. “I mean, what’s that? How many other plays have they polled? It’s insane. An American woman wrote the play. Who else has to be polled before we can hear her voice?”

“Maybe they’re waiting for peace in the Middle East,” said Maha Chehaoui of the Nibras Theater, a small Arab-American theater company in New York. Ms. Chehaoui is one among her own marginalized community who, like Ms. Zayid, is making her voice heard.

May the New York Theatre Workshop cease their poll-takings and ‘‘soundings” and listen to them. This has not been Mr. Nicola’s finest hour. We look to his theater—and all great theaters—to be our forum, pulpit, truth-teller and witness to a world that has lost its reason. Plays written in blood are not meant to be “acceptable” or “reach consensus.” That is for weaselly politicians. Give us plays of consequence, for heaven’s sake—not caution, compliance and fear.

copyright © 2005 the new york observer, L.P.

March 12th, 2006, 01:53 PM
Legendary Actor Vanessa Redgrave Calls Cancellation of Rachel Corrie Play an “Act of Catastrophic Cowardice”

Democracy Now
March 8th, 2006


A New York theater company is coming under criticism for backing out of an agreement to stage a play based on the life of U.S. peace activist Rachel Corrie. The play’s producers are calling the decision censorship...

Rachel Corrie was 23 years old when she was crushed by the bulldozer. The play, entitled “My Name is Rachel Corrie”, is based on her writings before her death. James Nicola, artistic director of the New York Theatre Workshop, said "In our pre-production planning and our talking around and listening in our communities in New York, what we heard was that after Ariel Sharon’s illness and the election of Hamas, we had a very edgy situation. We found that our plan to present a work of art would be seen as us taking a stand in a political conflict, that we didn’t want to take."

Last night we spoke with Oscar award-winning actress and activist, Vanessa Redgrave.

VANESSA REDGRAVE: Well, I expect your viewers know that My Name Is Rachel Corrie was supposed to be opening in New York at the New York Theatre Workshop in the week beginning March the 20th, and the Royal Court Theatre, who are the producers of My Name Is Rachel Corrie, were raising money for the 50,000 pounds that was their share of the production, and Alan Rickman had underwritten it, and suddenly, the New York Theatre Workshop said something strange over the phone to the Royal Court, like maybe we’ve got to postpone this because we have consulted with a number of groups in New York City and we just don’t think – and then, I believe, from some other emails I’ve heard, the New York Theatre Workshop referred to “contextualization,” which nobody what that means.

But the basic thing is that -- what's horrible about it is that, first of all, the text of this production – because it isn’t a play – was taken from Rachel's diaries. Rachel was a fantastic young American girl, who any country, anybody of any faith or race should be just so proud and thrilled that the human race can produce a girl like that. So the entire text was taken, edited from her diaries by Alan Rickman, who directed, and Megan Dodds, playing Rachel, and performed at the Royal Court Theatre to overwhelming critical wonder, let alone acclaim, and to all of us who went to the see the place once, twice or more.

And the theater was full of young people, full of young people who hadn't been to the Royal Court Theatre before, but had the idea that this was a play about a young girl and therefore it might have something to do with something they might care about. In fact, I was with Alan one night in the Royal Court bar downstairs, and there were loads of young girls, and, of course, they were all coming up to Alan and saying, “Well, you know, we didn't know what to expect, but this is really -- this is extraordinary, extraordinary,” because they hadn’t even, some of them, been in the theater before, any theater before, let alone the Royal Court Theatre before.

And Rachel, as anyone who’s seen this production, based entirely on her diaries until she was killed trying to defend these Palestinian lives, who were in this house, that an Israeli army bulldozer was heading for to demolish, and Rachel knew they were in the house, and so she just stood in front of the house like all the international volunteers have been doing and like some wonderful Israeli human rights people who I know have been doing, and the bulldozer kept coming, and her back was broken and she died.

And it was canceled, although they used the word “postponed.” But we all know in the theater that if you use the word "postponed," you mean “canceled.” Let alone that there were jobs at stake, let alone that money that was at stake, the main issue, and now it’s important in a blacklisting kind of time where we are, but the terrible thing was that it was silencing that girl, and she was killed to be silenced. These volunteers, they stand, whether Israeli or American or from whichever country they were coming, in her case, American, they stand in front of a house or some children or a building to prevent the families being shot at and the houses being demolished, and they crawl out and wave white flags.

So, her voice was silenced by an IDF bulldozer, a Caterpillar bulldozer, but then the Theatre Workshop in New York, they not only then silenced her by canceling this production, but at the end of the production, there's a little, little moment from a speech that Rachel made when she was ten years old at a school ceremony, and the children must have all been told to prepare speeches about what they cared about in the world, and Rachel made this speech about world poverty and the misery that poverty causes and her wish and desire and belief that the world could and would end poverty, and that this must be done. So the New York Theatre Workshop also silenced that little girl, too, who is speaking for everybody all over the world, whoever they are. It’s a very, very bad situation.

AMY GOODMAN: So, this play did not -- this production did not cause controversy in London?

VANESSA REDGRAVE: Oh, I suppose behind the scenes it did. In fact, I know it did, because the Royal Court Theatre were getting various letters and phone calls and so on, but you know, I mean, that's normal. What are we all about? Supposed to be a democracy where people can say what they want and make a phone call or write a letter saying, “I don't agree” or “This is awful” or whatever, but the Royal Court quite rightly didn't pay any attention at all, and the audiences packed in.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about the argument that in this time of, I guess they had said, the Prime Minister Sharon in a coma and the Hamas election, that they didn't think it was the proper time?

VANESSA REDGRAVE: Is that what they said? I hadn’t read that. Is that what they said?

AMY GOODMAN: I think there was some mumbling about that.

VANESSA REDGRAVE: Oh, well, I'm sure there’s a hell of a lot of mumbling behind, but it doesn't matter. I mean, the essence of life and the essence of theater is to communicate about lives, either lives that have ended or lives that are still alive, beliefs, what is in those beliefs, and this was an extraordinary young girl. It wasn’t -- she didn't take sides, although she went to defend Palestinians. It isn't about taking sides. It’s about defending human life. That's the basis of all human rights. That's the basis of what every country proclaims it stands for.

I don't know of a single government that actually abides by international human rights law, not one, including my own. In fact, violate these laws in the most despicable and obscene way, I would say. But to cancel a play, and it wasn't really a play, to cancel a voice, because it was her voice, is an act of such catastrophic cowardice, because we are living in times when people are quite fearful enough about speaking out, for losing their career or, you know, whatever, and I think it’s -- people in the theater, in film, radio, television, dance, music, we have to do what we must do.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think times have changed since you won the Oscar about a quarter of a century ago and spoke out for Palestinians then?

VANESSA REDGRAVE: Oh, yes. Times have changed, alright. The human rights movement, the nongovernmental organizations, the U.N. agencies have got stronger and stronger. There are communities all over the world who work with human rights groups. In contradistinction to this wonderful development, you have governments that are violating human rights. Now, if you have an artistic enterprise that then moves in and opens the door for all the censorship-directed policies of any government, then that becomes a conduit for silencing of an awful lot of people who have got things to say about many other things. So I’ve never known -- I must say, in my experience, I had the support of Jewish communities. I had the support of American Actors Equity, because, you know, efforts were made to silence me along the way, and I had to, you know, go to several court cases, in fact, and I did. I sued, and it was in the suing that the truth came out --

AMY GOODMAN: Who did you sue?

VANESSA REDGRAVE: -- that, actually, there’s many more people want the freedom to communicate, as long as it’s not blasphemous and destructive in a rotten way of other people, in other words, racist. I mean, those cartoons, for instance, that have shocked us all were racist. They were fascist in character, the cartoons of the Prophet with a bomb on his head. I mean, that's a very rightwing paper, Jyllands-Posten, and it’s not surprising that they published those cartoons as a sort of provocation. We have got these sort of fascist kind of things happening in the world, and we don't need any more of them.

However, the play, because the New York Theatre Workshop canceled, there’s a producer in London, and it’s going to open in London at a major West End theater, My Name Is Rachel Corrie, and the press night’s March the 28th. So, while every attempt has been made to suppress by governments, I think we’ve got that reminder of what Shakespeare said, “The truth will rise, though all the earth o’erwhelm it, to men's eyes.”

AMY GOODMAN: Vanessa Redgrave, the last time we saw you was in New York. You had come with a delegation, and you were headed to Washington speaking out about the detainees at Guantanamo. You were with your brother, Corin, as well, I believe, Moazzam Begg’s father --

VANESSA REDGRAVE: Mr. Azmat Begg, and the lawyers of some of the European prisoners in Guantanamo.

AMY GOODMAN: Moazzam Begg has since been released, but many others remain. What has come of the movement that you have helped to found?

VANESSA REDGRAVE: Well, we were just a small hard-working part of it. Those lawyers everywhere, not only the wonderful American lawyers, like the Center for Constitutional Rights, like the American Civil Liberties Union, but many, many big firms have poured in to assist, because they are so horrified at what is being done in Guantanamo Bay, and the same is true, I would say, in a different way here in England, because we not only had a whole number of U.K. citizens in Guantanamo Bay, but we still have British families who have got U.K. fathers, brothers, sons, who are held in Guantanamo. So we have a particular responsibility to free them.

Long, long ago we said, “If they have done anything wrong” -- this is what Moazzam’s father said, “If he has done anything wrong, let him be brought back and tried here in the U.K.” But, of course, they hadn't done anything wrong at all, and Guantanamo Bay was an interrogation center where torture is practiced, and when they went on hunger strikes starting last August -- I think there’s only two or three left now, they were force-fed and force-feeding is a torture, too, and it’s despicable that, in my view, that our government, the British government, has been complicit in these men being seized in the first place and then rendered from wherever to Afghanistan and then to Guantanamo.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you seen Moazzam Begg since he has come home?

VANESSA REDGRAVE: Oh, yes, of course. Yes, and we’ve marched together with the mothers and sisters and wives of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners.

AMY GOODMAN: Cherie Booth, the wife of the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has spoken out against torture. What is your response to that?

VANESSA REDGRAVE: To what? Torture or --

AMY GOODMAN: To her, the wife of the Prime Minister of Britain speaking out. Does that surprise you?

VANESSA REDGRAVE: Well, she’s saying the right thing, but you know, it’s not quite the issue. She has the right, and she has exercised that right to say her mind. I haven't read that she said this, but I believe you, anyway. She is a human rights Q.C. practicing in the bar. She would adhere to human rights law, but we have this phenomenon in which a very strange language is being used that is the product of brains that have convinced themselves that the United Nations is an impediment in our times, that international human rights law is an obstacle, that Amnesty International, that the United Nations Rapporteur on Torture, that even the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbor, that magnificent Canadian who presided over the Rwanda war crime tribunal and also Yugoslavia, that these are “pressure groups,” was the word used by our Home Secretary in August, and are transmitting and fueling a xenophobia in Britain with various statements that are made to certain media that can be absolutely counted upon for front-page xenophobic alarms, and so on and so forth. It’s a very, very bad time.

The good thing is that there's more support for Amnesty International, for Human Rights Watch, for our own U.K. civil liberties organization, which is called Liberty, than there has ever been before, ever, ever, ever before.

AMY GOODMAN: Vanessa Redgrave, you also have been focusing on the issue of Chechnya, and you have made a film, Voices of Dissent. Can you talk about that?

VANESSA REDGRAVE: Yes, well, this is a 47-minute documentary, based primarily on an extraordinary Soviet dissident, an absolutely heroic guy called Vladimir Bukovsky, who was one of the young people in the 1960s who were inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as was Nelson Mandela, as was Martin Luther King. And that generation of young Soviet people who campaigned for human rights in the Soviet Union were sent to gulags, they were beaten up in the K.G.B. cells, that’s the old Soviet intelligence services, for those young people of today who don't know what that was, and who were sent to the infamous Secret Services psychiatric prisons, where they were tortured both physically and psychologically. And it was thanks to Amnesty that a number of these dissidents, including Vladimir Bukovsky, were saved and brought out.
So, through the voices of dissidents and of Russians today, and also Mr. Zakayev, who lives here and who has political asylum here in the U.K. and who was the main representative of the former president, Maskhadov, who was murdered by the Russian special forces in Chechnya last year, we tell in 47 minutes, thanks to Bukovsky and Mr. Zakayev and some of these wonderful Russians, we hear their view of today and how today happened and that the war against Chechnya was used to bring the real old K.G.B. secret services and the military and intelligence back into power both in the Kremlin and in the army and in business and even in culture, and the war in Chechnya helped that to happen.

AMY GOODMAN: Vanessa Redgrave, Oscar Award-winning actor, speaking to us at her home last night in West London.

March 13th, 2006, 10:47 PM
Amy Goodman- one of the only real news reporters left in America.

March 16th, 2006, 12:48 AM
Excuses, equivocations, back-bends ... spinelessness:

Theater Addresses Tension Over Play

NY Times
March 16, 2006


Today is the third anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old from Washington State who was killed by an Israeli Army bulldozer in the Gaza Strip as she tried to protect a Palestinian home. But the focus of many of the commemorations scheduled by supporters around the world is a small nonprofit stage, the New York Theater Workshop, that recently delayed a production of a British play based on her e-mail messages and diary entries, "My Name Is Rachel Corrie."

Criticized by celebrities like Harold Pinter, Tony Kushner (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/k/tony_kushner/index.html?inline=nyt-per), Vanessa Redgrave and lesser-known theater artists for censorship and artistic cowardice, the leaders of the workshop blame the entire brouhaha on a simple misunderstanding. In an interview this week James C. Nicola, the workshop's artistic director, and Lynn Moffat, its managing director, insisted that they wanted only to postpone, not cancel, the show — despite declarations by the authors and the Royal Court Theater, the London troupe that initially produced the award-winning play, that the workshop pulled the plug on a done deal.

Neither Mr. Nicola nor Ms. Moffat had seen the play in London and neither would say exactly who they spoke to before they decided to delay the show.
Mr. Nicola originally said that he had spoken to "religious leaders" in making his decision; this week he said that the workshop did a "wide reaching out into the complexity of the community of New York" that included reading Palestinian views on Web sites. Mr. Nicola did say he had had a conversation with one board member who said that his rabbi had concerns about the play. An old friend, who is Jewish, also questioned the play's message.

Ms. Moffat said that she and Mr. Nicola — who are not Jewish — took advice from members of their in-house artistic staff, as well as "colleagues and colleagues of colleagues."

Given the sharply divided opinions of Ms. Corrie — idealistic or recklessly naïve, depending on one's political point of view — Mr. Nicola said on Monday that the workshop needed "more time to learn more and figure a way to proceed."

Whether a misunderstanding or not, how the workshop, an artistically bold and popular company, found itself in such an embarrassing public jam still baffles Mr. Nicola and Ms. Moffat, who said they did not know the extent of the public relations damage and financial cost.

But Ms. Moffat was adamant that no outside force — including donors, artists or potential business partners — had threatened the company. "Not one person said to us, 'Don't do the play,' " Ms. Moffat said.

Although some details remain murky, what is certain is that discussions between the workshop and the actor Alan Rickman, who assembled the play with Katharine Viner, an editor at The Guardian in London, began late last year. Mr. Nicola said that he read the play in December and was impressed.

"I read what I think the authors intended for me to read, which was that this life, in her own words, was an example to Americans, who are in some fog of avoidance right now," Mr. Nicola said, adding, "I thought that this, in the voice of this young, pure, innocent woman, was a very powerful thing to say right now."

Meanwhile in January, the political situation in the Middle East intensified after a stroke suffered by the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/s/ariel_sharon/index.html?inline=nyt-per), and electoral victories by Hamas (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/h/hamas/index.html?inline=nyt-org), the militant Palestinian group. At the same time, Mr. Nicola said his company's dramaturge raised some red flags about the symbolism of Ms. Corrie's tale.

Said Ms. Moffat, "As we went deeper and deeper into it, we discovered what we didn't know was getting to be too great a burden."

Stephen Graham, the founding trustee on the theater's board, said that one or two board members raised questions in mid-January. "We asked, 'Was it biased?,' and Jim said, "It's an important piece,' and we said 'O.K.,' " Mr. Graham recalled yesterday.

Wayne S. Kabak, president of the board, said Mr. Nicola was asked whether the play's production had a political agenda and that he said no. "There was no pressure from the board on the theater whether to produce the play," Mr. Kabak said. "That's how this theater works."

Still, by February Mr. Nicola and Ms. Moffat decided that the workshop might need to organize nightly postshow talk-backs to provide context as it had done with plays like Mr. Kushner's "Homebody/Kabul."

Mr. Nicola said that they soon realized there was not enough time to work out the concerns and complete the general artistic process and informed the Royal Court on Feb. 17 that the workshop would delay the production. Mr. Nicola said that he had not heard from anyone at the Royal Court since.

The Royal Court, which issued a statement in last week, offers a different account, saying the deal was definite, an opinion Ms. Viner seconded yesterday. "They read the play and liked it," Ms. Viner said. "And then they changed their mind." The play is running in the West End (http://theater2.nytimes.com/gst/theater/tdetails.html?id=1124999655878) in London until May 7.

Criticism of the workshop started slowly and gained momentum. Mr. Nicola, who had traveled to Italy to work on a project, returned to New York. The tenor was also raised when Mr. Nicola made vague comments about the delay's cause. Subsequently, other groups in New York have offered to stage the play.

Last night artists were to read excerpts of Ms. Corrie's writing at a bar next to the workshop. Other events are planned. But there is also sympathy for the workshop's plight from other artistic directors who know the difficulty of trying to be artistically and politically relevant — as well as sensitive — amid powerful opinions and constituencies.

Joseph V. Melillo, the executive producer of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, described himself as "a walking target," who is in a "vortex of information, constantly being bombarded" by people's views on the academy's work.

Mr. Melillo added that he supported the workshop. "The last time I looked in the dictionary," he said, "postponement did not mean cancellation."

Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Public Theater, said Mr. Nicola "has a tremendous amount of integrity," but that he also felt the idea of artistic freedom needed to be at the forefront.

"I think it was a mistake for Jim to postpone the show and I'm sorry he did it," Mr. Eustis said. "But I think it's important in this moment that we try to help the workshop and defend the principle that we don't not do work because it's politically provocative."

Mr. Graham, who founded the workshop in 1979, said he lamented the postponement, but understood how it happened. "I can see that every move that happened, step by step, was a rational decision," he said. "But the sum total, I regret."

Copyright 2006 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html)The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

TLOZ Link5
March 16th, 2006, 11:36 PM
Up to at least 705 signatures.

The script can be preordered here:


March 17th, 2006, 10:47 AM
NYTW is back pedaling. I thought it was interesting that they did a "wide reaching out into the complexity of the community of New York." Now, that begs the question: how often do you do that for other shows? Of course, "Rent" was a show that helped put NYTW on the theater map. You watch any of the multitude of interviews with Nicola regarding that piece and he talks about his "commitment from the beginning."

I do hope some other theater company stages the work. The great aspect of this is that the story of Rachel Corrie is getting some coverage. I remember seeing Patti Smith two years ago in Williamsburg after her new album, "Trampin", came out. She wrote a song on the album specifically about Rachel Corrie and talked about the incident. She's an intense performer and storyteller and you could hear a pin drop in the club as she told the story. Powerful stuff.

March 27th, 2006, 09:55 PM
March 28, 2006

Crucial Vote in Israel


JERUSALEM, March 27 — Israelis vote Tuesday in their fourth national election in seven years, and it is widely billed as one of the most important — and least inspiring — ballots in Israel's history.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his centrist Kadima Party, the overwhelming favorite, say they are prepared to fix Israel's eastern border in the next four years in what would be a wrenching process involving the removal of tens of thousands of Jewish settlers from the West Bank.

As with all previous Israeli governments, Kadima faces the prospect of building a coalition with other parties.

While the final shape of a new government probably will not be clear for weeks, a Kadima victory on its platform of unilateral territorial concessions would signal a major political realignment.

Israel has already halted most of its dealings with the Palestinian Authority after the January election victory by Hamas, the radical Islamic movement, and that policy is expected to be further entrenched in the coming days.

Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister-designate and leader of Hamas, presented his cabinet to the legislators on Monday, with the expectation that its members will be sworn in by Wednesday.

But despite the high stakes, Israeli pollsters are predicting voter turnout of only around 60 percent, which would be Israel's lowest ever and more than 10 percentage points below the norm.

Campaign rallies, which in the past have been raucous affairs drawing tens of thousands of people, have been far smaller and more sedate this time. Billboards and bumper stickers have been fewer.

Some Jewish settlers removed from the Gaza Strip last summer say they are so disillusioned with the Israeli political system that they may not vote, though several parties are fighting to prevent additional withdrawals from the West Bank.

"It does not matter who will be in power, it won't change anything for us," said Talya Eluz, 36, part of a group of evacuated settlers who have been protesting for months by living in a roadside tent camp in Yad Mordechai, just outside Gaza. "They forgot us, all of us."

Commentators have been berating prospective nonvoters.

"How can one explain eschewing voting in a country like ours, in which the issues on the table are nothing short of life and death?" wrote Amnon Danker, the editor in chief of Maariv, a leading Israeli daily.

"The differences between the right, the center and the left are decisive and immediate: Should we withdraw to new borders, or not? Should we evacuate tens of thousands of settlers from thousand of homes and dozens of settlements, or not?"

A low turnout could hurt Kadima, the party formed last November by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who suffered a major stroke in January and remains comatose. Some pollsters have described Kadima's support as soft and therefore more likely than its rivals' to reflect voter indifference.

Nor is it clear whether Kadima yet has the machinery to get out the vote that more established parties have. The Labor Party, for instance, is counting on strong organization to help it gain a few extra seats.

Opinion polls published Monday varied slightly, though the centrist Kadima remained well ahead in all of them, and is forecast to receive around 35 of the 120 seats in the legislature. Until about a month ago, polls predicted the party would win 40 or more seats, but its support has been slipping steadily.

The nearest rival, the dovish Labor Party, led by a former trade unionist, Amir Peretz, is expected to win around 20 seats.

Kadima will need partners for a coalition, and Labor, which supports the evacuation of Jewish settlements, is considered the most likely one.

But Labor's price for a coalition, in terms of ministries and policies, will increase the more seats it wins, or the fewer Kadima takes.

The hawkish Likud, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, is hovering around 15 seats. If the vote remains at that level — a loss of 23 seats since the last election — Mr. Netanyahu could face a challenge for party leadership from a former foreign minister, Silvan Shalom.

Religious parties, which have often been crucial in previous coalitions, are not expected to do particularly well. Since Israel's founding in 1948, one of two parties — Labor on the left or Likud on the right — has won every election. Yet both have seen their support fall sharply.

Labor's vision of a negotiated peace settlement with the Palestinians crumbled after peace talks during the 1990's failed to produce an agreement. With Hamas about to assume power, prospects for peace talks seem even more remote.

Israel's security forces planned a huge deployment on Tuesday to prevent any Palestinian attacks, though the level of violence has been relatively low during the campaign. Soldiers were allowed to vote Monday.

Likud has won past elections, including the last one, in 2003, with tough security policies toward the Palestinians and calls for Israel to retain its settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.

Both positions have been pushed aside by the idea of Israel's unilaterally separating itself from the Palestinians, which has become the dominant theme in Israeli politics since Mr. Sharon first proposed the Israeli pullout from Gaza at the end of 2003.

Today, especially since the Hamas victory, that idea appeals to many moderate Israelis who see no possibility of peace negotiations, yet view some of the settlements as a burden to be shed rather than defended.

"The Kadima idea of unilateral action has popularity because it allows Israel to be proactive," said Dan Schueftan, a leading proponent of that policy and a senior fellow at the Shalem Center, a private research organization. "This approach doesn't give the Palestinians veto power over Israel. It doesn't allow them to paralyze us."

Mr. Olmert has not said exactly where he would like to set a border, though he indicated he would take Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank as a starting point. The current route of the barrier leaves about 10 percent of the West Bank on the Israeli side.

The Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, and his secular Fatah movement have sought a Palestinian state on all the land that Israel captured and occupied in the 1967 war — Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem as its capital.

Hamas, however, has refused to recognize Israel's claim on any land in the region, saying only that it might consider a long-term truce if Israel withdrew to its 1967 borders.

Hamas has always rejected negotiations with Israel, though Mr. Haniya told his legislators on Monday that Hamas was willing to hold talks with the so-called quartet: the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.

The United States and the European Union regard Hamas as a terrorist group and have refused to deal with the organization, though Russia invited a Hamas delegation to Moscow earlier this month.

Hamas has largely observed a truce for the past year. But the group says it will not lay down its weapons, and Mr. Haniya said, "We will protect the right of our people to defend themselves against the occupation."

Dina Kraft contributed reporting from Yad Mordechai for this article.

* Copyright 2006The New York Times Company

March 29th, 2006, 10:47 PM
What the elections mean - an array of views


Abe Foxman: The majority of public is saying that they agree with the idea that Israel has no peace partner and must act unilaterally to determine Israel's future. They are saying that the social agenda is important to them, something fairly new in Israeli elections. And, they are saying that they want the center to be the prevailing view but aren't sure about the individual leadership, which is understandable since Sharon was seen as the leader and Olmert has never stood before the public in this role. Finally, by the strong vote for smaller and special-issue parties, they are expressing less confidence in the system as a whole.

Israel faces major strategic challenges - Iran, Hamas, US-Israel relations, another disengagement, social and economic questions. I hope the parties that are for Israel determining its own destiny will come together under Olmert to form a government, one that is strong enough to act. This may require concessions to Labor on social issues and horse-trading with other parties. This is democratic politics in order to assure that Israel can be strong in the face of enemies who mean business.

The writer is national director of the ADL (New York).

Jack Straw: I warmly congratulate Ehud Olmert and the Kadima party on their election victory. We will have new governments in place in both Israel and the Palestinian Authority within the coming weeks. I hope that both sides will do all they can to find a permanent solution to the conflict. I look forward to meeting Mr. Olmert soon to discuss how we can take the peace process forward.

The writer is UK secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs (London).

Jonathan Rosenblum: The two major results of Tuesday's election were the marginalization of the political Right (32 seats even including Israel Beiteinu) and the repudiation of free-market economics and its avatar Binyamin Netanyahu.

In forming a coalition, Ehud Olmert can expect expensive demands from Labor, Shas and the Pensioners. Where the money can be found to meet those demands - and for further withdrawals as well - is anybody's guess.

If Amir Peretz - who understands nothing of economics and what he does understand is wrong - becomes finance minister, look for the stock market to plummet and the Israeli economy to resemble the stagnant economies of Western Europe.

The writer, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and Maariv, is director of Am Echad, an Orthodox media resource organization (Jerusalem).

Yehuda Avner: Though dull, this election was exceptional in that our political leaders for once did not mean the opposite of what they said, but said what they actually meant. Hence, it was, indeed, a referendum on Ehud Olmert's plan to separate from the Palestinians by circling the wagons and slamming shut the gates of the security fence.

This election did not empower him to go that far, nor will his coalition. It will be a coalition with a strong social agenda, but little coherence concerning Olmert's radical unilateral pull-out plan. If he, nevertheless, seeks to implement it, as Sharon did his, we shall have new elections in two years time.

The writer is a veteran diplomat who has served on the staff of five prime ministers (Jerusalem).

Itzhak Oren: The message of the election is: "We are sick and tired of all this. Even tired of protesting. Let us rest (Kadima) and/ or retire."

I was surprised, but I always am. Next? Free kalnoit (electric vehicle used by the elderly) to every worker?

The writer is a retired diplomat and senior research fellow at the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies (Ramat Gan).

Seymour D. Reich: Israel Policy Forum congratulates Israel's Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the Kadima Party on their victory in today's election, one of the most important in Israel's history. The election amounted to a referendum on Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank. The Israeli voters have spoken. A clear majority endorses the platforms of those parties advocating withdrawal from most of the West Bank, either through negotiations or unilaterally.

I'd like to see American Jews and Americans who care about Israel's future to heed the declared wishes of the Israeli people. IPF has explicitly and consistently supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is the preferred solution of most Israelis.

The writer is president of the Israel Policy Forum (Washington).

David Bedein: The Likud and National Union/ National Religious Party lost because they gave the impression to the Israeli public that they cared only about themselves. The outreach campaign of the "national union/national religious camp" articulately addressed the suffering of Israelis who were evicted from their homes in Gush Katif and Samaria, yet without a word as to the suffering endured by economically depressed Israeli development towns that border on Gaza in the Negev, who now live under daily artillery bombardment as a direct result of Israel's hasty retreat from Gaza six months ago.

Likud sealed its fate in the spring of 2003 when Binyamin Netanyahu, as the minister of finance, slashed allocations for pensioners, for handicapped people and for children without providing a viable alternative.

So there you have it. The Likud and the National Union/National Religious Party presented a clear, strong security program, yet both neglected to address the vital health, economic and social disaster of the indigent sector of Israeli society

The writer heads the Israel Resource News Agency (Jerusalem).

Aryeh Green: This is no vindication of Sharon. Israel voted against the corruption and economic callousness of Likud, against the economic socialism (and corruption) of Labor, against the ideological anti-religious stance of the hard Left and against the impractical inflexibility of the hard Right.

And of course the majority of the electorate voted against Kadima and Olmert by voting for other parties. Perhaps a rejection of the Greater Israel ideology, this vote does not reflect any consensus on how, when and where this rejection should be expressed.

The writer is a business consultant and former adviser to Natan Sharansky (Jerusalem).

Stewart Weiss: The embarrassingly low voter turnout, coupled with the lack of an unequivocal mandate for any one party, indicates that Israel is still searching for a movement and a leader who can challenge, inspire and invigorate an increasingly cynical and disillusioned populace. Until then, we seem fated to playing trading places with the same folks and faces.

The writer is director of the Ohel Ari Jewish Outreach Center (Ra'anana).

Roy Wagner: The Israeli public's low attendance at this election expresses a profound insight: that democracy has very little to do with elections. As no single vote ever decided the allocation of any seat in the parliament, voting is essentially a symbolic act (just like "democratic elections" held by dictators).

Democracy, unlike elections, is about the participation of citizens in setting agendas and making decisions, about civic action and non-governmental organization. As long as citizens are denied the opportunity to make a genuine difference, democracy is nothing but a euphemism.

The many people who chose not to vote this time (notably Arab citizens) demonstrate a deep understanding of this fact.

The writer is a board member of Kav LaOved - The Worker's Hotline (Tel Aviv)

Shmuel Katz: I'm glad Olmert didn't do as well as expected, but I'm afraid that what the people of Israel are saying is very disturbing. There is a definite listlessness - as seen from the low voter turnout. Nobody seemed to be very concerned which way the race would go. No one expressed strong opinions about anything. All the while, Olmert never really spoke about what he expected from the Arabs - only what the Jews would give up.

The listlessness I referred to reminds me of 1933, the year Hitler was elected, and the Oxford Union passed a resolution that "this house will not fight for king and country." Has that become our attitude as well?

I had no suspicion that the Pensioners' Party would do so well. Many young people (probably left-wing) seemed to have found a way out of not voting by supporting the pensioners.

As for the Likud, it should hide its head in shame! I had advised Uzi Landau to leave the Likud. He's a man of principle and doesn't belong there.

The national camp has no Churchill. But it must nevertheless take a line straight from Jabotinsky: Tell the people to prepare for war with the Arabs, because the enemy is thinking of war all the time. And we need to go back to the basics and explain - to the West and to ourselves - what this struggle is about.

The writer was a member of the first Knesset from the Herut Party and is an essayist and historian (Tel Aviv).

Michael Boyden: Few anticipated the extent of Likud's decline or that, by contrast, the Pensioners' Party would enter the next Knesset. At the same time, the swift and steep fall in support for Kadima harbingers a weak government dependent upon its coalition partners to remain in power.

It is, nevertheless, heartening to note that the social agenda, so often overshadowed by security considerations, is beginning to receive public attention. Unfortunately, Shas and United Torah Judaism are likely to be back in power and we can say good-bye for the present to any hopes of breaking the Orthodox stranglehold on marriage and divorce in Israel, which leaves hundreds of thousands of Israelis unable to marry in their own land.

The writer is director of the Rabbinic Court of the Israel Council of Progressive Rabbis (Hod Hasharon).

Isi Leibler: Weary politically disillusioned Israelis used people power to mortgage their social and economic concerns as exemplified by the extraordinary success of the pensioners, the punishment of the Likud and the substantial reduction of anticipated support for Kadima.

Ehud Olmert will become prime minister of a center-left government which will concentrate on societal issues. But his success as a statesman will be determined by the extent in which he succeeds in healing relations with the anguished groups who bitterly opposed him.

His priority must be to reverse the dark internecine hatred that threatens to engulf the House of Israel and restore harmony and unity. Given greater tolerance and genuine dialogue the issues which divide us can be substantially narrowed, especially now with the Hamas barbarians at the gate.

The writer chairs the Diaspora-Israel relations committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and is a veteran Jewish international leader (Jerusalem).

Ellen W. Horowitz: Based on the incredibly low voter turnout, I would say that a rather large, apathetic or frustrated portion of the nation is saying that they simply don't care. Security via a strong Israel, as well as preserving the sanctity of the Land of Israel no longer seems to be at the top the of nation's agenda (for now), but it will continue to be a major priority for a consistent, spirited and significant segment of the country.

I'm surprised and disappointed that the Israeli electorate was so easily duped by a relentless and treacherous media blitz against one of the more competent and concerned political leaders of this nation, and that the national camp remains too politically immature and unsophisticated to effectively and strategically unite in a crisis. We will need to establish a solid, organized and fierce opposition until the ever-erratic and shifting Israeli political landscape is ready to change again.

The writer is a columnist for Arutz-7 and author of The Oslo Years: A Mother's Journal (Golan Heights).

Yisrael Medad: On the one hand, any further unilateral retreat most certainly did not earn voter approval in these elections as Kadima failed to break 30 and Likud, the party that actually fulfilled disengagement, was abandoned. As Avigdor Lieberman's home is in Nokdim, coalition talks will be difficult. And on the other hand, Israel's population displayed a bit of immaturity in the surprise Pensioners win, the recipient of the protest vote. Stability still eludes our political system.

The writer is a settler activist/spokesperson (Shiloh).

Efraim Inbar: The new Israeli political map is more fragmented than ever. Kadima, with about 28 Knesset seats, much less than expected, will have difficulty maintaining a stable coalition for the next four years. It remains to be seen whether it will stay a united party. The relatively low support for Kadima affects also its ability to carry out a grand unilateral withdrawal.

The writer is professor of political studies and director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies (Ramat Gan).

Berel Wein: The demise of the haters. No more Shinui, Hetz, and the weakening of Meretz. In the stalemate of the election results one thing is clear. The Jewish people living here want Israel to be a Jewish state and not merely a "democratic" one.

The writer is a rabbi and popular historian (Jerusalem).

Shlomo Avineri: Voters are saying that both Labor's outstretched hand and Likud's iron fist failed to achieve an agreement with the Palestinians, hence further disengagement ("convergence") is the only game in town.

I was surprised by the Pensioners' List success: apparently, a lot of Labor old-timers, who became alienated from their own party, still didn't feel comfortable voting for Kadima, and chose the Pensioners as the default option.

What next? Hopefully a quick setting up of a coalition based on Kadima-Labor-Shas, going ahead with disengagement as well as rectifying some of Netanyahu's harsh Thatcherite policies.

The writer is professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Jerusalem).

Avraham Feder: No, this is not Chelm. It is Israeli democracy reflecting bits of ideology, political opportunism, gut feelings, thirst for revenge and ethnic pride.

Our current "father-dictator" - lying in a coma - has bulldozed his way through our political landscape creating a virtual party which will now try to muddle through the political center.

Will it become a real center with a national-religious Right and a social-democratic Left in constructive opposition? Who knows?

In the meantime, our neighbors have voted Hamas and the world including the US is still interested in its own interests. Therefore - like the old song - let us praise the Lord but continue to pass the ammunition.

The writer is rabbi emeritus of Moreshet Israel (Jerusalem).

Elwood McQuaid: The people of Israel have clearly turned a new page in the history of the nation. Old alliances have folded and a new political era is at center stage. To say that I was surprised at the outcome is indeed an understatement, but I tend to believe it a reflection of public confidence rather than concession. What's next? Hoping they are correct.

The writer is Editor-in-Chief and Director of Publications and Media for the Friends of Israel, Bellmawr, New Jersey.

Shira Leibowitz Schmidt: There is a loss of trust in the large, dominant parties ("a plague on both your houses") and preference for small, sectorial parties as the repositories of our hopes. There was indifference to the future of the State of Israel by Arabs and Jews, demonstrated by low turnout, collapse of the Shinui and Likud parties, and the rise of the ersatz Kadima party (which has no institutions, no past, no real substance, no future).

In contrast, and paradoxically, the haredi sector showed keen interest in the future of the Zionist state, with the Ashkenazi and Sephardi haredi parties increasing (UTJ from five to six, Shas from 10 to 13).

The worthlessness of polls was confirmed by the seven mandates for the Pensioners' Party, for which the surveys predicted zero, and by the underestimates for Shas.

The vote for the innocuous Pensioners confirms the lack of interest by masses in the geo-political future of the Jewish state. In a "morning after" conversation with religious Arabs, they told me that more than half their village did not bother to vote - something that surprised me.

"Someone who troubles to prepare for Shabbat will have something to eat on Shabbat." The Jewish religious parties for decades have not only preached but actually practiced their platform: education, family values, respect for their leaders, and more education. Therefore they will continue to increase their impact on the future, the three religious parties having garnered fully one quarter of the total Knesset seats.

The writer, a translator, is affiliated with the Shas school network and the Haredi College in Jerusalem.

Hebrew press: The National Religious Party newspaper Hatzofeh says the election results "constitute a very serious blow to the Right," and warns that "these elections are liable to bring about additional expulsions." The editors believe "there should be no doubts; we are heading into a difficult period."

The mass-circulation Yediot Aharonot says: "Today, regardless of the result of the Knesset elections, we should consider the significance of political involvement in the period in between elections. It is much more important and influential than the question of whether we bothered - on the public holiday that we received - to leave home and put an envelope in a box."

Maariv's Avi Betelheim writes that "The real surprise is [Tuesday's] mighty achievement of the Pensioners' Party [and] was the dimensions of the protest vote of the Israeli voter who expressed his view about what is happening in our political arena in the most sane way possible. Not only pensioners, but people who are chronologically far removed from this definition, chose the option of the Pensioners' Party out of feelings of abhorrence at Israeli politics and disgust at the widening circle of corruption in recent years."

Saeb Erekat (chief Palestinian negotiator): Two months ago Palestinian voters managed to confuse and surprise Israelis. Now Israeli voters managed to confuse and surprise us.

Mahmoud Abbas (PA chairman): The result was expected. But what is more important now is that Olmert changes his agenda and abandons his unilateral plans to fix the borders.

Amr Moussa (Arab League secretary-general): It's not comprehensible, leaving the issue of Jerusalem or accepting unilateral withdrawals according to Israeli whims. This will only lead to worsening matters.

It is impossible to accept Israeli proposals that we have seen so far. Is there anything new the Israeli government can come up with? Many Arabs don't think so, so the Arab world has to look at all the possibilities.

Ismail Haniyeh (Hamas prime minister): We said from the beginning that any Israeli step that will impose facts on the ground or undermine Palestinian rights, such as creating so-called temporary borders, is rejected and unacceptable policy.

This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1143498765426&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Copyright 1995-2006 The Jerusalem Post - http://www.jpost.com/

March 31st, 2006, 10:47 AM
'Rachel Corrie' in London: Requiem for an Idealist

Alastair Muir
Megan Dodds plays Rachel Corrie at the Playhouse Theater in London.

NY Times
March 31, 2006


LONDON, March 30 — What happens when the dust clouds of controversy clear to reveal the hotly debated — if little seen — thing itself? One answer is being offered at the Playhouse Theater, where "My Name Is Rachel Corrie" opened on Thursday night for a commercial London run that is taking the place of the play's suspended New York engagement.

Over the next six weeks, theatergoers will discover a production that has matured through three London engagements (the first two, separated by six months, took place last year on the Royal Court's pair of stages), even if the work remains an impassioned eulogy that isn't quite the same thing as a play.

It's the nature of that passion, of course, that has stirred debate in the United States. The story is this: On March 16, 2003, Ms. Corrie, 23, was crushed to death by an Israeli Army bulldozer preparing to demolish a Palestinian home in Rafah, in southern Gaza. Quickly thereafter, she was invoked as a martyr by Yasir Arafat (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/a/yasir_arafat/index.html?inline=nyt-per) — and by extension, the Palestinian cause — even as she was demonized by others in the pro-Israel camp.

Ms. Corrie's affiliation with the International Solidarity Movement, an organization that has recruited Americans and Europeans to serve as human shields, turned her death into the stuff of ideological football. The recent decision by New York Theater Workshop to put its scheduled production on indefinite hold shifted the debate into the theatrical arena. (Ewan Thomson, spokesman for the Royal Court Theater, said Thursday that a New York City premiere is still planned for this year, although a theater has not yet been chosen. A regional production has been scheduled for March 2007 at the Seattle Repertory Theater.)

But how is the show itself? Funny how often that question isn't asked. So the first thing worth reasserting about "My Name Is Rachel Corrie" is its right to be seen and debated: a society that won't allow that is one fearful of its extremes and, by extension, the world.

Not that fear seems to have been part of Ms. Corrie's vocabulary on the evidence of this 90-minute solo piece, a testimonial to her that has been distilled from her writings by Katharine Viner, features editor at The Guardian newspaper here, and the actor Alan Rickman, who doubles as the play's director. When first glimpsed, Rachel Corrie, played by Megan Dodds, is seen lying on her bed, head tilted back, in her Olympia, Wash., home: a firebrand, it is made clear, from an early age.

While other fifth-graders wrote of wanting to be an astronaut or Spider-Man, she was busy writing "a five-paragraph manifesto on the million things I wanted to be, from wandering poet to first woman president." That intensity of engagement would only be amplified by time. "I'm building the world myself and putting new hats on everybody," she says, and she is seen embracing pop culture (Dairy Queen, Pat Benatar) while apparently never losing a social awareness that took her in middle school to Russia and then, in her early 20's, to the Middle East.

Such a sense of mission can, of course, cause very real pain to others: a fascinating program essay by Ms. Viner reveals that Ms. Corrie's former boyfriend, Colin Reese, committed suicide in 2004. But in keeping with its title, "My Name Is Rachel Corrie" consists of its character's musings, which we must take straight. In theatrical terms, it might demand a George Bernard Shaw (or perhaps, the New York Theater Workshop alumnus Tony Kushner (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/k/tony_kushner/index.html?inline=nyt-per)) to anatomize the contradictions in the psyche of the activist, as that famous Shavian zealot, Saint Joan, discovered to her cost. Nor, perhaps inevitably, does this piece ever acquire the ironic perspective on the sorts of passions and issues (her broadside against privilege, for instance) that figure more ambiguously in some of the solo narratives of, say, Wallace Shawn.

If this play doesn't exactly sanctify its subject, it still functions as a staged requiem that can't help but be both partial and partisan. One could take issue with Rachel's comment late on that the Palestinians are for the most part "engaging in Gandhian nonviolent resistance." But it's hard not to be impressed — and also somewhat frightened — by the description of her as a 2-year-old looking across Capitol Lake in Washington State and announcing, "This is the wide world, and I'm coming to it."

Perhaps thanks to the controversy, Mr. Rickman's production has gathered power since I first saw it last April, and the material actually suits its current 750-seat West End berth better than it did a Royal Court studio space about a tenth the size. Ms. Dodds, an American whose London theater credits include Neil LaBute's (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/l/neil_labute/index.html?inline=nyt-per) "This Is How It Goes," is a decade or so older than Ms. Corrie was when she died. But the actress subtly moves from a shining-faced earnestness to something darker and more dangerous, as the fire in Ms. Corrie's belly builds into a conflagration. (One can only imagine what a young Vanessa Redgrave might have made of the role.)

Apt conduit that Ms. Dodds is, it remains fitting that a piece driven by Ms. Corrie's own language concludes with a brief film of her. There she is, age 10, arguing for the eradication of hunger by the year 2000 and to give "the poor a chance." Unexceptional sentiments? Perhaps, at least to anyone who has heard (or sung) any of a thousand comparable protest songs. But that doesn't diminish the singularity of Ms. Corrie's death or of this paean to her, which gives activism a necessary center stage without quite arriving at the realm of art.

Copyright 2006 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html)The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

June 12th, 2006, 11:22 PM
Violence Erupts Between Fatah and Hamas

Muhammed Muheisen/Associated Press
Palestinian security personnel loyal to President Mahmoud
Abbas of the Fatah faction went on a rampage at the the
parliament in Ramallah.

By STEVEN ERLANGER (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/e/steven_erlanger/index.html?inline=nyt-per)

NY TIMES (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/13/world/middleeast/13mideast.html?hp&ex=1150171200&en=af393afae3446ca4&ei=5094&partner=homepage)
June 13, 2006

JERUSALEM, June 12 — Hundreds of Palestinian security personnel loyal to the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/a/mahmoud_abbas/index.html?inline=nyt-per), went on a rampage Monday night in the West Bank town of Ramallah, attacking the parliament and cabinet buildings controlled by his rivals in the Hamas (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/h/hamas/index.html?inline=nyt-org)-led government.

The attack by forces from the Fatah faction loyal to Mr. Abbas, who fired bullets at the buildings and set them on fire, came after Hamas gunmen attacked the Gaza headquarters of the Fatah-dominated security forces with rockets and grenades.

The Ramallah buildings were not occupied at the time, but the fire gutted a floor of one of the two cabinet buildings after the security forces, joined by gunmen from Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/a/al_aksa_martyrs_brigades/index.html?inline=nyt-org), part of the Fatah movement, shot out the windows of the parliament building and tried to prevent firefighters from entering the area.

In the growing violence between the major Palestinian factions, at least 2 people were killed and 15 wounded in the fighting in Gaza. In Ramallah, a member of the security forces told The Associated Press, "Every time they touch one of ours in Gaza, we will get 10 of theirs in the West Bank."

Mr. Abbas declared a state of emergency and ordered people off the streets on a chaotic and violent day. The Palestinian leader, who advocates negotiation with Israel, is facing increasing political isolation, especially in the wake of Friday's killing of seven members of a Palestinian family on a Gaza beach, apparently by an errant Israeli shell. The deaths have strengthened Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel's legitimacy.

The Hamas majority in parliament decided Monday to allow dialogue between the factions to continue on a unified political platform, hoping to make a referendum called by Mr. Abbas for July 26 unnecessary.

Hamas had called the emergency session of the legislature to challenge the referendum on a document drafted by Palestinian prisoners calling for a Palestinian state within pre-1967 borders, implicitly recognizing Israel.

Hamas opposes the referendum as illegal and vows to block it. The main Hamas negotiator on the document, Abdel Khaleq Natche — the highest-ranking Hamas prisoner held by Israel — said Sunday that he had withdrawn his support. He accused Mr. Abbas of "unacceptable abuse" of the document and exploiting it for political gain, saying that it was intended to promote unity.

Hamas has refused demands from Mr. Abbas and other nations to recognize the right of Israel to exist and to accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements that are explicit in their support of a two-state solution. Hamas sees the referendum as an effort by Mr. Abbas to undermine its authority.

But Hamas legislators pulled back a little on Monday, criticizing Mr. Abbas for exceeding his legal powers but voting for a continuation of talks between the factions. "We are going to continue our efforts over the coming days and are hopeful of resolving the whole crisis," said the speaker, Aziz Dweik of Hamas.

Hamas said it would wait until June 20 before bringing the referendum back before the legislature. "If we succeed through dialogue in stopping the referendum then it will be better, but if we hit a dead end, parliament will assume its responsibilities and hold the vote," said a Hamas legislator and spokesman, Mushir al-Masri.

It is unclear whether Mr. Abbas has the authority to call a referendum or what a vote in parliament against holding it would mean.

In Damascus, Syria, Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy chief of Hamas's political bureau in Syria, told The Associated Press that Hamas would do its best to stop the vote. "Even if it is carried out, Hamas would not recognize it or accept its outcome, whatever it might be," he said.

In Gaza, Hamas gunmen fired rocket-propelled grenades and antitank rockets at the Rafah headquarters of the Preventive Security force loyal to Mr. Abbas and Fatah. Two people were killed, including a deaf passer-by, Suleiman Zanoun, 34, and at least 15 people were wounded in the fighting, which involved at least 100 armed men.

Earlier in the day, a Hamas paramilitary fighter was killed when fighting erupted after a funeral for another Hamas militant who died overnight from wounds suffered 10 days ago in a previous intra-Palestinian clash.

Hamas accused the Preventive Security force of being behind Monday's shooting, and a Palestinian security officer was shot and critically wounded later on his way home from work in Rafah. At least 20 people, mostly gunmen, have been killed in clashes between the factions in Gaza in the past two months.

As the barrage of Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel slowed Monday, Israeli officials warned Hamas leaders that they would have no immunity from assassination if they were responsible for the deaths of Israeli civilians. A senior member of the ruling Kadima Party, Tzachi Hanegbi, said the Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniya, could be assassinated if the group began further suicide bombings in Israel.

Referring to previous Hamas leaders assassinated by Israel, Mr. Hanegbi said, "Yassin and Rantissi are waiting for you, Haniya, if you implement the same stance of liquidating Jews, indiscriminate firing and suicide terror attacks aimed at paralyzing Israeli society anew."

Mr. Haniya said the threat was an example "of a type of political madness from some Israeli leaders."

Israeli newspapers suggested that the defense minister, Amir Peretz, leader of the Labor Party, had rejected army plans for intensified airstrikes against rocket-launching teams and sites, including some Hamas workshops where the crude Qassam rockets are assembled. Mr. Peretz, according to the news media, told the generals to keep planning.

At the same time, an Israeli investigation continued into the deaths of eight Palestinian civilians on a northern Gaza beach on Friday, with Israeli officials continuing to suggest that the explosion may not have been caused by an Israeli artillery shell, but by an errant Qassam rocket or explosives hidden in the sand.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was in London meeting with his British counterpart, Tony Blair (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/b/tony_blair/index.html?inline=nyt-per), who said Israel was right to have no contacts with Hamas until it renounces violence. Mr. Olmert repeated his promise to try to negotiate first with Mr. Abbas.

Asked about the comments by Mr. Hanegbi, the Kadima Party member, Mr. Olmert, said, "Whoever is implicated in terrorism cannot claim to have immunity," and added: "I do not think it would be wise of me to be more specific."

Copyright 2006 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

July 12th, 2006, 10:04 AM
Turmoil in the Middle East is expanding.

July 12, 2006

Israel Enters Lebanon After 2 Soldiers Are Kidnapped


JERUSALEM, July 12 — The Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah seized two Israeli soldiers this morning in a brazen raid along Israel’s border with Lebanon. Israel immediately responded by sending an armored force into southern Lebanon for the first time in six years.

The clashes dramatically escalated tensions at a time when Israel already is waging a military offensive in the Gaza Strip to seek the return of another soldier held by Palestinian militants for more than two weeks.

Israel’s defense minister, Amir Peretz, said in a statement that the Lebanese government “is directly responsible for the fate of the soldiers and must act immediately to locate them, prevent any harm to them and return them to Israel.”

Also, Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, scheduled an emergency Cabinet meeting in the evening to assess the developments.

The fighting erupted when Hezbollah attacked northern Israel with rocket fire this morning, injuring several Israeli civilians in the northwestern town of Shlomi, the Israeli military said. Israel responded with artillery fire and air strikes that targeted Hezbollah strongholds in southern Lebanon. Later, Israeli troops moved into southern Lebanon in the first such incursion since Israel pulled its troops out of the region in 2000.

The Israeli military did not immediately provide details on the border clashes.

While cross-border shooting exchanges break out with some frequency, it has been exceedingly rare for Hezbollah and the Israeli military to come face-to-face on the ground over the past six years.

But Hezbollah said its fighters seized two soldiers along the volatile and heavily guarded frontier between Israel and Lebanon. “The two captives were transferred to a safe place,” the group said in a statement.

It said the kidnappings had been planned for months and were intended to help free Hezbollah fighters held in Israeli jails in a prisoner exchange.

Residents in Lebanon’s Shiite-dominated southern suburbs handed out sweets and set off firecrackers in celebration.

In the past, Hezbollah has launched attacks against Israel when there is heavy fighting between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The latest assault comes at a moment when the region is already roiling with the Israeli-Palestinian crisis in Gaza.

Early today, Israeli troops moved in force into central Gaza, expanding the two-week-old offensive intended to secure the release of the captured soldier and stop rocket fire into Israel.

The Israeli air force also dropped a powerful bomb on a home in Gaza City at around 3 a.m., saying it targeted senior Hamas leaders. But the blast killed nine members of the Abu Selmiya family, according to Dr. Juma Saqqa, the spokesman for Shifa Hospital, where the bodies were taken. There were visiting Hamas leaders in the house at the time of the bombing, but they escaped with only minor injuries, Palestinians said.

Nabil Abu Selmiya, a Hamas leader, was killed along with his wife, Salwa, and seven of their children, ages 7 to 18, Dr. Saqqa said. The couple also had two sons who survived the attack, and a married daughter who lives elsewhere.

The Israeli military said the main target was Muhammad Deif, the top figure in Hamas’s armed wing and a man who has been sought by Israel for more than a decade. The Israeli military said Mr. Deif, who has been blamed for the deaths of dozens of Israelis, was injured.

Hamas officials refused to say whether Mr. Deif was at the house at the time of the bombing, but insisted that he was safe.

Just after midnight, scores of Israeli tanks, armored personnel carriers and armored bulldozers, covered by Apache attack helicopters and armed drones, crossed into central Gaza near Kissufim.

Clearing roads and firing tank shells, the troops moved southeast of the town of Deir al Balah, into the neighborhood of Abu Alajeen, residents there said. At least one Palestinian, a member of the official security forces, died in an exchange of fire with Israeli troops, and another was wounded, according to a Palestinian journalist living in Abu Alajeen, as the sound of tank shell explosions made him difficult to hear over the phone.

Israelis are also interrupting local radio stations to broadcast a warning in Arabic that “the Israeli Army is going to continue its operation in the Gaza Strip until the captive soldier is released.” The broadcast says: “Israel is interested in your well-being. Is this the welfare that Hamas promised you?”

The message warns Palestinians not to allow militants to fire rockets into Israel.

Militants tried to fire makeshift rockets toward the Kissufim border crossing as a column of dozens of armored vehicles and hundreds of soldiers pushed into central Gaza, but the rockets appeared to fall short, Reuters reported.

“Our main target is the terrorist infrastructure: the rocket crews, the gunmen, the arms caches,” said an Israeli commander who was not allowed to give his full name, according to a pool report.

“But of course we are here to show that if, God forbid, any of us is captured by the enemy, the army will do everything to secure his return,” he said.

The army confirmed only that its troops had entered central Gaza. The Israelis want to ensure that the captured soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, is not moved out of Gaza. He was captured on June 25 during a raid into Israel.

Greg Myre reported from Jerusalem for this article, and Steven Erlanger from Gaza.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

July 12th, 2006, 10:34 AM
Again with the "kidnapped" ... :confused: :confused: :confused:

July 12th, 2006, 11:33 AM
There will never be peace between the Israelis and Palistinians until one eliminate the other. I'm betting on the Israelis.

July 12th, 2006, 12:05 PM
An impossibility that either side should eliminate the other.

July 12th, 2006, 12:15 PM
A stain on the rest of the world if that should be allowed to happen.

July 12th, 2006, 01:10 PM
Any settlement acceptable to Israel is unacceptable to the Palistinians, and visa versa. In point of fact the Palistinians, egged on by most of the Muslim world, will not accept any situation that allows Israel to continue to exist. This has been demonstrated over and over again repeatedly since 1948.

They want total war, they have to accept the possibility (and in this case, the probability of total defeat). They only thing that has kept it from happening so far has been Israeli restraint.

July 12th, 2006, 01:22 PM
Maybe Israel should REALLY teach the Middle East a lesson and simply LEAVE, en masse. It will never happen of course, but it sure boggles the imagination to think that the Middle East could wallow in its own misery and not have the Isrealis to blame for everything. I mean, just TRY to imagine if an ENTIRE COUNTRY just packed its bags, demolished every structure and infrastructure in the land, and simply LEFT, returning the entire land to its natural state. Then, the Palestinians could have their precious holy land and enjoy a booming economy with no issues. Eh?

July 12th, 2006, 02:44 PM
We all know that isn't going to happen. The only party in the whole conflict that's volunarily given anything up has been Israel, and they haven't gotten particularly much in return (at least as far as the Palistinians are concerned).

July 13th, 2006, 10:51 PM
I can not see peace prevailing in that conflict... Just too many "if"s..

July 15th, 2006, 08:54 PM
Israel strikes militant

Stronghold in Beirut

Israel declares state of emergency; Hezbollah rocket fire continues

Saturday, July 15, 2006; Posted: 7:28 p.m. EDT (23:28 GMT)

var clickExpire = "-1";
http://i.a.cnn.net/cnn/2006/WORLD/meast/07/15/mideast/story.tyre.ap.jpg An Israeli airstrike Saturday took out this bridge in Tyre, in southwestern Lebanon.

var cnnStoryUrl = 'http://robots.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/07/15/mideast/index.html';var cnnDisplayDomesticCL = 1; var cnnDisplayIntlCL = 1;

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- Israel took its fight against Hezbollah back into the Lebanese capital's southern suburbs early Saturday, targeting a militant stronghold in Dahiya, the Israel Defense Forces said.
The Jerusalem Post reported in its Friday editions that the IDF was threatening to strike the Dahiya neighborhood of Beirut if Hezbollah rocket attacks on northern Israeli cities continued.
Israeli jets earlier this week targeted Hezbollah's headquarters in Beirut and the city's international airport, and the Israeli Air Force continued Sunday to conduct airstrikes against other targets in the southern suburbs of the capital.
Prime Minister Fouad Siniora on Saturday called Israel's military a "war machine" and said attacks had turned his country into a "disaster zone."
Israel later declared a state of emergency for the northern Gallilee region, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said.
The declaration allows the Israeli government to close public institutions such as schools, shopping malls and restaurants in northern Israel, where Hezbollah has been aiming its rockets since the crisis began, Regev said.
Hezbollah again on Saturday launched scores of rockets from Lebanon into Israel.
Israeli warplanes, meanwhile, struck Lebanese port cities, the capital Beirut and the border area near Syria on the fourth day of violence.
Siniora called for an immediate U.N.-backed cease-fire and international help to stop attacks from Israel's "war machine," according to CNN's translation.
Such a cease-fire, he said, will allow Lebanon to "establish its sovereignty over all its lands" based on the 1949 armistice agreement.
"We are pained as well as angry, yet determined and patient," Siniora said, adding that "these are hours for unity, not for division."
He said Israel was "punishing all Lebanese collectively, with their actions lacking any moral or legal legitimacy."
An Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman responded to Siniora's remarks, saying that Lebanon triggered the crisis by failing to disarm Hezbollah.
"This whole crisis was initiated by aggression by Lebanon into Israel," said Mark Regev.
If Siniora "had done his job correctly," followed relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions and disarmed Hezbollah, "this crisis would have been averted," Regev added.
Israel is willing to implement a cease-fire in accordance with those resolutions, he said.
Civilians killed

Israel intensified its attacks from air, sea and land Saturday on targets such as Beirut and the ports of Tripoli, Amchit and Junieh, according to Lebanese media.
Israel's campaign began when Hezbollah militants based in Lebanon abducted two Israeli soldiers and killed three others during a raid into Israel Wednesday. Israel vowed to free the soldiers.
In his remarks Saturday, Siniora reiterated that the Lebanese government had no knowledge of Hezbollah's plans.
At least 85 Lebanese civilians have been killed, and 229 people have been wounded, according to Lebanese authorities.
Four Israeli civilians, eight soldiers and one sailor have died, Israeli authorities said, adding that 100 other Israelis have been wounded. Three sailors are missing.
Israeli warplanes hit Hezbollah's main headquarters in Beirut, which was struck Friday as well, according to Lebanese interior ministry officials. No casualties were reported from those strikes, the officials said.
The IDF confirmed the aerial attack, saying, "The state of Israel warned the Lebanese population who are present at the compound or around it, using leaflets and different means of communication, to stay clear from the site for their own safety."
Al-Jazeera, the Arabic-language TV network, reported that the headquarters of Hezbollah's spiritual leader, Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, was targeted.
Israel also said it had attacked the Beirut headquarters of Hamas, the Palestinian movement that dominates the Palestinian Authority government.
Earlier on Saturday, an Israeli airstrike near Tyre hit a minibus carrying 20 civilians, killing at least 15 of them, Lebanese internal security sources said.
The IDF said it was making "every effort" to avoid civilian casualties, adding: "Responsibility for endangering civilian population rests on the Hezbollah terror organization, which operates and launches missiles at Israel from populated civilian areas."
More than 75 rockets were fired at Israeli towns on Saturday, the IDF said.
One barrage struck Nahariya, a northwestern town near the Lebanese border. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
The town has been targeted by Hezbollah rocket strikes since the conflict between Israel and the Lebanese-based guerrilla group started Wednesday.
To guard against Katyusha rockets, missile batteries were deployed in Haifa, video from the scene showed.
Leaflets over Lebanon

In the coastal city of Sidon, leaflets rained down from Israeli aircraft urging Lebanese citizens to reject the Hezbollah militants.
Children and adults rushed to grab and read them, CNN's Nic Robertson in Sidon reported.
The leaflets, including a caricature of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah as a serpent, read: "Is the resistance ... helping Lebanon? The resistance ... is destroying Lebanon!"
Israeli airstrikes hit near Lebanon's northern border for the first time on Saturday.
Also targeted were roads and bridges near the eastern border with Syria to prevent the smuggling of weapons and possibly the whisking away of the two captured Israeli soldiers from Lebanon into Syria, the IDF said.
Arab media reports say the strike happened in what is regarded as a no-man's-land east of Baalbek, Lebanon.
A high-ranking Lebanese government official confirmed the attack, while security forces in Syria told CNN that no Israeli airstrikes hit Syria.
'You wanted open war'

After more than 12 hours, the Israeli military Saturday located the body of one of the four sailors missing after a Hezbollah missile attack on an Israeli warship, the IDF confirmed to CNN.
The warship was damaged but operating "on some level" in spite of a fire that had been extinguished; damage to the ship's steering system was also fixed, an IDF spokeswoman said.
A similar missile sank an Egyptian boat, but its crew was rescued by a nearby commercial ship, the IDF said.
On Hezbollah-run Al Manar television, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah claimed responsibility for the attack on the Israeli warship and called it "just the beginning." He also declared "open war" with Israel. (Watch Nasrallah say Hezbollah is ready for war -- 2:14 (javascript:cnnVideo('play','/video/world/2006/07/14/hassan.nasarallah.speaks.affl','2006/07/21');))
"You wanted an open war," Nasrallah said on Friday. "Let it be, then, an open war. (Full story (http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/07/14/mideast/index.html/))
Hezbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and Israel. The group holds 23 of the 128 seats in Lebanon's parliament. (What is Hezbollah? (http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/07/13/hezbollah/index.html))
Other developments:

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa called the Middle East peace process "dead." Speaking at a news conference after a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo, he said the peace process failed "because certain powers have given Israel every capacity to do whatever it wishes."

On Saturday, in St. Petersburg, Russia, U.S. President Bush called on Syria to urge Hezbollah to lay down its arms and placed the blame for the violence on Hezbollah and its backers in Damascus. (Full story (http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/europe/07/15/mideast.bush/index.html))

The U.S. State Department on Saturday is fine-tuning plans to evacuate Americans in Lebanon, estimated to number around 25,000, to nearby Cyprus. (Full story (http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/07/15/lebanon.advisory/index.html))

The Mideast violence has been blamed for surging oil prices, and Wall Street has been pummeled in the process. (Watch how the Mideast crisis is hitting your wallet -- 2:07 (javascript:cnnVideo('play','/video/business/2006/07/14/chernoff.mideast.oil.cnn','2006/07/21');))
CNN's John Vause, Richard Roth, Paula Hancocks, Alessio Vinci, and Sandy Petrykowski contributed to this report.

July 16th, 2006, 09:28 PM
Let's see, world about to fall into a fierce and deadly abyss. Probably a good time for Congress to take on the evils of on-line gambling, flag burning, steroids in professional baseball, or arming those terrorist targets in Indiana for their proper defense.

July 17th, 2006, 05:22 PM
Email from Beirut (http://time.blogs.com/daily_dish/2006/07/email_from_beir.html)

Andrew Sullivan (http://time.blogs.com/daily_dish/)
17 Jul 2006 01:01 pm

A reader writes:
On your most recent posting quoting about how the USG (United States Government) is bankrupt, and cannot pay its "creditors". I think they have figured out one way to take care of it: charge their citizens for emergency services.

I am currently enrolled in an intensive summer arabic program at the American University in Beirut, and am holed up at the university, probably the safest place in the city right now. Basically my choices have been to make a run for the border with Syria and try to catch a flight out, or wait for the USG to carry out the evacuation plan. Because I heard reports about the dangers of the former (and based on a statement by the American embassy), I opted for the latter. They are finally getting everything together today, but they dropped a little surprise (http://beirut.usembassy.gov/lebanon/Lebanon_Situation_Update.html) (see below): they are going to be billing us for giving us emergency transport to Cyprus, and then basically dropping us off on our own to get commercial flights back to the US.

Most other goverrnments evacuating people here are actually flying them back to their home country without cost. But not the USG. They are perfectly happy to fund the World Toilet Summit (in Ireland, if my memory is correct) to the tune of $13 million or something. But 25,000 or so Americans stranded in the middle of a (quite unexpected) war zone? They better be ready to pay up if they want out.

Frontpage Headline

Lebanon Situation Update - July 15, 2006

July 15, 2006

This information is current as of today, Sat Jul 15 12:20:12 2006.

A message to the American citizens in Lebanon:

The Department of State continues to work with the Department of Defense on a plan to help American citizens depart Lebanon. As of the morning of July 15, we are looking at how we might transport Americans to Cyprus. Once in Cyprus, Americans can then board commercial aircraft for onward travel. Commercial airlines provide the safest and most efficient repatriation options to final destinations.

The Department of State reminds American citizens that the U.S. government does not provide no-cost transportation but does have the authority to provide repatriation loans to those in financial need. For the portion of your trip directly handled by the U.S. Government we will ask you to sign a promissory note and we will bill you at a later date. In a subsequent message, when we have specific details about the transporation arrangments, we will inform you about the costs you will incur. We will also work with commercial aircraft to ensure that they have adequate flights to help you depart Cyprus and connect to your final destination.

The Department of State continues to work around the clock and will continue to send updates as appropriate.

July 17th, 2006, 07:34 PM
Freedom costs money!

You don't expect them to do anythnig for such a small group of undeclared voters for free, now do you?

July 19th, 2006, 01:20 PM
Seems most the vacuation of americans is far less of a story in the US than the evacuation of the 2000+ swedes is in Sweden. The media is trying to stir up a political crisis over that here, they're even reporting on how people are upset about the cargoship used on the first run. Excuse you, did you want to get out of the warzone asap or not? "Israel strikes militant Stronghold in Beirut" forgive me for being jaded, but they actually target those? since so far over 90% of casulities are civilians I find that hard to believe. The problem I (& much of the rest of the world) has with this war against lebanon is that it isn't a war on hezbollah. If Israel was doing that, you'd be hard pressed to find mainstream ciritzism in Europe (and possibly even in Lebanon). Hezbollah and Hamas are fair game (since the point of their existance is killing Israelis), but Lebanon isn't - get the difference?
Freedom costs money!

You don't expect them to do anythnig for such a small group of undeclared voters for free, now do you?
Here's an idea: forbid the goverment from keeping tabs on who intends to vote what / it's citizens individual political beliefs... ('cept fringe extremists). sry, that was totally off-topic.

July 19th, 2006, 01:25 PM
You really do not know me to well, do ya Swede....


July 19th, 2006, 01:34 PM
Seein as how only hang here when I'm at work, no I ... hey! was þat sarcasm? ;)

July 19th, 2006, 02:54 PM
The problem I (& much of the rest of the world) has with this war against lebanon is that it isn't a war on hezbollah. If Israel was doing that, you'd be hard pressed to find mainstream ciritzism in Europe (and possibly even in Lebanon). Hezbollah and Hamas are fair game (since the point of their existance is killing Israelis), but Lebanon isn't - get the difference?Hezbollah holds 25 of the 128 seat Lebanese Parliament, and controls at least two government ministries.

Syria withdrew from Lebanon per UN resolution 1559, but Hezbollah was never disarmed. The Bush administration wanted democracy in the Middle East, and this is the result.

July 19th, 2006, 05:04 PM
Hezbollah holds 25 of the 128 seat Lebanese Parliament, and controls at least two government ministries.

Syria withdrew from Lebanon per UN resolution 1559, but Hezbollah was never disarmed. The Bush administration wanted democracy in the Middle East, and this is the result.

Elected dictators?

How incredibly oxymoronic.

July 19th, 2006, 07:52 PM
It happens ^^ all over the world.

Hezbollah has most of the rest of the Lebanese elected officials cowering in fear -- and with good reason:

Lebanon says it doesn't control Hezbollah

AP / Yahoo (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060713/ap_on_re_mi_ea/lebanon_controlling_hezbollah)
July 13, 2006

... Hezbollah is seen by Lebanon's 1.2 million Shiite Muslims, the largest single community among Lebanon's diverse 4 million people, as the fruition of a long and painful journey to empowerment, emerging from the fringes of a society long dominated by Christians and Sunni Muslims to become a power to be reckoned with in the last 30 years.

With the name Hezbollah, or party of God, almost synonymous now with Lebanese Shiites, any attempt to disarm the organization or undermine its leverage in the Shiite-dominated south and east of Lebanon could firmly place Lebanon on the road to a second civil war, with the Shiites sure to feel that others are seeking to send them back to the political wilderness.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press / Copyright © 2006 Yahoo! Inc.

July 19th, 2006, 08:54 PM
Elected dictators?

How incredibly oxymoronic.
Let's see... don't we have one of those right here in this country?

July 20th, 2006, 08:59 AM
Let's see... don't we have one of those right here in this country?


No "tator"..... ;)

July 20th, 2006, 09:04 AM
Not so smart when it comes to the Middle East

CNN (http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/07/18/dobbs.july19/index.html)
By Lou Dobbs (http://www.cnn.com/CNN/anchors_reporters/dobbs.lou.html)
July 19, 2006

NEW YORK (CNN) -- We Americans like to think we're a pretty smart people, even when evidence to the contrary is overwhelming. And nowhere is that evidence more overwhelming than in the Middle East. History in the Middle East is everything, and we Americans seem to learn nothing from it.

President Harry Truman took about 20 minutes to recognize the state of Israel when it declared independence in 1948. Since then, more than 58 years of war, terrorism and blood-letting have led to the events of the past week.

Even now, as Katyusha rockets rain down on northern Israel and Israeli fighter jets blast Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon, we simultaneously decry radical Islamist terrorism and Israel's lack of restraint in defending itself.

And the U.S. government, which wants no part of a cease-fire until Israel is given every opportunity to rescue its kidnapped soldiers and destroy as many Hezbollah and Hezbollah armaments as possible, urges caution in the interest of preserving a nascent and fragile democratic government in Lebanon. Could we be more conflicted?

While the United States provides about $2.5 billion in military and economic aid to Israel each year, U.S. aid to Lebanon amounts to no more than $40 million. This despite the fact that the per capita GDP of Israel is among the highest in the world at $24,600, nearly four times as high as Lebanon's GDP per capita of $6,200.

Lebanon's lack of wealth is matched by the Palestinians -- three out of every four Palestinians live below the poverty line. Yet the vast majority of our giving in the region flows to Israel. This kind of geopolitical inconsistency and shortsightedness has contributed to the Arab-Israeli conflict that the Western world seems content to allow to perpetuate endlessly.

After a week of escalating violence, around two dozen Israelis and roughly 200 Lebanese have died. That has been sufficient bloodshed for United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to join in the call for an international security force, ignoring the fact that a U.N. force is already in Southern Lebanon, having failed to secure the border against Hezbollah's incursions and attacks and the murder and kidnapping of Israeli soldiers.

As our airwaves fill with images and sounds of exploding Hezbollah rockets and Israeli bombs, this seven-day conflict has completely displaced from our view another war in which 10 Americans and more than 300 Iraqis have died during the same week. And it is a conflict now of more than three years duration that has claimed almost 15,000 lives so far this year alone.

An estimated 50,000 Iraqis and more than 2,500 American troops have been killed since the insurgency began in March of 2003, which by some estimates is more than the number of dead on both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict over the past 58 years of wars and intifadas.

Yet we have seen no rescue ships moving up the Euphrates for Iraqis who are dying in their streets, markets and mosques each day. French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has not leaped to Baghdad as he did Beirut.
And there are no meetings of the Arab League, and no U.S. diplomacy with Egypt, Syria and Jordan directed at ending the Iraqi conflict.

In the Middle East, where is our sense of proportion? Where is our sense of perspective? Where is our sense of decency? And, finally, just how smart are we?

© 2006 Cable News Network LP

July 20th, 2006, 09:53 AM
Palestine and gay rights
Is it racist to say that the Palestinian Authority is light-years behind Israel in terms of LGBT equality? And why is the highest-profile international gay rights organization boycotting WorldPride in Jerusalem in August?

The ADVOCATE (http://www.advocate.com/exclusive_detail_ektid33587.asp)
By James Kirchick
July 11, 2006

When I began reading The Advocate’s May 23 interview with the lesbian Palestinian activist Rauda Morcos, I was expecting to hear a nuanced take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Certainly a Palestinian woman (and Israeli citizen) would be able to recount the suffering of her people under Israeli occupation, but would also appreciate the marked difference in treatment that gays experience in Israel in comparison with the territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

Unfortunately, Morcos appears to be a woman so blinded by her ethnic nationalism that she is unable to appreciate the advantages of Israel’s liberal society.

In her Advocate interview Morcos recalls her response to a woman who said that Palestinians are “backward” when it comes to gay rights. Morcos replied, “What is backward? Backward to whom? Are we comparing the Middle East, the Arab community, to the Western world? This is not a fair comparison.”

Why is the comparison not a fair one, she says? “Because you’re comparing our scale to your scale without really taking into consideration if we have our own scale.” This sort of culturally relativistic posturing—talk of “our own scale” in regards to basic human rights that all people deserve, regardless of where they live—is a tool used by individuals like Marcos to take advantage of the guilt complexes of Western liberals. The argument allows her to escape the otherwise obvious point that Israel is light-years ahead of the Palestinians when it comes to gay rights.

To say that the Arab world is behind the West in terms of gay and women’s rights is not racist; it is simply the truth.

Morcos’s cognitive failure is immediate from the first sentence of the article, which describes her as a “Palestinian citizen of Israel.” She, along with 20% of Israeli citizens (who, unlike most Arabs in the world, can vote), is not Jewish but Arab. It is the freedom that Israel grants not just to gays but to all of its minority citizens--especially Arab Muslims and Christians--that allows Morcos to so heedlessly denigrate the free society that she inhabits. If Morcos lived under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority and tried to be the outspoken gay rights advocate that she is in Israel, she could well have ended up with a bullet in her head a very long time ago.

The abusive treatment of gays by the Palestinian Authority--which does not differ much from the abusive treatment of gays in most other Arab and Muslim societies--is conclusively documented. Take just one story—in the May 2003 issue of Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide by Charity Crouse (who is described in the story as a “Jewish lesbian anti-occupation activist”). Tarek, a young Palestinian gay man suspected of homosexuality, was sentenced to a “reeducation” camp run by Muslim clerics under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction. He said that for a period of two months he was “subjected to beatings with belts, clubs, and was forced to sit on bottles which were inserted into my rectum. I was hanged by the hands, I was deprived of sleep, and when I finally did sleep, my limbs were tied to the floor.”


Tarek was lucky—he wasn’t executed. Stories like Tarek’s are not unusual, and help explain why a gay Palestinian underground—unfortunately, composed mostly of prostitution and other illicit activity—thrives in Israel, where so many gay Palestinians have fled. By contrast, Tel Aviv has a flourishing gay culture and Jerusalem will host the 2006 WorldPride festival in August.

Morcos’s anti-Israel politics extend beyond her attempts to distort the relative human rights records of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In October 2004 she attended the notoriously anti-Semitic Palestinian Solidarity Movement Conference—sponsored by organizations alleged to be sympathetic to terrorists—which was held that year at Duke University. At the conference the call for Israel’s violent destruction was repeatedly invoked; at a panel discussion Morcos herself declared, “I would vote for a revolution. When is our revolution going to happen?” as if the second intifada, launched in September 2000, had not caused enough suffering on both sides.

At the Duke conference Morcos called upon the international gay community to “boycott” the WorldPride festival. No wonder, then, that the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission honored her with its human rights award in May. IGLHRC, ostensibly founded to protect the rights of gays around the world, has also decided to sit out from the event, in a disgraceful move reminiscent of the decades-long Arab boycott of Israel. IGLHRC’s supposed commitment to human rights, however, has not stopped it from sending representatives to conferences held in such bastions of liberty as China and Cuba.

Contrary to what Morcos might have us believe, gays around the world should be hoping that a future Palestinian state looks more like Israel, and not the other way around.

James Kirchick, who has written for The Advocate, has been a reporter for the New York Daily News, The New York Sun, and the congressional weekly The Hill.

Advocate.com © 2006 LPI Media Inc

July 20th, 2006, 12:06 PM
Why is the comparison not a fair one, she says? “Because you’re comparing our scale to your scale without really taking into consideration if we have our own scale.”

That must have been one big scale they hit him with.

July 20th, 2006, 12:53 PM
The Middle East is not exactly gay-friendly.


July 20th, 2006, 01:26 PM
^Clearly, it's at least as heavily (if not more) influenced by religion as by economic development.

July 21st, 2006, 08:25 AM
Israel set war plan more than a year ago

Strategy was put in motion as Hezbollah began increasing its military strength

Smoke billows in the town of Khiam, in southern Lebanon, during a raided by Israeli jets.

SF CHRONICLE (http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/07/21/MIDEAST.TMP)
Matthew Kalman, Chronicle Foreign Service
Friday, July 21, 2006

(07-21) 04:00 PDT Jerusalem -- Israel's military response by air, land and sea to what it considered a provocation last week by Hezbollah militants is unfolding according to a plan finalized more than a year ago.

In the years since Israel ended its military occupation of southern Lebanon, it watched warily as Hezbollah built up its military presence in the region. When Hezbollah militants kidnapped two Israeli soldiers last week, the Israeli military was ready to react almost instantly.

"Of all of Israel's wars since 1948, this was the one for which Israel was most prepared," said Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University. "In a sense, the preparation began in May 2000, immediately after the Israeli withdrawal, when it became clear the international community was not going to prevent Hezbollah from stockpiling missiles and attacking Israel. By 2004, the military campaign scheduled to last about three weeks that we're seeing now had already been blocked out and, in the last year or two, it's been simulated and rehearsed across the board."

More than a year ago, a senior Israeli army officer began giving PowerPoint presentations, on an off-the-record basis, to U.S. and other diplomats, journalists and think tanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in revealing detail. Under the ground rules of the briefings, the officer could not be identified.

In his talks, the officer described a three-week campaign: The first week concentrated on destroying Hezbollah's heavier long-range missiles, bombing its command-and-control centers, and disrupting transportation and communication arteries. In the second week, the focus shifted to attacks on individual sites of rocket launchers or weapons stores. In the third week, ground forces in large numbers would be introduced, but only in order to knock out targets discovered during reconnaissance missions as the campaign unfolded. There was no plan, according to this scenario, to reoccupy southern Lebanon on a long-term basis.

Israeli soldiers advance towards the Israel-Lebanon border.

Israeli officials say their pinpoint commando raids should not be confused with a ground invasion. Nor, they say, do they herald another occupation of southern Lebanon, which Israel maintained from 1982 to 2000 -- in order, it said, to thwart Hezbollah attacks on Israel. Planners anticipated the likelihood of civilian deaths on both sides. Israel says Hezbollah intentionally bases some of its operations in residential areas. And Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has bragged publicly that the group's arsenal included rockets capable of bombing Haifa, as occurred last week.

Like all plans, the one now unfolding also has been shaped by changing circumstances, said Eran Lerman, a former colonel in Israeli military intelligence who is now director of the Jerusalem office of the American Jewish Committee.

"There are two radical views of how to deal with this challenge, a serious professional debate within the military community over which way to go," said Lerman. "One is the air power school of thought, the other is the land-borne option. They create different dynamics and different timetables. The crucial factor is that the air force concept is very methodical and almost by definition is slower to get results. A ground invasion that sweeps Hezbollah in front of you is quicker, but at a much higher cost in human life and requiring the creation of a presence on the ground."

The advance scenario is now in its second week, and its success or failure is still unfolding. Whether Israel's aerial strikes will be enough to achieve the threefold aim of the campaign -- to remove the Hezbollah military threat; to evict Hezbollah from the border area, allowing the deployment of Lebanese government troops; and to ensure the safe return of the two Israeli soldiers abducted last week -- remains an open question. Israelis are opposed to the thought of reoccupying Lebanon.

"I have the feeling that the end is not clear here. I have no idea how this movie is going to end," said Daniel Ben-Simon, a military analyst for the daily Haaretz newspaper.

Thursday's clashes in southern Lebanon occurred near an outpost abandoned more than six years ago by the retreating Israeli army. The place was identified using satellite photographs of a Hezbollah bunker, but only from the ground was Israel able to discover that it served as the entrance to a previously unknown underground network of caves and bunkers stuffed with missiles aimed at northern Israel, said Israeli army spokesman Miri Regev.

"We knew about the network, but it was fully revealed (Wednesday) by the ground operation of our forces," said Regev. "This is one of the purposes of the pinpoint ground operations -- to locate and try to destroy the terrorist infrastructure from where they can fire at Israeli citizens."

Israeli military officials say as much as 50 percent of Hezbollah's missile capability has been destroyed, mainly by aerial attacks on targets identified from intelligence reports. But missiles continue to be fired at towns and cities across northern Israel.

"We were not surprised that the firing has continued," said Tzachi Hanegbi, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "Hezbollah separated its leadership command-and-control system from its field organization. It created a network of tiny cells in each village that had no operational mission except to wait for the moment when they should activate the Katyusha rocket launchers hidden in local houses, using coordinates programmed long ago to hit Nahariya or Kiryat Shemona, or the kibbutzim and villages."

"From the start of this operation, we have also been active on the ground across the width of Lebanon," said Brig. Gen. Ron Friedman, head of Northern Command headquarters. "These missions are designed to support our current actions. Unfortunately, one of the many missions which we have carried out in recent days met with slightly fiercer resistance."

Israel didn't need sophisticated intelligence to discover the huge buildup of Iranian weapons supplies to Hezbollah by way of Syria, because Hezbollah's patrons boasted about it openly in the pages of the Arabic press. As recently as June 16, less than four weeks before the Hezbollah border raid that sparked the current crisis, the Syrian defense minister publicly announced the extension of existing agreements allowing the passage of trucks shipping Iranian weapons into Lebanon.

But to destroy them, Israel needed to map the location of each missile.

"We need a lot of patience," said Hanegbi. "The (Israeli Defense Forces) action at the moment is incapable of finding the very last Katyusha, or the last rocket launcher primed for use hidden inside a house in some village."

Moshe Marzuk, a former head of the Lebanon desk for Israeli Military Intelligence who now is a researcher at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, said Israel had learned from past conflicts in Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza -- as well as the recent U.S. experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq -- that a traditional military campaign would be countereffective.

"A big invasion is not suitable here," said Marzuk. "We are not fighting an army, but guerrillas. It would be a mistake to enter and expose ourselves to fighters who will hide, fire off a missile and run away. If we are to be on the ground at all, we need to use commandos and special forces."

Lebanese citizens inspect a bridge that was destroyed in Rayak, in the Bekaa Valley.

Since fighting started
-- Israeli air strikes on Lebanon have hit more than 1,255 targets, including 200 rocket-launching sites.

-- Hezbollah launched more than 900 rockets and missiles into northern Israel.

-- At least 317 Lebanese have been killed, including 20 soldiers and three Hezbollah guerrillas. Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora says 1,100 have been wounded; the police put the number at 657.

-- 31 Israelis have been killed, among them 16 soldiers, according to Israeli authorities. At least nine soldiers and 344 civilians have been wounded.

-- Foreign deaths include eight Canadians, two Kuwaiti nationals, one Iraqi, one Sri Lankan and one Jordanian.

©2006 San Francisco Chronicle

July 21st, 2006, 09:40 PM
Where do Hezbollah / Hamas get their Funding? A recent report on the South American Connection ...

U.S. inroads raise alarm

The Washington Times (http://www.washingtontimes.com/world/20051024-103422-6510r.htm)
By Kenneth Rapoza
October 25, 2005

An 18-month-old military agreement between Paraguay and the United States is viewed with skepticism in Brazil, but analysts say concerns are overblown.

The Paraguayan Congress endorsed the accord four months ago.

Influential newspapers in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Brasilia generally have denounced the agreement as intrusive Washington politics...

Arab influence

Since the early stages of its war on terrorism, the Bush administration has said the Triple Frontier (http://www.meib.org/articles/0201_l2.htm) region near Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, generates funds for Hamas and Hezbollah, though ties to terrorist activities remain unsubstantiated.


Documents found during U.S. military operations in Afghanistan reportedly included photographs of Paraguay and letters received from Arabs living in Ciudad del Este, a city of 150,000 people, of whom 10 percent are Arabs, Paraguayan officials said.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, interviewed on TV Cultura in Sao Paulo on Oct. 3, warned Brazilian viewers of the U.S. military presence in South America. Mr. Chavez suspects the Bush administration is using its war on terrorism as a cover to counter populist political movements in South America.

Opponents of the U.S.-Paraguayan accord do not trust official claims by both sides that the United States does not plan to take over an airstrip it built in 1982 in the Chaco region in northern Paraguay.

Paraguay's Foreign Ministry told the Brazilian government in writing on July 7 that "the national government did not sign any accords with the U.S. government for establishing an American military base."

The air base, located in Mariscal Estigarribia, is large enough to handle B-52 bombers and C-5 Galaxy cargo planes, but is being used only as a runway for small planes owned by local farmers.

Mariscal is 434 miles from the Triple Frontier and 186 miles from the Brazilian border. The surrounding area is mostly forest.

Skeptics point out that the United States and Ecuador said the same thing about a supposed military base in November 1999, only to sign a 10-year agreement with the U.S. Air Force soon after.

"There is no doubt in my mind that the U.S. at least wants that base in Mariscal because they believe there are Arab terrorists in Paraguay," said Walder Goes, a political consultant with close ties to politicians in Brasilia.

"I'lI bet there's a U.S. base there in a few years. That said, Brazil has a lot of influence in Paraguay. They can play hardball if they want," he said.

Critics also caution that if terrorists are in the Triple Frontier, the presence of a U.S. base in Mariscal could attract violence.

Still, the U.S. base in Ecuador has not led to an increase in terrorist activity or rumors of terrorism there.

"We've been told that this is just training and humanitarian health missions," said Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim. "There is no reason to believe that there is something related to terrorism going on."

Of the 13 military exercises at the base in Mariscal, only two involved medical training.

U.S. military training

U.S. Special Forces units are to arrive in Paraguay next year for educational courses and counterterrorism training, including Operation Commando Force 6 scheduled for July through September.

The Paraguayan government said other South American nations will be invited to participate, but the Brazilian Defense Ministry said Brazil has not been included.

"No matter how you slice it, this treaty is viewed with a lot of concern by the government," said Francisco Heitor da Rosa, a military psychologist at Assiz Gurgacz College in Cascavel, Parana, 93 miles east of Ciudad del Este. "The accord has been viewed by politicians as if it was some kind of threat to our sovereignty. But that is far from a consensus opinion."

Luiz Moniz Bandeira, a Brazilian-U.S. foreign affairs analyst who has written several books on Washington-Brasilia military relations, said he doubts leftist rhetoric that the Bush administration would try to destabilize South America using the war on terrorism as a fig leaf and Paraguay as its base station.

"That would generate more tension, upheavals and terrorist activity against U.S. troops and corporations," he said. "That said, I wouldn't dismiss the hypothesis that U.S. agents plant stories in the media about Arab terrorists in the Triple Frontier to provoke terrorism and justify their military presence."

Defense analyst Fernando Sampaio counters: "This business that the U.S. is here to create disharmony is pure Hollywood.

"The United States lacks the conditions to successfully overthrow governments in South America," he said, alluding to suspicions that a Washington-backed coup briefly removed Mr. Chavez as president of Venezuela in April 2002.

"South American countries don't need the United States to make them fall apart. They fall apart by themselves" said Mr. Sampaio, who works at the Superior College of Geopolitical Strategy in Porto Allegre, capital of Rio Grande do Sul state.

Red flags raised

With its Paraguayan accord, the United States moves closer to the Triple Frontier.

The Washington-Asuncion relationship has been building since Nicanor Duarte Frutos was elected president in August 2003. Mr. Frutos met with Mr. Bush in Washington that year, becoming the first Paraguayan president invited into the Oval Office, according to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington.

Mr. Duarte's vice president, Luis Castiglioni, met in June with Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Roger Noriega, former assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs. Mr. Rumsfeld traveled to Asuncion, Paraguay's capital, in mid-August.

Brasilia insiders agree that Mr. Bush and Mr. Lula da Silva have a cordial relationship, but see little trust and reciprocity further down the hierarchy.

Brasilia has turned down Washington's hawkish requests to rally nations in the Organization of American States against Mr. Chavez, and Mr. da Silva has been an outspoken critic of Mr. Bush's Iraq war.

When politicians add Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Noriega to the Triple Frontier and throw in 15,000 Arabs in Ciudad del Este, it inevitably raises red flags.

The Triple Frontier was thrust into the spotlight in October 2002, when Jeffrey Goldberg wrote "In the Party of God" for the New Yorker magazine("Party of God": Part 1 (http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?021014fa_fact4), Part 2 (http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?021028fa_fact2)) . In the story, he defined the region as, "the center of Middle Eastern terrorism in South America" and "a community under the influence of extreme Islamic beliefs."

Mr. Goldberg said Hamas, Hezbollah and al Qaeda were training in the area and perhaps financing terrorism.

The State Department's "Patterns of Terrorism" reports for the past two years have found no evidence of terrorist funding or activity from Paraguay.

An International Monetary Fund report by the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering said the region was awash in cash smuggling but not terrorist financing. The IMF did say, however, that Brazil needs to "quickly implement" more comprehensive counterterrorist financing measures.

Policy control

Brazil appears to be taking counterterrorism policy seriously. Legislation in the works aims to keep Brazil in line with U.N. Security Council counterterrorism norms established after the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

Brazil hasn't had a central counterterrorism unit since the 1964-85 dictatorship years. The country wants to control its policies against terrorism before it is forced to follow the policies of other countries, defense analysts say.

Although al Qaeda is never mentioned outside of international news, Hamas and Hezbollah appeared in Brazilian news reports this summer. On June 7, Parana state police arrested a Palestinian, Saiel Bashar al Atary, 43, on charges of credit card fraud and drug trafficking in Foz do Iguacu, across the river from Ciudad del Este.

Police are investigating whether he sent money to Hamas. People who know Mr. al Atary say he has no connection to the group. This tends to be as far as terrorist investigations go in the Triple Frontier.

When U.S. soldiers arrived in Paraguay in July, the Asuncion-based newspaper ABC Color, citing "intelligence sources," reported that $20 million a year leaves the Triple Frontier to fund Hezbollah. The article said some of the money is hidden in Brazilian banks.

"We have to intensify our defense and security relationships," Mr. Amorim told government news agency Agencia Brasil on Sept 17. It's the best way to dispense with the doubts that arise from public opinion, even when there are no doubts in the government."

The last Arab terrorist attack in South America occurred at the Israeli Embassy in Argentina in 1994.

Between 1961 and 2003, 1.2 percent of worldwide terrorist activity took place in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile combined, the U.S. State Department reports. Over the same period, those five countries experienced less than 8 percent of total terrorist activity in Latin America.

Copyright © 2006 News World Communications

July 21st, 2006, 09:53 PM
Pulitzer Center
On Crisis Reporting

South America

Triple Frontier Project (http://www.pulitzercenter.org/Triple_Frontier.htm)

In the thick green rainforest at the triple frontier of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, a Muslim Arab community stands accused -- yet again -- of complicity in international terrorism. So far, investigations have turned up empty, but the community is learning to live with a target on its back.

Reporter Kris Kitto and filmmaker Gabrielle Weiss traveled to the area to talk to local leaders and residents about how they maintain normalcy in the face of ongoing accusations.

Videos / Reports on the Triple Frontier HERE (http://www.pulitzercenter.org/Triple_Frontier.htm)

July 31st, 2006, 09:35 AM
Finding Mideast Unity in the Classroom

Israeli, Palestinian Develop Friendship Through Years of Teaching U-Md. Course

By Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 31, 2006

Every detail had to be negotiated when an Israeli and a Palestinian started team-teaching a class on the Middle East. They haggled over the syllabus, the readings, the maps, even the words used: Was 1948, when Israel was formed, the War of Liberation -- or the Catastrophe?

Now, 12 summers and many debates later, professors Edy Kaufman and Manuel Hassassian have learned to share not only the lectern in their six-week University of Maryland course but also an office, a house near campus and an unexpected friendship.

Their class teaches the narratives of each side, the way history is retold and how news is understood, with the hope of bringing the sides together. "There is no military solution to this conflict," said Hassassian, a Palestinian Christian and an ambassador to the United Kingdom. "Only dialogue."

When Kaufman, 64, and Hassassian, 52, started teaching together in 1993, they thought peace in the Middle East was within reach. This year, as Kaufman and his wife arrived in the United States from Jerusalem, they heard news blaring from the airport TVs with reports of kidnappings, Katyusha rockets, funerals -- the worst fighting in years.

So as the class meets this month and next, their lessons in conflict management seem more important than ever. Or are they more futile?

* * *

Like everyone in the Middle East, the professors have their own narratives, stories intertwined with the history of the region, memories that laden the fighting, the negotiations, the land itself with meaning.

Kaufman left his whole life behind in Argentina in 1960, when he was 18, to help build a new country. "I was very much in love with Israel," said Kaufman, whose parents were ardent Zionists.

He met his wife there, a sixth-generation Jerusalemite whose father disappeared during an attack in 1948 when she was about 4. Lisa Kaufman remembers a city under siege, not having enough food and how she kept talking to her father, long after he was gone.

Now the Kaufmans have children of their own, whom they raised in Jerusalem through years of war, bloody attacks and tension. Their son, a doctor at a hospital in Haifa, is delivering babies now with rockets crashing into the city around him; he recently lost a close friend.

Hassassian was born in Jerusalem, in a neighborhood that came under Israeli control after the war in 1967, when he was 13. His wife, Samira, remembers her father putting on his doctor's coat and telling the Israeli soldiers in her town near Bethlehem that the Palestinians would not leave.

The Hassassians raised three children, through years of occupation and checkpoints, curfews and intifada, while Manuel Hassassian taught at and helped lead Bethlehem University. A few years ago, during crossfire between Palestinian and Israeli forces, a bullet shattered a window of their house while Samira was making dinner. She gathered the family to pray to the Virgin Mary in thanks that no one had been hurt, she said, and at that moment, an explosion sent glass shattering, her children screaming.

A missile had hit their house, they said, demolishing one side of it but sparing them.

Days later, a bomber blew himself up in the cafeteria of Hebrew University, Kaufman said, about 15 yards from the Harry S. Truman Peace Institute that he led. Nine students died.

* * *

The first team-teaching attempt was a failure. Kaufman had asked a Palestinian scholar to teach with him in 1985 at UCLA, but -- as he remembers it -- his colleague kept getting angry at students' confrontational questions. Then a threat came from overseas, warning against collaboration with Israelis.

Years later, when Kaufman asked Hassassian to teach with him, it was a tough decision, Hassassian said, very controversial: Many Palestinians were arguing against normalizing relations with Israelis.

But Hassassian, like Kaufman, believed that finding common ground was the only hope for resolution.

They started the class -- offered through U-Md.'s Center for International Development and Conflict Management -- with rules of engagement, avoiding certain terms, ensuring that either could ask for a timeout.

Kaufman, a longtime professor at Hebrew University, lectures on the Israeli version of events. Then Hassassian tells the Palestinian side. Both speak as scholars, analyzing the official rhetoric; both are moderates.

Still, the first summer was tense and adversarial, Hassassian said, as each tried to score points in class.

Lisa Kaufman could tell Hassassian wasn't happy in his little dorm room, and after talking, the Kaufmans invited him to stay with them.

In the classroom, the professors made more rules, boundaries not to cross. And at home, after initially giving each other lots of space, they found that they both loved classical music. They started going to the gym together and watching soccer.

Each summer, events changed the tenor of the class. A peace accord was signed in 1993. The Israeli prime minister was assassinated in 1995. In 2000, Kaufman had to find another professor because Hassassian was helping with negotiations over Jerusalem. Talks collapsed. A new intifada began.

Hassassian suggested a role reversal for the students: Partway through the course, they choose sides and argue a case, then switch.

As the summers went by, the professors ate sushi together, went to movies and threw parties. Kaufman would sit with Hassassian while he smoked his after-dinner cigar, talking politics or telling jokes, slapping hands and cracking up. Hassassian started imitating his friend's Israeli expression of surprise -- first to make Kaufman laugh, then unconsciously using it himself.

* * *

With a sweep of chalk on the blackboard last week in Tydings Hall, Kaufman drew the arc of war and peace, starting in 1948. "With the declaration of independence by Israel, simultaneously seven countries declared war on Israel," he said.

After nearly an hour, Hassassian glanced at his watch, pointedly. He took over, and the tone switched from lecture to oratory. He paced, waved his arms, punched out words. "When Dr. Kaufman said seven! Armies!" he said, and paused, mustache twitching. "The Jews had much more sophisticated weapons. . . . It was a piece of cake for Israel to win that war!"

Kaufman, sitting nearby, scratched a note to himself with a half-smile on his face. When Hassassian stopped later, he said quietly, "It was not a piece of cake in terms of casualties."

And he told the class about a massacre of Arab villagers by Zionists and about the attack soon afterward by Arabs on a convoy of Jewish doctors and professors. "Many were killed there," Kaufman said. "Including my wife's father."

Heads snapped up; students' fingers paused, frozen over their laptops.

* * *

Every morning after he wakes, Hassassian asks Kaufman: What news? They call family members to see whether they are safe. Samira Hassassian said by phone from near Bethlehem that it is worse now, worse than it has ever been.

Hassassian is angry. Kaufman is worried.

If a cease-fire doesn't happen soon, "the hatred that is mounting among these people will continue forever," Hassassian said. It's essential to ensure that people in the United States hear all sides, he said.

"It's very tough. You lose your hope sometimes," Kaufman said. The class is worth it, "but it is such a small drop in the ocean, it is really frustrating."

After class late that night, they drove home to cook dinner. Lisa Kaufman was peeling squash. Edy Kaufman sliced onions. Hassassian brought ice to the table, and they sat down to a family dinner, passing the couscous from hand to hand, telling stories.

A small thing. But there it is: a peaceful coexistence.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

August 25th, 2006, 08:18 AM
Israel set war plan more than a year ago

Strategy was put in motion as Hezbollah began increasing its military strength

Weapons Inquiry Opened Into Israeli Use of U.S. Bombs

NY TIMES (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/25/world/middleeast/25cluster.html?ei=5065&en=640e4b88aef47322&ex=1157083200&partner=MYWAY&pagewanted=print)
August 25, 2006

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 — The State Department is investigating whether Israel’s use of American-made cluster bombs in southern Lebanon violated secret agreements with the United States that restrict when it can employ such weapons, two officials said.

The investigation by the department’s Office of Defense Trade Controls began this week, after reports that three types of American cluster munitions, anti-personnel weapons that spray bomblets over a wide area, have been found in many areas of southern Lebanon and were responsible for civilian casualties.

Gonzalo Gallegos, a State Department spokesman, said, “We have heard the allegations that these munitions were used, and we are seeking more information.” He declined to comment further.

Several current and former officials said that they doubted the investigation would lead to sanctions against Israel but that the decision to proceed with it might be intended to help the Bush administration ease criticism from Arab governments and commentators over its support of Israel’s military operations. The investigation has not been publicly announced; the State Department confirmed it in response to questions.

In addition to investigating use of the weapons in southern Lebanon, the State Department has held up a shipment of M-26 artillery rockets, a cluster weapon, that Israel sought during the conflict, the officials said.

The inquiry is likely to focus on whether Israel properly informed the United States about its use of the weapons and whether targets were strictly military. So far, the State Department is relying on reports from United Nations personnel and nongovernmental organizations in southern Lebanon, the officials said.

David Siegel, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy, said, “We have not been informed about any such inquiry, and when we are we would be happy to respond.”

Officials were granted anonymity to discuss the investigation because it involves sensitive diplomatic issues and agreements that have been kept secret for years.

The agreements that govern Israel’s use of American cluster munitions go back to the 1970’s, when the first sales of the weapons occurred, but the details of them have never been publicly confirmed. The first one was signed in 1976 and later reaffirmed in 1978 after an Israeli incursion into Lebanon.

News accounts over the years have said that they require that the munitions be used only against organized Arab armies and clearly defined military targets under conditions similar to the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973.

A Congressional investigation after Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon found that Israel had used the weapons against civilian areas in violation of the agreements. In response, the Reagan administration imposed a six-year ban on further sales of cluster weapons to Israel.

Israeli officials acknowledged soon after their offensive began last month that they were using cluster munitions against rocket sites and other military targets. While Hezbollah positions were frequently hidden in civilian areas, Israeli officials said their intention was to use cluster bombs in open terrain.

Bush administration officials warned Israel to avoid civilian casualties, but they have lodged no public protests against its use of cluster weapons.

American officials say it has not been not clear whether the weapons, which are also employed by the United States military, were being used against civilian areas and had been supplied by the United States. Israel also makes its own types of cluster weapons.

But a report released Wednesday by the United Nations Mine Action Coordination Center, which has personnel in Lebanon searching for unexploded ordnance, said it had found unexploded bomblets, including hundreds of American types, in 249 locations south of the Litani River.

The report said American munitions found included 559 M-42’s, an anti-personnel bomblet used in 105-millimeter artillery shells; 663 M-77’s, a submunition found in M-26 rockets; and 5 BLU-63’s, a bomblet found in the CBU-26 cluster bomb. Also found were 608 M-85’s, an Israeli-made submunition.

The unexploded submunitions being found in Lebanon are probably only a fraction of the total number dropped. Cluster munitions can contain dozens or even hundreds of submunitions designed to explode as they scatter around a wide area. They are very effective against rocket-launcher units or ground troops.

The Lebanese government has reported that the conflict killed 1,183 people and wounded 4,054, most of them civilians. The United Nations reported this week that the number of civilian casualties in Lebanon from cluster munitions, land mines and unexploded bombs stood at 30 injured and eight killed.

Dozen of Israelis were killed and hundreds wounded in attacks by Hezbollah rockets, some of which were loaded with ball bearings to maximize their lethality.

Officials say it is unlikely that Israel will be found to have violated a separate agreement, the Arms Export Control Act, which requires foreign governments that receive American weapons to use them for legitimate self-defense.

Proving that Israel’s campaign against Hezbollah did not constitute self-defense would be difficult, especially in view of President Bush’s publicly announced support for Israel’s action after Hezbollah fighters attacked across the border, the officials said.

Even if Israel is found to have violated the classified agreement covering cluster bombs, it is not clear what actions the United States might take.

In 1982, delivery of cluster-bomb shells to Israel was suspended a month after Israel invaded Lebanon after the Reagan administration determined that Israel “may” have used them against civilian areas.

But the decision to impose what amounted to a indefinite moratorium was made under pressure from Congress, which conducted a long investigation of the issue. Israel and the United States reaffirmed restrictions on the use of cluster munitions in 1988, and the Reagan administration lifted the moratorium.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

November 8th, 2006, 01:44 PM
Grossman expresses his despair at Israel's 'hollow' leadership

By Eric Silver in Jerusalem
Published: 06 November 2006

With the eloquent passion of an Old Testament prophet, the Israeli novelist David Grossman has denounced Ehud Olmert's government for a failure of moral leadership that he said was undermining the vision of a Jewish state.

Addressing 100,000 Israelis on Saturday in the Tel Aviv square where Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated exactly 11 years earlier for trying to make peace with the Palestinians, Mr Grossman insisted that Mr Olmert could not dismiss his words as those of a father grieving for his soldier son killed at the end of the war with Lebanon this summer.

"Of course I am grieving," he said, "but my pain is greater than my anger. I am in pain for this country, and for what you and your friends are doing to it." ...


David Grossman's speech at the Rabin memorial


David Grossman -
Monday, 06 November 2006

The annual memorial ceremony for Yitzhak Rabin is the moment when we pause for a while to remember Rabin the man, the leader. And we also take a look at ourselves, at Israeli society, its leadership, the national mood, the state of the peace process, at ourselves as individuals in the face of national events.

It is not easy to take a look at ourselves this year. There was a war, and Israel flexed its massive military muscle, but also exposed Israel's fragility. We discovered that our military might ultimately cannot be the only guarantee of our existence. Primarily, we have found that the crisis Israel is experiencing is far deeper than we had feared, in almost every way.

I am speaking here tonight as a person whose love for the land is overwhelming and complex, and yet it is unequivocal, and as one whose continuous covenant with the land has turned his personal calamity into a covenant of blood.

I am totally secular, and yet in my eyes the establishment and the very existence of the State of Israel is a miracle of sorts that happened to us as a nation - a political, national, human miracle.

I do not forget this for a single moment. Even when many things in the reality of our lives enrage and depress me, even when the miracle is broken down to routine and wretchedness, to corruption and cynicism, even when reality seems like nothing but a poor parody of this miracle, I always remember. And with these feelings, I address you tonight.

"Behold land, for we hath squandered," wrote the poet Saul Tchernikovsky in Tel Aviv in 1938. He lamented the burial of our young again and again in the soil of the Land of Israel. The death of young people is a horrible, ghastly waste.

But no less dreadful is the sense that for many years, the State of Israel has been squandering, not only the lives of its sons, but also its miracle; that grand and rare opportunity that history bestowed upon it, the opportunity to establish here a state that is efficient, democratic, which abides by Jewish and universal values; a state that would be a national home and haven, but not only a haven, also a place that would offer a new meaning to Jewish existence; a state that holds as an integral and essential part of its Jewish identity and its Jewish ethos, the observance of full equality and respect for its non-Jewish citizens.

Look at what befell us. Look what befell the young, bold, passionate country we had here, and how, as if it had undergone a quickened ageing process, Israel lurched from infancy and youth to a perpetual state of gripe, weakness and sourness.

How did this happen? When did we lose even the hope that we would eventually be able to live a different, better life? Moreover, how do we continue to watch from the side as though hypnotized by the insanity, rudeness, violence and racism that has overtaken our home?

And I ask you: How could it be that a people with such powers of creativity, renewal and vivacity as ours, a people that knew how to rise from the ashes time and again, finds itself today, despite its great military might, at such a state of laxity and inanity, a state where it is the victim once more, but this time its own victim, of its anxieties, its short-sightedness.

One of the most difficult outcomes of the recent war is the heightened realization that at this time there is no king in Israel, that our leadership is hollow. Our military and political leadership is hollow. I am not even talking about the obvious blunders in running the war, of the collapse of the home front, nor of the large-scale and small-time corruption.

I am talking about the fact that the people leading Israel today are unable to contact Israelis to their identity. Certainly not with the healthy, vitalizing and productive areas of this identity, with those areas of identity and memory and fundamental values that would give us hope and strength, that would be the antidote to the waning of mutual trust, of the bonds to the land, that would give some meaning to the exhausting and despairing struggle for existence.

The fundamental characteristics of the current Israeli leadership are primarily anxiety and intimidation, of the charade of power, the wink of the dirty deal, of selling out our most prized possessions. In this sense they are not true leaders, certainly they are not the leaders of a people in such a complicated position that has lost the way it so desperately needs. Sometimes it seems that the sound box of their self-importance, of their memories of history, of their vision, of what they really care for, exist only in the miniscule space between two headlines of a newspaper or between two investigations by the attorney general.

Look at those who lead us. Not all of them, of course, but many among them. Behold their petrified, suspicious, sweaty conduct. The conduct of advocates and scoundrels. It is preposterous to expect to hear wisdom emerge from them, that some vision or even just an original, truly creative, bold and ingenuous idea would emanate from them.

When was the last time a prime minister formulated or took a step that could open up a new horizon for Israelis, for a better future? When did he initiate a social or cultural or ideological move, instead of merely reacting feverishly to moves forced upon him by others?

Mister Prime Minister, I am not saying these words out of feelings of rage or revenge. I have waited long enough to avoid responding on impulse. You will not be able to dismiss my words tonight by saying a grieving man cannot be judged. Certainly I am grieving, but I am more pained than angry. This country and what you and your friends are doing to it pains me.

Trust me, your success is important to me, because the future of all of us depends on our ability to act. Yitzhak Rabin took the road of peace with the Palestinians, not because he possessed great affection for them or their leaders. Even then, as you recall, common belief was that we had no partner and we had nothing to discuss with them.

Rabin decided to act, because he discerned very wisely that Israeli society would not be able to sustain itself endlessly in a state of an unresolved conflict. He realized long before many others that life in a climate of violence, occupation, terror, anxiety and hopelessness, extracts a price Israel cannot afford. This is all relevant today, even more so. We will soon talk about the partner that we do or do not have, but before that, let us take a look at ourselves.

We have been living in this struggle for more than 100 years. We, the citizens of this conflict, have been born into war and raised in it, and in a certain sense indoctrinated by it. Maybe this is why we sometimes think that this madness in which we live for over 100 years is the only real thing, the only life for us, and that we do not have the option or even the right to aspire for a different life.

By our sword we shall live and by our sword we shall die and the sword shall devour forever. Maybe this would explain the indifference with which we accept the utter failure of the peace process, a failure that has lasted for years and claims more and more victims.

This could explain also the lack of reaction by most of us to the harsh blow to democracy caused by the appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as a senior minister with the support of the Labor Party - the appointment of a habitual pyromaniac as director of the nation's firefighters.

And these are partly the cause of Israel's quick descent into the heartless, essentially brutal treatment of its poor and suffering. This indifference to the fate of the hungry, the elderly, the sick and the disabled, all those who are weak, this equanimity of the State of Israel in the face of human trafficking or the appalling employment conditions of our foreign workers, which border on slavery, to the deeply ingrained institutionalized racism against the Arab minority.

When this takes place here so naturally, without shock, without protest, as though it were obvious, that we would never be able to get the wheel back on track, when all of this takes place, I begin to fear that even if peace were to arrive tomorrow, and even if we ever regained some normalcy, we may have lost our chance for full recovery.

The calamity that struck my family and myself with the falling of our son, Uri, does not grant me any additional rights in the public discourse, but I believe that the experience of facing death and the loss brings with it a sobriety and lucidity, at least regarding the distinction between the important and the unimportant, between the attainable and the unattainable.

Any reasonable person in Israel, and I will say in Palestine too, knows exactly the outline of a possible solution to the conflict between the two peoples. Any reasonable person here and over there knows deep in their heart the difference between dreams and the heart's desire, between what is possible and what is not possible by the conclusion of negotiations. Anyone who does not know, who refuses to acknowledge this, is already not a partner, be he Jew or Arab, is entrapped in his hermetic fanaticism, and is therefore not a partner.

Let us take a look at those who are meant to be our partners. The Palestinians have elected Hamas to lead them, Hamas who refuses to negotiate with us, refuses even to recognize us. What can be done in such a position? Keep strangling them more and more, keep mowing down hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza, most of whom are innocent civilians like us? Kill them and get killed for all eternity?

Turn to the Palestinians, Mr. Olmert, address them over the heads of Hamas, appeal to their moderates, those who like you and I oppose Hamas and its ways, turn to the Palestinian people, speak to their deep grief and wounds, acknowledge their ongoing suffering.

Nothing would be taken away from you or Israel's standing in future negotiations. Our hearts will only open up to one another slightly, and this has a tremendous power, the power of a force majeur. The power of simple human compassion, particularly in this a state of deadlock and dread. Just once, look at them not through the sights of a gun, and not behind a closed roadblock. You will see there a people that is tortured no less than us. An oppressed, occupied people bereft of hope.

Certainly, the Palestinians are also to blame for the impasse, certainly they played their role in the failure of the peace process. But take a look at them from a different perspective, not only at the radicals in their midst, not only at those who share interests with our own radicals. Take a look at the overwhelming majority of this miserable people, whose fate is entangled with our own, whether we like it or not.

Go to the Palestinians, Mr. Olmert, do not search all the time for reasons for not to talk to them. You backed down on the unilateral convergence, and that's a good thing, but do not leave a vacuum. It will be occupied instantly with violence, destruction. Talk to them, make them an offer their moderates can accept. They argue far more than we are shown in the media. Make them an offer so that they are forced to choose whether they accept it, or whether they prefer to remain hostage to fanatical Islam.

Approach them with the bravest and most serious plan Israel can offer. With the offer than any reasonable Palestinian and Israeli knows is the boundary of their refusal and our concession. There is no time. Should you delay, in a short while we will look back with longing at the amateur Palestinian terror. We will hit our heads and yell at our failure to exercise all of our mental flexibility, all of the Israeli ingenuity to uproot our enemies from their self-entrapment. We have no choice and they have no choice. And a peace of no choice should be approached with the same determination and creativity as one approaches a war of no choice. And those who believe we do have a choice, or that time is on our side do not comprehend the deeply dangerous processes already in motion.

Maybe, Mr. Prime Minister, you need to be reminded, that if an Arab leader is sending a peace signal, be it the slightest and most hesitant, you must accept it, you must test immediately its sincerity and seriousness. You do not have the moral right not to respond.

You owe it to those whom you would ask to sacrifice their lives should another war break out. Therefore, if President Assad says that Syria wants peace, even if you don't believe him, and we are all suspicious of him, you must offer to meet him that same day.

Don't wait a single day. When you launched the last war you did not even wait one hour. You charged with full force, with the complete arsenal, with the full power of destruction. Why, when a glimmer of peace surfaces, must you reject it immediately, dissolve it? What have you got to lose? Are you suspicious of it? Go and offer him such terms that would expose his schemes. Offer him a peace process that would last over several years, and only at its conclusion, and provided he meets all the conditions and restrictions, will he get back the Golan. Commit him to a prolonged process, act so that his people also become aware of this possibility. Help the moderates, who must exist there as well. Try to shape reality. Not only serve as its collaborator. This is what you were elected to do.

Certainly, not all depends on our actions. There are major powers active in our region and in the world. Some, like Iran, like radical Islam, seek our doom and despite that, so much depends on what we do, on what we become.

Disagreements today between right and left are not that significant. The vast majority of Israel's citizens understand this already, and know what the outline for the resolution of the conflict would look like. Most of us understand, therefore, that the land would be divided, that a Palestinian state would be established.

Why, then, do we keep exhausting ourselves with the internal bickering that has gone on for 40 years? Why does our political leadership continue to reflect the position of the radicals and not that held by the majority of the public? It is better to reach national consensus before circumstances or God forbid another war force us to reach it. If we do it, we would save ourselves years of decline and error, years when we will cry time and again: "Behold land, for we hath squandered."

From where I stand right now, I beseech, I call on all those who listen, the young who came back from the war, who know they are the ones to be called upon to pay the price of the next war, on citizens, Jew and Arab, people on the right and the left, the secular, the religious, stop for a moment, take a look into the abyss. Think of how close we are to losing all that we have created here. Ask yourselves if this is not the time to get a grip, to break free of this paralysis, to finally claim the lives we deserve to live.

Copyright © 2003 - 2005 Middle East Media Center

December 17th, 2006, 08:52 AM
December 17, 2006

Leader Orders Early Elections for Palestinians

Adel Hana/Associated Press
Palestinians in Gaza City watched the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, speak via videoconference


JERUSALEM, Dec. 16 — The Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, on Saturday ordered early presidential and parliamentary elections in a direct challenge to the authority of Hamas, the Islamic movement that won elections less than a year ago. But Mr. Abbas did not set a date, leaving room for further negotiations to break the impasse with Hamas and form a unity government instead.

“I have decided to call for early presidential and parliamentary elections,” Mr. Abbas said. “Let’s return to the people to have their say, and let them be the judge.”

Hamas leaders immediately called Mr. Abbas’s declaration illegal and tantamount to a coup, saying that he had no power to call early elections and that the Palestinian people had given them a majority in free and fair elections only 11 months ago.

Mr. Abbas’s declaration, in a speech in the West Bank that brimmed with frustration, was both a challenge to Hamas and a risky effort to break a political stalemate that could backfire.

After months of rising tension and violence between Hamas and Mr. Abbas’s Fatah movement, there was concern that the rivalry could veer into something approaching civil war.

In the past few days, there have been killings of Fatah officials and their children and an attack on the motorcade of the Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniya, in which his son and a political adviser were wounded and his bodyguard was killed.

By putting his own presidency at stake, Mr. Abbas risks losing an election against Mr. Haniya, placing the entire Palestinian Authority in the hands of the Hamas movement. Hamas is considered a terrorist group by Israel, the United States and the European Union, which all cut off money for the Palestinian Authority after the faction’s election victory.

But it is also likely that Mr. Abbas’s challenge is intended to get Hamas to agree at least to a government of experts and technocrats that would be approved by all factions and that could qualify for renewed financing. “My aim,” Mr. Abbas said, “is a national unity government to lift this crisis and siege.”

Mr. Abbas, in a winding 90-minute speech, blamed Hamas for breaking its agreements with him, reneging on its promises and trying to intimidate other Palestinians by using the words of Islam in political debate.

He insisted that he had the right to call the elections, though many political experts, even in his own party, believe he has the right only to fire the current prime minister and cabinet. Under the Palestinian basic law, only the legislature can dissolve itself, those experts say.

Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar of Hamas said that the call for new elections was illegal and that “we will not participate.” He said Mr. Abbas had distorted the truth, was violating the precepts of democracy and Palestinian law and simply wanted to overturn the January election to benefit his own Fatah movement.

“If he is tired, he should resign and we’ll have a presidential election,” Mr. Zahar told Al Jazeera television. As for parliament, Mr. Zahar said, “the majority of the Palestinian people voted for Hamas, and because he lost this trial, he wants to change.”

Mr. Abbas “is looking for a pro-American and pro-Israeli government from those who have already failed the Palestinian people,” Mr. Zahar said.

In Gaza, Ahmed Baher, the deputy speaker of the legislature, said: “He can’t dismiss the legislative council. Such a decision violates the basic law.”

The basic law allows the president to appoint and dismiss the prime minister and the government. But it is silent on whether he can dismiss the parliament without its consent. The law mandates the parliamentary term as four years and makes it clear that any election must be approved by the parliament.

Ahmed Yussef, an adviser to Mr. Haniya, said in Gaza, “Today what we have heard from Abu Mazen is a call, which, God willing, we will try to avoid, for a civil war.” He warned that the call by Mr. Abbas, who is commonly known as Abu Mazen, for early presidential and parliamentary polls was unwise in this period of tension between Hamas and Fatah and “will lead to internal strife and also could cause a lot of casualties.”

But Saleh Zidan of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine said, “There is still time for a comprehensive, successful national dialogue to form a unity government.”

Hamas legislators and officials boycotted Mr. Abbas’s speech, which he gave in his headquarters in Ramallah and was televised live on Palestinian television and Al Jazeera. There were some organized Fatah demonstrations in support of Mr. Abbas in Nablus and in Gaza, and Hamas said it would call for rallies to oppose the move.

In Gaza City later Saturday, several thousand Hamas supporters, including some members of Fatah’s Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades, rallied in front of the parliament building while speakers condemned Mr. Abbas. There were clashes later between gunmen of Hamas and Fatah, and a dozen people were reported wounded.

Mr. Abbas let his frustrations with Hamas boil over in his speech, making it clear that he questioned whether they were sincerely interested in a unity government. He accused them of calling him a “national patriot one day and a traitor the next,” of continuing a policy of rocket fire from Gaza “that is counterproductive to our national interest,” and of refusing opportunities to release an Israeli soldier captured in June, thereby blocking progress with Israel.

He blamed Hamas for the impasse and detailed his efforts over the past six months to reach agreement on a unity government that would meet Western requirements for aid and be able to again pay its 160,000 or so employees.

The West has funneled limited aid to Mr. Abbas himself to circumvent Hamas. But Israel is still withholding $55 million a month in duties and taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinians, a sum now approaching $600 million.

Most important, Mr. Abbas insisted that Hamas lawmakers were acting against the principles of government he had laid down for them when he swore them into office, in particular by their refusal to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist alongside an independent Palestinian state and their refusal to accept previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements negotiated by the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is the legal representative of the Palestinians.

“Democracy is a partnership, not an exclusion of the others,” Mr. Abbas said. “It is not divine will but the people’s will.” Addressing Hamas, he said: “You shouldn’t label your government as divine. It is democracy, with supporters and opposition. If you try to intimidate us with divine will, this is impermissible.”

He said Fatah would support a new unity government but would not take part in one, implying that he favored a technocratic government whose members would be approved by political factions but not necessarily be members of them.

Firing the current government is his right as president, he said. “The removal of the government is not a recipe for civil war, as suggested by Zahar,” he insisted, referring to the Hamas official. “Firing the government is a constitutional right that I can exercise when I want.”

One of Mr. Abbas’s senior aides, Saeb Erekat, argued that the president had chosen a peaceful path out of the crisis, saying: “Bullets or ballots? Abu Mazen said ballots.” Another aide who has been pushing Mr. Abbas to act, Yasser Abed Rabbo, said he expected the election to take place in the next three months, but Mr. Erekat said he doubted a vote would happen until June.

There were many questions about the near future. Diana Buttu, a political analyst in Ramallah and former legal adviser to the P.L.O., said it was not clear whether the Central Election Commission would call new elections. “They will do so only if they decide the call is legal,” she said.

“The president can resign and there will be new elections for that job,” she added, but only the legislature can dissolve itself short of its mandated four-year term.

Mr. Abbas “sees the problem from the lens of international pressure, but that’s not how the Palestinian street will perceive it,” Ms. Buttu said. Mr. Abbas wants to end the international boycott through a unity government or a technocratic government, or failing that, if necessary, getting rid of Hamas entirely. But, she said, “the Palestinians want to get rid of the boycott and think that Hamas never had a chance to rule and that Abu Mazen could have worked with Hamas to lift the boycott.”

Mr. Abbas’s decision found quick support from the White House and other Western governments. Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, who has begun a tour of the Middle East in Turkey and Egypt, called the move “a strong sign that the Palestinian president is seeking a way out of the deadlock in the peace process.”

Khaled Abu Aker contributed reporting from Ramallah, and Taghreed El-Khodary from Gaza.

Hamas staged rallies in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank today to mark the 19th anniversary of its founding. Above, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya spoke at the Gaza event.

"What a war, Mahmoud Abbas, you are launching, first against God, and then against Hamas," said a Hamas leader, Khalil al-Hayya, as he addressed tens of thousands of supporters rallying at a sports stadium in Gaza City.

Hamas supporters clashed with Palestinian security forces outside a mosque in Ramallah in the West Bank.

Today’s violence centered on Ramallah, where Hamas supporters tried to march to the city center following midday prayers at one of the main mosques.

A father protected his son as chaos ensued.

Fatah security officers ran down one Hamas supporter.


A Palestinian man sought cover behind members of the security forces.

A Palestinian man protected his two children.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

December 17th, 2006, 10:39 AM
Is it worth it?

June 14th, 2007, 07:09 PM
I guess not.

Abbas Declares Emergency, Scraps Hamas Coalition

Hamas fighters celebrate in front of the pro-Fatah
Palestinian Intelligence Security compound in Gaza City,
the main Fatah headquarters in the Gaza Strip.

NPR.org, June 14, 2007 · Hamas has overtaken key security posts run by the Fatah movement in the Gaza Strip, in another day of violence between the rival Palestinian groups.

The Palestinian Authority's presidential palace and intelligence headquarters on Gaza's coast are now under attack. A Fatah member of the Presidential Guard told NPR's Eric Westervelt that his unit is prepared to fight to the death at the compound.

Fatah leader President Mahmoud Abbas remains in the West Bank, seemingly powerless to stop the warfare.

So far, the Hamas-Fatah battles in the Gaza Strip have not provoked any major fighting in the West Bank. But there are fears Fatah could launch an offensive there if its forces continue to lose ground in Gaza.

Abbas, a moderate member of Fatah in the coalition government, ordered his elite presidential guard to strike back. But his forces were quickly crumbling under the onslaught by the better-armed and better-disciplined Islamic fighters.

Hamas fighters overran Fatah's Preventive Security headquarters in the Gaza Strip on Thursday; witnesses said the victors dragged vanquished gunmen from the building and executed them in the street.

Fatah officials said seven of their fighters were shot to death in the street outside the Preventive Security headquarters. A witness, Jihad Abu Ayad, said the men were being killed before their wives and children.

"They are executing them one by one," Abu Ayad said. "They are carrying one of them on their shoulders, putting him on a sand dune, turning him around and shooting."

Some of the Hamas fighters kneeled down outside the building, touching their foreheads to the ground in prayer. Others led Fatah fighters out of the building, some of them shirtless or in their underwear, holding their arms in the air. Several of the Fatah men flinched as the crack of gunfire split the air.

"We are telling our people that the past era has ended and will not return," Islam Shahawan, a spokesman for Hamas' militia, told Hamas radio. "The era of justice and Islamic rule have arrived."

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, heralded what he called "Gaza's second liberation," after Israel's 2005 evacuation of the coastal strip.

Abbas has declared a state of emergency and dismantled the unity government between Hamas and Fatah. A senior aide says Abbas will soon call for the deployment of a multinational peacekeeping force in Gaza.

While Hamas may have taken over the Gaza region, it is not faring as well in the West Bank, where its Islamist members have been on the run.

In Nablus, Fatah gunmen stormed a Hamas office. In Jenin, Fatah officials said all Hamas members had either been arrested or gone underground. In Ramallah, several Hamas members were kidnapped from a downtown office building by Fatah forces.

The two factions have warred sporadically since Hamas took power from Fatah last year, but never with such intensity. Hamas reluctantly brought Fatah into the coalition in March to quell an earlier round of violence, but the uneasy partnership began crumbling last month over control of the powerful security forces.

With Hamas in control of Gaza, and Fatah still holding the West Bank, many in the area now say the idea of a Palestinian state in the two territories has become virtually impossible.

With reporting by NPR and The Associated Press.

Q&A: Hamas and Fatah

by Tom Bullock

Hamas symbol

The official Hamas emblem shows two crossed swords in front of the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The mosque is framed by two Palestinian flags with the phrases, in Arabic, "God is Great" and "Muhammad is the prophet of Allah."

Fatah symbol

The official Fatah emblem depicts two fists holding rifles, with a hand grenade in between. In the background is a map of Israel and the occupied territories.

NPR.org, May 24, 2007 · Hamas and Fatah are rival Palestinian factions that have attacked Israel in the past. Here's a look at the two organizations:

What is Hamas?

Hamas, an Islamist group, has pursued a policy of "armed resistance" against Israel — carried out by suicide bombing attacks on Israeli civilians — while also extending social-welfare programs to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank. Hamas' official name is Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya (Islamic Resistance Movement).

What is Fatah?

Fatah was the first exile group to launch attacks against Israel. Fatah's official name is Harakat al Tahrir al Falastini (Palestinian Liberation Movement). Fatah is the dominant member of the greater Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).

What are the origins of these groups?

Hamas was founded in the Gaza Strip in 1987 by Sheik Ahmed Yassin and Dr. Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, both of whom have since been killed by Israel.

Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, a religious and political organization with branches throughout the Arab world. In 1988, Hamas wrote its charter, which calls for the destruction of the state of Israel and swears to "raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine." The charter is still in effect today.

However, Palestinian Prime Minister, and Hamas member, Ismail Haniya has spoken of a possible long-term truce with Israel, if Israel withdraws from territory occupied after the 1967 war — namely, the West Bank.

Fatah was founded by the late Yasser Arafat and a small group of Palestinian nationalists in the late 1950s. The group is a member of the PLO, a loose umbrella group of a number of Palestinian organizations founded in Cairo in the mid-1960s.

Fatah quickly became the most powerful member of the PLO, which Arafat also led.

What does the PLO think of Israel?

In 1993 the PLO officially renounced terrorism and recognized Israel's right to exist. In exchange, PLO leaders were allowed to return from exile in Tunisia and recognized as the Palestinian Authority, the governing body of the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank. They were also allowed to set up Palestinian security forces. Although the PLO has officially renounced terrorism, some of its member organizations have been accused of or have claimed responsibility for continued attacks.

The PLO was initially based largely in Jordan. But after fighting between PLO guerrillas and the Jordanian army in 1970, a conflict known as Black September, the PLO was forced out of Jordan. Most of the guerrillas — and Yasser Arafat — settled in Lebanon. The PLO then launched frequent attacks on Israel from their Lebanese bases, prompting two Israeli invasions of Lebanon — in 1978 and 1982.

What approach does Hamas take toward Israel?

Hamas calls for the destruction of Israel. Its armed resistance has been carried out by suicide bombing attacks on Israeli civilian buses, nightclubs and other venues. As a result the United States, Israel and the European Union have labeled it a "terrorist organization." Human Rights Watch has also criticized Hamas for its attacks on civilians.

Hamas' main claim for support among Palestinians comes from its provision of social welfare services that neither the Israelis nor Fatah provide. From its inception, Hamas has funded and developed an elaborate network of schools, orphanages, health clinics and other social services that have given it reach into every sector of its populations.

How is Fatah viewed as compared to Hamas?

Despite its violent past, Fatah is now seen as the more moderate Palestinian party. While the group's constitution also calls for the destruction of Israel, the group falls under the PLO, which has renounced terrorism. Fatah's leadership of the Palestinian Authority was seen as corrupt and inept by many Palestinians, which is the major reason for its loss of seats in the government in the 2006 election.

How have Hamas and Fatah fared politically?

In January 2006, Palestinian voters in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem voted for a new Palestinian legislature. Hamas won a major victory, taking 74 of the 132 seats, in an election deemed fair and honest by international observers. Its rival, the once-dominant Fatah party, criticized for ineffectiveness and corruption, took only 45 seats.

Fatah still controls the presidency, the highest elected position in the government. Mahmoud Abbas has held the position since January 2005. Fatah also controls roughly 70,000 police and security forces throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These forces regularly clash with Hamas loyalists.

The surprise political victory in 2006 gave Hamas control of the Palestinian government. It also created a conflict with Israel and with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas refuses to accept Israel's right to exist and says it will not honor pre-existing treaties signed by the Palestinian Authority. In light of this, Israel, with the support of the United States and the European Union, launched a financial boycott of the Hamas-led government. Israel refused to pay the Palestinian Authority its monthly trade taxes, which Israel collects, and Washington has sought to freeze all bank transfers to the Palestinian Authority. The results deprived the authority's 150,000 civil servants of salaries for a time, but aid has continued to flow from the European Union and the United States via a specially devised "mechanism" that bypasses the Palestinian government.

Does the recent formation of a unity government change anything?

Hamas and Fatah signed a government power-sharing deal on Feb. 9, 2007, in Mecca. The agreement was an effort to curb violence related to ongoing tensions between the rival groups.

But recently, clashes between the groups' followers have reintroduced levels of violence similar to those reached before the unity government was formed.

Who are the key Fatah leaders?

Mohammed Dahlan

Mohammed Dahlan: Dahlan is one of the most powerful Fatah leaders in the Gaza Strip. Born in 1961 in a Palestinian refugee camp, Dahlan served several prison terms in Israel for terrorist activities. He is believed to have been one of the leaders of the 1987 intifada.
Dahlan was a member of the Palestinian delegation that negotiated the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993 with Israel. The accords set up the Palestinian Authority, which granted Palestinian governance of the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank. It also allowed the creation of Palestinian security forces. Dahlan served as the first head of security forces in Gaza.
Dahlan says he was jailed 10 times by Israel between 1981 and 1986. During his incarcerations, he learned to speak fluent Hebrew.

Marwan Barghouti

Marwan Barghouti: Barghouti is Fatah's most popular leader in the West Bank. Born in Ramallah in the late 1950s, Barghouti became active in Fatah at the age of 15. By age 18, he had spent time in an Israeli prison.
Barghouti was one of the major leaders of the first intifada, the Palestinian uprising that began in 1987. He was subsequently arrested and deported, but he was allowed to return in 1994. Soon after, Barghouti was elected to the Palestinian parliament, where he pushed for peace with Israel.
Barghouti was also a key leader of the second intifada, which began in 2000. He was arrested, tried and convicted in Israel of multiple murders and is now serving five life sentences in an Israeli jail. Barghouti's supporters deny his involvement and say he is being held as a political prisoner.

Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas: Abbas is the president of the Palestinian National Authority. Abbas, also called Abu Mazen, was born in what is now northern Israel in 1935. He was elected president of the Palestinian National Authority on Jan. 9, 2005, and took office six days later. Abbas also took over as chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 2004, succeeding Yasser Arafat.
Abbas is viewed as a moderate Palestinian politician that lacks the charisma of Yasser Arafat.

Who are the key Hamas leaders?

Ismail Haniyeh.

Ismail Haniyeh: Haniyeh is the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority.
Haniyeh, who is in his 40s, was born in a Palestinian refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. He graduated from an Islamic University in 1987, the same year Hamas was founded. Two years later, he was imprisoned by Israeli officials and later deported to Lebanon. He returned to Gaza in 1993.
On Dec. 14, 2006, Haniyeh, who had been traveling abroad, was stopped at the Rafah border crossing. He was believed to be carrying tens of millions of dollars in foreign donations for his cash-strapped government. Israeli border guards refused to let him enter.
A gun battle between Hamas militants and Palestinian security forces loyal to Fatah was reported in response to the incident. When Haniyeh later attempted to cross the border, an exchange of gunfire left one of his bodyguard's dead and his eldest son wounded. Hamas denounced the firefight, saying it was as an assassination attempt by rival Fatah, an accusation which prompted firefights in the West Bank and Gaza City between Fatah and Hamas forces.

Mohammed Deif

Born in 1960, Deif is the commander of the military wing of Hamas, a position he's believed to have held since July 2002. Deif spent several years at the top of Israel's most wanted list. In 2005 a tape of Deif surfaced in which the militant commander and bomb maker referred to "armed resistance" as "a legal weapon alongside political activity." He also threatened to make all of Palestine "hell" for Israel and encouraged insurgents in Iraq.


Khalid Meshal: The leader of both the military and political wings of Hamas in exile, Meshal lives in Damascus, Syria. He has called for the creation of a Palestinian army. Although he was a vocal critic of Yasser Arafat's leadership, Meshal attended the Palestinian leader's funeral in Cairo.
After the Hamas electoral victory in 2006, Meshal published an opinion piece in The Guardian which said, in part, "We shall never recognize the right of any power to rob us of our land and deny us our national rights. We shall never recognize the legitimacy of a Zionist state created on our soil in order to atone for somebody else's sins or solve somebody else's problem. But if you are willing to accept the principle of a long-term truce, we are prepared to negotiate the terms.

NPR's Eric Westervelt contributed reporting to this piece.

June 15th, 2007, 05:56 AM
Takeover by Hamas Illustrates Failure of Bush's Mideast Vision

By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 15, 2007

Five years ago this month, President Bush stood in the Rose Garden and laid out a vision for the Middle East that included Israel and a state called Palestine living together in peace. "I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror," the president declared.

The takeover this week of the Gaza Strip by the Hamas militant group dedicated to the elimination of Israel demonstrates how much that vision has failed to materialize, in part because of actions taken by the administration. The United States championed Israel's departure from the Gaza Strip as a first step toward peace and then pressed both Israelis and Palestinians to schedule legislative elections, which Hamas unexpectedly won. Now Hamas is the unchallenged power in Gaza.

After his reelection in 2004, Bush said he would use his "political capital" to help create a Palestinian state by the end of his second term. In his final 18 months as president, he faces the prospect of a shattered Palestinian Authority, a radical Islamic state on Israel's border and increasingly dwindling options to turn the tide against Hamas and create a functioning Palestinian state.

"The two-state vision is dead. It really is," said Edward G. Abington Jr., a former State Department official who was once an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas, whose bouts of vacillation have irritated U.S. officials, yesterday dissolved the Palestinian government in response to Hamas's takeover of Gaza. U.S. officials signaled that they will move quickly to persuade an international peace monitoring group -- known as the Quartet -- to lift aid restrictions on the Palestinian government, allowing direct aid to flow to the West Bank-based emergency government that Abbas will lead.

"There is no more Hamas-led government. It is gone," said a senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the administration must still consult with other members of the Quartet. He said that humanitarian aid will continue to Gaza, but that the dissolution of the Palestinian government is a singular moment that will allow the United States and its allies to create a "new model of engagement."

The evolving U.S. strategy would let the Hamas-run Gaza Strip fend for itself while attempting to bolster Abbas as a moderate leader who can actually govern and deliver peace with Israel. The senior administration official noted that Gaza has no territorial issues with Israel, since there are no Israelis in Gaza, so the Hamas entity there would have no stake in potential peace talks concerning the border on the West Bank.

Referring to Abbas, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters yesterday that "we fully support him in his decision to try and end this crisis for the Palestinian people and to give them an opportunity to return to peace and a better future."

But analysts said yesterday that this strategy of dividing the moderates from the extremists -- which was the core of Bush's 2002 speech -- proved ineffective and may have led to the dilemma facing the administration.

"The less we try to intervene and shape Palestinian politics, the better off we will be," said Robert Malley, an expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the International Crisis Group. "Almost every decision the United States has made to interfere with Palestinian politics has boomeranged."

Bush made his speech at the height of a bloody Palestinian uprising, after concluding that then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was too tied to terrorism to make peace. Bush ordered U.S. diplomats to never again meet with Arafat.

Under international pressure, Arafat agreed to name Abbas as a newly empowered prime minister in 2003. But Abbas quit within months, saying he never got enough support from the United States or Israel to be effective.

When Arafat died at the end of 2004, Abbas won the elections to replace him as president of the Palestinian Authority. Despite deep Israeli misgivings, the United States encouraged Abbas to hold Palestinian legislative elections -- and Abbas invited Hamas to participate, believing he could beat them at the polls. But Hamas won, giving Hamas control of the cabinet and of the powerful prime minister's post that had been created at the behest of the United States.

Then, Washington organized a financial boycott of the government, in an effort to showcase Abbas as a moderate alternative in his role as president. But the financial squeeze engendered Palestinian ill will toward the West, not Hamas, and Abbas earlier this year agreed to a unity government with his opponents. The United States had just begun delivering nonlethal aid and training to security forces loyal to Abbas when Hamas decided to strike and seize Gaza.

"The people who are moderate are not effective," said David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "And the people who are effective are not moderate."

Rice has been to Jerusalem four times since December, seeking to rekindle peace talks and to help the Palestinians and Israelis discuss what she called the "political horizon" -- the contours of a Palestinian state. But the discussions never progressed far, largely because of the political weakness of Abbas and his Israeli counterpart.

Before the Hamas takeover of Gaza, Bush and his aides had debated whether the president should make a speech marking the fifth anniversary of his Middle East address, on June 24, in part to rebut criticism that his administration has accomplished little to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Aides say now that those plans are up in the air. It is not clear what the president would say.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company

June 15th, 2007, 09:11 AM
I always find it such a reassuring sign when the soldiers of a nation take such pride in who they are and what they do that they wear ski-masks in the desert. :cool:

June 15th, 2007, 03:16 PM
With Gaza becoming a Hamas controlled Islamist mini-state with a strong desire to wipe Israel off the map we're in for some serious problems ahead.
If Hezbollah create an Islamist state in Lebanon, even if its restricted to just South Lebanon, and Hamas encouraged by their success in Gaza, start an uprising on the West Bank then Israel will be surrounded by its enemies. And lets not forget that Israel has a nuclear capability, and if push comes to shove ......
Syria & Iran are obviously providing backing for Hamas and Hezbollah yet there seems nothing the US or Europe can do to prevent this whole region unravelling at a frightening rate, they seem almost impotent in the face these radical Islamist forces. Dangerous times!

June 21st, 2007, 01:33 PM
Free Palestine!!

September 8th, 2007, 09:15 PM
This map shows palestinian loss of land 1946-2000


Every day palestinians lose more towns and cities,
The terrorist works done with a few hope to get land back, see this is wrong done because thats makes Isreal attacks and kills more and more and more

This days Israel stops attacking palestine people, then palestinians starts attack thim them selves, but this is wrong

September 8th, 2007, 11:06 PM
No part of the world more desperately needs a Mandela or Gandhi.

I'm sure that someone in the Mideast fit the role at some time, but he was killed or shunned.

September 10th, 2007, 08:43 AM
Fatah symbol


You forgot about that red word (العاصفة)
it means "Storm"
and that small white 4 words "حركة التحرير الوطنى الفلسطينى "

it means " The Local Haraka To Get The Freedom of Palestine"

September 11th, 2007, 12:39 PM
Israeil is the new South Africa. Apartheid seems to be their policy.

September 11th, 2007, 01:11 PM
Curious, how many people on here feel that Israel and our loyalty to them was a major cause of 9/11?

September 11th, 2007, 01:32 PM
I don't think it had much influence at all.

Osama had his own reasons and ties to US involvement for many MANY years.

September 11th, 2007, 02:43 PM
True but he actually does mention it in the Fatwa, or Declaration of War, he submitted but which was never really covered in American media. He mentioned Israel and our support of it's policies quite clearly and repeatedly (among many other things) in the document.
And then, there's this little bit at the end:
"My Muslim Brothers of The World:
Your brothers in Palestine and in the land of the two Holy Places are calling upon your help and asking you to take part in fighting against the enemy --your enemy and their enemy-- the Americans and the Israelis. they are asking you to do whatever you can, with one own means and ability, to expel the enemy, humiliated and defeated, out of the sanctities of Islam."

The fatwa, which is many pages long, lists many specific offenses, some having to do with Israel and some not. But it definitely is one of the factors.

September 11th, 2007, 03:14 PM
He is just using it as a recruitment plug.

He could have said "kill whitey" and gotten a similar response... :p

September 11th, 2007, 03:56 PM
Like I said, the references are repeated and go beyond the one excerpt I provided. Ninjahedge, believe it or not, Muslims are revolted by the situation in Palestine, as anyone would be if they were getting it on their TV each night. The idea that most Americans have of the reality in Palestine is rather vague, because the daily life of a Palestinian is almost NEVER talked about in the American mainstream media. Thus the incredulity when the typical American (especially the type that get their news from the New York Times or American TV news) is presented with the idea that the crimes against humanity occurring in Palestine might actually have something to do with the animosity toward America on the part of many Muslims. Despite what the AIPAC lobby, Rupert Murdoch and others would have you believe, Israel is most definitely part of the problem.

September 11th, 2007, 04:23 PM
So you think if Israel was not there that they never would have attacked?

That is what I am saying. It could have been any country or position down there, does not matter.

It was not the fulcrum of the action to attack the US. It was just a convienient poster child that helped recruitment with something that most in the area THOUGHT they knew more about (definitely more than the US at large).

I am not saying it did not have any influence on the actions taken, but it was not the big daddy. I think they would have done it whether Israel was there or not.

September 11th, 2007, 04:38 PM
So you think if Israel was not there that they never would have attacked?

I think it's pretty clear that isn't what I suggested.

September 11th, 2007, 07:46 PM
Israeil is the new South Africa. Apartheid seems to be their policy.Many Arabs and Muslims are citizens of Israel.

September 12th, 2007, 09:07 AM
Curious, how many people on here feel that Israel and our loyalty to them was a major cause of 9/11?

I think it's pretty clear that isn't what I suggested.

I never really said it was you that did! ;)

September 12th, 2007, 05:00 PM
The Arabs/Muslims in Israel are second class citizens.

September 12th, 2007, 05:38 PM
I think
The Arabs/Muslims in Israel are third class citizens.

September 12th, 2007, 07:05 PM
In what way?

September 13th, 2007, 12:32 PM
Institutional, legal, and societal discrimination against Muslim citizens.

September 13th, 2007, 01:36 PM
Since we are discussing apartheid (official policy), societal discrimination does not apply. Racism exists everywhere, regardless of government policy.

Institutional, legal: Do you have any examples of government policy that denies rights to citizens based on ethnicity or religion?

While there are problems with laws such as the reactionary entry laws passed a few years ago, I find it ridiculous that in a country where Arabs have always been members of the Knesset, where an Arab sits on the Supreme Court, where Arabs hold high-ranking positions in the military, its non Jewish citizens can be characterized as 2nd (or 3rd) class, and the country is described as as apartheid.

Mohamed: If you want an example of apartheid, research Jews in Egypt from the late 1920s to the 1950s. Take note of the 1947 law passed by the Egyptian parliament, the Company Law, or the 1956 proclamation by the Minister of Religious Affairs, stating "all Jews are Zionists and enemies of the state." Thousands were expelled and all their property confiscated. Out of a population of more than 100,000, there are now less than 100 Jews in Egypt.

Contrast the above with Israeli actions over the proposals of Meir Kahane (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meir_Kahane), who advocated that all Arabs be evicted from Israel. The government declared his political party (Kach) racist, and it was banned from the Knesset.

September 13th, 2007, 06:21 PM
Examples abound. It's understood that recent posts refer to and are limited to the situation within Israel proper, since we used the word "citizen". But that in no way excuses the very real and despicable apartheid-like policies which Israel has in place for the occupied territories where people are kept in what amounts to a gigantic open-air prison. And why should we ignore that in any discussion of the Israeli government? Technicalities of citizenship aside, the people in the occupied territories are at the control and mercy of Israel and it's highly advanced military.

But, since your question deals only with "Israel", I'll just start with the school system there.

This is the summary of a report by Human Rights Watch called


Nearly one in four of Israel's 1.6 million schoolchildren are educated in a public school system wholly separate from the majority. The children in this parallel school system are Israeli citizens of Palestinian Arab origin. Their schools are a world apart in quality from the public schools serving Israel's majority Jewish population. Often overcrowded and understaffed, poorly built, badly maintained, or simply unavailable, schools for Palestinian Arab children offer fewer facilities and educational opportunities than are offered other Israeli children. This report is about Israel's discrimination against its Palestinian Arab children in guaranteeing the right to education.

The Israeli government operates two separate school systems, one for Jewish children and one for Palestinian Arab children. Discrimination against Palestinian Arab children colors every aspect of the two systems. Education Ministry authorities have acknowledged that the ministry spends less per student in the Arab system than in the Jewish school system. The majority's schools also receive additional state and state-sponsored private funding for school construction and special programs through other government agencies. The gap is enormous--on every criterion measured by Israeli authorities.

The disparities between the two systems examined in this report are identified in part through a review of official statistics. These findings are tested and complemented by the findings of Human Rights Watch's on-site visits to twenty-six schools in the two systems and our interviews with students, parents, teachers, administrators, and national education authorities.

Palestinian Arab children attend schools with larger classes and fewer teachers than do those in the Jewish school system, with some children having to travel long distances to reach the nearest school. Arab schools also contrast dramatically with the larger system in their frequent lack of basic learning facilities like libraries, computers, science laboratories, and even recreation space. In no Arab school did we see specialized facilities, such as film editing studios or theater rooms that we saw as a sign of excellence in some of the Jewish schools we visited. Palestinian Arab children with disabilities are particularly marginalized, with special education teachers and facilities often unavailable in the system, despite the highly developed special education programs of the Jewish school system.

The unavailability of schools for three and four-year-old children in many communities, despite legislation making such schools--and attendance--obligatory, is matched by inadequate kindergarten construction for Palestinian Arab children throughout much of the country, particularly in the Negev. A Bedouin man in a recognized Bedouin town told us, "I have a daughter five years old. I thought last year with [former Education Minister] Yosi Sarid's promise she would go to [a government] preschool, but there were none there."1

A bar on school construction in some Palestinian Arab communities, in line with government policies pressing Palestinian Arab populations to move out of some areas, imposes enormous hardship on families with children and denies many children their right to an education. Poor school facilities and schools requiring travel over long distances result in children dropping out of the education system altogether at a very high rate.

The educational system has given a low priority to teacher training for the Arab school system and provides less "in-service" training to Palestinian Arab teachers already within the system than is routine within the majority system. Palestinian Arab teachers on average have lower qualifications and receive lower salaries than non-Palestinian Arab teachers. Financial incentives for teachers assigned in particularly deprived areas like parts of the Negev are lower than those made available to teachers in Jewish schools identified as hardship postings. Training in special education for teachers in the Arab school system has been largely insufficient.

Despite higher rates of disability among Palestinian Arabs, in the area of special education the Ministry of Education spends less proportionately on integration ("mainstreaming"), special education services, and special schools for Palestinian Arab children than it does for Jewish children. "We have been asking for special support for many years," the father of a disabled boy explained. "Usually we go to the Ministry of Education, and they tell us to go to the local municipality, and we go and are denied."2 Arab special education schools suffer from a scarcity of trained professionals, such as psychologists and speech therapists. Palestinian Arab children who cannot attend a regular school have only a tiny handful of schools to choose from, and there is often only one Arab school in the country for children with a particular disability. Many of these children must travel long distances daily or attend a Jewish school if one happens to be available. But Jewish special education schools are not designed for Palestinian Arab pupils. For example, speech therapists in some schools with both Jewish and Palestinian Arab hearing impaired students do not speak Arabic. For some families, the only option is keep their disabled children at home.

Palestinian Arab students study from a government-prescribed Arabic curriculum that is adapted second hand from the Hebrew curriculum: common subjects are developed with little or no Palestinian Arab participation and translated years after the Hebrew language material is published. The government devotes inadequate resources to developing the subjects unique to Arab education. No curricula in Arabic for special education existed until 2000, and it was not available in any of the Arab special education schools that Human Rights Watch visited. "We adapt curriculum from regular schools and try to make it easier," a school speech therapist explained.3 Palestinian Arab teachers have considerably less choice in textbooks and teaching material than do Jewish teachers.

The curricula's content often alienates students and teachers alike. For example, in Hebrew language class, Palestinian Arab students are required to study Jewish religious texts including Tanach (Jewish bible) and Jewish Talmudic scholars. This material is included in the mandatory subjects in the matriculation exams (bagrut) taken at the end of high school. A Hebrew language teacher in an Arab high school described her pupils' reaction: "Some children see it as imposed on them. It makes it hard for the teacher to motivate students to study. It doesn't relate to Arab children as a whole. . . but because of the bagrut we have to cover the material."4 Palestinian Arab students and teachers also expressed a desire to study more works of Palestinian writers and more about Palestinian history. The Ministry of Education has recently made some positive reforms in Arabic curricula, including in history, geography, and civics. However, many of these changes have not been fully implemented because textbooks and other teaching materials are lacking.

Discrimination at every level of the education system winnows out a progressively larger proportion of Palestinian Arab children as they progress through the school system--or channels those who persevere away from the opportunities of higher education. The hurdles Palestinian Arab students face from kindergarten to university function like a series of sieves with sequentially finer holes. At each stage, the education system filters out a higher proportion of Palestinian Arab students than Jewish students. Children denied access to kindergarten do less well in primary school. Children in dilapidated, distant, under-resourced schools have a far higher drop-out rate. Children who opt for vocational programs are often limited to preparation for work as "carpenters, machinists, or mechanics in a garage," as one school director told Human Rights Watch.5

Many Palestinian Arab students who might otherwise have academic or professional aspirations are barred from higher education by an examination system established firstly for the Jewish majority's school system--the point at which the two unequal systems converge. Palestinian Arab students who stay in school perform less well on national examinations, especially the matriculation examinations (bagrut)--the prerequisite for a high school diploma and university application. Others are weeded out by a required "psychometric" examination--generally described as an aptitude test-which Palestinian Arab educators describe as culturally weighted, a translation of the test given students of the Jewish school system. A consequence is that Palestinian Arabs seeking admission to university are rejected at a far higher rate than are Jewish applicants. All but 5.7 percent of the students receiving their first university degree in the 1998-1999 school year were Jewish.

The Israeli government has offered various other explanations for the gaps between Jewish and Palestinian Arab students' performance. These include poverty and cultural attitudes, especially regarding girls. Human Rights Watch found that in light of clear examples of state discrimination, neither poverty nor cultural attitudes adequately explained the existing gap. Indeed, in many instances, the data run directly contrary to the claim that these factors, and not discrimination, are at the root of the problem. Moreover, discrimination in education is cyclical and cumulative. When one generation has fewer educational opportunities of poorer quality, their children grow up in families with lower incomes and learn from less well-educated teachers.

Although low income Jewish students--especially new immigrant, Sephardic, or Mizrahi students6--face some of the same challenges related to poverty that Palestinian Arab students do, the government provides disadvantaged Jewish students with a battery of resources designed to improve academic performance and to keep them from dropping out. The remedial and enrichment resources made available for Jewish schools include extra school hours and remedial and enrichment programs, offered both during school hours and after school, as well as truant officers, counseling, and the opportunity for vocational education.

For Palestinian Arab students, the Ministry of Education uses a different instrument to measure disadvantage than it does for Jewish students and measures their need only against other Palestinian Arab students, not against Jewish students. Some Palestinian Arab students receive some enrichment and remedial programs, but Jewish students receive a proportionately much greater share despite Palestinian Arab students' greater need: a 2000 study by professors at Hebrew University found that Jewish students receive five times the amount of remedial instruction that Palestinian Arab students receive.7 Thus, while the Israeli government states that it has a kind of an affirmative action policy for needy students, this policy excludes and discriminates against Palestinian Arab students.

The Israeli government has, to a certain extent, acknowledged that its Arab education system is inferior to its Jewish education system. For example, it reported to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2001:

There is a great deal of variance in the resources allocated the education in the Arab versus the Jewish sector. These discrepancies are reflected in various aspects of education in the Arab sector, such as physical infrastructure, the average number of students per class, the number of enrichment hours, the extent of support services, and the level of education of professional staff.8
It also reported that in 1991, government investment per Palestinian Arab pupil was about 60 percent of its investment per Jewish pupil. In the last decade the government has appointed various committees to look at problematic aspects of education, such as education for Bedouin in the Negev and special education. These committees have found striking gaps in the way the government treats Jewish and Palestinian Arab students and made recommendations for fixing the problem. The Ministry of Education's Committee for Closing the Gap also pointed out the stark differences to the ministry's leadership in December 2000, although its principle mandate concerned the gaps among Jewish students.
Despite this compelling evidence, the government has failed to change the discriminatory way in which its education system operates. Instead, in the last decade, the government has promised lump sums of money, insufficient to equalize the two systems, and then largely failed to keep these promises. Funding for Arab education in most areas still does not even reflect Palestinian Arabs' representation in the population, much less begin to correct for years of past discrimination.

This neglect reflects the very low priority given Palestinian Arab students by the Israeli government--even by those responsible for the Arab education system. The system itself appears almost as an afterthought in the public statements of top education officials. The new education minister Limor Livnat, for example, appears to have completely overlooked her Palestinian Arab charges when she stated that she would like to see that "there is not a single child in Israel who doesn't learn the basics of Jewish and Zionist knowledge and values." She later explained that she was not referring to Palestinian Arab children.9

Worse, other Israeli education officials have been criticized in the news media for frankly racist statements. The head of the Educational Authority for Bedouins, Moshe Shohat, said in an interview with Jewish Week that Bedouin who complain about poor living conditions are "blood-thirsty Bedouins who commit polygamy, have 30 children and continue to expand their illegal settlements, taking over state land." When questioned about providing indoor plumbing in Bedouin schools, he responded: "In their culture they take care of their needs outdoors. They don't even know how to flush a toilet."10

Some Israeli government officials pointed out to Human Rights Watch the improvements in Arab education in the fifty-three year period since Israel's statehood.11 Yair Levin, the deputy director-general, head of international relations of the Ministry of Education, told Human Rights Watch: "For me there is no doubt that both gaps--Ashkenazi and Sephardic, and Jewish and Arab--will be closed in thirty to forty years. Thirty to forty years for history is nothing."12

The children who will pass through Israel's school system in the next forty years require more than this, as does international human rights law. At the present rate, Israel will not close the gap between Jewish and Arab education, even if it were to allocate equally annual allowances to schools. "If everyone gets more or less the same share in society and the gap is ignored, we will never close it when it comes to physical conditions of schools, the number of kids in class, and teachers' skills and training," Dr. Daphna Golan, the chair of the Committee for Closing the Gap in the Education Ministry's Pedagogical Secretariat, told Human Rights Watch.13 When Human Rights Watch asked Dalia Sprinzak, of the Education Ministry's Economics and Budgeting Administration, if she thought the gap between Jewish and Arab education would ever be closed, she answered, "It is very difficult. No, I don't think so. . . . But it is the right direction. Our expectations are too high that we can advance very quickly in this direction."14

Addressing the cumulative effect of generations of educational disadvantage upon Israel's Palestinian Arab citizens requires major new initiatives by the government of Israel. One-time influxes of funds are only a band-aid measure, not a cure. Parity in funding levels alone, even should this be provided, would not itself be enough to overcome the legacy of past failure to provide facilities conducive to learning. Closing the gap requires funding--and also political will. Israel should commit to equalizing every aspect of education, make the structural changes necessary to implement this commitment, and monitor the educational system to ensure that it is done. In short, it should institutionalize equality.

As long as the gap exists, Palestinian Arabs are not likely to feel like full citizens of Israel. An eleventh-grade high school student told Human Rights Watch, "There is no balance between what is given to [Jewish students] and what is given to us. I wrote one sentence in a letter to my friend in Gaza: `In order to dream and to work, we have to pay. It's difficult to fulfill our dreams in this country. It's not considered our country. We're like guests. And we're not welcomed guests.'"15

Palestinian Arabs are a significant minority of Israel's citizens. They make up 18.7 percent of the country's population and almost one-quarter of school-aged children.16 Of these, about 80 percent are Muslim, including the Bedouin and a small number of Circassians,17 about one-tenth are Christian, and slightly fewer are Druze, adherents of a monotheistic religion that originated in the late tenth and early eleventh century.18

Israel's Obligations under International and National Law

The right to education is universally recognized under international law. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a party, guarantee a right to education. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights also enshrines such a right. According to these international legal standards, the right to education must be enjoyed without discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, language, religion, national or social origin, property, or birth. The Convention against Discrimination in Education, to which ninety countries are parties and which Israel ratified in 1961, requires that if Israel maintains separate systems for Jews and Palestinian Arabs, the two systems must provide the same standard of education in equivalent conditions.

Although Israel's constitutional law does not explicitly recognize the right to education, its ordinary statutes effectively provide such a right.19 However, these laws, which prohibit discrimination by individual schools, do not specifically prohibit discrimination by the national government. And Israel's courts have yet to use either these laws or more general principles of equality to protect Palestinian Arab children from discrimination in education.

In this report, the word "child" refers to anyone under the age of eighteen. Article 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child defines as a child "every human being under the age of eighteen years unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier." Consistent with international law, Israeli law defines the period of minority as ending at age eighteen.20

Methodology and Scope

This report is based on research conducted in Israel in November and December 2000.21 During this period, Human Rights Watch visited twenty-six schools: Jewish and Arab; kindergarten, primary, and secondary; mainstream academic, vocational, and special education. The schools were almost all government schools, but we also visited several quasi-private schools in areas where such schools played an important role in educating Palestinian Arabs.22 We went to schools in urban and rural areas; schools in cities with mixed Palestinian Arab and Jewish populations; schools in cities that were primarily Jewish or Palestinian Arab; schools for Bedouin, which are part of the Arab education system, in northern and southern Israel, and in recognized and unrecognized communities; and Jewish schools in development towns with large immigrant populations.

At these schools we interviewed students, teachers (including teachers of Arabic, Hebrew, English, special education, geography, history, and vocational subjects), principals, coaches, speech therapists, reading specialists, psychologists, and social workers. We interviewed both girls and boys, among whom were student council presidents, musicians, and disabled students. We looked at classrooms, staff rooms, offices, bathrooms, and--where they existed--libraries, playgrounds, gymnasiums, science and computer laboratories, art and drama rooms, and production studios. We also interviewed parents, teachers, and students outside of the school setting, and we interviewed Bedouin university students about their pre-university education.

The names of all students have been changed to protect their privacy. Most teachers and administrators also requested confidentiality, and the principals of the Arab schools that we visited asked that we not name their schools.

Within the Education Ministry, we interviewed persons responsible for Arab education, including the head of the Arab education department, the director of Arab curriculum, and the inspectors for the subjects unique to Arab education, including Arab history and Arabic language and literature. We also spoke with persons in the ministry's Economics and Budget Administration, and the Pedagogical Secretariat, with the heads of the Haifa and Nazareth district offices, and, in Be'er Sheva, with the municipal official responsible for education. In addition, we met with education researchers at Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics23 and with both Palestinian Arab and Jewish staff of various nongovernmental organizations.

In the 1999-2000 school year, there were 3,407 primary and secondary schools in Israel.24 The twenty-six schools we visited were not a scientific sample, although we strove to visit schools in diverse areas and at different levels. Accordingly, wherever possible we have supplemented information from our firsthand observation and direct interviews with statistical data, primarily from the Ministry of Education and the Central Bureau of Statistics, for information on a national scale. Where there was conflict between data from various sources, this is indicated in the notes. Human Rights Watch has used the most recent data available at the time of writing. In some instances the statistical data includes schools in East Jerusalem supervised by the Ministry of Education and run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA); where data clearly excludes East Jerusalem, this is also indicated in a footnote.25

Out of all those in Arab schools, Bedouin who live in the Negev region, especially those in unrecognized villages, fare far worse by every measurement detailed in the report.26 Because of their small numbers--fewer than 2,100 per grade27--their situation is hidden in data about the Palestinian Arab population as a whole. Accordingly, wherever data about the Negev Bedouin was available, it is highlighted in this report.

This report does not address discrimination against Sephardic, Mizrahi, or Ethiopian Jews. Nor does it address discrimination at the university level or aspects of discrimination that are particular to East Jerusalem.28


Terminology regarding Israel's Arab citizens is highly politicized. Increasingly, individuals are rejecting the term "Israeli Arab," which is used by the Israeli government, in favor of "Palestinian Arab."29 Many, but not all, Druze and Bedouin in Israel also identify themselves as Palestinian Arab or a variation of the term.30 When referring to people, this report uses "Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel" or "Palestinian Arabs" because that is how most people we interviewed defined themselves. However, it should be noted that not everyone of Arab origin we interviewed identified herself or himself as Palestinian, and a few rejected the term altogether.

Schools in this report are referred to as "Jewish" and "Arab." These terms correspond with what all government English publications and many other sources call "Hebrew schools" and "Arab schools." Human Rights Watch has used "Jewish" both because it is one translation of the Hebrew word that is used for these schools and because it is parallel with "Arab." We use "Arab schools" and "Arab education" because this is the term that everyone, both Palestinian Arab and Jewish, used when we interviewed them.

from http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/israel2/ISRAEL0901-01.htm

September 13th, 2007, 06:35 PM
Then there is the matter of the "unrecognized":rolleyes: villages.

Human Rights Brief
A Legal Resource for the International Human Rights Community

Volume 6 Issue 1
Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
by Sarah C. Aird*

Since the Israeli government passed the National Planning and Building Law in 1965, life in the Arab-Israeli village of Hussaniya has been particularly difficult. The law effectively turned Hussaniya and tens of other villages like it into "unrecognized villages," the validity of which the Israeli government refuses to recognize. In essence, upon passage of this legislation, the government declared these communities illegal and claimed the land as state property. Although the government has not forcibly removed residents from these designated areas, it has created almost unbearable conditions for more than 60,000 Arab-Israeli villagers. The government's expectation was that these residents would eventually leave of their own accord, opening the region for Jewish-Israeli settlements.

The Israeli government's refusal to officially recognize these communities for more than 30 years has caused the residents tremendous hardship. The government rarely provides even the most limited services to these areas and made it illegal for private agencies to do so. As a consequence, residents in the unrecognized villages must survive without running water, electricity, sewage treatment facilities, schools, and health centers. In addition, villagers cannot receive mail at their homes because they are denied the right to use their local addresses. Finally, they are not represented in local government, and, although they may vote in national elections, the government makes this difficult by preventing them from claiming residency where they live.

After decades of suffering such unjust government policies, Hussaniya residents and other Arab-Israelis are finally challenging the status quo with the help of Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the first Arab-run legal center in Israel. Adalah is making important headway in the struggle for gaining legal rights for Arab-Israelis. For example, in 1997, Adalah filed two Supreme Court petitions that challenged government policies relating to unrecognized villages. In one petition, Adalah argued that the law obliges the government to provide preventative health services to all Israeli citizens regardless of whether their habitation is officially recognized. In the second petition, Adalah decried the government's policy of prohibiting select Israeli citizens from enjoying their right to an address. As a result of these petitions and other activities that Adalah has spearheaded, residents of the unrecognized villages are asserting the legitimacy of these communities for the first time, challenging government policy before Israel's highest court.

Hassan Jabareen, the Arab-Israeli founder of Adalah, established the organization in order to provide just such assistance to Arab-Israeli individuals and communities. Jabareen, who received his LL.M. from American University's Washington College of Law (WCL), first considered establishing Adalah when he was a fellow at WCL's New Israel Fund Law Fellows Program. The Fellows Program, which WCL professor Herman Schwartz established in 1983, brings Israeli lawyers to the law school to gain experience in the fields of civil liberties and civil rights law through classes and internships in the Washington, D.C. area. After one year of study and work in the U.S., the participants return to Israel and devote one year to completing internships with local civil rights organizations.

Jabareen conceived of the idea to create a legal center that would focus on the legal needs of the Arab-Israeli minority in Israel, which constitutes approximately 20% of the country's total population. He decided to name the organization Adalah, which means justice in Arabic. When he returned to Israel, he collaborated with an American law student from Georgetown University, Rina Rosenberg, and, together, they established this successful and innovative legal center. As part of its efforts, Adalah brings discrimination cases before Israeli courts, provides legal advice to Arab organizations, facilitates and organizes events concerning issues relevant to the Arab-Israeli community, and trains young Arab-Israeli lawyers and law students by providing internship opportunities at Adalah.

The need for Adalah is immense. Although Arab-Israelis living in unrecognized villages experience the effects of some of the most egregious and discriminatory policies of the Israeli government, Arab-Israelis throughout the country encounter official discrimination. This problem partially results from the fact that Israel has neither a formal written constitution, nor a bill of rights that effectively protects the interests of minority groups. Furthermore, although the Supreme Court shows a willingness to protect individual rights, it fails to recognize and protect Arab-Israelis as a national minority. Finally, instead of addressing Arab-Israelis as a coherent group, state policy characterizes Arab-Israeli citizens as members of religious minorities, and by so doing, de-emphasizes the history of Arabs as Palestinians prior to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

Another reason for the official discrimination against Israeli citizens of Arab descent is that Israel is a country with a dual personality. On the one hand, it is a formal democracy which vests citizens with the right to elect their representatives and promotes the concept of equal rights for all. Arab-Israelis, in this context, have the same rights as Jewish-Israelis to vote, establish their own political parties, worship, and express themselves freely. In addition, at least formally, government education, health, and social services are meant to benefit all citizens.

On the other hand, Israel was founded in order to provide a haven for Jews of all nationalities. Based on this premise, many Israeli laws privilege Jewish-Israelis and discriminate against the approximately 1,000,000 citizens of Arab descent. Adalah identified 20 laws as discriminatory against Arab-Israelis in its report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). These laws create a situation in which Arab-Israelis experience de jure inequality within their own country. One of these laws is the Law of Return, which allows any person of Jewish descent to immigrate to Israel and acquire citizenship automatically. This policy accomplishes the state's goal of providing a homeland for the Jewish people. The Law of Return causes hardships, however, for many displaced Palestinians who wish to return to the region that was their home prior to the establishment of Israel because they, unlike Jewish people, are not entitled to automatic grants of citizenship. As a result, Palestinians who fled or were expelled from what is now Israeli land during the 1948 war must now meet a set of criteria to return and be recognized as Israeli citizens. Additionally, the law does not permit family members of Arab-Israelis to reunite with their relatives and immigrate to the country with ease. Instead, it is left to the discretion of the Minister of the Interior to decide who shall be allowed to become a citizen, and the ministry expressed its preference for offering residency status, not citizenship, to non-Jews.

Since its founding in November 1996, Adalah staff members have worked at a vigorous pace to challenge these prejudicial laws and are achieving an impressive number of accomplishments. For example, during the first 18 months of its existence, Adalah filed four petitions with the Supreme Court regarding government funding for religious institutions, the rights of unrecognized villages, the right of Arab-Israeli children to have school transportation and access to academic enrichment programs, and language rights. The group also filed one petition at the district court level, filed a number of pre-petitions to the Attorney General's office, and presented a report to CERD that countered official state information on the treatment of ethnic and racial minorities in Israel. This was the first such report that an Arab non-governmental organization had produced. During this time, Adalah also sent letters to government ministries and offices detailing the legal issues involved in discriminatory policies and demanded action by those institutions, established links with numerous non-governmental organizations both in Israel and abroad, participated in several academic conferences, sponsored a legal seminar series, and trained several recent law school graduates. The organization focused its energies, in particular, on the following nine topics: land and housing rights, employment rights, education rights, language rights, cultural rights, religious rights, rights of unrecognized Arab-Israeli villages, women's rights, and the rights of Arab-Israeli institutions to fair government budget allocations.

It remains to be seen whether the status of the residents of Hussaniya and the other unrecognized villages will change any time soon, and it is unclear for how much longer Arab-Israelis will continue to experience the effects of discriminatory Israeli laws and policies. It is certain, however, that Adalah's efforts are leading the country further down the path of true democracy, toward a future that treats all citizens as equals regardless of ethnicity, religion, or race.

* Sarah C. Aird is a first year J.D. candidate at the Washington College of Law and a Junior Staff Writer for The Human Rights Brief.

The proper citation for this article in the Human Rights Brief Volume 6, Issue 1, beginning at page 12 is: 6 No. 1 Hum. Rts. Brief 12 (1998).

September 13th, 2007, 06:42 PM
Israel denies its Arab citizens their legal rights under Israeli law

Stephen Lendman
Date: September 11, 2007
Subject: Israel - Palestine
"Unrecognized" Palestinians - by Stephen Lendman

Israel's population today is about 7,150,000. About 5.4 million are Jews (76%) plus another 400,000 Jewish settlers in over 200 expanding settlements on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank that includes Palestinian East Jerusalem. They're the chosen ones afforded full rights and privileges under the laws of the Jewish state for Jews alone.

Palestinian Arabs are another story. Their population is around 5.3 million (plus six million or more in the Palestinian diaspora). Around 3.9 million live in occupied Gaza and the West Bank, and another 1.4 million are Jewish citizens of Israel (20% of the population), including about 260,000 classified as internally displaced. Palestinians get no rights afforded Jews even though those inside Israel are citizens of the Jewish state, have passports and IDs, and can vote in Knesset elections for what good it does them. They're subjected to constant abuse and neglect, are confined to 2% of the land plus 1% more for agricultural use, and are treated disdainfully as nonpersons.

Arab Israeli citizens live mainly in all-Arab towns and villages in three heartlands - the Galilee in the north; what's called the "Little Triangle" in the center that runs along the Israeli side of the Green Line separating Israel from the West Bank; and the Negev desert region in the country's south. These communities aren't geographically consolidated and are surrounded by established Jewish communities, hostile to Arab neighbors, and with Israel's full military might backing them. A minority of Palestinians also live uneasily in mixed Jewish-Arab cities like Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Haifa, Acre, Jerusalem in the West Bank and others.

The Plight of Palestinian Nonpersons in "Unrecognized Villages"

The term is Orwellian in its worst sense. How can something real not officially exist? Around 150,000 or more (accurate numbers are hard to come by) Palestinian Arabs today live in over 100 so-called "unrecognized villages," mainly in the Galilee and the Negev desert. They're unrecognized because their inhabitants are considered internal refugees who were forced to flee their original homes during Israel's 1948 "War of Independence" and were prevented from returning when it ended.

These villages were delegitimized by Israel's 1965 Planning and Construction Law that established a regulatory framework and national plan for future development. It zoned land for residential, agriculture and industrial use, forbade unlicensed construction, banned it on agricultural land, and stipulated where Israeli Jews and Palestinians could live. That's how apartheid worked in South Africa.

Existing communities are circumscribed on a map with blue lines around them. Areas inside the lines can be developed. Those outside cannot. For Jewish communities, great latitude is allowed for future expansion, and new communities are added as a result. In contrast, Palestinian areas are severely constricted leaving no room for expansion. Their land was reclassified as agricultural meaning no new construction is allowed. This meant entire communities became "unrecognized" and all homes and buildings there declared illegal, even the 95% of them built before the 1965 law passed. They're subject to demolition and inhabitant displacement at the whim of Israeli officials. They want new land for Jews and freely take it from Arab owners, helpless to stop it.

All Israeli public land is administered by the Israel Land Authority (ILA) that has a legal obligation to treat all its citizens fairly. Instead and with impunity, it serves Jewish interests only using various methods to do it.
It restricts and prohibits Palestinian land development by:

-- putting large Arab areas under its control through the creation of regional councils;

-- zoning restrictions mentioned above;

-- transferring public land adjacent to Arab communities to Jewish National Fund (JNF) ownership that mandates it's only for Jews;

-- connecting the cost of leasing land to military service that discriminates against Palestinians not required to serve and almost none do;

-- declaring national priority town areas for Jews only;

-- delaying, restricting and prohibiting local development in Arab communities;

-- ignoring Arab needs in regional and national plans;

-- allowing Palestinians little or no representation on national planning committees;

-- enforcing a policy of forced evictions and demolitions of buildings without appropriate permits. In "unrecognized villages," no permits are allowed Palestinians on their own land. Entire villages thus face prosecution in the courts and loss of their homes, land and possessions through a state-sponsored policy to remove them judicially.

It gets worse. No new Palestinian communities are allowed, and existing "unrecognized villages" are denied essential municipal services like clean drinking water, electricity, roads, transport, sanitation, education, healthcare, postal and telephone service, refuse removal and more because under the Planning and Construction Law they're illegal. The toll on their people is devastating:

-- clean water is unavailable almost everywhere unless people have access to well water,

-- the few available health services are inadequate,

-- many homes have no bathrooms, and no permits are allowed to build them,

-- only villages with private generators have electricity enough for lighting only,

-- no village is connected to the main road network,

-- some villages are fenced in prohibiting their residents from access to their traditional lands,

-- in the North, only one school remains open and children must travel 10 - 15 kilometers to attend another; as a result, achievement levels are low and dropout rates high.

It's worse still when home demolitions are ordered. It may stipulate Palestinians must do it themselves or be fined for contempt of court and face up to a year in prison. They may also have to cover the cost when Israeli bulldozers do it under a system of convoluted justice penalizing Palestinians twice over.

Discriminatory Israeli Law

Israel is a signatory to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Its Preamble states "the obligation of (signatory) States under the Charter of the United Nations to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and freedom." It then covers what states must observe in 53 Articles that stipulate the following:

-- "All people have the right of self-determination."

-- "Each state party....undertakes to respect and ensure to all individuals within its territory the rights in this Covenant, without distinction of any kind" for any reason.

-- "Every human being has the inherent right to life," to "be protected by law," and no activity may be undertaken to destroy any rights and freedom covered under this Covenant.

-- "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

-- "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention."

-- "Everyone....within the territory (shall) have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to chose his residence (and) to be free to leave any country (and not be) deprived of the right to enter (or return to) his own country."

-- "All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals."

-- "Everyone shall have the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law."

-- "All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law."

-- In states with "ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities (those persons) shall not be denied the (same) right(s)....as the other members."

In Israel, for all intents and purposes, the ICCPR is a nonstarter. It applies to Jews alone, not to Arabs and other non-Jews. Israeli laws allow it by subjecting non-Jews, and specifically Arabs, to three types of discrimination:

-- legal direct discrimination guaranteeing Jews alone the right to immigrate and become citizens; it also gives various Jewish organizations in the country quasi-government status serving Jews only.

-- indirect discrimination through "neutral" laws and criteria applying principally to Palestinians; government preferences and benefits are predicated on prior military service most Palestinians don't perform; the categorization of the country into preferential zones for Jews provides them privileges and benefits denied Palestinians.

-- institutional discrimination through a legal framework facilitating a pattern of privileges afforded Jews only; they're allocated through budgets and resources showing preferential treatment for Jews and discrimination against Palestinians; Israeli courts enforce the bias by refusing to hear cases where Palestinians claim their rights have been denied;

-- even when courts hear cases and rule favorably, Palestinians get only crumbs; an example was in the early September Supreme Court decision that Israel reroute part of its illegal apartheid wall and return a small portion of stolen land to the people of Bil'in; a far greater issue was ignored by allowing the illegal Modiin Illit settlement on Bil'in land to remain intact; for anti-occupation Gush Shalom, the court decision message to settlers is do as you please, build fast and expect court approval retrospectively.

Israel professes to be a democracy. It is not by any reasonable standard. It defines itself as a Jewish state which contradicts its claimed democratic credentials. It treats Jews preferentially and entitles them to special consideration denied non-Jews who are discriminated against as second-class citizens and denied comparable rights.

Israel has no formal constitution and instead is governed by its Basic Laws that before 1992 guaranteed no basic rights. That year, the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom passed authorizing the Knesset to overturn laws contrary to the right to dignity, life, freedom, privacy, property and to leave and enter the country. The law states "There shall be no violation of the life, body or dignity of any person. All persons are entitled to protection" of these rights, and "There shall be no deprivation or restriction of the liberty of a person by imprisonment, arrest, extradition or otherwise."

For a nation committed to violence, the irony is particularly galling that a section of the Basic Law also deals with "The Right to Life and Limb in Israeli Law." It states "Israeli law has abolished the death penalty for murder (and corporal punishment)." It notes this penalty exists in principle but only under limited circumstances such as for treason during war and under the Law for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. It further notes Israel's 1998 Good Samaritan Law requires assistance be given in situations "of immediate and severe danger to another." Omitted from the Basic Law is the right to equality so all rights in it apply to Jews only.

Palestinian Arabs have none, yet can stand for public office in the Knesset. Some do, a few are elected but have no power beyond a public stage to state their views and be shouted down or ignored. They're also constrained by the 1992 Law of Political Parties and section 7A(1) of the Basic Law that prohibits candidates for office from denying "the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people." No candidate may challenge the fundamental Jewish character of the state or demand equal rights, privileges and justice under the law for Arabs and Jews. The essential Zionist identity is inviolable, the rule of law works for Jews alone, and Palestinians are denied all rights, equal treatment and justice under a legal system for Jews that discriminates against Arab Muslims. In South Africa it was called apartheid.

The Current Plight of Palestinian Israeli Citizens in the Negev

About half the 160,000 Bedouin Arabs today face forced displacement in the Negev. Why? Because they live in dozens "unrecognized villages" making their homes illegal under Israeli law. They face imprisonment and fines if they refuse to leave so their land can be cleared, homes demolished, and the area Judaised for a Negev development plan. It's described as "A Miracle in the Desert" that aims to populate the area with a half million new Jewish residents in the next decade. Plans are for 25 new communities and 100,000 homes on cleared Bedouin lands. For the past two years, Israel has been ethnically cleansing the Negev and erasing Bedouin villages to make it possible.

All Bedouin Arabs in "unrecognized villages" face what those living in Tawil Abu Jarwal endured in January. The entire village was destroyed when the Israeli military (IDF), a large police contingent and special task forces, a helicopter and bulldozers came in January 9. They demolished all 21 of its homes that consisted of shacks, brick rooms and tents. It followed a month earlier assault when 17 other homes were destroyed and their residents forcibly displaced. The people became homeless, and 63 of them in January were children. In late 2006, Israel's interior minister, Roni Bar-On, announced his intention to destroy all 42,000 "illegal structures" in the Negev in a bandit declaration of planned forced ethnic cleansing against people helpless to stop it.

It's happening in Al-Sadir, Tel-Arad, Amara-Tarabin and on June 25 to Bedouin families in the small villages of Um al-Hiran and Atir that are homes to about 1000 people. Hundreds of police and Israeli security forces destroyed over 20 of their homes to make way for a Jewish community called Hiran to replace them. People living in them lost everything including their possessions they had no chance to remove. Haaretz reported Atir villagers lived there for 51 years after being transferred to the area in 1956 under martial law. The article continued saying the Israeli Regional Council of "Unrecognized Villages" will move displaced families to a refugee camp in the center of Jerusalem (where Bedouins don't wish to live) "as part of the government's (forced ethnic cleansing) relocation project" to make the "desert bloom" for new Jewish only communities.

This is what all Negev Bedouin Arabs now face unless something can stop it. Large numbers of them attended an early August protest conference. It was held in solidarity with unaffected Palestinians who together called on Arab and other countries to support their right to remain in their homes and denounce Israel's racist apartheid laws.

Arab Knesset member, Talab Al Sane, spoke on their behalf. So did Hussein Al Rafay'a, head of the regional council of the "unrecognized villages," who said Israel wants Palestinians to be refugees in their own lands and has been forcing them into this status by a policy of home demolitions and continued displacement. Arabs once owned 5.5 million dunams of land (550,000 hectares) in the Negev, he said. They now own less than 200,000 (20,000 hectares) and are threatened with losing all of it. "We will resort to the Security Council, and the international court (in the Hague) to provide the residents and their lands with needed protection."

With an assured US veto in the Security Council and Israel's record of ignoring UN resolutions and World Court rulings against it, there's little chance for success and every likelihood legal Israeli Arab citizens will continue being displaced from their own land.

Advocacy for Palestinian Arabs in "Unrecognized Villages"

Israel denies all Palestinians their basic rights. However, those living in so-called "unrecognized villages" face a special threat - demolition of their homes, loss of their land and possessions, and frightening displacement that will make them refugees along with millions of others in their own land. Few organizations advocate on their behalf, but a group that does is called The Association of Forty.

It's a grassroots NGO in Israel committed to promoting social justice for Israeli Arabs and to gain official recognition for their "unrecognized villages." It was formed in December, 1988 when Arab and Jewish residents from several of the affected villages and other areas formed the Association. It now "represents the residents of the 'unrecognized villages' and their problems, and promotes support locally and internationally" on their behalf. It seeks official recognition for the villages, an improvement in their living conditions, and "full rights and equality for the Arab citizens of the state" of Israel.

Its work consists of initiating "the preparation and implementation of active projects within these villages such as paving roads, improving existing roads and helping the residents to achieve their rights, to connect their villages to the network of water, electricity and telephones, to establish and operate kindergartens and clinics for mother and child care, and to obtain educational non-curricular activities for the schoolchildren...." It publishes a monthly newspaper, Sawt Al-Qura, has photographic exhibitions, films and documentaries that reflect the plight of the villages. It also organizes study days, holds local and international conferences, and participates in other international ones.

The Palestinians Enduring Struggle for Freedom and Justice

Palestinians today live under horrendous conditions. By any standard, they're appalling, repressive and in violation of fundamental human rights principles under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating:

-- "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."

-- "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms....in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind."

-- "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person."

-- "Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law."

-- "All are equal before the law and are entitled....to equal protection."

-- "Everyone has the right to own property (nor shall anyone) be arbitrarily (be) deprived of his property."

Israel offers these rights to Jews alone. It denies them to Palestinian Arab Muslims in violation of its own Basic Law professing "Fundamental human rights....founded upon recognition of the value of the human being, the sanctity of human life, and the principle that all persons are free." It continues stating the Basic Law of Israel "is to protect human dignity and liberty....(that) There shall be no violation of the property of a person....(that) All persons are entitled to protection of their life, body and dignity....(that) All government authorities are bound to respect the rights under this Basic Law."

The Basic Law also states Israel is a Jewish state, and the message is clear. All rights, benefits, privileges and protections are for Jews alone. All others are unwelcome, unwanted, unprotected, and unequal under the law. For them, justice unrecognized is justice denied and for Palestinians it's willful and with malice.

They face constant harassment, abuse and near daily assaults in the West Bank and even worse treatment under virtual imprisonment in Gaza. Their democratically elected government was ousted by a US-Israeli orchestrated coup in June to the shameless applause of Western leaders and silence from Arab ones. They're now isolated, surrounded and dangerously close to a humanitarian disaster affecting 1.4 million people.

It's no better for Israeli Palestinian citizens. They're nonpersons in their own land, are treated like intruders, given no rights, face constant harassment and mistreatment, get no justice, and face imminent loss of their homes, land, freedom and lives any time Israeli authorities wish to act against them. Yet they persist and endure as do their brethren in the Occupied Territories. They reach out to the world community, press their case, and a delegation from occupied Palestine stated it at the World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya in January.

It was a call to action and cry for help for "freedom, justice and (a) durable peace" and an end to six decades of repression. It called for a "global Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel until it ends its apartheid-like regime of discrimination, occupation and colonization, and respects the right of return of Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons."

It called for "Consumer boycotts of Israeli products; boycott of Israeli academic, athletic and cultural events and institutions complicit in human rights abuses; divestment from Israeli companies (and) international companies involved in perpetuating injustice, and pressuring governments to impose sanctions on Israel...."

Silence is not an option, and people of conscience can help. Noted author and documentary filmmaker, John Pilger, believes "something is changing," and he saw it in a recent full page New York Times ad having a "distinct odour of panic." It called for boycotting Israel, and Pilger senses the "swell....is growing inexorably, as if an important marker has been passed (and it's) reminiscent of the boycotts that led to sanctions against apartheid South Africa.....once distant voices," notes Pilger, have "gone global," it caught Israel off guard and may signal change. But not easily or fast and may not happen at all unless global pressure becomes mass public outrage that this injustice no longer will be tolerated by people of conscience anywhere.

link: http://www.freedomsphoenix.com/Feature-Article.htm?InfoNo=023609

September 13th, 2007, 07:42 PM
Silence is not an option, and people of conscience can help. Noted author and documentary filmmaker, John Pilger, believes "something is changing," and he saw it in a recent full page New York Times ad having a "distinct odour of panic." It called for boycotting Israel, and Pilger senses the "swell....is growing inexorably, as if an important marker has been passed (and it's) reminiscent of the boycotts that led to sanctions against apartheid South Africa.....once distant voices," notes Pilger, have "gone global," it caught Israel off guard and may signal change. But not easily or fast and may not happen at all unless global pressure becomes mass public outrage that this injustice no longer will be tolerated by people of conscience anywhere.

link: http://www.freedomsphoenix.com/Feature-Article.htm?InfoNo=023609

It is good to hear all sides of the story: In the words of E.SAID (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Said) - "So far as the United States seems to be concerned, it is only a slight overstatement to say that Moslems and Arabs are essentially seen as either oil suppliers or potential terrorists. Very little of the detail, the human density, the passion of Arab-Moslem life has entered the awareness of even those people whose profession it is to report the Arab world. What we have instead is a series of crude, essentialized caricatures of the Islamic world presented in such a way as to make that world vulnerable to military aggression." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Said

September 14th, 2007, 09:49 AM
Although input and supporting information is appreciated MTG, when you put too much too close together you get a "flooding" feeling.

You may want to preface some thnigs and just provide the links rather than several pages of ctrl-V....

Just a thought.... :cool:

September 14th, 2007, 09:57 AM
whatever, big man.

Until you become a moderator, you post your way and I'll post mine.:rolleyes:

September 14th, 2007, 12:01 PM
What I am trying to say is that I did not read a word of what you said, or posted, because it took too long to read it.

Others will do the same. If you are only trying to talk to one person, fine. But if you are trying to communicate, truly get YOUR opinion out to many, you are not going to do it this way.

You can do it however the hell you want. Please don't pull the "when you are moderator" bullcrap. I was only telling you that all but the most ardent followers of this discussion are not going to read the telephone books you posted.

Kill the thread. :rolleyes:

/me thinks of quoting MTG's entire posts........ :evilgrin:

September 14th, 2007, 03:23 PM
Ninjahedge: Don't bother addressing me, I don't read your posts. I gave up on you a long time ago, so just save your breath.

September 14th, 2007, 03:25 PM
You may be the only one who talks out loud when he types his posts. I don't.

Thanks for being so communal, and good luck getting anyone to read your exhaustive drive-by ctrl-V.

September 14th, 2007, 03:27 PM
PS, nice waste of your "2000th post".

Idgit. :p

September 14th, 2007, 03:27 PM
blah blah blah

September 14th, 2007, 03:30 PM
Remove user from ignore list (http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/profile.php?userlist=ignore&do=removelist&u=3964)
MidtownGuy (http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/member.php?u=3964) This message is hidden because MidtownGuy is on your ignore list (http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/profile.php?do=editlist)

Did I say Idjit yet?

September 17th, 2007, 01:13 PM
I've not read such a tirade of anti-Israel sentiment for a long time, thanks MTG.
It's always the "poor" Plaestinians vs the Israeli "bad guys" - where does that get us, precisely nowhere! Its just part of the anti-semitism that masquerades as genuine concerned comment!

September 18th, 2007, 10:06 AM
That's a big load of rubbish, pure and simple.
"tirade of anti-Israel sentiment"? Is that what they're calling the truth nowadays?
Anyone tells the real situation in Israel and Palestine and right away it is called anti-semitism. In fact, any word uttered against the actions of any Jew anywhere, is "anti-semitism" according to the likes of you. How typical and how disingenuous.
As far as getting "precisely nowhere" you can more accurately chalk that up to Israel's continued insistence on illegal occupation.
Some nerve you've got, passing judgement on how genuine my concern is. Again, how typical of Israel apologists.
Can't dispute the facts, so you attack the messenger. Whatever.

September 19th, 2007, 07:51 AM
That's a big load of rubbish, pure and simple.
I just love a well-balanced considered intellectual response from MTG - perhaps one day I'll get one! [no, I take that back, its a cheap shot! :)]

"tirade of anti-Israel sentiment"? Is that what they're calling the truth nowadays?
No, its called Palestinian propaganda, its time you learnt to differentiate between the two MTG.

Anyone tells the real situation in Israel and Palestine and right away it is called anti-semitism. In fact, any word uttered against the actions of any Jew anywhere, is "anti-semitism" according to the likes of you. How typical and how disingenuous.
No, not "typical" nor "disingenuous" - TRUE.

As far as getting "precisely nowhere" you can more accurately chalk that up to Israel's continued insistence on illegal occupation.
As a "moderate" (??) Palestinian Isalmic cleric said: "Palestinians spearhead Allah's war against the Jews. The dead shall not rise until the Palestinians shall kill all the Jews and destroy the state of Israel...."
As I said such views get us "precisely nowhere".

Some nerve you've got, passing judgement on how genuine my concern is. Again, how typical of Israel apologists.
Can't dispute the facts, so you attack the messenger. Whatever.
Lets address some factual errors here.
Firstly its not "typical", and secondly I am not an apologist for Israel. I recognise that no one side is totally to blame, Israel too has to compromise - the question is, how can you compromise with an enemy that is out to destroy your very being? Its time Syria & Iran stopped sponsoring Islamic terrorists like Hezbollah whose only objective is to wipe out Israel by whatever means it takes.

September 19th, 2007, 09:04 AM
No, its called Palestinian propaganda, its time you learnt to differentiate between the two MTG.

This would be easier to take seriously if you weren't the board's leading poster of agitprop, Capn.

Calling Human Rights Watch (http://www.hrw.org/) "Palestinian propaganda" is ridiculous.
In case you hadn't noticed, Hezbollah (http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/08/29/lebano16763.htm) isn't thrilled with HRW either.

I'm not so familiar with Midtown Guy's other sources, but HRW is even-handed and pulls no punches. He's entirely right to cite it.

September 19th, 2007, 09:22 AM
This would be easier to take seriously if you weren't the board's leading poster of agitprop, Capn.

Calling Human Rights Watch (http://www.hrw.org/) "Palestinian propaganda" is ridiculous.
I have great respect for HRW. I was simply referring to the essay by Stephen Lendman that came from the freedomsphoenic link. A purely one-sided view.

I'm not so familiar with Midtown Guy's other sources, but HRW is even-handed and pulls no punches. He's entirely right to cite it.
Myabe right to cite it in your view 212 but in mine it portrays a lack of balance in what is a very sensitive area where there are no absolutes. Unlike MTG I did at least acknowledge the fact that neither side is without blame even when called an apologist for Israel!

September 19th, 2007, 09:29 AM
Does anyone find it very odd/ironic when a religion that was so intolerant of another is its best buddy when it comes to a religion they see as more "inappropriate"?

I wonder what would happen to Israel if there was no Islamic aggression towards it. How long before we go back to the good old-fasioned Christian Jew-Bashing of yesteryear?


September 19th, 2007, 12:13 PM
To answer your question Ninja, I believe its the aggressive intolerant nature of some strands of Islam that lies behind what you are implying. Also the fact that "suicide", in the form of strapping bomb belts around the waists of women, children and men and walking into crowded public places to kill indiscriminately is not part of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Suicide is in fact a sin to most Christians.

If there was no aggression towards Israel then it would live in peace with its neighbours - why not? As for "old-fashioned Christian Jew-bashing" as you so politely call it, well most people have surely learnt lessons from recent history, eg., Nazi Germany, although its interesting how the Ba-ath party in both Syria & Iraq hero-worship Hitler! There are still some extreme right-wing lunatics who believe in the so-called World Jewish Conspiracy nonsense!

September 19th, 2007, 05:17 PM
Suicide is in fact a sin to most Christians.

To Muslims as well.

If there was no aggression towards Israel then it would live in peace with its neighbours

So, peaceful and innocent Israel, according to your warped view, merely responds to the attacks of others...the vicious occupation of millions of people who are denied the necessities of a decent life has nothing to do with it. Oh, I get it. Bulldozing homes is peaceful, cutting people off from the land that gives them FOOD to eat is non-agressive. Yeah, right.
You want people to stop attacking Israel? Then put an end to the damned Occupation. Period. Until that happens, Israelis have no right to live in peace...why should they have peace when homes and lives are being destroyed by their military. Palestinians, of course, shouldn't defend themselves or fight for their land..that would be terrorism. What a f**ked up view of how life works.

September 19th, 2007, 08:32 PM
^ Post-occupation Gaza hasn't been a big success.
Would the West Bank do better?

September 19th, 2007, 09:57 PM
Is Gaza really an independent state?
Are you fully aware of the living conditions in Gaza?

September 19th, 2007, 10:21 PM
I try to keep up.
How does Israel intrude less in Gaza while protecting its own civilians across the border?

September 20th, 2007, 12:14 AM

You sound as if the occupation is tenable in the long run. It isn't. There IS no protection greater than living in peace.
It isn't about just "intruding less"... it is about giving 3.7 million people the freedom that all humans deserve, the same rights you want for yourself and your children if you have any.
You don't "intrude less". You end the occupation.

September 20th, 2007, 01:26 AM
Israeli settlements are gone from the Gaza Strip.

Israeli control of Gaza's air space, waters and land borders continues.

If that control ended, Hamas would probably succeed in importing rockets capable of striking major Israeli population centers, and would hide the launchers throughout Gaza City.
Would you view this as a problem?

September 20th, 2007, 02:03 AM
Obviously everything needs to happen within the context of a peace process that eliminates the desire to blast each other to smithereens. I am not talking about only Gaza, you are the one that keeps talking about Gaza like it exists in a vacuum. I am talking about what happens in the context of the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state with all the attributes of any other sovereign state. And no, not the swiss-cheese assemblage of parcels that was offered by Ehud Barak. (Permeated by the illegal settlements and the same Israeli road system connecting them).
When you stop f**king with people and give them a motivation to work WITH you they generally stop f**king with you. Israel has an advanced military that can blow up all of Gaza in a series of blasts. Hamas isn't stupid. Other peoples in history that were bitter enemies have made peace. Why do you deny the humanity of Palestinians by suggesting that they are incapable of peace (and would be launching rockets right after the white peace doves were launched by Israel)? This is the same old rhetoric about Arabs "not being real partners in peace", that they would try to destroy Israel the second a Palestinian state was established. It's bunk. 1967 was a long time ago and Arabs know the deal now. Believe it or not, the vast majority of them would rather do business with you than blow you up with an explosive belt.

September 20th, 2007, 04:51 AM
To Muslims as well.
Well consider this then:

So, peaceful and innocent Israel, according to your warped view, merely responds to the attacks of others...the vicious occupation of millions of people who are denied the necessities of a decent life has nothing to do with it. Oh, I get it. Bulldozing homes is peaceful, cutting people off from the land that gives them FOOD to eat is non-agressive. Yeah, right.
You want people to stop attacking Israel? Then put an end to the damned Occupation. Period. Until that happens, Israelis have no right to live in peace...why should they have peace when homes and lives are being destroyed by their military. Palestinians, of course, shouldn't defend themselves or fight for their land..that would be terrorism. What a f**ked up view of how life works.

Calm down MTG, take a chill pill and regain your rationality. The important fact you seem to overlook, (knowingly or unknowingly?), is that it is the declared aim & policy of Hamas (who now control Gaza), to kill all Jews & wipe out the state of Israel. Ditto for President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a man who incidentally believes the holocaust is just a myth! He also hero worships Adolf Hitler!
According to reports in yesterdays Daily Mail, General Mohammed Alavi, deputy commander of the Iranian air force said plans had been drawn up to bomb Israel, boasting that "the whole territory of the Jewish regime is within the range of our missiles."

Meanwhile Iran is also secretly working with Syria in the illegal manufacture of chemical weapons at a secret plant in the Syrian desert. Scores were killed in a horrific accident there in July, according to Western military intelligence. Jane's Defence Weekly said a blast occured as Syrian & Iranian officers tried to arm a Scud-C missile with a warhead containing mustard gas. SANA, the official Syrian news agency, said 15 Syrian military personnel had been "martyred" in the explosion. Jane's said dozens of Iranian personnel were also killed. The explosion released a cloud of chemical agents being manufactured at the plant, including mustard gas, VX gas and sarin nerve gas.

I would have some sympathy for the Palestinian, (& their allies), cause if they showed any sign of willingness to compromise but they don't, yet you defend them wholeheartedly. The aggression is coming from armed military groups like Hezbollah & Hamas, backed by Syria & Iran, who also share the vision of exterminating Israel. The fascist strand of Islam only wants one thing, the death of Israel & all Jews. Wake up MTG and smell the coffee for heavens sake!

September 20th, 2007, 11:44 AM
Where do you think all that animosity comes from? Was it there before the Palestinians were kicked off of their land and forced to become refugees? Were there suicide bombers in Palestine before the Israelis decided to set up an apartheid state?
You need to wake up and smell the occupation!

September 20th, 2007, 12:33 PM
MTG, we are where we are, and until we face up to that fact we're forever going to be debating history with ever more circular arguments, whilst the problem remains unresolved and festering.

The Arab world cared nothing for the Palestinians, and indeed did nothing for them, until they realised they could use them as pawns in their fight against the Jews & Israel. It was, and is, as cynical as that, and this fact has long been acknowledged by many leading Palestinians.

You asked: "Where do you think all that animosity comes from?" Just to revert to history for a moment, back on 27 May 1967, Presdient Nasser of Egypt declared: "Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel and the Jews. The Arab people want to fight and will fight." The animosity has always been there between the Arabs and their hatred for the Jews. Accept the fact MTG. It's been passed down from one generation to another and will continue until the Arabs see sense and want to break with this hatred.

What Nasser had in mind was nothing short of a large-scale war to destroy Israel. He had signed a pact with Syria and Jordan to conduct a three-pronged attack on Israel. On 16 May, he had ordered UN peace-keeping forces to withdraw from the Eygptian-Israeli border.
The odds were stacked against Israel.

Combatant Forces:

Egypt: 400,000 Israel: 200,000
Jordan: 60,000
Syria: 350,000

Totals: 810,000 200,000

As history shows the Arabs were defeated on this occasion but they have tried again and no doubt will continue to do so.

Mindsets need to be broken and those particualrly on the radical Islamic side need to realise that there'll be no solution without compromise and acceptance of the state of Israel and its right to exist as the homeland of the Jewish people.

September 20th, 2007, 12:53 PM
deputy commander of the Iranian air force said plans had been drawn up to bomb Israel, boasting that "the whole territory of the Jewish regime is within the range of our missiles."

Ah, just as the whole territory of Iran is within the range of Israel's plethora of nuclear and chemical weapons? Sounds like the cherry-picked piece of a statement and the accompanying bit of paraphrasing you quoted above was taken out of context. I highly doubt they mean to start a war by bombing Israel. Perhaps it was meant in a retaliatory sense. Is it possible that perhaps Iran is responding to what they see as an Israeli threat? As I'm sure you are well aware, Israel has one of the most modern and active militaries in the world. Anyone that is living next to a power such as Israel, which has repeatedly breached international laws since its establishment, had damn well better be able to deter attack.

September 20th, 2007, 01:00 PM
An interesting experiment...
take your statement:
"Mindsets need to be broken and those particularly on the radical Islamic side need to realise that there'll be no solution without compromise and acceptance of the state of Israel and its right to exist as the homeland of the Jewish people."

and I could just as easily say

"Mindsets need to be broken and those particularly on the radical Zionist/Settler side need to realise that there'll be no solution without compromise and acceptance of a state of Palestine and its right to exist as the homeland of the Palestinian people, side by side with Israel and just as was prescribed in 1947."

September 20th, 2007, 01:16 PM
Mindsets need to be broken

Well, that does seem to be the the Likud view -- that the Palestinians can and should be threatened, forced, humiliated, cornered into giving up permanently the best land in the West Bank.

Birdseye, do you think that's morally justifiable?

Here's the West Bank, 2.5 million Palestinians and 250,000 Israelis. Israeli settlements are in red.

Full size map here (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/d8/Westbankjan06.jpg).

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/d/d8/Westbankjan06.jpg/359px-Westbankjan06.jpg (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/d8/Westbankjan06.jpg)

September 20th, 2007, 02:00 PM
MTG, I've no problem with a democratic Palestinian state that accepts the existence of Israel and is prepared to live in peace & harmony. Trouble is, the Palestinians voted for Hamas who are committed to destroying Israel and the Jews.
Funny how democracy sometimes doesn't always produce the result some want! The answer lies in the hands of the Palestinian people and who they vote for - simple!

September 20th, 2007, 02:05 PM
No matter how well you build it, constructing a house in the middle of a river will get you leaks.

You either have to build it out of the flow of the water, or find a way to divert the flow upstream of where you are going to build.

Getting angry at the water may be justifiable, but it will not solve the problem.

September 20th, 2007, 03:50 PM
and I could just as easily say

"Mindsets need to be broken and those particularly on the radical Zionist/Settler side need to realise that there'll be no solution without compromise and acceptance of a state of Palestine and its right to exist as the homeland of the Palestinian people, side by side with Israel and just as was prescribed in 1947."Radical/Zionist settlers are not the government of Israel, and their mindset is not that of the majority. Radical/Zionist settlers have been removed from territory by the Israeli government. Radical/Zionist settlers were removed from the Sinai (occupied since the 1967 war), and the land was returned to Egypt in 1979. Why? Because Egypt recognized Israel as a sovereign state, they signed a peace treaty and normalized relations.

Although radicals/Zionists, such as the Jewish terrorist group Irgun, rejected the UN Partition Plan, the majority of Jews and the proto-Israeli nation accepted that there should be two states (not a state and territories) existing side by side. It was the Palestinian Arabs and the Arab League that rejected the resolution. Sixty years later, the Palestinians elected a government that still doesn't accept the resolution.

Hamas isn't stupid. Other peoples in history that were bitter enemies have made peace. Why do you deny the humanity of Palestinians by suggesting that they are incapable of peace (and would be launching rockets right after the white peace doves were launched by Israel)?Although it sounds nice, peace isn't made between populations, but between governments. Has Hamas indicated it is ready to accept the concept of a sovereign Israel? Egypt and Jordan did, and they've signed peace treaties with Israel.

I am talking about what happens in the context of the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state with all the attributes of any other sovereign state.How do we get two contiguous countries?

Trouble is, the Palestinians voted for HezbollahHamas

No matter how well you build it....Should I split off a thread to decipher the analogy. I'm not quite sure what the water represents.

Can't you just say what you mean?

September 20th, 2007, 04:11 PM
As long as Hezbollah is incharge I doubt a Palestinian State can happen. They voted is one of the worst terrorist organizations in the history o fthe world. Now I feel for them and think like most people they deserve a homeland and more land then they have no but I dont think we or anyone should discuss this until Hezbollah is gone

September 20th, 2007, 04:31 PM
Radical/Zionist settlers are not the government of Israel, and their mindset is not that of the majority.

The government of Israel is composed of Zionists. Period. How radical they are is, I suppose, a matter of opinion. Just like in Capn-Birdseye's statement upon which mine was modeled when it refers to the "radical" Islamics.

Radical/Zionist settlers have been removed from territory by the Israeli government.

Sure, as they were being installed elsewhere, and as the checkpoints across the West Bank multiplied.

It was the Palestinian Arabs and the Arab League that rejected the resolution. Sixty years later, the Palestinians elected a government that still doesn't accept the resolution.

Skipped a lot of history there, didn't you? Of course, Israel has set up the apartheid system that we are discussing during those 60 years so it might not be useful to gloss over things so casually if trying to get a real understanding of why Hamas was elected. I'm not sure it's very useful to continue mentioning the election of Hamas in the (implied) sense of it being a display of Palestinian obstinacy or something. Elections in a hell zone such as Gaza, where people are sitting on top of their bulldozed homes within a blocked off open-air prison, are likely to produce unwanted and unfathomable (from the outside at least) results. Again, the Occupation itself is the root problem. It may not have been in 1947 or 1967, but it sure is now.

Has Hamas indicated it is ready to accept the concept of a sovereign Israel?

So, now the excuse is Hamas? What about those 60 years you liked mentioning? Yeah, I know, Arafat. He was a blank blank blank. He refused a good deal. (horse hockey).
The real truth is Israel has never made an offer dignified or viable enough to be considered by even the most accommodating Palestinians.

September 20th, 2007, 05:24 PM
The government of Israel is composed of Zionists. Period.I'm glad you cleared that up.

How radical they are is, I suppose, a matter of opinion.I assumed that the period meant it was not open for opinion.

BTW, since Oslo, opinion polls in Israel have consistently shown majority support for a Palestinian state. I'll let you decide how radical that is.

Just like in Capn-Birdseye's statement upon which mine was modeled when it refers to the "radical" Islamics.Please atttribute and inferences you draw from Capn_Birdeseye's quotes to Capn_Birdseye. He and I disagree on many things.

Skipped a lot of history there, didn't you?Just taking you the the startpoint. Have not seen much change throughout the decades of the PLO, Fatah, Popular Liberation Front, etc., as well as the hostile environment provided as a backdrop by the neighboring states. I see no reason to rehash it.

I'm not sure it's very useful to continue mentioning the election of Hamas in the (implied) sense of it being a display of Palestinian obstinacy or something.I never implied anything of the sort, just the reality that the Israeli government has to deal with a Palestinian government, not the population.

Elections in a hell zone such as Gaza, where people are sitting on top of their bulldozed homes within a blocked off open-air prison, are likely to produce unwanted and unfathomable (from the outside at least) results.

So, now the excuse is Hamas?For you it's an explanation, but for me it's an excuse? Hardly seems fair.

What about those 60 years you liked mentioning?What about them?

Yeah, I know, Arafat. He was a blank blank blank. He refused a good deal. (horse hockey).Glad I didn't answer the above, since you provided a response and refutation. And the horse hockey (I assume that's horse shit) remark shows me it would have been a waste of time.

The real truth is Israel has never made an offer dignified or viable enough to be considered by even the most accommodating Palestinians.Ah, so you have the real truth, and everything counter is what, a lie? An example of the sort of absolute thinking on both sides that has contributed to this stalemate.

September 20th, 2007, 05:42 PM
How do we get two contiguous countries?

We could extend land from the West Bank amd Gaza into a progressively narrower wedge until they "kiss" in the middle. At that point, is a neutral "village" which will consist of people voluntarily living and working on joint cooperative efforts between Israel and Palestine in a spirit of peace.

With a clever highway design Palestinians can move East to West and Israelis North to South across the "kissing point" without any need for confusion.


September 20th, 2007, 06:03 PM
Have not seen much change throughout the decades of the PLO, Fatah, Popular Liberation Front, etc., as well as the hostile environment provided as a backdrop by the neighboring states.

Yes, all decades of the brutal occupation... and a multifaceted Palestinian population with diverse ideas of what it means to fight for freedom. So, you haven't seen much change because life in the occupied territories has become progressively more hellish. And when you create a hell, you produce demons. Demeaned and ever more desperate for freedom... from checkpoints and trigger happy 20 yr.-old Israeli soldiers... from not being able to get to work, school, or a hospital. People in such conditions will get behind anyone that gives them hope, some food, or appears to be fighting in their best interest whether or not it's true, even if they are assholes like Hamas.

As far as the hostile environment from neighboring states, that is too broad of a statement to consider. As you've pointed out, they are at peace with some of them, and with others like Syria there is a whole other thing of the Golan Heights where that history is concerned. In general, other Arabs see on their TV and in their newspapers every day the accounts of Israeli aggression against Palestinian civilians who often have nothing to do with Hamas or whoever. They can't help but be affected by that if you ask them their opinion of Israel.

September 20th, 2007, 06:10 PM
Ah, so you have the real truth, and everything counter is what, a lie?
Well, in this specific case, if someone said that Israel DID offer a reasonable and viable solution then YES, I would say it is a lie because attributes of the past proposals such as the one at Camp David were not conducive to a viable independent state.

Glad I didn't answer the above, since you provided a response and refutation. And the horse hockey (I assume that's horse shit) remark shows me it would have been a waste of time.

You're right you know...I've heard all the typical anti-Arafat attacks before.

September 20th, 2007, 07:30 PM
Yes, all decades of the brutal occupation...
Everyone talks about the Occupied Territories (we must capitalize it), but no one seems to remember how they got to be occupied.

It wasn't in 1967, but 1949, after the Arab League lost the war with Israel. Transjordan (former Jordan) annexed the West Bank, and held it until the 1967 war. They formally renounced claim to the territory in 1988.

Also in 1949, Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip. They installed a military governor, and forbade Palestinians from traveling to Israel. Many terrorist attacks were launched into Israel prior to the 1967 version of The Occupation. The PLO itself was founded in 1964, its charter calling for the dismantling of Israel. The occupation they were referring to was the 1949 UN partition.

From an Israeli perspective, terrorist attacks were no different pre and post 1967.

And when you create a hell, you produce demons.Israel alone created this hell, in a vacuum?

trigger happy 20 yr.-old Israeli soldiers...A bomb found in a 12 year old Palestinian girl's schoolbag...

not being able to get to work, school, or a hospital.Not knowing if the bus your sitting in will remain in one piece.

Should we trade anecdotes? Seems pointless.

In general, other Arabs see on their TV and in their newspapers every day the accounts of Israeli aggression against Palestinian civilians who often have nothing to do with Hamas or whoever. They can't help but be affected by that if you ask them their opinion of Israel.It's not a good situation for Israel, but they are also affected by the hostility around them, hostility that's existed for generations.

September 20th, 2007, 08:05 PM
Given that this discussion is going into long past historical events I will add a link (http://www.rondavid.net/King-Crane-commission.htm) about the King-Crane commission (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King-Crane_Commission). I personally do not have a position on this matter, but do enjoy reading this
thread on the subject.

September 20th, 2007, 08:28 PM
If you want to zip, go on ahead!

What my analogy is trying to say is that people try to directly resist whatever they see as contrary to their goal. So trying to get Palestine (in whatever form you are choosing to represent a diverse group of people with no true nationality to speak of as of yet) to stop attacking by building walls where they want to get in, controlling roadways and waterways and the like is a direct affront and will attract attention, and aggression.

You will get a leak in the wall you built across the river.

Now, granted this wall/river analogy breaks down with things like the Hoover dam, but even that does not STOP the flow of water, but simply backs it up for a bit. If it stopped it, the water would simply flow over or around it. But the analogy gets harder to keep on track with too many extraneous examples.

Anyway, back to subject. You go upstream a bit. Go and talk with the Palestinians. Try to become more unified with them, in the same flow, but in the process, try and get them to see and accept, however grudgingly, that you do exist, you do have lives and rights and that you are as human as they are. Depending on how swift that water is going you may need to go upstream quite a bit before you find a spot that will either not sweep you away as soon as you enter OR will not leave your house/wall/construct at peace (too little effect).

Analogies are a simplification of a complex subject, but they still hold true for just that reason. People and their beliefs are much like water. You have more effect diverting them then trying to hold them back or get them to stop flowing.

September 20th, 2007, 09:26 PM
Israel alone created this hell, in a vacuum?

Israel created and maintains the Occupation, no?

"trigger happy 20 yr.-old Israeli soldiers...
A bomb found in a 12 year old Palestinian girl's schoolbag...

not being able to get to work, school, or a hospital.
Not knowing if the bus your sitting in will remain in one piece.

Should we trade anecdotes? Seems pointless."

My examples aren't anecdotes, they are results of the official state policy of Israel and they refer to such things as ambulances not being allowed to get to the hospitals and water cisterns (or worse) being riddled with bullets...homes bulldozed all the time. How many schoolgirls are carrying bombs? Is it the majority of schoolgirls? Obviously not. You choose the word schoolgirl for maximum effect but that is hardly typical. Roadblocks are typical daily occurrence. Every single day the conditions of 3.7 million occupied people grind on. Yes, some will seep through the cracks and find a way for revenge. Actually, it's amazing that more of them don't want to blow themselves up. They certainly haven't been given much to live for, trapped in a giant prison and watching their family members murdered. Occupation isn't daily fear of hell happening, it IS hell, EVERY DAY. On the other hand, despite the occasional bus bombing, life is pretty cushy for Jewish Israelis on a day to day basis, with their swimming pools and shopping malls.:cool:

September 20th, 2007, 09:56 PM
Israel created and maintains the Occupation, no?No. They were created by Transjordan and Egypt.

My examples aren't anecdotes, they are results of the official state policy of Israel and they refer to such things as ambulances not being allowed to get to the hospitals and water cisterns (or worse) being riddled with bullets...homes bulldozed all the time.Ah, gets back to my point that Israel doesn't have a responsible government authority to deal with. Israeli atrocities are state policy, but Palestinian atrocities are just individuals acting out. No government agency sends out suicide bombers, right?

How many schoolgirls are carrying bombs? Is it the majority of schoolgirls?How many are enough. One does it for me.

Actually, it's amazing that more of them don't want to blow themselves up. They certainly haven't been given much to live for, trapped in a giant prison and watching their family members murdered. Occupation isn't daily fear of hell happening, it IS hell, EVERY DAY. On the other hand, despite the occasional bus bombing, life is pretty cushy for Jewish Israelis on a day to day basis, with their swimming pools and shopping malls.:cool:An amazing, one-sided statement.

Now Israelis should be penalized for their economic standing. Being poor is an excuse to commit crime.

That's an insult to poor people.

September 21st, 2007, 12:01 AM
Cheap. You know that wasn't what I meant.

September 21st, 2007, 12:04 AM
Ah, gets back to my point that Israel doesn't have a responsible government authority to deal with. Israeli atrocities are state policy, but Palestinian atrocities are just individuals acting out. No government agency sends out suicide bombers, right?

What is the point, I'm actually not clear on what you are trying to say here.

September 21st, 2007, 12:40 AM
from Amnesty International

Enduring occupation
Palestinians under siege in the West Bank

Khaled Daud Faqih was just six months old when he died on 8 March 2007 at an Israeli army checkpoint. His parents, from the village of Kafr ‘Ain, had been trying to rush their baby to the nearby hospital in Ramallah in theWest Bank, but were forced to wait at the checkpoint by Israeli soldiers. His father Daud, a teacher, told Amnesty International:

"My son Khaled was having difficulty breathing. I called a neighbour who has a car and with my wife and the baby we set off immediately for the hospital in Ramallah. It was quicker than waiting for an ambulance to come all the way to the village. It was just before half past midnight. Khaled had previously had attacks like this and we took him to hospital and there he was put under the oxygen tent and he always got better.

"We arrived at the Atara checkpoint at 12.45am. From there it was another 10 minutes to the hospital. The soldiers stopped us. There were five soldiers. I told them that my baby was sick and urgently needed to get to the hospital in Ramallah. I spoke to them in Hebrew. They asked for our IDs. The driver and I gave ours but my wife had left hers at home in the hurry. I told the soldiers and they said we could not pass without her ID. I begged them to let us pass. They looked in the car and saw that there was nothing and that the baby had problems breathing and his limbs were trembling. I told the soldiers that every minute, every second mattered; that the baby needed oxygen urgently. They told us to wait and I kept pleading with them. Then the baby died. It was 1.05am. I told the soldiers. They shone a torch into the car and saw that the baby was not moving any more and told us that we could pass. We drove to the hospital anyway. There it was confirmed that Khaled had died."

Such cases are neither new nor rare. The hundreds of checkpoints and blockades which every day force long detours and delays on Palestinians trying to get to work, school or hospital, have for years limited their access to essential health services and caused medical complications, births at checkpoints and even death.

The West Bank, the focus of this report, is a relatively small territory – 130 kilometres from north to south and 65 kilometres from east to west at its widest point; 5,600 square kilometres in total. It is criss-crossed by a web of Israeli military checkpoints and blockades – some 550 – and a winding 700-kilometre fence/wall which runs from north to south, encircling Palestinian villages as well as whole neighbourhoods in and around East Jerusalem.

The Israeli authorities contend that this regime of closures and restrictions is necessary to prevent Palestinians from entering Israel to carry out suicide bombings and other attacks. However, virtually all the checkpoints, gates, blocked roads and most of the fence/wall are located inside the West Bank – not between Israel and the West Bank. They curtail or prevent movement between Palestinian towns and villages, splitting and isolating Palestinian communities, separating Palestinians from their agricultural land, hampering access to work, schools, health facilities and relatives, and destroying the Palestinian economy....

;) cheers ninja

September 21st, 2007, 12:52 AM
a couple of excerpts from

Israel/Occupied Territories
Briefing to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)

68th Session of the UN Committee on the Elimination Of Racial Discrimination (CERD), 20 February to 10 March 2006: Comments by Amnesty International on Israel’s compliance with its obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)

...(11) Despite the evacuation of approximately 8,000 settlers from the Gaza Strip and four settlements in the north of the West Bank in August-September 2005,(12) the Central Bureau of Statistics projected that in the six-month period between 1 January and 30 June 2005, the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank settlements (excluding East Jerusalem) would increase by approximately 9,370.(13)These figures are but one indication that existing settlements continue to expand and new settlements are still being built. Some of these have the official approval of the Israeli government; others – generally referred to as "settlement outposts" - are established without official government approval, but rather with tacit government acquiescence. Many of these "settlements outposts" are in due course accorded official approval and so become settlements. There are over 100 "settlement outposts" of this kind in the West Bank.(14)...

...Bypass roads, like the settlements, are a discriminatory enterprise. They are built to connect Israeli settlements to one another and to Israel, and are constructed on land confiscated from Palestinians. Palestinians, for the most part, are forbidden to use them.(16)

Palestinians are subjected to severe restrictions on their movements within the Occupied Territories, inter alia, by virtue of a practice of excluding them from so called bypass roads. Such roads are built on land unlawfully appropriated from Palestinians by means of expropriation for a "public purpose" or requisition for "military/security needs". The former method is forbidden by international humanitarian law, except where undertaken in accordance with local law and intended to benefit the local population. The latter justification is only permitted as a temporary measure where seizure of the property is unavoidable in order to meet a legitimate military necessity. These bypass roads are a permanent feature and serve only the interests of Israeli settlers.(17) The construction of bypass roads began with the establishment of the settlements themselves, to connect settlements to one another and to Israel, avoiding the necessity to travel through Palestinian villages. The construction of these roads has also pursued other aims: Israeli official policy in the 1980s, as expressed in the Settlement Master Plan for 1983-1986, included the building of roads in order to stifle Palestinian urban development and to prevent the joining of contiguous Palestinian built-up areas...

...During the past five years, Palestinian armed groups have killed close to 1,000 Israelis, including some 680 civilians and among them 118 children.(72) Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been arrested and thousands have been prosecuted and jailed for up to life imprisonment (often multiple life-sentences) on charges of involvement in such attacks or for their alleged support of or involvement with armed groups responsible for such attacks. Hundreds of others have been held in administrative detention, without charge or trial for up to four years.(73)

Over the same period, Israeli forces have killed more than 3,300 Palestinians, including more than 600 children; more than half of the victims were killed unlawfully, including by means of extrajudicial executions and as a result of excessive use of force and reckless shooting and shelling. However, not a single Israeli soldier or member of the security forces has been prosecuted for murder. One soldier has been convicted of manslaughter for the murder of a British peace activist and a handful have been convicted on charges such as "illegal use of a weapon", or "unbecoming conduct". In the very rare cases where Israeli soldiers have been punished, the penalties have been light. The harshest sentence handed out was an eight-year prison term for the soldier convicted of killing British peace activist Tom Hurndall. In May 2005, an Israeli military court convicted a soldier to 20 months in prison for shooting an unarmed Palestinian in Gaza. The Israeli newspaper carrying the story, Ha’aretz,, reported that this was the harshest punishment imposed on a member of the security forces during four-and-a-half years of the intifada.(74)

The Israeli NGO B’tselem pointed out that while 3,185 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces between 29 September 2000 and 30 June 2005, including 645 minors, the Israeli Military Police investigated only 131 cases involving shooting by Israeli soldiers, and only 18 of these investigations resulted in the filing of indictments.(75) The organisation concluded that at least 1,722 of those killed were not participating in fighting at the time, including more than 500 children.(76) Human Rights Watch also reported that between 29 September 2000 and 30 November 2004, the Israeli army had investigated fewer than 4 % of the more than 1600 Palestinians killed by Israeli troops while not involved in hostilities (that is 2% of the total number killed).(77)...

more at above link

September 21st, 2007, 04:14 AM
The real truth is Israel has never made an offer dignified or viable enough to be considered by even the most accommodating Palestinians.
Disagree, PM Ehud Barak was prepared to give up a lot for peace, see link

Myth: "Negotiations broke down at the end of 2000 because Israeli PM Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians only "Bantustans" - disconnected islands of Palestinian sovereignty, and failed to offer Palestinian control over holy places in Jerusalem.

This myth has achieved great popularity, but it has no relation to the facts. Below is a brief account of the negotiations adapted from the MidEastWeb Brief History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (http://www.mideastweb.org/briefhistory.htm) from which it is evident that:
Israel offered the Palestinians a contiguous state in 97% of the territory of the West Bank plus Gaza.
Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem and the Haram as Sharif (temple mount) would be incorporated into Palestine.
Chief US Negotiator Dennis Ross blames the Palestinians for the breakdown of the talks.
US President Clinton believes that Arafat made a "colossal historical blunder" in rejecting Israeli terms.
Saudi Arabian ambassador Prince Bandar Ibn Sultan said, "If Arafat does not accept what is available now, it won't be a tragedy, it will be a crime.Palestinian spokespersons and supporters deliberately distorted the offer that was made and claimed that "all what was circulated that Israel proffered to the Palestinian side great concessions is incorrect," and fabricated maps to look like the offer was "Bantustans."

September 21st, 2007, 05:12 AM
Cheap. You know that wasn't what I meant.What's the relevance of swimming pools?

What is the point, I'm actually not clear on what you are trying to say here.That governments negotiate with governments. When Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon, there was no government in control to assure stability (except Hamas). What followed were rocket attacks into northern Israel.

There may be some hope in upcoming talks between Abbas and Olmert, if Saudi Arabia and other gulf states follow through on overtures made over the last year.


October 25th, 2007, 07:06 PM
Israel shaken by troops' tales of brutality against Palestinians

A psychologist blames assaults on civilians in the 1990s on soldiers' bad training, boredom and poor supervision

Conal Urquhart in Jerusalem
Sunday October 21, 2007
The Observer (http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,2195924,00.html)

A study by an Israeli psychologist into the violent behaviour of the country's soldiers is provoking bitter controversy and has awakened urgent questions about the way the army conducts itself in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Nufar Yishai-Karin, a clinical psychologist at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, interviewed 21 Israeli soldiers and heard confessions of frequent brutal assaults against Palestinians, aggravated by poor training and discipline. In her recently published report, co-authored by Professor Yoel Elizur, Yishai-Karin details a series of violent incidents, including the beating of a four-year-old boy by an officer.

The report, although dealing with the experience of soldiers in the 1990s, has triggered an impassioned debate in Israel, where it was published in an abbreviated form in the newspaper Haaretz last month. According to Yishai Karin: 'At one point or another of their service, the majority of the interviewees enjoyed violence. They enjoyed the violence because it broke the routine and they liked the destruction and the chaos. They also enjoyed the feeling of power in the violence and the sense of danger.'

In the words of one soldier: 'The truth? When there is chaos, I like it. That's when I enjoy it. It's like a drug. If I don't go into Rafah, and if there isn't some kind of riot once in some weeks, I go nuts.'

Another explained: 'The most important thing is that it removes the burden of the law from you. You feel that you are the law. You are the law. You are the one who decides... As though from the moment you leave the place that is called Eretz Yisrael [the Land of Israel] and go through the Erez checkpoint into the Gaza Strip, you are the law. You are God.'

The soldiers described dozens of incidents of extreme violence. One recalled an incident when a Palestinian was shot for no reason and left on the street. 'We were in a weapons carrier when this guy, around 25, passed by in the street and, just like that, for no reason - he didn't throw a stone, did nothing - bang, a bullet in the stomach, he shot him in the stomach and the guy is dying on the pavement and we keep going, apathetic. No one gave him a second look,' he said.

The soldiers developed a mentality in which they would use physical violence to deter Palestinians from abusing them. One described beating women. 'With women I have no problem. With women, one threw a clog at me and I kicked her here [pointing to the crotch], I broke everything there. She can't have children. Next time she won't throw clogs at me. When one of them [a woman] spat at me, I gave her the rifle butt in the face. She doesn't have what to spit with any more.'

Yishai-Karin found that the soldiers were exposed to violence against Palestinians from as early as their first weeks of basic training. On one occasion, the soldiers were escorting some arrested Palestinians. The arrested men were made to sit on the floor of the bus. They had been taken from their beds and were barely clothed, even though the temperature was below zero. The new recruits trampled on the Palestinians and then proceeded to beat them for the whole of the journey. They opened the bus windows and poured water on the arrested men.

The disclosure of the report in the Israeli media has occasioned a remarkable response. In letters responding to the recollections, writers have focused on both the present and past experience of Israeli soldiers to ask troubling questions that have probed the legitimacy of the actions of the Israeli Defence Forces.

The study and the reactions to it have marked a sharp change in the way Israelis regard their period of military service - particularly in the occupied territories - which has been reflected in the increasing levels of conscientious objection and draft-dodging.

The debate has contrasted sharply with an Israeli army where new recruits are taught that they are joining 'the most ethical army in the world' - a refrain that is echoed throughout Israeli society. In its doctrine, published on its website, the Israeli army emphasises human dignity. 'The Israeli army and its soldiers are obligated to protect human dignity. Every human being is of value regardless of his or her origin, religion, nationality, gender, status or position.'

However, the Israeli army, like other armies, has found it difficult to maintain these values beyond the classroom. The first intifada, which began in 1987, before the wave of suicide bombings, was markedly different to the violence of the second intifada, and its main events were popular demonstrations with stone-throwing.

Yishai-Karin, in an interview with Haaretz, described how her research came out of her own experience as a soldier at an army base in Rafah in the Gaza Strip. She interviewed 18 ordinary soldiers and three officers whom she had served with in Gaza. The soldiers described how the violence was encouraged by some commanders. One soldier recalled: 'After two months in Rafah, a [new] commanding officer arrived... So we do a first patrol with him. It's 6am, Rafah is under curfew, there isn't so much as a dog in the streets. Only a little boy of four playing in the sand. He is building a castle in his yard. He [the officer] suddenly starts running and we all run with him. He was from the combat engineers.

'He grabbed the boy. I am a degenerate if I am not telling you the truth. He broke his hand here at the wrist, broke his leg here. And started to stomp on his stomach, three times, and left. We are all there, jaws dropping, looking at him in shock...

'The next day I go out with him on another patrol, and the soldiers are already starting to do the same thing."

Yishai-Karin concluded that the main reason for the soldiers' violence was a lack of training. She found that the soldiers did not know what was expected of them and therefore were free to develop their own way of behaviour. The longer a unit was left in the field, the more violent it became. The Israeli soldiers, she concluded, had a level of violence which is universal across all nations and cultures. If they are allowed to operate in difficult circumstances, such as in Gaza and the West Bank, without training and proper supervision, the violence is bound to come out.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli army said that, if a soldier deviates from the army's norms, they could be investigated by the military police or face criminal investigation.

She said: 'It should be noted that since the events described in Nufar Yishai-Karin's research the number of ethical violations by IDF soldiers involving the Palestinian population has consistently dropped. This trend has continued in the last few years.'

November 28th, 2007, 08:46 AM
November 28, 2007

Israel and Palestinians Set Goal of a Treaty in 2008


ANNAPOLIS, Md., Nov. 27 — The Israeli and Palestinian leaders committed themselves on Tuesday to negotiate a peace treaty by the end of 2008, setting a deadline for ending a conflict that has endured for six decades.

The agreement stopped short of the binding negotiating outline that many Palestinians had hoped for, but it revived a peace process that the United States had left dormant for seven years.

Its success, both sides said, will depend in part on how vigorously President Bush pushes Palestinians and Israelis toward resolving the core issues that have bedeviled peace negotiators since 1979: the dismantling of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the borders of a Palestinian state, the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees who left, or were forced to leave, their homes in Israel.

In announcing the agreement at an American-sponsored peace conference here, Mr. Bush plunged the United States back into the role of an Arab-Israeli peacemaker — an approach he had previously shunned — at a time when wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have helped bring the American image in the Muslim world to historic lows.

But in Gaza, reaction to the peace conference was far from favorable. Crowds of more than 100,000 protested the conference. A Palestinian man was reported killed at a West Bank protest.

“We meet to lay the foundation for the establishment of a new nation: a democratic Palestinian state that will live side by side with Israel in peace and security,” Mr. Bush told officials from 49 countries gathered at the United States Naval Academy.

Flanked by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, Mr. Bush cast peace between Israelis and Palestinians as part of a broader struggle against extremism in the Middle East.

It was a moment of diplomatic theater, endorsed by the attendance of a member of the Saudi royal family and framed by many participants’ concerns over the increasing influence of Iran and Islamic radicalism in the region.

The moment was orchestrated by Mr. Bush, who pledged that the United States would “monitor and judge the fulfillment of the commitment of both sides.” The agreement, cast as a “joint understanding” between the Israelis and the Palestinians, fell short of the detailed five-page document that Palestinian officials have been seeking. But it went somewhat further than the Israelis had wanted, calling for an immediate start to wide-ranging talks aimed at reaching a final accord within 13 months.

“We agree to immediately launch good-faith bilateral negotiations in order to conclude a peace treaty, resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues without exception, as specified in previous agreements,” the joint understanding said. “We agree to engage in vigorous, ongoing and continuous negotiations, and shall make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008.”

It was not clear until Mr. Bush, Mr. Olmert and Mr. Abbas stepped onto the podium in the ornate frescoed Memorial Hall at the Naval Academy, near a replica battle flag from the War of 1812 declaring “Don’t Give Up the Ship,” whether the Israelis and Palestinians had agreed on anything.

Even on Tuesday morning, Mr. Bush held last-minute talks with Mr. Olmert and Mr. Abbas, while outside the room, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice buttonholed the chief Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of Israel and Ahmed Qurei, a former Palestinian prime minister, to wring agreement on the wording of the accord.

In making the announcement, Mr. Bush read aloud the joint understanding wearing his glasses, suggesting that there had not been enough time to convert the newly completed document to large type for his speech.

Mr. Abbas shook hands with Mr. Olmert and Mr. Bush and then pointedly and emotionally put all of the most divisive issues squarely at the center of the talks that are scheduled to begin on Dec. 12.

“I am not making an overstatement, Mr. President, if I say that our region stands at a crossroad that separates two historical phases: pre-Annapolis phase and post-Annapolis phase,” Mr. Abbas said. “I say that this opportunity might not be repeated. And if it were to be repeated, it might not enjoy the same unanimity and impetus.”

When Mr. Olmert spoke, he too was emotional and highly personal. “We want peace,” he said. “We demand an end to terror, an end to incitement and to hatred. We are prepared to make a painful compromise, rife with risks, in order to realize these aspirations.”

The gathering brought about the highest-level official contacts yet between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which do not have diplomatic relations. Seated across the room and squeezed between the delegates from Senegal and Qatar, Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, took notes during Mr. Olmert’s remarks, his head slightly bowed. When he arrived in Washington on Monday for the conference, Prince Saud vowed that he would not shake Mr. Olmert’s hand.

Mr. Olmert looked directly across the hall at Prince Saud and said that Israel aspired to “normalization” with the Arab world.

“There’s quite a lot that separates us,” Mr. Olmert said. “Nevertheless, there is also a great deal that we share. Like us, you know that religious fanaticism and national extremism are a perfect recipe for domestic instability and violence, for bitterness and ultimately for the disintegration of the very foundations of coexistence based on tolerance and mutual acceptance.”

When the Israeli leader finished his speech, Prince Saud politely clapped. Later, during remarks to the foreign ministers, Prince Saud said that “the time has come for Israel to put its trust in peace after it has gambled on war for decades without success.” He called on Israel to withdraw from the West Bank.

Palestinian officials said one obstacle to the joint statement had been Israel’s refusal to include a reference to the Arab League peace initiative. That initiative, which was reaffirmed by Arab nations this year, called on Israelis and Palestinians to reach an “agreed” resolution of the refugee issue.

Israeli officials do not like that term and have been adamant that Palestinian refugees have a right of return only to a future Palestinian state, not to Israel. They fear that including the Arab League language in the joint statement could handcuff them later in negotiations.

The two sides resolved the issue by leaving mention of the Arab League initiative out of the joint understanding. But Mr. Abbas and Mr. Olmert mentioned it during their speeches.

Mr. Bush cast the reinvigorated negotiations as a historic moment, an opportunity to advance democracy in a region torn by conflict, with the United States and its troops intricately entwined in it. “And when liberty takes root in the rocky soil of the West Bank and Gaza, it will inspire millions across the Middle East who want their societies built on freedom and peace and hope,” he said.

The significance he assigned to overcoming the Israeli-Palestinian conflict echoes the importance he has previously assigned to efforts in Iraq. That country, and the American war there, went unmentioned in Mr. Bush’s remarks on Tuesday, though he did mention Lebanon’s aspirations for peace and independence from Syrian influence.

Iraq declined to attend the conference here, said the State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack.

The White House said Mr. Bush’s role would be as a mediator, willing to weigh in on the negotiations when necessary, but leaving the workaday details of American diplomacy to his secretary of state, Ms. Rice.

“Secretary Rice will be doing a lot of that heavy lifting, in terms of the travel to the region and helping them, as she has been,” said the White House press secretary, Dana Perino, describing the difficult diplomacy ahead. “But what the president told the leaders today is that he’s only a phone call away.”

Middle East experts said that perhaps the best thing to come out of the Annapolis conference was that it had publicly committed Mr. Bush, Mr. Olmert and Mr. Abbas to pressing for peace.

“Annapolis means that everyone has a lot more invested,” said Daniel Levy, a former Israeli negotiator. But, he added, “Now there’s also a lot more to lose.”

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

I wish someone other than W was in the middle of this.

April 1st, 2008, 02:23 PM
So as soon as Condi Rice left Israel, plans were announced by the zionist land grabbers to build 1400 new colonist homes in the West Bank.
They will never have peace, and don't deserve it either. Now we can all wait for the next bus to blow up, and the clueless, idiotic outrage of the colonists when it happens.

April 24th, 2008, 05:24 PM
Israelis Claim Secret Agreement With U.S.
Americans Insist No Deal Made on Settlement Growth

By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 24, 2008; A14 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/23/AR2008042303128_pf.html)

A letter that President Bush personally delivered to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon four years ago has emerged as a significant obstacle to the president's efforts to forge a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians during his last year in office.

Ehud Olmert, the current Israeli prime minister, said this week that Bush's letter gave the Jewish state permission to expand the West Bank settlements that it hopes to retain in a final peace deal, even though Bush's peace plan officially calls for a freeze of Israeli settlements across Palestinian territories on the West Bank. In an interview this week, Sharon's chief of staff, Dov Weissglas, said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reaffirmed this understanding in a secret agreement reached between Israel and the United States in the spring of 2005, just before Israel withdrew from Gaza.

U.S. officials say no such agreement exists, and in recent months Rice has publicly criticized even settlement expansion on the outskirts of Jerusalem, which Israel does not officially count as settlements. But as peace negotiations have stepped up in recent months, so has the pace of settlement construction, infuriating Palestinian officials, and Washington has taken no punitive action against Israel for its settlement efforts.

Israeli officials say they have clear guidance from Bush administration officials to continue building settlements, as long as it meets carefully negotiated criteria, even though those understandings appear to contradict U.S. policy.

Many experts say new settlement construction undermines the political standing of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas -- who is to meet with Bush today at the White House -- and adds to Palestinian cynicism about the peace process. Palestinians view the settlements as an Israeli effort to claim Palestinian lands, and in a meeting yesterday with Rice, Abbas said settlement construction was "one of the greatest obstacles" to a peace deal.

U.S. and Israeli officials privately argue that Israel has greatly restricted settlement growth outside the settlements it hopes to retain in a peace deal with the Palestinians, and Olmert has said Israel has stopped building new settlements and confiscating Palestinian lands.

Housing starts -- not counting the Jerusalem settlements -- have declined 33 percent since 2003, according to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics. But officials say it is politically damaging for Olmert to admit that, so instead he publicly emphasizes that he is adding to the settlements, which now house about 450,000 Israelis.

"It was clear from day one to Abbas, Rice and Bush that construction would continue in population concentrations -- the areas mentioned in Bush's 2004 letter," Olmert declared in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, published Sunday. "I say this again today: Beitar Illit will be built, Gush Etzion will be built; there will be construction in Pisgat Ze'ev and in the Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem," referring to new settlement expansion plans. "It's clear that these areas will remain under Israeli control in any future settlement."

In a key sentence in Bush's 2004 letter, the president stated, "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949."

In a companion letter to "reconfirm" U.S.-Israeli understandings, Weissglas wrote Rice that restrictions on the growth of settlements would be made "within the agreed principles of settlement activities," which would include "a better definition of the construction line of settlements" on the West Bank. A joint U.S.-Israeli team would "jointly define the construction line of each of the settlements."

Weissglas said that the letter built upon a prior understanding between then-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, which would allow Israel to build up settlements within existing construction lines. But Powell denied that. "I never agreed to it," he said in an e-mail.

Daniel Kurtzer, then the U.S. ambassador to Israel, said he argued at the time against accepting the Weissglas letter. "I thought it was a really bad idea," he said. "It would legitimize the settlements, and it gave them a blank check." In the end, Kurtzer said the White House never followed up with the plan to define construction lines. "Washington lost interest in it when it became clear it would not be easy to do," he said.

National security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, at a news briefing in January, suggested that Bush's 2004 letter was aimed at helping Sharon win domestic approval for the Gaza withdrawal. "The president obviously still stands by that letter of April of 2004, but you need to look at it, obviously, in the context of which it was issued," he said.

Weissglas said that in 2005, when Sharon was poised to remove settlers from Gaza, the Bush administration made a secret agreement -- not disclosed to the Palestinians -- that Israel could add homes in settlements it expected to keep, as long as the construction was dictated by market demand, not subsidies. He said the agreement was necessary because Sharon needed the support of municipal leaders in the main West Bank settlements. The settlement leaders, he said, focused on the "inner contradiction" of Bush's letter, mainly that it made no sense to have a settlement freeze in places that Bush said would become part of Israel.

Weissglas said he then negotiated a "verbal understanding" with deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams that would permit new construction in those key settlements; Rice and Sharon then approved the Weissglas-Abrams deal. "I do not recall that we had any kind of written formulation," Weissglas said.

"There is no understanding," said White House National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

Indeed, as settlement starts soared after the Middle East peace conference in Annapolis in November, Rice said "the United States doesn't make a distinction" among settlement locations.

Powell said that in 2004, he did not anticipate that Bush's letter would be perceived as a green light by Israel for adding to the settlements. "I consistently spoke against settlement growth, but as you know all I could do is talk against it," Powell said. "There would be no consequences and there still aren't."

June 22nd, 2008, 11:41 AM

Members of the Hamas security forces play table tennis at the police headquarters in Rafah, southern Gaza, as the truce with Israel holds. (Picture by Eyad Baba, Associated Press)

June 22nd, 2008, 11:43 AM
Israeli troops accused of abuse


Israel says it complies with laws governing the treatment of detainees

An Israeli human rights group has accused Israeli soldiers of routinely abusing bound Palestinian prisoners.

The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) said the army was indifferent to such mistreatment.

The organisation said its findings were based on 90 detailed accounts from Palestinians and soldiers who say they witnessed the abuse.

A military spokesman said the army viewed any violation of its ethical code with great concern.

The army says it set up a special unit to look into complaints of abuse in 1996, and since then there had been a rise in the number of soldiers reporting violence against detainees.

A military spokesman, quoted by AFP news agency, insisted that the armed forces "act in line with international and Israeli laws regarding the arrest of terrorist suspects".

'Serious injuries'

Israeli troops frequently round up prisoners during raids in Palestinian areas. They say their actions are aimed at preventing attacks on Israeli civilians by militants.

But the human rights group says that soldiers are often violent towards prisoners - even after they have been handcuffed and no longer pose a threat.

"On certain occasions, the ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees is highly violent, resulting in serious injuries," said the report, which covers the period from June 2006 to October 2007.

"Minors, who must be granted special protection under both Israeli and international law, are also victims of abuse," the report said.

Earlier this year, the PCATI accused Israeli officials of using psychological torture against some Palestinian detainees by threatening action against their families if they did not co-operate.

The Israeli government has already said such interrogation tactics are illegal, and the internal security organisation, Shin Bet , denied the claims.

June 22nd, 2008, 11:50 AM
Seeds of hope in crisis-strewn Mid East

By Jeremy Bowen
BBC Middle East Editor


Hamas need to show people in Gaza they can make their lives better

No-one but the most compulsive optimists ever dare to predict peace in the Middle East. It is much easier to expect the worst, as the worst is what usually happens.

But in the last month or so there has been some interesting news about talks and ceasefires. So let's try to be optimistic, for at least as long as it takes to read this.

Most important, potentially, are the talks between Syria and Israel.

They have a long way to go. Even this year, the Israeli press was speculating about the chances of a new war with Syria.

The two sides do not meet face to face. Instead Turkish diplomats shuttle between them, carrying messages.

But if, eventually, they produced a peace deal, everything in the region would have to be reassessed.

For 60 years enmity between Syria and Israel has been one of the driving forces of conflict in the Middle East. Take it away, and the place starts to look very different.

Lebanon has rejected an Israeli offer of similar, bilateral peace talks.

Some observers in Beirut say that is because Lebanon, despite its efforts to extricate itself from the influence of Damascus, still cannot negotiate with Israel until the Syrians give the go-ahead.

Sources in the Lebanese government have a different version.

They say first Israel needs to return some land it occupies - and then, perhaps through the United Nations, they could talk about a full ceasefire by returning to the armistice of 1949.

Beirut party

Beirut's bourgeoisie are not dismayed. In May, Lebanon seemed to be slipping into a new civil war. Now a Lebanese friend in Beirut tells me that people are partying like there's no tomorrow.

That, of course, is not necessarily a good thing. But it is also a sign that the tension that has gripped Lebanon for almost two years, which culminated in all-out fighting between Shias and Sunnis last month, has been reduced.

I have not mentioned the talks between Palestinians and Israelis... Even the optimists don't feel optimistic about them

The relative calm - there have been some worrying outbreaks of violence in the Bekaa Valley - is a product of the agreement that was signed in the Gulf state of Qatar to end the recent fighting.

Syria's negotiations with Israel could, ironically, have made that violence worse.

Hezbollah was not delighted to hear that its friends in Damascus were talking to its enemies south of the Lebanese border.

Paul Salem, the always perceptive Lebanese analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for World Peace, suggests that Hezbollah decided that Syria was becoming less reliable as an ally, and took drastic action to bolster its position.

Hezbollah strengthened

The emergency talks in Qatar that followed produced an agreement which gave Hezbollah and its allies in the opposition in Lebanon a much strengthened position.

Now it has been given enough seats in a new cabinet to block government plans - when they manage to agree who gets which job.


Hezbollah has been strengthened but is not turning the screw on Lebanese rivals

Shia Hezbollah has resisted the temptation to turn the screw tight on its Sunni rivals.

They have been seriously weakened by Hezbollah's victory on the streets, but they are still in power.

Hezbollah's grievances have been satisfied, for now, and the result is at least the illusion of stability in what was looking like a very unstable place.

Lebanon's underlying problems have not been addressed, let alone solved, but optimists are hoping that Lebanon can stagger through to elections in a year from now without more serious violence.

Pessimists fear that the failure to form a cabinet so far means that Lebanon's fault lines, especially the one that runs between Shia and Sunni Muslims, will start rumbling again.

Quiet in Gaza

Further south, the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was still holding.

Plenty of Israelis and Palestinians expect it to end. But it is a sign that leaders on both sides are being realistic about what they can achieve.


Israeli soldiers pass the time playing a board game while quite lasts in Gaza

Hamas badly needs to show people in Gaza that it can make their lives better.

If the ceasefire holds, Israel will start relaxing some aspects of its siege that has imposed great privations on civilians in Gaza.

Israel has recognised that its other option, of mounting a full-scale reinvasion of Gaza, would cause more problems than it could solve.

If the ceasefire breaks down, it would still probably happen. But for now Israel has decided that the best way of stopping the rockets that are fired out of Gaza is to deal, albeit via the Egyptians, with Hamas.


Domestic concerns

The domestic political problems of Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert could be one reason for the change of tone.

The allegations of corruption that he faces might force him out of office. But he is a very intelligent political operator, and one of several survival strategies seems to be to find ways to make Israelis feel more hopeful about the future.

The Hamas ceasefire falls into that category; so does an offer of talks to Lebanon and real talks with Syria.

Next on his agenda could be two significant exchanges of prisoners.

The Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held in Gaza for two years, might be swapped for dozens or even hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

And Lebanese prisoners in Israel could be exchanged for the bodies of dead Israeli soldiers - and, if they are alive, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, the two soldiers who were taken by Hezbollah in 2006.

The result of all this is that civilians might have quieter lives, for a while at least.

It doesn't add up yet to the prospect of peace, let alone peace itself.

But right now, at least, some long-suffering civilians can afford to feel a little better about the present, and a little less anxious about the future.

It may not sound like much, and the feeling may go very quickly, but bearing in mind the way the Middle East has been for most of this new century, it's not bad.

I have not mentioned the talks between Palestinians and Israelis that President George W Bush inaugurated at Annapolis at the end of last year. Even the optimists don't feel optimistic about them

June 29th, 2008, 11:43 AM
Israel approves prisoner exchange

Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were captured in 2006

Israel's cabinet has approved a prisoner swap with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

The swap would see the return of the bodies of two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah two years ago.

The Lebanese prisoners to be freed reportedly include Samir Qantar, in jail for murder since 1979.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said earlier that the two soldiers were dead. Their capture triggered Israel's offensive against Hezbollah in mid-2006.

The cabinet approved the German-brokered exchange by 22 votes out of 25 present at the meeting, Israeli radio reported.

Controversial exchange

Before the vote, Mr Olmert had urged his cabinet to approve the swap, even though he said the two soldiers were probably dead.

"We know what happened to them," Mr Olmert was quoted telling his cabinet by the Associated Press.

He said they had probably been killed during the raid or shortly after. Evidence from the scene of their capture indicated that at least one of them was badly wounded.

"There is no doubt that today's discussion has special weight and is exceptionally sensitive in terms of its national and moral implications," Mr Olmert said before cabinet convened.

Israel fought a war with Hezbollah in 2006

Observers say it is the first time the Israeli government has confirmed that Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev are no longer alive.

Critics have opposed swapping prisoners for the bodies of dead Israeli troops.

In exchange for the soldiers, it is reported that five Lebanese detainees are to be set free and the bodies of about 10 militants handed over.

One of these is said to be Samir Qantar, who has been in jail since 1979 for his part in a deadly border raid.

His release would be controversial in Israel because of his role in the deaths of three members of one family, says the BBC's Wyre Davies in Jerusalem.

Hezbollah has given no public indication that the two Israeli soldiers are still alive.

The Red Cross has never been allowed to see them and many in Israel assume they are dead.

Israel and Hezbollah fought a 34-day war after the soldiers were seized by Hezbollah in a cross-border raid into Israel in July 2006.

Germany has been trying to broker a prisoner exchange since the war ended.

On 1 June, Hezbollah handed over the remains of five Israeli soldiers killed in the war.

The remains were delivered after Israel released a Lebanese-born man who had served six years in prison for spying for Hezbollah.

Another Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, remains a prisoner of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.

He was seized in a raid on an Israeli army position on the edge of the Gaza Strip. Hamas has said it would consider releasing him as part of a prisoner exchange.

March 30th, 2010, 11:57 PM
\/ What :confused: :mad:. (FWIW, I don't think Israel should exist at all.)

Never Again Should We Be Silent

by Ed Koch

President Obama's abysmal attitude toward the State of Israel and his humiliating treatment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is shocking. In the Washington Post on March 24th, Jackson Diehl wrote (http://voices.washingtonpost.com/postpartisan/2010/03/obama_and_netanyahu_pointless.html),
Obama has added more poison to a U.S.-Israeli relationship that already was at its lowest point in two decades. Tuesday night the White House refused to allow non-official photographers record the president's meeting with Netanyahu; no statement was issued afterward. Netanyahu is being treated as if he were an unsavory Third World dictator, needed for strategic reasons but conspicuously held at arms length. That is something the rest of the world will be quick to notice and respond to.I have not heard or read statements criticizing the president by New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand or many other supporters of Israel for his blatantly hostile attitude toward Israel and his discourtesy displayed at the White House. President Obama orchestrated the hostile statements of Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, voiced by Biden in Israel and by Clinton in a 43-minute telephone call to Bibi Netanyahu, and then invited the latter to the White House to further berate him. He then left Prime Minister Netanyahu to have dinner at the White House with his family, conveying he would only be available to meet again if Netanyahu had further information - read concessions - to impart.

It is unimaginable that the President would treat any of our NATO allies, large or small, in such a degrading fashion. That there are policy differences between the U.S. and the Netanyahu government is no excuse. Allies often disagree, but remain respectful.

In portraying Israel as the cause of the lack of progress in the peace process, President Obama ignores the numerous offers and concessions that Israel has made over the years for the sake of peace, and the Palestinians' repeated rejections of those offers. Not only have Israel's peace proposals, which include ceding virtually the entire West Bank and parts of Jerusalem to the Palestinians, been rejected, but each Israeli concession has been met with even greater demands, no reciprocity, and frequently horrific violence directed at Israeli civilians. Thus, Prime Minister Netanyahu's agreement to suspend construction on the West Bank - a move heralded by Secretary of State Clinton as unprecedented by an Israeli government - has now led to a demand that Israel also halt all construction in East Jerusalem, which is part of Israel's capital. Meanwhile, Palestinians are upping the ante, with violent protests in Jerusalem and elsewhere. And the Obama administration's request that our Arab allies make some conciliatory gesture towards Israel has fallen on deaf ears.

Prior American presidents, beginning with Truman, who recognized the State of Israel in 1948, have valued Israel as a close ally and have often come to its rescue. For example, it was Richard Nixon, during the 1973 war, who resupplied Israel with arms, making it possible for it to snatch victory from a potentially devastating defeat at the hands of a coalition of Arab countries including Egypt and Syria.

President George W. Bush made it a point of protecting Israel at the United Nations and the Security Council, wielding the U.S. veto against the unfair actions and sanctions that Arab countries sought to impose to cripple and, if possible, destroy, the one Jewish nation in the world. Now, in my opinion, based on the actions and statements by President Obama and members of his administration, there is grave doubt among supporters of Israel that President Obama can be counted on to do what presidents before him did - protect our ally, Israel. The Arabs can lose countless wars and still come back because of their numbers. If Israel were to lose one, it would cease to exist.

To its credit, Congress, according to the Daily News, has acted differently towards Prime Minister Netanyahu than President Obama. Reporter Richard Sisk wrote (http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/2010/03/24/2010-03-24_congress_to_bibi__were_with_you_white_house_rel ations_still_frosty.html) on March 24th,
Congress put on a rare show of bipartisanship for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday - a sharp contrast to his chilly reception at the White House. "We in Congress stand by Israel," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told a beaming Netanyahu, who has refused to budge on White House and State Department demands to freeze settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.But Congress does not make foreign policy. It can prevent military arms from going to Israel, but cannot send them. Congress has no role in determining U.S. policy at the U.N. Security Council. The President of the United States determines our foreign policy - nearly unilaterally - under our Constitution. So those Congressional bipartisan wishes of support, while welcome, will not protect Israel in these areas -- only the President can do that. Based on his actions to date, I have serious doubts.

In the 1930s, the Jewish community and its leadership, with few exceptions, were silent when their coreligionists were being attacked, hunted down, incarcerated and slaughtered. Ultimately 6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust. The feeling in the U.S. apparently was that Jews who criticized our country's actions and inactions that endangered the lives of other Jews would be considered disloyal, unpatriotic and displaying dual loyalty, so many Jews stayed mute. Never again should we allow that to occur. We have every right to be concerned about the fate of the only Jewish nation in the world, which, if it had existed during the 1930s and thereafter, would have given sanctuary to any Jew escaping the Nazi holocaust and taken whatever military action it could to save Jews not yet in the clutches of the Nazis. We who have learned the lessons of silence, Jews and Christians alike, must speak up now before it is too late.

So I ask again, where are our Senators, Schumer and Gillibrand? And, where are the voices, not only of the 31 members of the House and 14 Senators who are Jewish, but the Christian members of the House and Senate who support the State of Israel? Where are the peoples' voices?

Remember the words of Pastor Niemoller, so familiar that I will not recite them, except for the last line: "Then they came for me, and by that time, there was no one left to speak up."

Supporters of Israel who gave their votes to candidate Obama -- 78 percent of the Jewish community did -- believing he would provide the same support as John McCain: this is the time to speak out and tell the President of your disappointment in him. It seems to me particularly appropriate to do so during Passover. It is one thing to disagree with certain policies of the Israeli government. It is quite another to treat Israel and its prime minister as pariahs, which only emboldens Israel's enemies and makes the prospect of peace even more remote.


March 31st, 2010, 04:03 AM
Koch is such a racist swine, as is Bloomberg. The Nazis in Netanyahu's government are not seriious about peace.

March 31st, 2010, 04:32 AM
It is quite eerie to think that only a few decades ago the Nazis were building walls and ghettos to 'manage' a perceived threat. Yet here we have a state that corrupts the Jewish faith to enact the same philosophy.

What makes it disturbing (although the Israeli state doesn't employ the use of gas chambers for population control) is that to criticise their actions in any form is automatically viewed as anti-semetic or allying with the likes of Iran, etc.... Israel uses this to a disturbing effect when selling US-donated military technology to China, or using the identities of foreign (allied) citizens resident within its own borders.

I think that an Israeli state can exist in the Middle East, but at the current rate (due to demographics), they are going to have nothing but pilgrimage rights. It is thus unfortunate that they are throwing away a valuable opportunity to make amends with neighbouring states to secure the long-term viability of an Israeli state.

March 31st, 2010, 07:14 AM
I totally agree with your assessment, Nick.

Moreover, I find it offensive that Israelis speak about the Holocost incessantly, and yet, don't really address other genocides like those that occurred recently in Africa. Don't other people matter?

March 31st, 2010, 07:28 AM
Don't other people matter?

Based on Israel's existence alone, apparently not.

March 31st, 2010, 08:16 AM
When you are constantly fighting another people, for good reason or not, you have a tendency to forget those around you.

The US has to stop being the doting parent and let Israel know that they are just not "playing nice".

That is not to say that the Palestinians have not either, but somehow blaming an entire nation on the behavior of a radical fringe it cannot control is not quite the same as blaming an official national policy or action.

April 30th, 2010, 12:21 AM
The road to peace starts with the settlement issue. Israel can't claim to be working toward a two state solution while simultaneously seizing more land for settlements.
I think the Obama administration at least understands this, but it remains to be seen how much pressure will be placed on Israel to actually cooperate.
The following piece came out today:

US gives Abbas private assurances over Israeli settlements
Exclusive: Americans consider withholding veto protecting Israel at UN if building goes ahead at Ramat Shlomo (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/apr/29/israel-settlement-building-peace-talks)

April 30th, 2010, 11:10 AM
There's a huge difference here. The Jews in Germany never tried to eliminate the rest of the Germans. Since the inception of the Israel, the Palestinians have been trying to eliminate the Jews. It was the Palestinians who initiated what has become a total war against Israel. They can't complain when they lose. This is tantamount to the child who killed his parents begging mercy from the court on the basis that he's an orphan.

It is quite eerie to think that only a few decades ago the Nazis were building walls and ghettos to 'manage' a perceived threat. Yet here we have a state that corrupts the Jewish faith to enact the same philosophy.

What makes it disturbing (although the Israeli state doesn't employ the use of gas chambers for population control) is that to criticise their actions in any form is automatically viewed as anti-semetic or allying with the likes of Iran, etc.... Israel uses this to a disturbing effect when selling US-donated military technology to China, or using the identities of foreign (allied) citizens resident within its own borders.

I think that an Israeli state can exist in the Middle East, but at the current rate (due to demographics), they are going to have nothing but pilgrimage rights. It is thus unfortunate that they are throwing away a valuable opportunity to make amends with neighbouring states to secure the long-term viability of an Israeli state.

May 1st, 2010, 12:07 PM
Since the inception of the Israel, the Palestinians have been trying to eliminate the Jews.

And at the time of inception the attitude of those who created the state of Israel towards the co-occupants of that land was ... ?

May 3rd, 2010, 08:10 AM
Nobody is clearly right in this BBMW, the thing to remember here is that the ones that are suffering the most are not the ones taking political lines, but the families and olive farmers just trying to live their lives in the land they, their fathers and their fathers fathers fathers lived for as long as anyone there can care to remember.

Does that delineate what should be the "official" religion, no. But does that give rights to any one nation over another? (MY homeland means you die?)


Humans are still throwing stuff at each other. It just ain't poo.

May 3rd, 2010, 11:20 AM
The Grim Truth?

The Daily Dish (http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2010/05/the-grim-truth.html)
03 MAY 2010 10:28 AM

John Mearsheimer outlines (http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2010/mearsheimer300410p.html) what he regrets is the likely future for Israel/Palestine if we do not get a new peace deal under this president:

The story I will tell is straightforward. Contrary to the wishes of the Obama administration and most Americans -- to include many American Jews -- Israel is not going to allow the Palestinians to have a viable state of their own in Gaza and the West Bank. Regrettably, the two-state solution is now a fantasy. Instead, those territories will be incorporated into a "Greater Israel," which will be an apartheid state bearing a marked resemblance to white-ruled South Africa. Nevertheless, a Jewish apartheid state is not politically viable over the long term. In the end, it will become a democratic bi-national state, whose politics will be dominated by its Palestinian citizens. In other words, it will cease being a Jewish state, which will mean the end of the Zionist dream.

It makes for a depressingly convincing read. The Palestinians remain too divided to deliver much in the time period necessary (soon); the Israeli government, whatever it says, is obviously committed to controlling all of the West Bank and all of Jerusalem indefinitely; the US Congress does what AIPAC tells it to and will prevent any aid or loan guarantee pressure on Israel; a huge Christianist Zionist population in America wants Greater Israel almost as much as the settlers themselves (see: Palin, S. and Scheuneman, R.); liberal American Jews have finessed the anguished position of being against settlements but against any serious attempt to stop them; and by now, the settlements themselves are so entrenched it might take something close to an Israeli civil war or mutiny in the IDF to remove them.

So given that there's no real way to stop the emergence of a de facto apartheid state, and assuming that Israel will not engage in massive ethnic cleansing, what will happen in the future? Mearsheimer:

The critical question is: what will happen to those Jews who comprise the great ambivalent middle once it is clear to them that Israel is a full-fledged apartheid state and that facts on the ground have made a two-state solution impossible? Will they side with the new Afrikaners and defend apartheid Israel, or will they ally with the righteous Jews and call for making Greater Israel a true democracy? Or will they sit silently on the sidelines?

I believe that most of the Jews in the great ambivalent middle will not defend apartheid Israel but will either keep quiet or side with the righteous Jews against the new Afrikaners, who will become increasingly marginalized over time. And once that happens, the lobby will be unable to provide cover for Israel's racist policies toward the Palestinians in the way it has in the past.

At that point, with the Likudnik right marginalized, and the ambivalent middle increasingly distressed by a more clearly apartheid system, what will happen? Mearsheimer sees a bi-national democracy achieved through Palestinians winning the international argument that a non-Jewish Israel is preferable to an apartheid Israel. He urges non-violence in such a situation.

This is where he loses me. I suspect he is being far too sanguine about the possibilities of a mature, non-violent Palestinian movement that uses its democratic majority for fruitful and non-violent and non-anti-Semitic ends. But I also suspect that his analysis of the Israeli government and the pro-Israel lobby in Washington is accurate: Israel will gladly sleepwalk into international pariahdom (which will only confirm its rectitude for Podhoretz et al.), become a prison for a majority of its population, lose its soul in the brutality such a state would necessitate and see large flights of secular Jews from its population and an increase in religious fanaticism among those who remain.

One wonders if it isn't already too late to prevent this. But those who want Israel to survive and prosper as a Jewish state must surely hope so. I suspect that the only major political "ism" of the nineteenth century to survive intact in the twenty-first is in grave danger of dying.

Israel's only hope is Obama. But when he holds the mirror up to them, it cracks.


May 31st, 2010, 11:21 AM
At Least 10 Are Killed as Israel Halts Flotilla With Gaza Aid

NY TIMES (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/01/world/middleeast/01flotilla.html?hp)
May 31, 2010

JERUSALEM — Israeli naval commandos raided a flotilla carrying thousands of tons of supplies for Gaza in international waters on Monday morning, killing at least 10 people, according to the Israeli military and activists traveling with the flotilla. Some Israeli news reports put the death toll higher.

The confrontation drew widespread international condemnation of Israel, with Israeli envoys summoned to explain their country’s actions in several European countries.

The criticism offered a propaganda coup to Israel’s foes, particularly Hamas, the militant group that holds sway in Gaza, and damaged Israel’s ties to Turkey, one of its most important Muslim partners and the unofficial sponsor of the Gaza-bound convoy. Turkey recalled its ambassador to Israel, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan cut short a visit to Latin America to return home.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled his plans for meeting with President Obama in Washington on Tuesday, an Israeli government official confirmed. Mr. Netanyahu, who is visiting Canada, planned to return home Monday to deal with fallout from the raid, the official said.

The Israeli Defense Forces said more than 10 people were killed when naval personnel boarding the six ships in the aid convoy met with “live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs.” The naval forces then “employed riot dispersal means, including live fire,” the military said in a statement.

Greta Berlin, a leader of the pro-Palestinian Free Gaza Movement, speaking by telephone from Cyprus, rejected the military’s version.

“That is a lie,” she said, adding that it was inconceivable that the civilian passengers on board would have been “waiting up to fire on the Israeli military, with all its might.”

“We never thought there would be any violence,” she said.

At least four Israeli soldiers were wounded in the operation, some from gunfire, according to the military. Television footage from the flotilla before communications were cut showed what appeared to be commandos sliding down ropes from helicopters onto one of the vessels in the flotilla, while Israeli high-speed naval vessels surrounded the convoy.

A military statement said two activists were later found with pistols they had taken from Israeli commandos. The activists, the military said, had apparently opened fire “as evident by the empty pistol magazines.”

The warships first intercepted the convoy of cargo and passenger boats shortly before midnight on Sunday, according to activists on one vessel. Israel had vowed not to let the flotilla reach the shores of Gaza.

Named the Freedom Flotilla and led by the Free Gaza Movement and a Turkish organization, Insani Yardim Vakfi, the convoy was the most ambitious attempt yet to break Israel’s three-year blockade of Gaza.

About 600 passengers were said to be aboard the vessels, including the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Mairead Corrigan-Maguire of Northern Ireland, and a Holocaust survivor, Hedy Epstein, 85.

“What we have seen this morning is a war crime,” said Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator for the government in the West Bank. “These were civilian ships carrying civilians and civilian goods — medicine, wheelchairs, food, construction materials.”

“What Israel does in Gaza is appalling,” he added. “No informed and decent human can say otherwise.”

At a news conference on Monday in Jerusalem, Israeli deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, said the flotilla’s intent was “not to transfer humanitarian things to Gaza” but to break the Israeli blockade.

“This blockade is legal,” he said, “and aimed at preventing the infiltration of terror and terrorists into Gaza.”

Ms. Berlin, of the Free Gaza Movement, said, “They attacked us this morning in international waters. According to the coordinates, we were 70 miles off the Israeli coast.”

Within hours, diplomatic repercussions began to spread from the Mediterranean to Europe where Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs, called for a full inquiry into the incident and the immediate lifting of the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Bill Burton, a deputy press secretary for the White House, said, “The United States deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained and is currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy.”

A joint statement from Robert Serry and Filippo Grandi, two senior United Nations officials involved in the Middle East peace process and humanitarian aid to Gaza, condemned the raid, which they said was “apparently in international waters.”

“We wish to make clear that such tragedies are entirely avoidable if Israel heeds the repeated calls of the international community to end its counterproductive and unacceptable blockade of Gaza,” the officials said.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France called Israel’s use of force “disproportionate,” while William Hague, the British foreign secretary, said he deplored the loss of life. Tony Blair, the representative of the so-called quartet of powers seeking a Middle East settlement, said in a statement that he expressed “deep regret and shock at the tragic loss of life.”

“We need a different and better way of helping the people of Gaza and avoiding the hardship and tragedy that is inherent in the current situation,” the statement said. The quartet includes the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia. In London, hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters blocked Whitehall, the broad avenue running past the prime minister’s residence and office at 10 Downing Street.

Turkey strongly condemned the Israeli military action.

“Regardless of any reasoning, such actions against civilians engaged in only peaceful activities are unacceptable,” said a statement on the Foreign Ministry’s Web site on Monday. “Israel will be required to face the consequences of this act that involves violation of the international law.”

“Israel launched this operation in international waters and to a ship flagged white, which is unacceptable under any clause of the international law,” the head of the Turkish Grand National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Commission, Murat Mercan, said on the Turkish station NTV.

“We are going to see in the following days whether Israel has done it as a display of decisiveness or to commit political suicide.”

Thousands of protesters gathered in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, chanting anti-Israeli slogans and repeating Islamic verses while government officials called for calm and urged demonstrators to avoid retaliation against Israeli nationals.

Protesters met in front of the Israeli Consulate earlier and marched toward the square carrying a banner that read, “Zionist Embassy should close down,” and chanting slogans including “Damn Israel” and “Long live global intifada.”

Crowds also gathered outside the Ankara residence of Gabi Levi, the Israeli ambassador, who was summoned to the Foreign Ministry.

Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, said Israel should provide a full explanation of what happened. News reports said the authorities in Egypt and Jordan, two Arab neighbors which have peace treaties with Israel, had summoned Israeli envoys to protest the action.

The outcry from Muslim leaders was strong and immediate. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, called the incident “a massacre,” according to the official Wafa news agency. Mr. Abbas is to meet with President Obama in Washington next week.

Saad Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, denounced the raid as “a dangerous and crazy step that will exacerbate tensions in the region,” while the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said it was “inhuman.”

Channel 10, a private television station in Israel, quoted the Israeli trade minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, as saying 14 to 16 people had been killed. He said on Israeli Army Radio that commandos boarded the ships by sliding down on ropes from a hovering helicopter and were then struck by passengers with “batons and tools.”

“The moment someone tries to snatch your weapon, to steal your weapons, that’s where you begin to lose control,” Mr. Ben-Eliezer said, according to Reuters.

Jamal El Shayyal, a reporter from the television broadcaster Al Jazeera, was on board the Mavi Marmara, the largest of the six ships, during the assault. He said in a video report that dozens of civilians had been injured in the fighting.

The I.D.F. said the ships from the convoy would be taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod, north of Gaza, where “naval forces will perform security checks in order to identify the people on board the ships and their equipment.”

On Sunday, three Israeli Navy missile boats had left the Haifa naval base in northern Israel a few minutes after 9 p.m. local time, planning to intercept the flotilla. After asking the captains of the boats to identify themselves, the navy told them they were approaching a blockaded area and asked them either to proceed to Ashdod or return to their countries of origin.

The activists responded that they would continue toward their destination, Gaza.

Speaking by satellite phone from the Challenger 1 boat, which has foreign legislators and other high-profile figures on board, a Free Gaza Movement leader, Huwaida Arraf, said: “We communicated to them clearly that we are unarmed civilians. We asked them not to use violence.”

Earlier Sunday, Ms. Arraf said the boats would keep trying to move forward “until they either disable our boats or jump on board.”

Reporting was contributed by Mark McDonald in Hong Kong, Sebnem Arsu in Istanbul, Alan Cowell in London and Steven Erlanger in Paris.

Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company

May 31st, 2010, 11:38 AM
Not recent, but this discussion with the President of Syria is well worth the hour: http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/484

June 5th, 2010, 09:54 PM
The Ballgame and the Sideshow

Published: June 4, 2010

When I covered the 1982 Lebanon war, I learned something surprising about wars: they attract all kinds of spectators, meddlers, do-gooders and do-badders. They use the conflict and the attention it generates to play out their own identity issues, passions and biases. My favorite in Beirut was a gentleman who showed up in August 1982 as the Palestinian guerrillas were sailing out of Beirut harbor. His name — I am not making this up — was Arthur Blessitt, the “Sunset Boulevard Preacher.” He had walked to West Beirut from Israel to pray for peace, dragging a 13-foot-long wooden cross with a little wheel on the bottom.

Arthur was harmless; some of the others, though, were mendacious, which prompted me to promulgate this rule: I adore the Israelis and Palestinians, but God save me from some of their European and American friends. Their grandstanding interventions — like those blockade-busters sailing to Gaza or the wealthy American Jews who fund extremist settlers’ housing purchases in Arab East Jerusalem — often fuel the worst trends on either side and divert our energies from the only thing that is important: forging a two-state solution.

So is there anything good happening in that regard? Yes. The effort by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to build the institutional foundations of a Palestinian state from the ground up — replacing the corrupt, jerry-built structure that Yasir Arafat created and Israel destroyed — is actually making progress. This matters — and must be nurtured.

You see, there are two models of Arab governance. The old Nasserite model, which Hamas still practices, where leaders say: “Judge me by how I resist Israel or America.” And: “First we get a state, then we build the institutions.” The new model, pioneered in the West Bank by Abbas and Fayyad is: “Judge me by how I perform — how I generate investment and employment, deliver services and pick up the garbage. First we build transparent and effective political and security institutions. Then we declare a state. That is what the Zionists did, and it sure worked for them.”

The most important thing going on in this conflict today is that since 2007 the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and the U.S. have partnered to train a whole new West Bank Palestinian security force in policing, administration and even human rights. The program is advised by U.S. Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton — one of the unsung good guys. The Israeli Army has become impressed enough by the performance of the new Palestinian National Security Force, or N.S.F., under Abbas and Fayyad that those forces are now largely responsible for law and order in all the major West Bank towns, triggering an explosion of Palestinian building, investment and commerce in those areas.

Here are highlights: the Jordanians have trained and the Palestinian Authority deployed and equipped five N.S.F. battalions and one Presidential Guard unit, some 3,100 men. Plus, 65 Palestinian first-responders have been trained and are being equipped with emergency gear. A Palestinian National Training Center, with classrooms and dorms, is nearing completion in Jericho so the Palestinians themselves can take over the training. The Palestinian Authority is building a 750-man N.S.F. camp to garrison the new N.S.F. troops — including barracks, gym and parade ground — near Jenin. At the same time, the Palestinian security headquarters are all being rebuilt in every major Palestinian town, starting in Hebron. An eight-week senior leadership training course in Jericho — bringing together the Palestinian police, the N.S.F. and Presidential Guards — has graduated 280 people, including 20 women.

A course for captains and below in how to handle everything from crowd control to elections has also begun. The reinvigorated Palestinian Ministry of Interior is leading the Palestinian security sector transformation, and the Canadians are helping to set up Joint Operations Centers across the West Bank so all Palestinian security services can coordinate via video conferencing. The Canadians are also helping the Palestinians to build a logistics center. Parallel with all this, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has reduced Israel’s manned checkpoints in the West Bank from 42 to 12.

This won’t be politically sustainable for Abbas and Fayyad, though, unless Israel begins to turn full authority over to the Palestinians for their major cities — so-called area A — in the West Bank. Palestinians have to see their new security services as building their state, not cushioning Israel’s occupation. There could be a moment of truth here for Israel soon, but at least it will be based on something real.

In sum, this dynamic — Palestinians building real institutions from the ground up and getting Israel to cede to them real authority — is the ballgame. Make it work across the West Bank and find a way to transfer it to Gaza (how about reopening the Israel-Gaza border and letting the new Palestinian N.S.F. control the passages to Israel?) and a two-state solution is possible. Let it fail, and we’ll have endless conflict. Everything else is just a sideshow.

June 17th, 2010, 10:29 PM
So now Israel is saying they will relax the Gaza Blockade sort of and ease up a bit with the psychological warfare component of the whole thing; they're going to let food items get in. Apparently someone in Israeli government now concedes that things like sesame and spices (previously barred from entry) are not really a danger after all? I mean...block guns and weapons, but sesame? WTF was that all about?

June 17th, 2010, 11:21 PM
Haven't you ever heard of this (http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/EHFfTJ4tBwn9C04qA7aQMQ) ?

June 18th, 2010, 10:22 AM
What the hell is that?

June 18th, 2010, 11:39 PM
So now Israel is saying they will relax the Gaza Blockade sort of ...

I mean ... block guns and weapons, but sesame? WTF was that all about?

Haven't you ever heard of this (http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/EHFfTJ4tBwn9C04qA7aQMQ) ?

You've gotta read the caption [ insert annoying emoticon :: :p ]

July 3rd, 2010, 07:44 PM
July 2, 2010
Burrowing Through a Blockade


One useful place to mull Israel’s siege of Gaza is from inside an 800-foot-long smugglers’ tunnel burrowing under the Egyptian border.

The tunnel, well ventilated and well lit with wooden supports, is big enough to walk along with a wheelbarrow full of contraband. But it’s more mechanized than that. A crew on the Egyptian side loads a large gurney with bags of cement, totaling one ton, and then an electric winch tows the gurney by cable through the tunnel to the outlet on the Gaza side. Another crew then loads the sacks onto a truck for delivery around Gaza.

This tunnel operates around the clock, and all around me I saw other tunnel entrances — some big enough to drive cars through so that they end up in dealerships in Gaza. They were covered but weren’t seriously hidden, and nobody objected to an American journalist scrambling around — even though tunnels were everywhere.

“I’d say there are 800 to 900 of these tunnels,” one tunnel owner told me. “They employ an average of maybe 30 people each.”

The tunnel owners are aghast that Israel is talking about easing the siege and grumbled that they are already facing a huge drop in orders as a result. A significant number of tunnels have had to suspend work for the time being.

I wish Israeli and American officials could see these tunnels, too. They might realize how counterproductive the siege of Gaza has been, arguably empowering Hamas rather than undercutting it. And while it’s not clear how far Israel’s relaxation will go, my reporting here leaves me convinced that Israel should lift the siege altogether.

Visiting Gaza persuaded me, to my surprise, that Israel is correct when it denies that there is any full-fledged humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The tunnels have so undermined the Israeli blockade that shops are filled and daily life is considerably easier than when I last visited here two years ago.

That makes it especially silly of Israel’s leadership to have squandered nine lives and its global reputation by seizing ships on the high seas — when the freight on that flotilla was probably less than what passes through the tunnels in a single hour.

Then there’s another cost of the siege. It has eviscerated one of the greatest potential counterweights to Hamas: the traditional business community in Gaza.

“There is no influence for businessmen anymore,” lamented Fouad Oada, a garment manufacturer. He has laid off 39 of the 40 employees he had when the siege began three years ago.

That’s a common story. Some 4,000 businesses have closed in Gaza, according to Omar Shaban, an economist here. He warns that the business community, which preached moderation and peace and had close ties to Israel, has been nearly destroyed. Its place in society has been taken over, he said, by tunnel operators — who benefit from instability and may be tempted to lob missiles at Israel if peace threatens to break out.

One of Gaza’s most successful capitalists is Mohammed Telbani, who employed 350 people full time in a sprawling factory making biscuits, pretzels and ice cream for Gaza, the West Bank and parts of Israel. Now most of his factory floor is dark, and he has his employees work only about a week a month.

“I’m not Hamas,” Mr. Telbani said. “I want to live with everybody. I want to make money. And I have 350 employees who just want a chance to work.”

The problem for factory owners is that Israel doesn’t allow in most raw materials and doesn’t permit exports. Smuggling all imports by tunnels is prohibitively expensive. Exporting by tunnel isn’t feasible — so factories close.

“When people lose their jobs, they hate Israel all the more,” Mr. Telbani said. “They don’t blame Hamas. They blame Israel.”

Sari Bashi, the executive director of Gisha, an Israeli human rights organization that monitors Gaza, says that the siege has probably strengthened Hamas. Partly that’s because Hamas taxes goods smuggled in tunnels and partly because it has become a more important source of jobs and welfare with the collapse of private businesses.

It’s crucial, Ms. Bashi said, that the relaxation of the siege empower businesses by allowing them to bring in raw materials and then export finished goods. Otherwise, she warned, the blockade will simply continue “killing the moderates.”

Gaza is an enormously difficult problem, complicated by the kidnapping and detention of Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit (and the unconscionable refusal of Hamas to allow him Red Cross visits). But the siege seems to have so embittered many Gazans that they welcome any chance to inflict woe on Israelis, including Sergeant Shalit.

So if the present policy has failed utterly — even backfired by possibly bolstering Hamas — let’s start over. It’s time not just to ease the siege of Gaza, but to end it once and for all.