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Posted on on February 26th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Green Reconstruction: UNIFIL Plants Trees in Southern Lebanon

The 2006 Lebanon War caused massive ecological damages, especially in the country’s Southern region: more than one thousand hectare of forests and olive groves have been destroyed by bomb explosions and bush fires—according to a study published in May 2007 by the Association for Forests, Development and Conservation (AFDC). The economic losses of this destruction hit especially farmers and the rural population in South Lebanon.

In January 2010, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) started an extensive reforestation project in the region around the village Sh’huur. Within about three months, the international troops want to plant 2 300 trees. The project is headed by the “Green Sh’huur” Committee, a local initiative consisting of community residents and their mayor. About 4 000 trees have already been planted by the initiative. At the end of the project the number is supposed to reach a total of 10 452 trees—a symbolic number that represents the total surface area of Lebanon (10 452 km2). UNIFIL also maintains two other reforestation projects in the Southern Lebanese towns of Khiam and Rachaya al-Foukhar.

The projects have several objectives: they prevent further loss of biodiversity in the region, provide natural spaces for recreation and leisure, and foster the economic development in the region by increasing its attractiveness for tourists. Another central objective of the initiative is to strengthen local people’s awareness for environmental issues.

UNIFIL has been based in Lebanon since 1978. It guarantees that there are no illegal weapons between the Litani River and the Blue Line, a zone that separates Lebanese and Israeli armed forces. Engaging Blue Helmets in reforestation projects is nothing unusual: they have already planted more than 30 000 saplings around the world, among others in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Georgia, and Timor-Leste. (Kerstin Fritzsche)

For more information, please visit:…


But we have a problem with the above since back in 2006, when I was asking Mr. Ahmad Fawzi  who took over the Spokesperson’s job at the UN in order to give his one-sided view to the UN accredited Press of what was happening in the Israel-Lebanon and its Hezbollah war.

While the damage in Lebanon was caused by warfare, the damage on the Israeli side was caused by indiscriminate shelling with the unsophisticated rockets that had really no targets. In the process old growth forests in the Galilee were seriously damaged. I was asking as a point of information, to hear from him also on these damages, but he had no interest to hear such questions that went against his grain. Could not the UNIFIL officers realize now that impartiality calls for them doing reforestation work on both sides of the border?


Posted on on February 10th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

How Washington Can Really Help the Greens in Tehran .

from: Trita Parsi.

With the February 11 demonstrations around the corner, Washington is increasingly torn on whether and how to support the Iranian pro-democracy movement. Reality is that Washington’s history of involvement in Iran’s political affairs is not a pretty one. But between doing everything and doing nothing, there is a safe, effective third way. Alireza Nader of RAND and I write about that third path in Foreign Policy Magazine today.…

Trita Parsi, PhD

How Washington Can Really Help the Greens in Tehran:

For the Obama administration, there are dangers in doing too much and too little to help the pro-democracy movement in Iran. Here is how to chart a safe, effective third way.

Ever since last June’s disputed presidential election, Iran has been in the throes of change, with the nascent “green movement” protesting against an ever-more-authoritarian state. For months, Washington has asked itself: Should the United States actively push for regime change? Torn between the fear of ending up on the wrong side of history by being too cautious and the fear of ending up undermining the pro-democracy movement by being too aggressive, Barack Obama’s administration is playing a difficult balancing act.

History shows that intervention is easier said than done. Past U.S. attempts to sway Iranian internal affairs — such as the CIA-fomented 1953 coup d’état against a democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh — have proven costly for U.S. interests. Most notably, Washington’s support for the shah fueled the 1979 Islamic Revolution, inspiring anti-Western movements in Pakistan, Egypt, and beyond.

To make matters worse, due to its absence from the scene during the last 30 years, the United States is not sufficiently equipped to understand and shape what appears to be a titanic struggle between Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his opponents.

But between the extremes of doing nothing and doing everything, there is a middle ground: providing the Iranian pro-democracy movement with breathing space, rather than engaging in risky and imprecise exercises that would directly involve America as an actor on the Iranian scene. The United States can achieve this through a few simple steps:

First, the United States should tread carefully when it comes to issuing military threats. Under the shadow of a foreign military threat, the uphill battle of the Iranian pro-democracy movement becomes even steeper, as the Iranian regime is quite adept at exploiting foreign threats to stifle criticism at home. Moreover, the possibility of military conflict between Iran and the United States, or their respective “proxies,” might allow the Iranian regime to distract the population from the internal crisis.

Second, the United States should avoid sanctions that put a burden on the Iranian people, rather than the Iranian government. Broad-based sanctions that hit the entire economy hurt common citizens far more than the powerful elites. Any new sanctions should demonstrate not only international discontent with the conduct of the Tehran government, but also an effort by the United States to keep from harming average Iranians.

The shift toward targeted sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) — a 100,000-strong paramilitary and security force with significant business interests — is a welcome development. However, because the IRGC controls Iran’s official and underground economy, identifying sanctions that hurt only the IRGC while sparing the general population is difficult. Instead, U.S. and U.N. designation of specific individuals within the government and the IRGC responsible for the repression and human rights violations would make the sanctions both effective and truly targeted. Such designations would discourage foreign governments and companies from engaging with these individuals or conducting business with them and their affiliates, demonstrating to the regime that its domestic and foreign policies will have significant consequences.

Third, Washington should slow down the diplomatic process. Negotiation with Iran in and of itself is not the problem; engagement doesn’t legitimize the Iranian government, as only the people of Iran can do that. But in spite of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s latest offer to accept the International Atomic Energy Agency nuclear deal, Iran remains in political turmoil. It is questionable that Tehran can make enduring decisions on issues of this magnitude under these circumstances. Adopting unrealistic time frames for diplomacy is self-defeating, as time is needed to ascertain Tehran’s ability to come to an agreement as the Iranian political crisis unfolds. Avoiding an unhelpful and unnecessary rush toward an agreement also helps defuse demoralizing fears among the greens that their struggle for democracy is of no relevance to the United States.

Fourth, the international community, including the White House and U.S. State Department, should be vocal in excoriating Iran’s human rights abuses. Condemning abuses should not be confused with interfering in internal Iranian affairs. As a signatory of numerous international conventions, Iran has a legal obligation to uphold its people’s human rights. When it fails to do so, the United States and the world community has a responsibility to speak up. The Iranian government is, perhaps surprisingly, very sensitive in this area, due to its ambition to be perceived as a regional leader. This sensitivity should be utilized to make advances on the human rights front in Iran.

This would be helpful to the green movement in two ways. First, international focus on Iran’s human rights record makes it more difficult for Tehran to proceed with its abuses. For instance, the United States should support a special session on the human rights situation in Iran at the U.N. Human Rights Council. Second, it helps counter the Iranian government’s perception that the United States is willing to sacrifice the human rights and pro-democracy aspirations of the Iranian people for the sake of a nuclear deal.

Finally (Fifth), Washington should exercise patience and view Iran as a long-term factor in shaping U.S. national security interests across the Middle East. The green movement will not and cannot adjust its action plan to suit the U.S. political timetable. But if patience is granted — which includes avoiding a singular focus on the nuclear issue at the expense of all other considerations — Washington will access a far greater potential for change.

Ultimately, the Iranian opposition has shown tremendous strength and vitality without any material support from the United States. Iran’s people, not outsiders, will be the ones to achieve sustainable democracy. The Iranian opposition is not merely concerned about the June election, nor is it a simple creature of Iran’s factional politics. Rather, it represents a historic struggle for democracy and human rights. Between the all or nothing approaches, the United States can best help by providing Iran’s democrats with breathing room.

Alireza Nader is an international affairs analyst at the RAND Corporation and co-author of Mullahs, Guards, and Bonyads: An Exploration of Iranian Leadership Dynamics.

Trita Parsi is president of the National Iranian American Council and the 2010 recipient of the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order.


UPDATED: Washington will do just that !!!

U.S. plans sanctions to hit Iran’s Revolutionary Guards
The U.S. is building a portfolio of sanctions against Iran that specifically targets the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in response to Iran’s announcement it will continue efforts to enrich uranium — a process that could contribute to a nuclear weapons development program. Russia joined the U.S. with an atypically harsh response, while China, which has said it opposed sanctions against Iran before, was mute on the announcement. The goal of the sanctions, which would affect a large number of companies that does business with the Revolutionary Guards, would be to drive a wedge between Iranians and the security forces by making it too expensive for companies to do business with Iran.


Posted on on January 6th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

From the latest news coming from Washington – “Under the new airport
rules, all citizens of Afghanistan, Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq,
Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen must receive a pat
down and an extra check of their carry-on bags before boarding a plane
bound for the United States, officials said. Citizens of Cuba, Iran,
Sudan and Syria — nations considered ‘state sponsors of terrorism’ —
face the same requirement.”

That means Cuba and thirteen Muslim states: Afghanistan, Algeria,
Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia,
Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

These news caused a lot of comments, but we think the wrong comments.

We assume obviously that Washington is ready finally to address the
terrorism issue. Airplane terrorism, as we learned on 9/11, is not
about transport of weapons but about terrorists – to be specific since
9/11 – we speak here about Islamic terrorists. If you want to catch
terrorists you must look for terrorists. Looking for baby formula is
not the answer – but looking for those passengers whose profiles are
suspicious might be a better bet. Sure, obviously, not all Muslims are
terrorists, and profiling is terrible – even illegal, but if you want
to catch terrorists you start with the profile that most fits Islamic
terrorists, and you bet – they are Muslims of any color. Even though
they may be traveling with documents issued by non-Islamic States,
i.e. the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, France, Switzerland, or even the

So, it is not easy to define exactly what papers are carried by the
terrorists, but you can have some guidelines to increase your chance
of catching them. looking for a profile of an Asian or African Muslim.
Then, learn from the Israelis how to talk to them – you may even find
out that they are so convinced that their cause is the right one, that
they will lower their guard and just plainly disclose that what you
see is all they got.

There may be a Jamaican convert to Islam who preached terrorism in the UK
and resides now in Kenya – a case in point. Kenya does want him either and
he will be sent back to Jamaica a second time. yes, this is a problem if you
are American and Jamaica does not cooperate – but he is a Muslim and no
Anti-Defamation league is enrtitled to tell you Mr. President that he should
not be stripped and searched if he wants to travel via the US to Jamaica.
This is simple.

But what about Cuba? Fidel Castro is more atheist then Catholic, surely
no Muslim. Whatever went on in the past is history to me and I do not believe
prologue to Mr. Castro. So why mix him and his country up with 13 Islamic
States involved in Islamic Terrorism? That is unless someone in the US longs
to see him give cover to such terrorists in the future so they get new reasons
to be after him? If the Jamaica case has anything to teach us – it is that the
US is better off reinsuring its rear parts from anger caused by mistreatment
and friendship is not achieved by mulling over past grief. Specially, as several
hundred former sugar baron families living in Florida should not be allowed to
hold hostage the US when it comes to real US interests.

Mr. President, I watched Bolivia and Venezuela leaders speak in Copenhagen,
they fumed and brimmed with words – no stones or missiles. Their ALBA is,
I think, the natural ally of a US that manages to disengage from the Islamic
world of oil. So, it is the US self interest that calls for you, Mr. President, to
invite Fidel Castro to Washington for a tete-a-tete and start on a way that
eventually will give the US the wall of safety it needs when addressing the 21st
Century centers of terror – the Islamists’ terror cancer that will continue to ooze
as long as we use oil.

Please start by taking him of that list!

The thirteen on that list include the obvious Iran – Syria – Lebanon
trio of the Shii’a Islam, it includes the Afghanistan/Pakistan US
theater of operations and Iraq, as well as the other US theater Saudi
Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan that misses Egypt and the Gaza strip. A
fourth historic region includes Libya and Algeria, then with Nigeria,
these are newer sources of oil for the US, and as such clear potential
sources of unhappy Islamists who complain about the changes in their
countries as fueled by oil money. In very few countries terrorism
against the US was actually started by rulers decree. Libya, Iran,
Syria, Sudan, Somalia may be the exceptions, but Saudi Arabia and
Yemen may have seen rulers who deflected anger against themselves into
anger against foreigners. In the majority of cases the terrorist is a
person of convictions and the situation could have been avoided had
the US and the rest of the Western World, tried to be less squanderous
with the oil we got addicted to.

Having said the above – let us get now to the point – MR PRESIDENT –
LIST IN 2010.

* * * *

Please look – I am posting here four reference – links to news
articles of today’s New York Times.…
New Air Security Checks From 14 Nations to U.S. Draw Criticism…
In Yemen, U.S. Faces Leader Who Puts Family First…
Behind Afghan Bombing, an Agent With Many Loyalties…
Kenya Seeks to Deport Muslim Cleric to Jamaica



We have received a comment on this post and it presents a very valid point supposedly made at the UN General Assembly by the Foreign Minister of Cuba: “I mean if they were going to include us, then they should have at least thrown in North Korea.”

Even if the e-mail we received from ajay –   akazif at  as presented by www. in… were a made up story, the argument holds water nevertheless. DID THE US INCLUDE CUBA ON THAT LIST BECAUSE IT WANTED TO AVOID BEING SEEN AS GOING AFTER A RAG-TAG OF ISLANIC COUNTRIES? Now, we believe that US security should be spoken here – not again US appeasement-for-oil please!


Posted on on August 12th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (


The Czar Makes Up With the Sultan 


Analysis by Hilmi Toros
ISTANBUL, Aug 12 (IPS) – Once the worst of enemies, involved in 12 wars in three centuries, Turkey and Russia have suddenly become the best of friends, forging strong bonds that could be a counterpoint to the European Union if it freezes Turkey out of full membership.

The countries call their ties “multi-dimensional co-operation,” somewhat short of a “strategic partnership”, but that too may be in the offing. 

On an eight-hour visit to Turkish capital Ankara last week, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed 20 deals with his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. These are mostly commercial contracts in energy, collectively worth some 40 billion dollars. 

The two leaders also declared that rival gas pipelines Nabucco and South Stream to bring natural gas to European markets would be “complimentary” rather than “conflicting”. 

Nabucco, the 7.9 billion euro project backed by the EU and the United States, would bypass Russia in bringing gas from Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Iraq and potentially also from Iran to Europe via Turkey. It is due to be operational by 2014. 

The Russian proposed South Stream, to become operational by 2016, would carry gas from Russia to Europe through Turkey’s territorial waters in the Black Sea and onward to Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia to Austria. Its objective is to bypass Ukraine, currently the conduit for 80 percent of Russian gas pumped to Europe.

In the end, conflicting or complimentary, if both projects are realised, Russia and Turkey would play a major role in meeting Europe’s growing gas needs. For Europe, either an unfriendly Turkey or Russia would endanger energy security – and it would be much worse if both were ever to gang up on the EU together. 

There already are signs that Turkey, aware of its critical role as a corridor for EU energy needs, is flexing its muscles, with the rapprochement with Russia seen as a warning to the EU. 

“Turkey is not changing its foreign policy. It still gives priority to ties with the West. But the energy issue is giving a new dimension,” writes Sami Kohen, foreign affairs columnist for the daily Milliyet. “The energy equation will make Turkey’s policy more independent.” 

That translates into more national, less EU, interest. 

“If EU doesn’t want us, we won’t beg,” businessman Hasan Aydemir told IPS. “Europe has to think twice of the implications of Turkey out of its union and allied with Russia. If that happens, why not?” 

Yusuf Kanli, chief columnist for the English language daily Hurriyet, says the current Turkish-Russian closeness will in turn bring Turkey closer to EU as Europe becomes more aware of Turkey’s growing importance and critical geopolitical status. 

But Turkey within the EU is far off, if ever it will happen. Its aspiration to join the EU as the first Muslim nation is now in the 50th year since the first bid – perhaps the longest engagement on record with no marriage in sight. The accession process is faltering in the face of opposition from EU members such as France, Germany and Austria. 

Meanwhile, Turkish-Russian ties are in constant expansion. Russia will ship oil through a pipeline to a southern Turkish port and also deliver gas to Lebanon and Israel via Turkey. A Russian company will be involved in Turkey’s plans to build a nuclear power station. 

Culturally, Turkey will open Russian study institutes and cultural centres. Russians are now the second largest group after Germans visiting Turkey; they numbered about three million last year. Signs in Russian accompany those in English in resorts such as Fethiye, Antalya and Alanya. Radio stations broadcast in Russian. And there are now Russian language newspapers in Turkey. 

Turkey declared 2007 The Year of Russian Culture, and Russia reciprocated in 2008. 

Last year, trade between the two countries reached 38 billion dollars, an eight-fold increase in eight years, making Russia Turkey’s biggest partner. Trade is forecast to reach 100 billion dollars in four years. 

The combined diplomatic weight of the two countries may also help find solutions to regional conflicts, including disputes between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and Armenia and Turkey. They might even persuade Iran to take a more moderate stand. One or the other has solid relations with most countries involved in opposition to one another. 

The closeness may be helped by a similarity between Putin and Erdogan: both come from humble origins; both seem ready to bury historical enmities; both are seen as strong leaders firmly entrenched in power for years to come (they are in their 50s); both are dynamic and sporty (Putin excels in judo and Erdogan is a former soccer player); both are stern and all business. 

If there is the touch of a Czar in Putin, there is a Sultan in Erdogan. The Turkish leader has become a regional folk hero for his defence of Palestinians against Israeli strikes when he stormed out of a debate with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Davos, Switzerland, in February when the moderator attempted to cut short his anti-Israel oratory. 

The closeness contrasts sharply with the history of the two nations. The Czarist Russian and the Ottoman Turkish empires were at each other’s throats from the 17th up to the 20th centuries, when Russia eventually succeeded in wresting the Black Sea and the Balkans from Ottoman domination. 

Later, after World War II, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin eyed but failed to control the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits in Turkey for passage from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. Even as late as the 1980s, Turkey was the West’s bastion against feared Soviet expansionism from the East. If that was seen as the unwelcome Soviet Bear Hug, this now is a mutual embrace. 


Posted on on August 12th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

Shiites in Iraq Show Restraint as Sunnis Keep Attacking


Moises Saman for The New York Times
Shiites prayed at a service in the Sadr City district of Baghdad in June. The area has been a frequent target of Sunni extremists.

BAGHDAD — Shiite clerics and politicians have been successfully urging their followers not to retaliate against a fierce campaign of sectarian bombings, in which Shiites have accounted for most of the 566 Iraqis killed since American troops pulled out of Iraq’s cities on June 30.


Times Topics: Shiite Muslims


Ali al-Saadi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
In one of many recent attacks on Shiites, a bomb hit a mosque in the Shaab district of Baghdad on July 31, killing 41 people.

“Let them kill us,” said Sheik Khudair al-Allawi, the imam of a mosque bombed recently. “It’s a waste of their time. The sectarian card is an old card and no one is going to play it anymore. We know what they want, and we’ll just be patient. But they will all go to hell.”

The patience of the Shiites today is in extraordinary contrast to Iraq’s recent past. With a demographic majority of 60 percent and control of the government, power is theirs for the first time in a thousand years. Going back to sectarian war is, as both Sunni extremists and Shiite victims know, the one way they could lose all that, especially if they were to drag their Sunni Arab neighbors into a messy regional conflict.

It is a far cry from 2006, when a bomb set off at the sacred Shiite shrine in Samarra killed no one, but ignited a fury at the sacrilege that set off two years of sectarian warfare.

This year the equally important shrine of Kadhimiya in Baghdad, the tomb of two revered Shiite imams, was attacked by suicide bombers twice, in January and April. More than a hundred people were killed, but there was no retaliation.

Bombing Shiite mosques has become so common that Sunni extremists have been forced to look elsewhere to provoke outrage — much as they did in 2005, when Shiites similarly showed patience when attacked. They have attacked groups of Shiite refugees waiting for food rations, children gathering for handouts of candy, lines of unemployed men hoping for a day’s work, school buses, religious pilgrimages, weddings, marketplaces and hospitals in Shiite areas and even the funerals of their victims from the day before.

Iraq’s Shiites, counseled by their political and religious leaders and habituated to suffering by centuries as the region’s underclass, have refused to rise to the bait — for now. Instead, they have made a virtue of forbearance and have convinced their followers that they win by not responding with violence. Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has brought once violent Shiite militiamen into the fold, while the Shiites’ spiritual leader, Grand AyatollahAli al-Sistani, has forbidden any sort of violent reprisals.

“I wouldn’t look for this to become a repeat of 2006,” said the American ambassador to Iraq, Christopher R. Hill. “It’s very different.”

No longer are there tit-for-tat bombings of Sunni mosques after Shiite mosques are hit.

Now, even some of the most violent of Shiite extremists of past years are clamoring to join the political process. Last week, the Maliki government announced that Asa’ib al-Haq, one of the so-called special groups that continued to fight after other Shiites had stopped in 2008, now had renounced violence against Iraqis.

To some extent, the recent attacks against Shiites were expected, as many Iraqis braced for a general increase in violence after the American military withdrawal from towns and cities on June 30. On Monday, several bombs went off around Baghdad, and two huge truck bombs destroyed an entire village of Shiites from the Shabak minority near Mosul, in the north.

Ten days earlier, five mosques were bombed during Friday Prayer in poor areas around Baghdad, where followers of the anti-American cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, are numerous. In the bloodiest attack, at the Shoroufi mosque in the Shaab area, a car bomb hit an outdoor prayer area, killing 41 of Mr. Sadr’s followers.

More mosque bombings followed during Friday Prayer last week, and on Tuesday night, at least eight people were killed in twin bombings at a cafe and a mosque in the predominantly Shiite Al Amin area of the capital.

Sheik Allawi, the imam at Al Shoroufi, recounted the lesson another preacher gave a week after the bombing there. “He reminded them of Imam Hussein and drew a connection between his suffering and the Shoroufi bombing,” he said. “Blood will spill on the ground until the Mahdi shows up.”

Shiite Islam is all about patience and the long view, waiting for the hidden 12th imam, the Mahdi, to return and redeem the faith’s followers. And it is also about enduring suffering, as illustrated by the annual and always passionate commemoration of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the seventh-century Shiite saint, when many flagellate themselves in bloody displays of regret.

Anger after such bombings is common, but now it is more likely to be directed against failures by Iraqi security forces, not against Sunnis.

In 2006, people had little confidence in the security forces to protect them, so they turned to the militias instead. “The Iraqi Army is not the one people worried about three years ago,” said Ambassador Hill. “They were considered part of the problem a few years ago; now it’s an army that is broadly understood not to be engaged in sectarian violence.”

Militias got a bad name during that period, even among the people they were supposed to protect. Many were blamed for extorting money from their neighborhoods and carrying out kidnappings for profit. “The time of the militias is over and they will not come back,” said Sheik Abdullah al-Shimary, leader of the Shiite Al Shimer tribe in Diyala. “There are security forces now, and they are the ones who have the responsibility to control our areas.”

Another important factor is the influence the Shiite clerical leadership has over its followers, with Grand Ayatollah Sistani and other members of the howza, the top religious leadership, condemning any sort of violent reprisals.

“Sayid Moktada al-Sadr has told us in his instructions that we have to follow the orders of the howza,” said Sheik Jalil al-Sarkhey, the deputy head of the Sadr office in Sadr City, the huge Shiite slum in Baghdad. “We are all agreed; there will be no spilling of Iraqi blood.”

Another important difference has been the rejection by Sunni politicians of attacks on the Shiites, which was rarely heard in 2006. “The Sunnis openly and clearly are condemning these attacks,” said Ghassan al-Atiyyah, a political analyst who directs the Iraq Foundation for Democracy and Development. “And they’re all emphasizing that this is trying to stir up sectarian violence.”

Majid al-Asadi, a cleric in Najaf, said, “We will not react against these efforts to ignite sectarian conflict because that is exactly what our enemies want and not what our Iraqi people want.”

Still, some Shiite leaders warn that their patience will not be infinite. “As human beings, every person has his limits,” Sheik Sarkhey said. “So we ask God to protect us from any sectarian war.”

Iraqi employees of The New York Times contributed reporting from Basra, Karbala, Diyala and Baghdad.


Posted on on August 3rd, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

Former PA Minister: Fatah Should Ally with Iran (Maan News-PA)
The time has come for Fatah to seek a strategic alliance with Iran, the movement’s Jerusalem affairs liaison Hatim Abdul Qader said Saturday.
Fatah’s rival, Hamas, is known to have warm relations with Iran.
Abdul Qader encouraged the upcoming Fatah conference to adopt a political program that formulates new relations with Iran due to its strategic importance and influence.
He argued that Iran’s power in the region ought to be exploited to serve the Palestinian cause.
Last month, the PLO’s top negotiator, Saeb Erekat, met with Iran’s foreign minister.

Report: Iran Plane that Crashed Was Carrying Arms for Hizbullah – Nir Magal (Ynet News)
An Iranian plane crash two weeks ago which left 168 people dead was caused by the explosion of sophisticated fuses slated to be delivered to Hizbullah, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported Saturday.
Sources said the plane was meant to transfer the fuses from Iran to Armenia, and from there to Syria through Turkey, and then on to Lebanon.
According to the report, the transfer of arms was a special operation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and some of its members were among the crash victims.


Posted on on August 1st, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

The following are the top 28 finalists in the Official 2009 New 7 Wonders of Nature competition – nominated from among hundreds of sites around the world that have been proposed.

see please: and you can vote – for up to 7 of the 28 list – at that link.

you can vote for your choice of 7 on line, by phone, or text message. It is expected that one billion people will vote and the winner will be announced in 2011.

A similar effort two years ago elected seven manmade wonders generated considerable publicity. We backed at that time Machu Picchu, Peru

These selections are being organized by a Swiss filmmaker and entrepreneur, Bernard Weber, and the committee that chose the 28 finalists included Federico Mayor, former chief of UNESCO, and Rex Weyler, co-founder of Greenpeace International.

Like everything else that has a UN connection, obviously such selections will be politicized beyond the simple angle of national pride – just see the country called Chinese Taipei for what most call Taiwan.

In this year of climate change we thing the Amazon will get the world’s nod, but watching in Vietnam (it is Halong Bay) how a whole country can get beyond a particular location we would have said that China could muster the vote, but will they do it for Taipei?

From among the many places on the list that we have been to – I am voting as Numero Uno for the Iguazu Falls.






























From the competition on the 7 Man-made wonders – a stamp collection from Gibraltar:

For all media inquiries and interview requests, please contact:

Tia B. Viering, Head of Communications
Mobile: +41 79-762-2784
Phone: +49 89 489 033 58 (Munich office)
Email at


Posted on on July 18th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

July 18, 1994 Hezbollah bombed the Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) in Buenos Aires. 85 people were killed, among them the wife of Ambassador Daniel Carmon, mother of his 5 children. Two years earlier the same Hezbollah/Iran terror link bombed the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires. Ambassador Carmon was the Vice President of CSD 16; Former Iran President Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-97) and Former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Moussavi (1981-89) now Chairman of the Assembly of Experts were responsible for creating the Iran – Hezbollah link.

Rafsanjani who is independently extremely rich, has been described as a centrist and a “pragmatic conservative” who supports a pragmatic position domestically and a moderate position internationally, seeking to avoid conflict with the United States and the West, but International arrest warrants have been issued for Rafsanjani and many other Iranian officials for their role in the bombing of the AMIA .

Shortly after the end of Iran-Iraq war on 20 August 1988, Ruhollah Khomeini died, and Ali Khamenei was elected as the new Supreme Leader by the Assembly of Experts. Following his death, Mousavi and his fellow left-wingers lost their main source of support within the establishment.

During the parliament hearing on post-war reconstruction plans, Mousavi had heated arguments with Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the speaker of Iran’s parliament at the time, over Rafsanjani’s suggestion that Iran accept the offer of western countries to help with post-war reconstruction.

On July 28, 1989, the constitution was amended and approved by Iranian voters in a national referendum with a 97% yes vote. At this time, Mehdi Karrubi had been elected as the new speaker of the parliament, to whom the amended constitution was declared. [16] According to one of the amendments, the prime minister’s position was abolished.

Hashemi Rafsanjani was also elected as the fourth president of Iran on 28 July 1989 and became the president on 3 August 1989. Mousavi’s premiership, ended on the same date. He was the 79th and the last prime minister of Iran, since the constitutional revolution in 1906.

Mousavi was not invited to be a participant in the new government headed by Rafsanjani, and disappeared from the public sphere.

Does the world believe that Moussavi & Rafsanjani are the potential leadership that will

bring change to Iran?  Will they agree to cut support for Hezbollah? Will they cut the policies they helped create in the past?

In Assessing Iran, Remember AMIA.

by Daniel Carmon
Special To The Jewish Week
The Jewish Week, July 17, 2009
On July 18 a somber anniversary will be marked: 15 years since the terrorist bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. In an instant, 85 people were killed and hundreds more injured. The seven-story building of Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina, “AMIA” — the longtime center of Argentinean Jewish life — was reduced to rubble. This monstrous act followed the destruction of the Israeli embassy in Argentina two years earlier. Twenty-nine people were killed in that terrorist bombing and more than 250 were injured. As an Israeli diplomat serving in Argentina at the time of both bombings, I saw it all.  I was in the embassy during the first attack. My wife — mother of our five children — was killed. I myself was

wounded. I witnessed the scene of utter devastation. I heard the initial cries of horror and disbelief followed by the deafening, stunned silence.

Last month the world followed the dramatic events in Iran, in the aftermath of the elections there. Almost 30 days have passed since the brutal crackdown on the protesters, yet no one can offer an analysis that would suggest where this wounded society is heading. The short term, at least, looks bleak to all those who hoped a real change for that country was imminent.

Apparently these two events, separated by time and geography, have nothing in common. Or do they?

Two separate investigations held in Argentina on the bombings of the Israeli Embassy and the AMIA center implicate Iran as the mastermind, while Hezbollah was the executioner. In fact, Argentina’s chief prosecutor has accused the highest levels of Iran’s government of being behind both bombings. Western intelligence services and anti-terrorist experts agree. Although separated by time, both devastating attacks were more of the same: two chapters of a larger story, two expressions of the same fanatical ideology of the Iranian regime. Iran made the decisions and ordered both attacks. Hezbollah, with the help of local agents, carried them out.

The multitude of demonstrators in Tehran last month contested the results of the elections, extolling their moderate “reformer” leader, Mir-Hossein Moussavi. Reformer? Moderate? Moussavi is not a new face to Iranian politics, as he served as prime minister between 1981-1989.  During his tenure he is believed to be one of the founders of the Hezbollah terrorist organization that has been Iran’s long arm in Lebanon and elsewhere. Another prominent political figure in Iran, now characterized by some as “moderate,” is former president Hashemi Rafsanjani. International arrest warrants have been issued for Rafsanjani and many other Iranian officials for their role in the bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center. Is this the potential new leadership that will bring change to Iran?

Since it came to power, in 1978, the extreme Islamic regime in Tehran has made no secret of its intentions. It spews out anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli vitriol and has vowed to wipe Israel off the map. But Israel is not the only target for its hate. Iran’s regional ambitions go much further.  While its official spokespersons and representatives at the United Nations are lecturing us on the need to combat terrorism, their country continuously supports, trains, finances and equips Hezbollah and Hamas.  Promoting instability in Lebanon, violating Egyptian sovereignty and threatening security and calm along Israel’s northern border and in Gaza are only part of the Iranian grand scheme: exporting its extremist vision throughout the region.

Iran’s dangerous efforts to develop nuclear capabilities must be viewed in this light. It is for the international community to seriously evaluate the poor record earned by this regime: the use of international terror, the threat to regional stability, the support of extremism. At the same time, let us not forget, Iran’s own citizens are victims of this extremist ideology and are subject to a level of repression unimaginable in liberal, democratic societies. Public executions, including of minors, are on the rise. So is the stoning to death of women. And amputation as punishment is a source of judicial pride.
Can the world trust such a regime?

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has infamously denied the Holocaust, while he is clearly preparing the next one. His country’s nuclear development programs and activities bluntly violate United Nations resolutions and are a slap in the face to the international community. A recent report of the UN nuclear watchdog agency declared that Iran was significantly ramping up its nuclear enrichment program. Iran’s nuclear ambitions threaten regional stability, constituting a real growing threat to every nation on earth. These fears are common knowledge throughout the United Nations and the international community, and are not confined to the discrete diplomatic discourse. Many of Israel’s Arab neighbors share the same concerns.

This is not “just” a lesson in recent history, and the 15th anniversary of the AMIA bombing is not only a day for reflection. This is a wake-up call. Iran of 15 years ago is, in many ways, the very same Iran of today:  same extreme ideology, same hate-mongering, same leaders. There is however one alarming difference: Iran is much closer to having the capacity to inflict far greater destruction.

As we commemorate the bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Argentina and remember the victims, the nations of the world should be looking carefully at the past while trying to secure a better tomorrow. They should learn to keep their eyes wide open in any dealings with Iran. This is not the time for self-deception or naïve ventures. The consequences of getting it wrong are too great. The risks, if taken, should be very well calculated.

Ambassador Daniel Carmon is deputy permanent representative of Israel to the United Nations.


Tehran Losing Iranians’ Trust, Ex-Leader Says
The New York Times
The police and the Basij militia fired tear gas at protesters on Friday outside Tehran University.

Published: July 17, 2009
BEIRUT, Lebanon — As thousands of protesters chanted Friday in the streets outside, a former Iranian president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, assailed the government’s handling of the post-election unrest, saying it had lost the trust of many Iranians, and called for the release of hundreds of those arrested in recent weeks.

Slide Show
New Protests in Tehran as Cleric Assails Handling of Unrest

The Lede: Latest Updates on Post-Election Protests in Iran

Times Topics: Mir Hussein Moussavi | Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani | Iran

Atta Kenare/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani delivering his sermon on Friday.

Fars News Agency, via Reuters
Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani led worshipers on Friday at Tehran University, where he criticized the government in his address.

The Role of a Former Iranian President.
The New York Times Columnist Roger Cohen discusses why former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s speech Friday signals that protests in Iran will continue.

Mr. Rafsanjani, speaking to a vast crowd at Tehran University’s prayer hall, advanced the cause of Iran’s beleaguered opposition, saying doubts about the disputed June 12 election “are now consuming us” and calling for a new spirit of compromise from the government.

“A large group” of Iranians, he said, have doubts about the election. “We should work to address these doubts,” he said.

His appearance emboldened opposition supporters, who asserted themselves more aggressively than they had in weeks. Tens of thousands of people converged around the prayer hall, witnesses said. Police officers beat back large crowds of chanting protesters with tear gas and truncheons. There were reports of at least 15 arrests.

The speech was a turning point for Mr. Rafsanjani, a powerful government insider who previously had operated cautiously and mostly behind the scenes during the worst political unrest since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. It seemed another sign that the hard-line leadership’s repression had not yet extinguished smoldering opposition.

In the audience were several prominent reformists, chief among them Mir Hussein Moussavi, the main opposition candidate, who has claimed that last month’s election was stolen from him. He had not been seen in public for weeks.

Mr. Rafsanjani, a bitter rival of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who supported Mr. Moussavi’s campaign, did not directly question Mr. Ahmadinejad’s landslide victory, which has been sanctioned by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

But he made clear that he believed that Ayatollah Khamenei, who has blamed foreign powers for the unrest and has called for an end to protests, should take a more conciliatory stance.

“Khamenei and Ahmadinejad tried to close the door for debate about the elections, but Rafsanjani reopened it in a very important setting,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The hall has been the scene of many addresses by senior clerics.

Calling the election aftermath a “crisis,” Mr. Rafsanjani urged that restrictions on the press and on free speech be removed, in addition to seeking freedom for those detained since the election.

Mr. Rafsanjani also criticized the Guardian Council, a powerful supervisory body that looked into possible election fraud, saying it “did not use wisely the time the supreme leader gave it to investigate.”

He said he had discussed a possible solution with members of the Expediency Council and the Assembly of Experts, two powerful state institutions he leads. He said his proposal was based on two principles: that everything must be done within a legal framework; and that there must be a free and open debate.

While the details were unclear, Mr. Rafsanjani’s proposal was an implicit rebuke to Ayatollah Khamenei, who tried to close the door on the post-election turmoil in his own Friday Prayer speech in the same hall four weeks ago. Ayatollah Khamenei has long presented himself as a neutral arbiter of Iran’s political disputes, but many Iranians say his embrace of Mr. Ahmadinejad and his stern dismissal of the protests has made the supreme leader seem a more partisan figure.

In that sense, Mr. Rafsanjani, a consummate pragmatist, appeared to be reclaiming a central role in Iran’s divided power structure.

His speech is bound to anger some of Iran’s hard-line political figures, who had said they wanted him to come out strongly against the protesters. Just before Mr. Rafsanjani spoke, a government cleric cautioned him not to say anything that went beyond “the framework of what the leader has defined” for the speech.

Until Friday, the opposition had been mostly quiet for weeks, in part because of the brutal street crackdowns and in part, Mr. Sadjadpour noted, because its most articulate leaders were either in prison, under house arrest, or unable to communicate.

“There remains tremendous popular outrage but no clear plan about how to channel it politically,” he said.

In fact, some opposition supporters were disappointed that Mr. Rafsanjani did not openly challenge the official election results. During the speech, some among the vast overflow crowd outside the hall at Tehran University chanted, “Rafsanjani, you are a traitor if you remain silent.”

Crowds began moving toward the prayer hall early Friday, and many were blocked by riot police officers. The crowds were mostly peaceful, but soon antigovernment chants broke out, like “Death to the coup d’état.”

It was then, witnesses said, that the police began spraying tear gas, and the Basij militia began beating people with sticks.

“There were so many people and so many security forces that the protests spread to streets several miles from the university,” one witness said.

Among those arrested Friday was Shadi Sadr, a lawyer and women’s rights activist picked up by plainclothes police officers as she walked to Friday Prayer, reformist blogs reported.

Apart from Mr. Moussavi, a reformist former president, Mohammad Khatami, also attended, as did the other failed presidential candidates, Mehdi Karroubi and Mohsen Rezai.

Most of those who attended the speech appeared to be supporters of the opposition, witnesses said, with an unusual proportion of women and many people wearing wristbands or other accessories in bright green — the color of the Moussavi campaign.

As the speech ended and traditional calls to chant “Death to America” came over the loudspeaker, many in the crowd instead chanted “Death to Russia.” Many opposition supporters are angry about Russia’s quick acceptance of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s election victory.

Mr. Ahmadinejad, who was visiting the northeastern city of Mashad, did not attend the speech. He announced several changes to his new cabinet, including the promotion of members of his inner circle, that have led some to conclude the president is not heeding any call to compromise.

Some observers hailed Mr. Rafsanjani’s speech as a typically shrewd gesture, in which he undermined his political rivals while rooting his comments in the principles of the Islamic republic.

“Everything in our Islamic republic is based on votes,” Mr. Rafsanjani said, in comments that were read by some as a quiet condemnation of the election results. “Without the people’s vote, things cannot go on.”

Alan Cowell contributed reporting from London, Nazila Fathi from Toronto, and independent observers from Tehran.


[PDF] Keynote Address by H.E. Mr. Daniel Carmon, Vice-Chairman of CSD-16 …

File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat – View
Keynote Address by H.E. Mr. Daniel Carmon, Vice-Chairman of CSD-16. Deputy Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations in New York …


Inquiry on 1994 Blast at Argentina Jewish Center Gets New Life

The New York Times, July 17, 2009

BUENOS AIRES — In the 15 years since the bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Association here, the deadliest terrorist attack in this country’s history, the case has become a symbol of the failings of Argentina’s judicial system.

Despite all the international attention, despite investigative help from Israel and the United States, no one has been convicted for the July 18, 1994, bombing of the community center, in which 85 people died and more than 300 were injured.

“This was clearly a test case,” said José Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director for Human Rights Watch. “And so far it really has not helped to establish any credibility for the justice system in Argentina.”

But suddenly, an investigation that former President Néstor Kirchner called a national disgrace has received new urgency and is again raising hopes among Jewish groups, though significant concerns about the inquiry remain.

In May, Argentina’s Supreme Court validated much of the evidence of the initial investigation, which had previously been ruled inadmissible after an investigative magistrate tried to bribe a witness. In its recent ruling, the court urged an “end to impunity” and emphasized the need for Argentina to finally solve the case.

Then last month, a federal judge here, Rodolfo Canicoba Corral, ordered the international capture of Samuel Salman El Reda, a 43-year-old Colombian citizen whom prosecutors here had accused of helping coordinate the local Hezbollah cell that Argentine investigators said had carried out the bombing.

Investigators here believe that they have solved the case in principle, having accused the Iranian government of planning and financing the attack, and Hezbollah of executing those plans.

But some experts, including a former American F.B.I. agent who assisted the Argentines in their investigation, are skeptical about the claims of direct Iranian involvement. “The guilt field was painted with a bit too broad a brush,” said the former agent, James Bernazzani, who led the F.B.I.’s Hezbollah operations unit in the late 1990s.

Mr. Bernazzani said he was still “convinced” of Hezbollah’s involvement, “but we surfaced no information indicating Iranian compliance.”

Such doubts have long clouded the investigations. Previous inquiries were riddled with incompetence, witnesses who were threatened and bribed, stolen evidence and accusations of a cover-up involving the former Argentine president Carlos Menem.

The Argentines, nevertheless, maintain that Iran was behind the attack, and have had limited relations with Tehran partly because of the investigation’s importance to the nation’s 230,000 Jews, the largest Jewish community in Latin America. The 1994 bombing came two years after the Israeli Embassy here was bombed, killing 29 people, a case that also remains unsolved.

Mohsen Baharvand, the chargé d’affaires at the Iranian Embassy here, said Iran was an “easy scapegoat” for the attack. “The whole claim against Iran in the AMIA case is a big lie,” Mr. Baharvand said in an e-mail message, using the Spanish acronym for the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Association.

Judge Juan José Galeano’s original investigation focused on the so-called local connection, including people involved in selling a van that had been loaded with explosives. But his inquiry went awry after he decided to pay a suspect, Carlos Telleldín, $400,000 to falsely accuse police officers of being involved in the plot. Amid the scandal, Mr. Telleldín and four police officers were acquitted in 2004. Judge Galeano was impeached a year later.

Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor who took over the investigation in 2005, has intensified a line of inquiry that Mr. Galeano had played down: the involvement of Iran.

In 2006, Mr. Nisman formally accused several members of Iran’s government of planning and financing the bombing, including former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Central to the indictments was an Iranian defector, Abdolghassem Meshabi, who said that the plot had been hatched in Tehran and that Iranian officials had paid Mr. Menem about $10 million to help cover up Iran’s involvement.

Mr. Menem denied any involvement last November. His former advisers have insisted that he was determined to solve the case, not cover it up, and that Mr. Bernazzani had said the F.B.I. did not view Mr. Meshabi as a credible witness.

With the case seemingly stalled, Argentina’s Supreme Court in May ordered it reopened, saying it was unreasonable to throw out all the original investigative work because of the Galeano corruption scandal. The court ruled that the investigation had been valid until Oct. 31, 1995, when Mr. Galeano decided to offer the money to Mr. Telleldín.


Posted on on June 19th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Prologue:

The Dear Leader Kim Jong Il   and The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei seem to present to the world their proud contention of being indeed The Axis of Evil that was originally suggested by former President G.W. Bush. (Bush had there also Saddam Hussein, and John Bolton was claiming also the rights of Fidel Castro, Muammar al-Gaddafi, and Bashar al-Assad. Since then Saddam Hussein is gone and his country is normalizing slowly, and the Bolton three are at various stages of trying to undo their fame.) What is clear is that a country is not evil – only its leader can be evil. He can nevertheless influence his people and the country as a whole can become then dangerously evil. That is what happened to Germany and Austria under Adolf Hitler   – The FUERER or THE LEADER –   and that might happen now to North Korea under Kim Jong Il, while there is hope that this is not the case of Iran where the young people may show that they did not absorb the indoctrination that is being dished out in those mosques.

Enter a new US President – Barack Hussein Obama – and he declares that we do not play anymore the game of blame. There is no evil we should not attempt to talk with, and that was completely fine with us. He indeed tried to address the real problems of the world but Jong Il and Ali Khamenei seem to insist that they cannot be by-passed – they want to be recognized as holdovers   entitled   to the crown of evil.

Enter a fly to the White House, in full view of world TV, and forces President Obama to take a resolute immediate reaction – the fly gets squished!


The Drama:

The students and younger generation, also the internet enlightened women of Iran, they see the obvious – the elections in which they participated in a symbolic vote for Mr. Moussavi, where highhandedly high-jacked by President Ahmadi-Nejad. They chose to go to the street to protest the fact that their symbolic vote was not counted.

They know that Moussavi was also agreed upon by The Supreme Leader, but they liked the contender’s wife who stood by him during the campaign. This was progress, and they were ripe to submit to slow progress – as long as there will be change. Surely, they would prefer faster change, but change in a positive direction was change nevertheless, and they blessed on it.

The Supreme Leader’s support of Ahmadi-Nejad’s holding onto power – honesty or not – has now the potential of turning the obvious into real rebellion – and this is a clear Iran problem. What should Washington do?

Obama is right – stay the course and stay out. the Supreme Leader with old Nazi style information training, will blame the US if it does or if it does not – but the Iranian people – at least a great part of them – will recognize the present US non-involvement and thus the Leader’s lies. It will strengthen their hand in their conviction that time has come for real change and indeed for a new Iranian revolution – this time without the US having caused it!

The same goes for the UK – stay out because in the past you did enough mischief in that part of the world and non-involvement now is the best way to stage the local people’s own involvement according to their own real interests.

 How does a sigle fly show the way to a wondering US President?

The story actually starts with Rene Descartes lying in bed, sometime in 1628, and watching flies. He was trying to track the flies’ position and he realized that he could describe a fly’s position by inventing coordinate geometry – that was the start of the Cartesian coordinate system and a philosophy with “Rules of the Direction of Mind,” that watching what the church did to Galileo in 1633, was eventually published only in 1701 (Descartes lived 1596 – 1650).

Seemingly, a descendant of that 1628 Cartesian fly entered the White House this week to lead President Obama in his search of what to do with Leaders of Evil.


Some in Washington, like Senator John McCain, are trying to trip President Obama, this while the world is learning of the broken bones of precious team members – Robert Gates, Sonia Sotomayor and Hillary Clinton. Senator McCain would like the US to intervene in Iran and see more killing and direct harm to the US. That is his right of having no responsibility for his positions. We think he also did not contemplate in depth the Cartesian fly’s self-sacrifice. Others thought that Dick Cheney might like see the US in trouble in order to vindicate his own failed policies.

Today’s newspapers are full of stories about US fortifying Hawaii Defenses Against North Korean arms and missile threats. Now that is another yet to be cooked case of raw thinking.

More solid thinking suggests that if change in Iran does occur, there is chance that also it will impact on the nuclear issue, but if repression does not allow for change, there is a chance that the outside world changes and more powers are ready to hold Iran on a shorter leash.


The Epilogue:

Obama – The President of the United States – learned from the fly incident that when a nasty intruder gets close to you – you just squish him. The facts are that he did not get up from his seat to chase out the intruding fly.

North Korea, has no velvet, orange, or green revolution – its youth has been brainwashed and all what they know is to march in lockstep. This is a very sorry situation and in Gilbert & Sullivan language – “they never shall be missed.” On the other hand – in Iran there is a new generation of talented people that might yet bring about change – that is in their own country – or as said if this did not work out – in our countries.

North Korea is a candidate for immediate squishing – Iran is not – but with a caveat!

So, when the first North Korean ship does not stop for inspection as ordered by the UN Security Council, give it short warning and SINK IT. Be ready to take on any other mischief from the Dear Leader and follow him to the end – this is the squishing part. They shall not be missed.

Iran, will watch what goes on with North Korea and learn. The larger lesson is that squishing does happen. The wise is expected to learn from this. The pinpointed study is that people that follow blindly a “Dear Leader” get punished eventually.


Posted on on June 8th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

If you did not know yet – here comes another sign of intransigence on the part of Arabs that really are not interested at heart to let go of their Israel pet toy. Why miss an opportunity to ask your favorite question? Do we have here examples of people afraid that a solution of the conflict might leave them without jobs? would not the US be best advised to take off those two individuals from the Press list when there will be future Press events?


June 8, 2009, 5:14 PM
Two Arab Reporters Passed on Obama Interview to Avoid Israeli Journalist.

As my colleague Jeff Zeleny reported last week, immediately after his speech in Cairo last week, President Obama sat down for a group interview with reporters from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Malaysia and Indonesia. On Friday, Politico’s Ben Smith noted that the roundtable was supposed to have included reporters from two other Arab countries, Lebanon and Syria, but they apparently passed on the chance to sit down Mr. Obama when they realized that they would be sitting next to Nahum Barnea, an Israeli columnist.

According to a translation of the Hebrew-language column Mr. Barnea wrote for the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth on Friday, three other Arab reporters were happy to sit next to him around a circular table and fire questions at Mr. Obama:

The original group had eight. The Syrian did not show after hearing that a reporter from Israel had been invited. The Lebanese, Naoum Sarkis, had been sitting with us all at the front of the hall but when he realized where I was from and whom I was representing, he passed on the opportunity and fled.

The others accepted the edict with respect, and some even happily. They included Jamal Khashoggi of Saudi Arbaia, Fahmi el-Awadi and Magdy el-Galad of Egypt, Wafa Amr, a Palestinian woman who works in Israel, Shahnaz Habib of Malysia and Bambang Harimurti of Indonesia, who were flown by the Americans all the way from the Far East.

A transcript of the group interview on the White House Web site makes no mention of the missing reporters, but it does reveal that Mr. Obama answered a question about “dealing with the hawks in the current Israeli government,” by suggesting that Israel’s new, conservative prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, might have an opportunity to play a more constructive role than a more liberal leader:

I believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu will recognize the strategic need to deal with this issue. And that in some ways he may have an opportunity that a labor or more left leader might not have. There’s the famous example of Richard Nixon going to China. A Democrat couldn’t have gone to China. A liberal couldn’t have gone to China. But a big, anti-communist like Richard Nixon could open that door. Now, it’s conceivable that Prime Minister Netanyahu can play that same role.


Posted on on June 5th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

We found an excellent article that explains Lebanon’s political situation:…   please read it while waiting to see what will happen after the June 7, 2009 election.

The June 5, 2006 article starts: “Lebanon’s parliamentary elections on 7 June 2009 find the country at a point where its (and especially Beirut’s) confessional system both tear and temper its complex reality. The campaign has been dominated by the sharp divide between the Hizbollah-led, “March 8” pro-Iranian opposition and the pro-United States “March 14″ side. At the climax, it appears that the elections may not break the political impasse between the two camps – and that no cabinet will be able to govern without the consent of the opposition. At the same time, the spectre of renewed internal conflict and regional upheaval is emerging.”

Interesting, France that established Lebanon as a State for the Christian Maronites, carved out from their part of the “Levant” that was created after the fall of the Turkish Empire following WWI, and the original carving up of the region between France and Britain, are not mentioned in the article at all. Today it is a Syrian – US competition, with Israel moving in and out whenever provoked. Will a possible US-Syrian detente, as required before a US withdrawal from Iraq, help also solve the Lebanon nightmare? Now, we will wait and see. President Obama did not mention Lebanon in his Cairo speech – it just cannot be judged by a US-Muslim conversation – it is much more complicated when the system requires that the 128 Member Parliament be made up by by two halves: sixty-four Christian representatives, (thirty-four Maronite, fourteen Greek Orthodox, eight Greek Catholic, five Armenian Orthodox, one Armenian Catholic, one Evangelical, and one candidate representing various further minorities, including the remaining Jews) – and sixty-four Muslim representatives (twenty-seven Sunni, twenty-seven Shi’a, eight Druze, and two Alawite), but the political leanings of these confessional members, and the voting districts’ compositions, allow for a free-for-all with a history of Syrian inspired gerry-mandering. With most Muslims being rather Shi’a, and considering the power of the Hizbolah army, their official 27 members of Parliament does not get close to their real power these days.


Posted on on June 4th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

 Daniel Levy, a Senior Fellow and Director of the Prospects for Peace Initiative at The Century Foundation and a Senior Fellow and Director of the Middle East Initiative at the New America Foundation writes to us:

I thought I’d share with you my thoughts on the speech which are pasted below.

The Obama team’s remarkable wordsmithery and the president’s unparalleled capacity for delivery were exquisitely on display again today in Cairo. But this speech should perhaps be remembered as much for what was not said. Gone was the arrogance and lecturing: there was no lavishing of praise on Egypt’s undemocratic leader – the word ‘Mubarak’ was not even mentioned once. Out too was the purple finger version of democratization and even the traditional American condescension toward the Palestinian narrative. But perhaps most remarkably of all, the words ‘terror’ or ‘terrorism’ did not pass the president’s lips. Here was a leader and a team around him smart enough to acknowledge that certain words have become too tainted, too laden with baggage, their use has become counter-productive, today the Global War on Terror framing was truly laid to rest.

Particularly striking was that President Obama almost certainly has emerged from the Cairo speech having accumulated additional capital rather than expending it, with greater popularity, traction, and respect among not only his ostensible target audience, the Muslim world, but also globally, including at home in America and even in Israel and with the world’s Jewish community. His future leverage across a range of issues has been enhanced.

It’s true that whenever the speech descended from the lofty heights of 30,000 feet to the 100-feet resolution of policy specifics and details, the magic dust seemed to dissipate as it emerged from the clouds, and those details were too often more autopilot than reset. But this was a big picture speech, and there is room later to make those course corrections on policy detail.

Here then are ten quick thoughts:

1. The Mother of All Resets

The president’s speech literally in one fell swoop will have much of the Muslim world and certainly elites, opinion leaders, and activists scratching their heads and recalibrating their stance toward America. Yes, for everyone the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, what comes next and whether policy changes on specific issues. The immediate effect though is to buy America space and time. It gives those who share an affinity with American values a new lease of life, causes the majority who are not hostile to the US but deeply skeptical of its intentions to reconsider and suspend judgment, and it will induce in America’s enemies a splitting headache.

At a most basic level, the president managed to connect. He spoke humbly and touched on buzz words for this audience, discussing dignity, justice, and the truths we hold in our hearts. He even uttered the word colonialism and mentioned denial of rights and cold-ward proxies. Obama evoked Islam’s contribution to the world and to America, and yes, he quoted the Quran.   Above all, he restored balance, confining the label of enemy only to those violent extremists who threaten America’s security, while opening up to the vast majority of practicing Muslims, including, I would argue, Islamist movements.

2. In Cairo the Conversation with Political Islam Began

By narrowly focusing on al-Qaeda as the enemy and apparently articulating an understanding of the non-al-Qaeda Islamist narrative, the president seemed to extend a tentative but visibly unclenched fist to mainstream political Islam. It is those Islamist movements that we should be most closely watching in the weeks and months ahead as they begin to work through their own responses to the new administration.

Obama seemed to implicitly accept the legitimacy of political Islam and its role in the democratic process while challenging it to unequivocally reject violence against civilians. There was a stark contrast, for instance, between the president’s message to al-Qaeda (we will defeat you if you threaten us) as compared to his message to Hamas (whom he addressed directly as having a role to fulfill Palestinian aspirations and unify the Palestinian people).

The president’s historical analogies may not have been the best ones. In discussing the nonviolent resistance of black America to the “lash of the whip” in achieving equal rights he obviously made a powerful and reasonable point but one that may be more relevant to a Palestinian struggle for a one-state democracy rather than for national liberation and de-occupation. By claiming that the same story can be told in South Africa and elsewhere, he simply rewrote history – the ANC did of course use armed resistance in their struggle as did so many other successful liberation movements.

That said, Obama’s effort to carry the argument in somewhat sympathetic terms to the Palestinian resistance–”violence…rockets…is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered”–was a valiant one and should be encouraged, not least in Israel. I might be reading too much into this but the speech could be seen as an acknowledgement that a process that engages Hamas is more likely to produce results than one that does not.

Responding immediately on al-Jazeera, Ahmed Yusuf, advisor to Gaza Prime Minister Haniyeh, lavished praised on Obama’s “Martin Luther King-like speech” and his rejection of the clash of civilizations discourse while defensively questioning his call for Hamas to accept the international community’s three preconditions (end violence, accept past agreements, recognize Israel).The distinction though was clear and the years of wrong-headedly lumping together the Salafist jihadis of al-Qaeda with the Muslim Brothers of Hamas or the Hezbollah movement is over.

3. Regaining the Moral Clarity of 9/11

Almost eight years on, there it was, an American president explaining to the world what happened on that day and the war of necessity against al-Qaeda that was launched in its wake. It was an important moment in resetting and reconfiguring for international and Muslim public opinion what happened then and has happened since. It is also perhaps the most damning indictment of all for the Bush presidency that in 2009 such a reiteration by an American president is so necessary.

President Obama also reissued a clear statement of America’s interests across a range of issues from getting out of Iraq and achieving a Palestinian state to its goals in Afghanistan, and shared values with so much of the Muslim world in promoting basic freedoms, religious pluralism, women’s rights, and development.

4. Finally a President Who Can Talk to Palestinians

Obama’s words on the Palestinian situation were not remarkable for his advocacy of a two-state solution, his mentioning of Palestine, or his opposition to the settlements. All of that we have heard before, and in fact, the speech gave precious little by way of actually articulating a plan for Palestinian de-occupation and statehood. But that was also its strength.

The idea of a Palestinian state, even before it exists, has lost much of its luster and appeal for Palestinians precisely because American and Israeli leaders talked about statehood as a technical fix for a Palestinian problem, in exclusively economic, governance, and security terms. In so doing, they ignored or demeaned and denied the Palestinian narrative and made the whole arrangement sound rather unappetizing.

Today, President Obama began to redress that. PA capacity and economic opportunities were something of a footnote. And thankfully, the building of Palestinian security forces was not even mentioned.

Instead Obama spoke a language that actual Palestinians could relate to, recalling the 60-year “pain of dislocation,” the “wait in refugee camps” (without in the same breath emasculating the refugees of any rights). He spoke of humiliation, occupation, and an intolerable situation – in other words, Palestinian daily reality. Only after recognizing the Palestinian experience did he chart the course for achieving “the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity,” namely, via a Palestinian state. This shift in discourse may be lost on most American ears, not so for Palestinians and in the Arab and Muslim world, and it begins to give Obama a moral authority that will allow him to address this issue in speaking directly to the Palestinian people above the heads of their divided leadership.

5. Shimon Peres Could Not Have Done a Better Job

In what is becoming classical Obama, he at the same time presented perhaps the most compelling justification and explanation of Israel’s rights and its existence ever spoken in an Arab and Muslim capital. No Israeli has ever done a better job, he is a true friend. In the most unequivocal of terms and in a speech that so captured Muslim world attention, Obama placed the notions of threatening Israel’s destruction, stereotypes of Jews, and Holocaust denial, as being irredeemably beyond the pale and unacceptable. And he reaffirmed America’s “unbreakable bond with Israel.”

Tellingly, if unsurprisingly, it is these messages that are leading the Israeli news coverage of the speech. While the government of Benjamin Netanyahu may be squirming in discomfort at Obama’s reasoned and repeated calls for a settlement freeze, for reopening Gaza, and for Palestinian statehood, the Israeli public will, I think, be both reassured and keen to believe in the hope for change and a better future for them also.

 One imagines too that the day is not so far off for an honest, empathetic, and home-truths Obama speech to Israel and the Jewish world. Expect that speech to be not only well-received but also to bring us dramatically closer to finally ending the Arab-Israeli conflict and achieving that two-state solution. Obama’s use of the phrase, “align American policies with those who pursue peace,” will also be noted in Jerusalem. Finally, by referring to “Jewish homeland” rather than a Jewish state, Obama, I think, studiously avoided giving succor to the slew of racist laws being presented in the new Israeli Knesset.

6. Policy Details – More Auto-Pilot Than Reset.

In a speech that I genuinely think carries game-changing potential for so many issues that America and the Muslim world are caught up in, there was virtually nothing new in detailed policy terms. That is very probably due to the nature of the speech, and the detailed policy changes might follow in the coming months. But if they don’t, Cairo will go down as a moment of unrequited promise and opportunity.

On Israel-Palestine, we dusted off the Road Map (yet again), a Bush relic that should have long ago been filed in the trash can, and the Afghanistan and Iraq plans still do not sound too convincing. It’s unclear how even Obama’s more sophisticated version of democratization will be advanced with America’s staunchest and most democracy-resistant allies, and the way forward with Iran remains opaque. Noteworthy, too, was that in a speech stating that America has no designs on maintaining military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, the continued American military footprint elsewhere in the Arab and Muslim world was not touched upon.

7. Hosni Mubarak and the Perils of Playing Host

 Egypt’s rulers would no doubt have been mortified had this speech taken place anywhere else in the Arab or Muslim world. There is an understandable Egyptian sense of pride in their history and sense of longing to still be considered the region’s leading power. Having landed those hosting rights, Mubarak’s regime today had to live with the consequences. Obama spoke to his audience and to the Egyptian people, and in an interesting break from past practice, his presidential host Mr. Mubarak was not even mentioned let alone lavished with praise. It will not go unnoticed.

Obama did mention Egypt’s Christian Coptic minority and of course spoke to human rights and people choosing their own governments to loud applause. So much for all the neocon bleating before the speech about Obama being a valueless realist ready to sell freedom-spirited Egyptians down the river. I was not there, but a sense of being empowered almost seemed to echo around the room at Cairo University and well beyond, and it might have major implications for Egypt and the region that will be played out in the coming years.

And finally, we have an American president who avoided the Pavlovian repetition of how American support for the Egyptian regime is so linked to Egypt’s historic peace with Israel. The way that linkage has played out – that America goes soft of non-democratic tendencies in the Arab world as long as they are pro-Israel – has done a great disservice to the public perception of not only peace but also of America and even Israel.

8. More Hand Less Fist on Iran

There was even some encouragement for Obama’s Iran policy in today’s speech. It was beginning to look disturbingly like the Obama administration would be brandishing the stick of sanctions in one hand and the stopwatch of deadlines in the other, thereby leaving no hand free to shake any prospective Iranian unclenched fist.   Obama moved beyond that. Many will point to his acknowledgement of history: “The United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government,” as being the money line.   It’s true that is a big deal and goes further than what was said in his Norouz message. However, I think this was more important, if not entirely new: “any nation- including Iran – should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the NPT.”

The president also had this intriguing chestnut to share on nuclear nonproliferation: “I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not.” Now I may be a bit Israelocentric in how I look at the world but this sounds like a not too subtle hint to me. Might this be a kind of “yes – we acknowledge there is a double standard here regarding the Israeli nuclear issue, and eventually we will get to that too.” It won’t be a headline, Israel will officially ignore it, and when asked Obama’s spokespeople will obfuscate but in more than a few capitals, including Jerusalem, a parsing industry will grow up around those few words.

9. Giving a Finger to the Purple Finger Theory of Democratization

Obama did it. He reclaimed the democratization agenda by placing it in a broader context as a set of rights and freedoms, and by going on to address religious pluralism, women’s rights, and the challenge of adapting economic development and modernity to traditional values. To be honest, it’s not a particularly difficult one to pull off, but to give him his fair dues, Barack Obama does do it better than anyone else. And there’s something of a new policy here, timely with the Lebanese election elections next week: “…we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments – provided they govern with respect for all their people.

The genius was in the pivot. Obama respected Islamic tradition and religious piety, and for instance, a woman’s right to wear the hijab, and he then pivoted that into a broader discussion of the values of female education and women’s rights, placing those things in seamless harmony rather than in contradiction. After an American president who was perceived as doing so much to sow division in the Muslim world, one of Obama’s most powerful lines was undoubtedly, “fault-lines must be closed among Muslims… the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence,” and all this couched in a constant appeal to young people.

10. And He Was Also Speaking to the American Public

After years of fear-mongering, Islamofascist awareness weeks on campuses, and tens of millions of copies of the vile “Obsession” DVD appearing in newspapers and mailboxes, yet another, no less important, reset button was pressed today. The president will no doubt be accused of apologetics and moral relativism, but he decided to face this head-on, to go to Cairo, speak with respect and honesty to the Muslim world, and to do what was best for America’s national security interests.

In so doing, he was also broadcasting a message back home. Most American Muslims will no doubt be feeling a great sense of pride and inspiration from this speech. The rest of America was given a timely and even touching reminder of the contributions that American Muslims have made to this country and that Muslims have given the world in general. Oh, and there might have even been a little message in there upping the ante, for Congress and even for his own party–”I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.


Daniel Levy is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Prospects for Peace Initiative at The Century Foundation and a Senior Fellow and Director of the Middle East Initiative at the New America Foundation.

During the Barak Government, he worked in the Prime Minister’s Office as special adviser and head of the Jerusalem Affairs unit under Minister Haim Ramon. He also worked as senior policy adviser to former Israeli Minister of Justice, Yossi Beilin. He was a member of the official Israeli delegation to the Taba negotiations with the Palestinians in January 2001, and previously served on the negotiating team to the “Oslo B” Agreement from May to September 1995, under Prime Minister Rabin. In 2003, he worked as an analyst for the International Crisis Group Middle East Program. Daniel was the lead Israeli drafter of the Geneva Initiative and prior to joining The Century Foundation and New America Foundation was directing policy planning and international relations at the Geneva Campaign Headquarters in Tel Aviv.


Posted on on May 15th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

COMMUNIQUE: 14 May 2009

Ignoring the Real Causes of Christian Exodus
Time reporter blames Israel and the West for Muslim intolerance

Dear HonestReporting Subscriber,

Pope Benedict’s visit to Israel this week has increased media attention on the plight of Christians in the Middle East and their declining numbers. But while the visit should serve as an opportunity for an honest look at Christian flight, one reporter blamed Israel and the West instead.

In a Time Magazine article describing Christian apprehensions over Pope Benedict’s visit, Time magazine’s Andrew Lee Butters calls the presence of Christians in the region “a reminder of the multi-sectarian and tolerant history of Arab and Islamic culture.” However, this tolerance is threatened, he writes, “from the rise of religious extremism.”

At this point, one would assume Butters would delve into largely overlooked issues such as

1) the persecution of Christians in the PA and Gaza,
2) creeping fundamentalism,
3) the intimidation of Christian media
4) forced conversions
5) Christians frozen out of the Palestinian national dialogue.

But instead, Butters points his finger in the opposite direction: “Clash-of-civilizations pundits and Western leaders like the Pope often ignore how the West helped spark such intolerance, especially through its one-sided support of Israel.”  

Butters would be hard pressed to prove that Europe has been “one-sided” in its support for Israel. More importantly, however, Butters’ statement implies that Muslims are not responsible for their actions because the West backs Israel’s right to exist in peace with its neighbors. In fact, Butters goes even further, calling Israel’s creation “a disaster for Christians in the Middle East.”

Many of the Palestinian refugees who fled or were forced from their homes in 1948 — never to be allowed back — were Christians. The flood of Palestinian refugees into Lebanon helped spark a civil war between Muslims and Christians there. And the ongoing occupation of the West Bank is strangling the life out of those Christian communities that are left.

Blaming Israel for the civil war in Lebanon ignores the complex political arrangements in Lebanon at the time and the destabilizing effect of the PLO inside Lebanon’s borders. He also neglects to mention what might be strangling the life out of the 2,000 Christians living in Gaza. But Butters doesn’t stop there. He also holds Israel responsible for Muslim abuses of Christians in Egypt:

The ongoing Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories has also helped fuel the rise of Islamic extremism, especially in countries that have unpopular peace agreements with Israel. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition to the American-backed Mubarak dictatorship, waged a small-scale terror campaign against both the government and the country’s Coptic Christians during the 1990s.

According to Butters, therefore, the Muslim Brotherhood isn’t ultimately responsible for “small-scale terror” against the Christians it carries out. It’s really Israel’s presence in the Palestinian territories that is behind it all.

The BBC’s Tim Franks also covered the decline of Arab Christians in Bethlehem. In his article, Franks quoted several Palestinians who claim that Christians are leaving the city because of Israel’s security barrier. However, Franks also acknowledges that there could be another reason for the exodus.

Privately, some Christians in Bethlehem say another factor sometimes motivates their decision to leave – concern about the rise of radical Islam – but they are unwilling to put such views on the record.

Indeed, Frank’s admission is consistent with finding from Justus Reid Weiner, who has researched the plight of Christians in the Palestinian territories extensively. According to Weiner, Arab Christians rarely speak about their situation in public:

The human rights crimes against the Christian Arabs in the disputed territories are committed by Muslims. Yet many Palestinian Christian leaders accuse Israel of these crimes rather than the actual perpetrators. This motif has been adopted by a variety of Christian leaders in the Western world. Others who are aware of the human rights crimes choose to remain silent about them.

The media has on obligation to report the truth. Insist that reporters tell the whole story when they cover the plight of Christians in the Middle East.


Posted on on May 1st, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

Wall Street Journal – OPINION – May 1, 2009.

Why Jane Fonda Is Banned in Beirut
Anti-Semitism leads to startling censorship in Lebanon.


A professor at the American University here recently ordered copies of “The Diary of Anne Frank” for his classes, only to learn that the book is banned. Inquiring further, he discovered a long list of prohibited books, films and music.

This is perplexing — and deeply ironic — because Beirut has been named UNESCO’s 2009 “World Book Capital City.” Just last week “World Book and Copyright Day” was kicked off with a variety of readings and exhibits that honor “conformity to the principles of freedom of expression [and] freedom to publish,” as stated by the UNESCO Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the UNESCO’s “Florence Agreement.” The catch is that Lebanon has not signed the Florence Agreement, which focuses on the free circulation of print and audio-visual material.

Even a partial list of books banned in Lebanon gives pause: William Styron’s “Sophie’s Choice”; Thomas Keneally’s “Schindler’s List”; Thomas Friedman’s “From Beirut to Jerusalem”; books by Philip Roth, Saul Bellow and Isaac Bashevis Singer. In fact, all books that portray Jews, Israel or Zionism favorably are banned.

Writers in Arabic are not exempt. Abdo Wazen’s “The Garden of the Senses” and Layla Baalbaki’s “Hana’s Voyage to the Moon” were taken to court. Syria’s Sadiq Jalal al-Azm was prosecuted for his “Critique of Religious Thinking.”

Censorship is carried out by the Sûreté General, which combines the functions of the FBI, CIA, and Homeland Security. It does not post a list of banned works, much less answer questions. However a major book importer, in an email, provided a list of banned films and the reasons given by the Sûreté. Here are some: “A Voice From Heaven” (verses of Koran recited during dance scenes); “Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” (homosexuality); “Barfly” ( blacklisted company Canon); and “Daniel Deronda” (shot in Israel).

All of Jane Fonda’s films are banned, since she visited Israel in 1982 to court votes for Tom Hayden’s Senate run. “Torn Curtain” is banned: Paul Newman starred in “Exodus.” And the television series “The Nanny” is banned because of Fran Drescher.

According to Beirut newspaper L’Orient, any one of the recognized religions (a system known as “confessionalism”) can ask the Sûreté to ban any book unilaterally. The Muslim Dar al-Fatwa and the Catholic Information Center are the most active and effective. (The latter got Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” banned.) Even works by self-proclaimed Islamists such as Assadeq al-Nayhoum’s “Islam Held Hostage,” have been banned, and issued only when re-edited in sympathetic editions (in Syria).

Censorship is a problem throughout the Arabic-speaking world. Though a signatory of the Florence Agreement, the Academy of Islamic Research in Egypt, through its censorship board al-Azhar, decides what may not be printed: Nobel Prize winner Naghib Mahfouz’s “Awlad Haratina” (The Sons of the Medina) was found sacrilegious and only printed in bowdlerized form in Egypt in 2006. Saudi Arabia sponsors international book fairs in Riyadh, but Katia Ghosn reported in L’Orient that it sends undercover agents into book stores regularly.

Works that could stimulate dialogue in Lebanon are perfunctorily banned. “Waltz with Bashir,” an Israeli film of 2008, is banned — even though it alleges that Ariel Sharon was complicit in the Sabra and Shatilla massacres. According to the Web site Monstersandcritics, however, “Waltz with Bashir” became an instant classic in the very Palestinian camps it depicts, because it is the only history the younger generation has. But how did those copies get there?

The answer is also embarrassing. Just as it ignores freedom of circulation, Lebanon also ignores international copyright laws. Books of all types are routinely photocopied for use in high schools and universities. As for DVDs, you have only to mention a title and a pirated copy appears. “Slumdog Millionaire” was available in video shops before it opened in the U.S.

Mr. Marling is a visiting professor of American Studies at the American University of Beirut and professor of English at Case Western Reserve University.


Posted on on March 4th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

Washington Ends Diplomatic Embargo Against Syria.
Jim Lobe, IPS, March 3, 2009. Terra Viva, March 4, 2009.
 Ending a four-year diplomatic embargo on Damascus, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama Tuesday confirmed that it is sending two high-level officials to Syria this week for “preliminary conversations”, presumably on improving relations.

The trip, which will be undertaken by Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Jeffrey Feltman and Daniel Shapiro, a senior staffer on the National Security Council who also served as one of Obama’s top Mideast advisers during his presidential campaign, was announced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Jerusalem.

“It is a worthwhile effort to go and begin preliminary conversations,” she told reporters after meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. “We have no way to predict what the future of our relations with Syria might be.” The announcement of the trip drew praise, particularly from organisations and individuals here who were disappointed by former President George W. Bush’s refusal to become involved in what they felt were promising Turkish-mediated peace talks between Damascus and the government of Israeli President Ehud Olmert.

“Syria plays a key role with respect to stability in the region and Israel’s security,” said Debra DeLee, president of Americans for Peace Now (APN), a Jewish group that has long favoured territorial concessions by Israel in exchange for peace with its neighbours.

“American engagement with Syria, both on bilateral U.S.-Syria issues and in support of Israel-Syria negotiations, is critically important in determining whether the role Syria plays in the future will be positive or not,” she said.

But other experts here suggested that, while both Washington and Damascus have been positioning themselves for engagement since Obama’s election in November, finding common ground on key issues, including reviving the Israeli-Syrian peace track, may prove difficult, particularly if Washington presses President Bashar al-Assad hard to end his alliance with Iran and support for Hamas and Hezbollah.

“The demand that Syria abandon its supporters and friends before entering into full dialogue with the U.S. is no more likely to work under Obama than it did under (former President George W.) Bush,” wrote Joshua Landis, a Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma on his much-read blog, Syria Comment, after the announcement.

Nonetheless, Landis hailed the decision as long overdue, noting that, even if engagement does not result in major changes in the strategic orientations of either Washington or Damascus, it can lead to “much greater stability in the region over the medium term” and “sustains hope among Arab leaders who had begun to despair after the Gaza war, the economic crisis, and the right’s (election) victory in Israel that the promise of change represented by Obama was not going to work out.”

Under Bush, relations between the U.S. and Syria went from bad to worse. Damascus opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and was subsequently accused by Washington of actively supporting the Sunni insurgency against the occupation.

In 2005, the U.S. pulled its ambassador from Damascus to protest the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and, one year later, a top White House official reportedly urged the Olmert government to extend its war against Hezbollah into Syria. In 2007, Washington praised Israel’s bombing of what it alleged was a secret Syrian nuclear reactor and subsequently rejected Olmert’s pleas to join Turkey in mediating peace talks between his government and Damascus.

During his presidential campaign, Obama strongly criticised Bush’s refusal to engage Damascus and pledged on several occasions to reverse the policy, particularly with respect to U.S. involvement in any renewed peace effort between Syria and Israel.

In recent weeks, the new administration made clear its intention to act on that pledge. In addition to permitting Boeing to repair two Syrian commercial airliners, it also backed a high-profile visit by a top ally, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, to Damascus.

Last Thursday, Feltman, who previously served as Washington’s ambassador in Beirut, met for two hours with Syrian ambassador Imad Moustapha, effectively ending what had been a multi-year boycott.

On the eve of Tuesday’s announcement, Clinton exchanged words and shook hands with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem during the Gaza donor conference Monday in Sharm al Sheikh, Egypt.

According to sources here, Assad will likely press the U.S. delegation to return an ambassador to Damascus as soon as possible with the understanding that he will follow through swiftly on his promise to dispatch Syria’s first-ever ambassador to Beirut, despite his strong objections to a western-backed international tribunal investigating Hariri’s assassination which began its work in The Hague Sunday. Syria has denied any involvement in the killing.

The two countries have a great deal more to talk about, however, including greater co-operation in patrolling Syria’s border with Iraq and helping stabilise the situation in its eastern neighbour. Under Bush, the White House rejected appeals by its then-Iraq commander, Gen. David Petraeus, to travel to Damascus. Once Washington has an ambassador in place, Petraeus, now chief of the U.S. Central Command, is likely to get his wish, according to Landis.

Syria is particularly eager to get back into Washington’s good graces in order, above all to help revive its economy which remains hard-hit by the imposition of U.S. sanctions under the five-year-old Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act (SALSA), according to Bassam Haddad, a Syria expert at George Mason University here.

Assad will also no doubt press Washington’s envoys on Obama’s interest in the Israel-Syrian peace track which, if successful, could result in the return – albeit over a lengthy interim period – of the Golan Heights which were seized by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

Prospects for progress along that track have diminished since last month’s Israeli elections which are likely to result in the formation of a right-wing government headed by former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who campaigned against the Golan’s return to Syria.

Nonetheless, Obama may be prepared to exert pressure on Netanyahu to bring him to the table. Obama’s Special Envoy on Arab-Israeli peace, former Sen. George Mitchell, met earlier this week in Ankara with senior Turkish officials who had mediated the Israeli-Syrian talks before joining Clinton who is herself scheduled to meet Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey Saturday. One of Mitchell’s former aides who may soon rejoin his staff, Frederic Hof, just published a detailed roadmap on “Mapping Peace Between Syria and Israel” this week for the U.S. Institute of Peace.

In addition to gaining greater co-operation on Iraq, the new administration will likely urge Assad to exert pressure on Palestinian Hamas, whose leadership is based in Damascus, to implement a permanent cease-fire in Gaza and, if Arab efforts to form a new Palestinian government of national unity bear fruit, to accept some formula that would meet the Quartet’s demands that it forswear violence, accept previous agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation, and offer some form of recognition of Israel’s right to exist, according to Landis.

Ultimately, however, Washington hopes it can break the alliance between Syria and Iran in order to more effectively isolate Tehran in a much broader diplomatic effort to persuade it to freeze and roll back what the U.S. believes is a nuclear-weapons programme.

“What seems to be in the air is that there will be some kind of attempt to yank Syria out of Iran’s orbit in return for lifting the Syrian Accountability Act, pushing Israel harder on (returning) the Golan, and a guarantee that the international tribunal (in The Hague) will not harm Syria in a significant way,” said Haddad. “But my personal opinion is that Assad won’t break with Iran because it doesn’t believe that the U.S. and the West is committed to the regime’s long-term stability, which is what it’s primarily concerned with.”

“Frankly, I think it’s going to be very difficult to get very far if U.S. engagement is seen as an attempt to ‘flip’ Syria away from Iran because it fears that the U.S. will again fail to deliver Israel, as it did under Bill Clinton in 2000, and then Syria will be left without a deal and with no friends or regional leverage,” said Landis. “More promising would be an effort to engage both of them, rather than trying to split them.”

*Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at


Posted on on February 1st, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

Why did President Obama Chose to speak with an Arab TV in his first interview to a foreign media?
The answer is as he said himself: He has Moslem members of his family and he lived in Islamic countries. Beyond that he has a double job to perform – he has to communicate to the Islamic World that Americans are not their enemies, and to the Americans that there are valuable, honorable Muslims that just want to live their simple lives in peace.
He wants the Muslims to see in him someone really ready to listen, and do the right thing for simple people wherever. He will be speaking to Iran – if they are ready to unclench the fist, they will find that he is ready for conversation.
Nick Robertson – the International correspondent for CNN, says that people in the Middle East wanted to hear these words – so, it is a positive opening. Asked if the Saudis are receptive to the US opening discussions with Iran, Nick Robertson said that the Arab World wants to see that Iran does not go to an expansionist phase – so they would rather see a diplomatic opening.
President Obama spoke to Hisham Melhem of Al Arabiya, a media group that was established on March 3, 2003 in order to be a direct competitor of Qatar-based Al Jazeera. I remember how the Washington-based correspondent for Al Arabiya, came to the UN in New York to introduce this venture at the UN Correspondents’ Association Club, and the Arabs and Pakistanis were saying this is an American undercover organization. In effect, at the time the head of UNCA was a Pakistani.

According to a 2008 New York Times profile of Al Arabiya director Abdul Rahman al-Rashed, the station was founded “to cure Arab television of its penchant for radical politics and violence,” with Al Jazeera as its main target. Mr. Rashed alleged that Arab television’s coverage of militant groups was overly friendly. “You have to remember, it was television that made bin Laden into a celebrity,” Rashed said. “That made Al Qaeda, and its recruiting, and this is how violence spread throughout the region.”

The international news station, Al Arabiya, is based in Dubai Media City, United Arab Emirates, and is partly owned by the Saudi-controlled broadcaster Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC).

Actually, the original investment in Al Arabiya was $300 million by MBC, with Lebanon‘s Hariri Group, and other investors from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, so, in reality this is as well a Lebanese company – with connection to other Hariri investments in media and air traffic. The Middle East in the name of the company standing indeed for Lebanon.

Al Arabiya broadcasts 24 hours a day with news updated at the top of the hour. The free-to-air channel carries news, current affairs, business and financial markets, sports, talk shows, and documentaries. It is consistently rated among the top pan-Arab stations by Middle East audiences.

Mr. Rashed said Al Arabiya works to describe incidents of Islamist violence with neutral, non-supportive language. He also said the station had pushed Al Jazeera to be more critical of the insurgency in Iraq. “Now Al Jazeera is a very soft, reasonable station when it comes to the Iraqis,” he said. He said Al Arabiya has, in turn, drawn accusations of pro-American or pro-Saudi bias, in part due to MBC’s Saudi ownership.

On January 26, 2009 President of the United States Barack Obama gave his first formal interview as president to the television channel to Hisham Melhem, the Washington based head of Al Arabiya.


Hisham Melhem has appeared many times on US TV channels, including the Charlie Rose program where he appeared with American and Israeli officials –
Today, February 1, 2009, Mr. Hisham Melhem was already a member of the Mclaughlin Gang. We assume that he will now be recognized as the best conduit to the President’s approach to the Middle East. We understood that he is also writing for a print media in Lebanon. On Mclaughlin he did not participate only on Middle East issues, but he got involved in questions of how to move forward the US economy. He clearly believes in capitalism, and said capitalism is strong in Lebanon, and made all the right comments – that even Bush understood at the end that government must intervene.
While the perennial right end of the panel – Monica Crawley took the old Cheney positions on everything, calling Obama a “classical liberal big-government Democrat” Melhem actually saw things much like we see them. Melhem came through much more to the center.
Furthermore, he predicted that the promised trip of Obama to a Muslim capital within the first 100 days of his presidency, will be to Indonesia. This makes sense – it will be seen sort of a second home-coming – like the one to Kenya. This while previous media reports were suggesting that the trip will be to the conventional address – to Morocco.
From the internet we got the following:


Wednesday, 28 January 2009
United States President Barack Obama chose to give his first interview as president to the Arabic satellite news channel Al Arabiya, with veteran journalist Hisham Melhem succeeding in getting the interview of the century. Like thousands of other journalists, Melhem … More


Tuesday, 27 January 2009
In his first interview since taking office, President Barack Obama told Arab satellite station Al Arabiya that Americans are not the enemy of the Muslim world and said Israel and the Palestinians should resume peace negotiations. “My job to the Muslim world is to … More
And as per Thursday, January 29, 2009



First interview choice met with excitement, enthusiasm
Obama reaches Arabs, Muslims via Al Arabiya, DUBAI (Courtney C. Radsch)


Al Arabiya’s Yamen Abdal Wahab (L), Nate McCray, Hisham Melhem and Muna Shikaki (L) with Barack Obama

When American President Barack Obama decided to give the first interview of his presidency to an Arab station, Al Arabiya, he knew that his choice of venues would become a story in and of itself and send a message to Americans and the Arab world about the direction his administration would take. In his inaugural address Obama reiterated his desire to engage with the Muslim world and pursue a different approach to foreign policy than his predecessor, and as several analysts and commentators have noted, the best way to do this was to speak directly to his target audience through their media.

He’s trying to reach out in their own language so it’s part of conflict communication in a way, and his views of soft power and public diplomacy
Abeer Najjar, American University of Sharjah

“He’s trying to reach out in their own language so it’s part of conflict communication in a way, and his views of soft power and public diplomacy,” said Abeer Najjar, assistant professor of mass communication at the American University of Sharjah in the UAE. “So he’s very smart to go to an Arabic channel and say ‘I’m the party that wants to communicate with you, I’m reaching out.'” It also highlighted the new president’s attempts to speak directly to the people rather than just to their leaders. “We think that this sends an important signal about the new administration and its desire to directly engage the people of the Middle East and the Muslim World,” Stephen McInerney, director of advocacy for the Washington-based Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), told “For too long the American administrations have focused too much on relationships with Arab governments rather than Arab people.”


Obama gave his first interview as president to Al Arabiya Washington bureau chief Hisham Melhem

Obama’s first presidential interview would have gotten attention regardless of the station, but as Al Arabiya’s Washington correspondent Muna Shikaki pointed out, his choice of venue helped set the agenda for the interview. “It would have gotten the same play, almost the same play, because it was his first interview as president, but I think that it was done as a gesture, and so going to end up talking about Middle East more,” Shikaki, who was at the interview, told

Choosing the network

From the perspective of the American government, Al Jazeera is considered sympathetic to extremist groups and extremist elements in the Muslim and the Arab world and Obama was not going to give credibility to a satellite station that promotes extremism and sides with the negative forces that the U.S. is trying to address
Salmeh Nematt, the Daily Beast

According to people in involved in the arrangements for the interview, the administration had made the decision to give the first presidential interview to an Arab television station. The U.S.-funded Al Hurra was not an option because it is not permitted to broadcast in the U.S. and has a negligible audience share in the Middle East, according to a study by Shibley Telhami at the University of Maryland.

Essentially Obama had to decide between the two leading Arabic satellite news providers: the Dubai-based Al Arabiya, part of the Saudi-owned MBC group, and Al Jazeera, the pioneering Doha-based network funded by Qatar’s Sheikh Hamad Khalifa al-Thani.

Al Jazeera is known in the United States for its exclusive coverage of Osama bin Laden’s video statements, and its English-language station has been unable to find an American distributor.

“From the perspective of the American government, Al Jazeera is considered sympathetic to extremist groups and extremist elements in the Muslim and the Arab world and Obama was not going to give credibility to a satellite station that promotes extremism and sides with the negative forces that the U.S. is trying to address,” Salmeh Nematt, international editor of the Daily Beast and former Washington bureau chief for al-Hayat, said to “This is why he chose Al Arabiya, a prominent satellite channel that is professional.”

Sending a message

I think also of people were happy to see his choice to speak directly to Arab Muslim world and not to shy away as president — no longer candidate — that he has Muslim members of his family and lived in Muslim countries
Stephen McInerney, POMED

The choice of Al Arabiya also underscored his interest in “communicating a message to the Arab world and the Muslim world, that we are ready to initiate a new partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interest,” as he said during the interview, which was broadcast Tuesday. (see the English video at

“He doesn’t expect them to all to understand English, but understands they will go to Al Arabiya as an Arabic channel, which is one of the most important Arab news channels,” said Najjar, noting that Al Arabiya is one of the most popular news stations in the region.

The choice of venue and topic sent a powerful message not only to the Arab and Muslim worlds but also to the Arab and Muslim-Americans who felt marginalized during the campaign, when Obama was “accused” of being a secret Muslim and his middle name, Hussein, was used as a slur.

But the candidate who appeared to downplay his background during the campaign spoke much more directly about his upbringing in a Muslim country, Indonesia, and having relatives who are Muslim.

Obama’s choice of interview venues has been met “with a lot of excitement and lot of Muslim Americans and Arab Americans that felt that throughout campaign their communities weren’t paid as much attention to or given respect as they would have like to see,” said McInerney.

“I think also of people were happy to see his choice to speak directly to Arab Muslim world and not to shy away as president — no longer candidate — that he has Muslim members of his family and lived in Muslim countries,” he added.

11938 V – 27500 – 3/4
11919 H – 27500 – 3/4
11747 H – 27500 – 3/4
Channel 562


Posted on on January 27th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

I use the term psycho-documentary in order to put this film on the same intellectual content as the more familiar term of a psycho-drama.

The Bashir in the name of the film is Bashir – Bachir Pierre Gemayel   (Sheikh Joomayyeel) (10 November 1947 – 14 September 1982) – was a Lebanese militia commander of the Christian Maronite Phalange, politician, and president-elect. He was the son of Pierre Gemayel, founder of the influential Lebanese Kataeb Party, also known as the Phalangist party, a conservative organization that, although officially secular, was supported mostly by Maronite Christians. He was assassinated by Palestinians or by Syria backed Lebanese, or outright by Syrians, under order from President Assad. The exact circumstances were investigated by the UN, no final results were given because of the inter-Arab aspect of this matter – and the UN does not have the stomach to point the finger on culprits in such a case. The culprit was most probably dispatched by the Syrian intelligence service as they did not want to allow a Maronite friendly to Israel to become President of Lebanon.

The word “Waltz” in the title comes from one Israeli who stepped out into the middle of the street to return fire against the snipers that pinned down his unit. In the movie, while pictures of Pierre Gemayel are displayed on the buildings of West Beirut, and with the balconies filled with Maronites looking down at the fight in the street, he sort of moves in his shooting spree as if he were dancing a waltz – “the waltz with Bashir.” It is actually more then that – it symbolizes the dance of death in that war, and is the prelude to the Phalangists entering to take their revenge for the killing of Pierre Gemayel, from the people living in the Sabra and Shatila camps. This time the Israelis stood by and watched the killings. A yes, this is just another turn in the waltz of madness.

One can say that the Israeli invaders were culprits by standing idle while a massacre was going on in front of their eyes, but then no-one could say that they were any more culprits then any of the other factions in the centrifugal-forces-driven Middle East. This is the dance of death started not by them, but by the Israelis being dragged into the cyclone, that would have raged anyway in a region that is not capable to allow diversity. The Jews, the Maronites, the Bahai’i, the Caldeans in Iraq, do not conform to the Sunni Moslem code, then neither the Shi’ia Muslims. There is thus a line of preferences and conflict is assured in a region that has yet to learn to live in peaceful terms of coexistence. It is our humanity that revolts when seeing this – and the great credit to the Israelis is in the fact that it was Israeli government institutions that backed the financing of this psycho-documentary. Could you think of any other country in the Middle East that would allow the production of such a self-searching movie?

With that last paragraph in mind, I think, though there is no reason for Israel to be proud of what happened in that war in Lebanon, as there is no reason to be proud of what went on in the latest war in Gaza, nevertheless, there is no reason to point the finger only at them, particularly in the case of Lebanon, because of the reality, that in Israel there is indeed a majority of people that reject such events, and the worse events get – the more assured becomes the true imperative for sitting down at the green table – the table for making peace. Israel was very close at making peace with Lebanon, but then Lebanon stayed leaderless with Pierre Gemayel’s assassination; will this time an Obama Administration, after Gaza, push for a Palestinian-Israeli Green Table? The release of the movie is in time for considering such political moves, and if the movie even gets an Oscar, the chances are that more and more people, in many countries, will call for a positive negotiation, and for the rejection of war wherever possible.

[Bachir Gemayel’s older brother Amine Gemayel became president in Bachir’s place, serving from 1982 to 1988. Rather different in temperament, Amine Gemayel was widely regarded as more moderate than his brother, and many of the latter’s followers were dissatisfied. Habib Tanious Shartouni, a member of the pro-Damascus Syrian Social Nationalist Party, confessed to the crime, and he was apprehended and handed over to Amine Gemayel. He escaped but was captured again a few hours later, and handed over to Lebanon’s justice system. He was imprisoned in the Roumieh prison. He was released from Roumieh in October 1990 by the Syrian army.]

For more detailed review – please read:

‘Waltz with Bashir’ Makes War Look Stupid.
By Sheerly Avni, Truthdig, Alternet, Posted January 1, 2009.

Documentary filmmaker Ari Folman’s new film, ‘Waltz with Bashir,” shows the horror of war, beyond human comprehension.

Several months ago, when Ari Folman was promoting his new animated documentary, “Waltz With Bashir,” the film screened for a Palestinian audience in Ramallah, less than 40 miles from his home in Tel Aviv.

The director was asked not to attend.

Folman had already traveled far and wide to promote the movie, which had received wildly enthusiastic accolades everywhere, from Cannes to Auckland. But the French company presenting in Ramallah had asked the 45-year-old war veteran not to come to this screening so close to home, because it was not sure it could guarantee his safety. The company had a point: “Waltz With Bashir,” a graphic and violent series of recollections of the 1982 war in Lebanon, told almost entirely from the point of view of Israeli soldiers, culminates in bloody live footage of the aftermath of the infamous Sabra and Shatilla refugee camp massacres in which thousands of Palestinian men, women and children were murdered by Christian militia with Israeli troops stationed directly outside the camps.

As it turned out, the audience response in Ramallah, though passionate, was the kind every filmmaker dreams of: There was high demand for more screenings, because there wasn’t enough room in the theater for all the people who wanted to see the film.

This did not surprise Folman, whose intent for his documentary was always to tell a universal story, not a specifically political one: “I show how stupid wars are,” he said in a telephone interview. “I wanted to make a movie that no teenager could watch and think ‘Oh, sure, war sucks, but those soldiers are cool.’ There is nothing cool or glamorous about war.”

Folman should know. He was 19 when he was flown over the Lebanese border for the Israeli offensive in 1982, and as we learn in the film, he passed the flight daydreaming about a romantic death in battle, hoping to inspire regret in the heart of the girlfriend who had just dumped him. What the boy found instead was fear and absurdity and enough trauma to blot out his memories.

It would be 20 years before Folman, now a successful screenwriter and director who barely even thought about his time as a soldier, would be forced to grapple with the meaning of his wartime experiences. He was 40 years old and tired of his time in the Israeli reserves, where he’d been put to work writing scenarios for military videos explaining, among other things, the proper care and feeding of gas masks. The army agreed to let him go — but only if he would agree to a series of exit interviews with a therapist.

Thought not a big believer in psychotherapy, he took the deal. Over the course of eight or nine sessions, he realized that he had no memory whatsoever of the massacres themselves, even though he had been stationed nearby. He then set out on a quest, both personal and professional, for answers to the questions that had come up in therapy: What had happened to him in Beirut? What had he seen? Why couldn’t he remember? What had the war done to him?

Folman sought out classmates, as well as men from his old unit and the first Israeli reporter on the scene of the massacres, and gathered their stories. He consulted an expert in post-traumatic stress disorder. He reached out to his best friend, Ori Sivan (listed in the credits as “filmmaker and shrink”), and he set out to make a film that would capture the surrealism of war and the fluidity of memory. He had already experimented successfully with animation for his popular Israeli TV show, “The Material That Love Is Made Of,” and so he hired the artist Yoni Goodman, a gifted illustrator, and then set about trying to raise the money to get his movie made. Despite the modest $2 million budget of “Waltz With Bashir,” potential investors were reluctant to back the film — the first feature-length animated documentary ever made, and Folman ended up having to mortgage his house.

“I knew it had to be this way,” he explained. “If I couldn’t animate the film, I couldn’t do it at all.”

Folman and his animators filled the movie with dreams, memories and nightmares, all set to a soundtrack that alternates between rock music and Max Richter’s haunting score: A pack of dogs running rabid and wild though the streets, an exhilarating sequence of young soldiers boogie-boarding at the beach (Folman admits this was an intentional homage to “Apocalypse Now”), a teenage soldier dreaming that he’s being swum to safety by a giant naked woman, and, finally, Folman’s only clue to his blocked memory: a recurring dream about emerging naked from the sea.

The film owes much of its visual impact to the artistry of Goldman and his animation team, but its dramatic tension derives from Folman’s own Jason Bourne-style search for his missing memories. But when it comes time for the moment of revelation, the “Bourne moment” that might unlock his memory, Folman’s friend Ori hits him with an apparent anticlimax: the suggestion that his obsession stems from a much earlier moment in history — that his dreams are connected to an earlier massacre, an earlier nightmare.

“It’s all about those camps,” Ori suggests in the film. “Your parents were in Auschwitz. The massacre has been with you since you were 6 years old. … You felt guilty; you were cast for the role of the Nazi. It’s true you didn’t massacre. You just fired flares.”

As a child of survivors, said Folman, he had long been preoccupied by questions of circles of responsibility during the Holocaust. “How much did they know? Did they realize there was a mass murder happening? How many knew what was going on in the camps?”

The same questions plagued him as he searched for his own memories of the Palestinian massacre, and as he spoke with soldiers who had been nearby. “What I learned was that people had all the elements, but they found it too complicated to put it together in one frame, because mass murder is not in our system. … You don’t think that things like that are happening just around the corner, even if you are participating in a war.”

In part, this is a particularly Jewish/Israeli problem, one which Folman does not shy away from: Is a culture that has experienced genocide more likely to recognize it the next time it appears? Not necessarily, says Folman, speaking personally again.

“For us who grew up in those kinds of families, are we more ready to listen to those kinds of stories? On the contrary, I think it is harder. The Holocaust was like a one-time experience in the history of humankind for us. We are not ready for anything else.”

But Folman is adamant in insisting that there are no easy comparisons to be made between the Nazi murder of the Jews and the massacre at Sabra and Shatilla. “There is no comparison, there can be no comparison. But mass murder is mass murder, and it is something that the imagination cannot believe or accept, even while it is happening.”

War is horror beyond human comprehension: This is the theme of “Waltz With Bashir.”

“This film,” insisted Folman, “could have been made by an ex-American soldier in Vietnam, a Russian in Afghanistan, an American today in Iraq. … It could have been made by anyone who wakes up one morning and finds himself hundreds of kilometers away from home, in a remote city that has nothing to do with him or his life, nothing whatsoever. He doesn’t know what he’s doing there, he is terrified, and he has no clue.”

Asked if working on the film had turned him into a pacifist, Folman answered: “For that I didn’t need to make a movie. I became a pacifist by my second day in Lebanon.”


Posted on on January 14th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

UN in Lebanon urges restraint after rocket attack.
14 Jan 2009   – Reuters

BEIRUT – The commander of a U.N. peacekeeping force urged Lebanon and Israel to exercise restraint after at least three rockets were fired into northern Israel from Lebanon on Wednesday.
The Lebanese government condemned the attack, the second launched from Lebanon against Israel since it began its offensive in the Gaza Strip on Dec. 27. Information Minister Tareq Mitri said it “gave Israel an excuse to harm the national interest”.

The army deployed additional forces in the south to boost its “defensive capabilities”, a military source said.
The Lebanese political and military group Hezbollah, which has a minister in the government, did not immediately comment on the attack. The group, which fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006, denied any role in a similar attack last week. Israeli officials blamed smaller, armed Palestinian factions in Lebanon.

The Lebanese army and members of the U.N. peacekeeping force, known as UNIFIL, also deactivated three rockets rigged to launch an hour after they had been found, the army said.

UNIFIL commander Major General Claudio Graziano urged maximum restraint after the early morning rocket salvo.
He was working with both Lebanon and Israel to maintain the cessation of hostilities, UNIFIL spokeswoman Yasmina Bouziane said in a statement. There had been no claims of responsibility for the rocket attack, she said.

Israel responded with two barrages of artillery fire. There were no reports of damage or injury caused by the Israeli shells, Bouziane said. The rockets fired from Lebanon landed in open areas and caused no damage or injuries, she added.
“At present, we cannot confirm the exact location of the launch area,” she said.

There have been no claims of responsibility for the Jan. 8 rocket attack from Lebanon.

The UNIFIL peacekeeping force was expanded as part of U.N. Security Council resolution 1701 which ended the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel. The Lebanese army deployed in the south as part of the same resolution. Israeli forces had occupied south Lebanon until their withdrawal in 2000.


Material the UN seemingly believes to be just normal procedure that does not desrve the worry of Israel.

Osama bin Laden tape calls for jihad against Israel.
By Firouz Sedarat, Reuters
Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden called for jihad (holy struggle) over the Israeli offensive in Gaza in a new audio tape that appeared on Islamist websites today.

The al-Qa’ida leader Osama bin Laden called for jihad (holy struggle) over the Israeli offensive in Gaza in a new audio tape that appeared on Islamist websites today.

The Saudi-born militant said the global financial crisis had exposed the waning US influence in world affairs and would in turn weaken its ally Israel.

“Our brothers in Palestine, you have suffered a lot…. the Muslims sympathise with you in what they see and hear. We, the mujahideen, sympathise with you also…” bin Laden said in the tape entitled ‘A Call for Jihad to Stop the Aggression against Gaza’.

“We are with you and we will not let you down. Our fate is tied to yours in fighting the Crusader-Zionist coalition, in fighting until victory or martyrdom.”

The Palestinian death toll from a 19-day-old Israeli offensive to crush the Islamist Hamas movement in Gaza has risen to 971, causing widespread anger among ordinary Arabs and Muslims. Israel says 13 Israelis have been killed by rockets or mortars from Gaza.

In the 22-minute tape, bin Laden said that the United States was losing its dominant position in the world and that this was due to al-Qa’ida’s campaign.

“The jihad of your sons against the Crusader-Zionist coalition is one of the key reasons for these destructive effects among our enemies,” bin Laden said in the tape that was dated in the current Islamic month.

“God has bestowed us with the patience to continue the path of jihad for another seven years, and seven and seven… The question is, can America continue its war with us for several more decades to come? Reports and evidence would suggest otherwise.”

The authenticity of the tape, produced by al-Qa’ida’s media arm As-Sahab, could not immediately be verified but the voice sounded like that of bin Laden.

Bin Laden last appeared in an audio tape in May and also focused on Gaza, calling on Muslims to try to help end the blockade of the area.

The al-Qa’ida leader has placed growing emphasis on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in recent years and Wednesday’s audio tape was accompanied by a still of bin Laden and a picture of al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, Islam’s third holiest shrine.

Behind the September 11, 2001 attack on US cities, al-Qa’ida has regularly called for attacks on the Jewish state.

Al Qaeda is widely blamed for a suicide attack on an Israeli-owned hotel in Kenya and a simultaneous failed attempt to shoot down an Israeli charter jet near Mombasa airport in 2002.


Posted on on January 12th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

Monday, 12 January 2009
TERRAVIVA United Nations Newsbriefs
Some Israelis Cry Out for Peace.

Daan Bauwens

TEL AVIV, Jan 11 (IPS) – Another peace rally Saturday night brought together about a couple of thousand Israelis to demand an immediate end to the ongoing assault in Gaza. The demonstration was held in front of the Hakirya, the central command of the Israeli Defence Forces and the Ministry of Defence in the heart of Tel Aviv.

This was the third peace rally in three weeks. The first was held directly after the first air bombing of Gaza. It was attended by a few hundred protesters. At the second, more than 2,000 people came out on the streets. “We have a humanistic and political message,” says Yosef Douek of the movement Peace Now which organised the demonstration. ‘Children in Gaza and Sderot want to live in peace and security. There is no use whatsoever to a continuation of these military actions.”

Peace Now was joined by Israeli peace movement Gush Shalom, after the joint Palestinian-Israeli non-governmental organisation Alternative Information Centre made an appeal to make Jan. 10 “a huge global day of mobilisation against the Israeli war in Gaza.” “We are doing what we can to influence public opinion although I believe the effect of our actions is very limited,” says Yosef Douek. “Because we live in a country where media aren’t interested in breaking the political consensus. At the same time, the political approach to our message is non-existent. Everybody feels a patriotic urge to support the war, at least at this stage. I strongly believe this will change very soon. Public support will collapse, just as it did in previous wars.”

“This war started with a clear feeling of triumph,” says Ido Gideon, member of Meretz, a Jewish leftist party that supported the Israel Defensive Forces operation when it first began. “People in Israel thought that it would be a clean and fast operation to prevent Hamas from firing any more rockets at us. There was a clear feeling of vengeance amongst Israelis for what had happened that needed a response. Now things are getting out of hand, and vengeance has made place for disillusionment.”

But the group is finding it difficult to gain support both within Israel and internationally. “Whenever there is an Israeli military action, all leftists around the globe become anti-Israeli,” says Gideon. “All anti-war protests around the world are mingled with an anti-Israeli, anti-Jewish sentiment that is clearly aimed at the Jews’ right to live in this country. That makes it hard to be a leftist in Israel. Because in the first place, it isolates the whole of Israel, in the second place, it isolates the forces that are trying to change it.

“I am making the same battle as them,” Ido adds, “with one big difference: I’m making the battle inside of Israel. And whenever I go outside of Israel, I have to make another battle: the one of defending my right to be a Jew and live in this country.”

“The difference now with previous wars is the disproportionate use of violence, which has led to enormous anger in the rest of the world,” says Ronen Eidelman, an internationally known Jewish artist, writer and activist. He is engaged with linking art, culture and grassroots politics as editor of the online art and culture magazine Maarav, and is setting up several initiatives against the war in Gaza. “Last week we published a booklet with works of poets and artists against the war, which we distributed at the demonstrations. For some people, poetry is something they connect more to than an article in the newspaper.”
Israel at Crossroads Between Ceasefire and Occupation.
Analysis by Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler

JERUSALEM, Jan 11 (IPS) – Into the third week of its war on Gaza, Israeli leaders are convinced they’re still calling the shots. But, without a suitable diplomatic exit soon, the military “successes” could quickly begin to unravel, some sobering Israeli voices have cautioned.

Israel is disturbed that Thursday night’s UN Security Council call for an immediate ceasefire accords Hamas a degree of international legitimacy — even though Hamas is not explicitly mentioned in the resolution — and that “passage of the resolution,” wrote David Horovitz, chief editor of The Jerusalem Post in a front-page analysis, “will be seen in the frenzied climate of international debate as legitimating unbridled criticism (of Israel).”

But, Israeli confidence is reflected in the way it has shrugged off the resolution and in Israel’s readiness to bear the brunt of that international opprobrium for the desperate plight of the Gaza population. And, although Hamas rockets keep landing on southern Israel, Israeli insists it is not only tightening its military grip on Gaza but is inflicting crushing blows on the Hamas military wing.

“But now, Israel finds itself at a military and diplomatic crossroads — should they reap the dividends of the war thus far or risk taking it further and becoming embroiled in a final showdown with Hamas in the heart of Gaza’s populated areas,” says political commentator Leslie Susser. “The gung-ho advocates who want to destroy totally Hamas control of Gaza are feeding on their past dreams.”

The critical crossroads is starkly defined: either in the direction of speedily securing a diplomatic solution or, towards giving the Israeli army the green light to deepen the ground offensive which could last weeks, in the assessment of military sources.

Until now, conventional wisdom has been that the Israeli leadership was keen to avoid an extended operation in order to avoid a potentially embarrassing overlapping of the war with the installing of the new Obama administration in the U.S. But, says the former head of Israel’s National Security Council, Major-General Giora Eiland, “the army cannot go on like this forever. We need to reach a decision — either conclude a ceasefire in two to three days, or start a big military operation.” The third option — marking time with the same level of strikes against Hamas alongside on-off diplomatic efforts — is simply untenable, argue other defence experts.

In Israel’s policy-making circles, Egypt is perceived as the traffic cop at the crossroads. How it manages to steer the situation could solve Jerusalem’s dilemma of the days ahead. Cairo, in effect, is calling the shots.

In a televised speech from Damascus Saturday night, Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Meshaal said the Islamist group would not consider a truce until Israel ended its military offensive and lifted its crippling blockade of the Gaza Strip. But, Hamas delegations from both its Damascus-based politburo and Gaza, held talks in Egypt on Saturday, and on Sunday, Amos Gilad, head of the Israeli Defence Ministry’s political-security branch, was dispatched to Cairo for a second round of separate talks about concrete measures for getting an effective ceasefire in place.

It is through the tunnels under the Egyptian-Gaza border that Hamas has managed over the past few years to smuggle in its arsenal of long-range rockets and missiles. Israel wants Cairo to take full responsibility for stopping that traffic and for regulating their border in a way that there will be no possibility for Hamas to re-arm.

Before setting out, General Gilad was at pains to stress that “Israel is not pressuring Egypt;” he also praised Egypt’s logistical and security array as “eminently capable” of controlling the border.

A key parallel question is whether Israel will acquiesce in what, for its part, Hamas is seeking from Egypt — open and unmonitored borders between Gaza and Sinai and between Gaza and Israel. Israel is prepared for the Palestinian Authority (PA), backed by international experts, to monitor the border. However, PA President Mahmoud Abbas indicated clearly that his Authority would only be ready to be part of such an arrangement once its fences with Hamas have been mended.

This is the equation with which all sides are grappling. Israeli analysts say of Egyptian intentions that it’s not so much a question of bullying Egypt into border arrangements so much as that Hamas has not yet been bullied enough. They base themselves on remarks by some anti-Hamas Palestinians officials who privately express the hope of an eventual routing of Hamas.

For Israelis, ‘bullying Hamas enough’ raises the spectre of their war in Lebanon — not the war against Hizbullah in 2006, but the war on the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) in 1982 when Israel went all the way to Beirut and forced then PA leader Yasser Arafat’s forces out of Lebanon, and tried to install a friendly Christian regime in Beirut. Any incipient thoughts about trying to repeat that in Gaza reportedly led Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak to mutter that anyone harbouring the illusion of toppling Hamas is hiding the fact that that would mean the re-occupation of Gaza.

At the start of this campaign, as in 1982, Israel’s deliberate ambiguity of purpose seemed to stand it in good stead. Now, though, the search for practical ways of implementing the Security Council provisions for a ceasefire is upping the pressure on Israel to lift the veil over the precise strategy it is pursuing – whether to curb Hamas’s hostile capabilities or try to smash it completely.
Gaza, and Israel’s Wars of Forced Regime Change.
Analysis by Helena Cobban

WASHINGTON, Jan 11 (IPS) – The war that Israel launched on Gaza Dec. 27 is the seventh war of choice Israel has launched against its neighbours since 1973, the last year in which it fought a war that was forced upon it.

Of the seven wars one — in Lebanon, 1978 — had the goal of establishing an Israeli-controlled “security zone” running inside Lebanon’s border with Israel. The other six, including the present war on Gaza, all aimed at imposing a “forced regime change” on Arab communities neighbouring Israel through the violent physical dismantlement of politico-military structures then present in, or on occasion dominating, those societies. The five earlier attempts at forced regime change all had interesting — and quite unintended — consequences that might have given Israel’s leaders serious pause before they launched the present war.

The first of those “forced regime change” (FRC) wars was the one Ariel Sharon, as defence minister, planned and launched against the PLO’s structures in Lebanon in 1982. The PLO mounted a spirited defence. But after seven weeks of terrible destruction, pressure from their Lebanese allies forced the PLO leaders to agree to an internationally mediated ceasefire that mandated the evacuation of the entire PLO security force to distant Arab lands.

From a military viewpoint, Sharon’s war had “worked”. But it had two intriguing political-strategic consequences. Regarding Palestine, Palestinians in the occupied territories who previously had waited to be “saved” by PLO forces from outside realised after 1982 that they needed to work for their own liberation.

They launched their first intifada against Israel in 1987. In Lebanon, meanwhile, the IDF was left as a badly over-stretched occupation force, unable to counter the emergence of a new, indigenous Islamist-nationalist organisation that hadn’t even existed before 1982: Hizbullah.

In 1992, Hizbullah’s political wing ran in Lebanon’s parliamentary election, winning four seats and considerable additional legitimacy in national politics. The next year the IDF launched another FRC war in Lebanon, this time against Hizbullah. That war, the IDF was unable to win. It ended in a fairly fragile — because unmonitored — ceasefire.

In 1996, Prime Minister Shimon Peres, worried about his chances in an impending Israeli election, ordered the IDF to try again. That FRC war was even less satisfactory for Israel. Hizbullah’s resilient military and mass-organisation structures withstood the IDF’s repeated attempts to bomb them into either annihilation or submission.

The IDF’s violence and the mass killings it inflicted proved politically counter-productive to Israel at both the Lebanese and international levels. After some weeks Peres had to agree to a ceasefire resolution in which the subsequent actions of both sides would be subject to international monitoring. The IDF returned to the “security zone” demoralised. (And Peres lost his election.)

Regarding Palestine, the first intifada had led to the Oslo Agreement which led to the establishment of a somewhat autonomous “Palestinian Authority” (PA) in the occupied Palestinian territories. Oslo also mandated that negotiations on a final-status Israeli-Palestinian peace would be finished by 1999. As Israel stalled on those key negotiations and continued to plant settlers in the Occupied Territories, Palestinian frustration grew. In September 2000, the second intifada erupted.

That eruption was sparked when Ariel Sharon very provocatively entered Jerusalem’s holiest Islamic space, the Haram al-Sharif, accompanied by more than 1,000 armed police. By then, Sharon was leader of the opposition Likud Party, despite his earlier exclusion from high office in line with the recommendation of the Kahan Commission regarding his actions in the 1982 war in Lebanon. Elections were getting ever closer in Israel. They were held in February 2001. Likud won, and Sharon became prime minister.

In 2002, he ordered Israel’s fourth FRC war of the modern era. This one was against the PA’s structures in the Occupied Territories — both the security forces and those delivering social and economic services.

Sharon largely succeeded in smashing the PA’s infrastructure, but once again the political-strategic consequences proved counter-productive. Hamas, a militant Islamist-national group that Israel had once incubated, had always criticised the PLO for giving away too much in its never-ending peace talks with Israel. Now, with the PLO both incapacitated and humiliated, Hamas saw considerable new growth. In January 2006 it ran for the first time in PA legislative elections — and won.

Sharon had recently suffered a stroke. He was replaced by Ehud Olmert, a much younger figure who seemingly needed to prove his military toughness. In June 2006, Olmert unleashed another FRC war, this one against Lebanon’s Hizbullah. Hizbullah withstood that one, too. It, and the whole of Lebanon, suffered badly in 2006. But by the middle of 2008 Hizbullah’s political position in Lebanon was stronger than ever.

For his part, Olmert was badly damaged politically by the strategic ineptitude he and the IDF displayed in 2006. He clung to office, his power much diminished. At the end of 2008, as foreign minister Tzipi Livni and defence minister Ehud Barak were squaring off to fight each other and Likud’s Binyamin Netanyahu in the February 2009 election, the Israeli cabinet decided on Israel’s sixth FRC war: this one against Hamas in Gaza.

The history of Israel’s FRC wars deserves close study. All have been “wars of choice” in that the “unbearable” situations that Israeli leaders have cited, each time, as giving them “no alternative” but to fight can all be seen as having been very amenable to negotiation — should Israel have chosen that path instead.

Also, all these wars were planned in some detail in advance, with the Israeli government just waiting for — or even, on occasion, provoking — some action from the other side that they could use as a launch pretext. All have received strong financial, rearming, and political support from the U.S., not least because they were waged in the name of counter-terrorism.

But the outcomes are important, too. At a purely military level, the two FRC wars against the PLO were the ones that Israel was able to “win”, in terms of being largely able to dismantle the structures it targeted. But the longer term, political-strategic outcomes of both those wars were distinctly counter-productive for Israel since they paved the way for the emergence of much tougher minded and better organised movements.

By contrast, Israel was unable to win any of its three FRC wars against Hizbullah. In each, Hizbullah withstood Israel’s assault long enough to force it into a ceasefire. All these wars ended up strengthening Hizbullah’s position inside Lebanese politics.

So how will Israel’s current attempt to inflict forced regime change on the Gaza Palestinians work out? If history is a guide, as it is, then this war will bring about either Hamas’s dismantling or a ceasefire on terms that will lead to (or at least allow) Hamas’s continued political strengthening.

A dismantling is unlikely, since Hamas’s leadership is located outside Gaza and has links throughout the Arab and Islamic worlds that ensure that annihilation of Hamas in Gaza would have serious global consequences. But if Hamas is dismantled in Gaza, it is most likely to be replaced there — faster or slower — by groups that are even more militant and more Islamist than itself.

Meantime, the high human costs of the war continue to mount daily.

*Helena Cobban is a veteran Middle East analyst and author. She blogs at

While above articles are well reasoned and deserve our attention, the last article in this series, in the UN sponsored TERRAVIVA is not – but let us show it here also and say that this article is the reason for all those other articles having been published by the IPS/UN joint venture. It is the intent to put the NGOs active at the UN in good light, but those NGOs – the so called International Human Rights Organizations –   are in effect the example of the World – Left that is both – anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli. They talk in effect of human rights except for the Jews. And this is what we object in the same way as the Israeli left is objecting. THE UN CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO BE A SPRINGBOARD TO THE DELIGITIMIZATION OF ISRAEL – A MEMBER OF THE UN IN GOOD STANDING – BUT FOR ALL THESE YEARS A UN WRONGED MEMBER OF THE UN BECAUSE OF THE INFLUENCE OF OIL MONEY AND OF THE RESIDUAL ANTI-SEMITISM PRESENT IN THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH AND IN TRADITIONAL ISLAM. Just look at the hailed Red Cross and Islamic Crescent organization – the Red Magen David rescue teams cannot even be a member – their symbol was anathema to its fabulous Swiss Calvinistic founders.

Let it be said clearly – UNRWA was not created to give backing to anti-Israeli fighter even when they take of their fatigues and hide in school buildings claiming they are civilians.   UNRWA, as much of the UN, are par of the problem why the Palestinian issue did not find a solution untill this day.

The evidence in this war is not out yet – but in the wars in Lebanon there was ample evidence that UN fighters were using the imunity of UN positions to shelter their missile launchers.

The article says that police is not Hamas – but the facts are that Hamas is ruling Gaza, all other forces have been eliminated so the armed police is just a branch of the armed HAMAS fighters. They are effective combatants.

What the Vatican representative means by concentration camp is an enigma, what did his predecesors think of the Nazi extermination camps in Catholic Europe?

The following UN self-serving article is of no help. The Palestinians and the world deserve better then what the Libyan, Egyptian, Pakistani, Indonesian … pressure group at the UN have put on our plate.

Aid Groups Dispute Israeli Claims in Gaza Attacks.
Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 11 (IPS) – As the Israelis try to justify the massive loss of civilian life in Gaza, their arguments and counter-charges continue to be shot down either by the United Nations or by international human rights organisations.

Did the Israelis misidentify a school run by the U.N. Relief Works Agency (UNWRA), where 43 Palestinians seeking shelter were killed in an early morning air strike? Or were there Hamas gunmen shooting from the school drawing Israeli fire? Neither assertion is accurate, says John Ging, UNRWA’s director of operations in Gaza. All U.N. schools in Gaza are clearly marked, and they fly the Organisation’s distinctly discernible blue-and-white flags.

Moreover, he told reporters, Israel has been provided with Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates of all of UNRWA’s installations in Gaza. So there could not have been a misidentification of the U.N. school in the Jabaliya refugee camp whose compound was hit by an artillery shell early this week.

Asked if Hamas militants could have taken shelter in the school that was attacked, Ging said that UNRWA was “hugely sensitive” to maintaining the integrity of its facilities.

“We vet all those who seek shelter in our facilities to make sure militants were not taking advantage of them,” he said.

Ging said that after visiting the site, he was confident no militants had been inside the building at the time of the bombing and no fire had come from within.

However, he said, “Israel’s position on the issue had shifted to suggest that militant fire had come from the vicinity of the school rather than from inside.”

Still, Ging demanded an independent investigation to prove the U.N.’s credibility against the unfounded charges.

On Thursday, UNRWA was forced to suspend its relief work following the killing of one of its drivers and the wounding of another. They were in a clearly marked aid convoy.

Ging said that while the Israeli authorities had given clearance to U.N. aid workers to move around, “it is wholly and totally unacceptable that (Israeli) soldiers on the ground are firing on our aid workers.”

On Friday, however, UNRWA resumed its relief operations after the Israeli defence ministry provided “credible assurances” that U.N. personnel and humanitarian operations would be fully respected.

Told that Israeli officials were denying the existence of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes dismissed the denial by pointing out that the crisis was “worsening day by day”.

The appeals to halt the violence, he said, fell on deaf ears, both on the Israeli side and on the Hamas side.

According to the United Nations, the two-week old Israeli military operation in Gaza has killed 758 people, of whom 257 were children and 56 women, with 3,100 wounded, including 1,080 children and 452 women.

The staggering numbers were provided to the United Nations by the local Ministry of Health.

Although the United Nations could not independently verify the figures, Holmes told reporters “they appeared credible”.

In contrast, the total number of Israeli deaths, both military and civilian, was about 10, including by friendly fire, according to press reports.

At a news conference Wednesday, Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, said Israel had attacked police stations in Gaza on the ground they were “combatants”.

“Police were not combatants and could not represent legitimate targets unless actively engaged in hostilities,” she pointed out. “It was Israel’s burden of proof to show the police they targeted were, indeed, Hamas militants.”

Instead, she said, it appeared that Israel had targeted police stations on a “blanket basis”.

Whitson said that only combatants actively engaged in fighting were legitimate targets of Israeli attacks.

Thus, a Hamas official at the Ministry of Health was not a legitimate target and neither was a Hamas media broadcasting station.

The situation in Gaza is so abominable that both the U.N. and international human rights organisations have refused to remain silent. Israel has been accused of violating both humanitarian law and the Geneva conventions on military operations.

In a letter to the U.N. Security Council Friday, the London-based Amnesty International (AI) called for firm action “to ensure full accountability for war crimes and other serious abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law”.

AI also urged the Council to dispatch international human rights monitors to Gaza and southern Israel to investigate and report on the continuing abuses by both warring parties.

Even the Vatican seemed outraged by the unmitigated violence by the Israelis.

Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, compared Gaza to a “concentration camp”, reminiscent of the horrors of a Nazi era — provoking anger from the Israelis.

“Look at the conditions in Gaza,” the Cardinal was quoted as saying, “more and more, it resembles a big concentration camp.”


Posted on on January 7th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

Finally, January 7, 2009, all holidays over, serious talking about the latest Middle East shellings has started to take place at the UN Security Council.


The analysis of his statement shows the following:

a. He recognizes that the UNSC is wasting much time by centering on the Middle East while NOT talking to the main culprits. So they met three times on the “Middle East” but heard from Presidents Mubarack and Abbas only now.

b. He anoints President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, as President “democratically elected” of all Palestinians, but no mention that it was Hamas that was democratically elected by the Arabs living in the Gaza Strip – the fact that our web recognized as a budding separate state of Hamasstan or Palestine II, albeit just as Palestinian as the Abbas presently ruled West Bank that we called Palestine I.

It is this non-recognition of Hamasstan by those at the UNSC table that encouraged also Israel to not recognize the reality that if it wants peace on the Gaza border it must sit down and talk to Hamas. It is not helpful to call HAMAS a terrorist organization when in effect it is the elected party by the relevant people living in the Gaza Strip. From the Israeli side – it is plainly idiotic to ignore that reality in the Gaza Strip and allow thus the people of Gaza to be presented as innocent bystanders in a fight between a terrorist group (Hamas) and a neighboring State of Israel. The deligitimization of the Hamas has then further led all the doogooder , and the international media, to present the women and children of Gaza as by-stander victims rather then as a population that is ripped apart by the acts of their own elected government in a war that was started by their own government’s army – the Hamas – in acts of random shelling of the civilian population in Israel.

We suggest, among other material to be discussed today at the UNSC, they also be shown the one hour program on Fareed Zakharia’s show on CNN, this last Sunday, January 3, 2009, where it was clearly evidenced that children having to live underground because of the shelling from Gaza, means the denial of life, in no way less then the use of children by the Hamas as human shield to their military in their attacks on Israel.

The clear evidence that it is a mistake not having recognized the Palestinian’s free will in voting for Hamas was put before us again, today, when the Oxfam NGO at a UN Press Conference pushed the idea that “a Palestinian faction” lobbed Israeli Settlements across the Border – so it should not justify for collective punishment of the Palestinians. Upon a question on what are Palestinian civilians beyond women and children, the panel of NGOs that lobby for EU trade restrictions against Israel, had just a very mumbled reply. All this would not have been the case had it be made clear that Hamas is the Army of the Gaza Palestine.

c. Egypt is the only other State bordering the Gaza Strip. In effect Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip for 19 years – from 1948 till 1967 – denying independence to the Palestinians. It was the Israeli war against Egypt that liberated the Palestinians of Gaza from the Egyptian supervision. Today Mubarack’s Egypt border with the Gaza Strip covers a network of underground tunnels that are as tight as a sieve when it comes to the flow of military material that supports the Hamas attacks against Israel. It was UN and European funds for the refugees that were behind the Egyptian post-1948 interest in Gaza, and it is now the post-1967 US funds to Egypt that were supposed to lead Egypt to patrol its border with Gaza. Egypt gets those funds but allows the hidden war against Israel to continue, while Israel itself colludes with this situation by being afraid to speak out against this two-faced modern Egyptian sphinx in order to avoid having to point at Egypt for   non-performance according to the agreements it has with the funding US Congress.

Foreign Secretary Miliband is completely right in stressing the need for Egyptian participation in the finding of a solution to Gaza, and the fact that the Arab League must come in as a back-up to Egypt in its coming clean on this issue.

 Without full participation of Egypt, and without OPEN BACKING from the Arab League, there will be no end to the shelling from Hamas, but then without dealing with Hamas itself, there will be no move to a settlement of the Arab/Palestinian dispute with Israel. Hamas is a spun-off from the Islamic movement that originated with the Wahabbi regime in Saudi Arabia because of its duplicity of living from oil-money that helped disintegrate the Islamic mores, and its readiness to provide the needed funds to those that were ready to fight for Islamic mores outside Saudi Arabia.

Now, the reality-search brings us to our own complicity that started with us buying happily the Arab oil. But then, this takes us too close to the real subjects followed in our website, and that is much more then the exchange of bombs and the crawling in tunnels at the borders of the Gaza Strip.

The only further note to the Miliband concise statement is that the present conflict, as discussed at the UNSC, did not start December 28, 2008 as he said – but three years earlier with the firing of the first Hamas “kassams” at Shderot – the clumsy rockets that have no physical aims but only the psychological aim of destabilizing life in Israel. To the Minister’s attention, these were no different then the bombs the Nazis targeted at London – and as historians know, the Nazis were the democratically elected regime in Germany and Austria.We hope this last comment illuminates some further the topic at hand.



Now To The Message From The UK Mission to the UN:

From:  Hazel.Foster at
Date: January 6, 2009 7:31:35 PM EST


We are at the beginning of over 24 hours of very active diplomacy.   I have just come from an extensive meeting with the Arab League and obviously I’ll be meeting with all other delegations here.

I think first of all that the terrible events at the UN School this afternoon in Gaza underline the importance of the discussions that we are going to have here in New York over the next 24 hours.   It’s also significant that within the last half an hour there has been an important statement by President Mubarak and I gather that there are further statements by Prime Minister Olmert and other regional leaders coming up and that underlines the fast-moving nature of the events that are underway.   I think it is very important that the discussions that we have here and any positive developments on the ground in the region are mutually reinforcing.

The position of the United Kingdom has been since Saturday 28 December, since the start of this conflict, to argue for an immediate and durable ceasefire.   We need to get into the details of that in terms of the action to tackle the trafficking of illegal arms and also the issue of opening up the crossings that are so important, not just to relieve the misery and the humanitarian need of the people of Gaza, but also to undermine the smuggling of trade.

I think it is also very significant and I will refer to this in my speech that today is the third Security Council discussion of the Middle East over the last three months, but the first that has been addressed by President Abbas.   And I think that it is very important that we reinforce that President Abbas speaks for all the Palestinian people whether they live in the West Bank or in Gaza or are refugees elsewhere actually.   And that it is vital for the long-term future that the Palestinians are able to speak with one legitimate and democratic voice in discussions that take forward the Resolution 1850 that was passed here just three weeks ago.

So if you’ll excuse me now, I am going to make my statement and to engage in Security Council discussions, but I assure you that we have 24 hours of each other’s company ahead and we also have a binding imperative to address the desperate circumstances that exist in the Gaza Strip at the moment.

Thank you very much indeed.   Thank you.


The Miliband Statement at the UNSC Table:


There could not be a greater contrast between the daily regime of delicate diplomacy at the United Nations and the day-to-day reality of death and destruction in Gaza.   But the two are linked.

The United Kingdom believes that the crisis, and I use that word advisedly, the crisis in Gaza is an indictment of our collective failure, all of us, over a long period, to bring about the two-state solution that offers the only hope of security and justice for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

The two speeches that we have just heard from President Abbas and Ambassador Shalev define the challenge for this Council.   Both were moving, deeply felt and passionate and I believe that in this debate we cannot simply restate our national positions – we have a wider responsibility to support all efforts to achieve an immediate ceasefire and to chart a course back to the common vision set out just three weeks ago in UN Security Council Resolution 1850.

As we meet, lives are at stake and new initiatives are underway, notably from President Mubarak and President Sarkozy to engineer new action for a ceasefire that engages Israel and responds to its security concerns.   The United Kingdom supports these initiatives and we need now in this Council to use our discussions over the next 24 hours to be clear in our principles and practical in our conclusions to reinforce these efforts.

Mr President, the truce of June to December 2008 was in truth less than that.   Rockets were fired into Israel.   Palestinians died in Israeli military action.   And the people of Gaza suffered greater and greater deprivation.

However, the immediate trigger for Israeli military action was the end of the truce: Hamas rejected its extension and fired almost 300 rockets between December 19th and December 27th 2008.   These rockets are not just a danger and a provocation, though they are that – they demonstrate a choice by Hamas, not just to target the people of Israel, but also to target the fragile negotiations for peace sponsored over the last year by the United States.

However, the immediate consequence of Israeli military action over the last ten days is also clear.   600 dead, many of them civilians and children, the horror of war piled upon months of deprivation.   The confirmation just a few hours ago that 30 civilians were killed today in a UN school in Gaza is a devastating reminder of the urgency of our responsibilities.   Early today, the Quartet Envoy called the situation in Gaza ‘hell’.   The shortages of food, fuel and medicine are according to our reports acute.   The scale of the suffering is immense.   The need for humanitarian supplies is urgent and in this context it is right to salute the leadership, not just of the Secretary-General, but of the brave United Nations workers trying to relieve suffering in Gaza.

Mr President,
The United Kingdom stands four-square behind the Security Council statement of 28 December calling for an immediate halt to all violence.   I reiterate today the call of my Prime Minister for an immediate ceasefire.

But we are enjoined to come to the United Nations, not just to make declarations, but to seek common ground and to find common purpose.   So we must focus on the substance and permanence of a ceasefire, as well as its timing.

Mr President,
Israel is right to say that the flow of illegal arms into Gaza is a threat to its citizens and needs to be curbed.   We say that we need to support countries in the region in developing the tools to tackle the trafficking of weapons from land and sea.   This will be a complex and difficult task, but it is essential.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority is right to say that it concluded an agreement in 2005 for the opening of crossings for people, goods and aid into Gaza.   We say that we need to open those crossings and re-establish the authority of the Palestinian Authority over them.   This will help the people of Gaza.   It will also undercut the smuggling of trade.

Mr President, the permanence of a ceasefire depends on something else.
President Abbas is a powerful and consistent advocate for the interests of all Palestinians, whether they live in Gaza or the West Bank.   The unity of Palestine is essential to any decent vision of the future.   It is also a precondition of a democratic politics of consent in which there is one legitimate authority and in which every Palestinian has a voice in the only process that counts – the peace process.

Mr President,
The test for us over the next 24 hours is simple.   Do we help bring an end to the current conflict and pave the way back to the vision this Council set out three weeks ago?   Our starting point must be the goals of an immediate ceasefire, an end to arms trafficking and an opening of the crossings.   But we also have a responsibility to keep alive the vision of a peaceful Middle East in which Palestinians have the dignity of statehood and Israelis have recognition and security from their neighbours.   That is the responsibility of this Council, that is our task today and those are responsibilities and tasks that the United Kingdom wants to help resolve.

Thank you very much.


Hazel Foster (Miss)
Third Secretary Press
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