Look at the situation in Syria, and even Egypt, and it does not seem unnatural that a majority of Israeli Arabs prefer continuing being citizens in an Israeli Jewish State with Hebrew as first among equal languages – even though they feel discriminated against – but still have benefits, freedom, and stability.
UN chief: Syria forces shot at monitors trying to reach scene of latest massacre.
Ban Ki-moon condemns massacre at Mazraat al-Qubeir as ‘unspeakable barbarity’ and calls on Assad to implement Kofi Annan’s peace plan.
By Reuters and Natasha Mozgovaya | Jun.07, 2012 | 6:24 PM
UN monitors seeking to reach the site of a new reported massacre of Syrian villagers by forces loyal to President Bashar Assad were shot at with small arms, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday.
Ban, speaking at the start of a special UN General Assembly session on the Syrian crisis, condemned the reported massacre at Mazraat al-Qubeir and called again on Assad to immediately implement international mediator Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan.
“Today’s news reports of another massacre … are shocking and sickening,” he told the 193-nation assembly. “A village apparently surrounded by Syrian forces. The bodies of innocent civilians lying where they were, shot. Some allegedly burned or slashed with knives.”
“We condemn this unspeakable barbarity and renew our determination to bring those responsible to account,” he said.
Ban said UN monitors were initially denied access to the site. “They are working now to get to the scene,” he said. “And I just learned a few minutes ago that while trying to do so the UN monitors were shot at with small arms.”
A short while afterward, a UN spokeswoman said that the United Nations monitors were unable to visit the village of Mazraat al-Qubeir on Thursday where activists say at least 78 people were massacred, and will continue efforts to reach the site on Friday in daylight hours.
“They are going back to their base in Hama and they will try again tomorrow morning,” spokeswoman Sausan Ghosheh said. Chief observer General Robert Mood said earlier they had been turned back by Syrian soldiers and also stopped by civilians.
Ban was addressing the General Assembly on Thursday ahead Annan’s expected presentation to the UN Security Council on Thursday of a new proposal in a last-ditch effort to rescue his failing peace plan for Syria, where 15 months of violence have brought it to the brink of civil war.
Speaking to the General Assembly after Ban, Annan also condemned the new reported massacre and acknowledged that his peace plan was not working.
The U.S. administration also condemned the massacre in Hama.
“The United States strongly condemns the outrageous targeted killings of civilians including women and children in Al-Qubeir in Hama province as reported by multiple credible sources”, the White House spokesman said in a statement. “This, coupled with the Syrian regime’s refusal to let UN observers into the area to verify these reports, is an affront to human dignity and justice.”
Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, issued a statement to the Syrian people on behalf of Israel.
“We hear your cries. We are horrified by the crimes of the Assad regime,” Prosor said. “We extend our hand to you. Assad is not the only one with the blood of the Syrian people on his hands. Iran and Hezbollah sit on his advisory board, offering guidance on how to butcher the Syrian people more efficiently. It is high time for the voices of the victims in Syria to finally unite the voices of the world against the tyrant of Damascus.”
The Syrian opposition and Western and Gulf nations seeking the ouster of President Bashar Assad increasingly see Annan’s six-point peace plan as doomed due to the Syrian government’s determination to use military force to crush an increasingly militarized opposition.
The core of Annan’s proposal, diplomats said, would be the establishment of a contact group that would bring together Russia, China, the United States, Britain, France and key regional players with influence on Syria’s government and the opposition, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Iran.
By creating such a contact group, envoys said, Annan would also be trying to break the deadlock among the five permanent council members that has pitted veto powers Russia and China against the United States, Britain and France and prevented any meaningful UN action on the Syrian conflict, envoys said.
It would attempt to map out a “political transition” for Syria that would lead to Assad stepping aside and the holding of free elections, envoys said. One diplomat said the idea was “vaguely similar” to a political transition deal for Yemen that led to the president’s ouster.
The main point of Annan’s proposal, they said, is to get Russia to commit to the idea of a Syrian political transition, which remains the thrust of Annan’s six-point peace plan, which both the Syrian government and opposition said they accepted earlier this year but have failed to implement.
“We’re trying to get the Russians to understand that if they don’t give up on Assad, they stand to lose all their interests in Syria if this thing blows up into a major regional war involving Lebanon, Iran, Saudis,” a Western diplomat told Reuters. “So far the Russians have not agreed.”
Apart from lucrative Russian arms sales to Damascus, Syria hosts Russia’s only warm water port outside the former Soviet Union. While Russia has said it is not protecting Assad, it has given no indications that it is ready to abandon him.
Last week, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice suggested that if Russia continued to prevent the Security Council from putting pressure on Syria, states may have no choice but to consider acting outside the United Nations.
Diplomats said the West has been pushing Russia to abandon Assad in a series of recent meetings between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with their European and U.S. counterparts.
An unnamed diplomat leaked further details of Annan’s proposal to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, who said that if the contact group agreed on a transition deal for Syria, it could mean Russian exile for Assad. The Post article said another option for Assad would be to seek exile in Iran, Syria’s other staunch ally.
Annan’s peace efforts have failed to halt the violence, as demonstrated by a recent massacre in Houla that led to the deaths of at least 108 men, women and children, most likely by the army and allied militia, according the United Nations.
Opposition members said there was a similar massacre on Wednesday in Hama province, with at least 78 people killed. UN monitors were prevented from reaching it, though a pro-government Syrian television station said the unarmed monitoring force did reach the village of Mazraat al-Qubeir.
Majority of Israeli Arabs would rather live in Israel than in other countries.
68% of Israeli Arabs would rather live in Israel than they would be living in another country.
This shows a survey by the University of Haifa.
60% also agree that the state has a Jewish majority.
56.5% accept the country as a Hebrew-speaking
and 58% of the Sabbath as a day of rest.
Prof. Sami Samuha, who conducted the study says, the question is whether Arab Israelis are more representative of the state or they feel connected to the country feel:
“The Other Arab Spring” – The Government Officials were and are the WATER WELL DIGGERS, not only the oil-well owners – so it is not only that in the Arab World the ruler-religion combo owned the economy to the point that there was no civil society, but they also raped the common good of the environment.
Let us start first with a Thomas Friedman article-conclusion first!
If you ask “what are the real threats to our security today,” said Lester Brown of The Earth Policy Institute, “at the top of the list would be climate change, population growth, water shortages, rising food prices and the number of failing states in the world.
As that list grows, how many failed states before we have a failing global civilization, and everything begins to unravel?”
Hopefully, we won’t go there. But, then -
we should all remember that quote attributed to Leon Trotsky: “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” —- Well, you may not be interested in climate change, but climate change is interested in you.
Folks, this is not a hoax. We and the Arabs need to figure out — and fast — more ways to partner to mitigate the environmental threats where we can and to build greater resiliency against those where we can’t. Twenty years from now, this could be all that we’re talking about.
Please go to the link for a very interesting article that tells us that the Arab Spring did happen in part because of the lack of attention to climate change on the part of government officials that were racking it all in to themselves – those official rapists of their countries.
Thomas Friedman is not the only one asking why Arab Spring now, and why the Arab World has not produced any democracies like other Islamic Countries – non-Arabs – actually did. Why is there no Arab State like Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, or Bangladesh? This last version of the Question was posed by Fareed Zakaria on today’s CNN/GPS show.
Seemingly – all Arab States that are within the huge North-Africa Middle-East area of the Arab conquests in the 12th and 13th Centuries have no real Civil Society. In all these States the economy is run by the people of the ruling Monarchy or by those close to the Government.
To above obervation by Fareed Zakaria we see the add-on by Thomas Friedman: “The Arab awakening was driven not only by political and economic stresses, but, less visibly, by environmental, population and climate stresses as well. If we focus only on the former and not the latter, we will never be able to help stabilize these societies.”
Thomas Friedman tells us of draught in Syria and North Africa and how this draught pushed the societal lid and was part of the reason for this present day upheaval.
And a Warning – 12 of the world’s 15 most water-scarce countries — Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Israel and Palestine — are in the Middle East, and after three decades of explosive population growth these countries are “set to dramatically worsen their predicament.
Then think also about the observatio – “Alot more mouths to feed with less water than ever. As Lester Brown, the president of the Earth Policy Institute and author of “World on the Edge,” notes, 20 years ago, using oil-drilling technology, the Saudis tapped into an aquifer far below the desert to produce irrigated wheat, making themselves self-sufficient. But now almost all that water is gone, and Saudi wheat production is, too. So the Saudis are investing in farm land in Ethiopia and Sudan, but that means they will draw more Nile water for irrigation away from Egypt, whose agriculture-rich Nile Delta is already vulnerable to any sea level rise and saltwater intrusion.
by Thomas Fuchs
The Other Arab Spring.
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, Published in The New York Times April 7, 2012 as an OP-ED Column.
ISN’T it interesting that the Arab awakening began in Tunisia with a fruit vendor who was harassed by police for not having a permit to sell food — just at the moment when world food prices hit record highs? And that it began in Syria with farmers in the southern village of Dara’a, who were demanding the right to buy and sell land near the border, without having to get permission from corrupt security officials? And that it was spurred on in Yemen — the first country in the world expected to run out of water — by a list of grievances against an incompetent government, among the biggest of which was that top officials were digging water wells in their own backyards at a time when the government was supposed to be preventing such water wildcatting? As Abdelsalam Razzaz, the minister of water in Yemen’s new government, told Reuters last week: “The officials themselves have traditionally been the most aggressive well diggers. Nearly every minister had a well dug in his house.”
UPDATED: Kofi Annan – the best man for Syria and the worst man for Syria. It was under him that the UN passed a basic Global Law – THE RESPONSIBILITY OF GOVERNMENTS TO PROTECT THEIR CITIZENS yet the Syrian Government Shoots at its Own Citizens.
The UPDATE is for two reasons:
1, on March 13th we had looked at the appointment of former UN Secretary Kofi Annan with hope that his persona could influence events, then we realized that the UN Department of Political Affairs burdened him with a very bad team that we called tainted because all its members were tainted one way or the other. Among them was also Mr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, former UN representative of Palestine and former Foreign Minister of the Palestinian Authority.
2. We had also personal misgivings with the inclusion of retired UN employee Ahmad Fawzi who seemingly had a close contact to politically active UN Arab partisans. Mr. Nasser Al-Kidwah was not let in by the Syrians.
Today we learned that though al-Kidwah was appointed as Deputy to Mr. Annan, now someone who was not an Arab, but part of The Kofi Annan UN Administration – his Under-Secretary-General for Peace-Keeping Operation during the whole eight years two terms – 2000-2008, Columbia University Professor and Frenchman, Jean-Mariw Buehenno, got to be a second Deputy Special Envoy to this Joint Mission of the UN and the Arab League.
Otherwise, it is clear that nothing has been done todate by the UN to help the Syrian citizens who are under siege from their own Government.
We posted earlier:
Kofi Annan was UN Secretary General 1997-2006. Under him the UN put forward the concept of the “RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT” – which means that it is a Government´s responsibility to protect its citizens – the most revolutionary idea at the UN since the days of Eleanor Roosevelt championing the concept of HUMAN RIGHTS and her managing the UN Declaration on the subject. Just think of the many dictatorships that are UN member governments and their treatment of their own citizens.
Kofi Annan, among other interests, was also a champion of issues of the Environment and the neeed to do something about air pollution from burning fossil carbons and the resulting effects on the Climate.
The Students of the class of 2011 of the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna recognized the visions of UNSG Kofi Annan by deciding to name the 2011 class after Kofi Annan. We see in this a recognition of the truth, that with with good people on the top, the UN can provide leadership even in the present world condition.
That was BEFORE the UN appointment of Mr. Kofi Annan as negotiator in the Syria internal conflict that bares worries in other UN Member States were governments do not want to lose out to an uprising of their own people like Hosni Mubarak lost out to the people of Egypt. In the case of Libya it was the people plus external intervention by France and Britain that cleared the country of its leading pest, that is why China and Russia do not want any part in international intervention in case of internal strife – they just think of their own regimes – would you expect them to allow external involvement in what they consider their own affairs? How far can you indeed push the idea that democracy ought to be the way of government? Do you expect them to adhere to the two UN niceties of The Declaration on Human Rights and The Responsibility to Protect (R2P).
In the case of Syria these issues come to the forefront and it was Mr. Kofi Annan who was chosen to be the UN standard bearer to confront Mr. Bashar al-Assad with his responsibilities to his own citizens who rightfully detest him.
We liked Mr Annan when he was UN Secretary General, and indeed think he was the best Secretary General since Dag Hammarskjold. We also agree that with his understanding of R2P he is the best man to confront the Syrian establishment, but is he the best negotiator when coming in with a 100% understanding of the truth? Can he reach the needed compromise that stops the shooting? We know he is a skilled negotiator – but here he comes in with all the cards open on the table and this just cannot convince the Syrian regime that time has come to find a way out – something like assuring Mr. al-Assad a datcha in the Caucasus and ranches in Brazil to his Alawite henchmen.
With fighting going on – who will chase out whom? Syria has become home to Sunnis that escaped Iraq, but Syrian Sunnis are now themselves an endangered species even that they are in the majority and not like in iraq where the Sunnis were the minority. If they lose will it mean a strengthening of an anti-Sunni situation or rather a continuation of a secular situation where religious extremes from both ends – Sunni and Shi’a - present danger to the rest of Islamic Western Asia? Is Saudi Arabia really interested in clearing out the Alawites who are sort of a secular Shi’a group that held Syria together until now?
With above thoughts in mind we read our friend – Anne Barnard’s report from the Middle East and decided to post our doubts that Mr. Kofi Annan can pull it off, and our feeling that he was sent there not with the intent to succeed, but rather as a way to allow the UN to continue to sit on its hands, while the Syrians go on killing their own, and eventually force more people to flee – this as the only way to attempt to quiet down this pesky event – the peace of the dead and gone.
Anne Barnard writes from Beirut for the New York Times:
Massacre Is Reported in Homs, Raising Pressure for Intervention in Syria.
BEIRUT, Lebanon, March 12, 2012 — Syrian opposition activists said on Monday that soldiers and pro-government thugs had rounded up scores of civilians in the devastated central city of Homs overnight, assaulted men and women, then killed dozens of them, including children, and set some bodies on fire. Syria immediately denied responsibility.
The attacks prompted a major exile opposition group to sharpen its calls for international military action and arming of the rebels. Some activists called the killings a new phase of the crackdown that appeared aimed at frightening people into fleeing Homs, an epicenter of the rebellion that the Syrian government had claimed just a few weeks ago it had already pacified after a month of shelling and shootings.
The government reported the killings as well but attributed them to “terrorist armed groups,” a description it routinely uses for opponents, including armed men, army defectors and protesters in the year-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
Syria’s restrictions on outside press access made it impossible to reconcile the contradictory accounts of the killings, which appeared to be one of the worst atrocities in the conflict. But accounts of witnesses and images posted on YouTube gave some credence to the opposition’s claims that government operatives were responsible.
An activist in Homs, Wael al-Homsi, said in a telephone interview that he had counted dozens of bodies, including those of women and children, in the Karm el-Zeitoun neighborhood of Homs while helping move them to a rebel-controlled area in cars and pickup trucks. He said residents had told him that about 500 athletically built armed men, in civilian clothes and military uniforms, had killed members of nine families and burned their houses, adding, “There are still bodies under the wreckage.
“I’ve seen a lot of bodies but today it was a different sight, especially dismembered children,” Mr. Homsi said.
In a video posted on YouTube, a man being treated for what appeared to be bullet wounds in his back said he had escaped the killings in Karm al-Zeitoun. “We were arrested by the army, then handed over to the shabiha,” he said, using a common word for pro-government thugs. After two hours of beating, he said: “They poured fuel over us. They shot us — 30 or 40 persons.”
Both activists and the Syrian government described the attacks as “a massacre,” a day after a special emissary of the United Nations and the Arab League, Kofi Annan, a former United Nations secretary general, left the country without reaching a deal to end the fighting.
News of the killings came as the United Nations Security Council debated in New York, where the United States and Russia, Syria’s main international backer, tangled over how to address the Syria crisis.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called on Russia and China, which have vetoed previous resolutions aimed at holding Mr. Assad accountable and beginning a political transition, to join international “humanitarian and political efforts” to end the crisis, which she attributed directly to Mr. Assad.
Mrs. Clinton added, referring to shelling and other government military action in Syrian cities over the weekend, “How cynical that, even as Assad was receiving former Secretary General Kofi Annan, the Syrian Army was conducting a fresh assault on Idlib and continuing its aggression in Hama, Homs and Rastan.”
Her Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov, agreed that any solution in Syria “requires an immediate end of violence.” But he said armed elements of the opposition in Syria were also responsible for the crisis there, and that the Security Council must act “without imposing any prejudged solutions.”
Mrs. Clinton had a separate meeting with Mr. Lavrov, calling it “constructive.” She told reporters he would deliver to Moscow her “very strong view that the alternative to our unity on these points will be bloody internal conflict with dangerous consequences for the whole region.”
The Syrian National Council, the main expatriate opposition group, held a news conference in Istanbul and issued a statement that intensified longstanding calls by some of its members for outside military action. George Sabra, an executive board member and a spokesman for the council, told reporters that it was a moral imperative for the international community to stop the killing and to arm the opposition Free Syrian Army.
“Words are no longer enough to satisfy the Syrian people. Therefore, we call for practical decisions and actions against the gangs of Assad. We demand Arab and international military intervention,” he said. The council, however, does not represent the entire opposition, which has struggled to agree on a unified message and includes people who oppose further militarizing the uprising, which has come to resemble a civil war.
From the UN:
Toll of Syrian conflict: 8,000 deaths, 230,000 displaced
The ongoing conflict in Syria has claimed the lives of more than 8,000 people, according to UN officials, and forced at least 230,000 Syrians to flee their homes.
Kofi Annan, the United Nations-Arab League envoy to the country, said he was expecting a response today from the regime of President Bashar al-Assad that included “concrete proposals” to end the violence.
From the Turkish Ambassador:
His estimate is that more then 10,000 is the number of the dead.
Two new Presidents – one in Yemen [ Abd Rabbo Mansur al-Hadi (Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi)], the other in Germany [Joachim Gauck] – both will be put in their jobs by the will of the people. Were these examples of democracy?
Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi is currently Vice President and with American help he is without a competing candidate the sure winner in an election where there was not allowed an opponent. To his credit it can be said that he is a tool helping to remove the current President Ali Abdullah Saleh who stayed glued to his throne for 33 years and was forced to resign by the US in order to avoid blood letting because of rebelling forces in parts of Yemen.
Joahim Gauck becomes President because of FDP politicians, who are part of the government, using some public dismay with Ms. Angela Merkel’s policies, decided to chastise her by backing personnel that was not to her liking – be that to the position of Federal President of Germany. Next German President, to be elected March 18, 2012, is thus the most rightward oriented German President elected with the votes of the Socialists and the Greens who gave bo consideration to potential other candidates. Giving unified backing to a candidate allows for avoidance of open political bloodletting but asures potential future problems of government.
Above two cases should be remembered wherever such dealings are possible when attempting moves towards temporary peace. Let us contemplate this sort of potential in cases like Iran, Syria, Belarus.
High Drama at the Gates of Hormuz – US patrols against Somali and Iranian Pirates free the Iranians and brig the Somalis. Is this a Diplomatic Warning to the President of Iran? The freed Iranian fishermen and the Bahamian-flagged commercial ship praise the Americans that answered their prayers to the Gods. If the World stops buying Iranian oil will this somewhat decrease the needs for US policing the seas?
Obama’s Americans call on Ahmedinejad’s bluff by saving his Iranian fishermen from the hold of Somali pirates – right there on Iran’s frontage or doorstep.
ABOARD THE FISHING VESSEL AL MULAHI, in the Gulf of Oman — Senior Iranian military officials this week bluntly warned an American aircraft carrier that it would confront the “full force” of the Iranian military if it tried to re-enter the Persian Gulf.
Are the American ships there to keep the oil-transport lanes open? Then if there will be no exports from Iran, there will be a diminished need for US chaperons against Somali pirates! The US will have to guard only the Iraqi, Kuwaiti, Saudi, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, oil transports!
Tyler Hicks/The New York Times - American sailors with captured Somali pirates near the mouth of the Gulf of Oman, after the pirates’ Iranian hostages were freed.
“It is like you were sent by God,” said Mr. Fazel Ur Rehman, On Friday, a 28-year-old Iranian fisherman, with a warm greeting for the carrier task force near the enytance to the Iranian/Arab Gulf . in the Gulf of Oman, huddled under a blanket in the AL MULAHI vessel’s stern: “Every night we prayed for God to rescue us. And now you are here.”
In a naval action that mixed diplomacy, drama and Middle Eastern politics, the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis broke up a high-seas pirate attack on a cargo ship in the Gulf of Oman, then sailors from an American destroyer boarded the pirates’ mother ship and freed 13 Iranian hostages who had been held captive there for more than a month.
The cocky senior Iranian military officials this week had warned bluntly an American aircraft carrier that it would confront the “full force” of the Iranian military if it tried to re-enter the Persian Gulf – and see now – Ahmedinejad had to rely on the US Navy to get his fishermen back safe from Somali pirates he seemingly loves so much.
The rapidly unfolding events began Thursday morning when the pirates attacked a Bahamian-flagged ship, the motor vessel Sunshine, unaware that the Stennis was steaming less than eight miles away.
It ended Friday with the tables fully turned. The captured Somali pirates, 15 in all, were brought aboard the U.S.S. Kidd, an American destroyer traveling with the Stennis. They were then shuttled by helicopter to the aircraft carrier and locked up in its brig.
This fishing vessel and its crew, provided fuel and food by the Navy, then set sail for its home port of Chah Bahar, Iran.
The rescue, 210 miles off the coast of Iran, occurred against a tense political backdrop. On Tuesday the Iranian defense minister and a brigadier general threatened the Stennis with attack if it sought to return to the Persian Gulf, which it had left roughly a week before. The warning set up fears of a confrontation over the vital oil shipping lanes of the Strait of Hormuz.
None of that tension was evident at sea. The Sunshine, a 583-foot cargo ship carrying bulk cargo from Calais, France, to Bandar Abbas, Iran, continued its journey.
Mahmed Younes, 28, the fishing vessel’s captain, said he and his crew had been captured roughly 45 days ago by pirates in a skiff, who boarded their 82-foot dhow and forced it to an anchorage in the northern Somali port of Xaafuun. There, the pirates took on provisions and more gunmen.
In late December the pirates, using their hostages to run the dhow, set back out to sea, hunting for a tanker or large cargo ship to capture and hold for ransom.
For several days, Al Mulahi roamed the Gulf of Oman, unmolested under its Iranian flag, the pirates and former hostages said. They saw several ships. But the pirates’ leader, Bashir Bhotan, 32, did not think any of them would command a high ransom. They let them pass.
“The pirates told us, ‘If you get us a good ship, we will let you go free,’ ” Captain Younes said. “We told them, ‘How can we get you a ship? We are fishermen, not hunters.’ ”
On Thursday morning, six of the pirates set out in a fiberglass skiff and found their quarry — the Sunshine, 100 miles from the shore of Oman. One of the pirates, Mohammed Mahmoud, 33, later said this was the type of vessel they would hope might fetch a ransom of several million dollars.
Brandishing a rocket-propelled grenade and several Kalashnikov rifles, they rushed alongside, threw a grappling hook and tried to lash a ladder to the Sunshine’s side. They hoped to scale the gunwales and seize the bridge.
Their plans unraveled immediately. As the Sunshine radioed for help, and tried to deter the boarding by spraying the pirates with fire hoses, the pirates were unable to board.
“Our ladder broke,” Mr. Mahmoud said.
Then an American helicopter appeared.
Neither the pirates nor the crew of the Sunshine had known it, but three Navy ships — the Stennis; the U.S.N.S. Rainier, a supply ship; and the U.S.S. Mobile Bay, a guided-missile cruiser — were steaming in formation a few miles away. The carrier was taking on provisions from the Rainier and had several helicopters in the air when the Sunshine radioed its distress call.
Aboard the carrier, Rear Adm. Craig S. Faller, who commands the carrier strike group, looked at the chart and radar images of the Sunshine’s location with something like disbelief. The Sunshine and the Stennis were only a few miles apart. “These might be the dumbest pirates ever,” he said.
HONG KONG — Under growing pressure from the United States, some of Asia’s largest economies are reluctantly looking for options to reduce the amount of oil they buy from Iran, a move that would further tighten the economic vise on an increasingly defiant nation that announced plans for a new round of naval drills in the Strait of Hormuz.
Pressed by U.S., Asian Countries Look for Ways to Reduce Purchases of Iranian Oil
By KEITH BRADSHER and CLIFFORD KRAUSS
Published: January 6, 2012
The decision by South Korea and Japan to try to accommodate Washington’s demands follows reports that China has already reduced its purchase of Iranian crude in the past month in a pricing dispute with Tehran. Whatever the motives, the combined loss of sales threatens an economy already reeling, where the currency has plummeted in value, inflation has surged and the general public has expressed growing anxiety about the prospect of war.
China, Japan, India and South Korea together import more than 60 percent of Iranian oil exports, and they all depend on Iran and other Persian Gulf producers for the preponderance of their oil and natural gas needs. As tensions in the gulf have escalated and alarmed Asian governments and businesses, companies and traders from those countries have been putting out feelers to places like Russia, Vietnam, West Africa, Iraq and especially Saudi Arabia to export more oil to them, according to oil experts.
For Tehran, which relies heavily on oil revenues to prop up an economy battered by years of sanctions, the potential cutbacks by its Asian customers follow a decision by theEuropean Union to move toward a ban on the import of Iranian oil. Taken together, the Western efforts represent the most serious economic pressure yet on Iran after years of conflict over a nuclear program that the West charges is aimed at building weapons.
But if the goal is to force Iran to relent, the campaign has so far had an opposite effect: Iranian officials have equated targeting their oil market with economic war andthreatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, where about one-fifth of the world’s oil passes to get to market.
The Iranian military, fresh off 10 days of naval exercises near the strait that ended this week, vowed to hold a new round of war games soon. The defense minister, Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi, in comments reported by the semiofficial Fars News Agency Thursday, said the military’s exercises would be “its greatest naval war games” and would occur “in the same region in the near future.”
The United States, however, is keeping the pressure on.
Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner is scheduled to visit Beijing and Tokyo next week, and the tightening sanctions on Iran will be high on his agenda. United States officials said that Mr. Geithner will press China at least to resist importing more Iranian oil to replace exports that would otherwise go to Europe. The trip is part of a concerted effort by Western diplomats to persuade Asian countries to go along with new European sanctions, American and European officials say.
“It’s a global chess game,” said Daniel Yergin, the energy historian. “The major buyers are prudently beginning to make alternative plans to reduce their reliance on Iranian oil.”
The Asian efforts to wean themselves from Iranian crude are in response to legislation enacted by Congress at the end of last year requiring the administration to phase in sanctions in stages by late June that would make it very difficult for others to buy Iranian oil, by barring transactions with Iran’s central bank.
The sanctions exempt food, medicine and other humanitarian trade and include a presidential waiver for any country or company in cases in which the impact would harm the national security interests of the United States.
More significantly, the legislation exempts from sanctions countries that “significantly reduce” imports from Iran. The legislation does not define this term, leaving it to the administration, according to officials. The debate over the definition, now under way, has given the administration some leverage to entice allies like Japan, South Korea and even China to make some reductions, thus intensifying pressure, without having to take the hit of cutting off imports all at once.
But Japan and South Korea have expressed some alarm at the demand that they reduce their reliance on Iranian oil, fearing that such a move could undermine their economies. Japan, the second-largest buyer of Iranian oil, depends on Persian Gulf countries for four-fifths of its oil imports, which come through the Strait of Hormuz. Osamu Fujimura, the chief cabinet secretary, announced on Friday that Japan had expressed concern to the United States about the dangers to the Japanese and global economy from limits on Iran’s oil exports.
Yasushi Kimura, the president of the JX Nippon Oil and Energy Corporation, Japan’s largest refiner, announced on Thursday that his company had opened talks with Saudi Arabia and others, whom he did not name, about possible alternatives.
The South Korean government announced on Thursday that it was looking for ways to limit its imports of oil and oil products from Iran, but pointedly stopped short of suggesting that it could stop these imports altogether.
China, which imports about 11 percent of its oil from Iran, has actually reduced its daily purchases of Iranian crude, although estimates of the cutback range from as little as 15,000 barrels a day, or 3 percent of Chinese imports from Iran, to considerably more than that. It was hard to know if Beijing was making a political statement or merely trying to buy the oil on better terms.
“The Chinese have definitely cut back on long-term contracts, but we don’t know exactly why,” said Andy Lipow, a Houston refining and trading analyst. “They may feel they will be able to buy cheaper on short-term markets if Iran were to lose its European customers.”
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly said it would increase production if needed to make up for any decline in exports from Iran, its longtime regional rival.
“Saudi Arabia and OPEC have always delivered what the market required,” said Sadad Ibrahim Al-Husseini, former head of exploration and production at Saudi Aramco, the Saudi state oil company. “There is enough supply from other OPEC countries” to compensate for losses of Iranian supplies, he added.
Mr. Husseini stressed that Middle Eastern oil markets were not yet in crisis mode, noting that insurance rates on tankers had not yet gone up in part because a tightening of European sanctions is at least a month away and a blockade of the strait is considered unlikely. “The market is still comfortable Iran cannot pull off its threats,” he said.
But oil analysts have warned that the international oil market remains tight, even with Libyan oil quickly coming back on line. Any disruption in the Middle East would probably bring a sharp increase in prices, which would put the shaky world economic recovery at risk, they say.
A senior government official in the Persian Gulf said Arab countries in the region were not panicking about the latest Iranian threats, while at the same time, encouraging the United States “to take a firm stand.”
“The last thing we want is some kind of military intervention,” said the official, who was granted anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly for his government. “But it should be left on the table.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry took a cautious position this week on Iran, reiterating China’s broad objection to all sanctions that have not been approved by the United Nations and expressing hope that no military action of any sort will take place.
“We hope to maintain peace and stability in the gulf region,” said Hong Lei, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, at a regularly scheduled news conference on Wednesday.
But China is worried about the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz, said Patrick Ho, the chief executive and secretary general of the China Energy Fund Committee, an influential group in Hong Kong and Beijing with links to the Chinese government. “It is the lifeline as far as energy is concerned for China,” Mr. Ho said.
Hamas/Shalit/ no Turks? It was obvious that Israel will eventually speak to Hamas about a deal that will again put Gaza ahead of the West Bank. What about an eventual three States solution with the release of kidnaped Gilad Shalit in exchange for jailed 1,027 prisoners as a step in that direction ? Gaza ahead of the Jordan River West Bank? Western dealmakers or Turkey may not have to participate in the finals. At the present stage it seems Egypt, Germany, with Turks present, did it.
Hamas, Israel’s enemy or economic partner?
Cooperation between Israel and Hamas exists on several fronts, including at the Kerem Shalom terminal, where goods pass in and out of Gaza. And the more the PA challenges Israel, the more Hamas makes nice.
Haaretz, October 08, 2011
We post this on October 12, 2011 – the day that a deal was announced involving the release of captive Isrseli Staff Sergeant Gilad Shalit in exchange for 1,000 Arab men and 27 Arab women prisoners that include 315 prisoners serving life sentences and 27 women.
Israeli journalists said after an intelligence briefing that Marwan Barghouti, a top leader of the Fatah group, the Hamas rival group, sentenced to five life terms, and seen as a possible successor to Mr. Abbas, would not be freed.
Also, looking at the fact that it was the new Egyptian care-tacker government, rather then the Government of Turkey, that achieved this deal, shows that Turkey may have overplayed its cards in the Arab World and might be far from its target of becoming the decision maker for the Islamic World.
Egyptian sources claim Gilad Shalit will be released by Hamas to the custody of Egypt within 48 hours.
The three day original old posting said:
The line of trucks at the entry to Kerem Shalom, the southern crossing point into the Gaza Strip, is more than a kilometer long. The trucks, mostly from Israel and some from the West Bank, carry a variety of goodies: equipment from the German company Siemens for Gaza’s power station, boxes of soft drinks, sacks of cement. North of the crossing point, on the Israeli side, renovation work to expand the terminal continues energetically, at an estimated cost of some NIS 100 million.
Brig. Gen. (res. ) Kamil Abu-Rokon, who heads the Defense Ministry authority in charge of border crossings, says that on an average day 280 trucks pass through Kerem Shalom. That number is comparable to the number that passed through the Karni checkpoint before Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Should the renovation work finish on schedule, by December the Kerem Shalom area should be five times larger than it is at present, and it should be able to process twice as many trucks as it does today, though much will depend on the Strip’s ability to absorb exports from Israel. With regard to a portion of the goods, demand in Gaza is relatively small because similar products are smuggled in at much lower cost via tunnels from the Sinai Peninsula.
The ambitious project drawn up by the Defense Ministry also envisions Gazans exporting their goods overseas via Kerem Shalom and the Ashdod port. As things stand now, wares produced in Gaza move through the terminal on several dozens of trucks each day; flowers and vegetable produce constitute the bulk of them. This flow is expected to increase, even though (as Abu-Rokon explains ) the project will remain mired in difficulties as long as the international community fails to make good on its promise to fund the acquisition of the costly equipment needed for the security inspection of goods.
Physical contact between the Israeli and Palestinian sides is minimal. The terminal is constructed of a series of closed booths, each holding large areas for the unloading and inspection of cargo. After the Israelis unload the products and security teams leave the area, Palestinians enter to load the trucks whose destination is sites within the Strip. The goal of such segregation is to reduce security risks: Both Kerem Shalom and the Karni crossing point, which remains closed, were in the past targeted by terror groups. But there are also political calculations at play here.
Officially, Israel and Hamas do not speak with one another. In actual fact, however, there is wide-ranging economic and logistical coordination handled by mediators, a small coterie of representatives of the Palestinian Authority government on the West Bank, and private contractors who operate the terminal on the Palestinian side. Everyone knows that the contractors receive orders from Hamas, but for all concerned, it is convenient to overlook this fact. This is akin to kissing through a veil, and the whole situation reminds one of Israel’s insistence not to talk with the PLO during the Madrid Conference in 1991 – even though everyone knew that members of the Palestinian delegation acted with the blessing of Yasser Arafat.
That is just one of the ironies of Kerem Shalom. Another involves the Palestinians’ ongoing complaints about the horrific economic siege leveled against the Strip, not to mention Turkey’s threats to come to the rescue of the incarcerated Gaza residents. While it is an ideological, and occasional physical, antagonist of Israel, Hamas is right now an economic partner that is acquiring from the state more items than are needed for the daily living requirements of the Strip. The distress faced by Gaza residents remains acute, however, although the idiotic Israeli prohibition on the entry of goods – which included rigorous monitoring of certain types of products – was rescinded over a year ago.
Whoever wants to can see this irony embodied in the work of the director of the crossing point administration on the Israeli side of Kerem Shalom. This is Ami Shaked, formerly security officer of the Gush Katif settlements, who was always the first to arrive on the scene of terror attacks on these settlements during the second intifada, before Israel evacuated the Strip.
The gradual change began in January 2010. Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, coordinator of government activities in the territories, decided to reverse procedures: Instead of a short list of goods permissible for entry to Gaza, Israel drafted another list of products that have possible dual uses (that is, civilian goods that can also be used for military use, such as in the construction of bunkers ) and are not allowed into Gaza.
The international criticism leveled against Israel following the Gaza flotilla incident of 2010 led to a government decision whose effective meaning on the ground was tantamount to the lifting of the siege. The hubris that characterized the attempt to impose economic sanctions on the Strip eventually began to fade.
In a little over a year, Israel authorized the import to Gaza of construction materials for 163 projects, funded partly by international organizations. “Top Hamas officials go around all day long with scissors, cutting ribbons to dedicate clinics, water-purification stations, and large factories,” explains one senior IDF officer, Lieut. Col. “Kobi,” who works with the branch responsible for the coordination of government policy in the territories.
Concurrently, there has been a major economic change in Gaza. Unemployment figures dropped from 40 to 25 percent. PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad continues to provide crucial “oxygen” to Gaza via disbursement of wages to 70,000 PA workers, many of whom have sat idly at home over the past four years. Recently, Hamas has encountered difficulties procuring revenue. One possible solution would be to increase its tax collection, partly by imposing fees on goods smuggled via the Sinai tunnels.
:Convergence of interests
A tour along the Gaza border this week reveals a reality quite unlike what appears in ongoing media reports, and resoundingly different from official Israeli rhetoric, which was stepped up after the terror attack north of Eilat on August 18. During the escalation that followed – when Katyusha missiles fell on Be’er Sheva, and Israeli air force planes carried out assassinations of top Palestinian figures – it appeared Israel was preparing for another military operation akin to Cast Lead.
The actual circumstances are completely different: An undeclared status quo governs relations between Israel and Hamas, and this convergence of interests suits both sides. Hamas is busily engaged with its effort to beef up its rule in the Strip, and to establish gradually an independent entity – one that would compete with the regime established by the PA in the West Bank. Israel is loath to interfere with this effort. At the same time, by ignoring Hamas’ fortification of a rocket-launching infrastructure in the Strip, it has purchased a respite from attacks for its Negev towns and communities.
The relative quiet on the Gaza border is threatened from other fronts. From Sinai, for example, where operatives from Palestinian organizations from Gaza (including Hamas) are trying to create an alternative “playing field” from which to launch attacks on Israel. And, of course, there is the wider regional reality: Should there be a military confrontation in some other theater, be it Iran, Lebanon or the West Bank, Gaza would invariably be pulled into the fighting, and Hamas would return to its original mandate as an organization dedicated to anti-Israeli resistance.
“There is a trend of quiet right now in Gaza,” confirms a top IDF officer in the Southern Command, but quickly cites two factors that threaten this situation: Sinai, and also internal disputes within Hamas.
Whereas Hamas’ political leadership and its military “chief of staff,” Ahmed Jabri, support the current status quo policy, there is a branch of the organization, headed by long-time terror suspect Mohammed Deif, that is not comfortable with the current cease-fire. Deif’s demonstrations of independence could disrupt the quiet. Hamas’ political leadership could also abandon the status quo situation should a promising military option suddenly come its way; this could include the kidnapping of more Israelis to enhance the value of the “asset” Hamas has long held: IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
For its part, Sinai is a thorn that immeasurably complicates the current state of affairs. In the absence of both a fortified fence (one is currently under construction ) and an effective means of gathering intelligence, Israel’s alignment on the Egyptian border – unlike the situation in Gaza – is not suited to “absorb” a terror strike attempt. A partial solution is the massive deployment of troop reinforcements; such a reinforcement procedure is already weighing heavily on the IDF’s work schedule for 2012. Israel’s relative weakness in the Sinai region is liable to prompt attempted terror attacks, which would in turn provoke stiff Israeli responses in Gaza, leading to a possible renewed conflagration.
Hamas has recently been forced to tackle other domestic issues. On Wednesday, its security forces blocked a procession en route to the Erez crossing point, in the northern part of the Strip. The marchers were expressing solidarity with Palestinian security prisoners in Israel, some of whom have been staging a hunger strike for almost two weeks. Though Palestinian society accords much symbolic value to its prisoners, Hamas decided to block the march, which could possibly have led to a stand-off with IDF forces on the border.
That sequence also attests to the sea change around Gaza and Palestinian realities: While the PA makes threats about renewed conflict (confined, for the time being, to the diplomatic arena ), centering around its statehood initiative, Hamas has willingly adopted the policy of status quo stability in Gaza, and evinced criticism of Fatah’s actions. Furthermore, some top Fatah figures have gone so far as to accuse Israel and Hamas of a form of strategic cooperation: Both Hamas and Israel oppose the PA’s maneuver in the UN, and Hamas prisoners continue to receive meals, while it is Fatah inmates who carry out the hunger strike in Israeli prisons.
For their part, Hamas prisoners actually have good reason to be angry about the worsening of conditions by Israel – a step meant to pressure the Islamists on the matter of a Shalit release deal. Hamas prisoners are also not allowed to watch Arab satellite television stations, their academic studies have been stopped, and family visitation rights have been restricted (this applies to visits from West Bank relations; visits by Gaza residents have been banned for several years ).
Meanwhile, Hamas is perplexed by the success notched up by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas in the international arena, and Hamas leaders are threatened by signs of rising support for Abbas among the Palestinian public. Suddenly, Fatah has stolen the mantle of heroic resistance, due to its strong opposition to the renewed U.S.-Israel alliance. Hamas was concerned that Abbas would also accrue political capital from the prisoners’ strike, and so it decided to refrain from taking such action.
At the end of last week, Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas’ political bureau, took part in a Tehran conference marking the “victory of the intifada” – specifically, the 11th anniversary of the outbreak of the second intifada. Meshal praised Iranian and Syrian activities in support of the Palestinians. His pro-Syrian pronouncements marked the culmination of a long period of equivocation in Hamas’ leadership. Syria, which continues to host Meshal and his confederates in Damascus, has for some time pressured Hamas, calling on it to show public support for Assad’s regime. Meshal hesitated, knowing that President Bashar Assad has been massacring members of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization that is ideologically allied with Hamas. In his speech, Meshal attacked Israel and the PA, though he grudgingly articulated support for Abbas’ resistance to American-Israeli pressure.
While Meshal lectured in Tehran, Abbas continued to make the rounds of other world capitals, trying to enlist support for the Palestinian bid to persuade Security Council members to ratify the statehood request (any Security Council vote of approval will be vetoed by the Americans ). At this stage, there doesn’t appear to be a sign of significant change in the balance of power between the two organizations vying for hegemonic leadership in Palestinian society. The reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah, which was signed amidst great hoopla in Cairo just five months ago, retains only nominal status.
In the meantime, the IDF has capitalized on the period of relative quiet in Gaza. It is reviewing and updating its operational plans for the possibility of escalated conflict, and is also reinforcing cooperation between its various branches. This can be seen in cooperation between the Gaza division and the air force and navy, which in the past operated in the Gaza theater without close coordination with ground forces.
Unusually for the IDF, there is now in the division a permanent coordinating officer overseeing ties with the air force. The officer, Lieut. Col. “Kfir,” a combat helicopter pilot, says that his and his comrades’ ongoing presence is upgrading connections with the force, and will expedite the use of planes and helicopters in the event of conflict; communications between Apache pilots and infantry officers are also improving.
Col. “Dror,” commander of the navy’s Ashdod base, is in charge of the sea craft that guard the Gaza coast. There is genuine concern about the possibility of ships disguised as Palestinian fishing vessels attempting to strike large infrastructure sites along the coast, in the Ashkelon and Ashdod areas. Yet Dror, striking a relatively accommodating chord heard elsewhere nowadays, talks about “the challenge of allowing Palestinian fisherman to live their ordinary lives in the region, while not disrupting our mission to prevent terror.”
IDF intelligence officers currently speak of hundreds of Katyusha missiles that could be used on strikes against Be’er Sheva and Ashdod, along with dozens of rockets that could be fired against targets in central Israel. For the time being, Israel opts for restraint. “Each of our helicopters can within five minutes mark with an X any Hamas military target,” says one top officer in the Southern Command, “but a decision about deploying [the helicopters] must take into account an array of complicated factors.”
A review of the three most recent rounds of escalation in Gaza, in March, April and August, would show that Israeli policy contributed to the heightening of tensions. Right now, under orders from the political echelon, the army is opting for a policy of easing tensions.
Along with the logic that underlies this policy of moderation at a time when dangers mount on the horizon (a crisis in the territories? with Iran? ), IDF officers are also wary of the parallel to policy courses adopted by Israel on the eve of the Second Lebanon War. Before the summer of 2006, it appeared at times that the rational enemy on the other side had grasped the advantages of keeping the border quiet.
Israelis are still euphoric over the news that a deal has been reached that finally will bring Gilad Shalit back home. He had become a son of the nation, with many people identifying with the plight of his parents, the unimaginable fear, trying not to envision what his time in captivity was like.
That news of this historic deal broke on the 25th anniversary of the capture of Ron Arad, was not lost on anyone. Noam Shalit, Gilad’s father, acknowledged this in his first words to the press that were waiting at the tent which he and his family had erected near the Prime Minister’s home and had stayed in for the last several months. “25 years to the day,” Noam said, “Ron Arad was taken captive. We couldn’t see Ron come home, sadly, but it is very symbolic that on this day the government decided to bring Gilad home.
We bless Bibi for the decision and his leadership. In spite of how long it took, still he succeeded in doing it.”
The assessment of Israeli security circles was that while this deal was a very difficult one for Israel, there was no reason to assume a better one would be offered. Yoram Cohn summed it up as follows: “We can’t guarantee that the released prisoners won’t issue terror attacks, but this is the best deal we could ever get.” And regarding the security risks, he said: “There are 20,000 Izz al-Din al-Qassam fighters in Gaza, and another 200 terrorists won’t make the world crash down upon us.”
As part of the agreement, Cohn reported that security arrangements and limitations on the terrorists returning to the West Bank are in place:
- They will be supervised or subject to military arrangements.
- They won’t be able to cross the Green Line or leave abroad for 10 years.
- They will be restricted to the area of their homes.
- Once a month they will be forced to report to the IDF Coordination and Liaison Authority.
Even with safeguards in place, the most common reference to the deal is that it is a “difficult” one, a heavy price.
The red lines that Israel crossed are very significant. Included on the prisoners list are those who not only have heavy blood on their hands but also those who are strategic organizers of terror and have leadership capacity. Israel agreed to include six Israeli Arabs who committed acts of terror, something never done before. And, the woman involved in the Sbarro terror attack who continued to vociferously praise her deed and rejoice in the deaths she brought about, is getting out.
Serious diplomatic considerations for the Prime Minister were also relevant. In announcing the deal, the Prime Minister pointed to the fact that “the window of opportunity was closing” given the uncertainty of regional geo-strategic developments. He may have been referring to Egypt, which played a critical role in enabling the deal to be made in spite of its own complex internal problems. He may have been referring to Syria and how the spiraling unrest there might influence Hamas. Or, as pointed out by Alex Fishman in Yediot Aharonot today, the geo-strategic developments are more than just the Arab Spring and the Prime Minister may in fact have been referring to Iran. According to Fisman, Bibi needs to clear his table of the Shalit dossier in preparation for “something bigger and more important… He needs to show this flexibility in-house and also among Western European powers.”
Hamas also gains and is viewed widely among Palestinians as the real hero of the story. Their dogged determination not to budge on earlier offers from Israel paid off. For more than five years they managed to elude Israeli intelligence and kept Shalit from being found. They proved that their violent credo is more successful than political negotiations. Mahmoud Abbas undoubtedly is the big loser. His UN bid is now a memory, overshadowed by Hamas who are touting their role as saviors in the territories.
more at www.ipforumdc.org – the Israel Policy Forum
In one word: Shalit. The soon-to-be-released subject took all the news pages of Maariv today, 9/14 from Yedioth, 7/19 from Haaretz, and 20/27 from Israel Hayom. And joy seeped out from the ink. The cabinet voted, the deal was approved. Twenty-six Israeli ministers voted in favor, three ministers – Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau (both Yisrael Beiteinu) and Strategic Affairs Minister Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon (Likud) – voted against the deal to release 1027 Palestinian men and women from Israeli prisons in exchange for Gilad Shalit. Shas members voted in favor after receiving Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s green light. Shalit should be home in a week.
The Cabinet Convincing:
The Big Question: Who gave up more?
original posting – October 6, 2011.
Democracy is a messy way to govern – it can even bring to power forces that want to end democracy.
What do you know – this is a way to get your apple and eat it while still keeping it in your display case.
What should the US do? the case of the very long-time ruler of Yemen is a case in point - www.nytimes.com/2011/10/02/world/… – he decided now to help the US kill a choicy/tasty Al-Qaeda operative so he gets some I.O.U.s from Washington. Should the US lament the loss of Mubarak? Should the US save Gaddafi?
These are the kind of questions asked around the world. Are these fair Questions? Surely not in the days of the Obama Presidency – but looking at the not so distant past – those questions are based on what was considered then sound US policy that regarded a despot you could depend on as a great asset to US interests.
Saturday 8 October 2011.
Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Tawakkul Karman on Human Rights Abuses Enabled by ‘War on Terror.’
Click here to watch today’s interview with reporter, Iona Craig, about Tawakkul Karman.
Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Tawakkul Karman, one of three recipients who split the award this year, spoke in New York City at the Brecht Forum in September 2010 about state violence, targeted killings, and human rights abuses enabled by the so-called “War on Terror.” Democracy Now! was there and we bring you her address. Karman notes that by cooperating with the Yemeni government’s repression of its opponents, the United States “has transitioned from being the leader of the free world to a watch dog for tyrant regimes.”
The United States wagers or counts on its partnership with the government, when in fact they have partnerships in the civil society and political leaders in other areas that really enough for great solution to the problem of terrorism. We admit, we recognize the right of the United States in putting pressure on the government to grant rights and liberties. Its role in supporting a civil society organization’s events. While I think this is a good pressure, I believe this is a very superficial effort, because, up till now, it has not taken any concrete step to support organizations, political parties and journalists, members of the civil society to own their own media outlet. Only this way will the real victim, the Yemeni citizen, the simple Yemeni citizen, be able to spread—-to learn about and spread this culture of tolerance, of dialogue and of living together. The United States now became, with it’s coalition and cooperation with the Yemeni regime, who oppresses the opposition in the south; the United States, instead of supporting the opposition, now the United States transitioned from being the leader of the free world to a watch dog for tyrant regimes. This is, in summary, a description of what’s going on in Yemen and we can discuss later a number of solutions that we propose in order to solve these problems and create a more stable Yemen where the future is bright. Thank you.
When the War on Terror started, everything was over. Now we have a battle on two fronts; one against our government, and one against the governments that support our government in all the violations that it is committing against its citizens. And this is in summary a description of the title of the CCR’s report; Yemen and the United States government killing innocent people under the name of The War Against Terrorism. This is the message I would like to give our friends here from the civil society organizations here. This is the same message that we have delivered to the U.S. Administration, also to the U.N. and the European Union, that we are partners in the development of democracy, of the fight for human rights and for civil liberties. We also support the fight against terror, however, we do not accept that this fight against terror be carried out at the expense of innocent civilians. We do not accept that innocent civilians are killed and targeted under the cover of The War on Terror.
Tawakul Karman, a Fearless Yemeni Opposition Leader, and two women of Liberia – US trained President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee, were honored for the improving conditions in their country.
Before today’s announcements from Oslo, 12 women had been honored previously with the PEACE PRIZE, including Mother Teresa, Jane Addams, and Wangari Maathai, the 2004 winner who died two weeks ago.
Speculation had centered on whether the prize would be awarded to leaders involved in the Arab Spring protests that toppled leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. But the deadline for nominations is February 1, when President Hosni Mubarak was still in power in Egypt and before protests had spread to much of the rest of the Arab world.
“I very much appreciate the bloggers,” Jaglund said when asked why Karman and not others involved in the protests had received the prize. But Karman’s “courage was long before the world media was there and reporting,” he said.
For Nobel Prize for Peace – THIS WAS THE YEAR OF THE WOMEN. The Three Recipients are: Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee and Tawakul Karman, a Yemeni opposition leader, honored for their “non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”
Karman, 32, is one of Yemen’s most vocal and well-known activists and a member of the country’s main Islamic opposition party, Islah. Wearing her trademark pink floral headscarf, and using text messages, Facebook and other social media, she organized the first student demonstrations at Sanaa University challenging the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The Nobel committee hopes that the prize “will help to bring an end to the suppression of women that still occurs in many countries, and to realize the great potential for democracy and peace that women can represent,” Jagland said. He said that in the fight for democracy in the Arab world, “One must include the women and not set them aside.”
It seems that before the onset of the Arab Spring – or the larger upheaval in the Arab World, this was supposed to have been the African Women Year.
So we have – Johnson-Sirleaf, a 72-year-old, Harvard University-trained economist, was elected president of Liberia in 2005, becoming the first female democratically elected president of an African nation.
Sirleaf faces an election next week, and Jagland was questioned after the announcement as to whether the Nobel committee was interfering in politics by announcing the prize so close to a poll. He said that the committee’s decision had nothing to do with the domestic affairs of the country. Seemingly the prize to her is pure recognition of a woman’s achievements in the African male world.
Gbowee, a social worker and trauma counselor, organized the Women of Liberian Mass Action for Peace, a non-violent group of women who demonstrated wearing white t-shirts to symbolize peace, and, in 2003 she has worked this way to mobilize the women across ethnic and religious dividing lines and helped bring an end to Liberia’s civil war.
(Reuters) – Yemeni winner of the Nobel Peace Prize Tawakul Karman said on Friday the award was a victory for Yemen’s democracy activists and they would not give up until they had won full rights in a “democratic, modern Yemen”.
“This is a victory for the youth first and foremost. We are here to win our freedom and dignity in their entirety. Our youth revolution wants our complete rights,” she told broadcaster Al Jazeera, from “Change Square”, centre of the protest movement.
“We will not allow our revolution to be left incomplete. We want a democratic, modern Yemen. That’s what the youth and the martyrs and the wounded have vowed to gain. We will continue our peaceful movement.”
Tawakul has been a key figure among the youth activists since they began camping out at Change Square in central Sanaa in February demanding the end of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s three-decade rule.
She has often been the voice of the street activists on Arabic television, giving them on the ground reports of the situation at the square outside Sanaa University, where dozens of activists have been shot dead by government forces.
Karman said all Yemenis she was in contact with were thrilled about the award.
“Yemen will go down in history thanks to Tawakul Karman. She deserves the prize. She has kept fighting for the sake of her peoples’ freedom,” said Abdulbari Taher, a protest leader in Sanaa.
A government official also praised Karman’s award, expressing hope it would lead to a resolution of a crisis that has ground Yemen’s economy to a halt.
Saleh, who survived an assassination attempt in June, has repeatedly refused to sign a peace deal arranged by Gulf Arab countries that would see him step down ahead of new elections.
“I’m very happy with the news that she won the Nobel Prize and it’s something that all Yemenis can be proud of,” Deputy Information Minister Abdu al-Janadi said. “I hope this prize will be a step toward rationality.”
A UN Charade – the 30th UN International Day of Peace – 21 September 2011 – is titled “Peace and Democracy: make your voice heard” – this in a building run by a majority of Member States that abhor Democracy.
“Peace and Democracy: Make your voice heard!”
Be blessed – But this is a charade. You cannot be part of that building if you are a proponent of true democracy – there surely will be some government that you will step on their toes and they are given the power to lock you out by using their appointed UN officials that get the job on a quota basis. The accreditation of NGOs and Press reporters is thus heavily censored, and talk of democracy is nothing but a charade. All what they suggest is – Just join the choir in an act of self-love.
Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. Conveniently so timed to the opening of the UN General Assembly. The General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples – this according to language borrowed from the UN charter..
This year – on its 30th anniversary – the Day’s theme is “Peace and Democracy: make your voice heard”.
The Preamble to the United Nations Charter states that the Organization was founded to prevent and resolve international conflicts and help build a culture of peace in the world.
Peace and democracy are inextricably linked. Together, they form a partnership that promotes the well-being of all. Embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, democracy supports an environment for a host of political rights and civil liberties.
In line with the Day’s theme, something profoundly remarkable is happening in the world. Young women and men everywhere are demonstrating the power of solidarity by reaching out and rallying together for the common goal of dignity and human rights. This powerful force brings with it the potential to create a peaceful and democratic future. Add your voice!
There are many ways to participate in democratic practices, including taking part in dialogue on constitutional processes, advocating for civil society empowerment, joining the struggle for gender equality and against discrimination, engaging in civic education and promoting voter registration.
The International Day of Peace offers people globally, a shared date to organize events and undertake deeds celebrating the importance of peace and democracy in realistic and useful ways.
THIS YEAR IS INDEED A SPECIAL YEAR THANKS TO THE REMOVAL OF DICTATORS IN THE ARAB WORLD – BUT A YEAR OF EVEN GREATER DANGERS WHEN WATCHING MOBS CONFUSE DEMOCRACY WITH NEW FORMS OF DESPOTISM. A TRUELY DEMOCRATIC UN COULD HAVE HELPED – BUT WE WILL BE REMISS IF THINKING THAT THIS UN CAN FILL THE NEED.
Egypt on alert after Israel embassy stormed in Cairo.
There is a sharp increase in tension in what was already a very cold peace. Egypt is one of only two Arab countries to have a peace deal with Israel. Anti-Israel sentiment is certainly very deep-seated here, but this open expression is something quite new.
It’s grown much more vocal since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak. These protests were sparked when Egyptian border guards were killed last month [on the border with Israel]. There have been people outside the embassy for a number of days.
Bethany Bell spoke to one of them and she said, “We’ve been brought up to hate Israel but now we can express this openly. Since the fall of Hosni Mubarak, no Egyptian blood will go unavenged.”
Six members of the embassy staff were trapped inside the building during the riot and had to be rescued by Egyptian commandos, an Israeli official told the BBC.
He thanked Egypt for freeing the Israeli staff and described the unrest as a “serious blow to the fabric of peace” between the two countries.
The incident was a “gross violation” of standard diplomacy, he said.
Egypt is on alert after the attack, in which three people died as security forces fought rioters in Cairo.
The clashes at the Israeli embassy, which went on through Friday night, have shocked people both in Egypt and abroad, the BBC’s Bethany Bell reports.
Reports on Egyptian State TV said Prime Minister Essam Sharaf had offered to step down but his resignation was refused by the country’s military leader, Field Marshal Tantawi.
Under Egypt’s former leader, Hosni Mubarak, such violent displays of anger against Israel would not have been tolerated, our correspondent says.
Now the army has to try to balance the demands of its angry people and its longstanding strategic commitments, she adds.
Uri Avnery, who in his youth belonged to a movement that became a real force when the British killed Ya’ir (Abraham Stern), repeats for us “Rejoice Not …” – (blindly) – at the execution of Osama bin Laden – if the Arab Awakening of Spring 2011 fails completely and leaves behind a profound sense of disappointment and despair. We also have the Al Qaeda statement as per Arabian Business.
Tel Aviv, May 7, 2011
“REJOICE NOT when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth, / Lest the Lord see [it], and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.”.
This is one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible (Proverbs 24:17-18), and indeed in the Hebrew language. It is beautiful in other languages , too, though no translation comes close to the beauty of the original.
Of course, it is natural to be glad when one’s enemy is defeated, and the thirst for revenge is a human trait. But gloating – schadenfreude – is something different altogether. An ugly thing.
Ancient Hebrew legend has it that God got very angry when the Children of Israel rejoiced as their Egyptian pursuers drowned in the Red Sea. “My creatures are drowning in the sea,” God admonished them, “And you are singing?”
These thoughts crossed my mind when I saw the TV shots of jubilant crowds of young Americans shouting and dancing in the street. Natural, but unseemly. The contorted faces and the aggressive body language were no different from those of crowds in Sudan or Somalia. The ugly sides of human nature seem to be the same everywhere.
THE REJOICING may be premature. Most probably, al-Qaeda did not die with Osama bin-Laden. The effect may be entirely different.
In 1942 the British killed Abraham Stern, whom they called a terrorist. Stern, whose nom de guerre was Ya’ir, was hiding in a cupboard in an apartment in Tel Aviv. In his case too, it was the movements of his courier that gave him away. After making sure that he was the right man, the British police officer in command shot him dead.
That was not the end of his group – rather, a new beginning. It became the bane of British rule in Palestine. Known as the “Stern Gang” (its real name was “Fighters for the Freedom of Israel”), it carried out the most daring attacks on British installations and played a significant role in persuading the colonial power to leave the country.
Hamas did not die when the Israeli air force killed Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the paralyzed founder, ideologue and symbol of Hamas. As a martyr he was far more effective than as a living leader. His martyrdom attracted many new fighters to the cause. Killing a person does not kill an idea. The Christians even took the cross as their symbol.
WHAT WAS the idea that turned Osama bin Laden into a world figure?
He preached the restoration of the Caliphate of the early Muslim centuries, which was not only a huge empire, but also a center of the sciences and the arts, poetry and literature, when Europe was still a barbaric, medieval continent. Every Arab child learns about these glories, and cannot but contrast them with the sorry Muslim present.
(In a way, these longings parallel the Zionist romantics’ dreams of a resurrected kingdom of David and Solomon.)
A new Caliphate in the 21st century is as unlikely as the wildest creation of the imagination. It would have been diametrically opposed to the Zeitgeist, were it not for its opponents – the Americans. They needed this dream – or nightmare – more than the Muslims themselves.
The American Empire always needs an antagonist to keep it together and to focus its energies. This has to be a worldwide enemy, a sinister advocate of an evil philosophy.
Such were the Nazis and Imperial Japan, but they did not last long. Fortunately, there was then the Communist Empire, which filled the role admirably.
There were Communists everywhere. All of them were plotting the downfall of freedom, democracy and the United States of America. They were even lurking inside the US, as
For decades, the US flourished in the fight against the Red Menace; its forces spread all over the world, its spaceships reached the moon, its best minds engaged in a titanic battle of ideas, the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness.
And then – suddenly – the whole thing collapsed. Soviet power vanished as if it had never existed. The American spy agencies, with their tremendous capabilities, were flabbergasted. Apparently, they had no idea how ramshackle the Soviet structure actually was. How could they see, blinded as they were by their own ideological preconceptions?
The disappearance of the Communist Threat left a gaping void in the American psyche, which cried out to be filled. Osama Bin Laden kindly offered his services.
It needed, of course, a world-shaking event to lend credibility to such a hare-brained utopia. The 9/11 outrage was just such an event. It produced many changes in the American way of life. And a new global enemy.
Overnight, medieval anti-Islamic prejudices are dusted-off for display. Islam the terrible, the murderous, the fanatical. Islam the anti-democratic, the anti-freedom, anti-all-our-values. . . Suicide bombers, 72 virgins, jihad.
The US springs to life again. Soldiers, spies and special forces fan out across the globe to fight terrorism. Bin Laden is everywhere. The War Against Terrorism is an apocalyptic struggle with Satan.
American freedoms have to be restricted, the US military machine grows by leaps and bounds. Power-hungry Intellectuals babble about the Clash of Civilizations and sell their souls for instant celebrity.
To produce the lurid paint for such a twisted picture of reality, religious Islamic groups are all thrown into the same pot – the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Ayatollahs in Iran, Hizbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, Indonesian separatists, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere, whoever. All become al-Qaeda, despite the fact that each has a totally different agenda, focused on its own country, while bin Laden aims to abolish all Muslim states and create one Holy Islamic Empire. . . Details, details.
The Holy War against the Jihad finds warriors everywhere. Ambitious demagogues, for whom this promises an easy way to inflame the masses, spring up in many countries, from France to Finland, from Holland to Italy. The hysteria of Islamophobia displaces good old anti-Semitism, using almost the same language. Tyrannical regimes present themselves as bulwarks against al-Qaeda, as they had once presented themselves as bulwarks against Communism. And, of course, our own Binyamin Netanyahu milks the situation for all it is worth, traveling from capital to capital peddling his wares of anti-Islamism.
Bin Laden had good reason to be proud, and probably was.
WHEN I saw his picture for the first time, I joked that he was not a real person, but an actor straight from Hollywood’s Central Casting. He looked too good to be true – exactly as he would appear in a Hollywood movie – a handsome man, with a long black beard, posing with a Kalashnikov. His appearances on TV were carefully staged.
Actually, he was a very incompetent terrorist, a real amateur. No genuine terrorist would have lived in a conspicuous villa, which stood out in the landscape like a sore thumb. Stern was hiding in a small roof apartment in a squalid quarter of Tel Aviv. Menachem Begin lived with his wife and son in a very modest ground floor apartment, playing the role of a reclusive rabbi.
Bin Laden’s villa was bound to attract the attention of neighbors and other people. They would have been curious about this mysterious stranger in their midst. Actually, he should have been discovered long ago. He was unarmed and did not put up a fight. The decision to kill him on the spot and dump his body into [or “in”] the sea was evidently taken long before.
So there is no grave, no holy tomb. But for millions of Muslims, and especially Arabs, he was and remains a source of pride, an Arab hero, the ”“lion of lions” as a preacher in Jerusalem called him. Almost no one dared to come out and say so openly, for fear of the Americans, but even those who thought his ideas impractical and his actions harmful respected him in their heart.
Does that mean that al-Qaeda has a future? I don’t think so. It belongs to the past – not because bin Laden has been killed, but because his central idea is obsolete.
The Arab Spring embodies a new set of ideals, a new enthusiasm, one that does not glorify and hanker after a distant past but looks boldly to the future. The young men and women of Tahrir Square, with their longing for freedom, have consigned bin Laden to history, months before his physical death. His philosophy has a future only if the Arab Awakening fails completely and leaves behind a profound sense of disappointment and despair.
In the Western world, few will mourn him, but God forbid that anyone should gloat.
Arabian Business website reports – Five days after the killing of Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda confirms bin Laden death, vows to continue attacks, and quotes them by saying:
“In a historic day the Islamic nation … the mujahid (holy warrior) Sheikh Abu Abdullah, Osama bin Mohammed bin Laden, God have mercy on him, was killed on the path taken by those before him and will be taken by those after him.”
“Congratulations to the Islamic umma (community) for the martyrdom of its son Osama.”
But ArabianBusiness.com also carried:
Arab revolts turn bin Laden death into bloody footnote.
Osama bin Laden, slain by US forces in Pakistan on Sunday, seems curiously irrelevant in an Arab world fired by popular revolt against oppressive leaders.
“Bin Laden is just a bad memory,” said Nadim Houry, of Human Rights Watch, in Beirut. “The region has moved way beyond that, with massive broad-based upheavals that are game-changers.”
The al Qaeda leader’s bloody attacks, especially those of September 11, 2001, once resonated among some Arabs who saw them as grim vengeance for perceived indignities heaped upon them by the United States, Israel and their own American-backed leaders.
Bin Laden had dreamed that his global Islamist jihad would inspire Muslims to overthrow pro-Western governments, notably in Saudi Arabia, the homeland which revoked his citizenship.
He espoused jihad largely in anger at what he viewed as the occupation of Muslim lands by foreign “infidel” forces — the Russians in Afghanistan, the Americans in Saudi Arabia in the 1990 Gulf crisis, or the Israelis in Palestine.
But al Qaeda’s indiscriminate violence never galvanised Arab masses, while his networks came under severe pressure from Arab governments helping Western counter-terrorism efforts.
“Bin Laden’s brand of defiance in the early days probably excited some imaginations, but the senseless acts of violence destroyed any appeal he had,” Houry said.
Nowhere was this change of heart more marked than in Iraq, where anger at Muslim casualties inflicted by al Qaeda suicide bombings – and the Shi’ite sectarian backlash they provoked – eventually drove Sunni tribesmen to ally with the Americans.
Popular sympathy for al Qaeda also evaporated in Saudi Arabia after a series of indiscriminate attacks in 2003-06.
If the ideological appeal of bin Laden and his Egyptian deputy Ayman al-Zawahri, who advocated the restoration of an Islamic caliphate, was already fading, the pro-democracy uprisings across the Arab world have further diminished it.
“At some stage Arab public opinion looked on bin Laden as a hope to end this kind of discrimination, the West’s way of dealing with Muslim and Arab nations, but now these nations are saying, we will do the change ourselves, we don’t need anyone to speak on our behalf,” said Mahjoob Zweiri, of Qatar University.
He said bin Laden’s killing would affect only a few who still believe in his path of maximising pain on the West.
“The majority of Muslim and Arab nations have their own choice. They are moving towards modern civil societies,” Zweiri argued. “People believe in gradual change, civil change, they don’t want violence, even against the leaders who crushed them.”
Peaceful Arab protests have already toppled autocrats in Egypt and Tunisia and are threatening the leaders of Yemen and Syria, while a popular revolt against Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi has turned into a civil war with Western military intervention.
These dramas appear to have shocked al Qaeda almost into silence. Even its most active branch, the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has mounted no big attacks during months of popular unrest against President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Martin Indyk, a former US assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, described bin Laden’s death as “a body blow” to al Qaeda at a time when its ideology was already being undercut by the popular revolutions in the Arab world.
“Their narrative is that violence and terrorism is the way to redeem Arab dignity and rights. What the people in the streets across the Arab world are doing is redeeming their rights and their dignity through peaceful, non-violent protests – the exact opposite of what al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden have been preaching,” said Indyk, now at the Brookings Institution.
“He hasn’t managed to overthrow any government, and they are overthrowing one after the other. I would say that the combination of the two puts al Qaeda in real crisis.”
Bin Laden may have become a marginal figure in the Arab world, but the discontent he tapped into still exists.
“The underlying reasons why people turn to these kinds of violent, criminal, terroristic movements are still there,” said Beirut-based commentator Rami Khouri, alluding to the “anger and humiliation of people who feel that Western countries, their own Arab leaders or Israel treat them with disdain”.
Nevertheless, he predicted a continued slide in al Qaeda’s fortunes, particularly as US troop withdrawals from Iraq and later from Afghanistan remove potent sources of resentment.
“The Arab spring is certainly a sign that the overwhelming majority of Arabs, as we have known all along, repudiated bin Laden,” Khouri said. “He and Zawahri tried desperately to get traction among the Arab masses, but it just never worked.
“People who followed him would be those who would form little secret cells and go off to Afghanistan, but the vast majority of people rejected his message.
“What Arabs want is what they are fighting for now, which is more human rights, dignity and democratic government.”
President Obama goes to Japan – George Monbiot tells us that the UN Convention on Biological Diversity has become a con-game. The recent meeting in Japan was just an un-truth. Could an enlightened world ask for more?
‘Countries join forces to save life on Earth”, the front page of the Independent told us. “Historic”, “a landmark”, a “much-needed morale booster”, the other papers chorused. The declaration agreed last week at the summit in Japan to protect the world’s wild species and places was proclaimed by almost everyone a great success. There is one problem: none of the journalists who made these claims has seen it.
I checked with as many of them as I could reach by phone: all they had read was a press release which, though three pages long, is almost content-free. The reporters can’t be blamed for this – it was approved on Friday but the declaration has still not been published. I’ve pursued people on three continents to try to obtain it, without success. Having secured the headlines it wanted, the entire senior staff of the convention on biological diversity has gone to ground, and my calls and emails remain unanswered. The British government, which lavishly praised the declaration, tells me it has no printed copies. I’ve never seen this situation before. Every other international agreement I’ve followed was published as soon as it was approved.
The evidence suggests that we’ve been conned. The draft agreement, published a month ago, contained no binding obligations. Nothing I’ve heard from Japan suggests that this has changed. The draft saw the targets for 2020 that governments were asked to adopt as nothing more than “aspirations for achievement at the global level” and a “flexible framework”, within which countries can do as they wish. No government, if the draft has been approved, is obliged to change its policies.
In 2002 the signatories to the convention agreed something similar, a splendid-sounding declaration that imposed no legal commitments. They announced they would “achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss”. Mission accomplished, the press proclaimed, and everyone went home to congratulate themselves. Earlier this year the UN admitted the 2002 agreement was fruitless: “The pressures on biodiversity remain constant or increase in intensity.”
Even the cheery press release suggests all was not well. The meeting in Japan was supposed to be a summit, bringing together heads of government or state. ————-. It mustered five: the release boasts of corralling the president of Gabon, the president of Guinea-Bissau, the prime minister of Yemen and Prince Albert of Monaco. (It fails to identify the fifth country – Liechtenstein? Pimlico?) A third of the countries represented couldn’t even be bothered to send a minister. This is how much they value the world’s living systems.
It strikes me that governments are determined to protect not the marvels of our world but the world-eating system to which they are being sacrificed; not life, but the ephemeral junk with which it is being replaced. They fight viciously and at the highest level for the right to turn rainforests into pulp, or marine ecosystems into fishmeal. Then they send a middle-ranking civil servant to approve a meaningless and so far unwritten promise to protect the natural world.
Japan was praised for its slick management of the meeting, but still insists on completing its mission to turn the last bluefin tuna into fancy fast food. Russia signed a new agreement in September to protect its tigers (the world’s largest remaining population), but an unrepealed law in effect renders poachers immune from prosecution, even when they’re caught with a gun and a dead tiger. The US, despite proclaiming a new commitment to multilateralism, refuses to ratify the convention on biological diversity.
It suits governments to let us trash the planet. It’s not just that big business gains more than it loses from converting natural wealth into money. A continued expansion into the biosphere permits states to avoid addressing issues of distribution and social justice: the promise of perpetual growth dulls our anger about widening inequality. By trampling over nature we avoid treading on the toes of the powerful.
A massive accounting exercise, whose results were presented at the meeting in Japan, has sought to change this calculation. The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) attempts to price the ecosystems we are destroying. It shows that the economic benefit of protecting habitats and species often greatly outweighs the money to be made by trashing them. A study in Thailand, for instance, suggests that turning a hectare of mangrove forest into shrimp farms makes $1,220 a year but inflicts $12,400 of damage every year on local livelihoods, fisheries and coastal protection. The catchment protected by one nature reserve in New Zealand saves local people NZ$136m a year in water bills. Three quarters of the US haddock catch now comes from within 5km of a marine reserve off the New England coast: by protecting the ecosystem, the reserve has boosted the value of the fishery.
I understand why this approach is felt to be necessary. I understand that if something can’t be measured, governments and businesses don’t value it. I accept TEEB’s reasoning that the rural poor, many of whom survive exclusively on what the ecosystem has to offer, are treated harshly by an economic system which doesn’t recognise its value. Even so, this exercise disturbs me.
As soon as something is measurable it becomes negotiable. Subject the natural world to cost-benefit analysis and accountants and statisticians will decide which parts of it we can do without. All that now needs to be done to demonstrate that an ecosystem can be junked is to show that the money to be made from trashing it exceeds the money to be made from preserving it. That, in the weird world of environmental economics, isn’t hard: ask the right statistician and he’ll give you any number you want.
This approach reduces the biosphere to a subsidiary of the economy. In reality it’s the other way round. The economy, like all other human affairs, hangs from the world’s living systems. You can see this diminution in the language TEEB reports use: they talk of “natural capital stock”, of “underperforming natural assets” and “ecosystem services”. Nature is turned into a business plan, and we are reduced to its customers. The market now owns the world.
But I also recognise this: that if governments had met in Japan to try to save the banks, or the airline companies, they would have sent more senior representatives, their task would have seemed more urgent, and every dot and comma of their agreement would have been checked by hungry journalists.
When they meet to consider the gradual collapse of the natural world they send their office cleaners and defer the hard choices for another 10 years, while the media doesn’t even notice they have failed to produce a written agreement. So, much as I’m revolted by the way in which nature is being squeezed into a column of figures in an accountant’s ledger, I am forced to agree that it may be necessary. What else will induce the blinkered, frightened people who hold power today to take the issue seriously?
• A fully referenced version of this article is available on www.monbiot.com
also - home.pacbell.net/mjvande
The Equator Initiative promotes Partnerships for Sustainable Communities in the Tropics. It gave out 25 prizes last night but not a single one to a Pacific Islands State or a Caribbean Member-State of the SIDS. That left us wondering why.
Overcoming rural poverty depends on a healthy environment, where local people can find sustainable solutions to their challenges. The Equator Initiative was launched in 2002 by UNDP’s Jim McNeil in order to help the search for sustainability by safeguarding biodiversity resources.
Every two years, the Equator Initiative partnership awards prizes to the 25 outstanding community efforts each of which receives $5,000 with five selected for special recognition and an additional $15,000 each. The recipients come from three groups:
AFRICA, ASIA-PACIFIC, and LATIN AMERICA – CARIBBEAN regions.
The announcement was “After an extensive process of evaluation, the Equator Initiative’s Technical Advisory Committee has selected an exceptional subset of 25 winning initiatives, from a total pool of nearly 300 nominations from 66 different countries.”
Asia & the Pacific:
Latin America & the Caribbean:
Obviously, we have no problem with the choices, nor with the fact that the large countries of Kenya, Indonesia, Philippines, Brazil, and Mexico got two prizes each, nor that the two Mega-States got next to nothing – China nothing and India one – but we do wonder how it is that the Independent Pacific Island States, and the Independent Caribbean Island States, coincidentally both groups, got absolutely nothing. Does this mean that the rebelious SIDS and AOSIS, as groups, are in UN disfavor? They happen to be in the Tropics and quite a few are biodiversity very rich!
The judges were:
Her Royal Highness Princess Basma Bint Talal of Jordan
Robert Edward “ted” Turner III, The father of it all and benefactor of The UN Foundation
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of the Third World Tebtebba Foundation
M.S. Swaminathan, Chairman of the MSSRF Resarch Foundation
Steven J.McCormick, President, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
Dr. Gro Brubdtland, Former Prime Minister of Norway and mother of it all
Professor Elinor Ostrom, Nobel Laureate.
The two specially honored NGO individuals:
Philippe Cousteau, third generation to the famous family,
Julia Marton-Lefevre, Director General of IUCN.
The three specially honored communities:
Mavis Hatlane for Makuleke Community of Pafuri Camp, South Africa,
Maria Alejandra Velasco for Consejo Regional Tsimane’ Mosetene of Pilon Lajas, Bolivia,
Diep Thi My Hanh for Bambu Village of Phu An, Viet Nam.
To increase our “puzzlement” – here the announcement how the UN General Assembly intends to treat this year the Small Island States in their deliberations – this was the only time we found a notion for their special problems:
Saturday, 25 September:
From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Round table 2 — Enhancing international support for small island developing States.
Nick Hodge talks of resurgence of nuclear power.
Sunday, September 12th, 2010
Part of the “Energy and Capital” Weekend Edition.
He writes – I can’t start this Weekend Edition without mentioning one of the hottest investment videos of the year…
It’s about a 75-cent company making big waves in the nuclear industry — importing Korean reactors, selling nuclear desalination units, and more.
As it happens, nuclear is actually a very relevant topic this week, illustrating the fierce dichotomy of the current energy market.
In South America, Argentina was once a pioneer in the nuclear industry, opening the first plant there in 1974. But the country’s ambitious plans stalled — as did most — after the Chernobyl disaster.
Now, with a new generation of reactors ready for deployment worldwide, Argentina is once again turning to nuclear…
The country just finished a long-stalled third plant and will build two more by 2025, when it aims to get 15% of its power from nuclear.
Argentina will also resume domestic uranium mining and start a program to enrich it, making it only one of five countries that has access to soup-to-nuts nuclear energy production. So keep an eye out for plays from that area.
Even in Germany — home to the world’s largest solar market and third-largest wind market — nuclear is making a comeback.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right coalition has agreed to extend the operating life of the country’s 17 nuclear plants by an average of 12 years.
It was good new for utilities, since they won’t have to spend capital to build new capacity. And the three largest in Germany — E.ON (XETRA: EOAN), RWE (XETRA: RWEA), and EnBW (XETRA: EBK) — were each up sharply on the news.
Opponents of the plan say it will take away from the country’s expansion of renewable energy…
But in a time of fiscal uncertainty, decisions boil down to cost. And right now, nuclear is still cheaper in Germany.
For a variety of analyst opinions on the matter, check out this report from Reuters.
Also in Europe, Lithuania has invited bids to build a nuclear plant to reduce its dependence on Russian energy imports. The contract is estimated at around $6 billion, and will be open to bidding from five shortlisted companies.
And the last nuclear news this week comes to us from Kuwait — a country I’ve already covered this week. OPEC’s fifth-biggest producer, it’s announced plans to build four nuclear reactors by 2022.
This should be viewed as another step Middle Eastern countries are taking to protect their dwindling oil reserves.
Saudi Arabia has already announced nuclear plans, and the UAE bought 4 of the very same reactors discussed in this video from the Koreans for $20 billion.
Time has arrived for the world and even more specific – the UN – to understand that separatism is not a crime – if behind it is a genuine will of people to honor their ethnicity. The UN should not be viewed as United Governments, but as it was intended United Ethnicities organized as Nations or Federated within Nations on their own will. Decolonization that is hailed by the South never meant the creation of Southern Empires.
The questions in the following are: How much of the action is because of an Al Qaeda hatred of the regime in Yemen or Saudi Arabia that translated into hatred of the West and international terrorism because of the West’s backing for those regimes, and how much is actually a genuine secession desire because of great ethnic differences between parts of Yemen?
Misconstruing the latter by assuming the first can lead only to prolonged trouble, while accepting the latter and helping bring about peaceful separation might be an instrument for peace. The question is thus – Why does the US get trapped in situations that it ends up in fighting “glue wars” – like it did in Iraq, and it might yet do in Pakistan?
Policing the coast of Yemen against ship pirates is another matter! That situation should be handled with clear participation of partners under a UN flag. That is neither a Yemen problem nor a Somalia problem – but a clear global security breech.
24 August 2010 the BBC
Yemen ‘abandoning human rights’ in battle for security.
Yemen is accused of increasingly sacrificing human rights for security
Yemen has been accused by Amnesty International of abandoning human rights in the name of security.
The human rights group has documented what it says is a series of violations, including unlawful killings of those suspected of having links to al-Qaeda.
It also says the Yemeni government has ignored human rights as it tackles a breakaway movement in the south and Shia rebels in the north.
Authorities in Sanaa say they are doing all they can to protect civilians.
Yemen, the poorest Arab country, is struggling to deal with multiple threats.
As well as fighting al-Qaeda, the central government is trying to quell armed Shia rebels, known as the Huthis, in the north, and a southern separatist movement.
‘Sacrificing human rights’But according to an Amnesty report released on Tuesday, Yemen has carried out torture and arbitrary detentions.
The report says Yemen has also held unfair trials, using security concerns as a justification.
And it says there have been forced disappearances of people including journalists, dissenters and human rights campaigners.
The pressure group said: “The Yemeni authorities must stop sacrificing human rights in the name of security as they confront threats from al-Qaeda, Zaidi Shiite [Huthi] rebels in the north and address growing demands for secession in the south.”
In a statement, Malcolm Smart, Amnesty’s director for the Middle East and North Africa, said: “All measures taken in the name of countering terrorism or other security challenges in Yemen must have at (their) heart the protection of human rights.”
Amnesty further alleges that a worrying trend has emerged, where security is cited as a pretext to deal with opposition and stifle criticism.
And the rights group says not enough effort is made by security forces to detain suspects before killing them.
It alleges that when missiles were used against a southern village last December, more than 40 people were killed – mostly women and children.
Yemen has recently come under added international pressure to act decisively. The United States and Saudi Arabia are providing the government with aid and support.
The authorities in Sanaa say they are doing what they can to protect innocent civilians, vital state institutions and foreign interests.
Yemen has become the new centre of gravity for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, following the January 2009 merger of al-Qaeda in Yemen and al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia.
From other news sites
The US is pulling out its combat forces from Iraq, but the Sunday TV main topic was THE MOSQUE. As always – the best conversation was on Fareed Zakaria’s CNN/GPS program. See also Anne Barnard’s research.
The US is pulling out its combat forces from Iraq, but the Sunday TV main topic was THE MOSQUE. As always – the best conversation was on Fareed Zakaria’s CNN/GPS program.
His guest were Bret Stephens from The Wall Street Journal and Peter Beinart – Senior Political Writer at the blog The Daily Beast, Associate Professor of Journalism and Political Science at the City University of New York, and a Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation – till 2006 he was with The New Republic and still lives in Washington DC.
Stephens said that the legalities are clear but the issue is if this Mosque at that location advances interface dialogue and the answer is NO!
Beinart said you cannot divorce the right for building a Mosque from the right to decide where to build it. What about military bases? Will you next say that because there is sensitivity to Americans killed in wars in Muslim countries you cannot have a Mosque on a military base?
Stephens asked – wait – what if the German Government decides to build a tolerance center across the street from a concentration camp – this is much more like the present case.
Zakaria said – that is about irrational sensitivity – do you call this bigotry?
Stephens answered that the rights are indisputable and Bret said that you cannot ask people in the right not to use the right – this is equal to taking away the right.
Zakaria concluded that we talk past each other so the discussion is over. And that is the true state of these matters today.
We hope that Zakaria realizes now that his returning a prize to the ADL of the Bnei Brith was – well – premature.
Also, as he said that the discussion is really not ended – we suggest he invites next time also Anne Barnard whose article in today’s New York Times he did mention.
Anne Barnard is now on the city desk of the paper, but she is not a newcomer to these issues as sh worked in the Middle East – in Israel, Palestine, Iraq and Egypt. She has seen sensitivities from very close – not your regular city desk person. We know Anne for many years – actually since she was a kid – and have met her in different locations as well. We continue here with her material and hope she continues to keep her sights on the developments we expect when Imam Raouf returns from his Middle East tour.
Further comments about Beinart. His parents immigrated to the US from South Africa and work in Cambridge where he was born. His mother remarried theater personality Robert Brustein. Beinart is Jewish and belongs to a liberal synagogue in Washington.
Peter Beinart has written: “The Icarus Syndrome – A History of American Hubris,” HarperCollins, June 1, 2010, and
Beinart was a supporter of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. and in a recent essay, he has argued that the tensions between liberalism and Zionism in the U.S. may tear the two historically-linked concepts apart.
After leaving The New Republic, in 2007-2009, Beinart was a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Further comments about Bret Stephens: He was born in 1973 and grew up in Mexico City. Stephens went to the University of Chicago and the London School of Economics.
Stephens began his career at the Journal as an op-ed editor in New York and later worked as an editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal Europe in Brussels. In 2006 he took over the “Global View” column from George Melloan, who has retired.
Between 2002 and 2004 Stephens was editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post, a position he assumed at age 28 – the youngest person ever to hold that position. He is the winner of the 2008 Eric Breindel Award for Excellence in Opinion Journalism.
Fareed Zakaria promised that on his program this emotional discussion will be rational – what he did not say was that he is in effect pitting against each other two well qualified Jews. We do not believe that THE MOSQUE – that is that particular Mosque – is only an issue for Jews. We indeed believe that his next panel will pull in other “suffering souls” as well.
The full article by our friend Anne Barnard, as above, but as published front page The New York Times had the title:
It includes The Imam’s history and his father’s history – both of them highly interesting people. While the father was an employee of the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and eventually led to the construction of the New York Islamic Center cum Mosque at the corner of East 96th Street and 3rd Avenue in Manhattan, Feisal became the Imam of the Sufi congregation downtown. Then he attempted also the building of a large Center cum Mosque.
Mr. Abdul Rauf’s father, Muhammad, in 1968. He ran the Islamic Center of New York.
Far away from New York, in Bend Oregon (by Western Communications, Inc.) retained the New York Times in print – name of the article – but our friend’s article was reshaped as follows:
Complicated balancing act for imam in mosque furor.
By Anne Barnard / New York Times News Service
Published: August 22. 2010 4:00AM PST
Michael Appleton / New York Times News Service
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf inside his mosque, housed in a building near the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan, in November. “We want to push back against the extremists,” the cleric says. Others worry about an anti-Muslim backlash.
For years, Feisal Abdul Rauf has encountered distrust as he tries to reconcile Islam with the West.
Muslims need to understand and soothe Americans who fear them; they should be conciliatory, not judgmental, toward the West.
That was Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s message, but not everyone in the Cairo lecture hall last February was buying it. As he talked of reconciliation between America and Middle Eastern Muslims — his voice soft, almost New Agey — some questions were so hostile that he felt the need to declare that he was not an American agent.
But one young Egyptian asked: Wasn’t the United States financing the speaking tour that had brought the imam to Cairo because his message conveniently echoed U.S. interests?
“I’m not an agent from any government, even if some of you may not believe it,” the imam replied. “I’m not. I’m a peacemaker.”
That talk, recorded on video six months ago, was part of what now might be called Abdul Rauf’s prior life, before he became the center of an uproar over his proposal for a Muslim community center two blocks from the World Trade Center site. He watched his father, an Egyptian Muslim scholar, pioneer interfaith dialogue in 1960s New York; led a mystical Sufi mosque in Lower Manhattan; and, after the Sept. 11 attacks, became a spokesman for the notion that being American and Muslim is no contradiction — and that a truly American brand of Islam could modernize and moderate the faith worldwide.
In recent weeks, Abdul Rauf has barely been heard from as a national political debate explodes over his dream project, including somewhere in its planned 15 stories near ground zero, a mosque. Opponents have called his project an act of insensitivity, even a monument to terror.
In his absence — he is now on another Middle East speaking tour sponsored by the U.S. State Department — a host of allegations have been floated: that he supports terrorism; that his father, who worked at the behest of the Egyptian government, was a militant; that his publicly expressed views mask stealth extremism. Some charges, the available record suggests, are unsupported. Some are simplifications of his ideas. In any case, calling him a jihadist appears even less credible than calling him a U.S. agent.
Growing up in America
Abdul Rauf, 61, grew up in multiple worlds. He was raised in a conservative religious home but arrived in America as a teenager in the turbulent 1960s; his father came to New York and later Washington to run growing Islamic centers. His parents were taken hostage not once, but twice, by American Muslim splinter groups. He attended Columbia University, where, during the Six-Day War between Israel and Arab states like Egypt, he talked daily with a Jewish classmate, each seeking to understand the other’s perspective.
He consistently denounces violence. Some of his views on the interplay between terrorism and American foreign policy — or his search for commonalities between Islamic law and this country’s Constitution — have proved jarring to some American ears, but still place him as pro-American within the Muslim world. He devotes himself to befriending Christians and Jews — so much, some Muslim Americans say, that he has lost touch with their own concerns.
“To stereotype him as an extremist is just nuts,” said the Very Rev. James Morton, the longtime dean of the Church of St. John the Divine, in Manhattan, who has known the family for decades.
Since 9/11, Abdul Rauf, like almost any Muslim leader with a public profile, has had to navigate the fraught path between those suspicious of Muslims and eager to brand them violent or disloyal and a Muslim constituency that believes itself more than ever in need of forceful leaders.
One critique of the imam, said Omid Safi, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, is that he has not been outspoken enough on issues “near and dear to many Muslims,” from Israel policy to treatment of Muslims after 9/11, “because of the need that he has had — whether taken upon himself or thrust upon him — to be the ‘American imam,’ to be the ‘New York imam,’ to be the ‘accommodationist imam.’ “
Akbar Ahmed, chairman of Islamic studies at American University, said Abdul Rauf’s holistic Sufi practices could make more-orthodox Muslims uncomfortable, and his focus on like-minded interfaith leaders made him underestimate the uproar over his plans.
“He hurtles in, to the dead-center eye of the storm simmering around Muslims in America, expecting it to be like at his mosque — we all love each other, we all think happy thoughts,” said Ahmed.
“Now he has set up, unwittingly, a symbol of this growing tension between America and Muslims: this mosque that Muslims see as a symbol of Islam under attack and the opponents as an insult to America,” he added. “So this mild-mannered guy is in the eye of a storm for which he’s not suited at all. He’s not a political leader of Muslims, yet he now somehow represents the Muslim community.”
Andrew Sinanoglou, who was married by Abdul Rauf last fall, said he was surprised the imam had become a contentious figure. His greatest knack, he said, was making disparate groups comfortable, as at the wedding bringing together Sinanoglou’s family, descended from Greek Christians thrown out of Asia Minor by Muslims, with his wife’s conservative Muslim father.
“He’s an excellent schmoozer,” Sinanoglou said of the imam.
Many different Islamic influences
Abdul Rauf was born in Kuwait. His father, Muhammad Abdul Rauf, was one of many graduates of Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, the foremost center of mainstream Sunni Muslim learning, whom Egypt sent abroad to staff universities and mosques, a government-approved effort unlikely to have tolerated a militant. He moved his family to England, studying at Cambridge and the University of London; then to Malaysia, where he eventually became the first rector of the International Islamic University of Malaysia.
As a boy, Abdul Rauf absorbed his father’s talks with religious scholars from around the world, learning to respect theological debate, said his wife, Daisy Khan. He is also steeped in Malaysian culture, whose ethnic diversity has influenced an Islam different from that of his parents’ homeland.
In 1965, he came to New York. His father ran the Islamic Center of New York; the family lived over its small mosque in a brownstone on West 72nd Street, which served mainly Arabs and African-American converts. Like his son, the older imam announced plans for a community center for a growing Muslim population — the mosque eventually built on East 96th Street. It was paid for by Muslim countries and controlled by Muslim U.N. diplomats — at the time a fairly noncontroversial proposition. Like his son, he joined interfaith groups, invited by James of St. John the Divine.
Unlike his son, he was conservative in gender relations; he asked his wife to not drive. But in 1977, he was heading the Islamic Center in Washington when they were taken hostage by a Muslim faction; it was his wife who challenged the gunmen on their lack of knowledge of Islam.
“My husband didn’t open his mouth, but I really gave it to them,” she told The New York Times then.
Meanwhile, Abdul Rauf studied physics at Columbia.
In his 20s, Abdul Rauf dabbled in teaching and real estate, married an American-born woman and had three children. Studying Islam and searching for his place in it, he was asked to lead a Sufi mosque, Masjid al-Farah. It was one of few with a female prayer leader, where women and men sit together at some rituals and some women do not cover their hair. And it was 12 blocks from the World Trade Center.
Divorced, he met his second wife, Khan, when she came to the mosque looking for a gentler Islam than the politicized version she rejected after Iran’s revolution. Theirs is an equal partnership, whether Abdul Rauf is shopping and cooking a hearty soup, she said, or running organizations that promote an American-influenced Islam.
A similar idea comes up in the Cairo video. Abdul Rauf, with Khan, unveiled as usual, beside him, tells a questioner not to worry so much about one issue of the moment — Switzerland’s ban on minarets — saying Islam has always adapted to and been influenced by places it spreads to. “Why not have a mosque that looks Swiss?” he joked. “Make a mosque that looks like Swiss cheese. Make a mosque that looks like a Rolex.”
In the 1990s, the couple became fixtures of the interfaith scene, even taking a cruise to Spain and Morocco with prominent rabbis and pastors.
Abdul Rauf also founded the Shariah Index Project — an effort to formally rate which governments best follow Islamic law. Critics see in it support for Taliban-style Shariah or imposing Islamic law in America.
Shariah, though, like Jewish law, has a spectrum of interpretations. The ratings, Kahn said, measure how well states uphold Shariah’s core principles like rights to life, dignity and education, not Taliban strong points. The imam has written that some Western states unwittingly apply Shariah better than self-styled Islamic states that kill wantonly, stone women and deny education — to him, violations of Shariah.
After 9/11, Abdul Rauf was all over the airwaves denouncing terrorism, urging Muslims to confront its presence among them, and saying that killing civilians violated Islam. He wrote a book, “What’s Right With Islam Is What’s Right With America,” asserting the congruence of American democracy and Islam.
That ample public record — interviews, writings, sermons — is now being examined by opponents of the downtown center.
Those opponents repeat often that Abdul Rauf, in one radio interview, refused to describe the Palestinian group that pioneered suicide bombings against Israel, Hamas, as terrorist. In the lengthy interview, Abdul Rauf clumsily tries to say that people around the globe define terrorism differently and labeling any group would sap his ability to build bridges. He also says: “Targeting civilians is wrong. It is a sin in our religion,” and, “I am a supporter of the state of Israel.”
“If I were an imam today I would be saying, ‘What am I supposed to do?’” said John Esposito, a professor of Islamic studies at Georgetown University. “‘Can an imam be critical of any aspect of U.S. foreign policy? Can I weigh in on things that others could weigh in on?’ Or is someone going to say, ‘He’s got to be a radical!’”
Could it be that the solution leads to a true CORDOBA HOUSE OF CULTURE AND INTER-RELIGIOUS UNDERSTANDING with all Cordoba three religions having footholds at the center – not a Mosque.
In this case what if Rabbi Marc Schneier who started together with the East 96 Street Islamic Center’s Imams his good-will exchanges gets a foothold and offices there? The Battery Park Holocaust Museum could be linked, and the Archbishop of the Trinity Church of the neighborhood as well – that is with offices in the building. This would call for a joint board and joint ownership in the name of good intentions. It would be considered a step towards healing within the possible of the memory of 9/11/o1 within reach of the 10th memorial of the event. Clearly – this does not answer the call for a larger Mosque, neither will this be a place with Synagogue and church – we know that the institutions must be separate.
If separation is preferred, then a gesture of exchange of real estate for a different location would be appreciated.
President Obama also went on TV today – breaking his vacation because of the media attacks on him branding him a Muslim.
Obama blamed this crazzy media culture when the main issue is the pulling out from Iraq but the focus is on “THE MOSQUE” – is this just an August diversion? By whom?
Michel Martin (an Emmy Award winning American journalist and correspondent for ABC News and National Public Radio. After ten years in print journalism, Martin has for the last 15 years become best known for her news broadcasting on national topics.), asks whom are we talking about as media? It is just the Conservative Pundits that keep on drumming? Or is there by now a symbiotic relationship between the right wing bloggers and the main-stream media? It does not make sense to pretend that there is not a concern with Islam. We heard on TV that Glen Beck said Lincoln Day has no meaning for him – so he calls for a rally at the mall on that day. Aha I said – if that is so – why do you expect more consideration from adherents of Islam – Americans or otherwise? Are Americans so dam by now that they cannot see that insensitivity breeds more insensitivity?
Mel Frykberg – We post this article by an obvious pro-Palestinian journalist, who seeing in Gaza the local rule, is facing the reality of this unforgiving situation. He still blames the Israelis, and there is some truth to it, but he also sees that the Palestinians suffering is on the hands of their own – those extremist “veiled” Islamicists – in this the Hamas and beyond. He does not use the language of impartiality but we can easily read beyond the superfluous words. Interesting, he has to write from the West Bank.
RAMALLAH, May 25, 2010 (IPS) – On Sunday approximately 150 Palestinians from 20 families were driven out of their homes in Rafah, in the southern Gaza strip, by heavily armed police and soldiers who menaced them with clubs.
The difference this time was that it was not the Israeli Defence Forces carrying out evictions and demolitions but Hamas security forces, including policewomen with their faces veiled.
Reporters trying to cover the event were barred by Hamas police.
Many of those expelled had already lost their homes and been forced into the streets when Israel carried out its brutal military assault over the coastal territory, which deliberately targeted Gaza’s infrastructure, during Operation Cast Lead at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009.
Some of the homes destroyed on Sunday were temporary shacks built hastily after the Israeli assault. Other homes were concrete structures built prior to Israel’s crippling blockade, imposed on Gaza after Hamas took control in June 2007, which has prevented most reconstruction material from entering the territory.
The Hamas authorities argue that the homes were built on government land and without permission. Residents claimed they had been sold permits by a local landowner.
This is an explanation West Bankers regularly hear from the Israelis before Palestinian homes and buildings in the West Bank are destroyed, albeit the territory is illegally occupied by Israel whereas Hamas is a democratically elected government and the Gaza strip is Palestinian land.
Nevertheless, the harshness of the actions under the current conditions provoked anger from Gazans and condemnation from human rights organisations.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza expressed “its grave concern over these demolitions, which constitute a violation of civilians’ rights to adequate housing. These violations may affect an additional 180 houses in Rafah in the future.”
Meanwhile, attempts by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to provide some summer fun and entertainment for Gaza’s traumatised children suffered a setback when one of its recreational facilities was torched after 30 armed and masked men attacked the facility on Monday.
UNRWA released a statement saying, “The location is one of 35 beach facilities under construction, which will form part of UNRWA’s annual Summer Games programme for over 250,000 refugee children in Gaza, due to commence on Jun. 12.”
Before leaving the gunmen left a letter – containing threats against UNRWA officials and its director of operations in Gaza John Ging – and three bullets in the pocket of the security guard who was handcuffed and beaten with rifle butts.
Ging condemned the incident and said that “UNRWA will not be intimidated by such acts and will quickly rebuild the location in good time to host the Summer Games.”
Extremists in Gaza have expressed disapproval at the Western influence of UNRWA as well as some of its activities, including teaching girls swimming, fitness and dancing.
The Hamas authorities have been battling increasing incidents of Islamic extremism which have targeted beauty salons, coffee shops, Internet cafes, the YMCA and a Red Cross convoy.
Groups with links to al-Qaeda have also launched attacks against Hamas’ security forces. A shootout between Jund Ansar Allah and Hamas police last year in Rafah left more than 20 dead.
The Israeli daily ‘Haaretz’ reported on Monday that it is in possession of documents, sent by a group of Yemeni Shi’ite separatists who oppose al-Qaeda, which “point to regular, direct contact between the al-Qaeda organisation in that country and supporters in the Gaza Strip.”
“The Shi’ite rebels who passed the latest communication, and several previous ones, to Haaretz, are demanding Yemeni government’s recognition of their civil rights. They are keen to distinguish themselves from al-Qaeda,” said the daily.
The Israeli military has for some time warned of growing links between al-Qaeda elements and Gaza extremists. These links have involved the smuggling of weapon caches from Egypt’s Sinai peninsular into Gaza. Some of the caches have been uncovered by Egyptian security forces.
Although the Hamas authorities have cracked down on Islamic extremists, Gazans who tried to hold a protest march against the arson attack on the UNRWA facility were forcibly turned back by Hamas police.
This suppression of civil liberties came as the Hamas authorities simultaneously prevented a human rights workshop to discuss rights and freedom in the Palestinian territories from being held at a Gaza hotel on Monday.
The Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights lashed out at the decision.
Mustafa Ibrahim, a jurist on the commission, said the hotel management had received a phone call forbidding the workshop.
“The decision to bar the event is an unprecedented interference in the work of human rights organisations. NGOs are not required to obtain a permit or seek the government’s permission to hold workshops,” said Ibrahim.