Sunday, December 31, 2006

Latest Conspiracy Theory: Saddam's Last Words

Whilst the soon-to-come conspiracy theory, regarding the fact that Saddam Hussein isn't actually dead and will soon surface in a Blackpool kebab shop owned by Elvis Presley, hasn't really gotten much traction yet, a variety of "last words" is already circulating t'Interwebs, to suit various tastes.

Just a few samples
here and here and here and here....


The lessons the West must learn from this tyrant's death

Western intervention in Iraq has been flawed; our reluctance to act in other parts of the world has been equally catastrophic

Comment is Free

[big snip]
Saddam Hussein made his attackers forget the limits of their influence and power. The wish to destroy him erased the fact that Iraq has never been moulded to British will and that enemies cannot easily be vanquished when history and logic are fighting on their side. And now his long shadow hangs over a New Year crowded by much else that the West forgot to remember.

The post-Saddam world splits down many fracture lines, almost all connected to the war on terror. Regions of Africa are facing terrible wars, partly because ancient crises simply slipped out of Western minds. Ethnic cleansing, torture and mayhem in Darfur and Somalia have been airbrushed away by disaster in Iraq, peril in Afghanistan, war in Lebanon and a deepening crisis in Palestine. Of the 'axis of evil' states, North Korea has the bomb and Iran races towards a nuclear deterrent.

So how curious that 2007 is to be a softly-softly year. The doctrine that threats should be eliminated, not managed, is more or less defunct, though nostalgic neocons (and even hawkish Democrats) do not rule out a strike against Tehran. But the watchword is realism, larded with national interest. In America's case, that means co-existence rather than assault. Lie low, stay off the trigger. Prefer the negotiating table to the bullet, bomb and gallows.

By bitter irony, it took Saddam to drill home that reciprocity and compromise are far preferable to the delusion that Western military power can conquer all. But the paradox of 2007 is this. The West is contemplating a switch to tea-and-cake diplomacy at the very moment when parts of the world cry out in vain for muscular solutions.

Take Darfur, where rape and slaughter pass for social dialogue: As many as 300,000 people have died in three years and two million are homeless. The conflict has spilled over into Chad, and the world stands impotently by, in the hope that President Bashir might graciously put out the welcome mat for the peacekeeping force mandated by the UN.

Take Somalia. The Islamic grouping that maintained rough law and order has fled before the Ethiopian troops tacitly backed by George W Bush. Warlords are already moving into the vacuum at the heart of one of the most savage and anarchic capitals on earth, and the cornerstone of a new war of Christian versus Muslim has been laid. Mogadishu urgently needs all-party talks and UN peacekeepers. Recent history suggests that Tolkien's army of Isengard is as likely to ride to its rescue.

This Tuesday, a new UN Secretary General takes up his post. A process so haphazard that it might have been devised to elect a parish council treasurer produced Ban Ki-moon, a South Korean diplomat of unimpeachable obscurity. Though nicknamed 'the slippery eel' at home for his sinuous cultivation of the media, few outsiders have ever previously heard of him. It is possible that Mr Ban is a firebrand. He will need to be and so will others. We get the UN we deserve. When resolutions are reluctantly passed and rarely implemented, then transgressors carry on killing with impunity. The old, great powers are effete and cowed by the dead Saddam. When leaders talk of victory in Iraq, they mean: never again. And so humanitarian intervention, the vital long-stop against genocide, becomes unthinkable.

In Africa, in 2007, such cowardice will not suffice. The sheer scale of bloodshed has anaesthetised sorrow and stopped tears. Who weeps for the Darfurian child whose mother left to pick up firewood and never came home? Not many, when the UN High Commission for Refugees works on a shoestring budget of £550m to care for 21 million people.

War zones need more money, more peacekeepers and less of the military force that is either useless or unusable. That means scaling down Western nuclear weapons and redrafting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Britain, for all the influence it has squandered in Iraq, can help force change in 2007. It can band with Europe and demand concerted action to help Darfur and Somalia. It can lobby for the permanent membership of the UN Security Council to be extended. Its Parliament must stop Trident Two.

These are the lessons of Saddam and of a war that should never have been fought. If the West can reacquaint itself with humanity and history, then some debacles of the past year may yet be laid to rest alongside a dead dictator. As Saddam goes to his grave, it is time to remember who to help, and when to fight, and what to mourn.

What makes Sammy run? (Uri Avnery)


“I DON’T care about the principles! All that I want is that my wife can live with me and that we can raise a family!” cried out the engaging young man on the TV talk show.

Sammy is an Arab citizen from Acre, studying for a doctor’s degree at Haifa University. Something terrible happened to him: he fell in love with the wrong woman - a Palestinian from Jenin in the occupied territories. He had met her by accident in Ramallah, obtained for her (on false pretences, he admits) a permit to stay in Israel for one day and married her. Since then he can visit her only once every few weeks in Jenin.

She cannot come to live with him in Acre, because the Knesset has enacted a “temporary” law that forbids categorically, without any exceptions, Palestinian women in the occupied territories from joining their husbands in Israel. (That applies equally, of course, to the Palestinian husbands in the occupied territories of Israeli Arab women.)

The freedom of love and marriage is one of the basic human rights. Its denial to 1.4 million Israeli citizens, solely because they are Arab, is a severe violation of the international Bill of Rights that has been signed by Israel. It also attacks the roots of Israeli democracy.

The pretext - what else could it be? - is “security”. Among the 105,000 Palestinian women from the occupied territories who, in the course of the years, have married Israeli citizens, 25 have taken part in terrorist acts. 25 (twenty-five!) as against 104,975 (one hundred and four thousand nine hundred and seventy-five!)

But, as usual with us, “security” is serving here as camouflage for the real reason. Behind the prohibition lurks the demographic demon, a demon with a sinister power over the brains of Israelis, that can twist their thoughts, extinguish the last spark of decency and morality and turn quite normal human beings into monsters.

His emissaries scour the world for Jews, real or imagined. They have discovered (and brought to Israel!) Indians who claim to be descended from the tribe of Manasseh, one of the ten tribes that were exiled by the Assyrians - according to the Bible - from Palestine some 2720 years ago. In New Mexico they have discovered families whose ancestors were supposedly Jews baptized 500 years ago under the threat of the Spanish Inquisition. They bring Russian Christians, who have a tenuous connection with Jewish families, and the Falashmura from Ethiopia, whose Judaism is rather dubious. All of these are dragged to Israel and obtain immediate citizenship and a generous “absorption subsidy”. But a young woman from Jenin, whose family has lived in this country for centuries, is not allowed to live here with her husband, whose forefathers have lived in Acre for generations. All because of that fearful demon.
A HUNDRED and twenty years ago Asher Ginsburg, known as Ahad Haam (”One of the People”), a great Jewish thinker, visited Palestine and was horrified by the way the Jewish settlers treated the native Arabs. Since then, many pretexts for pushing Arabs out have been invented. Almost every year the pretext in vogue has changed. Now a new one has become fashionable: “the Nation State”. Tsipi Livni was perhaps the first to use it.

Israel is a “Nation state” of the Jews, and therefore it has the right to do anything that serves Jews and harms non-Jews, even when they are Israeli citizens. “The good of the individual has to give way to the common good!” a respected professor said about the case of Sammy, “and the common good forbids allowing the Palestinian wife of Sammy to enter Israel, which is the Jewish Nation State.”

That sounds simple and logical. The Nation State exists for the nation. But it is not simple at all. It raises several intractable questions. For example:

What is the nation in question? A world-wide Jewish nation? An Israeli-Jewish nation? Or just an Israeli nation?

And what kind of nation state are we talking about? The French nation state at the end of the 18th century? The Polish nation state that came into being at the end of World War I? Or the American nation state as it exists today? All these are models of a nation state - but very different from each other.
ANYONE WHO argues that Israel is the state of the world-wide Jewish nation is emptying the word “nation” of all content. This would mean that our state belongs to a community most of whose members do not live in Israel, are not Israeli citizens, do not pay Israeli taxes and have no vote in Israeli elections. American Jews like Henry Kissinger, Paul Wolfowitz and Thomas Friedman, while committed body and soul to Israel, would vigorously deny that they belong to the Jewish “nation” rather that to the American.

Years ago, the Knesset enacted a law that denies anyone the right to run for elections without publicly accepting that Israel is “the state of the Jewish people”. However, it is Israeli citizenship alone that decides who can vote.

So perhaps our nation-state really belongs to a Jewish-Israeli nation? Is Israel the nation state of its Jewish citizens only? Many Israelis may feel that way. But that is contrary to Israeli legislation, which says that all citizens are equal before the law. According to the Supreme Court and official doctrine, Israel is a “Jewish and democratic state”. A sort of square circle or round square.

Israeli identity cards record the holder’s “nation”. Cards belonging to Jews say: “Nation: Jewish”. Years ago, the Supreme Court rejected the petition of a citizen for the entry “Nation: Israeli”. Now the court is dealing with another petition of dozens of citizens (myself included) who want the item in their cards to read “Nation: Israeli”.

Is this country really an Israeli nation state? If so, does the Israeli nation include all Israeli citizens, much as the American nation includes all US citizens? In particular - does this nation include the 1.4 million Palestinian-Arab citizens, about a fifth of the state’s population?
ISRAEL’S ARAB citizens suffer discrimination in almost all spheres of life. The list, which is no secret, would fill several pages. Just as examples: the education system spends on an Arab child one fifth of what it spends on a Jewish one.

The health system spends on an Arab citizen much less than on a Jew. Almost all Arab local councils are bankrupt, one of the reasons being that the government pays them per capita much less than Jewish councils. An Arab citizen cannot get land from the Land Authority, which holds almost all the land in Israel. Not to mention the built-in official discrimination of the Law of Return and the Law of citizenship.

Twice Israeli soldiers and policemen have shot at Arab demonstrators who are Israeli citizens, killing several of them - once in 1976 (”Land Day”), the other time in 2000 (”the October Events”). They never shot Jewish demonstrators in Israel. (Once the police shot a Jewish demonstrator who was shooting at them from the roof of his home.)

Now everybody understands that a confrontation with the problem cannot be evaded anymore.

At the end of the 1948 war, in which the state of Israel was founded, only a small number of Palestinian-Arabs remained. Most of their compatriots had fled or been driven out. The cultural, social and political elite left at the beginning of the war. The pitiful remnant that was left was subjected for 18 years to a regime of intimidation and oppression called “military government”. But the second generation mustered up the courage to raise its head.

Now a third generation has grown up. Many of its members, both male and female, have attended universities and become entrepreneurs, professors, lawyers and physicians. Recently, their representatives published a “vision” which demands not only the elimination of all forms of discrimination, but also religious, cultural and educational autonomy.

That is a revolutionary message, and several similar documents are also on their way. Today the Arab citizens are a self-confident community with their own (unrecognized) institutions and political parties. This community is now more than twice the size of the Jewish community that founded the State of Israel in 1948.

The existence of a national minority of this size cannot be ignored. It cannot be pretended anymore that the problem does not exist, or that it can be solved (and dismissed) by some millions of shekels more. Israel is facing a fateful decision, which will not only determine the character of its relations with its Arab citizens, but also the very character of the state itself.
THERE IS no sense in arguing with those who hope publicly or secretly for ethnic cleansing and the removal of all the Arabs from the state, and indeed from the whole country between the sea and the Jordan River. Neither is there much sense in arguing with those who want to keep the Israeli Arabs as second-class citizens, estranged from the state and deprived of influence. That is a time bomb.

Israeli democracy is faced with a choice between two alternatives:

(a) A citizen’s state, in which all the citizens are equal, irrespective of ethnic origin, nation, religion, language and gender. In Israeli political jargon, that is called “a state of all its citizens” - an absurd appellation, for how can a democratic state not belong to all its citizens?

Such a state is not concerned with ethnic origin and religious faith. Every group of parents can decide how to educate their children (in the framework of certain parameters fixed by the state). There will be no difference between a Jewish, Arab or Polynesian citizen. Relations between the individual and the state will be based solely on citizenship. Example: the United States, where every person automatically becomes part of the American nation upon receiving citizenship.

(b) A national state, in which a Jewish-Israeli majority exists side by side with a Palestinian-Israeli minority. In such a state, the majority has its national institutions, but the minority, too, is recognized as a national entity, with clearly defined national rights in certain spheres, such as culture, religion, education etc. (These rights were defined by the right-wing Zionist leader Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky as early as a hundred years ago, when he drew up the “Helsingfors Plan” demanding rights for the Jews in Russia.) Example: the status of the Catalans in Spain.

Some days ago, the researcher Yossi Amitay drew my attention to an article written by Pinhas Lavon one month (!) after the founding of the State of Israel. Lavon (who later served as Minister of Defense and was implicated in the infamous “Lavon Affair’) analysed the problem of the Arab minority after the war. He suggested a choice between an “autonomist” approach which would allow the minority to form its own autonomous institutions in a state dominated by the majority belonging to another nation, and a “state-values” state, in which all citizens would be treated according to universal and egalitarian standards.

Lavon preferred the second alternative (a state belonging to all its citizens), and so do I.
NOT LONG ago, Avigdor Liberman presented a plan of his own: to give up the so-called “triangle” region (on the Israeli side of the Green Line) together with the dense Arab population living there, in exchange for the annexation of Palestinian territories in which Jewish settlers are living. The principle: Jews to Israel, Arabs to Palestine.

Liberman, the racist who immigrated from the former Soviet Union, has learned from Stalin that whole communities can be treated like chess figures. Only very few people took this plan seriously. It is well known that Liberman advocates the (so-called “voluntary”) ethnic cleansing of all the Arabs from the state and from the occupied territories. His “plan” is quite unrealistic anyhow, because most of Israel’s Arab citizens live in Galilee and the Negev, far from the Green Line, and Liberman does not suggest giving up those.

The interesting part of the ploy was not the “plan” itself, but the reaction of the Arab citizens to it. Not one single Arab voice was raised in favor of the idea. The Arab citizens are determined to remain citizens of Israel, even when a Palestinian state comes into being next to it.

This community wants to integrate itself in the life of Israel, its economy, democratic institutions and social fabric. It has succeeded in doing as much as it has been allowed to. It wholeheartedly supports the creation of a State of Palestine in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but intends to remain a national minority in Israel - much as most American Jews supported the creation of the State of Israel but themselves preferred to remain as a minority in the US.

Israel, for its part, cannot give up 1.4 million hard-working inhabitants who pay taxes and contribute their share to the national product. History shows that a country that drives out whole communities always loses. Spain has not recovered from the expulsion of the Jews and Muslims 500 years ago. France was grievously hit be the expulsion of the Huegenots. Germany still suffers from the expulsion (and worse) of the Jews.
I AM an Israeli. I certainly want to live in a State of Israel where the majority speaks Hebrew and the Hebrew identity, the Hebrew culture and the Hebrew tradition can be developed. That does not restrain me at all from striving for a situation in which the Palestinian citizens of the state are free to develop their own national identity, culture and tradition.

The nation-state took form some centuries ago on the ruins of the feudal and dynastic state, in response to the needs of the era. The economic, technological, military and cultural developments of the time demanded the organization of larger territorial-political units, like France, Britain and Germany. In order to consolidate such a state, every nation invented for itself a unifying national history (more or less “imagined”, as the scholar
Benedict Anderson [my link] termed it) and imposed it on conquered or voluntarily incorporated peoples (Corsicans, Scots, Bavarians, Basques and many others).

This kind of nation-state has now become obsolete. Reality has changed. The United States created a giant federal state spanning half a continent, and later Germany and France have created the European Union and turned over to it economic, military and even political functions that used to be exercised by the nation-states.

The nation-state as such remains in existence, because it fulfils a deep-seated human need to belong to a group. But it is gradually turning into a multi-cultural, open and liberal state, that absorbs (although not painlessly) millions of foreigners, because it cannot exist without them. The USA was the first to take this course, and now this is happening even in the small countries of Eastern Europe - the very countries where many of the early Zionists were infected with their narrow and fanatical kind of nationalism.

If the State of Israel does not want to explode from within, it must sooner or later become such a state - an Israeli state in which Sammy from Acre can live in dignity, together with his wife Lola from Jenin.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Religion does more harm than good - poll

82% say faith causes tension in country where two thirds are not religious

Julian Glover and Alexandra Topping
Saturday December 23, 2006
The Guardian

More people in Britain think religion causes harm than believe it does good, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today. It shows that an overwhelming majority see religion as a cause of division and tension - greatly outnumbering the smaller majority who also believe that it can be a force for good.
The poll also reveals that non-believers outnumber believers in Britain by almost two to one. It paints a picture of a sceptical nation with massive doubts about the effect religion has on society: 82% of those questioned say they see religion as a cause of division and tension between people. Only 16% disagree. The findings are at odds with attempts by some religious leaders to define the country as one made up of many faith communities.

Most people have no personal faith, the poll shows, with only 33% of those questioned describing themselves as "a religious person". A clear majority, 63%, say that they are not religious - including more than half of those who describe themselves as Christian.
Older people and women are the most likely to believe in a god, with 37% of women saying they are religious, compared with 29% of men.

The findings come at the end of a year in which multiculturalism and the role of different faiths in society has been at the heart of a divisive political debate.

But a spokesman for the Church of England denied yesterday that mainstream religion was the source of tension. He also insisted that the "impression of secularism in this country is overrated".

"You also have to bear in mind how society has changed. It is more difficult to go to church now than it was. Communities are displaced, people work longer hours - it's harder to fit it in. It doesn't alter the fact that the Church of England will get 1 million people in church every Sunday, which is larger than any other gathering in the country."

The Right Rev Bishop Dunn, Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, added: "The perception that faith is a cause of division can often be because faith is misused for other uses and other agendas."

The poll suggests, however, that in modern Britain religious observance has become a habit reserved for special occasions. Only 13% of those questioned claimed to visit a place of worship at least once a week, with 43% saying they never attended religious services.

Non-Christians are the most regular attenders - 29% say they attend a religious service at least weekly. Yet Christmas remains a religious festival for many people, with 54% of Christians questioned saying they intended to go to a religious service over the holiday period.

Well-off people are more likely to plan to visit a church at Christmas: 64% of those in the highest economic categories expect to attend, compared with 43% of those in the bottom group.

Britain's generally tolerant attitude to religion is underlined by the small proportion who say the country is best described as a Christian one. Only 17% think this. The clear majority, 62%, agree Britain is better described as "a religious country of many faiths".

ICM interviewed a random sample of 1,006 adults aged 18+ by telephone between December 12 and 13. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

OneVoice Surpasses Quarter Million Israeli & Palestinian Signatories

Via email, full text including external links, here.

OneVoice reached a critical milestone in November when it recruited its 250,000th signatory member.

Recap of Recruitment Drive:

Inception 2002-2004: Recruitment of Israelis and Palestinians who support the OneVoice Principles and commit to become engaged in fighting extremism commenced in 2002 with 300 Israeli and Palestinian members. In 2003, over 25,000 Israelis and Palestinians signed on to the OneVoice Proclamation of Principles, just as Queen Rania and other dignitaries signed on to the Proclamation in tandem. In 2004, Citizen Negotiations were launched to enable citizens to craft a grassroots consensus on ten pillars for conflict resolution and an additional 113,000 signed on through October 2004.

Between September 2004 and November 2004, the OneVoice Board reviewed the results and realized consensus had been reached on all 10 questions as reformatted after multiple rounds of citizen negotiations; while some issues remained to be deepened, the Board determined the OneVoice Movement needed to first focus on building a deeper human infrastructure of young activists, so the leadership program was initially conceived by November 2004 and launched in earnest in early 2005. Since then 1,800 Israeli and Palestinian youth activists have joined the movement and gone through immersion training.

2005 Campaigns: From December 2004 to January 2005, OneVoice Palestine also conducted the first ever get-out-the-vote campaign in the Arab world, for the Palestinian Presidential Elections and along with the distribution of over 100,000 brochures and a dozen events across the West Bank and Gaza that drew in tens of thousands of participants, it signed up over 30,000 new members. Between June and September 2005, OneVoice Israel conducted a campaign to discourage incitement and violence amidst deep divisions surrounding the evacuation of settlements from Gaza; besides busloads of activists in Kissufim to counter militant violence, it conducted a very effective internet campaign that was viewed by hundreds of thousands and through which 18,000 Israelis were recruited to sign on to the OV Principles.

2006 Campaigns: Between November 2005 and March 2006, OneVoice Palestine conducted 10 massive Town Hall Meetings and a grassroots petition campaign encouraging a platform to end the occupation through peaceful actions, through which it recruited 23,000 new members. Between February and March 2006, OneVoice Israel conducted a non-partisan get-out-the-vote campaign geared at young people which elicited a lot of media coverage and included a Public Service Announcement from Israeli TV Eretz Nehederet stars Kitzis and Friedman and an animated viral email video encouraging young people to vote. 31,379 Israelis signed on to OneVoice through this campaign.

Online Recruitment: Between September 2004 and November 2006 an additional 15,000 Israelis and Palestinians (13,000 Israelis and 2,000 Palestinians, numbers rounded down) signed online as citizen negotiators independently and separate from a campaign effort. As of the November 2006 Audit by the PeaceWorks Foundation, 256,000 Israeli and Palestinian activists had joined the movement in roughly equal numbers (130,000 Palestinians and 126,000 Israelis). The OneVoice Israel and OneVoice Palestine offices receive equal funding on the whole, and while they each have totally independent operations, the International Steering Committee and the PeaceWorks Foundation seek to ensure they are working in coordination and in parallel.

The above does not include signature drives for the What Are You Willing to Do Campaigns which began in the fall of 2006 but have not been audited or added yet.

International Supporters: About 10,000 additional signatories from the United States, Great Britain and other international supporters across the world have also joined as signatories since inception.

Exclusive: inside the secret and sinister world of the BNP

Guardian reporter Ian Cobain joined the BNP and became central London organiser. He found:

• Encrypted lists of middle-class members
• A network of false identities
• The covert rulebook

Thursday December 21, 2006
The Guardian

The techniques of secrecy and deception employed by the British National party in its attempt to conceal its activities and intentions from the public can be disclosed today.
Activists are being encouraged to adopt false names when engaged on BNP business, to reduce the chance of their being identified as party members in their other dealings with the public.

The BNP has also been instructing its activists in the use of encryption software to conceal the content of their email messages, and to protect the party's secret membership lists.

Party members are also employing counter-surveillance techniques, including the routine use of rendezvous points at which they will gather before being redirected to clandestine meetings.
BNP activists are also now discouraged from using any racist or anti-semitic language in public, in order to avoid possible prosecution. In a BNP rulebook, issued only to activists and organisers, they are instructed that they should avoid acting in a way which fits stereotypes of the far right, and "act only in a way that reflects credit on the Party".

The techniques, adopted as part of the campaign by Nick Griffin to clean up his party's image, were discovered after a Guardian reporter who had joined the party undercover was appointed its central London organiser earlier this year.

During seven months inside the BNP, the newspaper also discovered that the party is planning a recruitment drive in some of the most affluent areas of the capital, largely in an attempt to broaden its support base and shake off its image as a party which appeals purely to the white working class.

In an attempt to achieve the degree of political legitimacy which it believes it needs to win more votes, the extreme rightwing party is attempting to establish itself in affluent areas of the capital such as Belgravia, Chelsea and Knightsbridge.

The BNP already has significant numbers of members living in those areas. They include Peter Bradbury, a leading proponent of complementary medicine who has links to Prince Charles, Richard Highton, a healthcare regulator, and Simone Clarke, principal dancer with the English National Ballet.

There are also dozens of company directors, computing entrepreneurs, bankers and estate agents among the 200 members and lapsed members living in central London. One member is a servant of the Queen residing at Buckingham Palace, while a number are former Conservative party activists.

While leading BNP activists say that up to 100 new recruits are joining each week, most are joining in its traditional white, working class strongholds - and a significant number of new members lapse within a couple of years of joining.

The party is now attempting to recruit many more well-heeled members, and aims to organise them into a branch which it hopes to use in its attempts to dispel the widely held view that it remains a party of thuggish, working-class racists.

The campaign has been launched at a time of growing confidence among the party's leaders, who believe they may be on the brink of an electoral breakthrough which could see them win many more council seats, and even capture their first parliamentary seat.

The Guardian was able to witness the success which the BNP's leader, Nick Griffin, has enjoyed in his efforts to persuade his followers to avoid the use of racist language while pursuing electoral gain. Its activists often shun such words as "black" or "white", even when talking at party meetings. Many of its activists have accepted the need, in Mr Griffin's words, to "clean up our act, put the boots away and put on suits".

Mr Griffin signalled the importance of its attempt to mobilise new middle-class recruits last month. Writing in a party publications, he said: "To win electoral power, and to keep it, a political party needs to be rooted in a broad-based movement that is constantly developing and expanding the social and cultural bases of its support."

The BNP has more than 50 council seats nationwide, including 11 in Barking and Dagenham in east London, where it is the official opposition to Labour. It has rarely gained much support outside east London, West Yorkshire, parts of Lancashire and some Midlands cities, however. While the party does not believe it can win many central London seats, it does hope to win seats on the Greater London Assembly, in elections which will be fought under a system of proportional representation in 2008.

The BNP is also targeting the parliamentary seat of Jon Cruddas, a contender for Labour's deputy leadership, who held Dagenham with a majority of 7,600 last year. The BNP candidate won 2,870 votes, 9.3% of the total, but only half of the constituency's electorate turned out to vote.

Some BNP leaders believe the party is close to a seat in parliament, a presence in towns halls across the country and a greater degree of political legitimacy than at any stage in its 24-year history. "But first," one told the Guardian's journalist, "people must stop seeing us as ogres."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Test Yourself: The Mideast in 10 self-deceptions or less

I'm not usually one for these typical "test yourself" thingies you find in waiting-room mags or chip wrapper gutter-rags but here's one that appeared in Haaretz regarding the Israel/Palestine conflict. My score is at the bottom. I think this test worked for me...

By Bradley Burston

There's no deception like self-deception.

There's no self-deception like the personal truths we tell ourselves about ourselves, in order to feel better about ourselves.

There's nothing quite like the personal truths - truths we hold to be self-evident - which we tell ourselves about those we sincerely revile. In order to feel better about ourselves.

There's no struggle quite like the one we will put up to preserve our personal truths, our bedrock self-deceptions. As far as we can tell, they keep us safe, keep us happy, keep us focused, keep us ourselves.

If our self-identity is threatened, we will fight as if our very lives depended on it.

This may be applicable whether the identity in question is that of a respected surgeon, a revered cleric, or a devoted football fan.

Which brings us to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Can there be another conflict on God's green earth which in the space of a few generations has generated two entire new cultures, two entire new identities, each at war with the other, each dismissing the validity of the other, the rights of the other, the very authenticity of the identity the other is trying so vigorously to hang onto?

There are those on both sides, propagandists, fanatics, columnists, who insist that their own side is the sole heir to antiquity, the sole claimant to the property and the history of the Holy Land, the sole injured party, the sole heroic player.

They believe it with everything they have.

The best part, of course, is that they tend to believe that anyone who sees things differently is deluded. A victim of self-deception.

In view of this complex reality, how can you know truth from self-deception - Here's a simple self-test that may help:

1. True or False: One side is regularly condemned internationally for war crimes it is alleged to have committed. The other is shielded, left to commit them at will.

2. True or False: One side desecrates holy places. The other respects religious shrines, and the right of all to worship as they choose.

3. True or False: One side can be trusted to observe negotiated peace accords and agreed cease-fires. The other side violates them at will.

4. True or False: One side takes care to abide by the terms of peace agreements and cease-fires, until such time as the other side blatantly violates them.

5. True or False: One side has learned the lessons of the Holocaust. The actions of the other side are reminiscent of those who perpetrated it.

6. True or False: One side has a legitimate historical claim to territory of the Holy Land, being direct descendants of its ancient inhabitants. The claims of the other do not stand up to factual inspection.

7. True or False: One side repeatedly launches attacks which kill innocent civilians. The actions of the other are acts of legitimate self-defense.

8. True or False: One side genuinely seeks peace. The other side truly wants the land on its own terms, and is prepared to continue to kill people on the other side as long as its actual desires are unattained.

9. True or False: News media are over-sympathetic to one side only.

10. True or False: The people who support and speak for the other side are either lying or self-deceived.

HOW TO SCORE: Count 10 points for every "True" answer, none for every "False."

If you scored 0 - 20: Chances are that you still harbor a secret belief in the eventual possibility of peace.

Chances are that you are reluctant, at this point, to reveal this to anyone.

People on both sides are sure to tell you that you are deceiving yourself.

If you scored 30 - 50: Chances are you once harbored a belief in the eventual possibility of peace.

Chances are that you have stopped discussing this with people on the other side.

People on your side will now tell you that you have finally come to your senses.

You are on your way to self-deception.

If you scored 60 - 100: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict makes perfect sense to you.

You are a victim of serious self-deception. Unbeknownst to you.

My score was 10: guess which one of the ten statements I found (broadly speaking) to be true...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Sweet Smell of Liberty...

From the Land of the Brave, Home of the Free comes this clarion call for censorship. Yes, some of the brave folks over in the US are calling for censuring Jimmy Carter. "A few crackpots, maybe?" I can hear you think. A few crackpots that can afford an attack-ad to support their website? Sounds more like a concerted effort to me...

Watch the ad over at the indefatigable GRRRLL BLOGGER, Pajamapams from Atlas Shrugs.

Take note of Carter's offenses, here.

And if you still don't get it, this attack-bimbo explains it all.

But we shouldn't be worried about the erosion of Civil Liberties, I guess...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Here endeth the lesson

Intelligent design is just creationism in disguise. This nonsense has no place in science classes

James Randerson

'We're seeking to have intelligent design and criticisms of Darwinism taught in science lessons." That was Dr Richard Buggs, of the campaign group Truth in Science, putting the case for teaching intelligent design in British schools on the Guardian science podcast this week. Proponents of ID claim that it is a viable scientific alternative to Darwinism. As such, they say, it deserves a place alongside Darwin in science lessons.

Who could argue with that? Darwin's theory has been around for nearly 150 years and has survived many challenges. Why not throw in ID too? Isn't education all about exposing children to ideas and letting them make up their own minds, not force-feeding them dogma?

This argument has been well used by ID's proponents in the US and it appears to be gaining ground over here. The Guardian has revealed that dozens of schools appear to be using teaching materials that promote the idea.

By framing the debate in this way, the creationists - and, yes, they are creationists - have pulled off an impressive rhetorical coup. They have cast the scientists as dogmatic, reactionary and even fundamentalist aggressors who would deny school pupils the chance to hear all sides of the debate.
Full article

But the following comment made by downsman is also telling and funny...
Hi there people - God here. Sorry to trouble you in the early hours, but my job goes on 24/7 - I’m sure you understand.

That’s right, I’m God. I’m the intelligent designer they’re all talking about. And I’m intelligent alright. Really, really intelligent. I dreamed up evolution as a kind of stupid person’s alternative to actual creation. Creation - by me, God. The intelligent one. Who does the stuff that could only be done by someone all-powerful, all-seeing, all-singing, all-dancing ... above all, all-creating.

So I created everything. That’s right - everything. But I’ve got a confession to make, a little weakness if you like. You might call it a blind spot.

I forgot to create any clear, conclusive, incontrovertible evidence of my existence. I mean sure, some people believe I exist - and others don’t. But I couldn’t quite see a way to show those on both sides of the argument, everyone in fact, that I’m here - up here - right here.

And I’m still here. But despite my, er, intelligence, I still can’t think of a way of letting you all know. I mean there’s science - yes, and there’s empirical evidence - yes, there are laboratory tests - yes, there’s all that.

But the fact is I’m just too stupid to provide the evidence to all of you. I can only provide it to those who already believe in me anyway.

Pathetic, I know. But there it is. Anyhow, I am intelligent. And a designer. No really, I am. Really.

Serbia, Russia condemn Iran for Holocaust deniers' conference

By The Associated Press

Serbia and Russia on Wednesday join international calls condemning an gathering of Holocaust deniers hosted and sponsored by the Iranian government in Tehran.

Serbia called the conference a "damaging and pseudo-scientific" event.

The Balkan country's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the two-day conference that began Tuesday in Tehran is an "attempt to deny undeniable facts about the tragedy of the Jewish people during World War II."

Participants at the gathering, supported by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have questioned the Holocaust's death toll of 6 million or if it took place at all.

Serbia's government considers the gathering a "damaging and pseudo-scientific manifestation that cannot contribute to dialogue between cultures and religions," it said.

During the Nazi occupation of Serbia and other parts of the then Yugoslav Kingdom, tens of thousands of Jews died. Less than half of Serbia's 30,000-strong Jewish community before World War II survived the Holocaust. Many later moved to Israel or to the West.

Meanwhile, Russia's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday criticized Iran for hosting a conference of Holocaust deniers, saying Moscow opposed "the concealment of the truth about the monstrous crimes of the Nazis."

In a statement posted on the ministry's Web site, spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said Russia had condemned Tehran and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the past for threatening Israel and denying the systematic killing of 6 million Jews by the Nazis during World War II.
Full article

This conference wouldn't be such a bad thing if it led to something constructive: the end of Holocaust denying in Iran. It appears that ignorance regarding the Shoa is rife among young Iranians, even highly educated ones, although far less so in the older generations. But I guess hoping for a positive result is much like wishing upon a star...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Here's a slightly comical take on Olmert's 'nuclear slip/not slip/(delete as appropriate)' by Israelity blog.

OK, so our Prime Minister Ehud Olmert really stupidly said this thing that he wasn’t supposed to say and really shouldn’t have said.

So what does the Israeli media do this morning? Talk about the story endlessly in the context of which they say the thing he shouldn’t have said over and over again.

And talk about how he shouldn’t have said it. But if he shouldn’t have said it, then THEY shouldn’t be talking about it either….

I spent the morning yelling at the radio, “If HE wasn’t supposed to say it, so why are YOU saying it?!?!”

OK, I’ve gotten it out of my system now.

See, look at me! I’ve managed to talk about it without saying what it is. Now, let’s all shut up now.

I will.

But I probably won't...

Monday, December 11, 2006

It's Official: Muslims turn Schoolgirl's Body into Kebabs!

Some blogs really do go where angels fear to thread. Pamela from Atlas Shrugs, is never shy of a story, no matter how unsubstantiated, provided it offers more prooooof of the utter degeneracy and decadence of Muslims:
The body of a missing schoolgirl may have been turned into burgers and kebabs and served up at a seaside fast food outlet.

Police fear the remains of 14 year old Charlene Downes, who went missing in November 2003, may also have been ground up into tile grout.

All this from the "reputable source" Metro (never heard of them before and I live in the UK).

In a different context I think this is what some would call a blood libel... But say anything, just anything and child believe it. Here's what one bright spark of a commenter has to say about it:
I wish I could get my hands around the throat of the sick son of a bitch who did that to that little girl! MFers!!

Pardon my fwench.

Pamela - GRRRLL BLOGGER (by her own admission). Pampams: you need help, urgently...

Jimmy Controversial

Predictably, Jimmy Carter's new book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" has whipped up a storm of criticism. I haven't read the book and don't plan to read it anytime soon, due to an already overcrowded reading agenda.

Carter's charge of Israel's apartheid vis-à-vis the Palestinians is a point that can be argued for and against until the cows come home. Some of the arguments against the charge are fairly easy to dismiss. For instance it is said that the choice of that word is driven by its 'shock-value' and not by a desire for nuanced critiquing. But that's only true if Carter's arguments fail in themselves; if not then the 'emotional' connotation of the a-word is a mere side-effect.

Another attempt at dismissing this charge is that it implies racism, for that's what these detractors claim caused South Africa's rule by apartheid. The fact of the matter is though that SA's apartheid was driven by white desire for the best land and the creation of a White South Africa and an appendix of black reservations (the Townships). Even now, with apartheid in the past and black majority rule, SA's land redistribution intentions are far below targets and the best land remains mainly in white hands. And Israel's reluctance to give up the Occupied Territories is also all about land...

There are nonetheless more powerful arguments to be made against the apartheid charge.
Here's an article that deconstructs the "Israeli apartheid" issue convincingly.

Merits/weaknesses of Carter's book aside, I believe he's right in trying to get some debate going amongst members of the US general public, which post-9/11 has become increasingly myopic regarding the issue of Israel/Palestine.

Jimmy Carter: Israel's 'apartheid' policies worse than South Africa's

By Haaretz Service

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter said in remarks broadcast Monday that Israeli policy in the West Bank represented instances of apartheid worse even that those that once held sway in South Africa.

Carter's comments were broadcast on Israel Radio, which played a tape of an interview with the ex-president, but did not specify to whom Carter was speaking. But has made similar remarks in recent interviews, such as one to CBC television.

"When Israel does occupy this territory deep within the West Bank, and connects the 200-or-so settlements with each other, with a road, and then prohibits the Palestinians from using that road, or in many cases even crossing the road, this perpetrates even worse instances of apartness, or apartheid, than we witnessed even in South Africa."

Carter said his new book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" was meant to spark U.S. discussion of Israeli policies. "The hope is that my book will at least stimulate a debate, which has not existed in this country. There's never been any debate on this issue, of any significance."

The book has sparked strong criticism from Jewish figures in the United States. Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, has said that some comments from the former president border on anti-Semitism.

"When you think about the charge that he has made that the Jewish people control the means of communication, it is odious," Foxman was quoted as saying last week. "If the Jews controlled the media, how come he is traveling around the country speaking about this book on talk shows?"

Carter has rejected the criticism of the book and its use of the word apartheid.

"I feel completely at ease," said Carter, about his commitment to the book, which accuses Israel of oppressing Palestinians. "I am not running for office. And I have Secret Service protection."

"The greatest commitment in my life has been trying to bring peace to Israel," Carter told the Atlanta Press Club last week.

"Israel will never have peace until they agree to withdraw [from the territories].

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Glick's remedy...

The ink on the ISG report's pages isn't dry yet and veiled (and not-so-veiled) allegations of anti-Semitism are already starting to fly. Caroline Glick, in a lengthy, verbose piece called Jews, Wake Up! considers the ISG as nothing more than offering Israel to Iran. Her remedy? Flattening a good dollop of the Middle East, culminating of course in bombing Iran...

I quote from Glick's latest musings: When the history of our times is written, this week will be remembered as the week that Washington decided to let the Islamic Republic of Iran go nuclear. Hopefully it will also be remembered as the moment the Jews arose and refused to allow Iran to go nuclear.

With the publication of the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group chaired by former US secretary of state James Baker III and former congressman Lee Hamilton, the debate about the war in Iraq changed. From a war for victory against Islamofascism and for democracy and freedom, the war was reduced to a conflict to be managed by appeasing the US's sworn enemies in the interests of stability and at the expense of America's allies.

The main incentive Baker advocates offering is Israel.

Baker believes that Iran will agree to temporarily hold its fire in Iraq in exchange for US acceptance of Iran as a nuclear power and an American pledge not to topple the regime. Syria will assist the US in exchange for US pressure on Israel to handover the Golan Heights to Syria and Judea and Samaria to Hamas.

'Judea and Samaria': it just sounds a liiiitttle less... well, occupied, than 'West Bank', doesn't it? And the Golan Heights? Let's not go there...

Even if the US were to somehow get them to agree to certain understandings about Iraq, there is no reason to believe that the Iranians and Syrians would keep their word. Not only would the US be approaching them as a supplicant and so emboldening them, but to date the US has never credibly threatened anything either Syria or Iran value. Indeed, through supporting negotiations between the EU and Iran; empowering the UN to deal with Iran's nuclear program; and forcing Israel to accept a ceasefire with Hizbullah last summer that effectively gave victory to Syria and Iran's proxy, the US has consistently rewarded the two countries' aggression.

Well, the US could have chosen somehow to deal with Iran directly but instead chose a 'talk to the hand' approach. Glick is essentially advocating more of the same.

Worse than that, from a US perspective, although Gates admitted Tuesday that he cannot guarantee that Iran will not attack Israel with nuclear weapons, he ignored the fact that Iran - whose President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad daily calls for the destruction of the US - may also attack the US with nuclear weapons.

Gates admitted in his Senate hearing that Iran is producing many bombs - not just one.

Since it is possible to destroy Israel with just one bomb, the Americans should be asking themselves what Iran needs all those other bombs for. There are senior military sources in the US who have been warning the administration to take into consideration that the day that Iran attacks Israel with a nuclear bomb, ten cities in the US and Europe are liable to also be attacked with nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, no one is listening to these voices today.

This is Glick at her most confused and histrionic: they [Iran] have them [nukes], they don't but they will, soon, in four months, in four to five years... Sweet Caroline: admit it; you don't know either (see more below).

It is particularly upsetting that Washington has chosen now of all times to turn its back on the war. Ahmadinejad hinted Monday that Iran has completed the nuclear fuel cycle and so has passed the point of no return on its nuclear program. He also made a statement indicating that Iran will have its nuclear arsenal up and running by March - just four months away.

Serious disagreement exists in Washington over the status of the Iranian program. Some claim that Iran is four or five years away from nuclear weapons capabilities. Other maintain that Iran has recently experienced serious technical setbacks in their uranium enrichment activities and that the North Korean nuclear bomb test in October in which Iranian officials participated, was a failure.

What Ahmedinejad is referring to of course is the completion of a civilian fuel cycle, not a nuclear arsenal, a distinction Glick deliberately fails to make I feel. And Iranian officials participating in North Korea's nuclear test? Where's the evidence for that?

But there are also engaged officials who agree with Ahmadinejad's assessment of Iran's nuclear progress. Those officials maintain first that the North Korean-Iranian test in October was successful and should be taken as a sign that Iran already has a nuclear arsenal. Second, they warn that the US and Israel have six months to act against Iran's nuclear installations and to overthrow the regime or face the prospect of the annihilation of Israel and the destruction of several US cities as a result of an Iranian nuclear offensive.

To Caroline and many others of her bellicose ilk, it never seems to occur that an attack by Iran, conventional or nuclear, would simply mean a well-deserved nuclear suicide. That in itself is the strongest deterrent against such an attack: nuclear deterrence actually works.

As regards the "North Korean-Iranian" (once again that highly contentious connection) nuclear test, it was in all likelihood a fizzle, rather than a succes, possibly due to premature detonation of reactor-grade plutonium. A sub-kiloton yield (estimated around 0.2 kT) indicates probable failure, not success, as a succesful test detonation yields typically 20 - 50 kT. Which isn't to say that 200 T of TNT don't make a mighty BANG!

What must Israel do? First, it must plan an attack against Iran's nuclear facilities and regime command and control centers. To pave the way for such an attack, the IDF must move now to neutralize second order threats like the Palestinian rocket squads and the Syrian ballistic missile arsenals in order to limit the public's exposure to attack during the course of or in the aftermath of an Israeli attack on Iran.

Second, Israel must work to topple the Iranian regime. As the Defense Minister's Advisor Uri Lubrani told Ha'aretz last week, the regime in Iran is far from stable today and ripe for overthrow.

And so, it's 'chucks away and bombs galore!': bomb Hamas, Syria and Iran. Bizarrely, in Glick's Dr Strangelove scenario, Hezbollah is let off scot free (unless under 'Syria' we must understand 'Hezbollah').

The claim that the Iranian regime is somehow close to collapse is highly debatable: it appears to me that the fundamentalists remain firmly in control and that only democratic change from within could get the reformists back in the saddle. Imposing regime change from the outside will prove very difficult and very risky: the blow-back from failure could be a very high price to pay. The West has already effectuated a 'regime change' in Iran once, in 1953: in some respects we're still paying the price for it today...

Thirdly, in his testimony in the Senate on Tuesday, Gates casually mentioned that Israel has nuclear weapons. In so doing, he unceremoniously removed four decades of ambiguity over Israel's nuclear status. While his statement caused dismay in Jerusalem, perhaps Israel should see this as an opportunity.

Caroline, Caroline, Caroline... please show me one person on G-d's Earth that doesn't know Israel has an estimated 200 nuclear warheads. The Mordechai Vanunu affair may have been a little before your time but surely you've heard of it?

Israel's 'nuclear ambiguity' serves no purpose whatsoever, but its actual nuclear arsenal does. But Glick's unspecified "opportunity" sounds distinctly ominous: is she advocating a nuclear first strike on Iran? No, reading on it appears she's referring to a second strike capability: Israel effectively has this capability in the form of two recently acquired subs (from Germany).

For her part, reacting to the possibility of national extinction, Education Minister Yuli Tamir this week cocked her pedagogical pistol and shot at her rear. By ordering the public schools to demarcate the 1949 armistice lines on the official maps and so wipe Israel off maps of Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights, Tamir worked to divide the nation over second order issues at a time when unity of purpose is most essential. Olmert, who refused to overturn her scandalous decree, was doubtlessly pleased with her political stunt. For two days the media devoted itself entirely to stirring up internal divisions and so ignored the threat hanging over our heads and Olmert's refusal to deal with it.

Teaching the truth in Israeli schools is the result of a "scandalous decree". Clever also how she makes that little connection: "and so wipe Israel off maps", I'm surprised she hasn't come up with the term 'Olmerdinejad' or something similar. She probably prefers to leave that to the reader...

In a few months, Iran may well be in possession of nuclear weapons which it will use to destroy the Jewish state. With the US withdrawing from the war and Israel in the hands of incompetents, the time has come for the Jewish people to rise up.

Our struggle for survival begins with each of us deciding that we are willing to fight to survive. And today the challenge facing us is clear. Either the Iranian regime is toppled and its nuclear installations are destroyed or Israel will be annihilated. The Jews in the Diaspora must launch mass demonstrations and demand that their governments take real action to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

In a few months... sigh.

America just abdicated its responsibility to defend itself against Iran and so left Israel high and dry. Nevertheless, the Jewish people is far from powerless. And the State of Israel also capable of defending itself [sic]. But we must act and act immediately.

Israel is indeed capable of defending itself, through its own nuclear umbrella. But Caroline's phantasmagorical ideas of 'pre-emptive self-defence' are a recipe for disaster that would imperil the Jewish State to a degree never experienced before.

And yep, it's official: due to the ISG, the US has thrown Israel to the wolves. It doesn't come to mind to Caroline that many Americans may find this kind hysterical thought rather annoying.

Update: the degree of cohesion that exists on the Radical Far Right still defies belief. Glick is now soon to be interviewed by Pamela from Atlas Shrugs, extremist whackjob and #1 Bolton dry-humper. A recent quote from Pammy's blog (a comment made by one of her readers and reproduced by her[my emphasis]):

"[...] as I am a former submarine sailor (circa 1984) and I am also an "orthodox" Jew.

[...] Why are we asking people like Boxer to listen to reason and vote against the adoption of the ISG report? Frankly, I want her to sign on to it. There needs to be no doubt as to which side these people have committed. Anyone who agrees to the resolution adopting the ISG report is clearly: a) a Jew hater and b) a protege of Chamberlain. I want Kerry and Boxer and all the rest to sign on to it."

All this begs the question whether Glick is plain stupid, misinformed or merely being disingenuous.

I generally don't believe that people who can string intelligible sentences together are stupid, so that kinda rules out possibility #1.

Misinformed? That's rather condescending.

That leaves disingenuous: Caroline, I truly believe you don't actually believe what you write. I believe that
you're deliberately misleading, distorting and chest-beating, mainly for effect or attention.

Friday, December 08, 2006

No Palestinians, No Palestine, No Problem

The need for a simple solution for a complex problem, the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, is causing a swell in the numbers of those who can be described as 'Palestinian-deniers'. Below, Bradley Burston provides a follow-up to his Wishing the Palestinians away piece of last week (Ha'aretz).

Bradley Burston

If the internet is any measure, there are four major denominations of Diaspora Jewry: Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and There Is No Such Thing as a Palestinian.

You won't find this last group on synagogue signs. It has no rabbinical seminary. It lacks a headquarters in Manhattan, or a place on the Conference of Presidents. But if single-minded zeal counts for anything, its place as a denomination is assured.

Its bedrock article of faith is this: The concept of a Palestinian people is artificial, a grand lie foisted on a gullible and guilt-plagued international community.

The seductiveness of this lies in its simplicity. Remove the Palestinians from the equation, and the equation is solved. No more guilt. No more dilemmas. No land to divide. No rights to share. No Middle East conflict.

No Palestinians, no Palestine. No problem.

Well, maybe one. Amid the rafts of facts, the torrents of proofs, the boundlessly creative arguments, the learned histories marshalled by the activists of the Palestinians Don't Exist Movement, the one sole fact that matters, escapes them altogether:

It's not our decision.

It's not for Jews to decide whether Palestinians have valid claims to peoplehood, to cultural uniqueness, to calling themselves whatever they like.

There are millions of people here and abroad whose whole lives are about being Palestinian. There are millions of people here and abroad who know that they are Palestinian just as they know how to breathe.

It's not for Jews to decide that the people who call themselves Palestinians are insufficiently distinctive, insufficiently venerable, insufficiently homogeneous, insufficiently honest about their own ancestry, their own ancient history, their modern plight, to legitimately qualify as a people.

You may believe that the Palestinian national narrative is based on half-truths, imagined truths, flat-out untruths. You may believe that this disqualifies them from recognition as a true people. As if a people's cherished myth ? any people - is no less powerful for being myth. As if we had any say whatsoever in the decision.

No one should know this better than the Jews. No people on earth has been negated, delegitimized, in so many ways, for so many centuries, by so many other peoples, as we have.

When the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and his boss, Yasser Arafat, declared that the Jews have no verifiable ties to the holy city, it may have been their jobs that they were doing, but it was none of their business.

Just as it is none of our business to tell Palestinians who they are and who they are not.

The Middle East conflict will not be solved by a parlor trick. Any magician can tell you. You can't make someone disappear simply by shutting your own eyes.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Israel and Iran: the forgotten alliance

Considering today's enmity between Israel and Iran, it's hard to believe that shortly after Israel's gaining of independence, Iran was one of the first nations to recognise it and became its closest Muslim ally in the Middle East, up to the Khomeiny era.

By Yossi Melman

In spite of the belligerent declarations of Iran's leaders - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeated his mantra this week that he expects the Zionist entity to collapse in the near future - Iranian representatives are holding negotiations with Israeli representatives. These are not only indirect negotiations, but real meetings. These meetings have been going on for about two decades, and concern laborious international arbitration regarding the debts between the two nations.

There are three separate litigations, which are taking place simultaneously in several European countries, all of them pertaining to a complex legal and business entity called Trans-Asiatic Oil Limited, and relating to one of the biggest secrets between Israel and Iran: the past oil connections between the two countries. Three years ago one of the arbitrations ruled that Israeli fuel companies have to pay the Iranian National Oil Company tens of millions of dollars. All the parties made efforts to maintain the secrecy of the decision and every other detail connected to the subject.

The Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company is born

From the time that Iran de facto recognized Israel in 1951, increasingly close relations developed between the two countries, until the 1970s when they reached a point of strategic partnership. This partnership had four main components: Iranian assistance for the immigration operations for Jews from Iraq; Israeli-Iranian cooperation in the area of intelligence (the Mossad, the Shin Bet security services and the Israel Defense Forces helped to establish, train and operate the Iranian army and the units of Sawak - the Iranian security service. In exchange, Israel's intelligence organizations received Iranian assistance in gathering information and operating agents in Iraq to assist the Kurdish revolt); agreements for military cooperation; and the supply of Iranian oil to Israel.

Beginning in 1975, the military cooperation focused on an Iranian investment of $1.2 billion in several research and development initiatives of Israeli armaments. These initiatives, whose code name was Tzur, included the establishment of a Soltam munitions plant in Iran, the development of the Lavi fighter plane, the development of a sea-to-sea missile based on Gabriel technology, and according to foreign sources, the development of an upgraded ground-to-ground missile, whose range at the time was about 600 kilometers. By the time Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini came to power in 1979, ending the cooperation, Israel had managed to transfer the plans for the missile to Iran.

The supplying of Iranian oil to Israel began already in the early 1950s. The oil was transferred in tankers to Eilat, and from there was channeled to Be'er Sheva in a pipeline with a diameter of about 40 centimeters. The pipeline and its installation were funded by the Rothschild family, who were its owners. After the 1967 Six-Day War and the closing of the Suez Canal, Israel (whose prime minister at the time was Levi Eshkol) convinced the Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, to exploit the new situation and set up a joint and expanded oil initiative. The Shah agreed to the idea.

Thus Trans-Asiatic Oil was established, a company under joint ownership of the Israeli government, through the Finance Ministry, and the Iranian National Oil Company. The Israeli government gave the company an exclusive franchise to transport and store the oil. The main fear of Iranian opponents of the initiative was that if the cooperation were to be exposed, the Arab countries would use it to criticize Tehran. Therefore, in order to maintain secrecy, the company was registered in Panama. The owners of Trans-Asiatic, as they appear in the Israeli Registrar of Companies, are the Eilat Corporation and another company, both of which are also registered in Panama.

In Israel, Trans-Asiatic operated as though it were a foreign company. It acquired the pipeline to Be'er Sheva from the Rothschild family and laid a larger pipeline, with a diameter of about one meter (42 inches), alongside it, from Eilat to Ashkelon, where they also built terminals for loading and unloading the oil. The construction of the terminals was completed in 1969. The closing of the Suez Canal made it difficult to supply oil to Europe from the Persian Gulf. The tankers were forced to sail on a long route around the Cape of Good Hope. The idea behind the establishment of the company was to shorten the sailing routes and the supply time, and thus of course earn more money. The tankers loaded oil in the ports of Iran, sailed to Eilat, where they unloaded the cargo at a special terminal that was built for that purpose, and the oil transported in the pipeline to Ashkelon. Most of it was loaded onto tankers bound for Europe, and a small percentage was used for Israel's energy economy. The Iranian National Oil Company sold the oil to Trans-Asiatic below the market price, and granted it credit for three months.

In its heyday, Trans-Asiatic was an economic empire with a turnover of billions of dollars. It established a subsidiary, the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company (EAPC), which owned the two pipelines, and a storage container farm to store the oil in Ashkelon and Eilat. It purchased or leased a fleet of 30 huge tankers. In its successful years, about 54 million tons of oil were transported in its pipelines.

But after 10 years of flourishing activity came the crisis. The Shah's rule was weakened. About two months before Khomeini came to power, the Iranian National Oil Company stopped selling oil to Trans-Asiatic, in effect paralyzing it. One of Khomeini's first acts when he came to power was to sever relations with Israel completely. The many Israeli companies and businessmen who had worked in Iran in construction, communications, infrastructure, drugs and commerce had left already during the twilight days of the Shah's rule. The Iranians still owed money to some of them, such as Ya'akov Nimrodi, who had built desalination plants on Kish, the Shah's pleasure island. All the joint initiatives in the areas of security and oil were discontinued.
Full article here...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Rub the Islamofascists’ faces in the dirt...

Here's the inimitable and indefatigable "Israel-Firster" Bill Levinson of on his latest campaign against the "Islamofascists", a campaign which includes a pre-emptive strike against all charges of racism Bill and his hordes of cyber keyboard-warriors might face when unleashing their strategy "against screaming baboons or chimpanzees". Note: these are just a few snippets of Bill's thinking. I've added a bit of emphasis...

Don’t just stand up to them on college campuses, humiliate and demonize them.
Bill Levinson
Once you get past the lance points, it’s a lot like killing rabbits.

The Earl of Uxbridge in Sharpe’s Waterloo (while hacking through the shaft of a dead French lancer’s weapon to get a souvenir).

We add that, once you get past the strident politically-correct rhetoric that calls you a racist (untrue) and Eurocentrist (damn proud of it), humiliating and discrediting Islamofascists and their sympathizers is about as sporting as slaughtering sheep–in a meat packing factory.

The Earl of Uxbridge’s advice about fighting lancers carries over into political discourse. In most cases, unfounded fear is the only thing that stands between us and overwhelming victory. During the horse-and-musket era of warfare, the cavalry lance’s perception was far more effective than its substance (at least in engagements with mounted opponents). The sight of the oncoming lance point, with more than a thousand pounds of man and horse behind it, was often enough to terrify neophyte cavalrymen into headlong flight. As later explained by then-Lieutenant George S. Patton (Saber Exercise of 1914), however,
32. In attacking a lancer, rapid approach is even more important than against a swordsman. The only moment of danger is when the point of the lance comes within the first reach of the fully extended saber. If, at that moment, the swordsman lunges, forcing the lance to the outside, he is safe and the lancer is at his mercy.

In other words, the lancer had to rely on perception as opposed to substance, which is a very bad strategy against an opponent who knows what he is doing. The same is true of the Left’s standard reply to criticisms of minorities or Third Worlders.

This was designed to effectively end the argument and paralyze the opposing side with overwhelming shock, and it worked; not one single reply was forthcoming from either the Saudis or the Kumbaya-singers. Note some key characteristics about the content:
(1) It eliminates the “racism!” argument in advance by stating that the individual students have the right to be judged by the content of their character (per Martin Luther King) as opposed to their ethnicity or country of origin.
(2) It continues with inarguable facts about Saudi Arabia.
(3) It undercuts support from feminists and women’s rights advocates by pointing out how Saudi law defines women as half-human.
(4) It suggested that other Saudis may have been planning a terroristic attack against high school students.

We therefore advocate similarly-aggressive tactics against Islamofascists on campus. Those who disrupt pro-Israel or other events should be photographed and videotaped, and the pictures and movies posted all over the Internet. The faces of the disruptive individuals should be clearly identifiable. They and their organizations should be denounced as subhuman, barbaric, uncivilized, and unfit to participate in a community of scholars. This is not racism because a behavioral choice (screaming like a baboon or chimpanzee) is not a race. Intentional disrespect should be directed against them and their so-called religious beliefs, while militant “Islam’s” treatment of women and gays should be brought to the forefront of the discussion.

Campus administrators who support their disruptive behavior should be denounced as unfit to hold positions of responsibility or trust at the university. While one must use some discretion in questioning a person’s fitness for his or her job, it would seem that tolerance of disorderly conduct or even assault (as directed against Hillel students at another university) would in fact reflect on campus officials’ fitness for their jobs. Alumni should be encouraged to withhold donations, this being the kiss of death for any university president. In any event, a far more aggressive doctrine is called for, and, in our experience, it is extremely effective.

Much to my surprise, the 'article', over at Israpundit, hasn't received any comments yet. What are they waiting for?!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

An appeal for an abandoned people

The Independent's Christmas Appeal will focus on the dispossessed of the Palestinian territories, for whom 2006 has been the worst of times

By Donald Macintyre in Gaza
Published: 05 December 2006

Maybe they are just conveniently forgetting other periods in Gaza's turbulent and blood-stained history, but most Gazans will tell you that 2006 is the worst year they can remember.

In Gaza City's deserted gold souk, people are not even coming to sell their jewellery any more. "We just sit and drink tea," said Yasser Moteer, 35, who runs a jewellery stall. "It's worse than any time in the 20 years I've been here. It's crazy."

The gold-selling started soon after the international and Israeli boycott of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority started to plunge Gaza's economy into collapse last March. But having long ceased to buy here, the poor now have nothing left to sell.

Certainly, the 1.3 million population of this ancient coastal strip of territory, a mere 225 square miles, can never have experienced as intense a swing of hope to despair as they have in little more than 12 months. Ariel Sharon's decision to withdraw Israel's settlers and troops in August 2005, unilateral and circumscribed in both its genesis and its implementation as it was, made many Palestinians here, almost despite themselves, hope for a better future.

It was not just the sudden freedom to travel from north to south without the endless delays at the hated Abu Houli checkpoint, or that children in the southern town of Khan Younis could run west through what were now the ruins of the Jewish settlement of Neve Dekalim and plunge into a Mediterranean they had only ever dreamt about.

It was the sense that for the first time in five dark, stifling and dangerous years, Gaza could breathe, psychologically, and just maybe, economically.

As 2006 nears its close and The Independent launches its Christmas appeal partly focused on Gaza, it is easy to see how cruelly those hopes have been mocked by what has happened this year.

Since Hamas and other Gaza militants seized the Israeli corporal, Gilad Shalit, and killed two of his comrades in late June, shells, drones and machine gun-fire from Israeli forces have killed some 400 Palestinians, civilians, women and children among them, in an operation Israel stated was to free Cpl Shalit and stop the Qassam rockets being fired from Gaza.

For five long months, electricity was cut to eight hours a day, damaging water supplies, after a surgically accurate bombing condemned by Israelis as well as foreign human rights groups as collective punishment in breach of humanitarian law.

Reaching a peak in July, the use of sonic booms, often deliberately timed as children were going to school, created misery and fear. As if that was not enough, a far lower but significant number of civilians, also including children, have been killed or wounded in the sporadic fighting between Fatah and Hamas, the two dominant factions in Palestinian politics, or in clan battles.

For the immediate survivors of the Israeli shells that killed 17 members of the Athamneh family as they tried to flee their home in Beit Hanoun as it was attacked, the bereavement is, if anything, harder to bear now that more than three weeks have elapsed since it happened. In late afternoon sunshine on Sunday, in the now eerily peaceful alley where the carnage was perpetrated, Hayat Athamneh, 56, a strong woman who lost three adult sons, all fathers themselves, sat with their still devastated and injured brother Amjad, 31, and his wife, who lost their own son Mahmoud, 10. "Now I feel it," said Hayat, covering her eyes as they fill with tears. " It wasn't so bad at the beginning. There were a lot of people around. Now there is nobody."

As she reeled off the list of Palestinian and foreign dignitaries who had visited the site, her daughter-in-law Tahani, 35, said: "They all came. But nothing happened." Tahani talks about the three surviving Athamneh members, two of them children, who lost limbs in the attack.

"We have to worry about the ones who lost arms and legs now and will see the others who haven't. We have to look after them and then worry about where we are going to live."

Arriving to join them, her brother-in-law Majdi Athamneh, who lost his 12-year-old son Saad, says that not only do the extended family fear to go back to their shelled house because of the structural damage, but they no longer think they should live together as they did for so many years.

"When so many members of one family were killed, it is better to make sure it doesn't happen again and live apart," he said.

Five miles away in Gaza City, Adeeb Zarhouk, 44, is a man used to hard work and 4am starts to support his wife Majda, 44, and their seven children in the 20 years he was employed in Israel as a freelance metalworker and electrician, and then for five working for an Israeli company in the now flattened Erez industrial zone on the northern edge of Gaza. But this morning he apologises for being asleep when we call.
Full article here...

Monday, December 04, 2006

Wishing the Palestinians out of existence

Bradley Burston, the Haaretz blogger, explains why on the comment section of his blog commenters are prohibited from using the phrase "there are no Palestinians". I've added some emphasis and a couple of notes.

The denial of the existence of the Palestinian people is particularly rife among American far right supporters of Israel and ties in with that other myth: the "empty Palestine croc", a hoax at least partly endorsed by Daniel Pipes. But Bradley doesn't stand for it...

By Bradley Burston

A number of readers have written to suggest that the guidelines for talkback responses listed below - in particular the prohibition on use of the phrase "There are no Palestinians" - are fascistic, capricious, anti-democratic, a blatant curb on free speech.

That is not true. The guidelines are not capricious.

The fact is, that you are free to say almost anywhere else that

there are no Palestinians
, that the whole idea is a fabrication, a myth, that they don't exist because the name is Roman is origin, that they don't exist because Palestine was never a country, that they don't exist because they share language, culture and diet with other Arabs, that they don't exist because it was they themselves who decided, on their own, that they do.

[Note: the second hyperlink links to what must be one of the most offensive articles ever published, on David Horowitz's site, Consider e.g. the end of the article and it's rather impossible to see how even Horriblewitz can allow publication of such a piece on his site.]

You can even say, as one radical religious thinker did, that not only is there no such thing as a Palestinian, there are
no Israelis, either.

You can say this in talkbacks on every other article in this entire newspaper Website. As many ways as you like. As many times as you can stand.

But the prohibition applying to this column is not going anywhere. The reason is this:

I believe that it is a form of racism to tell an entire people, millions upon millions all over the world, that their culture is not a true culture, that their identity is not an identity, that they do not, in fact, exist.

I believe that the reason for denying their existence is to deny the legitimacy of their pain, their aspirations, their longing, the facts of their history, none of which make for a comfortable fit with the history that Zionism originally wrote for itself.

The very idea of the Palestinian Arab represents competition for limited resources of land, the moral high ground, and the self-esteem of long-oppressed peoples.

You can't just wish away the Palestinians. Any more than you can decide, as did one member of the radical religious, that there are no Israelis, either.

How very elegant the solution to the whole of the complexities that Zionism poses: Just decide that there are no Palestinians, and the problem magically disappears. Instant transfer.

The proponents of the idea that there is no such thing as a Palestinian people, and therefore, there are, in fact, no Palestinians, often view their arguments as morally neutral fact, verifiable by a body of morally neutral evidence.

It seems simplicity itself. If only the world would open its eyes to the truth, they say.

Fine. They can say it somewhere else.

The foregoing was written because I believe the reader is owed, at least this once, an explanation for the exercise of the writer's discretion over talkbacks, that is to say, his personal brand of bolshevism.

But it was also written as an introduction to an experiment.

Readers have also complained of the writer's failure to respond to their rhetorical challenges, as expressed in talkbacks. The reader is therefore invited to ask the writer to respond to questions regarding any of the pieces listed below in blue. A response is assured.

One more thing:

MK Yisrael Hasson said this week that he was drafting a bill that would require the writers of talkbacks to identify themselves by their real names. Hasson said that he believed the requirement would cause the respondents to take greater responsibility for their comments, thus raising the level of the responses, and curtailing the "culture of intolerance" that he said typified many of them.

Your response is welcome.

Well Bradley, here's my response. There's no question that the anonymity and private use of talkbacks and comment sections on the Internet seems to encourage people to be on their worst and most offensive behaviour. After all, nobody can put your nose out of joint for grossly offensive conduct, when that conduct takes place in the confines between a person and his/her computer. Requiring commenters to use their real name is unlikely to change this by very much but it would be a start. What say you?