Faruq Faisel

Friday, July 28, 2006

Can good come from evil?

Is it possible that out of the current carnage in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and northern Israel could come a sober recognition on all sides that victory is impossible and that compromise is necessary? It would be nice.

It's clear by now how this outbreak of organized cruelty and destruction is going to end. Israel has already had almost two weeks to pound Hezbollah into smithereens from the air, and it hasn't accomplished even ten per cent of the task. Hundreds of innocent Lebanese civilians have died (together with lots of Lebanese army soldiers who were asleep in their barracks, the very soldiers that Israel allegedly wants to replace Hezbollah's militia in the border areas). But, few of Hezbollah's fighters have been killed, and its rockets continue to rain on northern Israeli cities.

President George W. Bush and his faithful British sidekick, Prime Minister Tony Blair, have staved off demands from practically everywhere else for a ceasefire for two weeks now, and they can probably manage to stall on the issue for at least another week. But, Israel's only option in that remaining week is to commit its soldiers to a full ground invasion of southern Lebanon – which would send Israeli casualties soaring.

By dint of restricting itself to air attacks and keeping its own soldiers out of combat (except for brief "pinprick" incursions across the frontier), Israel has maintained the illusion of the traditional ten-to-one kill ratio familiar from earlier Arab-Israeli wars. But almost all the Arab dead are innocent civilians. In terms of combatants, Israel is probably not achieving much better than a two-to-one ratio.

Hezbollah has between 2,000 and 5,000 well-trained fighters dug into the bunkers of southern Lebanon, and they cannot be eliminated by air strikes. The daily number of rockets landing on northern Israeli towns and cities has scarcely diminished since the start of the fighting. If Israel commits its ground troops to dig those fighters out of their fortifications, its fatal casualties could easily soar into the high hundreds.

Nor is it certain that Israel's American and British backers can hold off a ceasefire long enough to let it accomplish that goal even if it is willing to take the casualties that a ground invasion implies. And it wouldn't make much long-term difference even if Israel did win the ground battle, for the only way to make southern Lebanon Hezbollah-free is to depopulate the region permanently. Almost every Shia family in the south contains Hezbollah members or sympathizers, which is hardly surprising after eighteen years of harsh Israeli military occupation (1982-2000).

So, one way or another, Israel will fail to achieve its war aims – but this could be a good thing, for it will bring the fall of prime minister Ehud Olmert's government and his project, inherited from the stricken Ariel Sharon, to impose a "final peace settlement" on the Palestinians that incorporates East Jerusalem and large chunks of the West Bank into Israel. In reality, that "settlement" would deliver neither finality nor peace, and the fact that this whole project may well be discredited in the eyes of the Israeli electorate along with Olmert's government is cause for at least modest rejoicing.

Hezbollah isn't going to win either, but it can succeed without winning. Its leader, Sheikh Nasrallah, may not have foreseen the scale and ferocity of Israeli strikes against Lebanon when he ordered the attack that killed three Israeli soldiers and made two others prisoners – he may just have been seeking hostages for a prisoner exchange – but Hezbollah only has to survive in order to triumph. Since Israel cannot destroy it, it is almost certain to triumph. That won't help the cause of peace, but it may not doom it either.

Within a week or so, when Washington and London realize that the Israelis cannot achieve their purposes, they will allow a ceasefire in order to save Olmert's face, and it probably will not leave any Israeli troops inside the Lebanese frontier. Olmert's government will probably fall within months anyway, and the whole project of unilaterally imposing unjust borders on the Palestinians that has dominated Israeli politics for the past five years may vanish with it. Which will leave, quite unexpectedly, a clean slate for the next Israeli government to write on.

Israel will carry out prisoner exchanges both with Hezbollah and with the Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip: the German intelligence service that always brokers these exchanges has already been contacted by Olmert's government. A wise and bold new Israeli leader, if such a paragon exists, will have a few months to try to change the dynamic and get back to the negotiated two-state solution that is the only hope for lasting peace in the region.

Is this really likely to happen? Israeli politics offers few candidates for the role of mould-breaker who is willing to talk to Hamas and abandon Israel's territorial ambitions, and the window of opportunity will not stay open long. By this time next year, a calamitous civil war in Iraq is likely to distract everybody's attention away from the tedious, old Palestinian-Israeli confrontation, which would then be allowed to subside back into its sulky, vicious normality. But, Olmert's stupidity has at least created this unexpected opportunity. Wouldn't it be nice if they actually used it?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

My cool friend: Ruba and her first book
Dilruba Z. Ara, I call her Ruba. Born in Bangladesh and lives in Sweden. Her first book "A List of Offences" has just been published by the University Press, Dhaka.

Here is one the reviews that she got. It was published in Life Today/ The News Today Magazine, July 2006 :

"Writers from Asian countries often dominate the top ten lists all over the western world, works such as White Teeth, Suitable Boy and Brick Lane, to name a few. There is currently a great interest in books and films which deal with the difficulties of those who attempt to move across boundaries, physical as well as cultural.

Dilruba Z. Ara’s A List of Offences is no exception. A critic recently likened Ara’s book to The God of Small Things, and he is correct in terms of the interest the book has generated long before reaching the bookstalls of Dhaka. The novel has been sold to Spain, Latin America and Greece and agents are working to promote it in 71 countries, but the similarities end here.

Most of the books mentioned above relate to the cultural clash where East meets West. Although the main character of A List of Offences never leaves her country, the clash of rural Bengal with city Bengal — or East with West is unmistakeable. The protagonist, a young girl from a river village meets and falls in love with an Anglophile lawyer from the big city, and migrates to the city where she goes through a process of disillusionment — similar to the one many immigrants go through when they find themselves in foreign countries.

A List of Offences is a saga about three generations of women. As a young woman, Daria frees herself from the expectations and demands of her past and looks to forge her own future. The story brings up issues of religion, ethnic origin, familial and dynastic relations, love’s rise, demise and perturbations. Ara does this through a rich tapestry of narratives and an almost Dickensian, cast of characters. The rhythmic flow of language is borne of Bengali poetry, the Great Classics and a thorough grounding in Eastern and Western literature and art. The literary style is taut and economical when necessary, yet deeply expressive and graceful. Through the story the river winds slowly, bringing the readers towards the culmination and end. The river gives and the river takes, shaping the soul of Daria through its movement.

The book will appeal to men and women alike. Every reader who has loved the lyrical prose of Roy and Okri, who has been carried away by the rich texture of Marquez and story telling of Sholokhov will love Dilruba Ara’s writing. A List of Offences is a world-class book, by turn, evocative, chilling, informative, humorous, inspiring and brave. The story also has a political dimension relating to women in Bangladesh. While Ara’s father Shahed Ali, an eminent author and literary host, wrote of the poor in Bengal, Ara writes about women. Hers is a subtle message of liberation, which will ring true even in those parts of the world that have already achieved the right of expression. The main protagonist evolves from a shy young woman — dominated by her husband and his family — into a strong woman, who is prepared to make painful and difficult changes defying social norms and expectations.

In addition to its political aspect, this book will, for many years, be remembered for its brilliant portrayal of the everyday life in rural Bangladesh; the traditions, the festivities, the food, the flooding, the lush beauty of a riverside village. The story develops during the time when Bangladesh belonged to Pakistan up until the liberation war that broke out in the beginning of seventies. Bangladesh has produced a great writer and a magical masterpiece of a book, which will come to be considered as one of the few classical novels born from the Indian subcontinent.

Dilruba Z. Ara has currently been recognised for the translation of her father’s short stories into English - Selected Short Stories of Shahed Ali — a collection which was released same day as her novel A List Of Offences was released. At present, she is preparing a volume of her own short stories, several of which have already been published. Detached Belonging, her very first story in English, published last year, has already been chosen as a part of English Literature Course in Cultural University- College/ Stockholm - Sweden and in Creative Writing Course at Kennesaw State University /USA.

Dilruba Z. Ara contributes monthly with her stories to Vista, a magazine published in Lahore, Pakistan. Among her other achievements as a writer, she has been honoured as the Chief Guest in the Literary Salon- International Post-Colonial Conference, held in Stockholm between 27-30 April, 06 to read from A List of Offences.

Dilruba Z. Ara is also a poet and a painter."

by Dr. Anna Herbert, (Phd in Psychoanalysis, Oxbridge, Brunnel. UK)
Currently working as a lecturer, University of Lund, department of Education and Pedagogy.
Sylvia Peck, Authoress, USA.

A List of Offences,
Published, April 06
335 PP.
The University Press, Dhaka.Email: upl@bangla.net
ISBN: 984 05 1763 5
Price: 550 taka
For info log on to http://www.uplbooks.com/

Published in Life Today/ The News Today Magazine July 2006

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Hasina's ire at the media and parameters of responsible journalism
By Shahid Alam
Tue, 25 Jul 2006, 09:00:00
Daily New Nation

A curious report in a national English-language daily has given causeto ponder upon the issue of intolerant mindset, in this case among the politicians, and overstepping an admittedly imprecise boundary of ethical and unprovocative journalism.

Of particular interest is the fact that the newspaper reported in its 19 July issue that its sister publication, a national Bangla daily, was not allowed to cover a meeting of Awami League (AL) President and the Leader of the Opposition in the Jatiyo Sangsad, Sheikh Hasina, with a sectionof her party's grassroots level leaders. Significantly, according to the AL security detail turning back the reporter, the AL president herself had instructed them on their action. The party explained that its chief was not pleased with some of the daily's reporting on her programmes.

Prothom Alo happens to be the latest in a fairly lengthy list of national dailies and TV channels, including Jai Jai Din, Dinkal,Sangram, NTV, RTV, Channel 1, Bangla Vision and Boishakhi, who have drawn the ire of the irascible AL chief at various times and, as a naturally corollary, been banned from her presence at her party meetings.

The remarkable aspect of this list is that, while almost all the names on it are either avowedly, or thought to be, pro-government, Prothom Alo is considered by a wide range of, if not all, readers to be decidedly unfriendly towards the incumbent government and inclined to be sympathetic to the opposition, not the least to AL.

The conclusion is not difficult to arrive at: for starters, Hasina is intolerant of all criticism directed at her and her party, even if it comes only occasionally from an otherwise sympathetic media.

ButHasina's fascistic mindset, acid and vulgar tongue irrespective of the setting and the occasion, and palpably dangerous suggestions, threats and pronouncements, which could easily boomerang on her and her party, are common knowledge, having been manifested on innumerable occasions both in and out of state power, and it comes as no surprise that she directed that the Prothom Alo reporter be barred from her meeting.

However, while Hasina may be the most celebrated case of exhibiting displeasure against the media, politicians of various ilk and from different strata of their party have, especially over the last ten years of parliamentary democracy, expressed their vexation against the media, some of which have culminated in violent attacks against journalists that have resulted in their injury and even death. And a few ministers in the incumbent BNP-led government have also banned the media, or a section of it, from their official press conferences and even their departments.

Others complain vigorously against misreporting by the media and rail against yellow journalism creating unnecessary problems for the country, government, and individuals.The fact is that, by its very nature, yellow journalism is designed to distort the truth and, consequently, malign an individual, group or institution with a predisposed agenda. And, does yellow journalism exist in this country? Most assuredly it does, though not to the extent that is generally believed in different circles of the reading public. The problem is that a symbiotic relationship has developed between a section of the media which feeds the public what they want to believe and get titillated by, irrespective of the veracity of the contents, and a public, not excluding the so-called civil society and members of the academia, who are inclined to read and believe what they are predisposed to believe. It is not unlike the earlier and more prevalent phenomenon of the commercial moviemakers feeding the viewing public the most disgusting and distasteful cinematic concoctions and a sizable section of the public lapping them up with undisguised glee.

The problem is that in a society in transition for some time now and not looking like gelling for some time yet, cultural cross-currents will create tensions among groups and, as an inevitable, though unfortunate, byproduct, push forward mediocre and crass culture and practice that the section of the society long used to a more sophisticated tradition will find particularly repugnant.

Yellow journalism is a product of that transitional society and is a function of different variables, one of which is the prevalence of the businessperson-owner of the print media, replacing the journalist-owner, or businessperson-owner with existing close links with the media who once brought high standards and credibility to the fourth estate. And now that high standard is being lowered and credibility steadily eroded by uneven journalistic quality in a proliferation of the print media and a band of "journalists" who have managed to creep in and vitiate the media with what is commonly known as "yellow" effort. Fortunately, the bulk of the community is still upright and true to the profession; unfortunately, however, the numberof the yellow variety is unobtrusively, but unmistakably, growing.

They are the proverbial bad apples that contaminate the entire barreland give the profession a bad name. And, besides a small number of "journalists" engaging in murky practices like blackmail, the editors often find themselves bound by the dictates and personal agenda of the businessperson-owners. This is a distressful situation that the media professionals will have to sort out.

Otherwise, the print and visual media will continue to find themselves at the wrong end of the perception of political parties and individuals who, rightly or wrongly, will feel that they are being deliberately maligned.

In the absence of effective measures to curb yellow journalism, individuals and groups would be inclined to take recourse to measures like banning the media from their presence or, even more worryingly, causing bodily harm to its members. Obviously, laws that work to clampdown on irresponsible journalism and, more importantly, are enforceable, are necessary from the appropriate government institutions, but at least as effective would be the process of self-cleansing by the media itself.

Having dwelt at some length on the media's culpability in failing, in selective instances, to provide ethical and responsible journalistic efforts, it is equally true that the effects of the same transitional society have bred intolerance, including of the political variety. It would take an extensive and exhaustive study to determine the probable impact of the changing society on the tolerance level of the individual, but one cannot deny the existence of political intolerance in the society. It is a prime cause of the unsatisfactory political culture obtaining in Bangladesh. Hasina has taken intolerance to an intolerable extreme because of a fascistic streak in her character and a mindset that is progressively becoming more erratic with advancing years, and AL as a party is billed by many in the know to be more bigoted and dogmatic than BNP, but the ruling coalition functionaries at various levels also manifest unnecessary animosity towards the media for the reason of being the butt of its criticism.It does not help in the growth of a healthy political culture. A little forbearance on the politicians' side and self-cleansing by the media would go a long way towards the development of a healthy media-political leadership relationship in this country. That would only help towards further institutionalizing the fundamental norms of liberal pluralist democracy in Bangladesh.

Join Global Exchange and hundreds of other groups across the United States in a National Call-In Day for Immediate Cease-Fire Between Israel and Lebanon

TAKE ACTION: Contact your Representative and ask them to sign on as a cosponsor to H.Con.Res.450, calling for an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East. If your Representative has already co-sponsored this resolution, please call to thank him/her. For contact information CLICK HERE

BACKGROUND: Despite mounting civilian casualties on all sides, the United States continues to provide Israel with a green light to destroy Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. Last week, both the Senate and the House passed resolutions expressing uncritical support for Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice callously described the killing of Lebanese civilians and the destruction of civilian infrastructure as the "birth pangs of a new Middle East".

The New York Times reported that the United States is rushing delivery of more satellite- and laser-guided bombs to Israel to sustain its attacks in violation of the US Arms Export Control and Foreign Assistance Acts. Americans need to tell the elected representatives that the United States should be working for an immediate cease-fire, not providing Israel with the diplomatic and military support that it needs to wage its attacks.

Today, Tuesday, July 25, several national organizations-including the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Jewish Voice for Peace, the Council for the National Interest, Partners for Peace, Progressive Democrats of America, United for Peace and Justice, Peace Action, and the American Friends Service Committee-are organizing a national call-in day to Congress to support H.Con.Res.450, introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), which calls upon the United States to pursue an "immediate cessation of violence" and "multi-party negotiations with no preconditions".

TAKE ACTION: Contact your Representative and ask them to sign on as a cosponsor to H.Con.Res.450, calling for an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East. If your Representative has already co-sponsored this resolution, please call to thank him/her. For contact information CLICK HERE

Text of H.Con.Res.450 Calling upon the President to appeal to all sides in the current crisis in the Middle East for an immediate cessation of violence and to commit United States diplomats to multi-party... (Introduced in House)HCON 450 IH 109th CONGRESS2d Session

H. CON. RES. 450Calling upon the President to appeal to all sides in the current crisis in the Middle East for an immediate cessation of violence and to commit United States diplomats to multi-party negotiations with no preconditions.


July 19, 2006Mr. KUCINICH (for himself, Mr. RANGEL, Mr. ABERCROMBIE, Ms. SLAUGHTER, Ms. KAPTUR, Mr. CONYERS, Mr. CLEAVER, Ms. LEE, Ms. WOOLSEY, Mr. GRIJALVA, Mr. FILNER, Mr. STARK, Mr. MCDERMOTT, Mr. HINCHEY, Mr. HONDA, Mr. DAVIS of Illinois, Ms. WATERS, Mr. MORAN of Virginia, Mr. RUSH, Ms. BALDWIN, Ms. KILPATRICK of Michigan, Ms. MCCOLLUM of Minnesota, Ms. SOLIS, and Mr. MEEKS of New York) submitted the following concurrent resolution; which was referred to the Committee on International Relations

CONCURRENT RESOLUTION Calling upon the President to appeal to all sides in the current crisis in the Middle East for an immediate cessation of violence and to commit United States diplomats to multi-party negotiations with no preconditions. Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That Congress--(1) calls upon the President to--(A) appeal to all sides in the current crisis in the Middle East for an immediate cessation of violence;(B) commit United States diplomats to multi-party negotiations with no preconditions; and(C) send a high-level diplomatic mission to the region to facilitate such multi-party negotiations;(2) urges such multi-party negotiations to begin as soon as possible, including delegations from the governments of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, Iran, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt; and(3) supports an international peacekeeping mission to southern Lebanon to prevent cross-border skirmishes during such multi-party negotiations.

TAKE ACTION: Contact your Representative and ask them to sign on as a cosponsor to H.Con.Res.450, calling for an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East. If your Representative has already co-sponsored this resolution, please call to thank him/her. For contact information CLICK HERE

FOR MORE INFORMATION visit the the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Greeting and glad tidings ~

Today, July 25th 2006, Dr. Masaru Emoto planned
to celebrate his fourth annual 'Thanks to Love and
Water Day' at the Sea of Galilee, in Israel. Due to
rising conflict, this physical gathering has been

As Gratitude is a bridge to peace, establishing coherence between the heart and mind, we have a tremendous opportunity to gather in Light of the current conflict, creating peace by being peace through the power of Gratitude.

Imagine the synchroniticites here:

Today is also the Day out of time, a new moon is rising, AND we are celebrating our 42nd Day of the World Gratitude gathering. A powerful day, indeed!

Let's gather our collective power and celebrate together, aligning hearts and minds worldwide to peacefully bless the waters of the world, those within and without, with our Love and Gratitude.

Here is a simple, yet effective formula for entering peace thru Gratitude: Set aside a moment to fully immerse yourself in Gratitude. Begin by focusing on a memory, one that elicits the feeling of Gratitude within. Move this memory into your heart, allowing your mind to rest by simply focusing your breath. As thoughts arise, release and return to a centered State of Gratitude.
Remain here for a moment, or longer, as inspired feeling the coherence of our collective consciosness swimming in Gratitude.

In honor of our 42nd Day of the World Gratitude Gathering, you are invited to join us for a Sunset meditation, as well. We will be facing the light, with our Love and Gratitude, breathing in thanks and releasing appreciation for all that IS, and all that has been, and all that may BE.

To find info on local Sunset times, go here: http://www.sunrisesunset.com/. Just imagine - we will be creating a physical wave of Gratitude, aligned with the natural cycle of light, beyond time in order to peacefully BE, as One, in Love and Gratitude! Remember, each and every person makes a world of difference! That person is YOU!

In Love and Gratitude, Stacey Robyn and the ground crew of Go Gratitude

P.S. Please join Myself and James Twyman, author of The Art of Spiritual Peacemaking, for a free live, One hour conference call on Gratitude as a means of achieving peace. Here are the details: Tuesday, August 8th - 5pm, PST Number: (605) 990-0001 Code: 1052060 We have 100 lines set aside for the event, AND we'll be recording it for your listening pleasure. Enjoy!

P.P.S. Here is a link to a process called 'A bridge to Peace', shared earlier in the year with our family of Gratitude ... it's message is timely, empowering, and worthy of re-view. Please feel free to use as inspired, as a tool for creating peace by being peace.
305 SE Chkalov Dr. Ste. 103-111Vancouver, Washington 98683

No More Innocent Victims
Peace activists in the United States of America enter their fourth week of a fast to bring the troops home from Iraq, in which almost 5,000 people have already participated. Visit TROOPS HOME FAST.

July 25, 2006
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki just arrived in Washington DC for his first visit to the United States, where he is meeting with George Bush and members of Congress. But don't you think he should also meet with representatives of the peace movement—since their views now represent the majority of Americans? Don't you think he should meet with those who have been fasting for 22 days now to bring the troops home? On Monday, CODEPINK Women for Peace tried to get a meeting by delivering a letter to the Iraqi Embassy in Washington DC and then setting up camp (called Camp al-Maliki) in front of the Embassy.

They spent the entire day peacefully urging the Iraqi staff to help them to get a letter to the Prime Minister. After initially refusing to even accept the letter, they warmed up to the activist and the Ambassador himself came out to meet the peace activists. He seemed genuinely concerned that the activists had not eaten in 21 days, and promised to convey the message to the Prime Minister.

CODEPINK also took out an ad in one of the largest Iraqi newspapers, Assabah Al-Jadid, expressing their support for a reconciliation plan that includes a withdrawal of US troops, and asking for the Prime Minister to talk to CODEPINK about this plan.

This is not only a great way to pressure for a meeting, but it is also a way to reach out to the Iraqi people to let them know that the American women and people in general stand with them in their call to end the occupation of their country.

A poll earlier this year showed that 87% of Iraqis support a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops; another poll showed that only 1% of Iraqis trusted U.S. troops to protect their security.

Now CODEPINK needs YOUR help to get a meeting with the Prime Minister.

Please take a moment to contact the Iraqi Embassy and say: "Please encourage your Prime Minister to show compassion and meet with the fasters, including Cindy Sheehan, who have not eaten for 22 days."

Call: (202) 483-7500, press 1 for English, then extension 102 for the Ambassador’s office.
Fax: (202) 462-0564
Email: feedback@iraqiembassy.org

Please be polite.Thank you for helping CODEPINK to make sure that Prime Minister Al-Maliki, the people of Iraq don't just hear the voice of George Bush. Let's make sure they hear the voices of the majority in the States, who want to see an end to the bloodshed and the beginning of a true effort to rebuild Iraq and our neglected communities at home.

With peace in our hearts,CODEPINK Women for Peace

Israeli bomb kills UN observers
Please do not shoot the messenger. I am just passing the message from a "friend.” According to this friend, Hezbollah must apologize to the world for the deaths of the four UN Peacekeepers, because Hezbollah is responsible for their deaths.

It is all Hezbollah’s fault. She says, “What about Iran’s threat to destroy the state of Israel and the fact that Hezbollah is supported by Iran?” Therefore, it is Hezbollah’s fault that four UN Peacekeepers are dead.

She says, “ do you realize that “Hezbollah is sending untargeted rockets across the border whereas Israel is targeting specific military sites and Hezbollah targets”, (for example the UN Observation posts and the civilian homes).

In addition, she ads, “of course innocent civilians are killed, that is war! (It is very easy for one to say something like this unless her son, her daughter, her father, her husband is killed. I know how it feels- my father was killed in a war.) But in the long run, Israel has no choice but to fight (and kill innocent children and people, in Palestine, in Lebanon and in Israel itself.). It is fighting for its SURVIVAL (and inviting the fanatic fundamentalists to terrorize the civilians in Israel.)

In addition, she criticized about me that “It is you who talk about seeing things upside down, like a turtle. Well, why not try to see it from the Israeli side, Israelis who throughout history have had to fight for their very existence, and finally got a homeland of their own in 1948. The Palestinians never had a real homeland. Why should they? They were just Bedouin tribesmen like the rest of the Arabs...they wandered all over the place.... “ (Do I smell racism here?)

According to her Fatwa, “there are times when violence is necessary. Israel was attacked. Hezbolla fired the first rockets inside Israel...Israel has a right to defend itself...Israel is using guided missiles. Yes, civilians are being killed on both sides...
However, they started this, not Israel...”, therefore Israel has procured the right to kill civilians and destroy a country and kill UN peacekeeper in whichever way they wish too

I do not need to get into an argument with this person. For me, war is a war and killing innocent children, women and old people is cold-blooded murders. I am tiered of reading and watching the reports of this kind of violence. I am not interested to know who did it first and who did it second, I am not interested to know who is promoting the rights of Muslims and who is protecting Jews. I only want that this insane killing is stopped, children of Lebanon are not terrorized and the children of Israel are out of the bomb shelters and having a normal life. I have a daughter and I know how a nine-year-old young woman wants to spend her time and grow up. Stop the hostility and give the children of Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and rest of the world a chance to have a normal peaceful life. Whether it is for Islam, Judaism or Christianity- I do not care any more, neither the dying children, I believe.

Fight the Religious Right: Become a Defender
This post is for my American friends, specially. As many of you know, President Bush is claiming that his stem cell research veto is about values. Yet these are clearly not the values shared by most Americans. Today we are helping DefCon (Campaign to Defend the Constitution) circulate a petition opposing the radical religious right's agenda. If you are concerned about the religious right's threat to the US democracy, American children's education, and America's future, then now is the time to make your voice count.

President Bush has claimed that his stem cell research veto is about values - but these are far from the real values that most Americans share. Instead, the President has adopted the extreme so-called "values voter" agenda of right-wing ideologues like James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson. While the President's misguided veto was a momentary victory for the religious right.

From the Senate's overwhelming passage of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, to the tens of thousands of emails sent to the President prior to his veto, DefCon members led this fight for health and hope.

DefCon will continue this critical fight. But they need your help. Become a DefCon Defender today. While the religious right was able to hold sway over the President, defeating DefCon's stem cell effort, the truth is their agenda is failing. Instead of focusing on critical issues for America like the war in Iraq, the energy crisis, and serious environmental concerns like global warming, they are throwing out smokescreen "value votes" like flag burning and gay marriage.

And they are losing. They are losing because a majority of Americans do not support their extreme right-wing agenda. Now is the time when Americans can most effectively fight their stranglehold on America.

Over the next few months, DefCon plans an all-out assault - DefCon's REAL American Values Campaign. It plans to wage a full-scale, aggressive campaign to counter and combat the religious right at every level including:

  • continuing fight for stem cell research at the state level;
  • defending sound science education, including fighting intelligent design in states like Kansas;
  • continuing aggressive media campaign to expose the religious right's agenda and their improper influence over our elected officials;
  • continuing to mobilize the tens of millions of Americans opposed to the religious right, and
  • working to draft them into the Army of DefCon defenders; and
  • organizing local counter events to the upcoming right-wing focused Values Voters Summit in Washington D.C this September (more on this soon!).

But you need to join the fight. Help DefCon rescue America from the extremists who are masquerading as patriotic Americans. It's time for people like you - people with real American values - to topple the Religious Right.Join the fight today.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Shame on You, Mr. Harper,

If you want to sign this, you must do it online at the link below:

The deliberate targeting by the Israeli army of civilian dwellings, cars, and food convoys, the destruction of roads and civilian infrastructure, and the consequent death of hundreds of civilians is neither justified self-defence, nor does it constitute a moderate response, Mr. Harper.

"This is unequivocally a war of choice",states Israeli columnist Gideon Levy, "a choice to destroy any political force that resists its occupation of Arab lands. The idea that this is self-defence or a response to aggression is either naïve or cynical distortion. "

IT IS NOT FAIR. On July 18th you claimed that violence is not the solution. Why doesn't this apply to Israeli violence? Are you comparing the capture of two soldiers with the destruction of a whole country? After all, Israel has also captured several Lebanese, not to mention the 9000 Palestinians in Israeli jails, including members of the Palestinian parliament.

Would this be a reason to destroy Israel? Do you realize the depth of your bias, Mr.Harper?

IT IS NOT SELF-DEFENCE. The crisis did not begin with the capture of two Israeli soldiers. It is part of the larger Middle East conflict. It started with the expulsion of two-thirds of the Palestinian population in 1948, and it was exacerbated in the 1967 war when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza. "An underlying reason that years of U.S. diplomacy have failed and violence in the Middle East persists is that some Israeli leaders continue to create facts by building settlements in occupied territory", stated former US President Jimmy Carter (Washington Post, November 26, 2000).

The violence that we witness today is a result of Israel's desire to enforce its occupation. It is not self-defence.

SUPPORTING IT IS NOT CANADIAN. We, Canadians from diverse backgrounds, including Jews and Israeli Canadians, Arab Canadians (Muslims, Christians and Jews), English and French Canadians, and immigrants are outraged at your blind support for a policy of aggression that has resulted in the death of hundreds of civilians and massive destruction. Your government's position is not fostering peace in the region nor Canada's reputation as an honest broker.

WE DEMAND that the Government of Canada stop supporting Israeli violence, whose destructive power is far more lethal than the combined violence used by militant non-state groups. We demand that Canada adopt an objective position, based on international law as well as Canada's historical reputation as a peacemaker ­ fostering a Canadian tradition of independent thought and action regarding international diplomacy ­ as opposed to support for an unjustified war and a brutal occupation.

Friday, July 21, 2006

By Akhilesh Tripathi and Ujir Magar

Excerpts of a recent interview with senior Maoist leader Dr Baburam Bhattarai:

Q. What agreements were reached between you and the leaders of the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML, two largest parties of the Seven Party Alliance (SPA), at the informal meeting at Godavari on July 14?

Dr Baburam Bhattarai: The eight-point agreement signed between the CPN-M and the SPA on June 16 is a milestone for peace and progressive change in Nepal. This agreement was a concrete step forward towards resolving the 10-year-old conflict. The most important understanding reached at Godavari is, as mentioned in the eight-point agreement, to dissolve the reinstated House of Representatives, which represents the old regime, and our people's government, which is the new regime, and form an interim regime. Another important understanding is to keep both the armies (Maoist People's Liberation Army and Nepal Army) under reliable international monitoring until the Constituent Assembly elections. Thus the Godavari meeting helped clear the uncertainties over the dissolution of the House that surfaced after the eight-point agreement. We all agreed that there is no alternative to the eight-point agreement.

Q. Now there is talk about forming an interim parliament by dissolving the HoR. What is this interim parliament? Will the existing parliament be expanded by including representatives from your party to make it the interim parliament? What will be the structure and size of the interim parliament?

Bhattarai: The existing parliament has neither legitimacy nor full representation. The parliamentary parties, just to ensure their role, reinstated it on May 2 by reaching an agreement with the king. Therefore, the dissolution of this parliament is inevitable. There is no question of we joining or sharing this parliament. We have been demanding the dissolution of this parliament from the very beginning and the eight-point deal has made it quite clear. After the dissolution of this parliament, we need an alternative arrangement, which can exercise sovereignty and state authority during the interim period. Therefore, it has been our demand from the beginning to hold a wider political conference of all the three forces of the democratic movement- the Maoist party, SPA and the civil society- to form an Interim Council, which would function as the interim legislature and would represent all the three forces. Some have named this interim legislature as the interim parliament. Only the seven parties are represented in the current parliament. We need an interim legislature, which represents the other two forces, our party and the civil society, as well. The interim constitution to be formed will have provisions for the interim legislature, executive and judiciary. We will need a constitutional court (interim judiciary). Otherwise, the current judiciary may create hurdles in the way forward.

Q. What will be the position of the king in the interim constitution?

Bhattarai: This issue, too, figured in the Godavari meeting. It is our proposal that we should announce a democratic republic in the interim constitution itself because this is the mandate of the April movement. A democratic republic has always been our agenda. Most of the parties in the SPA and a majority of the civil society, too, are in favour of a democratic republic.

Q. It could be the demand or stand of your party. But what decision was reached between you and the SPA regarding the king's position in the interim constitution?

Bhattarai: We will discuss this issue in the meting of the top Maoist and SPA leaders on July 21 (Summit Talks). This will be a major agenda at the summit talks. We will also discuss the modalities of interim security, interim legislature, restructuring of the state and the electoral system. These will be the major agendas of the summit talks.

Q. What will happen to the proclamations the HoR has made so far and the annual budget announced by the SPA government last week?

Bhattarai: We will have to announce a new budget after the formation of the interim government. Therefore he (Finance Minister) made a ridiculous attempt (by presenting the budget). It was totally unnecessary. He made the budget speech without consulting us. We feel that it was just a waste of time and energy.
We will incorporate the positive proclamations of this House and also the positive provisions of the 1990 Constitution into the interim constitution.

Q. You mean the interim government to be formed will announce another budget?

Bhattarai: Definitely. There will be a new structure (interim government) and a new power balance. A new plan will be chalked out for the social, economic transformation. Then there obviously will have to be a new budget.

Q. Going back to the concept of this interim parliament, how will it be represented? Will the existing political separation of the country into 14 zones, 75 districts and 205 electoral constituencies, be followed to choose the representatives of the interim parliament or will there be any other method?

Bhattarai: This is an issue to be settled through consensus among the political forces. In the interim legislature, the seven parties will be one side, we (Maoists) another side and the civil society and other professional organisations the third side. The interim legislature will have the representation of all these three sides. The number (of representatives in the interim parliament) will be decided through consensus among all the forces.

Q. Who will lead the interim government?

Bhattarai: We are yet to discuss this issue. This can be settled through discussions.

Q. Are you ready to join an interim government led by, let's say, the Nepali Congress or the CPN-UML?

Bhattarai: The Interim Constitution will decide on that. We shouldn’t consider the past while looking at it; (Nepali) Congress and UML will be just a part of it. A new power equilibrium has emerged after the recent people's movement. Congress and the UML are old forces. We think they do not represent the new balance of power.

Q. What will happen to your army?
Bhattarai: We have made ourselves clear on this issue earlier. Both armies (PLA and Nepal Army) will be kept at specific locations under international monitoring until the Constituent Assembly elections so that they remain inactive and cannot interfere with the elections. We will reach an understanding to develop a mechanism for this so that the elections are held in a free and fair manner. What I would like to add here is- this issue also figured in the Godavari meeting and we and some other parties expressed concern over it- the democratisation of the royal army which has now been renamed as the Nepal Army is a major question. But this issue is not being widely debated. People are raising questions about the management of only the PLA, which is a pro-democratic army. But nobody cares about the democratisation of the Nepal Army which is still a royal army and which is anti-democratic. This is a major issue and should be properly settled by the interim constitution. If this army is not democratised in the interim period itself, it may create hurdles in the way to constituent assembly elections.

Q. NC leader Ramchandra Poudel, who also was present in the Godavari meeting, has said that the present House of Representatives cannot be dissolved.

Bhattarai: We have already reached an agreement (to dissolve the House). How can he say that now? This will merely be an attempt to block the peace process and invite conflict; it will be suicidal for them (seven parties). Backing away from the agreement would be a violation of the agreement and would mean continuation of the conflict.

Q. At the Godavari meeting, an agreement was reached to help rehabilitate the people who have been displaced and whose land and property have been seized by your party during the 10 years of conflict. When will this agreement be implemented?

Bhattarai: It has been made clear in the 12-point understanding, eight-point understanding and the 25-point (ceasefire) code of conduct. Its implementation has also begun. Some difficulties have, however, been observed in the implementation process at some places. To address this, an agreement has been reached to form a mechanism at the central level with representatives from all parties. The problems seen in the implementation will be settled by this mechanism as per the 12-point understanding.

Q. We have a situation here where the current SPA government has accepted ceremonial monarchy; it has even allocated a certain budget for the royal palace. On the other hand, your dialogue with the government, too, is going side by side. Is it an indication that your party, too, has accepted a ceremonial monarchy?

Bhattarai: There is no question of us accepting any form of monarchy. No one should be confused. A democratic republic has been our continuous demand since the royal palace massacre in 2001.

Q. What will be the king's situation when you join the interim government?

Bhattarai: Our proposal is, let's declare Nepal a democratic republic through the interim constitution itself. But it is still under discussion. Let's see how it goes. It won't be appropriate to say more than this right now.

Q. Your party and the SPA were together in the April Movement. The recent political change was possible through your joint efforts. But in the aftermath of the movement, there still seems to be some lack of trust between your party and the SPA. Many times you have acted like rebels and the SPA as the state. What could be the reasons?

Bhattarai: The main reason is the seven parties sometimes forget that the main fight is against the monarchy. We realised that we cannot defeat the monarchy by fighting against it separately. Therefore we launched a joint movement. The 12-point understanding was an expression of this realisation. The movement became successful because of the 12-point understanding. And the movement's mandate is to abolish monarchy and establish a democratic republic. But they (SPA) sometimes forget that the monarchy is our common enemy and start considering us as their enemy. Their lies the problem. At the Godavari meeting, we raised this issue and asked them, "Who do you consider your main enemy- we or the king?" Then they accepted that the king is the common enemy.

Q. Isn't your armed force also a reason for their worry and the lack of trust between you?

Bhattarai: Our arms are not against them (SPA) and democracy. They are against the monarchy and the royal army. They don't need to fear our arms. We told them (SPA leaders, at Godavari) that they don't fear the weapons of the king, who has cheated them time and again, but always raise the issue of our arms. Then they realised and agreed for the democratisation of the royal army. This has pushed us closer to the meeting point.

Q. Some parliamentarians are saying that the dissolution of parliament will create a vacuum which could encourage the regressive elements.

Bhattarai: This has no logic. What did this parliament do? Could it stop the King's autocracy? Could it stop his February 1 move? Everybody should be clear that this parliament was reinstated by the popular movement based on the 12-point understanding. This parliament was revived through people power. Thus it is clear that this parliament is nothing in itself; the king can do anything with it whenever he likes. Therefore it's not important whether this parliament remains or not; the most important thing is unity of the people, the unity among the allies of the democratic movement. If the unity among the democratic forces is strong, we can form a body that can exercise sovereignty and state authority.

Q. Ambassadors of some powerful countries have said that if the Maoists join an interim government without decommissioning their army, then the interim government formed in this way will not get international acknowledgement and support. What do you say?

Bhattarai: This is not based on facts. World history of conflict resolution shows that nowhere in the world- from South Africa to, Guatemala of Latin America to East Timor to Ireland- have the rebels given up arms before the final step of the conflict resolution process. People like Moriarty who are saying so have forgotten world history. We shouldn't be disillusioned by such statements.

Q. You don't want permanent management of your arms before the constituent assembly elections. This means you are keeping the option to go back to war open until the elections?

Bhattarai: What about the arms of the royal army that have been time and again used against democracy since 1960? It's clear that the royal army's weapons are not under the government's control. Recently the generals went to the palace to greet the king and fired cannons to celebrate his birthday against the government's directive. This clearly shows the royal army, whose name has been changed, is not under government control. Therefore, the real danger is from the royal army.

Q. You participated in the past peace talks also. How much hopeful are you of the success of the peace process this time?

Bhattarai: The situation is different now. This time we and the SPA jointly launched the movement based on the 12-point understanding. In this way, we are friendly forces of the movement. The monarchy is much weaker now as compared to the past. If the unity among the seven parties, our party and the civil society is strengthened, we can defeat the monarchy and ensure the establishment of a democratic republic and peace in the country. Therefore, we are much hopeful of the success of the peace process this time. But we are not completely assured. The SPA leadership will have to play a progressive role for the success of the peace process.
From our side, we will do all we can to make the peace process successful. Because we really want the restructuring of the state and all problems related to caste, region and gender resolved. We want peace. We are committed and will try to establish peace in the country until the end. But if some international powers intervene and do not let this happen, people will rise up again. But, as our chairman has also said, we won't return to the jungle. We will lead the rebellion from here in Kathmandu.

Q. You won't return to war?

Bhattarai: Surely not. The entire Nepali people want peace and progressive change in the country. Then how can we want war? The people should rise up against and defeat those who want war. We will help the people in that rebellion.

Q. Your party quite often talks about the restructuring of the state. How do you plan to restructure the state? How different will it be from the existing political separation of the country into five development regions, 14 zones and 75 districts?

Bhattarai: These development regions, zones and districts are just the revenue collection units of the old regime. These administrative units which they have made to maintain the so-called law and order are very much centralized and represent a unitary state. This did not solve the problems of the people. We should change this unitary state system into a federal state system based on regional autonomy. This can be done based on the nine different autonomous regions which we have formed- Seti, Mahakali, Karnali, Magarat, Tamuwan, Newa, Tamang, Kirant and Madhes autonomous regions. This is the restructuring of the state we have been talking about.

Q. Does the SPA agree with this concept of yours?

Bhattarai: We are discussing this with the SPA. Some parties of the SPA have agreed while some are not clear about it. This too will be a major agenda at the Summit talks. It is our firm stand that the restructuring of the state should be done based on the federal governance system.

Q. Some say that you will return to the jungle again if the constituent assembly elections are not as per your expectations?

Bhattarai: No way. We will not return to the jungle. In the first place, we don't think that the Nepali people will not support our forward-looking agenda in the constituent assembly elections. We are, in fact, convinced that the people will vote for peace, complete democracy and progressive change, if free and fair constituent assembly elections are held. However, it is our public commitment that we will accept the elections result even if it is not as per our expectation. Then we will continue peaceful struggle until we can achieve the progressive change we want.

Q. Will the interim constitution have a ceremonial or any other form of monarchy?

Bhattarai: It won't be acceptable to us. We have already said that we should declare Nepal a democratic republic in the preamble of the interim constitution. This is our proposal and is still under discussion.

Q. But isn't it that the major parties of the SPA want to keep a ceremonial or some other form of monarchy?

Bhattarai: Their relevance will end if they do not realize the need of history. In Nepal, monarchy is a regressive force, parliamentary parties or the SPA are status quo-ist forces, and we are a progressive force. Right now, the progressive and status quo-ist forces should unite to defeat the regressive force.

Q. But some people are saying that it will be more democratic to let the people decide the fate of monarchy in the constituent assembly elections. What's your take on this?

Bhattarai: The constituent assembly will decide on the restructuring of the state by resolving the social, economic and cultural problems. Therefore, the fate of monarchy should be decided before the constituent assembly elections. Our alternative proposal is, let's decide the fate of the monarchy during the constituent assembly elections. Let's give the people a choice between monarchy or a democratic republic through a separate referendum while holding the constituent assembly elections. The referendum will decide the fate of monarchy and the constituent assembly elections the restructuring of the state. We will discuss this proposal also.

Give Peace a Chance:
Israel Warns 300,000 Lebanese To Flee Homes as Ground Invasion Nears
Friday, July 21st, 2006

Israel is warning hundreds of thousands of residents to flee from southern Lebanon as it edges toward a full ground invasion. The number of Lebanese killed from the assaults now tops 330 - nearly all of them civilians. About half a million people have been displaced. Thirty-four Israelis have been killed, including 15 civilians.

We speak with Rami Khouri, editor of the Lebanese newspaper, the Daily Star. [includes rush transcript]

Israel is warning hundreds of thousands of residents to flee from southern Lebanon as it edges toward a full ground invasion. Thousands of Israeli troops are reportedly already operating inside the Lebanese border. Israeli planes dropped leaflets and broadcast warnings telling people they would be in danger if they remained in the region.

Meanwhile, Israel's bombardment of Lebanon is continuing for a tenth day. Warplanes targeted more that 40 sites on Friday, mainly in southern Lebanon. The number of Lebanese killed now tops 330 - nearly all of them civilians. About half a million people have been displaced - or one in eight residents. Bombed-out roads and bridges are hampering aid efforts. The UN has warned the humanitarian crisis is worsening by the hour. Thirty-four Israelis have been killed, including 15 civilians killed by rockets fired by Hezbollah into Israel.

Rami Khouri, editor-at-large of the Beirut-based Daily Star newspaper and an internationally syndicated political columnist and author. He is Palestinian-Jordanian and a U.S. citizen. - Website: RamiKhouri.com

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined on the phone now by Rami Khouri, editor-at-large of the Beirut-based Daily Star newspaper, an internationally syndicated political columnist and author. He is Palestinian Jordanian and a U.S. citizen. He joins us on the phone from Amman, Jordan. Rami Khouri, welcome to Democracy Now! I understand you’re one of the few people trying to get into Lebanon.

RAMI KHOURI: Well, yes. I mean, figuratively there’s some other people trying to get back in. Everybody there is trying to flee. I mean, certainly all the foreigners -- most of the foreigners, not all of them. But I want to get back because our home is there, and my wife and I were in Europe on a personal visit. We couldn't get back to Beirut Airport, because the Israelis had bombed it, so we came to Amman. And we’re going back to Beirut tonight by car via a circuitous route, which we hope will be safe.

But it’s very important for us to go back to stand, first of all, in solidarity with the Lebanese; second of all, in defiance of the Israeli military machine -- I mean, we're going to be safe in our home, we’re not on the frontline -- and third of all, to send a message, I think, to George Bush that this kind of insanity that he is officially sanctioning is one that ordinary people reject and that there is a defiance now of the U.S. and Israel that permeates this entire region. And I think our job as individuals and my job as a journalist is to be there and to cover the story and just to stand our ground.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And the images that we’ve been seeing for the last week of the enormous damage and the killing of innocent civilians, the incredible damage to the infrastructure of Lebanon; your thoughts?

RAMI KHOURI: Well, my thoughts are this is doubly tragic, because it’s the third or fourth time that Israel does this. I mean, it’s just extraordinary that a people as enlightened and with such a difficult history as the Jewish and Israeli people would actually now be the perpetrators of this kind of savagery over and over again, and each time they do it they reap a much worse counter-reaction.

You know, they started this in the late ’60s, when there was a couple Fatah guerrillas in South Lebanon. They bombed Beirut Airport in 1968 for the first time. Then what they got back was a much bigger Lebanese resistance, a leftist nationalist resistance, with the PLO. Then they went into Lebanon in the ’70s, and then in ’80 they occupied South Lebanon, and they reaped in return for that Hezbollah. And they went into Hezbollah in 1996. They tried to wipe them out from the south, and what they have now is a much stronger Hezbollah, supported by Syria and Iran, with missiles that are hitting Haifa and Safed and other Israeli towns.

So I think there’s a kind of an irrationality to Zionism that we’re seeing today, or at least to the Israeli political leadership, that just don't seem to get it, that when you repress somebody and you brutalize them, what you get is not acquiescence and subservience. What you get is defiance and resistance. And I think this is a lesson that most military powers have learned. Certainly the Americans learned it in Vietnam. They’re learning in Iraq. The Russians learned it in Afghanistan. And the Israelis seem unable or unwilling to learn these lessons in Lebanon.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, what Israel says is what they get is they break Hezbollah, and they stop the rockets from flying in. They punish them for taking the soldiers, and they are trying to get them back. Can you talk about the beginning of Hezbollah, and can you talk about Israel's rationale?

RAMI KHOURI: Yeah. I mean, Israel's rationale certainly sounds logical from an Israeli point of view. Anybody -- one of the few things I agree with George Bush on on the world is that, yes, everybody has a right and a duty to defend themselves -- there’s no question about that -- which is precisely what Hezbollah is trying to do. They're trying to get back their prisoners in Israel and the bits of land that are still occupied by Israel.

But the way that the Israelis are trying to defend themselves is actually making themselves more vulnerable. It’s enhancing the political resistance to Israel. It is enhancing the political movements all around the Middle East that are the Islamist movements mostly, like Muslim Brothers, Hezbollah, Hamas. These guys are winning elections all over the place. They’re critical of the U.S. They’re critical of Israel. They’re critical of moderate Arab regimes. They’re close to Iran. What Israel is doing is counterproductive to such an extreme degree that it’s really perplexing how such an enlightened people as the Israelis, who have achieved so much in so many other fields, can be so blind to this issue.

This is a political problem that needs a political solution. There is no military solution to a political problem. And this is a war. Hezbollah and Israel have been doing this for many years. Israel has tried this before, has done it. They’ve occupied. They’ve had free-fire zones, blue lines, red lines, green lines, surrogate armies, no-fly zones, occupation zones. They have tried every trick in the book two or three times. They bombed Beirut Airport now three times in the last 25 years. What more do they have in their arsenal that they haven't used?

And what is fascinating, what they should learn as quickly as possible, is that every time they try to generate security through either punitive military attacks or controlling other peoples' lands in South Lebanon, this only inspires Hezbollah and Hamas now to get missiles and rockets that can have longer range. So all Hezbollah does now is fire these over the Israelis. And you’ve had three groups now in the Arab world in the last 15-20 years who have developed rockets to fire over any kind of zones to hit Israel: Iraq, Hezbollah and Hamas. At some point, you’d think the Israeli leaders or people would wake up and see what is the reality and find an alternative political, diplomatic, peaceful, negotiated and legitimate resolution to this conflict, which I think is the only way out now.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And your sense as a journalist of the impact of the fighting, which is now really on three fronts -- the West Bank, Lebanon and Gaza -- on the other Arab governments in the region, particularly those who have come out critical of Hezbollah and these latest armed actions?

RAMI KHOURI: One of the important dimensions of the phenomenon that we’re witnessing, which is the rise of these Islamist political, social and military groups and resistance groups, like Hamas and Hezbollah, is that they are increasing in their credibility and popularity all over the region, mainly because of what they do, but also because they are a strong antidote to the lack of effectiveness and the declining legitimacy of many of the existing Arab regimes and governments and political elites. So what you’re seeing very clearly all over the region is Arab governments who are criticizing Hezbollah, but Arab societies and political culture, mainstream political culture, and certainly the man and woman on the street, who are increasingly supporting Hezbollah and Hamas.

A lot of people are critical of Hezbollah, to be fair, because they’re saying, well, look, you know, Hezbollah brought about this massive Israeli overreaction and has destroyed Lebanon and is really causing incredible pain to people. So there are criticisms of Hezbollah that are strong and sincere, but the support of Hezbollah, I think, is much, much more significant, and it’s not only about this particular incident in the south.

I think Hezbollah, Hamas and these groups represent an organic natural reaction that has brewed and percolated and now is materializing after 15-20 years, a reaction of societies in the Arab world that has been extremely disappointed by the autocracy and corruption and ineffectiveness of their own Arab regimes, by the brutality and occupation of Israel, and by the rather racist and then now neocolonial and imperial in the military policies -- whatever you want to call them -- of the United States. They’re the reliance on using military force, giving Israel the green light to do whatever it wants; that those three issues -- the Israeli policies, the American policies and Arab governments -- all three have really weighed heavily on Arab societies and normal average decent people, and this is the reaction that we’re seeing.

People are not going to live in a vacuum, and they’re not going to be humiliated and degraded. And they’re going to look for alternatives. And the alternative now that seems to be sweeping this region is the Islamist movements, including the ones doing serious military resistance to Israel. And if you look at Hezbollah, Hezbollah is doing something now which no Arab government in the last 50 years has been able to do, which is to fight a war against Israel, be heavily attacked and keep fighting back, hit Israeli cities with rockets, send one-third of the Israeli populations into shelters for two or three days in a row, and traumatize an entire Israeli population, just as Israel has traumatized Palestinian and Lebanese populations for many, many years. So there is something very significant here politically in terms of what’s going on.

And again, I say this with great sort of sorrow, because it’s not something that we should be proud of or happy about. But it does represent a political shift in the balance of power and the balance of terror, and hopefully it will cause both sides, including when they wake up in the White House, to recognize that only a diplomatic negotiated solution is going to resolve these issues.

AMY GOODMAN: Rami Khouri, we want to thank you very much for being with us, editor-at-large of the Beirut-based Daily Star newspaper, a Palestinian Jordanian, a U.S. citizen now in Amman trying to make his way into Beirut.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

"Stop that shit!"
Palestine is the key to ending the bloodshed in Lebanon
By Uri Avnery07/19/06 "Information Clearing House" -- --

A woman, an immigrant from Russia, throws herself on the ground in total despair in front of her home that has been hit by a missile, crying in broken Hebrew: "My son! My son!" believing him dead. In fact, he was only wounded and sent to the hospital.

Lebanese children, covered with wounds, in Beirut hospitals. The funeral of the victims of a missile in Haifa. The ruins of a whole devastated quarter in Beirut. Inhabitants of the north of Israel fleeing south from the Katyushas. Inhabitants of the south of Lebanon fleeing north from the Israeli air force.

Death, destruction. Unimaginable human suffering.

And the most disgusting sight: George Bush in a playful mood sitting on his chair in St Petersburg, with his loyal servant, Tony Blair, leaning over him, and solving the problem: "See? What they need to do is get Syria to get Hizbullah to stop doing that shit, and it's over."

Thus spoke the leader of the world, and the seven dwarfs - "the great of the world" - say Amen.

Syria? But only a few months ago it was Bush - yes, the same Bush - who induced the Lebanese to drive the Syrians out of their country. Now he wants them to intervene in Lebanon and impose order?

Thirty-one years ago, when the Lebanese civil war was at its height, the Syrians sent their army into Lebanon (invited, of all people, by the Christians). At the time, the then Israeli minister of defence, Shimon Peres, and his associates created hysteria in Israel. They demanded that Israel deliver an ultimatum to the Syrians, to prevent them from reaching the Israeli border. Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister, told me then that that was sheer nonsense, because the best that could happen to Israel was for the Syrian army to spread out along the border. Only thus could calm be assured, the same calm that reigned along our border with Syria.

However, Rabin gave in to the hysteria of the media and stopped the Syrians far from the border. The vacuum thus created was filled by the Palestine Liberation Organization. In 1982, Ariel Sharon pushed the PLO out, and the vacuum was filled by Hizbullah.

All that has happened there since then would not have happened if we had allowed the Syrians to occupy the border from the beginning. The Syrians are cautious, they do not act recklessly.

What was Hassan Nasrallah thinking of, when he decided to cross the border and carry out the guerrilla action that started the current Witches' Sabbath? Why did he do it? And why at this time?

Everybody agrees that Nasrallah is a clever person. He is also prudent. For years he has been assembling a huge stockpile of missiles of all kinds to establish a balance of terror. He knew that the Israeli army was only waiting for an opportunity to destroy them. In spite of that, he carried out a provocation that provided the Israeli government with a perfect pretext to attack Lebanon with the full approval of the world. Why?

Possibly he was asked by Iran and Syria, who had supplied him with the missiles, to do something to divert American pressure from them. And indeed, the sudden crisis has shifted attention away from the Iranian nuclear effort, and it seems that Bush's attitude towards Syria has also changed.

But Nasrallah is far from being a marionette of Iran or Syria. He heads an authentic Lebanese movement, and calculates his own balance sheet of pros and cons. If he had been asked by Iran and/or Syria to do something - for which there is no proof - and he saw that it was contrary to the aims of his movement, he would not have done it.

Perhaps he acted because of domestic Lebanese concerns. The Lebanese political system was becoming more stable and it was becoming more difficult to justify the military wing of Hizbullah. A new armed incident could have helped. (Such considerations are not alien to us either, especially before budget debates.)

But all this does not explain the timing.

After all, Nasrallah could have acted a month before or a month later, a year before or a year later. There must have been a much stronger reason to convince him to enter upon such an adventure at precisely this time.

And indeed there was: Palestine.

Two weeks before, the Israeli army had started a war against the population of the Gaza Strip. There, too, the pretext was provided by a guerrilla action, in which an Israeli soldier was captured. The Israeli government used the opportunity to carry out a plan prepared long before: to break the Palestinians' will to resist and to destroy the newly-elected Palestinian government, dominated by Hamas.

And, of course, to stop the Qassams.

The operation in Gaza is an especially brutal one, and that is how it looks on the world's TV screens. Terrible pictures from Gaza appear daily and hourly in the Arab media. Dead people, wounded people, devastation. Lack of water and medicaments for the wounded and sick. Whole families killed. Children screaming in agony. Mothers weeping. Buildings collapsing.

The Arab regimes, which are all dependent on America, did nothing to help. Since they are also threatened by Islamic opposition movements, they looked at what was happening to Hamas with some Schadenfreude. But tens of millions of Arabs, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Persian Gulf, saw, got excited and angry with their government, crying out for a leader who would bring succor to their besieged, heroic brothers.

Fifty years ago, Gamal Abd-el-Nasser, the new Egyptian leader, wrote that there was a role waiting for a hero. He decided to be that hero himself. For several years, he was the idol of the Arab world, symbol of Arab unity. But Israel used an opportunity that presented itself and broke him in the June 1967 war. After that, the star of Saddam Hussein rose in the firmament. He dared to stand up to mighty America and to launch missiles at Israel, and became the hero of the Arab masses. But he was routed in a humiliating manner by the Americans, spurred on by Israel.

A week ago, Nasrallah faced the same temptation. The Arab world was crying out for a hero, and he said: Here am I! He challenged Israel, and indirectly the United States and the entire West. He started the attack without allies, knowing that neither Iran nor Syria could risk helping him.

Perhaps he got carried away, like Abd-el-Nasser and Saddam before him. Perhaps he misjudged the force of the counter-attack he could expect. Perhaps he really believed that, under the weight of his rockets, the Israeli rear would collapse. (As the Israeli army believed that the Israeli onslaught would break the Palestinian people in Gaza and the Shi'is in Lebanon.)

One thing is clear: Nasrallah would not have started this vicious circle of violence, if the Palestinians had not called for help. Either from cool calculation, or from true moral outrage, or from both - Nasrallah rushed to the rescue of beleaguered Palestine.

The Israeli reaction could have been expected. For years, the army commanders had yearned for an opportunity to eliminate the missile arsenal of Hizbullah and destroy that organization, or at least disarm it and push it far, far from the border. They are trying to do this the only way they know: by causing so much devastation, that the Lebanese population will stand up and compel its government to fulfill Israel's demands.

Will these aims be achieved?

Hizbullah is the authentic representative of the Shi'i community, which makes up 40 per cent of the Lebanese population. Together with the other Muslims, they are the majority in the country. The idea that the weakling Lebanese government - which in any case includes Hizbullah - would be able to liquidate the organization is ludicrous.

The Israeli government demands that the Lebanese army be deployed along the border. This has by now become a mantra. It reveals total ignorance. The Shi'is occupy important positions in the Lebanese army, and there is no chance at all that it would start a fratricidal war against them.

Abroad, another idea is taking shape: that an international force should be deployed on the border. The Israeli government objects to this strenuously. A real international force - unlike the hapless UNIFIL which has been there for decades - would hinder the Israeli army from doing whatever it wants. Moreover, if it were deployed there without the agreement of Hizbullah, a new guerrilla war would start against it. Would such a force, without real motivation, succeed where the mighty Israeli army was routed?

At most, this war, with its hundreds of dead and waves of destruction, will lead to another delicate armistice. The Israeli government will claim victory and argue that it has "changed the rules of the game". Nasrallah (or his successors) will claim that their small organization has stood up to one of the mightiest military machines in the world and written another shining chapter of heroism in the annals of Arab and Muslim history.

No real solution will be achieved, because there is no treatment of the root of the matter: the Palestinian problem.

Many years ago, I was listening on the radio to one of the speeches of Abd-el-Nasser before a huge crowd in Egypt. He was holding forth on the achievements of the Egyptian revolution, when shouts arose from the crowd: "Filastin, ya Gamal!" ("Palestine, oh Gamal!") Whereupon Nasser forgot what he was talking about and started on Palestine, getting more and more carried away.

Since then, not much has changed. When the Palestinian cause is mentioned, it casts its shadow over everything else. That's what has happened now, too.

Whoever longs for a solution must know: there is no solution without settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And there is no solution to the Palestinian problem without negotiations with their elected leadership, the government headed by Hamas.

If one wants to finish, once and for all, with this shit - as Bush so delicately put it - that is the only way.

Uri Avnery is an Israeli journalist, writer and peace activist

Thursday, July 13, 2006

US Woman soldier claims sex harassment in Iraq
Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington

A female soldier in the US military has refused to serve in Iraq, accusing some of her superiors of using the war zone as a pretext for sexual harassment.

In what is believed to be the first case of a female soldier refusing to serve because she feared sexual harassment, Suzanne Swift, 21, a specialist with the 54th military police company, told the Guardian she did not join her unit when it left for a second tour of duty in Iraq because it meant a return to a regime of harassment.

"It was like their goal to get someone to be their girl for their deployment and usually they wanted someone lower ranking so they could have the upper hand or control," Spc Swift said. "It's like some sick power trip."

Spc Swift's decision to go public in her charges against three of her superiors - is rare in the US military where veteran advocates say women risk retribution if they complain of harassment. But she joins a growing number of US troops who, having enlisted, are refusing service in Iraq. Officially, the Pentagon says there are 4,400 troops absent without leave. Soldiers' advocates believe the true number of deserters is far higher.

Spc Swift joined their ranks on June 11 when she was arrested at her mother's home in Oregon five months after the rest of her unit left for Iraq. She was returned to Fort Lewis, Washington, where a spokesman, Joe Hitt, said she could face desertion charges. Her complaints of sexual harrassment are part of the same investigation.

The soldier says the mistreatment began soon after she enlisted at 19, lulled by the assurances of her recruiters that she would never find herself in a war zone. Less than a year later, she was on her way to Kerbala, in southern Iraq, one of three women troops in her company. Soon after her arrival in Kuwait in February 2004, Spc Swift was propositioned.

She said the harassment became unrelenting. But it was not atypical. Since the eve of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, some 508 women serving in the military have complained of sexual assault, says the Miles Foundation, a private advocacy group. "Sexual harassment and sexual assault is an epidemic in the army," said Larry Hildes, Spc Swift's lawyer. "There is an attitude in the military that has been there as long as there have been women in the military that they are not real soldiers unless they suck it up and take whatever is dished out to them."

Spc Swift says she reported the harassment to the unit's equal opportunities officer and no action was taken. She later began a sexual relationship with a superior.

Spc Swift now says that that relationship, which lasted three months, was coerced, and that she was threatened with being sent on dangerous assignments. "They have absolute power of life and death," she said. "If someone has to run across a minefield, and they don't like you, guess where you are going."

She said that when she ended the relationship, she was repeatedly singled out for harsh treatment. The superior humiliated her in front of fellow soldiers, forced her to carry an outsize wall clock - including to the latrine and during physical training - when she reported late for duty, and wrote her up for poor conduct.

Spc Swift did not report the harassment. The two were assigned to different units when they returned to Fort Lewis in February last year. A week later, she asked another superior where to report for duty. She says he replied: "In my bed, naked." She filed a complaint, and was treated, her mother says, like a "traitor".

When the order came down that she faced redeployment, Spc Swift was resigned at first. But last January on the eve of departure, she turned to her mother in the kitchen and said she was going on the run. "I couldn't do it - remembering the way that people treat you when you are over there," she said. "When you are over there, you are lower than dirt, you are expendable as a soldier in general, and as a woman, it's worse."

Monday, July 10, 2006

Himalayan Heartbeat in Canada
Ottawa, Canada- 8 July 2006: Renowned Canadian mountaineer, Andrew Brash, who helped save Australian Lincoln Hall in the Mount Everest, said that the Himalayas present extreme challenges that humble any seasoned mountaineer but a spontaneously presented human tragedy that made him abandon his climb to help save another person has profoundly affected his life afterwards. He was speaking on Friday at a program in the Canadian capital, Ottawa.
Canada Forum for Nepal, a Canadian organization that focuses on scholarly exchanges between Canada and Nepal on contemporary issues of Nepal, organized a multifaceted cultural evening, “Himalayan Heartbeat: Nepal Cultural Evening” on 07 July 2006. More than 180 people were present, including former Foreign Minister Hon Flora MacDonald, former Secretary of State for Asia Pacific Hon David Kilgour and many other prominent Canadians.
As principle guest, Andrew Brash presented a breathtaking landscape of Nepal and spectacular scenery of his personal journey from Katmandu to near the summit of Mount Everest. The video footage and slides of his journey vividly presented how humbling the experience of climbing Mount Everest is. He touched the hearts of the audience with the story of Lincoln Hall’s rescue and the feelings the rescue brought to Andrew. Brash touched on the idea that Nepal should focus on building a just and equitable society.
Nepal Specialist - Richard Harmston, said there are four major players (Seven Party Alliance, the Maoists, the King and the civil society) internally and three major players internationally operating in Nepal. Among the international players, he viewed the role of UN as positive and that of the USA and India as questionable. He was of the opinion that an equitable society can take the country much further in a positive direction than leaving the wealth in “King’s basement.” He added, inclusive and accommodative approach is where Nepal should focus and Canada should help facilitate this process.
In his welcome speech, a founding member of Canada Forum for Nepal, Pramod Dhakal said that Nepalese people have brought historic and unprecedented changes in the political and social landscape of Nepal in recent months but the peace is fragile and volatile. He asked the audience to help build a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Nepal by being part of the Canada Forum for Nepal. He said that like in any country the key to realize permanent progress in Nepal remains in igniting the internally available human energy of the country.
Nepalese youth artists performed beautiful dances that spell bounded the audience and a movie “Ujeli: A Child Bride in Nepal” was screened, which presented a very poignant theme of social justice to the audience. Also there was a spectacular display of Nepalese arts and crafts in the Nepali bazaar.

Canada Forum for Nepal
8 Thornbury Crescent, Ottawa, ON K2G 6C6 Canada
Web: http://www.cffn.ca/ Email: info@cffn.ca

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Sodomy Squadron: Watch out, America!
From AlterNet

Pam Spaulding uncovered the existence of the real movers and shakers behind the radical homosexual agenda: The Sodomy Squadron.

...Washington's America is no longer the America of today. The Judeo-Christian compass that once guided our leaders and citizens has been displaced. A new moral order, one fueled by hedonism and a mutated form of individualism, has taken its place. Translation: Christians have become strangers in their own country.

...If one digs deeper into the cultural psyche of America, he will find that Christianity no longer sets the standard for proper human behavior. The Sodomy Squadron has been flying high, for the Supreme Court has deemed sodomy a fundamental right, the Federal Marriage Amendment was DOA, and Massachusetts strong-armed the Catholic Church into ceasing its adoption program when it demanded that a Catholic agency allow same-sex couples to adopt children under the care of the Roman Catholic Church.

Who could disagree? Christians really have become strangers in America. All they've got anymore is a Christian president with an almost exclusively Christian cabinet whose biggest supporters are conservative Christians to whom he panders relentlessly, including appointing two openly Christian justices to the Supreme Court, an almost entirely Christian Congress, who starts each day's session with a prayer, guaranteed freedom of religion, money that says "In God We Trust," a pledge of allegiance that describes us as "one nation under God," television networks who will accept advertising from conservative religious groups but not liberal political groups, schools who are incorporating a religious belief into science classes, gays being denied marriage in order to protect its "sanctity," women denied access to emergency birth control for no legitimate health reasons but because some religious people have a problem with it, Catholic communities being built in Florida, Museums of Creationism springing up, laws still on the books that respect Christians' holy day (like in Indiana, where you still can't shop for a car or buy booze on a Sunday), and churches not required to pay taxes.

Do the math, people. That adds up to total domination of The Sod Squad!
(Pam's House Blend)

Monday, July 03, 2006

Heather's Web: I came across Heather's website http://www.dooce.com this morning. I found it cool and interesting. Her name is Heather B. Armstrong. She, her husband, a two year old daughter and a dog live in Salt Lake City, Utah in the States.

She is a Stay at Home Mom. In a previous life she was a web designer, who lived in Los Angeles, California, for several years.

She was raised as a Mormon. She never had a cup of coffee until she was 23-years-old. She had sex for the first time age 22.

She started her website in February 2001. A year later she was fired from her job for this website because she had written stories that included people in her workplace.

Her website chronicles her life from a time when she was single and making a lot of money as a web designer in Los Angeles, to when she was dating the man who would become her husband, to when she lost her job and lived life as an unemployed drunk, to when she got married ,got pregnant, the period when she went through the postpartum depression that landed her in a mental hospital.

According to her, in October 2005 she began running enough ads on this website that her husband was able to quit his job and become a Stay at Home Father as well.

However, I haven't seen much ads on her site. No idea what she means by "enough advertisement." However, the site worth a visit.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Pakistan: How many man you need to put a light bulb in? At least one, just to put it into......

Operation to remove light bulb from inmate's anus

Thursday June 29, MULTAN, Pakistan (Reuters) - Fateh Mohammad, a prison inmate in Pakistan, says he woke up last weekend with a glass light bulb in his anus.

On Wednesday night, doctors brought Mohammad's misery to an end after a one-and-a-half hour operation to remove the object.

"Thanks Allah, now I feel comfort. Today, I had my breakfast. I was just drinking water, nothing else," Mohammad, a grey-beared man in his mid-40s, told Reuters from a hospital bed in the southern central city of Multan.

"We had to take it out intact," said Dr. Farrukh Aftab at Nishtar Hospital. "Had it been broken inside, it would be a very very complicated situation."

Mohammad, who is serving a four-year sentence for making liquor, prohibited for Muslims, said he was shocked when he was first told the cause of his discomfort. He swears he didn't know the bulb was there.

"When I woke up I felt a pain in my lower abdomen, but later in hospital, they told me this," Mohammad said.

"I don't know who did this to me. Police or other prisoners."

The doctor treating Mohammad said he'd never encountered anything like it before, and doubted the felon's story that someone had drugged him and inserted the bulb while he was comatose.