Saturday, January 15, 2011

Jew-hatred’s Other Face


by Moshe Dann

Anti-Semites around the world have found a new and more subtle form of attack: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaigns.

The Ramallah-based Palestinian BDS National Committee, an umbrella organization for dozens of Palestinian organizations supported by the Palestinian Authority, is a global movement. Behind anti-Israel actions by churches, unions and student groups, it is aided by the Muslim Brotherhood, with branches in 70 countries, and hundreds of campus and civic/social organizations and anti-Israel NGOs.

Wielding clichés like “apartheid,” “war crimes,” “stealing Palestinian land,” “oppressing Palestinians,” and “end the occupation,” these groups seek to delegitimize and isolate Israel as part of their program to destroy Israel.

No need for swastikas and terrorism; Arab and Muslim countries and organizations have developed a sophisticated propaganda campaign, joined by Christians, atheists, socialists and anarchists dedicated to Israel’s demise. Bedecked with ethics, law and justice, they insist that Israel withdraw to the 1949 Armistice lines, or 1947 UN proposed boundaries, leaving it vulnerable to terrorists. Their weapons are non-violent resistance that appeals to a sense of idealism and fair play, civil and human rights.

Backed by European governments, the UN, and Arab and Muslim organizations and countries, a host of NGOs condemn Israel as a pariah state, unworthy of existence. Their hate-campaign is currently focused on the Conference on Racism, to be held at the UN in New York City this summer.

If this were just a handful of Islamist fanatics, one might dismiss them; but they have lined up diplomatic and organizational support from many non-Muslims. That’s why the campaign to delegitimize Israel is so unique and dangerous.

Anti-Israel campaigns overlap with anti-Jewish sentiments, bringing together diverse groups that are otherwise ideologically, philosophically and theologically incompatible. Hatred of Israel seems to be the single overriding issue that unites fascists and communists, anarchists and fundamentalists, religious leaders and atheists, rich and poor.

Challenging Israel’s identity as a nominally Jewish state – a form of de-legitimization – seems to be an acceptable way of denying Israel’s right to exist. Objecting to the right of Jews to live in areas acquired in 1967, likewise, ignores Israel’s legal and historical claims, the proven consequences of withdrawal, and the dangers posed by creating another Arab Palestinian state.

Claiming the moral high ground

Paradoxically, a “two-state” plan, instead of reducing resistance to Israel, increases it. The prospect of a Palestinian state and sovereignty only raises expectations that it will replace Israeli sovereignty, and bring Israel’s downfall.

By arguing against what they claim are Israel’s “racist policies,” its “illegal occupation of Arab lands,” its “colonialism,” anti-Israel groups claim moral high ground.

Decrying “the occupation as a moral disaster” for Israel, therefore, identifies Jews as “occupiers,” immoral, backed by a state-sponsored immorality, a legal and historical fraud that sharpens the sword of de-legitimization and justifies BDS campaigns.

When the Gaza Strip is considered “a vast prison,” for example, then attacking those who made that prison is justified.

If a Jewish, democratic state is inherently discriminatory and “racist,” those who oppose it can be honored as “freedom fighters.” If Israel “steals Arab lands,” those who struggle to regain what is rightfully theirs are reasonable and justified. If Israeli settlements are “illegal,” that crime should be punished. This ugly representation of Israel is an intentional, one-dimensional portrait of evil.

The goal of BDS campaigns is not only to remove Jewish/Israeli presence from Judea and Samaria, the Golan and eastern Jerusalem, but total Israeli surrender. Moreover, anti-Israel BDS campaigns can be used on many issues simultaneously, ad infinitum.

This explains the misconception that Palestinian leaders “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” It’s not a mistake; it’s policy – never recognize Israel’s right to exist; never negotiate the refugee issue; never compromise on Jerusalem. The problem, therefore, is not territorial, but existential.

Ironically, BDS campaigns and unilateral Palestinian moves towards UN recognition and statehood sweep away illusions and clarify the real issues: Secure and recognized borders, and ending the conflict.

The convergence of BDS hate-campaigns, de-legitimization efforts, anti-settlement activities, anti-Semitism and a virulently anti-Israel media are not only dangerous to Israel; they are shameful examples of bigotry and intolerance.

Original URL: http: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4013059,00.html

Moshe Dann is an historian, writer, and journalist

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Hezbollah Leader Nasrallah in no Hurry to spark Civil War in Lebanon

by Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff


Both Lebanese and foreign political leaders sought to calm the mood in Beirut on Thursday, a day after the collapse of Saad Hariri's government following the resignation of Hezbollah ministers and their allies.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah announced that "there will never be a war between Sunnis and Shias in Lebanon." Security sources told Haaretz that although Israel continues to monitor the situation, the developments are seen at this point as internal and not an immediate risk of producing a border conflict with the Israel Defense Forces.

Nasrallah, Jumblatt Jan. 13, 2011 (AP)

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah meets with Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, in Beirut, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2011.

Photo by: AP

Most Arab commentators also agree that no escalation is expected in Lebanon in the coming days. Nasrallah engineered the crisis and his men appear to be responsible for the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri six years ago. He seems to think that the mere memory of the last conflict instigated by his movement - in which Hezbollah forces surrounded government ministries in Beirut two years ago - would be enough to make the Lebanese surrender to his demands.

In other words, it would appear that despite the risk that Hezbollah members will be indicted in the international tribunal, Nasrallah is in no hurry to spark a civil war. A full-fledged military conflict with his rivals would damage Hezbollah's image as a Lebanese organization.

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman asked on Thursday that Saad Hariri retain his post as head of a caretaker government. The move is aimed to maintain stability at least for the next few days, until the picture becomes clearer. Meanwhile, mediation processes between rival forces continue, despite Hezbollah's controlled demolition of the government. Hariri, who met on Thursday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris, will meet over the weekend with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to seek ways to achieve a compromise with Hezbollah.

These moves leave most commentators and Western intelligence agencies with the feeling that the chances are slim the crisis will escalate into a civil war or military clash with Israel. Nasrallah too knows that after a year of impressive growth - 7 percent in 2010 the achievements of the Lebanese economy may be lost if he takes the risk and drags his country once more into a war.

Contrary to reports in the international media on Thursday, the IDF did not significantly increase its alert level on the northern border, and did not concentrate forces there. Intelligence officials during the weekly briefing with Defense Minister Ehud Barak said they did not believe the events in Beirut would have immediate implications for the situation on the border.

But Israel remains keenly aware of Hezbollah's growing strength and its preparations for a potential military conflict with Israel. The process involves much more than the 45,000 rockets the organization is already believed to have. At a recent meeting between the IDF, the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL, the Lebanese officers claimed there was no Hezbollah activity in the south of the country. In response, the Israeli officers produced a map with hundreds of dots marking Hezbollah outposts and bunkers south of the Litani River.

The organization continues enjoying Iranian sponsorship and the supply of Iranian and Syrian weapons, although financial aid from Tehran has been cut in recent months due to the sanctions imposed on Iran by the UN Security Council.

Original URL: http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/mess-report/hezbollah-leader-nasrallah-in-no-hurry-to-spark-civil-war-in-lebanon-1.336872

Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

NY Times Blames Israel for Tunisian Revolution


by Ed Lasky

President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the autocrat who ruled with an iron hand over Tunisia for decades is forced by street protests to flee in the wake of discontent over repression, frustration over lack of economic opportunity, and high food prices. He was an ally of America and was a valued partner with us in fighting Al Qaeda. His loss can be seen as a blow to America.

So who does the New York Times blame

Israel.

Yet the street protests erupted when Arabs seemed more frustrated than ever, whether over rising prices and joblessness or resentment of their leaders' support for American policies or ambivalence about Israeli campaigns in Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2009....

That the events in Tunisia took place far beyond the region's traditional centers of power did little to diminish the enthusiasm they seemed to generate. In fact, the very spectacle of crowds surging into the streets and overwhelming decades of accumulated power in the hands of a highly centralized, American-backed government seemed an antidote to the despair of past years - carnage in Iraq, divisions among Palestinians and Israeli intransigence and the yawning divide between ruler and ruled on almost every question of foreign policy.

Of course, the Israeli have made a range of concessions and have been very willing to engage in peace talks. The intransigent party is the Palestinians. The word intransigence is redolent of the slur that Jews are a stiff-necked people-but the Times only is concerned with political correctness when it can be used against Republicans.

Only later on in the column does the truth come out:

Tunisians' grievances were as specific as universal: rising food prices, corruption, unemployment and the repression of a state that viewed almost all dissent as subversion.

Even the interviews and checks of blogs that the writer, Anthony Shadid, quotes don't mention Israel at all. Regardless of the facts, Shadid just had to insert some of his own biases into the column.

Shadid has been criticized in the past for appearing as a speaker at a fundraiser for an Arab-American group that has criticized Congress for being too supportive of Israel.

That happened while he worked for the Washington Post and it violated company policy. However, it was probably a plus for the powers-that-be at the New York Times that hired him.

How did the Washington Post cover the Tunisian Revolution? There was not one mention of Israel or the Palestinians in its coverag [sic]. Instead, the paper blamed the repression, police tactics, poor economy, and high food prices for the people's revolt

What world does the New York Times cover? How can this paper of record so willfully distort the news to fulfill an agenda (in this case, blame Israel for the possible loss of an American ally). Next the paper will claim that Israel is sending "spy birds" to do its dirty work.

Original URL: http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2011/01/ny_times_blames_israel_for_tun.html

Ed Lasky

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Venezuela: Chavez "Intensifies" Land Takeovers


by Anna Mahjar-Barducci

In mid-December 2010, Venezuelan officials and troops began seizing 47 private ranches, taking over big areas of agricultural land.

Venezuela ranks 121 among 125 economies in the ranking of protection of property rights, tied with Chad and Zimbabwe and just above Ivory Coast and Bangladesh which rank last, according to the 2010 International Property Rights Index (IPRI).

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has intensified land takeovers, resulting in expropriations of landlords' properties.

In addition, the Bolivarian National Guard is accused of using violence to evacuate the owners and the families in the estates, even though the government denies it.

Chavez has justified the expropriations by stating: "Let's not forget that Bolivar has also a deep passion for justice and equality. There was no better way to honor his memory than taking over 47 large estates on December 17, in the South of the Maracaibo Lake. These 47 large estates show the extreme inequality regarding land distribution […]. The Bolivarian policy and revolution finally put an end to this monstrosity." The government argues that the lands' takeover is actually a fair action, which pays off a social debt to farmers who have been exploited.

On January 8, 2011, Chavez ordered his militias to expropriate even more: two acres in a western district of Caracas to build, he said, housing for families made homeless by the recent floods.. The Polar, a top food processor and distributor, and a brewing company, complained that the move was a real expropriation as the land was to be used for expanding a Polar-funded center for children's nutritional needs.

"This center has offered a valuable support to the community for more than 15 years, and the expansion plans require the land to continue the treatment of children and pregnant mothers of this and other needy communities," said a statement released by Polar. Chavez, however, refuted the accusation of expropriating lands, and mocked Polar, saying that a brewery company cannot claim to help people, as it is "responsible" for the death of people, due the abuse of alcohol.

This is not the first time that the Venezuelan government and the leadership of Polar – which has been accused of helping the opposition – have entered into a clash. In a move against private industry and capitalism last April, Chavez seized land from Polar, taking over three sugar mills. On his show, "Alo Presidente," Chavez then attacked the young owner of Polar, Lorenzo Mendoza, listed at number 125 on Forbes's world's most-rich-list, saying: "It seems that Mendoza wants to be president […] the filthy rich ones want to run as candidates."

The attacks on Mendoza and his property seem not to have an end. Last July, Chavez declared that he could nationalize Polar in a socialist war against the capitalist class: In 2010, Chavez nationalized more than 200 companies. "Careful, Mendoza," he said, behaving like a dictator, "You'll end up with nothing;" and added, "Lorenzo Mendoza wants to be president, and the Yankees are guiding him."

Although Chavez might claim that the takeover of lands is for redistributing wealth among poor people, it seems clear that the reality is different. Chavez seems willing to be taking advantage of his power to remove or intimidate anyone who could be considered a threat to his leadership, even going against the Constitution, as the Church itself hints.

From the press:

  • The Church is concerned about takeovers; Cardinal Urosa: Chavez should respect the Constitution
  • Expropriation of land from Venezuela's top food processor and distributor, Polar
  • Chavez orders his supporters to "intensify" the takeover of urban lands
  • Chavez creates a commission that will draft a decree to regulate lodging houses and janitors' labor conditions
  • Civilian-military operation to recover lands
  • Minister of Agriculture with pistol and Che Guevara T-Shirt

January 10, 2011

The Church is concerned about takeovers; Cardinal Urosa: Chavez should respect the Constitution

Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino expressed […] his concern about takeovers ordered by President Hugo Chavez.

"The problem of seizures is very serious. Even if it is true that it is a capacity of the State, authorities must follow the procedures provided in the Constitution; and apparently (these procedures) have been disregarded in some cases," Cardinal Urosa Savino warned.

Expropriation of land from Venezuela's top food processor and distributor, Polar

On Saturday night [January 8], Chavez issued a decree ordering the temporary occupation of an area of 10,900 square yards, located in the low-income neighborhood of Antimano, west Caracas, where a Child Nutritional Care Center of the food giant Polar is located. When asked about it, Urosa Savino said: "in the case of this charity, it is an institution that is doing a great social service. [The occupation] is a worrying development. I would like to urge the executive office to reflect on the issue of expropriations." […] El Universal (Venezuela)

January 10, 2011

Chavez orders his supporters to "intensify" the takeover of urban lands

"The rich took the Valley (of Caracas)". This statement, made by Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, leads people and the militia to seize abandoned urban plots of land.

In his 368th radio and TV show, "Alo, Presidente" [Hello, President], Chavez ordered his supporters to "intensify" the takeover of urban lands that could be used to build houses.

"A commission should be established soon, and the militia must occupy abandoned plots of land," said the Venezuelan president. He insisted that "the poor were forced and deceived into living in the most fragile hills, with steeper slopes, prone to more landslides, with no aid for planning and engineering."

Chavez therefore urged the Venezuelan people to ask themselves why landslides occur in 23 de Enero (a poor neighborhood located in west Caracas) rather than in the East (and more affluent part of Caracas)?

Chavez creates a commission that will draft a decree to regulate lodging houses and janitors' labor conditions

Chavez added that land occupation must be based on the principle that "the owners of the Valley are the people who reside there."

Chavez also said that arson in the National Lands Institute office in the northwestern state of Zulia is not going to intimidate him. "Now, we will intensify our efforts, you'll see (...) We will intensify the recovery of lands in the entire country, and in this particular case, south of Lake Maracaibo. [We want] land to produce on, land for the people, rather than land for those landowners."

The Venezuelan president also created a commission that will draft a decree to regulate lodging houses and janitors' labor conditions. El Universal (Venezuela)

December 17, 2010

Civilian-military operation to recover lands

Minister of Agriculture and Lands Juan Carlos Loyo headed a civilian-military operation on recovery of lands in Lake Maracaibo, western Zulia state.

Loyo said that they were taking steps to vanquish the last frontier of large estates in Venezuela against a little group that cannot understand ongoing changes in the country.

In a live broadcast, the minister delivered a speech to all of the 138 military officers who would take part in the recovery of more than 40 farms in Zulia state.

Minister of Agriculture with pistol and Che Guevara T-Shirt

"We are going to rescue the best lands for our people," Minister Loyo said on state television, noting that some of the lands are underwater from recent torrential rains.

"Right now, you are part of an army, of a collective... that is going to liberate lands," Loyo added.

Loyo wore a pistol on his belt and a T-shirt with an image of Argentine revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara as he addressed a group of officials and soldiers. El Universal (Venezuela)

Original URL: http://www.hudson-ny.org/1804/venezuela-chavez-land-takeovers

Anna Mahjar-Barducci

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

The Revolt of Desperate People Will Not Change North Africa


by Fiamma Nirenstein

The autocratic regimes in power in Tunisia and Algeria will continue to protect the privileges of their élite.

Can we expect the modernization of the Maghreb today on the wave of the recent "bread riots"? Do the young people in the city squares dream of a more just and egalitarian society, or are they likely to start shouting that Islam is the answer, and take out their anger on the USA and Europe rather than on Ben Alì and Bouteflika?

When the leader of a revolt is a 26-year-old named Mohammed Bouaziz, who sets himself on fire when police smash his fruit cart, his only means of survival despite his university degree, as Europeans, our reflex is to take his side. Whose side should we take when the other victim - Ben Amour, a 22-year-old rapper arrested for singing, "President, your people are dying" - is in prison as the number of deaths in Tunisia rises by the hour, the unrest spreads, and the price of bread increases by 30%?

Until a few days ago, we did not know what was going on in Tunisia . The government of Ben Alì -- the President who sent Habib Bourguiba packing -- had managed to hush up the riots in the city squares; the growing repression against the blue-jeaned, sneakered youths; the teenage deaths; the fact that, little by little, practically all of Tunisian society was joining the demonstrators in the squares and that even 95% of the lawyers went on strike; that the hackers had rendered virtually all government websites unusable, and signs that the Tunisians have reached at the end of their tether are widespread and omnipresent.

Then Algeria erupted – a country with huge, powerful and spectacular connotations in our minds: the white casbah; the historical hideout of Communists and Islamists; the anti-colonial revolt; Gillo Pontecorvo's film, "The Battle of Algiers;" the origins of Albert Camus, and the horror of the present time. The slaughter began in 1988 with the fiercest Islamic fundamentalist attack ever witnessed -- a war that meted out between 150,000 and 200,000 deaths, starting with the clash between the FIS (Islamic Salvation Front) and the military, and escalating to the massacre of its own population.

Now Algeria, together with Tunisia, is once more a theater of violence due to the "bread riots", caused only occasionally by the disproportionate rise in the price of staple products, but substantially by the typically domineering attitude of the "moderate" Arab government: 75% of the population is under the age of 30, a seething sea of turmoil. The majority of them are cast adrift without prospects in a society in which three or four families still live in one house, and in which birth-control policies have failed miserably.

The Algeria that "counts" has the country's considerable energy production under lock and key in the golden safes of high society, and the proceeds go exclusively to restricted social groups. The country also prefers to employ Chinese labor instead of the local workforce, and has been incapable of using the infrastructure inherited in 1963 to advantage. It neglects the population -- a situation which makes the population easy prey for the powerful Islamist network that is always lying in wait.

This tide of furious young people, willing to die if need be, is undoubtedly a social modernization movement; due to the regimes' self-interest, however, the Islamist dogma could overwhelm their thirst for justice and seize the upper hand over the riots.

In the past we identified with every revolt that seemed in favor of the poor, but a hard lesson was learned from the Iranian revolution: although it impassioned many, it soon gave birth to a fundamentalist, imperialist power that acted in violation of all human rights.

So now caution is required, as well as a real commitment to help those people protesting for bread and for the great dream of the Arab world: democracy. "One positive factor is that there is no longer an Islamist undercurrent among the youth – the social relationship between fanaticized masses and the people broke down when Al Qaida began to gain ground and dragged the young upper class youth into its ranks. Poor youth are not involved in this", says Khaled Fuad Allam, a sociologist at the University of Trieste , and an Algerian affairs analyst. The times are over, he claims, when - as was the case during his studies at the University of Oran - even plastic knives and forks were removed in an attempt to prevent clashes between secular and religious young people. Now the Islamists have also been decimated after the mass warfare that caused such bloodshed for so
many years.

Although Islamism is not, therefore, to blame here, and not present as a large force, it has begun to insinuate itself into universities and mosques to pilot these angry young people -- just as it did in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. "Moderate" Arab country does not indicate honest respect for human rights and good governance for its own people; yet we still tend to content ourselves with this adjective. Why not try saying the word "democratic"? Perhaps that would work better against these Islamic extremists?

This article originally appreared in Italian in Il Giornale, January 9, 2011

Original URL: http://www.hudson-ny.org/1802/revolt-north-africa

Fiamma Nirenstein

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Al Jazeera's Bra


by Khaled Abu Toameh

Over the past decade, several Al-Jazeera journalists working in the Arab world have been arrested or threatened or expelled.

Earlier this month, Hamas issued threats against Jivara Budairi, a female correspondent for Al-Jazeera. Her crime was that she reported a hunger strike declared by detainees in Hamas-run prisons in the Gaza Strip.

Fortunately for Budairi, she lives in the West Bank and not in the Gaza Strip, where Hamas would most likely have arrested her her immediately after her report was aired on the popular Arab TV network.

Hamas's public condemnation of Budairi is seen as a direct threat not only against her, but also against other journalists who dare to report anything that could reflect negatively on the Islamist movement in the Gaza Strip. The Western-funded Palestinian government in the West Bank is not any better when it comes to protecting freedom of expression and journalists' rights.

What did Al-Jazeera do in response to Hamas's denunciation of their female reporter? The station did not complain to human rights organizations or groups that monitor violations of freedom of expression around the world.

This week, however, these organizations and many Western correspondents did hear from Al-Jazeera -- but regarding a different case.

Najwan Simri Diab, another female reporter working for the station, complained that she felt "humiliated" because female Israeli guards had asked her to remove her bra during a security check.

Diab had been invited, along with dozens of journalists, to an event with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. A female security guard at the entrance to the hall where the prime minister was supposed to deliver a speech asked Diab to remove her bra and mentioned that otherwise she would not be able to enter.

Al-Jazeera chose to make a big fuss out of the case of Diab. It filed a complaint with the Foreign Journalists' Association and invited Israeli and Western journalists to cover this "outrageous violation of freedom of the media."

Diab, a citizen of Israel, has taken the case a step further, arguing that she had been singled out because she is Arab.

For Al-Jazeera, the controversy over Diab's bra seems to be much more important and newsworthy than Hamas's threats against another female reporter covering a prison hunger-strike..

Last month, Kuwait closed the office of Al-Jazeera over coverage of a police crackdown on a public opposition gathering.

A few weeks earlier, Morocco decided to expel Al-Jazeera journalists because of their "irresponsible" coverage of the North African kingdom.

Al-Jazeera has also been banned from covering the current riots in Tunisia.

Recently, Al-Jazeera reporter Mohammed Bader was detained for a month by Egyptian security forces.

The Fatah and Hamas governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have also been targeting Al-Jazeera, each for its own purposes.

But for the Qatari-owned station and many in the Western media, these violations in the Arab world do not seem to be as important as the bra incident in Jerusalem.

Original URL: http://www.hudson-ny.org/1801/al-jazeera-bra

Khaled Abu Toameh

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

The Middle East's Christian Onslaught


by IPT News

Church bombings kill scores in Iraq, Nigeria and Egypt. Iran rounds up dozens of Christians for allegedly being "hard-liners" who threaten the Islamic republic. An Egyptian police officer opens fire on a crowded train, targeting only the Christian passengers.

For a region that boasts of accommodating its Christian minorities, officials seem at a loss to stem the surge in violence.

While many Muslims took to Coptic churches to serve as human shields as a sign of solidarity, the Egyptian government reacted defensively to Pope Benedict's call for more "effective measures" to protect Christian minorities in the region. It recalled its ambassador to the Vatican. "Egypt will not allow any non-Egyptian party to intervene in our internal affairs under any pretext," an Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

Officials have tried to cast the train shooting, which killed a 71-year-old Coptic Christian man and wounded four other Copts, as the actions of a disturbed individual and not motivated by religion. "It has to do with his personal mental state," the local governor said. "It had nothing to do with the religion of his victims. He boarded the train suddenly and emptied his pistol."

But a witness claims that the gunman screamed "Allahu Akhbar" as he opened fire, and that he targeted women who were not wearing head coverings and were likely to be non Muslims.

U.S. government officials aren't saying much about what is causing the violence.

"I'd be very wary at this point about making any sweeping statements about whether what's happened in Iraq has a bearing on what's happening in other countries such as Egypt or Nigeria," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Jan. 4. "These are all being investigated. Clearly, there are pressures on minority groups in these countries, and we would hope and expect that in – those respective governments will fully investigate these attacks and bring those responsible to justice."

Several factors may be at play, said Nina Shea, a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Part of it is perception. Christians have been oppressed in many Muslim countries for years, driving many to move to other parts of the world. But they continue to present "soft targets" for terrorists because they are associated more with the West, with the U.S. and with Jews, she said in an interview.

What is shared by the terrorists waging attacks and the government officials leading a crackdown on Christians is "the ideological belief on the part of these Islamic extremist that they are purifying the region," Shea said.

"It's a frightening phenomenon because it's just so violent," she said.

Shea is scheduled to testify Thursday before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, which is a part of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Radical ideas promoted for years by Saudi Arabia and Iran is another factor, she said. They have penetrated Islamist thinking and are being taken up by extremists. Those ideologies are inherently supremacist and see Christians as either inferior or as a threat. In Egypt, some accept conspiracy theories that Copts are scheming to take over the country.

Finally, al-Qaida and its franchises are issuing threats specifically against Christians. Bomb-making instructions are available online and in al-Qaida's magazine Inspire. One al-Qaida-related group published a list of 50 Coptic churches last month, including the Alexandria church where a New Year's Eve attack claimed 21 lives.

Coptic Church officials said they were not warned about the threats and even some Egyptian government officials said they, too, were caught unaware. The U.S. needs to do more to share intelligence with both, Shea said.

Other than Nigeria, government reaction to the assault on Christians has been one of denial. Egypt's ambassador to the Vatican, Lamia Aly Mekhemar, told an interviewer that Christians are not being persecuted. "Persecution is a big word," she said. "In order to prove that there is persecution, you have to be very careful. This is a legal term which should not be used casually. In this sense, we do not share the views about - that our government or some governments in the area have not provided protection for the Christians in the Middle East."

Iran's ambassador to Lebanon condemned the physical attacks, but like other Islamists, blamed them on Jews. Ghazanfar Rokn-Abadi claimed his country can serve as a model for treating the religious minority.

"Some 250,000 Christians are living in Iran peacefully and safely," he said. "They enjoy full citizenship, human and political rights the same as Muslims."

National Public Radio called the recent wave of arrests in Iran "among the biggest and most coordinated." It may be fueled by concerns that Christians, who represent less than 2 percent of the Iranian population, gather to worship in private homes rather than in churches, are trying to convert Iranians. Tehran's governor described them as missionaries who have "inserted themselves into Islam like a parasite" and hinted they have ties with Britain.

Ironically, Western pressure may be the only way to stem the tide, said Walid Phares, director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. In Egypt, the bombing attack and train shooting show that the "jihadists are omnipresent across the country," he said during an appearance on Fox News.

An international effort led by the U.S. to pressure the government to do more to protect Christians would have an effect. "And the Egyptian government must respond. They are a recipient of our foreign aid," Phares said. "And they are, along with others, members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which intervened in other countries to protect Muslim minorities. So they should be fair on this one."

Original URL: http://www.investigativeproject.org/2495/the-middle-east-christian-onslaught

IPT News

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mideast Threats that Can't be Ignored


by Jackson Diehl

Barack Obama has been fortunate in the Middle East so far. Yes, his attempt to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has been a high-profile failure. But Israel, the Palestinians and the region as a whole have enjoyed a remarkable stretch of relative tranquility and stability during the past two years.

This week has brought signs that that luck may be about to change. If it does, it will not be because Israelis and Palestinians have not agreed on a two-state solution. Rather, it will be because the regional troubles that the Obama administration has ignored in its preocupation with the peace process can no longer be contained.

The most obvious symptom of that is in Lebanon, where the Hezbollah movement caused the collapse of the unwieldy "unity" government Wednesday even as its pro-Western prime minister, Saad Hariri, was meeting with Obama at the White House. Lebanon is a prime front in the regional cold war between Iran, Syria and their militarized proxies, including Hezbollah and Hamas, and the "moderate" and mostly Sunni U.S. allies.

An eruption of actual civil war in Lebanon does not seem to be imminent, in spite of the likelihood that an international tribunal will soon indict members of Hezbollah for the murder of Hariri's father. But what the militia's move vividly demonstrated is that the Iranian side retains the initiative. Because Hamas and Hezbollah are the two strongest military forces in the Levant other than Israel, they have the capacity to provoke, to disrupt and to start an armed conflict at any time of their - or Tehran's - choosing.

Obama's approach has been to mostly ignore that threat while focusing on peace diplomacy, in the hope that a breakthrough would undermine the political appeal of Hamas and Hezbollah. But now both Iranian allies are flexing their muscles. Since the beginning of January, according to Israeli officials, more than 20 rockets and mortars have been fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel, renewing the bombardment that led to Israel's 2008 invasion of the territory.

On Thursday, following a tough warning from Egypt that it was risking another war, Hamas deployed security forces to enforce a cease-fire. But Israeli accounts say Hamas and Hezbollah have spent the past several years stockpiling tens of thousands of missiles, including scores that could reach Tel Aviv; the chances that the region will survive another year without their use are looking slimmer.The most imminent threat to U.S. interests in the Middle East, however, is not war; it is revolution. Last month in the obscure Tunisian city of Sidi Bouzid, a desperate man set himself on fire after police confiscated his unlicensed vegetable cart. This spark touched off what has now become a conflagration of daily protest demonstrations that threatens to consume the 29-year-old dictatorship of Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali - and spread to the other rotting Arab autocracies that line the south shore of the Mediterranean.

The violence has already migrated to Algeria, and Arab media are full of speculation of where the "Tunisia scenario" will appear next: Egypt? Jordan? Libya? All those countries are threatened by rapidly rising global prices for food and fuel; the United Nations warned last week of a "food price shock." All have large numbers of restless, unemployed youth. And all are governed by repressive regimes that not only have refused to embrace political reforms in the past decade but have cracked down harder on domestic opponents since Obama took office. It's hard not to attribute that trend at least in part to the administration's relaxed attitude toward reform and its reluctance to defend human rights and democracy.

In that sense, the only good news this week has been the signs that the administration is finally changing course. In a tour of several Arab nations, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - who has been particularly conspicuous for her silence about the region's repression - has suddenly begun speaking up about the need for change.

In a speech Thursday at the Forum for the Future conference in Doha, Qatar, Clinton talked about the frustrations of the under-30 generation in finding work and bluntly added that "people have grown tired of corrupt institutions and a stagnant political order." She then called for "political reforms that will create the space young people are demanding, to participate in public affairs and have a meaningful role in the decisions that shape their lives."

It may be too late for the United States to head off a rolling social upheaval in the Middle East this year - or a war involving Hezbollah and Hamas. But if it follows up on what Clinton has been saying, it can at least place itself on the right side of those events.

Original URL: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/13/AR2011011304899.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

Jackson Diehl

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

WaPo distorts history to libel Israel


by Leo Rennert

In reporting the collapse of the Lebanese government following resignations of Hezb'allah cabinet members, the Washington Post, in its Jan. 13 edition, recites a long history of such Lebanese crises ("Political Crisis Shakes Lebanon" front page, by Leila Fadel and Moe Ali Nayel).

To emphasize the gravity of the situation, the article reports that

"The situation could destabilize this key Middle Eastern nation and perhaps spill over into a regional sectarian conflict. In 2006, Israel waged a devastating war in Lebanon, leveling much of the southern part of the country and the southern suburbs of Beirut."

Why would Israel do this? There is no explanation whatever of what might have prompted Israel to deliver such a devastating blow. None whatsoever. According to the Post, Israel went ahead in 2006 and waged a devastating war in Lebanon. Period.

No mention that In the year preceding the start of the Second Lebanon War, Hezb'allah repeatedly engaged in cross-border attacks from Lebanon against southern Israel. Rockets repeatedly were fired by Hezb'allah against Israeli border towns. Then, on July 12, 2006, these attacks culminated in a Hezb'allah cross-border raid that killed three Israeli soldiers and resulted in the wounding and capture of two others.

Only then did Israel attack Hezb'allah positions in southern Lebanon and Hezb'allah's command-and-control centers in southern Beirut.

Yet, there isn't the slightest reference to this history in the Post's Jan. 13 assertion that Israel, for unstated reasons, decided to wage a devastating war in Lebanon . Hezb'allah is completely missing from the Post's grossly misleading report about Israel's war against Hezb'allah in 2006.

The Post's libel of Israel is as monstrous as if the paper reported that the United States, in the 1940s, waged a devastating war against Japan, without mentioning Pearl Harbor.

Original URL: http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2011/01/wapo_distorts_history_to_libel.html

Leo Rennert

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

How Tehran/Damascus Terror Axis Targets Israel


by IPT News

Several new reports illustrate how Iran and Syria continue to aid terrorist groups that target Israeli civilians by providing weapons and terrorist training to jihadist organizations on Israel's borders.

In Gaza, Hamas and other terror groups have fired thousands of rockets and missiles into neighboring Israeli communities since Israel unilaterally withdrew in 2005. They continue to be re-supplied by Iran and Syria. In Lebanon, Hizballah has received massive supplies of weapons from Tehran and Damascus, including large quantities of missiles and rockets, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles and attack aircraft.

Both organizations are committed to Israel's destruction and have gone to war with Israel in recent years: Hamas in 2008/2009 and Hizballah in 2006. And with Iranian and Syrian help, both terror groups are making substantial improvements in their weaponry like this and this.

Hizballah toppled the Lebanese government Wednesday, as ministers associated with the group withdrew from the Cabinet to protest a United Nations tribunal's investigation of the 2005 slaying of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Hizballah is demanding that current Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the slain leader's son, disavow the tribunal, which is expected to accuse members of the Tehran-backed group of complicity in the assassination.

Analysts are unsure about whether the political crisis generates internal violence in which Hizballah has the upper hand or prompts a period of political stagnation.

Even before the Beirut government's collapse, it has been "an open secret that the Syrian-Lebanese border has been deliberately left wide open by Syria in order to guarantee the supply of war material to Hizbullah in Lebanon," Col. Jacques Neriah, formerly foreign policy advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, writes in a new report for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. The Lebanese Army's ability to discharge its responsibilities is likely to be further undercut if there is a prolonged Lebanese political crisis during which the country is run by a caretaker government.

Israeli and Western intelligence services have long been aware of Tehran and Damascus' involvement in Hizballah's weapons buildup.

Damascus Airport "has been identified as the transit point for airlifts of Iranian arms that were subsequently transferred to Hizbullah via the open Syrian-Lebanese border, under the supervision of the Syrian security services," according to Neriah, who also served as deputy head for assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence. "The Army is thinly deployed along the 359 km [approximately 225 miles] border with Syria and is unable to block the movements of Hizbullah fighters or Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Any thoughts of attempting to block the border must also take into account the presence of belligerent Palestinian units such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Fatah Intifada that answer to Syria."

The Lebanese Army's ability to discharge its responsibilities is likely to be further undercut if there is a prolonged Lebanese political crisis during which the country is run by a caretaker government.

A $100 million military aid package for Lebanon was held up temporarily by two Democrats, Nita Lowey, N.Y., and Howard Berman, Cal., but they withdrew their opposition in November after the Obama administration assured them the aid would not end up going to Hizballah.

House Foreign Relations Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., indicated those assurances may not be enough. She questioned whether there has been any benefit from previous military aid to Lebanon.

"The Lebanese government and military are not addressing the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis's growing threat to Lebanon's sovereignty and security," Ros-Lehtinen said in August. "Instead, they have focused on what they call 'the enemy' – our democratic ally Israel – and now an Israeli soldier has been killed as a result."

Revolutionary Guard activities in Lebanon are overseen by Iranian Gen. Hassan Madavi, commander of the Guards' Lebanon Corps, who is based in Beirut along with other Iranian officers. Since the 2006 war in which Israel destroyed much of Hizballah's military infrastructure in Lebanon, the group has rebuilt and strengthened its missile forces targeting the Jewish State.

Before the war broke out on July 12, 2006, Hizballah had 15,000 missiles; the Israeli government recently estimated Hizballah has an arsenal of close to 60,000 missiles. Approximately 15,000 are on the Israel-Lebanon border, and some of them can reach Eilat on Israel's southern tip, according to Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren.

In 2006, many of these missiles "were basically out in the open," enabling the Israel Air Force to neutralize them, Oren said. But since the Israel-Hizballah ceasefire took effect in August 2006, the terror group has moved its arsenal into densely populated civilian areas. He added that the new Hizballah arsenal is "far more accurate" with rockets capable of carrying much bigger payloads (and doing more damage) than the ones fired at Israel in the summer of 2006.

"Today, those same missiles have been place under hospitals, and homes and schools because Hizballah knows full well that if we try to defend ourselves against them, we will be branded once again as war criminals," Oren said in September. "We know Hizballah has in violation of U.N. resolutions once again penetrated southern Lebanon, transformed entire villages into armed camps and put in about 15,000 rockets along the Israeli border."

Last spring, Western intelligence services learned about a new logistics network built by Tehran and Damascus to transfer weapons from Iran to Hizballah forces in Lebanon. The network was built after the February 2008 assassination of Hizballah terror mastermind Imad Mughniyeh.

In a news conference last April, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Syrian and Iranian rocket and missile shipments have provided Hizballah with far more rockets and missiles than most governments in the world. And this is obviously destabilizing for the whole region, and so we're watching it very carefully."

Hizballah says it has also obtained unmanned aerial vehicles and attack aircraft from Iran as well with the assistance of the Revolutionary Guards. Sources close to the group's leadership have cited these as examples of the "surprises" it is planning during any future war with Israel.

Meanwhile, on Israel's southern border, Iran and Syria are working to strengthen Hamas' military power. Israel's Shin Bet reported that during 2010, a considerable amount of weaponry "has been smuggled into the Gaza Strip," including hundreds of rockets, "about a thousand mortar shells, dozens of missiles, tons of standard explosives, and tons of raw material for explosives production.

"The smuggling route starting in Iran and passing through Sudan and the Sinai continues to be a key element for Palestinian terror organizations. Iran plays a key role in assisting the Palestinian terrorist organizations and Hizballah to strengthen their military capabilities – it provides high quality weaponry; it funds training for military activists, and it directs terror activity through various Arab countries, especially Syria and Lebanon."

Read more about Iran, Syria and their assistance to jihadists targeting Israel here and here.

Original URL:http://www.investigativeproject.org/2493/how-tehran-damascus-terror-axis-targets-israel

IPT News

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Punishing the Victims of Islamic Gender Apartheid?


by Phyllis Chesler

She is marked for certain death.

Her final hearing takes place on Friday, January 14, 2011. If American Immigration decides to deport her back to her Muslim family in Africa, she will, without doubt, first be genitally mutilated and then honor murdered for insisting on remaining a Christian, for having fled an arranged Muslim marriage—and for having secretly married a Christian man.

I doubt she will be able to take her case to the United Nations. After all, that august body has condemned free speech/truth speech as hate speech, especially where Islam is concerned. Incredibly, presumably “progressive” European countries have increasingly launched criminal investigations against their own politicians, human rights activists, academics for daring to tell the truth about Islamic gender apartheid if that truth shows Islam in a negative light.

On January 24, 2011, the distinguished Lars Hedegaard, the President of the Danish Free Press Society and the International Free Press Society, will stand trial for telling the truth about Islamic gender apartheid. According to Ahmed Mohamud, the Vice President of The Danish Free Press Society, and Katrine Winkel Holm, Chief Editor of Sappho, the Society’s magazine, both Lars Hedegaard and Jesper Langballe, a member of the Danish Parliament, are accused of committing “hate speech.” Langballe exposed honor killings among Muslims; on December 3, 2010, he was convicted for doing so. As I noted in my piece at NewsReal Blog, Lars Hedegaard dared to discuss the great number of family rapes in areas dominated by Muslim culture.

I have published two major academic studies about honor killings and have written many articles about individual cases. I have also been called upon to testify in court cases for potential Muslim honor killing victims who are seeking asylum in America. Will I, too, someday be tried as a “racist”? Will such asylum seekers themselves be one day tried as criminals for exposing the horrendous violence they have escaped in the hope that the West will be a sanctuary for them? What will happen to them and to their advocates if telling the truth about Islam becomes a punishable offense in America?

To date, the highest profile apostate and potential honor killing case concerns the very young Rifqa Bary. I was privileged to work with her lawyers in both Florida and Ohio and hope that my affidavit was helpful. Bary’s lawyers did manage to keep her out of her family’s clutches and won a “fast track” to a green card and to citizenship.

Within a fourteen month period, I was approached by three sets of lawyers and by one advocate.

I submitted an affidavit for a second asylum-seeker whose case may be unique. She has fled a Western European country because she fears that her father and other male relatives will murder her for having secretly converted from Islam to Christianity. I urged the judge in her case to understand that just because a woman has fled from a European democracy does not mean that she has necessarily fled from a Western environment. Her immigrant family inhabits a bubble in which wife-battering is routine, living on welfare is seen as more dignified than taking a menial job, and spying on one’s daughter to be sure that she never talks to men or has any non-Muslim girlfriends is not considered invasive but honorable.

This young woman told me that her father flew into instant rages over the smallest things; he once hit her mother when she brought him food not to his liking. He threw a table at his daughter because she was too quiet. He would then threaten her with a knife and say, “I’m not afraid of the police because I can kill myself too.” If mere silence could set off this level of violence, one can only imagine how he might respond if he discovered that she had converted to Christianity.

I also submitted an affidavit on behalf of a third woman who is desperately trying to stay in the United States. She cannot risk returning to her South Asian country. Her crime? She dared to marry a man whom she loved but who belonged to a different sect of Islam; she did so against her parents’ wishes. Her family is an elite and prominent family which would risk a loss of reputation if they did not punish a defiant daughter.

Last week, a Canadian advocate and a professor of anthropology contacted me on behalf of a fourth woman. She is a Christian who was born and raised in the killing fields of Congo. Her father worked hard to end the dictatorial Mobutu regime and was therefore murdered by Mobutu’s death squads. Her mother fled to a neighboring African country, where she married a Muslim man who insisted on marrying his new stepdaughter off to an elderly Muslim man; in turn, her chosen husband insisted that she be genitally mutilated. This woman had already learned about the horror of genital mutilation firsthand when a friend of hers died from an infection after the “procedure” was inflicted on her.

To understand what she is running away from, here is an account of one genital mutilation that recently took place in Cairo, Egypt:

“Our ears were assaulted by maniacal screams coming from one of the open shops that lined the alley…We looked in the direction from which came those screams to see a middle-aged woman seated in a barber chair, a child on her lap, and a man on his knees in front of the child. I assume the little girl was the daughter of the woman in the barber chair, who was restraining the girl and spreading the child’s legs open, while the man on his knees was the barber who owned that barber shop. He leaned forward, concentrating on the space between the girl’s legs, where he was working with a straight razor. The barber proceeded with businesslike indifference to the little girl’s shrieks, as did the people in the street, who went about as if carving off a clitoris were something they saw every day, and as if the horrendous suffering the child expressed so loudly were a normal refrain in the raucous symphony that is Cairo. I stood motionless, transfixed by the crime I was watching, cursing myself for not charging into that barbershop, grabbing the little girl, and running away as fast as I could. A few moments later, the barber tossed a small red mass of bloody flesh into the gutter, a human clitoris for chickens to eat…”

In flight from such barbarism, this poor soul fled Africa and arrived in the U.S. about six months ago with a falsified passport and a falsified visa which indicated that she was a single woman. According to her anthropologist-advocate, she had no choice—she could not tell anyone that she had secretly married another African Christian who now lived in Canada because she would not have been allowed to leave her African country as a married woman without permission from her Muslim father or husband. She could not risk asking her mother for such a letter; that would involve the mother in what would be seen as a conspiracy against her new Muslim family.

Thus, when she tried to cross the border into Canada, she and [sic] was closely questioned. However, she was both afraid to lie and afraid to tell the truth. Instead, she simply wept. Once the Canadian authorities understood that she had a husband in Canada and that her passport listed her as single, they turned her away. Ayaan Hirsi Ali herself chose to or was forced to lie to Dutch authorities when she first arrived there; despite her having risen to become a member of Parliament, this lie ultimately led to a serious attempt to deport her.

Back to our unnamed hero. Shortly after being barred from entering Canada, and for unknown reasons, American immigration authorities arrested her and have been keeping her in detention for the last month.

Her anthropologist-advocate attended her initial hearing and tried to visit her in detention. She told me: “The security was unbelievable, and all deadly serious. Even I was intimidated. I can only imagine how she, a tiny woman, must feel handcuffed for the duration. We could not even visit with her. Just a quick 60 seconds to hug her before the hearing, then about 30 seconds while waiting for the elevator before she was taken back to jail.”

If only the perpetrators of Islamic gender apartheid—and not their victims—faced this kind of treatment. But they do not.

She is now facing deportation. Her final hearing will take place this Friday. Her advocate, who is Canadian herself, believes that Canada would probably accept her but it will still take some time to convince the government to readmit her since she has already been turned back at the border. Her lawyer has advised her advocate, her husband, and his family not to show up for the final hearing—advice which troubles me because it is important for the judge to see that she has serious supporters who find her story credible and who are ready to take responsibility for her.

One must also ask: Should the West, including the United States and Canada be taking in so many persecuted victims from other countries? That’s certainly what America is about—but can we afford to subsidize this rescue work? Can we afford not to?

Original URL: http://frontpagemag.com/2011/01/13/punishing-the-victims-of-islamic-gender-apartheid/

Phyllis Chesler
I would like to acknowledge the help of my assistant Nathan Bloom.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

High Noon in Lebanon


by Ryan Mauro

Nobody wanted it. Few expected it. Many are worried it will lead to armed confrontation in the streets of Beirut.

The fall of the government of Prime Minister Said Hariri marks a significant escalation by Hezbollah in their effort to take control of Lebanon; it also ratchets up tensions between Sunnis and Shias that could explode into violence if not checked.

Eleven opposition cabinet ministers resigned on Wednesday, constitutionally causing the government’s collapse. At issue: the Special Tribunal Lebanon’s (STL) imminent announcement of indictments in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. It is widely expected that high ranking members of Hezbollah will be among those named in the crime – a turn of events that obviously doesn’t sit well with the terrorist group/political party. Indictments would tarnish its image in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Arab world as an incorruptible bulwark and “resistance” force against Israel. More importantly, it would weaken its political position in Lebanon, delivering a body blow to the party’s efforts to achieve de facto control of the government.

Hezbollah is demanding that Prime Minister Hariri not only disassociate the government from the STL, but they also want him to issue a public statement declaring the Tribunal to be a Israeli-US controlled device to destroy Hezbollah. Hariri has firmly refused to do so, saying he would not sit in any room with a cabinet that even voted on such measure while Hezbollah has said they won’t sit in a room with a prime minister who refuses to hold such a vote. Therein lies the seeds of the crisis that came to fruition on Wednesday with the opposition ministers resigning.

What appeared to be the last straw was the failure of a joint Syria-Saudi Arabian initiative to broker a compromise between the two parties. Indeed, the issue is so intractable and the positions of the adversaries so set in stone, that a compromise always appeared to be out of reach. When this became obvious on Tuesday night, Hezbollah jacked up the pressure by demanding that the cabinet, which hadn’t met since December 15th of last year, meet to vote on the issue while threatening to walk if this demand was not swiftly met. The majority March 14th party refused to convene a cabinet meeting with a gun to its head, at which point it became just a matter of time before Hezbollah made good on its threat.

The opposition chose the present moment to make their move as Prime Minister Hariri was in Washington meeting with President Obama. The timing could not be coincidental as the opposition ministers announced their resignations at the same time that Hariri and Obama were holding talks. Mustapha Allouch, a senior member of Hariri’s Future Movement, told AFP that the opposition wanted “Hariri to enter the meeting with the US president as an ex-premier or as head of a caretaker government.”

Hariri cut short his visit to Washington and will return to Lebanon to consult with his coalition about what to do next, after stopping off in France for talks with French President Nicholas Sarkozy.

According to the Lebanese constitution, Parliament will now meet and decide on the next prime minister in consultation with the president. It could very well be Hariri, but the wrangling might open the door for another March 14th politician depending on how wedded the coalition is to the continuation of the Tribunal. It may also depend what happens on the streets of Lebanon’s cities.

Tensions have already been high and the collapse of the government may cause an outbreak of violence between Sunnis and Shias; the former see Hezbollah as overstepping its role as the opposition and national “resistance” to Israel, while the Shias see the Sunnis as trying to keep them down. During the last cabinet crisis in 2008, 81 people died in clashes between Sunnis and Shias, with Hezbollah eventually moving into Sunni neighborhoods in Beirut, an act that almost resulted in open civil war. The crisis led to meetings in Doha, Qatar and an agreement where Hezbollah achieved almost all of its goals.

Hariri, or whoever is the next March 14th prime minister, will be faced with the same knotty problem that led to the collapse of government; what to do about the STL. If the next government disavows the Tribunal, it is likely that Sunnis will become enraged at this betrayal, seeing the STL as they do as the only way to achieve justice for the murderers of their beloved Rafiq Hariri. But not disavowing the STL might lead to a coup by Hezbollah if they feel their existence is threatened by the indictments.

The last cabinet crisis saw the majority March 14th forces fold their tents in Doha and give Hezbollah the power of the veto over decisions made by that body. Since then, another parliamentary election was held where the March 14 coalition triumphed. But elections are slippery things in Lebanon, and despite winning a clear majority of seats, the price of stability was once again granting Hezbollah and their allies enough cabinet posts to cause trouble if they chose.

Hezbollah has now chosen, and that choice is a familiar form of brinksmanship where they threaten civil war if they don’t get their way. This is an extremely effective tactic because so many who are alive today in Lebanon remember full well the hell on earth their country endured during 15 years of bloody conflict. No responsible politician in the majority can countenance a return to those terrible days. Hence, despite firm denials to the contrary, it is very possible that Mr. Hariri, or whoever replaces him as prime minister in the new government, will bow to Hezbollah pressure and disavow the STL, humiliating himself again in order to maintain the peace.

And so Lebanon’s descent into the Iran-Syrian orbit continues unabated as Hezbollah’s grip on the throat of the tiny country gets stronger and Syria circles around the carcass like a jackal waiting to pounce once the prey stops struggling. It’s a far cry from the heady days of the “Beirut Spring” just 5 short years ago when such high hopes were ignited by massive protests that kicked the Syrian army out of Lebanon and elections brought independent-loving democrats to power.

Now, many of those politicians are either dead, or cowed by events. And the people of Lebanon are on edge today wondering how long – or if – the peace will last.

Original URL: http://frontpagemag.com/2011/01/13/high-noon-in-lebanon/

Ryan Mauro

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Europe Goes Halal


by Soeren Kern

The European Union, bowing to pressure from Muslim lobby groups, has quietly abandoned a new measure that would have required halal [religiously approved for Muslims] meat products to carry a label alerting consumers that the animals were not stunned, and therefore conscious, just before slaughter. With the exponential growth of Europe's Muslim population in recent years, thousands of tons of religiously slaughtered halal meat is now entering the general food chain, where it is being unwittingly consumed by the non-Muslim population.

Muslims have the right to choose halal foods, but non-Muslims do not have the right to choose not to eat the ritually slaughtered meat.

Halal, which in Arabic means lawful or legal, is a term designating any object or action that is permissible according to Islamic Sharia Law. In the context of food, halal meat is derived from animals slaughtered by hand according to methods stipulated in Islamic religious texts. One such method, called dhabihah, consists of making a swift, deep incision with a sharp knife on the neck that cuts the jugular vein, leaving the animal to bleed to death without stunning. Of vital importance, according to the Koran, is that the animal's blood flows from its body by "natural convulsion."

Many non-Muslim veterinary experts say the method is cruel and should be outlawed. In Britain, for example, the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC), an advisory body to the British Government, says in a report that cutting an animal's throat without stunning induces "significant pain and distress." The FAWC also says: "Slaughter without pre-stunning is unacceptable and the Government should repeal the current exemption."

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) says: "The BVA believes that all animals should be effectively stunned before slaughter to improve the welfare of these animals at slaughter. However, as long as slaughter without stunning is permitted, the BVA has argued for any meat from this source to be clearly labelled to enable all consumers to fully understand the choice they are making."

Animal-welfare legislation in Europe requires that abattoirs stun all animals prior to slaughter unless they are being ritually killed according to the practices of a non-Christian religion. But critics say the religious slaughter exemptions are being abused and millions of cows, goats, turkeys and chickens are being slaughtered according to halal standards and then sold to unwitting, non-Muslim customers, providing producers with a large and profitable market.

In Britain alone, it is estimated that more than 150 million halal animals are killed each year. Critics say this number is far more than is needed by the Muslim community, and that the growing success of halal products in Europe is being driven by the fact that the non-Muslim public is unaware of the halal origins of the meat. They say the ability to sell halal meat products by stealth has opened up vast new markets across Europe, which, by extension, is leading to a huge increase in the number of animals slaughtered using halal methods. The European halal food market is currently valued at €50 billion ($67 billion), and is expected to grow by at least 25% by 2020.

Critics of halal say that by dropping the halal labelling requirement, the EU effectively is institutionalizing a discriminatory two-tier approach to identifying the origins of meats. This controversy, as with so many others, highlights the growing assertiveness of Europe's Muslim community, and demonstrates once again how the rise of Islam is stealthily overwhelming the daily lives of hundreds of millions of non-Muslim Europeans.

Amendment 205 to the EU food information regulations, passed by members of the European Parliament in June 2010 by a vote of 559 to 54, would have required all meat or meat products from animals slaughtered without stunning to be labelled as follows: "Derived from animals that have not been stunned prior to slaughter." Although halal meat is well labelled in specialist butcher shops and food outlets, the EU regulation would have alerted non-Muslim consumers to supplies entering the mainstream food system.

Not surprisingly, the move to require halal meat producers to provide consumers with more information on the packaging of their products has enraged Muslims, who claim that the move has little to do with animal welfare, and reflects a bias against Islam. In any event, halal slaughter is permitted in all but four European countries (Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland) and halal-related controversies are becoming increasingly commonplace.

In Britain, for example, a London Daily Mail investigation has found that the country's major supermarket chains, fast-food restaurants, even some hospitals and schools are serving halal food without telling those who are eating it. Cheltenham College, which boasts of its strong Christian ethos, is one of several top British schools serving halal chicken to pupils without informing them. Even Britain's biggest hotel and restaurant group Whitbread, which owns the Beefeater and Brewers Fayre chains, admits that more than three-quarters of its poultry is halal.

In London, the Harrow Council has provoked a storm of protest after announcing plans to offer Islamic halal-only menus in the borough's 52 state primary schools. Parents are outraged that meat prepared according to Sharia law is being pushed on non-Muslim children. In Derby, the Dale Primary School has only halal meat on the school menu for certain days of the week to avoid cross contamination with non-halal meat. In Blackburn, the Daisyfield Primary School has become the first non-Muslim school to become certified by the Halal Monitoring Committee.

In Birmingham, the Domino's pizza chain has opened a halal-only outlet that does not offer its customers ham or bacon. Critics say the new policy discriminates against non-Muslims. Domino's says it has "thought long and hard" about not offering pork products at the store, which serves an area with a large Muslim population. The company says there are "alternatives, such as turkey ham." Meanwhile, most of the in-flight meals on British Airways could soon be halal.

Also in Britain, the 2nd World Halal Forum Europe 2010 recently was held in London. The theme of the World Halal Forum Europe was: "Halal Products & Services -- Going Mainstream."

In Spain, Muslims have rejected efforts by the Spanish rail company RENFE to offer halal menus on its high-speed trains. The Muslim Council of Spain says it is not enough for RENFE to simply remove alcohol and pork from its menu. The company must also take into consideration how the animals are slaughtered, what type of oil is used in cooking, as well as comply with a list of other demands.

In Spain as a whole, the Muslim population has undergone an almost twenty-fold increase in just two decades and the internal market for halal products is now estimated to exceed 2 million consumers, in addition to the estimated 7 million Muslims who pass through Spain each year as they cross the Strait of Gibraltar to and from North Africa.

In Belgium, the Justice Ministry recently launched a pilot project to train prison guards, as well as doctors and nurses, about practical problems related to halal. Muslim inmates in Belgian prisons often refuse medication because it contains animal fat, and Muslim patients in Belgian hospitals sometimes refuse medical care during Ramadan. As part of its halal training efforts, the Justice Ministry commissioned a practical guide titled "Comprendre le halal" (Understanding halal).

Also in Belgium, the parents of children attending the De Kleine Kunstenaar kindergarten in the town of Houthalen recently signed a petition objecting to their children being forced to eat halal meat on a school trip. "Due to their religious beliefs, Muslims can only consume halal meat, but that does not mean our children must eat it," the petition says. The parents are asking for an alternative burger for their children, but the school says that request is "practically impossible."

In Denmark, an investigation found that thousands of tons of beef in Danish supermarkets are halal slaughtered. In Finland, a separate investigation found that McDonald's secretly served its Finnish customers chicken meat that was slaughtered according to Sharia Law.

In France, the Franco-Belgian fast-food chain, Quick, has removed bacon burgers from its menu and replaced them with a version using halal beef and a slice of smoked turkey. René Vandierendonck, the socialist mayor of the northern French city of Roubaix, says the move amounts to discrimination against non-Muslim customers. He has filed charges with justice authorities against Quick for what he says is prejudicial religious catering. He has also lodged a complaint with France's main anti-discrimination authority on the matter. Marine Le Pen, vice president of the National Front Party, says Quick's halal option is "an Islamic tax" on diners. Xavier Bertrand, secretary general of the ruling conservative Union for a Popular Majority (UMP) says Quick's menu change is undermining France's secular, integrationist social model.

Elsewhere in France, where the halal food sector has doubled in five years and is now valued at €5.5 billion ($7 billion), animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot says that 80% of French slaughterhouses are now halal because the method is cheaper and faster, and thus more profitable.

In Italy, the government in July 2010 signed an agreement with the Italian Islamic Community to establish a halal certifying organization. The Halal Italia certification scheme will guarantee compliance with Islamic laws for Italian food products such as tortellini and lasagne. The Italian market for halal is valued at €5 billion ($6.5 billion). Foreign Minister Franco Frattini says the Islamically-correct "Made in Italy" certification is designed to facilitate "the progressive integration of Muslim communities resident in Italy into the social fabric."

In Sweden, which has banned the religious slaughtering of animals since 1937, the Muslim Association of Sweden (SMF) is demanding that halal slaughter practices be legalized. SMF chairperson Mahmoud Aldebe says the Swedish government should respect the democratic rights of Sweden's Muslims to exercise their "religious freedoms" and help find a way to permit the practice.

In Holland, an elementary Catholic school in Weert decided to serve only halal food for its Christmas meal. The school has about 400 students, only ten of whom are Muslim. Margo Janssen, the school principal, says that serving only halal food for Christmas is a Christian thing to do because it puts others -- Muslims -- first.

Also in Holland, several Dutch prisons are now serving only halal food. The Dutch Justice Department says it is too expensive to offer prisoners both halal and non-halal menus, so it has decided to offer only halal food. The prison in the Dutch town of Sittard is now being sued by a prisoner; he says that by being forced to eat halal food, he is receiving extra punishment.

Original URL: http://www.hudson-ny.org/1799/europe-goes-halal

Soeren Kern

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

CAIR Imagery Makes Obstructionist Goal Clear


by IPT News

Any question about the Council on American-Islamic Relations' (CAIR) attitude toward law enforcement in terrorism investigations has been put to rest by the group's San Francisco chapter.

"Build a Wall of Resistance," a poster announcing a Feb. 9 event published on the group's website says, "Don't Talk to the FBI."

A dark, sinister FBI agent is shown lurking in front of people's homes as doors slam shut.

It's in response to an FBI investigation in Minneapolis and Chicago involving possible support for two designated terrorist groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). A series of raids Sept. 24 targeted the homes of activists in both cities. They claim the investigation is an attempt by Eric Holder's Justice Department to silence anti-war dissent.

"This type of investigation is a tool to repress our movements for social justice and divide our communities," the announcement of the event said.

But that assessment is based solely on the word of those targeted. So far, no official information about the ongoing investigation or the probable cause that led a federal judge to authorize the searches has been released.

In response, however, supporters of those targeted have protested outside of courthouses and federal offices in several cities. The next one is scheduled for Jan. 25 in Chicago and elsewhere, corresponding to compelled grand jury appearances by several people. A website, stopfbi.net, posts articles and updates on the case.

CAIR's Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab called the investigation "a waste of taxpayer dollars." His chapter issued a statement denouncing the September raids. "The FBI has overstepped its bounds in targeting individuals based on their commitment to peacefully challenge US policies in Palestine and Columbia," it said. The Justice Department should call off the investigation and return what was taken in the searches.

Subsequently, Rehab's Michigan counterpart called the raids "a witch hunt to chill the 1st amendment rights of Americans." Dawud Walid later accused the FBI of having "recruited more so-called extremist Muslims than al-Qaida themselves" and likened the use of informants in terrorism-related investigations to the systematic discrimination inherent in Jim Crow laws, and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Walid's rants follow his year-long campaign to find fault in FBI's shooting death of a Detroit imam in October 2009 after the imam opened fire first. That effort continued even after separate investigations by the state of Michigan and the Department of Justice found no wrongdoing.

CAIR's hostility toward law enforcement is long-standing, but the organization's rhetoric has increased since the FBI cut off formal communication with the group in 2008. That decision was based on exhibits admitted into evidence during a terror-financing trial in Dallas that showed CAIR founders were part of a Hamas-support network.

"[U]ntil we can resolve whether there continues to be a connection between CAIR or its executives and HAMAS, the FBI does not view CAIR as an appropriate liaison partner," an FBI official explained in a 2009 letter to U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.

CAIR petitioned the Texas court to be removed from a list of unindicted co-conspirators in that case. But the district judge refused, ruling there is "ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR" and others "with Hamas."

It remains to be seen what, if anything, will result from the FBI investigation in Minneapolis and Chicago. CAIR, in one image, has spoken more than 1,000 words about its hostility toward law enforcement.

Original URL: http://www.investigativeproject.org/2492/cair-imagery-makes-obstructionist-goal-clear

IPT News


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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