Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Big Bang

Well, the stage looks for Peres to join Sharon either as a member of the Kadima party or as an external supporter of the party. The elder statesman leaving the Labour party will no doubt cost them a few seats.

While Peres has yet to anounce his plans, as he is currently in Barcelona, his co-confidant Dalia Itzick joined the Kadima party today - an apparant jesture to Peres, as she would have been left to be eaten a live by the pack of wolves that now control the Labour party.

This is a truly interesting development. Now, the two antithesis visions, that of unified Israel on the right and that of a friendly peace on the left, and their respective visionaries - Sharon and Peres have chosen a pragmatic middle way... Kadima (onwards)!

Monday, November 21, 2005

The elections to watch

It looks like Israel will be having elections around March 21 or March 28 of this year. This will be extremely interesting elections to follow where anything can happen.

The direct impetus to the election has been the election of a fanatic left wing union leader as the head of Israel's Labor party. Amir Peretz (Israel’s Mark Latham) has always put self-interest first, and believes that early elections will give him a chance to ride on the wave of euphoria that has gripped some Israeli circles. This man has cost the Israeli economy hundreds of millions of dollars (through frequent infrastructure strikes) and intends to run on a socialist platform, aiming to attract North African voters from Likud and Shas. (Incidentally, Shas will retaliate by attempting to capitalise heavily on the popularity of its former leader Aryeh Deri – who served three years for a bribery conviction).

Amir Peretz will fail in this mission. Ariel Sharon, however, may not.

He is by far the most popular Israeli prime minister in a decade, if not longer - and he now can count on his personal popularity to break his ties with the party he created and its oppressive central committee (where is archrival Netanyahu pulls the strings). While his last such attempt at breaking from the likud with the establishment of ShlomZion (lit. peace in Zion) failed, Sharon stands a far better chance now. Each of the 10-14 sitting parliamentarians (MKs) who cross the floor to run with Sharon bring with the 1.15 Mil in election funding according to Israeli election funding rules - that's good news for a party with no infrastructure and little air time.

Aside from taking a third a third of sitting Likud MKs, Sharon's party has attracted two talented Labour MKs - Dalia Itzik and Haim Ramon. Unfortunately, the most talented politican in the house, Shimon Peres, seems to be staying at home for now (Hopefully, he will cross the floor after the elections).

What’s left of the Likud will be a party full of leaders with no followers. Of the long list of leadership challengers, Netanyahu is the man to beat. The defence minister Mofaz is the challenger to watch (as a non-parliamentarian over the past couple of years, he has has attended the Bar Mitzva ceremony’s of the sons of every swinging central committee member. Will the bad food and music pay off?! Probably not. Will Mofaz then accept Sharon’s offer and cross over to the new party?! Maybe.

Whatever happens, these elections are extremely important and hopefully will come up with a viable alternative to the right and left. My two cents: this alternative party will play its function in the next term of Knesset, then amalgamate and disappear back into the Likud : Labor paradigm. The binary adversarial model is just too damn sexy.

Alexander and I

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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Well, it seems the UN have finally managed to do a half decent task - its report into the assasination of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri. I cannot recall th last time I have given the UN a compliment but Detlev Mehlis, the UNIIIC commissioner and author of the report deserves credit for his frank report.

The full text of the report can be found here.

The report does not name the five main suspects. Their names are:
1) Mahr Assad - Brother of Syrian President Bashar Assad
2) Assaf Shoukath - Brother in law of Syrian President Bashar Assad & second in command
3) Hassan Halil - Former head os Syria's intelligence agency
4) Bahjeth Suliman - Senior officer in Syria's intelligence agency
5) Jamil A-Sayed - Head of Lebanon's internal security agency

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Necessary Evil?

Sunday, August 14, 2005


My 2 Cents on Disengagement

We are standing on the eve of the disengagement process in Israel or the Hitnatkut (lit. detachment \ disconnection \ severance), and while my mind is at ease with this process, my heart is aching for the many who will lose their homes and the many hundreds of thousands of others who will see this move as regressing a two thousand year old dream.


I have long supported this move by Sharon and see this proactive step as a necessary evil for Israel to gain control over a peace process that has spiralled beyond its control and has become typified by a series of reactive measures. But above all, the disengagement delays the effects of Israel’s biggest threat – “the wombs of Palestinian mothers” (as described by the Palestinian leadership). The threat posed by the disparity in population growth between the Israelis and Palestinians is a ticking time bomb. It is clear to say that Israel does not have time on its side and without disengagement and consequent steps separating Israel from the bulk of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), there will be more Arabs than Jews living between Jordan and the sea – by which time the Palestinian request will no longer be for a two state solution, but rather a one state solution in which they control government.

That said, I share the pain of those who will be affected by this process and of those who have yet to internalise the severity of the threat that disengagement is defusing. I suppose the process is akin to a person who must amputate a gangrenous leg. The process itself is necessary for the survival of the body as a whole, but try and sell that theory to the leg that is about to be amputated.


The international community will no doubt be on the wrong side of justice once more:

The will not understand that Israel has risked deeply dividing its nation for the sake of disengagement, a cause the Palestinian leadership has cited for not fighting against their brothers in Hamas; they will not understand the inherent unfairness in the fact that the forcible removal of every Jew from the land to be transferred to the Palestinians is seen as a necessaty, while an equivelant forcible removal of Arabs from land controlled by Israel is unthinkable; and as always, they will not understand the extent of the Jewish connection to this land.

They will minimise the sacrifice Israel has made (more concrete than any step taken by the Palestinian side); they will dispute her control over the Palestinian-Egyptian border and Gaza’s ports (air and sea - necessary for arms control); and they will prevent Israel from annexing those parts of the West Bank that will clearly remain Israel under any future agreement (such as Gush Etzion and Maaleh Adumim).

But nevertheless, this is a process that Israel must go through for its own sake, not for the sake of the international community.


The disengagement and Netanyahu’s resignation from government last week have some implication on the future of Israeli politics.
  • The timing of his resignation suggests that Netanyahu wanted the process of disengagement to be completed under Sharon’s tenure. Netanyahu could have quit some months back and provided strong political leadership for the anti-disengagement movement, but rather he voted for the move, sat in the government throughout its planning phase and merely stepped aside prior to implementation to position himself politically for his next battle – control of the Likud party.
  • At this stage, Sharon’s future as the leader of the Likud party is shaky and unless a new centrist party emerges in Israel, Sharon now has little chance of being on a ticket in next year’s election.
  • Sharon will be judged by his last major political move – the disengagement. A process that ends in perceived failure (such as Hamas flags waving on former settlements); on in an unclear result (the most likely result) is likely to reduce Sharon’s popularity. I see no real way of the process being a resounding success. There is only that much spin you can put on an amputation.
  • With Sharon and Peres out of the running for the next year’s election (barring the emergence of a new centrist party), it will be the battle for the next generation’s leadership (a la Netanyahu vs. Barak’s 1999 election. Certainly, Barak has been doing all he can to have his rematch). The question is can Israel’s next generation offer the public the same security and vision that Israel’s founding generation had?
  • It seems that Sharon like Barak before him have bet their political future on a single strategic move. Barak lost his bet. Let’s hope Sharon does not lose his.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Israeli Soldiers and anti-disengagement protesters join up on both sides of the fence outside Kfar Maimon to make up the required quorum for afternoon prayers.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Iraq Body Count

Recent media reports quoting the newly sanctioned "bureau of statistics" Iraqi Body Count (IBC) reiterated its claims that 25,881 civilians have been killed in Iraq since April 2003.

Here are some basic calculations:

  • IBC have claimed in the past that the 1,200 civilians who died in Afghanistan were in fact 3,800 civilians.
  • Considering a standard IBC exaggeration error of 216% (based on the Afghanistan statistic), the Iraqi death count should be scaled back to 8,173.
  • Since the liberation of Iraq, mass graves containing 400,000 people killed by Saddam Hussein have been discovered. This figure, which represents a fraction of the dead and does not account for nearly a million casualties of the Iraq-Iran war, averages nearly 17,000 people per annum over 24 years of a brutal regime.
  • This figure equates to 37,500 saved lives since April 2005.
  • Based on the above, there is a net figure of 29,327 Iraqi men and women who are walking around freely in Iraq who would be rotting in graves had Bush yielded to left wing activists that form the backbone (or lack thereof) of IBC and its sister organisations.

That’s 29,327 reasons why the liberation of Iraq was necessary and legitimate!

When factoring in what the future held under Saddam and what the future holds under the emerging democratic state, this figure expands exponentially.

An Open Letter to the Mayor of London

London mayor defends the use of Palestinian suicide bombers

By Haaretz Service and News Agencies

Less than two weeks since the London terror attacks, the city's Mayor Ken Livingstone has sparked controversy by defending the use of suicide bombers in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and charging that Israel had indiscriminately slaughtered Palestinians in acts that "border on crimes against humanity."

"Given that the Palestinians don't have jet planes, don't have tanks, they only have their bodies to use as weapons," Livingstone told Sky News in an interview.

"In an unfair balance, that's what people use," said Livingstone, who has often been strongly critical of Israel in the past.

On July 7, more than 50 people died in four London bombings believed to have been carried out by suicide terrorists.

At the time, Livingstone was uncompromising in his condemnation of the terror acts.

Livingstone said that Israel has "done horrendous things which border on crimes against humanity the way they have indiscriminately slaughtered men, women and children in the West Bank and Gaza for decades."

Livingstone also said that he does not distinguish between members of Likud and Hamas, branding them "two sides of the same coin."

"I think it is the Israelis who are leading the stubborn line," said Livingstone. "The Likud and Hamas members are two sides of the same coin. They need each other in order to attract support."

"Each side emphasizes the extremism of the other in order to attract sympathy," Livingstone said.

Livingstone agreed to the interview in the wake of the media frenzy surrounding the possible visit of controversial Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who has voiced support for Palestinian suicide bombers and has been banned from entering the United States.

Livingstone denied that Qaradawi will visit London,.

"I believe it is forbidden to take human life," Livingstone said. "I will welcome and meet with senior members of the Israeli government if they come here because they serve their country's government even though I believe they have done terrible things bordering on crimes against humanity."


Ken Livingstone
Mayor of London
Greater London Authority
City Hall
The Queen's Walk
London SE1 2AA

To the Right Honourable Mayor of London, Mr Ken Livingstone:

I can imagine that your comments (as reported in Sky News, July 20, 2005) equating the Hamas and the Likud and justifying Palestinian terrorism against innocent Israeli civilians have provoked considerable response. Accordingly, this letter may end up in the trash bin, but my hope is that either you, or one of your close aides, will nonetheless take the time to read it.

It is tragic that precisely at this momentous juncture in history, when leaders in the Muslim community in the UK and worldwide are at long last issuing unequivocal and unconditional fatwas against the murder of innocents, that a man in your position has once again found reason to condone the slaughter of my people.

From your equation of the Hamas with the Likud, one can only deduce that you are either ignorant of the historical facts and political realities of the conflict in the Middle East or impassioned by the blind hatred that has inspired so many totalitarian leaders throughout the ages to rationalise the extermination of Jews.

In the sincere hope that the moral flaw revealed through your statements is in the first category, may I remind you of the following:

  • The so-called "occupation" of the West Bank and Gaza began in 1967 following a defensive war that saw Egypt blocking the Gulf of Aqaba and 500,000 troops from five Arab armies poised on Israel's borders with the publicly declared aim of its destruction.
  • Following the conquest of these armies, Israel did what Egypt and Jordan-- the former "occupiers" of the West Bank and Gaza from 1949 -1967 who deliberately left the Palestinian refugees in squalor-- had never done; it built roads, hospitals. schools and housing. Having lived in Israel during that time period and having visited the territories, I can assure you there were no roadblocks, checkpoints or IDF raids. The Palestinians enjoyed the benefits of tourism and an unprecedented economic prosperity that continued until the outbreak of the Intifada. (It is for these economic reasons that 70% of Jerusalem Arabs are today opposed to giving up their Israeli citizenship to live under the corrupt rule of the PA).
  • Hamas and Islamic Jihad are fundamentalist organizations that reject the concept of a two-state solution and the existence on a Jewish state. Its leaders, like the late Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, have publicly endorsed the murder of innocent Jews, in Israel and worldwide, as legitimate tools of resistance to the "occupation". (Take note that there are 26 states officially described as "Islamic" and that the tiny sliver of the Jewish State of Israel occupies but a fraction of a percent of these vast Arab lands stretching from Morocco to Iraq.) On the contrary the Likud is a nationalist political party that, in the past, has given up territories conquered in 1967 to make peace with Egypt and Jordan, and, on numerous occasions under different governments has-- unlike the Islamic terror groups you implicitly support-- accepted the notion of a two-state coexistence.
  • Your spurious claim that a people without an army has no recourse but to target innocent civilians is outrageous and, as mentioned previously, reinforces a repugnant ideology that responsible Muslim leaders are only now attempting to repair. It may be somewhat understandable, though in my mind still unacceptable, to stage attacks on IDF troops stationed in what is perceived by the Palestinians as their land (technically, according to international law, it is not their land; as there never was a Palestinian state, it is legally speaking disputed rather than occupied territory.) How can any decent human being, however, justify the killing of innocent people in restaurants, busses, discotheques, synagogues and wedding halls? Furthermore, leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, who also lacked military forces at their disposal, managed to achieve independence through altogether non-violent means. If the Palestinians had had such leaders, an independent Palestinian state and peaceful co-existence would long ago have become realities rather than wistful dreams.
  • Intelligence from all sources, Palestinian included, reveal that the Intifada ignited by the late Yasser Arafat begun in the year 2000 was not, as many mistakenly believe, in reaction to Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount (Jewish people visit the Temple Mount all the time); but rather to Ehud Barak's offer to grant the Palestinians their very wish of an independent state on 99% of the territories with Jerusalem as its capital! Unable to co-exist with Israel, because of the same rejectionist philosophy that the Palestinian Authority, despite its public declarations, shares with its Islamofascist brethren, the response to a proposed two-state solution was the predictable bloodshed against hundreds of innocent Israeli men, women and children.
  • Finally, the alleged "Jenin massacre", where the IDF at great risk to its safety fought dozens of jihadists in hand-to-hand combat in the casbah, was exposed by both UN and Palestinian sources to have been a fabricated media myth. Your declarations notwithstanding, I challenge you to find even a single instance where Palestinian civilians have been deliberately targeted by the IDF or one policy statement by the Israeli government that would endorse such killings. On the contrary, soldiers are periodically brought to trial in Israel when perceived individual violations do occur. In contrast, the murder of innocent Jews is the policy of the jihadist groups; those who commit such crimes, rather than being brought to trial, are exonerated and publicly lauded as "martyrs" with the great reward of 72 virgins in paradise.

Given these indisputable facts, your seeming ignorance of them precludes you from making any political commentary on the situation. In fact, in the opinion of many, an ignorance of these truths would debar you from political office entirely, particularly in a metropolitan city like London that has large Jewish and Moslem populations.

If, however, you are aware of these facts, your declaration equating the Likud with Hamas and the justification of Palestinian terror against Israeli civilians is nothing more than racial incitement. If that is the case, rather than occupying the mayoral seat of London, your place should be behind bars, where any criminal who foments the killing of innocent people belongs.

I hope that you, or some of your more responsible associates, will take the time to read this letter, and that you will reflect on the grievous error you have made. Your insidious statements demand nothing less than an immediate retraction and apology-- not only to the government of Israel but to all peace-loving peoples worldwide who eschew the ugly, murderous ideology of terrorism.


PO Box 222
Bangalow NSW 2479

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Ultimate Torture

Detainees Told FBI of Koran Desecration
Los Angeles Times

Well, there you have it: Gitmo detainees read Newsweeek - and if that 's not torture, what is?!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Pharaoh & Saddam's ungodly side

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Last night, a French lawyer for Saddam threatened to sue The Sun for $1million in damages.

Emmanuel Ludot said: “I think it’s a strategy duly orchestrated by the Americans to destroy the image of Saddam Hussein — to say ‘look at this man, he’s not a god, he’s only a man’.”

The Sun

And what exactly is he suggesting, that he is a god?!

According to Jewish tradition, Pharaoh tried to hide the fact that he defecated as it is unseemly for a god figure and hence used to go out early in the morning to the river where he will not be seen. I guess Saddam in his underpants is tantamount to Pharaoh shitting.

Friday, May 06, 2005

An Ode to Blair & Democracy

Tomorrow I intend to go down to 10 Downing Street like many tourists in London do. However, on this day I will be able to witness the re-election of last of the “Coalition of the Willing” leaders - or the Three Musketeers as some would have it.

In a fair and a democratic society, the election is the most accurate gauge public opinion. British tabloids, American media polls and Australian news commentators have time and time again been getting the basic sentiments of society wrong. It is basic statistical dictum that a poll conducted on 10’s of millions is far more accurate than a poll conducted on 1000. When time and time again, the public manages to baffle the MSM pundits, it would suggest that the media is more out of touch with the populus than the leaders they love to bash.

After all, have the media even considered the possibility that Bush, Howard and Blair may have won ‘because’ of Iraq rather than ‘in spite of it’?!

It is high time for the media to acknowledge that this gap exists and that it is problematic. If they are to call themselves the “Fourth Estate” (after the Executive, Legislative & Judicial) and evoke the concept of ‘freedom’ to declare a free press as an untouchable cornerstone of a democratic system, they must acknowledge another tenant of democracy – ‘representation’. Like the other Estates, the media ought to be represent the nation’s opinions, not attempt to mould them; they must ensure that their editorials are not compliant with the 80:20 rule against Bush or Blair or Howard – or for that matter Michael Moore.

Thank God, the Coalition of the willing is a live and kicking and will hopefully continue to spread Democracy throughout the world, a democracy based on freedom and representation.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

A Free Iraqi's Poem

Two years now and
"they" still wonder
And "they" still ask Was it worth it?
Was it right?
Two years and it seems to me Like it was yesterday
Two years and "they" keep trying
To silence the voice inside us
Yet it only grows louder

I was once free When I was a kid
But when I grew up
I couldn't be the man I am
I couldn't be the kid I was
And I couldn't flee

Two years since I finally became
The man in me, and the kid in me.
And "they" want to take this away?
"They" would have to kill them both first
The man and the kid
And turn the clock back around
And still "they" can't change me back

Two years since I stopped weeping
Inside of me, day and night
Two years since the widow
Found her husband's body
In a feast of death for the human death lord.
Two years since the orphan
knew Where his father lied
And now they finally have peace
And they have a future
No matter how painful it is to go on
And their dreams still go on

Two years since I started dreaming
Dreams that have a chance
And are becoming true
Two years since I regained my heart
And then I found her...
And she found me...
And the world looked beautiful!
And "they" think they can separate us?!
Think again, or keep wishing.

Two years and some are still
Trapped in the past
And some cannot withstand the moment
And want to arrive without struggle to a better future
While others just enjoy what is already better now
And work to meet the future, bettered with them.
Two years and they ask Should I be grateful?
Am I?
Do I even need to answer that!?
YES, and to the last breath!

Ali from Baghdad, A Free Iraqi

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Australian gets it wrong

THE fragile truce between Israel and the Palestinians was shaken at the weekend when Palestinian militants fired at least 60 mortar shells at Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip after Israeli soldiers killed three unarmed Palestinian youths who had entered a military no-go area on the border with Egypt.

The Australian
A short analysis of the above:

  • Arms: 60 mortars vs 3 bullets
  • Targeting: general vs specific
  • Victims: settlers vs "unarmed Palestinian youths"

The article is structured so that the latter imbalance justifies the former two. Later on, tucked away in the midst of the article is the following statement: "Palestinian security officials later acknowledged they were involved in an arms smuggling operation" and explains that the figures were crawling through the restricted military zone. With this in mind, is the term "unarmed Palestinian youths" correct? and accordingly, the entire framing of the article is wrongfooted.

Tensions rose further with the attempt by an extreme right-wing Jewish organisation to stage a massive pray-in yesterday on Jerusalem's Temple Mount, a site holy to both Muslims and Jews. Islamic organisations warned of the outbreak of a new intifada if Jews violated the sanctity of the site, dominated by the al-Aqsa mosque, Islam's third holiest site.

Another short analysis:

  • Temple Mount: "a site holy to both Muslims and Jews" (joint/equal claim)
  • al-Aqsa mosque: Islam's third holiest site (special claim: Muslim)

The article fails to mention that the Temple Mount is (and has been for some 3000 years) Judaism's holiest site. Despite that, for the sake of the peace, Israeli police have consistently supported the WAQF (Islamic administrator of the holy site) and refused or limited Jewish entry to their holiest site. The Western Wall is the nearest Jews can get to their holy site.

(Note: Jews all around the world pray facing the temple mount, while Muslims of the middle east will face their backside to the mosque and pray to Mecca)

Further, the article fails on the facts, the temple mount is not dominated by the al-Aqsa mosque, but rather the dome of the rock - Qubbat As-Sakhrah, which does not even make the top three list. In fact, it is not even a mosque, and your local mosque and 123 Main Street is holier than this structure. The following image and links highlight this:

See Wikipedia or your encyclopedia's own definition of the terms Temple Mount, Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque.

Aerial view of Temple Mount, with the Dome of the Rock in the center and the Al Aqsa Mosque on the upper left of the compound

The Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem is not to be confused with the Dome of the Rock

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Pope John Paul II dies

May he rest in peace.

The Pope at the Western Wall in March 2000 inserting a note that seeks forgiveness for Christian sins against Jews

Arthur Chrenkoff, one of my favourite bloggers, has a great post on the pope's death entitled My Pope. Arthur is of Polish origin and gives over a very interesting perspective. Other "must read"s are PowerLine's article on the Pope as well as Charles Krauthammer's article on the subject.

ScrappleFace's Double Whammy

Condi Congratulates Zimbabwe's Mugabe on Reelection
by Scott Ott | ScrappleFace.com

(2005-04-02) -- U.S. Secretary of State Condaleezza Rice today congratulated Robert Mugabe on winning this week's free and fair presidential elections to continue his 25-year rule of Zimbabwe.

"Under Mr. Mugabe's leadership," said Secretary Rice in a written statement, "Zimbabwe has become a recognized world leader in unemployment (70%), inflation (~620%) and HIV adult prevalence rate (33.7%). Thanks to this popular, legally-reelected, leader, the average lifespan of a Zimbabwean has gone from 61 years to 34 years in just the past 15 years, making his nation one of the most rapidly-youthful in the world."

Secretary Rice hailed Mr. Mugabe's leadership as "a textbook case which will be studied in universities around the world for years to come."

In addition to his legal reelection, the 81-year-old Mr. Mugabe's party this week legally won approximately 70 seats in the 150-seat legislature, and he legally will appoint an additional 30 legislators, giving him the two-thirds majority needed legally to re-write the constitution to allow him legally to hand-pick his successor.

As a reelection gift, U.S. Ambassador Joseph Sullivan presented Mr. Mugabe with a bound copy of President George Bush's second inaugural address with this excerpt engraved on the cover.

"All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you."

Wolfowitz to End World Bank Funding of Poor Nations
by Scott Ott| ScrappleFace.com

(2005-03-31) -- Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, headed for almost-certain approval as the new chief of the World Bank, said his first official move would be to withdraw funding to poor nations whose people suffer from a "low quality of life with little hope of recovery".

"I look at some of these impoverished people and think, 'I wouldn't want to live that way'," said Mr. Wolfowitz. "The most merciful thing to do is cut their funding and let these people slip into a peaceful, euphoric state through dehydration and starvation."

The new World Bank chief said he has the authority to deprive poor nations of food and water, since their leaders have been trying to do that for years.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Terry Schiavo Dies

May she rest in Peace.

(For more, see the New York Times)

Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Lily Revolution

Following a corrupted election in which Mugabe will be "reelected" President, the people of Zimbabwe face an window of opportunity to bring the country to a halt and force Mugabe to seek refuge elsewhere.

People of Zimbabwe, look at Georgia's Rose Revolution, Ukraine's Orange Revolution, Kyrgyzstan's Tulip Revolution & Lebanon's Cedar Revolution and be inspired.

Zimbabwe's National Flower


GLORIOSA ROTHSCHILDIANA is a native to tropical Africa. It is known as the "flame lily" in Zimbabwe. The large, claw like flowers open yellow and red and then change to a rich claret edged with gold. Their fascination lies in the way the pendulous buds turn up in a 180 degree curve and then down again. It is a very successful cut-flower that will last two weeks. A mature tuber can give up to 25 blooms. It can grow up to 1.8 meters tall and climbs using tendrils at the ends of the leaves to hold on.

Let's add a Lily to this beautiful mosaic!

Freedom's Beauty

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Media Coverage during the 2004 Election Campaign

The State of the Media Report by run by Journalism.org and a stroy reported on by Yahoo News came up with the following startling conclusion: media coverage of the 2004 election was slanted against Bush. After you finish gasping, you might note that this comes from a Journalist body (Strike 1) with ties to academia (Strike 2), namely Columbia Univesity - and yet even they, in a fleeting moment of self reflection, came up with the following facts:

Please note that when unspecified all TV/Media statistics of election coverage INCLUDE Fox News. Imagine what the statistics would be otherwise.

Brainwave: perhaps Fox's slogan "Fair and Balanced" does not mean that they present fair and balanced news but that it is only FAIR they tilt the scales the other way to create BALANCE.

Presidential Campaign TV Ad Spending, 2004

Cable News Believability, by Political Leaning

Bias in Campaign Coverage

Believability of Network News Outlets

Presidential Campaign News for Television Viewers - by Party

Media Outlets Ranked by Believability, 2004

Believability of News Outlets Over Time

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

From the people who awarded Fahrenheit 911

Last Friday a suicide bomber blew himself up in Tel Aviv killing four Israelis. This was the first suicide attack in Israel since November. Five days before, on February 20, the Berlin Film Festival or “Berlinale” came to a close with the awarding of its coveted prizes. The “Blue Angel” Award for Best European Film went to what was undoubtedly the most talked about film in the competition: Hany Abu-Assad’s “Paradise Now”, a by all accounts – including the director’s – sympathetic portrayal of two young Palestinian men recruited to carry out a suicide attack in Tel Aviv. The description of the film in the Berlinale program notes that on the day of the “operation”, things do not go according to plan. “Separated from each other and left to their own devices,” the program comments, “it’s up to them to face their destiny and stand up for their convictions.”

In addition to the “Blue Angel” Award, “Paradise Now” won the “Audience Prize” sponsored by the Berlin newspaper the Morgenpost and intended to capture the sentiments of the public as opposed to the supposedly expert opinions of the jury.

Al Qaida vs The Gladiator

IN one of the more bizarre terror plots hatched by al-Qaeda, Australian actor Russell Crowe was the target of a kidnapping scheme as part of a "cultural destabilisation plan".

Crowe has revealed he was approached by the FBI in the months leading up to his Academy Award win for Gladiator in 2001 and warned, vaguely, of the threat: "That was the first (time) I'd ever heard the phrase al-Qaeda.

It was about - and here's another little touch of irony - taking iconographic Americans [Neo: !!!] out of the picture as a sort of cultural destabilisation plan."


Monday, March 07, 2005

Italian Hostage Botch Up

Sgrena told colleagues the vehicle was not travelling fast and had already passed several checkpoints on its way to the airport. The Americans shone a flashlight at the car and then fired between 300 and 400 bullets at if from an armoured vehicle.

Let's examine this statement:
  1. We're supposed to believe that the car she was in took three to four hundred rounds from an armored vehicle, and only one person was killed? An armored vehicle usually has a 50 caliber machine gun mounted on it, or an MK-19 grenade launcher, it would have made Swiss cheese out of that car and all of its occupants. (Hat tip: Marty)
  2. Sgrenger now claims that there were no lights or signals. (Fox News)
  3. If the US intended to assasinate her, as she claims, why on earth did they evacuate her and the occupants of the car to a hospital for treatment?! (Hat Tip: Amos)
It almost looks like she's sniffing for a cause after being bought out of captivity by one of Bush's staunchest allies - the government of Berlusconi. She thanked her captors (!), shunned the Italian government and claimed to be a US assasination target.

Before conspiracy theorists start theorising, is it not possible that there was a beakdown in communication, the car sped and failed to stop, a soldier pacicked and pressed the trigger and his comrades joined the shootout?! That seems far more reasonable than any alternative I have read so far.

UPDATE 8 March 2005

  • Who does this "B" grade journalist think she is that she is worthy of an assassination plot?
  • In her latest version, she had tanks firing at her (and yet she walks out in one piece)
  • She admits that the car had lost control shortly before - which could concur with the US account.
  • The italian press is reporting that Italian intelligence authorities seem to have paid the ransom for Sgrena without informing their American counterparts. Effective communication would have probably prevented the tragedy.
  • So the terrorist's got their "cause" promoted on the Italian media in the first instance; cashed in a hefty cheque; and ended up walking away with an even greater media coup than they had in the begining.
  • Is Italy suffering from Spanish Mini-Cohones Syndrome?
See also: InstaPundit and ModerateVoice

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Black and White Vision

What we are seeing in the Middle East now is a very promising sign that in a number of places democracy and hope are both starting to emerge...

You've had the democratic election of Mahmoud Abbas by the Palestinians and, for the first time in years, there's a real prospect of some settlement. You've seen these very helpful developments in Syria (and) municipal elections in Saudi Arabia and even a multi-candidate slate for the presidential elections in Egypt.

These things wouldn't have been thought remotely possible a year ago, and I have no doubt that ... one of the reasons ... was the overthrow of Saddam Hussein...

Those who were so ready to condemn the coalition, particularly the Americans, for what they did in Iraq should bear that in mind.

John Howard, Australian Prime Minister - News.com.au

Isn't it ironic that it is the "Arab Street", the nuances of which only Europe and the political left supposedly understood, that has bought in to Bush's "cowboy vision" of good and evil, freedom and oppression, tyranny and democracy?!

The Iraqi elections proved the hitherto commonly held notion that Arabs are A) incapable and/or B) undeserving of democracy - a fallacy. It took a man of black and white to rid the world of a grey notion.

In fact, the premise of basic human rights is set on black and white principals that apply to all people and all times at all places - a very ablolutist notion. The left's dependency on relativism has pushed Human Rights championship away from them to the political right.

Let no one fool you, all the changes that are taking place in the middle east would have not occurred but not for Bush's brazen vision. There were no wheels in motion prior to Iraq. On all fronts, the wheels were well and truly bogged down.

Much of the world owes an apology to President Bush, a man whom history-in-the-making is proving right.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Arab's Berlin Wall has Crumbled

Three years ago - April 6 2002, if you want to rummage through the old Spectators in the attic - I wrote: "The stability junkies in the EU, UN and elsewhere have, as usual, missed the point. The Middle East is too stable. So, if you had to pick only one regime to topple, why not Iraq? Once you've got rid of the ruling gang, it's the West's best shot at incubating a reasonably non-insane polity. That's why the unravelling of the Middle East has to start not in the West Bank but in Baghdad."

I don't like to say I told you so. But, actually, I do like to say I told you so...

Consider just the past couple of days' news: not the ever more desperate depravity of the floundering "insurgency", but the real popular Arab resistance the car-bombers and the head-hackers are flailing against: the Saudi foreign minister, who by remarkable coincidence goes by the name of Prince Saud, told Newsweek that women would be voting in the next Saudi election. "That is going to be good for the election," he said, "because I think women are more sensible voters than men."

Four-time Egyptian election winner - and with 90 per cent of the vote! - President Mubarak announced that next polling day he wouldn't mind an opponent. Ordering his stenographer to change the constitution to permit the first multi-choice presidential elections in Egyptian history, His Excellency said the country would benefit from "more freedom and democracy". The state-run TV network hailed the president's speech as a "historical decision in the nation's 7,000-year-old march toward democracy". After 7,000 years on the march, they're barely out of the parking lot, so Mubarak's move is, as they say, a step in the right direction.

Meanwhile in Damascus, Boy Assad, having badly overplayed his hand in Lebanon and after months of denying that he was harbouring any refugee Saddamites, suddenly discovered that - wouldja believe it? - Saddam's brother and 29 other bigshot Baghdad Baathists were holed up in north-eastern Syria, and promptly handed them over to the Iraqi government.

And, for perhaps the most remarkable development, consider this report from Mohammed Ballas of Associated Press: "Palestinians expressed anger on Saturday at an overnight suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that killed four Israelis and threatened a fragile truce, a departure from former times when they welcomed attacks on their Israeli foes."

Why is all this happening? Answer: January 30. Don't take my word for it, listen to Walid Jumblatt, big-time Lebanese Druze leader and a man of impeccable anti-American credentials: "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Berlin Wall has fallen."
The Telegraph

The Colour of Change


This process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq

Walid Jumblatt (Lebanese Opposition Leader)

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Cedar Revolution has arrived!

Lebanon's pro-Syrian PM resigns
Monday, February 28, 2005

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- The Lebanese government abruptly resigned Monday during a stormy parliamentary debate, prompting a tremendous roar from tens of thousands of anti-government protesters in central Beirut.

The demonstrators, awash in a sea of red, white and green Lebanese flags, had demanded the pro-Syrian government's resignation -- and the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon -- since this month's assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Demonstrators in Beirut's Martyrs Square chanted, "Syria out! Syria out!" after Prime Minister Omar Karami announced his resignation in a speech aired by the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation.

..."The battle is long, and this is the first step, this is the battle for freedom, sovereignty and independence," Ghattas Khouri told a cheering protest in central Beirut, according to Reuters.

For coverage of the current revolution, see Publius Pundit, LebanonWire, & AccrossTheBay. For an historical overview of Syria's occupation of Lebanon, see LGIC. The page comparing Assad's regime to Saddam Hussain's is particularly interesting.

There are some very positive signd that Syria is buckling under pressure and there have even been some indications from Syrian quarters that a withdrawal will take place in the latter part of this year (this is probably too late for the Lebanese on the street). Other than that, Syria has been accused by Israel of harbouring the terrorist organisation who carried out the Tel Aviv homocide attack over the weekend in an effort to destablise the fledgling PA-Israel ties, and Israeli foreign minister had strong words to say about their unfriendly neighbour.

Syria has also made two drastic steps today which seem to indicate that the regime is struggling to stay afloat. Firstly, "Syria has handed over Saddam Hussein’s half-brother. Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan al-Tikriti who is one of the most wanted leaders in Iraq’s Sunni-based Iraqi insurgency" (CBS) [neo: It seems that Syrian Kurds handed him over to their Iraqi brethren - the suggestion is that Syria turned a blind eye or even facilitated it to reduce the pressure it is under]. Secondly, "Syria agreed today to hand back to Jordan a huge tract of land along their border, heralding a new era in ties with Amman after disagreements over the Middle East peace process and US policy in Iraq" (News.com.au). Pretty desperate moves for a hetherto intransigent regime.

We don't think Syria should remain in Lebanon. Their occupation should come to an end...
We should isolate the extremists and empower the moderates... We should isolate the extremists -- that means Syria, Iran, the Hizbollah, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad and at the same try to work together with Egypt, Jordan, Abu Mazen (Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas) the north African countries and the Gulf states.
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom - LebanonWire

The United States and France also reiterate our call for the full and immediate implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559. That means that full and immediate withdrawal of all Syrian military and intelligence forces from Lebanon. And it means the consolidation of security responsibilities under the authority of a Lebanese government free from foreign domination.

We strongly believe that the people of Lebanon must have the opportunity to make their own political choices, without threats of violence and intimidation. They must have the opportunity to chart their own course through free and fair parliamentary elections this spring, bolstered by an international observer presence prior to and during the elections.

Joint Statement by The United States and France on Lebanon, Department of State - Office of the Spokesman, March 01 2005 - AccrossTheBay

The Cedar Revolution

The Cedar Revolution

The Cedar Revolution

Friday, February 25, 2005

Old Europe & Old Love

International relations are like ex-girlfriends: if you're still deluding yourself you can get her back, every encounter will perforce be fraught and turbulent; once you realise that's never gonna happen, you can meet for a quick decaf latte every six – make that 10 – months and do the whole hey-isn't-it-terrific-the-way-we're-able-to-be-such-great-friends routine because you couldn't care less. You can even make a few pleasant noises about her new romance (the so-called European Constitution) secure in the knowledge he's a total loser.

Mark Steyn

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Conspiracy Theory: The 2004 Elections

Sharon on France

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told television talk-show host and comedian Eli Yatzpan that France favored the Arab states, and criticized its refusal to condemn Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

"First of all, the French are pro-Arab," Sharon told Yatzpan yesterday in an interview conducted while strolling around Sharon's ranch.

"One of the strangest things is that France is not prepared in any way to define Hezbollah as a terror group, though it is one of the most dangerous ones in existence," he said, referring to the Lebanon-based group.


"The Berlin Wall Has Fallen"

The leader of this Lebanese intifada is Walid Jumblatt, the patriarch of the Druze Muslim community and, until recently, a man who accommodated Syria's occupation... Over the years, I've often heard him denouncing the United States and Israel, but these days, in the aftermath of Hariri's death, he's sounding almost like a neoconservative. He says he's determined to defy the Syrians until their troops leave Lebanon and the Lahoud government is replaced.

It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

Washington Post

Second Thoughts: Bush in Germany

When the voter turnout in Iraq recently exceeded that of many Western nations, the chorus of critique from Iraq alarmists was, at least for a couple of days, quieted. Just as quiet as the chorus of Germany experts on the night of Nov. 9, 1989 when the Wall fell.

Just a thought for Old Europe to chew on: Bush might be right, just like Reagan was then.

Der Spiegel

Hat Tip: Chrenkoff

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Good News from Gaza

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia does not intend to present a new cabinet for parliamentary approval on Wednesday or Thursday, sources close to Qureia said on Wednesday.

In such a case, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas may decide as early as Thursday to entrust the task of forming a new government on a new candidate for the premier post.

"There is an internal plot in the [Palestinian ruling party] Fatah to hamper any cabinet presented he will present, and therefore he does not intend to do so," the sources close to Qureia said.

Although this may add to instability, the net effect of replacing Abu Alla with a non "old guard" member is likely to be a move in the right direction. The new government of Abu Mazen is future focused with some good technocrats on board (and the wild & powerful Dahlan). Remember, Arafat chose Abu Alla as his candidate of choice when he overthrew Abu Mazen (hence the name of an Abu Alla support base: "the Loyal Sons of Yassar Arafat"). If you are after a candidate who wants progression, here's a tip: don't back the guy Arafat backed.

Palestinian legislature continues to withhold confirmation from PM Qureia’s cabinet even after he scrapped first lineup and promised professionals, except for two ministers, instead of corruption-tainted veterans.

Main opposition comes from Qureia-Abbas’ own Fatah majority. DEBKAfile reports PA Chairman Abbas is manipulating Fatah to sustain crisis and humiliate Qureia until he quits. PM expected to resign if no majority Thursday.

See also debka's report about Dahlan's assassins - "Dahlan’s Death Squads Bring a Bit of Iraq to Gaza Strip". I still think overall this guy is a good influence in Gaza - despite his shortcomings - which doesn't say much about the Gaza leadership slate.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Tony & Son

An Australian reunion with a twist

Health Minister Tony Abbott
Abbott says he want to make a fresh start with his new-found son
An Australian minister who was reunited with the son he placed for adoption 27 years ago found out they had been working in the same building.

Health Minister Tony Abbott said he was "flabbergasted" when he was contacted by Daniel O'Connor, the boy he and his teenage girlfriend last saw in 1977.

Both men realised they had been working close by in parliament where Mr O'Connor is a sound technician.

"I think it is a wonderful story," said Prime Minister John Howard.

Mr Abbott told reporters about his Christmas reunion with the son he had last held as a five-day-old baby.

BBC News (For more of the story, click on the link)

A nice, heartwarming story! And for those who will no doubt try and portray Mr Abbott as hypocritical due to his conservative stance on abortion, the opposite is true. Adoption,
in many cases, is a viable alternative to abortion. And unlike abortion, and adoption results in all parties benefiting (even 27 years later...) including the biological parents, the step parents and most of all - the child. The latter point is emphasised by Daniel's first words to his biological father: "Thank you for having me".

An Ode to Chrenkoff

Arthur Chrenkoff has outdone himself with this great interview with author and scholar Michael Ledeen in Blog interview titled "Never, never, ever give in to tyranny"

Also, check out his killer (excuse the pun) news roundup from Lebanon.

An Enemy Called...

Linda Heard is a British editor, journalist and columnist currently based in Cairo where she is a correspondent for the English-language Saudi daily The Arab News...

Linda’s road has often been a lonely one since she refuses to align herself with any political system, party, activist group, or campaigning society. Without the constraints of ‘belonging’ and having to toe an official line, she strives to be an objective observer of the international political arena [Neo: Thesis].

...“When I hear the hauntingly beautiful call of the muezzin, I know I’m home,” she is known to say. [Neo: Anti-thesis]

Due to decades of witnessing so many good things about Arab culture - hospitality, compassion, charity and respect for family values - Linda feels that the Arabs, and even Islam, are currently being maligned by leaders of Western powers to suit their own power-led agendas. [Neo: Syn-thesis?!]

An Enemy Called Apathy

Palestine is occupied. Iraq is occupied. Afghanistan, the Middle East, Gulf and the Caspian are seething with US military personnel, pilots, submarines, Apache gun-ships, fighter jets and spy drones. Iran and Syria are being threatened [Neo: Oh No!!! Heaven forbid!]. And yet, it is absolutely imperative that Syria quits Lebanon tout suite, or so goes the White House line.

Naturally, the vast majority of the Lebanese want a complete Syrian withdrawal in the same way that Palestinians want to reclaim their land and Iraqis want the invaders out (except those in government suffering from severely twisted arms [Neo: by the hands of the terrorists or the Americans?!]). What human being on earth wants foreigners dictating their “do’s and don’ts” or telling them how their country should be run?

But there is a fundamental difference between the Syrian “occupation” and the others previously mentioned. The Syrians were invited into Lebanon in 1976 when the country’s civil war was at its bloodiest to bring stability [Neo's Newsflash: The Israelis were also invited to protect the Christians and were greeted with rice and flowers in 1982]. Over time, this it helped to achieve [Neo: would you also credit Israel with that?! Would you also credit the USSR for promoting global stability through MAD - technically true but odd...].

Furthermore, the Syrians have long said they have a plan for a staged withdrawal [Neo: staged over another 31 years, no doubt], which is more than one can say for the Americans in Iraq. Indeed, its troop levels are already substantially down.

...Put simply, the Syrians have overstayed their welcome, although given that Lebanon doesn’t possess an army to speak of, it has always maintained it would leave when the Israelis quit Lebanese land (there is still the Shiba Farms issue outstanding) and the Palestinians received their much-coveted state [Neo: Hold on a sec, the problem with Israel giving back Shiba Farms to Lebanon is that Syria is the country that is laying claim to the small land area. Further, the UN confirmed it was never part of Lebanese territory and as such concluded that Israel withdrew in full. So, no issues are outstanding! And as for the "much-coveted" Palestinian state - what does that have to do with Syria's occupation of Lebanon. Are they holding a fellow Arab country at ransom for the sake of a third Arab national group]. At the same time, Syria has long been attempting to hold peace negotiations with Israel, which still occupies its strategic Golan Heights, but has been constantly rebuffed [Neo: For two important reasons: 1) Sharon is not going to offer Assad a breather when the pressure cooker is on 2) Barak's attempts proved that Israel cannot negotiate on two fronts at the same time for internal reasons].

In addition, Syria was a main player in the “war on terror” during the months following the Sept. 11 attacks in the US [Neo: Interesting hypothesis] when both No. 10 and Buckingham Palace received Bashar and his wife as honored guests. What has changed?

...Then along came the tragic assassination of Lebanon’s former and widely beloved Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut’s downtown, which he so lovingly restored. Who did it?

“Syria,” said the US in nonverbal terms by withdrawing their ambassador and demanding the immediate Syrian pull out of Lebanon. No proof, nothing.

In the same way that individuals have been branded as terrorist supporters and bundled off in chains to Guantanamo, Bagram or Abu Ghraib, so Syria has been effectively labeled Hariri’s killer [Neo: I can't pin point why, but this victim story isn't working for me. Maybe if I see Assad sexually humiliated...].

For its part, Syria maintains Hariri was a friend [Neo: That's news to us all including Hariri and Syria itself] and has pointed out that it wouldn’t be in its interests to have him killed, especially in the light of so many international knives out for its blood. What could Syria possibly have to gain? We shouldn’t forget, too, that Bashar is highly educated and intelligent, not someone who would be stupid enough to believe Syria could get away with such an outrageous act [Neo: So, unlike the past half a dozen political assassinations committed by Syria, they now have a dentist at the realm who wouldn't dare do anything but remove Hariri's plaque].

Unfortunately, those Lebanese, who have united against Syria following Hariri’s demise, have fallen right into the trap.

Once again, Syria is not the aggressor here... [Neo: "Once again", let's ignore its acts of aggression of 1948, 1967, 1973, 1974, 1982, 2003, etc.] It is time for the Lebanese to decide where they stand during these threatening times. Their choices are thus. They can go shoulder to shoulder with their Syrian cousins, or trust the Americans and the Israelis to secure their safety and future prosperity?... [Neo: I think Lebanon is making its choice loud and clear. Long live the Cedar Revolution!]

Arab News

Monday, February 21, 2005

Bush's Doublespeak

Our greatest opportunity and immediate goal is peace in the Middle East. After many false starts and dashed hopes and stolen lives, a settlement of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is now within reach.

America and Europe have made a moral commitment: We will not stand by as another generation in the Holy Land grows up in an atmosphere of violence and hopelessness.

America and Europe also share a strategic interest. By helping to build a lasting peace, we will remove an unsettled grievance that is used to stir hatred and violence across the Middle East.

Our efforts are guided by a clear vision: We're determined to see two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. The Palestinian people deserve a government that is representative, honest and peaceful. The people of Israel need an end to terror and a reliable, steadfast partner for peace. And the world must not rest until there is a just and lasting resolution to this conflict.

All the parties have responsibilities to meet.

Arab states must end incitement in their own media, cut off public and private funding for terrorism, stop their support for extremist education, and establish normal relations with Israel.

Palestinian leaders must confront and dismantle terrorist groups, fight corruption, encourage free enterprise, and rest true authority with the people. Only a democracy can serve the hopes of Palestinians and make Israel secure and raise the flag of a free Palestine.

A successful Palestinian democracy should be Israel's top goal as well. So Israel must freeze settlement activity, help Palestinians build a thriving economy, and ensure that a new Palestinian state is truly viable, with contiguous territory on the West Bank.

A state of scattered territories will not work.

The Guardian - Transcript of Bush Remarks in Belgium

In his effort to appease European nations who were not there when he needed them most, President George Bush laid on the line his closest ally - the State of Israel. Until now, Bush has always referred to Israel's obligation to allow for "contiguous" (as oppose to "continuous") territory to make up the West Bank component of the new Palestinian state. He has now gone a step further and hinted that he has blurred the line between contiguous and continuous and requires the territories not to be scattered. This wording posses serious problems for the State of Israel and allows for a fet a compli declaration of borders resembling the pre 1967 borders.

The reference seems to indicate that Barak's Camp David proposal is no longer good enough in the eyes of the US administration. This gives in to the European position that despite the fact that the territory covered 90 odd percent (it varies somewhat by method of calculation) of land and included 98% of West Bank Palestinians, it was not attractive as it was quartered (allowing for potential road blocks in the event of a terror attack).

It is vital for Israel's sake and for the sake of peace seeking nations around the world that the Palestinian position after resorting to 4 years of violence is somewhat worse than the position they could have had if not for their choice to walk out at Camp David. Otherwise, there is no potential territorial loss from leaving the negotiation table and trying to force a better hand through terrorism. This is the same reason why Israel must not return to the pre-1967 borders - the instigators of a war must know that the downside of defeat is real and permanent.

Bush seeks to get out of Iraq and has made the strategic decision that the Europeans can be of use to him at this stage. As he is requesting European help with Iraq and a consolidated position on nuclear states, they hold the chips in the bargaining process, and he has offered them the only chip he can still play with - Israel's future.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The new "Intifada"

The Lebanese opposition has declared an "intifada" against the current Lebanese regime and Syria following last week's assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

The opposition in Lebanon is demanding a complete withdrawal of Syrian troops from the country. The opposition, declaring its "intifada of independence" on Friday, said it was directed against the Lebanese and Syrian governments, in response to their "crimes." It announced it would not participate in parliamentary elections, slated for May, as long as Syria's occupation of Lebanon continues. Opposition leaders met Friday at Beirut's Bristol Hotel, where they decided not to resign, so as not to forsake the political arena to Syrian loyalists.


If this Intifada eventuates, it would be the fifth uprising the Middle East has experienced in recent history and forebodes severe blood loss. The others include the Shia uprising against Saddam in the early 90's, both Palestinian uprisings of the late 80's and the current/recent one; and the 2003 Kurdish uprising against Syria.

It seems that many within and out of Lebanon consider the Hariri's death to be attributable to Syrian intelligence agents. This brings me to the Al Jazeera poll which offered the following choices for the culprits: a) Israeli agents b) American agents c) Syrian rebels d) Lebanese rebels e) others. Considering that rebels of the Labanese puppet government alse rebels against Syria and are likely to hold similar ideals of democracy advocated by Israel as a regional model and the USA as a global model, the choice is as genuine as the choice in the following statement: you are to a) yourself b) your mother's child c) your child's parent d) your siblings' sibling.

And yes, it seems that Al Jazeera has added this one to the list of acts that Israel has shot itself in the foot just so that it looks like an Arab is holding the smoking gun - September 11th; Tsunami; Hariri; etc.

And this from a publication with volatile reliability (although they are sometimes very right):

Monday, February 21, presidents George W. Bush and Jacques Chirac meet in Paris. With Lebanon at the forefront of their agenda, they will have to look hard at some tough questions. How to handle the situation if Assad orders his Syrian troops in Lebanon to march on Beirut in defense of his puppet government? And worse still, what if the full weight of the Syrian army is sent across the border to squash the uprising? Will the two Western leaders dispatch a joint US-French force to repulse the Syrian onslaught?

If they did, it would be the most drastic event to hit the Middle East since the March 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. The second American invasion of an Arab land might this time be partnered or endorsed by a European power.

To force the hands of the American and French presidents, the leaders of the Lebanese uprising are preparing a spectacular event to coincide with their summit. One proposal is for a hundreds of thousands of protesters to march through Beirut’s streets and seize the parliament building.

Other “intifada” events in the planning:

  1. Giant rallies to strangle normal life in the capital.
  2. A human chain from Hariri’s tomb to government headquarters on the seam-line dividing the Hizballah-dominated southern district from the Christian-controlled West that would aim to paralyze government activity.
  3. Opposition leaders have notified Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, head of the Shiite Amal, that the only session they will allow to be held is an open debate on the murder of the former prime minister that produces the formation of a state inquiry commission. This commission’s mandatory guideline must be to call General Rostum Ghazallah as its first witness.
  4. The mobilization of Lebanese expatriate communities in the United States and Europe for synchronized street rallies to generate broad international popular sympathy on the same lines as Ukraine’s Orange Revolution.
  5. Armenian Christians in Lebanon and Western countries will be asked to join the struggle.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Disengagement Plan wins 59:40

Ariel Sharon & Shimon Peres voting for the disengagement plan

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Unholy Trinity

An unholy trinity (sorry, "axis of evil" has been used already) is being fostered between Iran, Syria and the Hizbollah. Although they were always loosely affiliated via Hizbollah, it seems like Iran and Syria wish to embolden their direct ties to counterweight US pressure. It seems both nations fear the second Bush term.

The timing is particularly interesting considering the assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafiq Hariri in Beirut yesterday, the worsening of US-Syrian relations and the Iranian nuclear showdown.
Iran and Syria say they are to form a common front to face challenges and threats from overseas.

"We are ready to help Syria on all grounds to confront threats," Iranian Vice-President Mohammad Reza Aref said after meeting Syrian PM Naji al-Otari.

Both countries are under intense US pressure, with Washington accusing Tehran of seeking nuclear weapons.


UPDATE: Al Hariti's Assassination

Hizbollah suspected in killing

ISRAELI Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom indicated today that his government believed the Syrian-backed Hizbollah militia may have been involved in former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri's killing. "We do not have a definite guess" as to who was behind the explosion
that killed Hariri in Beirut on Monday, Mr Shalom told reporters during a visit to London.

"We know that there are many powers that are the enemies of the efforts to develop democratic institutions or democratic systems in Lebanon," Mr Shalom said.

"Democracy is good for the Lebanese. I'm not so sure it is good for the Syrians. But to tell you now that specifically that the (Syrian-backed) Hezbollah were behind it, I cannot tell you now," Mr Shalom said.

The Australian

Funeral of Rafiq Hariri - Beirut 16.02.05

It seems that some kudos is due to Kirk Sowell (see previous post) for predicting Hizbollah's involvement and for forecasting an outcry - although it is still shy of a revolution.

In another Middle Eastern report, they mentioned this interesting fact: Hariri's vehicle had advanced technology preventing it to be rigged with explosives (a common assassination tactic). If a suicide bomber is not found to have been present, then it would suggest the use of advanced explosives - with the finger pointing to a sophiticated regime or a backed terror organisation rather than the unknown group who claimed responsibility. It will be interesting to see what the final findings are (if they are not tainted)

Funeral of Rafiq Hariri - Beirut 16.02.05

Al Hariri's Assassination

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri has been assassinated by a suicide bomber. A Shia terrorist group calling itself “Victory and Jihad” has taken credit, and the Lebanese opposition is blaming Syria, of whom Hariri was a critic... Al-Jazeera showed a video of the terrorist organization taking credit for the assassination. The man, identified by Al-Hayat as Ahmad Abu Ads, a Palestinian, read from a written statement, stating that Hariri's killing was necessary to rid "Bilad al-Sham" - Greater Syria - of "unbelievers."

Kirh Sowell's Arab World Analysis

Kirk Sowell goes on further to suggest that this group may not be an external international terrorist as has been suggested by Lebanon but rather a branch of the Hizbollah. His analysis makes some sense considering Al Hariri's anti-Syrian stance - which is one of two Hizbollah sponsors - as well as the statements made against Saudi Arabia, a theological competitor to the Shiite Hizbollah. Hizbollah is the only major pro-Syrian Shiite terror organisation. The US took the opinion that Syria had a hand in this (which does not necessarily contradict the aforementioned thesis) and recalled its ambassador from Syria (NY Post's US YANKS ENVOY OVER LEB SLAY is unmatched in eloquence) while France is calling for an international inquiry on the matter. In fact, this seems to mark the first occsaion in recent history that the US and France see eye to eye on a major geopolitical event (See The Seatle Post on this).

Lebanon has a long history of political assassination and Syria seems to have a hand in most of them, including President-elect Bashir Gemayel in September 1982 which in turn sparks the Sabra & Shatila massacre by Christian Fallanja loyal to Gemayel, leading to a longer than anticipated Israeli entanglement in Lebanon and the escalation of a fierce civil war.

It would be interesting to learn what the modus operandi for the latest attack was. Early reports suggested a car bomb and this seems consistent with the level of damage caused. However, the latest reports from Lebanon suggest this is the act of a suicide bomber. As car bombs were typical of Syrian assassination while suicide bombings are a modus operandi that is atypical of Syria or even Hizbollah (which at one point condemned suicide bombings as un-Islamic), the distinction between the two methods has significant repercussions on the "who done it" analysis.

Al Hariri assasination bombing - Beirut 14.02.05

Hundreds of thousands of mourners swarmed the streets of Beirut in a sea of Lebanese flags, chanting slogans against Syria, as the funeral cortege made its way to Mr Hariri's final resting place at a mosque in the centre of the capital.

The murder of Mr Hariri, a billionaire businessman and five-time prime minister who resigned over the dominant role Damascus played in his country, stoked fears across the globe of a return to the dark days of the 1975-1990 civil war.

Mr Hariri was killed on Monday with 14 other people, including seven of his bodyguards, when a huge explosion ripped through his motorcade in Beirut, leaving a trail of carnage and destruction not seen in the capital since the war.

"Beirut weeps for its martyr. Beirut salutes Rafiq Hariri," said of the many banners hung in streets in the capital along with black flags and posters of the man regarded as the father of the country post-war reconstruction.


Sowell suggests that this public dissent of Syria might spark the "Orange revolution" of Lebanon. I am not so optimistic, but my fingers are crossed (or tied up in a convoluted multi-ethnic sign - for the politically correct amongst us). Whatever happens, Syria is definitely caught between a rock and a hard place.