Middle East: August 2002 Archives

Is he insane? I can't imagine why any British PM would tie his fortunes so closely to the most ignorant man ever to be President of the USA.

For him to argue this:

The world cannot stand by while Iraq is in "flagrant breach" of United Nations resolutions, the UK prime minister has said.

seems dangerous to me, given that one of the key "allies" of the US and UK in the Middle East is Israel, which is certainly in violation of a number of UN resolutions. It only makes the two countries look like hypocrites.

I'm not arguing that Iraq is country of peace and enlightenment, but I also don't see it as a country that threatens us enough to spend $50+ billion (more than the federal government's annual spending on primary and secondary education plus medical research) and risk thousands of American lives, to say nothing of de-stablizing much of the Middle East.

The Times has a front page picture and inside article about one of the doubles teams at the U.S. Open: Amir Hadad of Israel and Aisam ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan -- yes, a Jewish/Muslim doubles team. There's a video on the CNN/SI site also -- they're adorable. A photo from the U.S. Open site of them is here.

When it's tank shells (or F-16s) rather than suicide bombs that kill civilians, Americans seem to think it's not terrorism. Israel shelled people in a bedouin encampment last night, killing a family of four, and wounding others, claiming there was movement in an area near a settlement where Palestinians were forbidden. When I heard about it on NPR this morning, they said it was within an olive grove. I know from my friends in JAtO that now is the time for harvesting olives for oil.
[ CNN - Photo - NY Times - Ha'aretz ]

It's one of the top stories on the newswires right now, but the NY Times chose to put it on page 9 with a standard-sized headline.

The settlements are being built in areas where these families have lived for generations. To kill them for being in the olive groves that they've tended for hundreds of years (or more) is terrorism.

NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd announces, "I'm with Dick! Let's Make War." She admits she was dubious at first, but says that Cheney's vision -- as the vice-president put it, "a government that is democratic and pluralistic, a nation where the human rights of every ethnic and religious group are recognized" -- convinced her. "I'm on board," she says. "Let's declare war on Saudi Arabia!"

My favorite part:

The Saudis would probably use surrogates to fight anyway. They pay poor workers from other countries to do their menial labor. And they paid the Americans to fight the Iraqis in 1991. The joke among the American forces then was: "What's the Saudi national anthem? 'Onward, Christian Soldiers.' "

The Times has a followup article to the one I wrote about several weeks ago regarding monks fighting over territorial rights at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. I can't imagine trying to summarize this, so I'll just excerpt a bit of it. One of the things that interested me was how all of the other sects took over the "territory" of the Ethiopians after they were wiped out by plague in 1658. The article also mentions that 11 monks were hospitalized after the previously-mentioned melee.

At 11:40 a.m. on Saturday, a 72-year-old Egyptian priest walked out onto the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher carrying a wooden chair.

Limping heavily, the Rev. Abdel Mallek walked to a wall in the shade of a tree mysteriously rooted in the ancient stone and sat down near a cluster of Ethiopian monks, gazing at nothing in particular. Exactly 15 minutes later, he gathered his chair and walked back into the Coptic monastery.

It was the most prosaic of scenes, except that Father Mallek was closely guarded by an Israeli policeman, and three others stood guard. From the windows of the Egyptian monastery on one side, someone recorded the scene with a video camera, while several Ethiopian monks peered warily over the wall of their ancient compound on the other side.


The policemen saw nothing strange in the assignment. They are also from Jerusalem. "This is the center of the world," one explained. "This is how the world looks."

I'm never at a gas station, or I would buy some.

Just a reminder: James has more reports from our friend Steve in Palestine.

James has posted reports from friends with Jews Against the Occupation currently staying in the Occupied Territories.

To be fair (because I'm morally superior to Republicans1), I need to mention it when the Bush administration does something even remotely positive. Unfortunately, it only applies to new aid, not the $2 billion we currently give annually.

Bush, in Shift on Egypt, Links New Aid to Rights

The Bush administration will oppose any additional foreign aid for Egypt to protest the Egyptian government's prosecution of human rights campaigner Saad Eddin Ibrahim and its poor treatment of pro-democracy organizations, administration sources said yesterday.

The Ibrahim case makes it "impossible" for the administration to contemplate extra money for Egypt, according to a White House official who said President Bush will soon advise Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in writing of his decision. Existing aid programs will not be affected.

1 Just a single example: The horrible Ann Coulter, she of let's have a crusade and convert the Arab world to Christianity by force fame (does she think we should try that with Jews again too?), says Manhattan doesn't count as part of America. I recommend she visit NYC around the anniversary of 9/11 and say that.

Today's quiz: The U.S. is about to begin fingerprinting visitors from a list of Arab/Muslim countries. Which country won't be included in the list? Hint: 15 of the 19 hijackers came from there.

I know -- I'm getting a bit obsessed with the Middle East lately, but it makes me so crazy that we're spending billions to help various people kill each other. I don't support the killing of innocent civilians, but that's what both the Israelis and the Palestinians are doing. It's somehow considered less immoral when it's done with American-made F-16s, tanks, and laser-guided bombs. Israel basically has the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip under 24-hour curfew. Even in the worst days of Northen Ireland, or the depths of the Apartheid regime in South Africa, the oppressor didn't go that far. And it's still not making Israel safer.

Here is a column by Yitzhak Frankenthal about the death of his son, a soldier killed by a Palestinian in the Occupied Territories.

My beloved son Arik, my own flesh and blood, was murdered by Palestinians. My tall, blue-eyed, golden-haired son who was always smiling with the innocence of a child and the understanding of an adult. My son. If to hit his killers, innocent Palestinian children and other civilians would have to be killed, I would ask the security forces to wait for another opportunity.


I would say to the security forces: do not kill the killer. Rather, bring him before an Israeli court. You are not the judiciary. Your only motivation should not be vengeance, but the prevention of any injury to innocent civilians.


My son Arik was murdered when he was a soldier by Palestinian fighters who believed in the ethical basis of their struggle against the occupation. My son Arik was not murdered because he was Jewish but because he is part of the nation that occupies the territory of another. I know these are concepts that are unpalatable, but I must voice them loud and clear, because they come from my heart - the heart of a father whose son did not get to live because his people were blinded with power.

As much as I would like to do so, I cannot say that the Palestinians are to blame for my son's death. That would be the easy way out, but it is we, Israelis, who are to blame because of the occupation. Anyone who refuses to heed this awful truth will eventually lead to our destruction.

I have heard mention of Memri lately, a group whose purpose, according to its website, is to bridge the language gap between the west - where few speak Arabic - and the Middle East, by "providing timely translations of Arabic, Farsi, and Hebrew media".

I suspect it's too good to be true. Their choices of articles are highly selective, and almost always chosen to make Arabs and Muslims look as bad as possible. They have almost no information on their web site about who they are, but Brian Whitaker, a Guardian columnist, used search engine archives to view old pages.

Its work is subsidised by US taxpayers because as an "independent, non-partisan, non-profit" organisation, it has tax-deductible status under American law.

Evidence from Memri's website also casts doubt on its non-partisan status. Besides supporting liberal democracy, civil society, and the free market, the institute also emphasises "the continuing relevance of Zionism to the Jewish people and to the state of Israel".

That is what its website used to say, but the words about Zionism have now been deleted. The original page, however, can still be found in internet archives.

The reason for Memri's air of secrecy becomes clearer when we look at the people behind it. The co-founder and president of Memri, and the registered owner of its website, is an Israeli called Yigal Carmon.

Mr - or rather, Colonel - Carmon spent 22 years in Israeli military intelligence and later served as counter-terrorism adviser to two Israeli prime ministers, Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin.

Retrieving another now-deleted page from the archives of Memri's website also throws up a list of its staff. Of the six people named, three - including Col Carmon - are described as having worked for Israeli intelligence.

Col Carmon's co-founder at Memri is Meyrav Wurmser, who is also director of the centre for Middle East policy at the Indianapolis-based Hudson Institute, which bills itself as "America's premier source of applied research on enduring policy challenges".

The ubiquitous Richard Perle, chairman of the Pentagon's defence policy board, recently joined Hudson's board of trustees.

Ms Wurmser is the author of an academic paper entitled Can Israel Survive Post-Zionism? in which she argues that leftwing Israeli intellectuals pose "more than a passing threat" to the state of Israel, undermining its soul and reducing its will for self-defence.

James has more information including a quote from our friend Steve, who is headed there as a peace activist.

It's not making itself any safer, or us, and it has almost completely lost any moral authority it once had. Two stories from today's Ha'aretz:

Police use water cannons to disperse Israeli peace protest

Municipal worker killed by Israeli troops for working during curfew

Ahmed al Kouraini, 54, worked for Nablus' electric department and was on his way to work at the emergency fire services building during a curfew when he was stopped by an IDF tank, the witnesses said.

"There was nothing happening there. They told him to stop, he stopped, they shot in the air and then a soldier shot him in the head, one bullet," said Yousef al Jadi, head of the Nablus Fire Department.

Al Kouraini died before reaching Itihad hospital, medical officials said.

Military officials said soldiers asked Kouraini to stop his vehicle. The soldiers then carried out "the proper steps for detaining a suspect," including shooting in the air, the officials added.

"The soldiers opened fire and as a result of the gunfire the truck driver was killed. The army has opened an investigation into the incident and if it is discovered that the force did not act properly, disciplinary action will be taken against the soldiers. The army expresses sorrow over the incident," the officials said.

Nablus, along with several Palestinian cities, is under a round-the-clock curfew imposed by Israel to try to end Palestinian terror attacks. Since IDF troops moved into Nablus more than six weeks ago, municipality workers have been allowed to move around despite the curfew.

Why does it list Christianity before Judaism?

Monks Trade Blows in Unholy Row at Jerusalem Shrine

The rooftop compound of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre bore scars of conflict on Monday after Egyptian Coptic and Ethiopian monks traded blows over a chair at the traditional site of the crucifixion of Jesus.

About 11 monks were taken to hospital after clerics from the rival sects that jealously share the courtyard on the roof of the Jerusalem shrine threw rocks, metal rods and chairs at each other in the latest chapter of a centuries-old dispute.

For the six Christian sects that jealously guard their rights at the church, enshrined in a 1757 Ottoman "status quo" law, the movement several weeks ago by one denomination of a chair into a spot claimed by another was a declaration of war.

This page is an archive of entries in the Middle East category from August 2002.

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