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April 2009

Hizbullah’s global aims come to light

From The Daily Star
By Ferry Biederman
Tuesday, April 28, 2009

For all the verbal fireworks coming out of Cairo, Egypt’s campaign against the Lebanese Hizbullah movement may not amount to much in the end. We’re talking after all about a country that cannot even exert significant influence over events in neighboring Gaza and that cannot rein in the Palestinian Hamas movement there toward which it is ostensibly not well disposed either. To think that it can counter Hizbullah in any meaningful way in its Lebanese home base or anywhere else in the region, beyond its own borders, seems farfetched. But the row does emphasize a couple of regional fault lines and raises questions of Hizbullah’s international ambitions and the extent of its coordination with Iran.

While many in Lebanon have focused on the Egyptian charges that Hizbullah was planning to carry out attacks on its soil, the claim by its leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, that the group was smuggling arms to Palestinian factions in Gaza, for which “we do not apologize,” was the more remarkable. Any attack on Israelis in Egypt can be construed as being in line with his earlier pledge to seek revenge for the killing of Hizbullah commander Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus last year, which Nasrallah has accused Israel of being behind. But the now open extension of Hizbullah’s role to supporting the Palestinian cause hundreds of miles from the Lebanese border opens up the prospect of a continued confrontation with Israel even if all outstanding Lebanese-Israeli issues get settled. It also lifts a tip of the veil of secrecy that has always covered persistent indications that Hizbullah does have an international strategy, be it in the Palestinian territories, in Iraq or in South America.

Hizbullah’s support for Hamas in Gaza is not surprising given the well-known ties that go back several years now between Iran and Hamas. What is significant is that Hizbullah’s and Tehran’s aid to Hamas gives the lie to the notion that militant Shiite and Sunni movements do not cooperate. Since Hamas, apart from its Palestinian nationalist agenda, is also an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, such cooperation becomes even more important and could be regarded as a real threat by some of the so-called moderate or pro-Western Arab regimes. This may be one of the reasons behind Egypt’s decision to take Hizbullah on in such a public and vocal way.

The combination of Iranian support and Hizbullah’s guerrilla expertise and Arab nationalist appeal seems to be an alarming one for Arab states. Egypt’s foreign minister immediately claimed a link between Iran and Hizbullah’s alleged activities in his country. The rivalry between Cairo and Tehran is well established by now and Egypt has kept a wary eye on increased Iranian influence in the region, which has been particularly in evidence since 2003. Iran and Hizbullah received a further boost from the 2006 war when Hizbullah fought credibly against the Israelis. By some accounts the popularity of the group among ordinary Egyptians has been neutralized by the row, which would be an achievement for the Egyptian authorities.

The confrontation also comes at a time when the Obama administration’s advances toward Iran have made Cairo, as well as other Arab regimes, even more nervous about being sidelined in the region’s great game. The Americans seem momentarily more interested in bringing on board the more rejectionist and hence more popular players in the Arab-Israel conflict rather than relying on their traditional allies. If Cairo can convince the Americans that Iran had a hand in a real plot in Egypt, it may put a bit of a break on the administration’s ardor in pursuing Tehran.

The vocal Egyptian campaign against Hizbullah may finally be meant to undercut the chances of Hizbullah’s electoral alliance in the upcoming elections in Lebanon. These will be decided in the Christian areas where there is a contest between anti-Syrian groups and the faction following Michel Aoun, who has a written understanding with Hizbullah. That movement’s international entanglements may embarrass Aoun. His Christian followers often have little sympathy for the armed Shiite group. They may tolerate it as long as it claims to be defending Lebanon’s interests but not when it is aiding the Palestinians to the detriment of Lebanon’s interests.

As with all else, the way in which the affair is being viewed in Lebanon depends on the political allegiance of the person who is being asked. In some anti-American quarters the Egyptian accusations are seen as paving the way for another assault on Hizbullah by Israel. Others cannot believe that the country may once again be held hostage by the actions of one particular group. They note that Egypt has also accused the Lebanese state of giving cover to Hizbullah and they wonder how it will affect Egypt’s support for Lebanon vis-ˆ-vis Syria. Hizbullah itself is reasonably immune to pressure but if the group is indeed carrying out an international strategy in coordination with Iran, this could have long-lasting implications for Lebanon.

Ferry Biederman is a free-lance journalist based in Beirut. This commentary first appeared at bitterlemons-international.org, an online newsletter.

Cheney Starts Pro-Torture Facebook Page


Creates Social Network for Waterboarding Fans

ch

In his most aggressive public relations move since leaving office, former Vice President Dick Cheney today established a Facebook page for fans of torture.

In recent weeks, Mr. Cheney has been speaking out in praise of such controversial interrogation tactics as waterboarding, but in establishing his Facebook page the vice president seems to be attempting something far more amibitious: creating a social network for torture fans everywhere.

“This is a place where fans of waterboarding can meet, chat, and yes, hook up,” Mr. Cheney told Fox News host Sean Hannity last night.

The former vice president extolled his torture fan page as a dating site, telling Mr. Hannity, “This way when you go out on a date with somebody you know going in how he or she feels about waterboarding. I think that’s important in building a long-term and hopefully loving relationship. It’s certainly something Lynne and I share.”

But based on the tepid early response to Mr. Cheney’s torture fan page – only he and his wife Lynne have signed up to date – the vice-president may face obstacles in creating a social network of waterboarding fans.

“I can’t think of a creepier place to hook up with someone than a site that Dick Cheney is involved in,” said Tracy Klugian, 27, of Madison, Wisconsin. “I’d feel like someone was always watching me.”

At the White House, Vice President Joe Biden was harshly critical of his predecessor’s remarks on torture, telling reporters, “Dick Cheney had eight years to run his mouth without thinking. That’s my job now.”

from Borowitz

Gaza war crimes by ~Latuff2

gaza_war_crimes_by_latuff2

Artist’s Comments

As if putting 1.5 million people at risk of starvation was not enough, Israel weighed a brutal attack on Gaza, killing more than 1000 people, including women and children. Once again I beg you reader, my brothers and sisters-in-arts, to spread these cartoons. Reproduce them in posters, newspapers, magazines, zines, blogs, everywhere. Let’s make the voice of the Gaza people to be heard all around the world. Thank you, in the name of the Palestinians of Gaza.

SOURCE

Israel turns back 250 tons of truckloads of food

CAIRO, April 16 (KUNA) — Israeli troops manning the land Al-Ojah checkpoint in Central Sinai sent back 13 truckloads of 250 tons of flour dispatched by the Egyptian Red Crescent to Gaza Strip on Thursday.
The official Egyptian news agency, the Middle East News Agency, quoted a source in the association as saying that the Israeli authorities have hampered dispatch of aid to the Palestinians in Gaza Strip through this checkpoint.
The source indicated that Egyptian authorities, had in the past, coordinated with the Israeli side for the dispatch of the humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. Up to 315 tons of food aid were sent to the strip through the land passageways on Monday.
He indicated that the quality of returned food materials would be affected due to hard weather conditions.
About 10,000 tons of food dispatched by Egyptians, Arabs and foreigners, have been kept in warehouses in Egypt since they were dispatched last December. He warned that they would expire soon, before delivery to the Gazans. (end) rg.hs KUNA 161817 Apr 09NNNN

UNICEF: Niger villages say “No” to female genital mutilation

Obama and the Pirates

April 15, 2009
A foreign policy “success” may backfire by Justin Raimondo, April 15, 2009

suckers

The administration of President Barack Obama is certainly owning the successful rescue of Americans held hostage by pirates in the seas off Somalia, holding it up as the epitome of what our rulers would like us to believe is a pragmatic, tough-minded, and decisive administration, and touting it as the Obamaites first overseas military success. Yet, barely a few hours after the dramatic rescue was made – complete with a display of sharp-shooting skills surpassed by none, and a tale of derring-do that featured a self-sacrificial captain and a crew determined to see him safely home – the problem with this sort of grandstanding was and is all too clear: the pirates are back, and with a vengeance, hijacking four more ships in 24 hours.

READ ON

READ MORE about toxic waste dumping at sea

Rally protests Jerusalem home demolitions

Arabs, Jews join forces to demonstrate against home demolitions in east Jerusalem

Ronen Medzini

housedem

About 150 Jews, international human rights activists, and local Arabs hit the streets in east Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood Saturday to protest demolition orders for homes in the area.

The protesters rallied under the slogan: “Jews and Arabs against house demolitions.”

One of the stops in the march was the ruins of a home razed two weeks ago. “Under these ruins, you can still find the furniture of a whole family, with five daughters, that has no other home,” one protester declared. “This is an act by (Jerusalem Mayor) Barkat, who in his first day on the job already decided to raze homes, and is going to continue razing homes in the area.”

One of the protest organizers, Abdul Halik Shaludi, told Ynet that back in 2005 city hall issued demolition orders for 88 homes.

“We set up a protest tent back then that lasted almost five months, until the previous mayor agreed to sit with us and gave us the opportunity to create a master plan, at our expense,” he said. “We did everything, paid $77,000 from our own pocket, yet 40 days ago we were summoned by the Interior Ministry and told that they’re rejecting our plan because it contradicts city hall’s policy. The next day we erected our current protest tent, which draws people from all over the world.”

Blaming the settlers

The local activist says Mayor Barkat adopted the plans of settlers who plan to take over the neighborhood.

“It’s obviously a political story aimed at kicking us out of the eastern part of the city,” Shaludi said. “Today, almost 300 settlers live in Silwan, and every time they come in and buy another part of the neighborhood in ways that are not kosher.”

The issue of house demolitions in eastern Jerusalem was addressed by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently. The demolitions are not helpful, Clinton said at the beginning of the month, adding that the US Administration is monitoring the issue vis-à-vis the Israeli government and Jerusalem city hall.

SOURCE

A call from Gaza

Please forward widely….

Dear Everyone:

Please take a few minutes to read the call-out below from a broad Gaza-based prisoner solidarity campaign made up of a coalition of prisoner rights groups, local and international activists, prisoner families and Ministry of Detainees representatives in Gaza.

MIDEAST ISRAEL PALESTINIANS PRISONERS RELEASE

Friday April 17th is the international day of solidarity with Palestinian prisoners. Just over 11,000 are behind bars in occupation prisons inside the apartheid lines and outside the ghetto walls of the West Bank and Gaza.

Prisoners are a community under siege which represents every faction in Palestine. Solidarity between prisoners inside Israeli jails crosses all political borders. They have sacrificed their individual freedom for collective freedom.

From taking direct action to symbolic gestures (in the case if prisoner campaigns, simple visual solidarity gestures drawing public attention to the struggle of prisoners is always effective in keeping memories, spirit and solidarity alive). Please take action this week! And email us about it…
April 17th is the international day of solidarity with Palestinian prisoners. These over 11,000 men, women and children are ghost prisoners, forgotten by the international community and media which has focused on the systematic and physical psychological torture of prisoners in high profile camps such as Guantanamo Bay but has largely ignored the network of Israel’s ‘Guantanamos’ inside ‘Israel’.

READ ON

I was born Palestinian

“Its not very comfortable in there is it?” said the stony faced official, cigarette smoke forming a haze around his gleaming oval head.

“Its OK. We’re fine” I replied wearily, delirious after being awake for a straight period of 30 hours.

“You could be in there for days you know. For weeks. Indefinitely. “So, tell me, you are taking a plane tomorrow morning to the US?”

****
It was our journey home that began with the standard packing frenzy: squeezing everything precious and dear and useful into two suitcases that would be our sustenance for the course of 3 months.

The trips to the outdoor recreation store- in preparation for what I anticipated to be a long and tortuous journey across Rafah Crossing to Gaza. The inspect repellent; the mosquito netting; the water purifier; the potty toppers for my kids and the dried fruit and granola bars and portion sized peanut butter cups. This time, I wanted to be ready, I thought to myself-just in case I got stuck at the Crossing. The Crossing. My presumptuousness is like a dull hit to the back of my head now.

READ ON

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