The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Give Palestinians international protection
Mohammad Tarbush, International Herald Tribune, May 3, 2002

Israel, we are constantly told, is a democratic state. It is certainly that for its Jewish population. To the Palestinians suffering under occupation, the Israeli state and its apparatus represent the worst type of military dictatorship. In its control over their daily lives, Israel has been ruthless. Israel's afflictions on the Palestinian people are too harsh to bear, too long to detail, too flagrant to ignore.
[The complete article]

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Senior Republican calls on Israel to expel West Bank Arabs
Matthew Engel, The Guardian, May 4, 2002

The most senior Republican in the House of Representatives has called for Palestinians to be expelled from the West Bank, which should be annexed in its entirety by the state of Israel. Dick Armey, majority leader in the House, shocked a primetime television audience when he said in a chat-show interview, that East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza - all occupied by the Israeli army since the 1967 war - should be considered a part of Israel proper. He was "content to have a Palestinian state", but argued that such an entity could be set up inside other Arab countries. [...]

Mr Armey's views have been scarcely reported in America. The only mention was a passing reference in the deepest recesses of yesterday's New York Times and Washington Post. The Council on American-Islamic Relations called Mr Armey's views "beyond belief". Spokesman Jason Erb said that "even the most extreme Israelis are reluctant to publicly advocate such an insane policy". When Ari Fleischer, Mr Bush's spokesman, was asked for the president's view on what appeared to be an argument for ethnic cleansing, he changed the subject. However, Mr Armey's views were not far out of line with on Thursday night's debate in the House, which overwhelmingly passed a 920-word resolution entirely in favour of Israel, save for a call to pursue peace and a reference to the "humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people" - tacked on at the White House's request.
[The complete article]

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The war on terrorism's gravy train
Cheney's former company wins Afghanistan war contracts

Pratap Chatterjee, CorpWatch, May 2, 2002

The U.S. military has always relied on private contractors to provide some basic services such as construction, dating back as far as the Civil War. But today as much as 10% of the emergency U.S. army operations overseas are contracted out to private companies run by former government and military officials. These private companies operate with no public oversight despite the fact that these contractors work just behind the battle lines. The companies are allowed to make up to nine percent in profit out of these war support efforts. And experience so far has shown that the companies are not above skimming more profits off the top if they can.
[The complete article]

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How Middle East peace process was killed
H.D.S. Greenway, Boston Globe, May 3, 2002

Books are being written about what went wrong with the Oslo peace process in the Middle East, and there will be as many theories as there are authors. But one of the most persistent myths is that Yasser Arafat turned down the most generous offer any Israeli leader had ever made and decided to return to armed struggle. It is true that Arafat didn't accept Israel's offer at Camp David, but the Palestinians didn't stop negotiating. The fact is that negotiations went on at the Red Sea resort of Taba after Camp David, bringing the two positions even closer, even after riots had broken out following Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount. That round of negotiations ended when Israel's Ehud Barak closed them down in order to begin his election campaign. When Oslo's archenemy, Sharon, came to power, Oslo died.
[The complete article]

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"The truth about America is that it is at once deeply democratic and instinctively imperialist"

This description of America by Ramachandra Guha, along with extracts from thirteen other essays on "What we think of America," comes from the latest issue of the literary journal, Granta:

The September 11 attacks on the US provoked shock and pity in the rest of the world, but mingled with the sympathy was something harsher: anti-Americanism. It wasn't confined to the West Bank or Kabul. It could be heard in English country pubs, in the bars of Paris and Rome, the tea stalls of New Delhi. 'Hubris' was the general idea: in one opinion poll, two-thirds of the respondents outside the US agreed to the proposition that it was 'good that Americans now know what it's like to be vulnerable'.

Is the US really so disliked? If so, why? In this issue twenty-four writers drawn from many countries describe the part America has played in their lives—for better or worse—and deliver their estimate of the good and the bad it has done as the world's supreme political, military, economic and cultural power.
[The essays]

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United States Senate backs Israel, "a frontline state in the war against terrorism," and declines to call for an end to the occupation, or the establishment of a Palestinian state

The following ammendment, by Sen. Joe Lieberman, was passed by the Senate with 94 in favor and 2 against. Following the text of the ammendment is Sen. Byrd's expression of dissent - dissent that he was not even allowed to make before the vote was actually taken. Is this what democracy looks like?


(a) FINDINGS.--Congress makes the following findings:

(1) The United States and Israel are now engaged in a common struggle against terrorism and are on the frontlines of a conflict thrust upon them against their will.

(2) President George W. Bush declared on November 21, 2001, ``We fight the terrorists and we fight all of those who give them aid. America has a message for the nations of the world: If you harbor terrorists, you are terrorists. If you train or arm a terrorist, you are a terrorist. If you feed a terrorist or fund a terrorist, you are a terrorist, and you will be held accountable by the United States and our friends.''.

(3) The United States has committed to provide resources to states on the frontline in the war against terrorism.

(b) SENSE OF CONGRESS.--The Congress--

(1) stands in solidarity with Israel, a frontline state in the war against terrorism, as it takes necessary steps to provide security to its people by dismantling the terrorist infrastructure in the Palestinian areas;

(2) remains committed to Israel's right to self-defense;

(3) will continue to assist Israel in strengthening its homeland defenses;

(4) condemns Palestinian suicide bombings;

(5) demands that the Palestinian Authority fulfill its commitment to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure in the Palestinian areas;

(6) urges all Arab states, particularly the United States allies, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to declare their unqualified opposition to all forms of terrorism, particularly suicide bombing, and to act in concert with the United States to stop the violence; and

(7) urges all parties in the region to pursue vigorously efforts to establish a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

This is not a time for chest-thumping rhetoric
Senator Robert Byrd, May 2, 2002

This is not a time for chest-thumping rhetoric. This is a time for quiet diplomacy, measured speech, and clear direction. This is not the moment for Congress to stir the Mideast pot. Unfortunately, that is just what the resolution before us does.

I am sure it is a well-intentioned resolution. I know there are many Members of this body who feel passionately about the devastating suicide bombers who have caused so much chaos and heartbreak in Israel . I recognize that there are many Senators who are aching to express in some tangible way their support for Israel . I understand their anguish, and I sympathize with their frustration. But this is not the time to express that frustration. It is not the time.

According to the news reports I have read, the White House has strongly urged Congress not to inflame passions by staging a vote on Israel . The fear is that even a symbolic vote by Congress in favor of Israel would jeopardize the already precarious role of the United States in the Middle East peace negotiations and could even backfire by aggravating tensions and possibly provoking more violence in the Middle East.

Does anyone actually believe--does anyone, anyone, anywhere actually believe--that the U.S. Senate needs to manufacture a vote to demonstrate its support of Israel ? Do we not have an unblemished record of support stretching back to the founding of the State of Israel in 1948?

According to the Congressional Research Service, since 1976 Israel has been the largest--the largest--annual recipient of United States foreign assistance and is the largest cumulative recipient since World War II. Since 1985, we have provided about $3 billion a year to Israel in foreign assistance. If Israel does not know by now the depth of United States support and solidarity, it never will.

I object not only to the timing of this resolution--and I believe the timing is fraught with peril--I also object to the slant of the resolution.

Yes. The United States Senate supports the State of Israel and abhors the violence that has been perpetrated against its citizens by Palestinian suicide bombers. The United States Senate also supports peace in the Middle East. And peace in the Middle East is a two-way street. Nowhere in this resolution--nowhere in this resolution--is Israel called upon to fulfill its role in working for peace in the Middle East.

Why was this resolution written so hurriedly? Why was it incumbent upon this Senate to vote today?

This resolution condemns Palestinian suicide bombing, demands that the Palestinian Authority dismantle the terrorist infrastructure in Palestinian areas, and urges all Arab States to act in concert with the United States to stop the violence.

Where are the demands that Israel withdraw from Palestinian lands and cooperate in establishment of a Palestinian State?

Where is the denunciation of the destruction of homes and water lines and roads and basic infrastructure in Jenin and Nablus and elsewhere in the West Bank? Where is the expression of support for humanitarian and reconstruction aid to the innocent Palestinian victims of Israel's incursions into the West Bank? Where?

If the Senate is serious about promoting peace in the Middle East--and I believe to the depths of my soul that the Senate is serious--then we should leave the grandstanding to others. We should support the real work of peacekeeping. For better or worse, the United States has been cast in the role of honest broker in the Middle East. But resolutions like this one do not enhance our ability to perform that role. The Middle East today is balanced on the head of a pin. This is not the time for the U.S. Senate to wade into the fray, waving an ill-timed, ill-advised, and one-sided resolution.

I voted against it.

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Rep. Dick Armey calls for ethnic cleansing of Palestinians
Transcript of MSNBC Hardball interview with House Republican Leader, Rep. Dick Armey, Counterpunch, May 2, 2002

Rep. Armey: I'm content to have Israel grab the entire West Bank. I'm also content to have the Palestinians have a homeland and even for that to be somewhere near Israel, but I'm not content to see Israel give up land for the purpose of peace to the Palestinians who will not accept it and would not honor it. [...] There are many Arab nations that have many hundreds of thousands of acres of land and - and soil and property and opportunity to create a Palestinian state.
[The complete article]

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Sharon's plan is to drive Palestinians across the Jordan
The leading Israeli historian predicts that a US attack on Iraq or a terrorist strike at home could trigger a massive mobilisation to clear the occupied territories of their two million Arabs

Martin van Creveld, The Telegraph, April 28, 2002

The expulsion of the Palestinians would require only a few brigades. They would not drag people out of their houses but use heavy artillery to drive them out; the damage caused to Jenin would look like a pinprick in comparison. [...]

Some believe that the international community will not permit such an ethnic cleansing. I would not count on it. If Mr Sharon decides to go ahead, the only country that can stop him is the United States.

The US, however, regards itself as being at war with parts of the Muslim world that have supported Osama bin Laden. America will not necessarily object to that world being taught a lesson - particularly if it could be as swift and brutal as the 1967 campaign; and also particularly if it does not disrupt the flow of oil for too long.
[The complete article]

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Israeli Defense Forces admit 'ugly vandalism' against Palestinian property
Amos Harel, Ha'aretz, May 2, 2002

Israel Defense Forces sources have admitted that Palestinian claims of the systematic destruction of property, particularly computers, during the recent military operations in Ramallah are, for the most part, true. "There were indeed wide-scale, ugly phenomena of vandalism," a senior military sources told Ha'aretz yesterday.
[The complete article]

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Israelis held hostage by settlements
Tom Ackerman, Baltimore Sun, May 2, 2002

For all their outer stoicism and a broad consensus that backs a fierce response to the suicide bombers, an unsparing realization has struck a majority of those Israelis who don't put their faith in divine destiny or messianic ideology. They are struggling to cope with an emerging awareness of the true price of Israel's 35-year hold on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
[The complete article]

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The other war in Afghanistan
Rory Carroll, The Guardian, May 2, 2002

There are two wars in Afghanistan. The American-led campaign against Islamist guerrillas proceeds in the mountains and deserts bordering Pakistan, chasing up a rocket attack here, gunfire there. Taliban and al-Qaida fighters have yet to show they can inflict serious damage.

News from the second war is not so good for the US and its allies because there is not supposed to be a second war. Waged mostly in the north and east, it turns bloodier by the week. Several days ago more than 300 rockets rained into the town of Gardez, killing and wounding more than 100 civilians. Yesterday shooting and shelling continued near the towns of Shulgara and Sare Pul where fighting has left 12 dead and wounded.

Despite the body count this second conflict receives less attention because it is an internal affair: rival Afghan warlords battling each other for territory and influence. Usually the combatants swear loyalty to the Americans and offer to help hunt for the Islamists.

In fact the two conflicts threaten to spill into each other in a way potentially dangerous way for the US and British mission. The more mayhem the warlords spread, the more political and military conditions will improve for the guerrillas. Western diplomats in Kabul fret that it was factional fighting which paved the way for the Taliban's rise in 1995.
[The complete article]

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Fighting words
The Bush administration builds up its pretext for attacking Iraq

Roger Trilling, Village Voice, May 1, 2002

Last month, the administration's effort to garner public support for its go-it-alone posture got a boost from an unlikely source. In its March 25 issue, The New Yorker ran an 18,000-word piece by Jeffrey Goldberg about Halabja, a Kurdish town where, on March 16, 1988, Saddam is accused of massacring his own citizens with poison gas. [...]

Though he says it wasn't meant that way, Goldberg's piece—entitled "The Great Terror"—provided an eloquent set of images for the Bush administration's Iraq policy. "It's a devastating article," Cheney said on Meet the Press. "Specifically, its description of what happened in 1988 when Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against the Kurds in northern Iraq, against some of his own people. It demonstrates conclusively what a lot of us have said: that this is a man who is a great danger to that region of the world—especially if he's able to acquire nuclear weapons."

The president agreed. A few days earlier, he had invoked the story during his trip to Mexico. "It details about his [Saddam's] barbaric behavior toward his own people," Bush said. "And this is a man who refuses to allow us to determine whether or not he still has weapons of mass destruction—which leads me to believe he does."

Ever since September 11, the administration has been trying to hook Iraq into the "war on terror." Initially, a claim was advanced that suicide pilot Mohammed Atta had met with Iraqi operatives in Prague. Then Iraq was floated as a source of the anthrax attacks. Finally, the "axis of evil" speech accused Saddam of stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. Although few doubt that Saddam has such armaments, none of these charges was ever substantiated. But by repeatedly citing the New Yorker article, Bush and Cheney were saying that they didn't need to prove a thing. What Saddam did in Halabja is reason enough to oust him.

It's quite a stretch to predicate a threat of war on an incident that took place 14 years ago—especially if there's a possibility that it didn't happen the way Goldberg described it.
[The complete article]

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Corporate America and the Israeli occupation of Palestine
Sam Bahour, Counterpunch, May 1, 2002

Earlier this month [April], Microsoft Israel put company executives in Redmond, Seattle in an awkward position when they sponsored two large billboards on a main Israeli highway saluting Israel's armed forces at the same time the Israeli military was indiscriminately bombing the Jenin refugee camp into what is rapidly amounting to war crimes. Only days after a grassroots letter writing campaign, partly led by the Israeli peace group Gush-Shalom, Microsoft executives announced that Microsoft Israel had acted alone and was instructed to take down the billboards, which they promptly did. Israel is the largest research and development site for Microsoft outside of the U.S. Bill Gates would serve world peace well by continuing his involvement and requesting Israel to end the occupation in order to qualify for continued commercial opportunities. The same can be said for Intel Corporation, which has the largest production facilities outside of the U.S. located in Israel.

Divesting in countries that are in blatant violation of international and humanitarian law is not new. The divestment campaign that targeted apartheid in South Africa is a case in point. When South African business leaders saw that apartheid was jeopardizing their own business interests they played an important role in convincing their government to fall in line with international law, which led to the ending of apartheid. One might argue that no grassroots commercial divestment in Israel can be large enough to convince the Israeli government to change paths. This is debatable. However, it is clear that such a campaign would send the right signals that the time has come for Israel to join the world community by ending its oppression of Palestinians.
[The complete article]

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Inside Gaza
Kristen Schurr, Counterpunch, May 1, 2002

In Gaza City a Palestinian father, Amjad Shawa of the PNGO, tells me that his son's first word was tahk, not baba. Tahk is shooting, baba is dad. He is devastated when he says that he cannot protect his children.

The Gaza Strip, effectively a prison with 1,250,000 Palestinians who have not been allowed to enter or exit for the past month, is divided into three parts by Israeli soldiers. The 43 km trip from the north end to the south, can sometimes take two days. Thousands of Palestinians and I were lucky yesterday and made it through a checkpoint in only five hours. It is forbidden by the Israeli soldiers for a Palestinian to walk through the checkpoint.
[The complete article]

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Jewish peace activists galvanized by Sharon's hard line
Alan Zibel, Pacific News Service, April 30, 2002

Pro-Palestinian Jews in America face criticism from family in the United States and Israel, and their grass-roots organizations are dwarfed by pro-Israel groups. But for some who saw firsthand Palestinians suffering at the hands of Israelis, there's no turning back in the struggle for justice. While conventional wisdom holds that Palestinian terrorism has hardened Jews' support of the Israeli government, Jewish peace activists say Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's hard-line stance toward the Palestinians has provided their movement with renewed energy.
[The complete article]

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Pentagon passes on penitence
Waging war on terrorism means never having to say you're sorry

David Corn, WorkingForChange, April 29, 2002

Recently, a group of local leaders from Khost, Afghanistan, came calling on the U.S. embassy in Kabul. They wanted to discuss what had happened when the U.S. military last December bombed a convoy carrying tribal elders to the inauguration of interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai. Yet no one at the embassy would see them. "It's amazing," one of the Khost representatives told The Washington Post. "The Americans will accept wrong reports and bomb our people. But they don't allow us to come in and tell them the truth."
[The complete article]

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Humanitarian crisis for Palestinians
Naomi Koppel, Associated Press, April 30, 2002

Aid agencies are having trouble getting assistance to tens of thousands of Palestinians in desperate need of help following the Israeli incursions, U.N. officials said Tuesday. Rene Aquarone, spokesman for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency that looks after Palestinian refugee camps, blamed Israeli security measures such as road blocks that restrict access to and limit movement within Palestinian areas. "This is a crisis on top of an emergency," Aquarone said. Aquarone said the agency was having to rely on its international staff to drive aid convoys because its Palestinian staff was barred from entering Israel.
[The complete article]

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Who's anti-semitic?
Richard Cohen, Washington Post, April 30, 2002

If I weren't a Jew, I might be called an anti-Semite. I have occasionally been critical of Israel. I have occasionally taken the Palestinians' side. I have always maintained that the occupation of the West Bank is wrong and while I am, to my marrow, a supporter of Israel, I insist that the Palestinian cause -- although sullied by terrorism -- is a worthy one. In Israel itself, these positions would hardly be considered remarkable. People with similar views serve in parliament. They write columns for the newspapers. And while they are sometimes vehemently criticized -- such is the rambunctious nature of Israel's democratic din -- they are not called either anti-Semites or self-hating Jews.

I cannot say the same about America. Here, criticism of Israel, particularly anti-Zionism, is equated with anti-Semitism. The Anti-Defamation League, one of the most important American Jewish organizations, comes right out and says so. "Anti-Zionism is showing its true colors as deep-rooted anti-Semitism," the organization says in a full-page ad that I have seen in the New Republic as well as other magazines. "No longer are the Arab nations camouflaging their hatred of Jews in the guise of attacking Israel."
[The complete article]

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Playing the anti-semitism card
Marty Jezer, AlterNet, April 29, 2002

Among the many responses I’ve received for my columns on the Middle East two stand out. A number of non-Jews, in person and by e-mail, have told me, "You write what I believe, but I’m afraid to speak out. I’m afraid to criticize Israel because people will think that I’m anti-Semitic." A second response, spoken by an acquaintance whom I respect for his decent, liberal values, was more unsettling. "I’m starting to feel anti-Semitic," he said without any suggestion of irony. "It is disgusting what Israel is doing to the Palestinians." "Anti-Semitism is not the issue," I replied. "It’s not Jews attacking Palestinians, it’s Israelis. Many Jewish people, myself included, share your disgust."
But maybe anti-Semitism is an issue, a subtext of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that no one wants to talk openly about. In the cauldron of the times, anti-Semitism has become an accusation, a weapon, a way of silencing critics of Israel without having to listen to their arguments. And when used against Palestinians, it’s a way of denying their aspirations and ignoring their grievances.
[The complete article]

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British to turn over prisoners to Afghans
Bradley Graham, Washington Post, April 30, 2002

Britain has decided to treat al Qaeda and Taliban fighters captured by its forces in Afghanistan as prisoners of war and turn them over to the interim Afghan government, underscoring differences between Britain and the United States over how to deal with the captives under international law.
[The complete article]

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Axis of incompetence
On the shambles that is the Bush foreign policy

Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect, April 29, 2002

If the administration's foreign-policy apparat (minus the increasingly isolated Colin Powell) were placed under one roof -- Rice, Rumsfeld, and Reich; Perle, Wolfowitz, Cheney, and Bush -- what watchword would be inscribed over the door? No, not "Abandon all hope, ye who enter." There are any number of supplicants who should not abandon hope -- Latin American putschsters, China's Leninist social Darwinists, the Colombian paramilitary, Ariel Sharon, even al-Qaeda terrorists scrambling over mountaintops with no U.S soldiers around to impede them. If not Dante, then, the inscription could be provided by another immortal. Casey Stengel, whose term in purgatory managing the '62 Mets prompted the deathless line that fits the Bush gang to a tee, said, "Can't anybody here play this game?"
[The complete article]

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Sharon is taking us back to 1948
The prospect of a two-state solution has faded - Israel and the Palestinians are now digging in for all-out existential war

Ahmad Samih Khalidi, The Guardian, April 30, 2002

Despite the havoc wrought by Palestinian suicide bombers, it is Israel that has proven to be the incontestable historical master of controlled and directed fury; from the callous, calculating terrorism of its pre-state underground to the most recent thorough and systematic lynching of the Palestinian Authority - security agencies and civilian infrastructure alike. Against this background, recent events take on a certain cyclical consistency: Israeli oppression met by Palestinian acts of resistance - sometimes bold, often bloody - met in turn by Israeli force, always excessive, invariably disproportionate and purposely designed to inflict maximum pain.
[The complete article]

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Might or right
Marc Sandalow, San Francisco Chronicle, April 29, 2002

Here's how one-sided the battle is between the pro-Israel and pro- Palestinian lobby's in the nation's capital.

A gathering of the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC last week drew more than 100 members of the House and half of the U.S. Senate to dinner in Washington's largest hotel ballroom. Speakers included an elite lineup of national leaders from both political parties.

Fortune magazine ranks AIPAC -- the American Israel Public Affairs Committee -- as the nation's fourth-most powerful lobbying group, ahead of the National Trial Lawyers Association and the AFL-CIO. Although AIPAC does not contribute to politicians, pro-Israeli political action committees over the past seven national elections, have contributed $17.5 million to federal candidates.

Across town, representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization are searching for new offices after being evicted from their headquarters for failing to pay rent. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has introduced legislation to seize their assets, restrict their travel and forbid their leaders from entering the country. Over the same seven national elections, pro- Arab committees as a whole have contributed $295,000, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.
[The complete article]

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The phantom link to Iraq
A spy story tying Saddam to 9-11 is looking very flimsy

Michael Isikoff, Newsweek, April 28, 2002

The story of the “Iraqi connection” spread rapidly through Washington. Advocates of U.S. action to topple Saddam Hussein seized on the account to bolster their arguments. New York Times columnist William Safire proclaimed the meeting an “undisputed fact” connecting Saddam to September 11. When Vice President Dick Cheney flew to the Middle East last month, a “senior U.S. official” on the trip referred to “meetings that have been made public” between Atta and Iraqi intelligence. “This story has taken on a life of its own,” says a U.S. intelligence official. It shouldn’t have. Newsweek has learned that a few months ago, the Czechs quietly acknowledged that they may have been mistaken about the whole thing. U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials now believe that Atta wasn’t even in Prague at the time the Czechs claimed. “We looked at this real hard because, obviously, if it were true, it would be huge,” one senior U.S. law enforcement official told Newsweek. “But nothing has matched up.”

The story behind the purported Atta-Iraqi meeting is nonetheless an illuminating window into the murky world of intelligence in the war on terrorism—and how easily facts can become distorted for political purposes.
[The complete article]

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Apartheid in the Holy Land
Desmond Tutu, The Guardian, April 29, 2002

In our struggle against apartheid, the great supporters were Jewish people. They almost instinctively had to be on the side of the disenfranchised, of the voiceless ones, fighting injustice, oppression and evil. I have continued to feel strongly with the Jews. I am patron of a Holocaust centre in South Africa. I believe Israel has a right to secure borders. What is not so understandable, not justified, is what it did to another people to guarantee its existence. I've been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about.
[The complete article]

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Sharon gives succour to Saddam
Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, April 29, 2002

The Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, celebrated his 65th birthday in great style at the weekend, but he also has another reason to be cheerful. His strategy for defying the United Nations now has unexpected support from the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon.
[The complete article]

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COMMENT -- As the following article by Michael Lerner testifies, anyone in America who is Jewish and is willing to be critical of Israel, risks being tagged with the label "self-hating Jew." But as Michael Neumann points out, in "Bleats of dissent," the much greater challenge facing the Jewish Left is to advocate a response to Israel that carries the clout to force a reversal to its current policies and bring about a just resolution to the conflict. Few people hesitate to describe what a just resolution would look like, but much less is being said about how pressure could, and needs to be applied. Is the Jewish Left (and everyone else on the Left who has been intimidated by the threat of being labelled "anti-semitic") ready to rise up to the challenge and advocate an end to economic and military aid along with the imposition of sanctions against Israel, no less severe than those that were applied to South Africa?

Israel's Jewish critics aren't 'self-hating'
Michael Lerner, Los Angeles Times, April 28, 2002

There is no path to Jewish security that does not also lead us to global security for all peoples.
[The complete article]

Bleats of dissent
Michael Neumann, Counterpunch, April 26, 2002

When Jewish voices of conscience speak out on Israel, there is an astonishing gap between the problem described and the response proposed. The Jewish left and its allies begin with the most ringing denunciations. These trail off into the most timid of recommendations.
[The complete article]

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Ambassadors of ill will
Gideon Levy, Ha'aretz, April 28, 2002

No one in Israel has ever heard of Anna Danielsson, Yvonne Fredriksson, Lars Jerdoen or Margareta Sjoedberg. But last week, in their country of Sweden, there was hardly a television program that did not tell the story of the four - two of whom are physicians - and how they were rudely locked up and then deported in disgrace from Israel without even being permitted to contact the Swedish consulate.

The four, who belong to the Palestinian Solidarity Association in Sweden, came to Israel with the intention of proffering medical aid. No harm of any kind would have befallen Israel if the authorities had allowed them to do just that. A Japanese physician, Toshi Insushima, who arrived at Ben-Gurion International Airport with a similar purpose, documented his expulsion in a letter he sent to his colleagues in the Physicians for Human Rights group: "I am sorry I did not succeed in entering Israel; I wanted to help you. I will not try again." A group of physicians from the School of Public Health at the University of Brussels encountered a similar fate here. And a delegation from Doctors of the World, which has been in Israel for some time, would also have been thrown out were it not for intervention at a senior level.

As though the brutal images being broadcast around the world from the occupied territories were not enough, these acts of expulsion are adding more fuel to the flames of criticism of Israeli policy. The order issued by Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) to prevent the entry into Israel of anyone suspected of being a supporter of the Palestinians is being carried out in full and to the letter; and it is creating a growing number of ambassadors of ill will.

With the thought police at the airport, even the few who still turn up are compelled to convince the officials of the Interior Ministry that they are lovers of Zion and answer an embarrassing volley of questions. So the interior minister, who represents a party known for its enlightened approach and its openness to the world, becomes a destructive factor in Israel's foreign relations. Now Israel is not only demolishing houses in Jenin with the occupants inside, it is also throwing out guests who don't agree with its policies. This is not the behavior one expects from an open country that takes pride in being a democracy. The amazing thing is that no one here seems to care what impression we create, otherwise it is difficult to understand the expulsion policy.

The ability to shape Israel's image as an enlightened and open state is an asset that is no less important than the arrest of another dozen wanted individuals. Israel's current image as a country that is closing itself off to the world and is lashing out at its critics while throwing out its guests is harmful to its own interests. The only benefit is that we get to return to that familiar and beloved niche called: "The whole world is against us."
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Taliban in the Israeli security cabinet
Olek Netzer, Ha'aretz, April 28, 2002

The latest entrant in the race to become prime minister of Israel and who is now a cabinet minister and member of the security cabinet, Effi Eitam [has a] credo: Israel is the state of God; the Jews are the soul of the world; the Jewish people has a mission to reveal the image of God on earth; the leader of the Jewish people stands in the same place that Moses and King David stood; a world without Jews is a world of robots, a dead world; and the State of Israel is the Noah's Ark of the future of the world and its task is to uncover God's image. [...] Effi Eitam, the new leader of the National Religious Party, is above all a religious leader. He is the first religious-nationalist fundamentalist to take a position at the starting line in the race for the country's leadership. Israel faces the danger of being led by the counterpart of the ayatollahs in Iran and the Taliban of Afghanistan.
[The complete article]

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