The War in Context  
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Events, ol' buddy, events
Can Bush survive the speculation about what he knew, and when?

Mark Lawson, The Guardian, May 18, 2002

Pictures may be worth a thousand words but the weakness of photography is that the meaning of an image shifts depending on the context. The now-famous snap in which George Bush's eyes pop as an aide whispers the events of September 11 into his ear had always seemed to represent complete astonishment. It's now possible that his expression can be read as horrified confirmation. Bush's political future may depend on whether this rewritten caption becomes fixed in print.

Most discussion of the events of September 11 has worked from the assumption that Osama bin Laden out-imagined the American security forces by creating an event so immense that no functioning democracy could have had precautions in place against it.

The revelations in Washington that the FBI and White House had at least three strong hints that the plot was in progress - in specific warnings of terrorists training at American flying schools for future hijacks - removes the White House's consistent use of the Pearl Harbor parallel: unpredicted surprise attack. If a fourth newspaper story is confirmed - that one warning mentioned planes hitting the World Trade Centre - then the president really will be choking on his pretzels.
[The complete article]

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What if?
A.R. Torres, Salon, May 17, 2002

I am angry when I go to the city office to reclaim Eddie's three I.D. cards and get a World Trade Center urn. The city worker there presents me with the urn and a large flag, a tight triangle folded so that the stars and stripes are all showing. I grit my teeth and ask: "What would Eddie's family in Colombia want with that?" I have been steeped in the day's news about how the government may have blundered and could have, should have, stopped the tragedy of 9/11 before it happened. The sight of Old Glory, meant to be a comfort, a talisman for protection, feels like a slap in the face.
[The complete article]

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US asks a disturbing question: What did the President know?
Rupert Cornwell, The Independent, May 17, 2002

At last the dam has broken. For eight months America has tiptoed around the most disturbing questions of all surrounding 11 September. Did the Bush administration fail to act on the evidence it had in hand, and prevent the worst terrorist attack in modern history? From time to time the issue would crop up, only for it to be deflected by the feeling that the moment was still too close, and the argument that a post mortem which was bound to be painful for the country's security and intelligence services might interfere with the war against terrorism those agencies were helping to wage. But all these considerations have been swept away by the disclosure that President George Bush was warned by the CIA in the first week of August that al-Qa'ida might be planning to hijack aircraft.
[The complete article]

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Uzbekistan: classics turned into toilet paper

Artur Samari, IWPR, May 17, 2002

Half a million volumes a year are pulped. The books are bought for 2 US cents per kilogram, taken to a recycling warehouse and then to the Angren paper factory, which turns them into cardboard for egg cartons or toilet paper. The destruction of books has been accelerated by a ministerial decree in 1998. This ordered the withdrawal of all titles that failed to comply with Uzbekistan's "national ideology". For the most part, this affected those of an ideological nature published during the Soviet, as well as school textbooks brought out before the mid-1990s. An instruction in the Samarkand province ordered libraries to withdraw more than half a million ideologically "outdated" books for pulping. The libraries were forbidden from handing them to other libraries or private individuals.
[The complete article]

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US media cowed by patriotic fever, says Dan Rather
Matthew Engel, The Guardian, May 17, 2002

Dan Rather, the star news anchor for the US television network CBS, said last night that "patriotism run amok" was in danger of trampling the freedom of American journalists to ask tough questions. And he admitted that he had shrunk from taking on the Bush administration over the war on terrorism. [...]

The White House was to blame for its failure to provide adequate information about the war, Rather said. "There has never been an American war, small or large, in which access has been so limited as this one.

"Limiting access, limiting information to cover the backsides of those who are in charge of the war, is extremely dangerous and cannot and should not be accepted. And I am sorry to say that, up to and including the moment of this interview, that overwhelmingly it has been accepted by the American people. And the current administration revels in that, they relish that, and they take refuge in that."
[The complete article]

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Saying Grace
United States House of Representatives, May 16, 2002

COMMENT -- This week, with The White House now under scrutiny concerning their foreknowledge of the possibility of a major terrorist attack, some members of Congress have started showing a new willingness to exercise critical judgement and are shedding their fear of asking difficult questions. The following remarks by Jim McDermott reflect this new spirit of inquiry.

Representative Jim McDermott: Mr. Speaker, people often have the opportunity to do things which bring attention to themselves that they did not really expect, and one such person is a woman named Barbara Kingsolver, one of the most eminent authors in this country.

During the days after 9/11, she wrote a number of essays about what was happening in the United States and was, in some instances, very poorly received by people, and I think that, having met her and listened to her at the Physicians for Social Responsibility 2 weeks ago, I thought it would be good for the House to have an opportunity to think about Ms. Kingsolver's words.

The speech she gave there was entitled "Saying Grace,'' and it goes this way.

"I never knew what 'grand' really was until I saw the canyon. It's a perspective that pulls the busy human engine of desires to a quiet halt. Taking the long view across that vermilion abyss attenuates humanity to quiet internal rhythms, the spirit of ice ages, and we look, we gasp, and it seems there is a chance we might be small enough not to matter. That the things we want are not the end of the world. I have needed this view lately.

"I've come to the Grand Canyon several times in my life, most lately without really understanding the necessity. As the holidays approached I couldn't name the reason for my uneasiness. We thought about the cross-country trip we had usually taken to join our extended families' Thanksgiving celebration, but we did not make the airplane reservations. Barely a month before, terrorists attacks had distorted commercial air travel to a horrifying new agenda, one that left everybody jittery. We understood, rationally, that it was as safe to fly as ever, and so it wasn't precisely nervousness that made us think twice about flying across the country for a long weekend. Rather, we were moved by a sense that this was wartime, and the prospect of such personal luxury felt somehow false.

"I called my mother with our regrets and began making plans for a more modest family trip. On the days our daughters were out of school we would wander north from Tucson to visit some of the haunts I have come to love in my 20 years as a desert dweller, transplanted from the verdant Southeast. We would kick through the leaves in Oak Creek Canyon, bask like lizards in the last late-afternoon sun on Sedona's red rocks, puzzle out the secrets of the labyrinthine ruins at Wupatki, and finally stand on the rim of the remarkable canyon.

"I felt a little sorry for myself at first, missing the reassuring tradition of sitting down to face a huge upside-down bird and counting my blessings in the grand joyful circle of my kin. And then I felt shame enough to ask myself, how greedy can one person be to want more than the Grand Canyon? How much more could one earth offer me than to lay herself bare, presenting me with the whole of her bedrock history in one miraculous view? What feast could satisfy a mother more deeply than to walk along a creek through a particolored carpet of leaves, watching my children pick up the fine-toothed gifts of this scarlet maple, that yellow aspen, piecing together the picture puzzle of a biological homeplace? We could listen for several days to the songs of living birds instead of making short work of one big dead one, and we would feel lighter afterward too.

"These are relevant questions to ask in this moment when our country demands that we dedicate ourselves and our resources, again and again, to what we call the defense of our way of life: How greedy can one person be? How much do we need to feel blessed, sated and permanently safe? What is safety in this world, and on what broad stones is that house built?

"Imagine that you came from a large family in which one brother ended up with a whole lot more than the rest of you. Sometimes it happens that way, the luck falling to one guy who didn't do that much to deserve it. Imagine his gorgeous house on a huge tract of forest, rolling hills and fertile fields. Your other relatives have decent places with smaller yards, but yours is mostly dust. Your lucky brother eats well, he has meat every day--in fact, let's face it, he is corpulent, and so are his kids. At your house, meanwhile, things are bad. Your kids cry themselves to sleep on empty stomachs. Your brother must not be able to hear them from the veranda where he dines, because he throws away all the food he can't finish. He will do you this favor: He'll make a TV program of himself eating. If you want, you can watch it from your house. But you can't have his food, his house, or the car he drives around in to view his unspoiled forests and majestic purple mountains. The rest of the family has noticed that all his driving is kicking up dust, wrecking not only the edges of his property, but also their less pristine backyards and even yours, which was dust to begin with. He has dammed the rivers to irrigate his fields, so that only a trickle reaches your place, and it's nasty. You are beginning to see that these problems are deep and deadly, and you will be the first to starve and the others will follow. The family takes a vote and agrees to do a handful of obvious things that will keep down the dust and clear the water. All except Fat Brother. He walks away from the table. He says God gave him good land and the right to be greedy.

"The ancient Greeks adored tragic plays about families like this, and their special world for the fat brother was 'hubris.' In the town where I grew up, we called it 'getting all high and mighty,' and the sentence that came next usually included the words 'getting knocked down to size.' For most of my life, I have felt embarrassed by a facet of our national character that I would have to call prideful wastefulness. What other name can there be for our noisy, celebratory appetite for unnecessary things, and our vast carelessness regarding their manufacture and disposal? In the autumn of 2001 we faced the crisis of taking a very hard knock from the outside, and in its aftermath, as our Nation grieved, every time I saw that wastefulness rear its head I felt even more ashamed. Some retailers rushed to convince us in ads printed across waving flags that it was our duty, even in wartime, especially in wartime, to go out and buy those cars and shoes. We were asked not to think very much about the other side of the world, where, night after night, we were waging a costly war in a land whose people could not dream of owning cars or in some cases even shoes. For some, 'wartime' becomes a matter of waving our pride above the waste, with slogans that didn't make sense to me: 'Buy for your country' struck me as an exhortation to 'erase from your mind what has just happened.' And the real meaning of this I can't even guess at: 'Our enemies hate us because we are free.'

"I'm sorry, but I have eyes from which to see, and friends in many places. In Canada, for instance, I know people who are wicked cold in winter but otherwise in every way as free as you and me. And nobody hates Canada.

"Hubris isn't just about luck or wealth, it's about throwing away food while hungry people watch. Canadians were born lucky, too, in a global sense, but they seem more modest about it and more deeply appreciative of their land; it's impossible to imagine Canada blighting its precious wilderness areas with 'mock third-world villages' for bombing practice, as our Air Force has done in Arizona's Cabeza Prieta Range. I know how countries bereft of any wild lands at all view our planks for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the world's last immense and untouched wilderness, as we stake out our right to its plunder as we deem necessary. We must surely appear to the world as exactly what we are: A nation that organizes its economy around consuming twice as much oil as it produces and around the profligate wastefulness of the wars and campaigns required to defend such consumption. In recent years we have defined our national interests largely in terms of the oil fields and pipelines we need to procure fuel.
"In our country, we seldom question our right to burn this fuel in heavy passenger vehicles and to lead all nations in the race to pollute our planet beyond habitability; some of us in fact become belligerent towards anyone who dares to raise the issue. We are disinclined as a nation to assign any moral value at all to our habits of consumption. But the circle of our family is large, larger than just one nation, and as we arrive at the ends of our frontiers, we can't possibly be surprised that the rest of the family would have us live within our means. Safety resides, I think, on the far side of endless hunger. Imagine how it would feel to fly a flag with a leaf on it, or a bird, something living. How remarkably generous we could have appeared to the world by being the first to limit fossil fuel emissions by ratifying the Kyoto Agreements, rather than walking away from the table, as we did last summer in Bonn, leaving 178 other signatory nations to do their best for the world without any help from the world's biggest contributor to global warming. I find it simply appalling that we could have done this. I know for a fact that many, many Americans were stunned, like me, by the selfishness of that act, and can hardly bear their own complicity in it. Given our societal devotion to taking in more energy than we put out, it is ironic that our culture is so cruelly intolerant of overweight individuals. As a nation we're not just overweight, a predicament that deserves sympathy; I fear we are also, as we live and breathe, possessed of the Fat Brother's mindset.

"I would like to have a chance to live with reordered expectations. I would rather that my country be seen as a rich, beloved brother than the rich and piggish one. If there is a heart beating in the United States that really disagrees, I have yet to meet it. We are by nature a generous people. Just about every American I know who has traveled abroad and taken the time to have genuine conversations with citizens of other countries has encountered the question, as I have, 'Why isn't your country as nice as you are?' I wish I knew. Maybe we're distracted by our attachment to convenience.

"Maybe we believe the ads that tell us the material things are the key to happiness, or maybe we are too frightened to question those who routinely define our national interests for us in terms of corporate profits. Then too, millions of Americans are so strapped by the task of keeping their kids fed and a roof over their heads that it is impossible for them to consider much of anything beyond that. But ultimately, the answer must be that as a Nation, we just have not yet demanded generosity of ourselves.

"But we could, and we know it. Our country possesses the resources to bring solar technology, energy independence, and sustainable living to our planet. Even in the simple realm of humanitarian assistance, the United Nations estimates that $13 billion above current levels of aid would provide everyone in the world, including the hungry within our own borders, with basic health and nutrition. Collectively, Americans and Europeans spend $17 billion a year on pet food. We could do much more than just feed the family of mankind, as well as our cats and dogs. We could assist that family in acquiring the basic skills and tools it needs to feed itself, while maintaining the natural resources on which all life depends. Real generosity involves not only making a gift, but also giving up something, and on both scores, we are well situated to be the most generous Nation on earth.

"We like to say we already are, and it's true that American people give of their own minute proportion of the country's wealth to help victims of disasters far and wide. Our children collect pennies to buy rain forests one cubic inch at a time, but this is a widow's might, not a national tithe. Our government's spending on foreign aid has plummeted over the last 20 years to levels that are, to put it bluntly, the stingiest among all of the developed nations. In the year 2000, according to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States allocated just .1 percent of its Gross National Product to foreign aid, or about one dime for every $100 in its Treasury, whereas Canada, Japan, Australia, Austria, and Germany each contributed 2 to 3 times that much. Other countries gave even more, some as much as 10 times the amount we do; they view this as a contribution to the world's stability and their own peace. But our country takes a different approach to generosity. Our tradition is to forgive debt in exchange for a strategic military base, an indentured economy, or mineral rights. We offer the hungry our magic seeds, genetically altered so the recipients must also buy our pesticides, while their sturdy native seed banks die out. At Fat Brother's house the domestic help might now and then slip out the back door with a plate of food for a neighbor, but for the record the household gives virtually nothing away. Even now, in what may be the most critical moment of our history, I fear that we may seem to be telling the world we are not merciful as much as we are mighty.

"In our darkest hours we may find comfort in the age-old slogan from the resistance movement, declaring that we shall not be moved. But we need to finish that sentence. Moved from where? Are we anchoring to the best of what we've believed in throughout our history, or merely to an angry new mode of self preservation? The American moral high ground cannot possibly be an isolated mountaintop from which we refuse to learn anything at all to protect ourselves from monstrous losses. It is critical to distinguish here between innocence and naivete: The innocent do not deserve to be violated, but only the naive refuse to think about the origins of violence. A nation that seems to believe so powerfully in retaliation cannot flatly refuse to look at the world in terms of cause and effect. The rage and fury of this world have not notably lashed out at Canada, the Nation that takes best care of its citizens, or Finland, the most literate, or Brazil, or Costa Rica, among the most biodiverse. Neither have they tried to strike down our redwood forests or our fields of waving grain. Striving to cut us most deeply, they felled the towers that seemed to claim we buy and sell the world.

"We do not own the world, as it turns out. Flight attendants and bankers, mothers and sons were ripped from us as proof, and thousands of families must now spend whole lifetimes reassembling themselves after shattering loss. The rest of us have lowered our flags in grief on their behalf. I believe we could do the same for the 35,600 of the world's children who also died on September 11 from conditions of starvation and extend their hearts to the mothers and fathers who lost them.

"This seems a reasonable time to search our souls for some corner where humility resides. Our Nation believes in some ways that bring joy to the world, and in others that make people angry. Not all of those people are heartless enough to kill us for it or fanatical enough to die in the effort, but some inevitably will be, more and more, as desperation spreads. Wars of endless retaliation kill not only people, but also the systems that grow food, deliver clean water, and heal the sick. They destroy the beauty, they extinguish the species, they increase desperation.

"I wish our National Anthem were not the one about bombs bursting in air, but the one about the purple mountain majesties and amber waves of grain. It's easier to sing and closer to the heart of what we really have to sing about. A land as broad and as green as ours demands of us thanksgiving and a certain breadth of spirit. It invites us to invest our hearts most deeply in invulnerable majesties that can never be brought down in a stroke of anger. If we can agree on anything in difficult times, it must be that we have the resources to behave more generously than we do, and that we are brave enough to rise from the ashes of loss as better citizens of the world than we have ever been. We've inherited the grace of the Grand Canyon, the mystery of the Everglades, the fertility of an Iowa plain; we could crown this good with brotherhood. What a vast inheritance for our children that would be, if we were to become a nation humble before our rich birthright, whose graciousness makes us beloved.''
Mr. Speaker, I hope all Members take the time to read this.

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Lawmakers push for hearings on warning given to Bush
David E. Sanger and Sherri Day, New York Times, May 16, 2002

A day after the White House revealed that the Bush administration knew prior to Sept. 11 that Osama bin Laden was seeking to hijack aircraft, lawmakers called for a deeper investigation into why American intelligence agencies had failed to put together individual pieces of evidence that, in retrospect, now seem to suggest what was coming.
[The complete article - registration required]

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U.S. Jews opposing Israel are increasingly vocal
Nathan Guttman, Ha'aretz, May 16, 2002

On the fringes of the pro-Israel solidarity marches, the fund-raising events in support of Israel's military efforts, and American Jews' solidarity missions to Israel, several U.S.-Jewish groups have started to make their voices heard. Far from echoing the line that America's Jewish communities have been espousing, these new voices are critical of Israeli operations in the territories, and are calling for an end to the occupation and the respecting of Palestinians' rights.
[The complete article]

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U.S. foreign military training: global reach, global power, and oversight issues
Lora Lumpe, Foreign Policy in Focus Special Report, May, 2002

Over the past decade one of the principal means by which the U.S. has interacted with almost all governments in the world is by training their military forces. In recent years U.S. forces have been training approximately 100,000 foreign soldiers annually. This training takes place in at least 150 institutions within the U.S. and in 180 countries around the world.
[Note - pages on the FPIF web site do not always load correctly. If the text does not appear, trying hitting the refresh button.]
[The complete 64 page report in HTML and PDF formats]

A summary of the findings in this report is provided by Jim Lobe from

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Too much is never enough: Bush's military spending spree
Michelle Ciarrocca, Foreign Policy in Focus, May 10, 2002

President Bush has recently submitted a $27 billion emergency supplemental request to Congress. The Pentagon will receive almost half of the emergency request--$14 billion. Out of that amount, $130 million will be spent on unspecified foreign countries or "indigenous forces." What is most alarming is that more than $1 billion of that request has been tagged with the clause "notwithstanding any other provision of law"--meaning that the few laws in place to keep military aid and weapons out the hands of human rights abusers are no longer relevant.
[The complete article]

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Palestinian stock market triumphs by staying alive
Peter Hermann, Baltimore Sun, May 16, 2002

The Palestinian Securities Exchange will never be confused with Wall Street. Lacking frenzied traders and banks of computer screens, the Palestinian version of a stock market resembles an insurance office on a sleepy day. It survives in a city where Israeli army blockades have cut off direct contacts with other towns. The central marketplace is in ruins, few municipal buildings are standing, and some neighborhoods are controlled by militants challenging the Palestinian Authority. The triumph of the Palestinian stock market is that, seven years after its establishment, it exists.
[The complete article]

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Settlements in the West Bank - the authoritative map
Eyal Weizman, Open Democracy, May 14, 2002

This high-detail, colour-coded map with case studies shows the fragmentation of West Bank territory and the Jewish settlements in painstaking detail. For the first time, it reveals the potential settlement expansion provided for in masterplans.
It shows:

· the location, size and form of existing Israeli settlements;
· for the first time, the scope of potential settlement expansion;
· the different jurisdictions;
· the locations of Palestinian settlements;
· the areas under Palestinian limited sovereignty according to Oslo.
[The complete article and map]

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Israeli repression and the language of liars
Tim Wise, AlterNet, May 8, 2002

Ariel Sharon once said, “A lie should be tried in a place where it will attract the attention of the world.” And so it has been: throughout the media and the U.S. political scene, on CNN in the personage of Benjamin Netanyahu, and in the pages of the New York Times.

And in my Hebrew School, where we were taught that Jews were to be “a light unto the nations,” instead of this dim bulb, this flickering nightlight, this barely visible spark whose radiance is only sufficient to make visible the death-rattle of the more noble aspects of the Jewish tradition. Unless we who are Jews insist on a return to honest language, and an end to the hijacking of our culture and faith by madmen, racists and liars, I fear that the light may be extinguished forever.
[The complete article]

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The lurking shadow of expulsion
Oren Yiftachel and Neve Gordon, Alternative Information Center, May 14th, 2002

The State of Israel has reached an important crossroad. For some months now the nationalist camp, aided by the media, has been trickling into the public discourse the idea of expulsion -- branded in Israel as “transfer” -- despite the fact that it is antithetical to both international norms and human rights covenants. There are, of course, various formulations for how the transfer of the Palestinian population should be carried out, ranging from the aggressive version proposed by ex-minister Avigdor Lieberman, through the 'soft' version of “voluntary transfer” according to the right wing party "Moledet," and all the way to the idea of abrogating the political rights of the Palestinians and transferring them from their land and homes “only at a time of need,” as suggested by Minister and inner Cabinet Member Efi Eitam.
[The complete article]

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Bush’s war - the fall-out on women and families
Yifat Susskind, MADRE, May, 2002

As the atrocities of Sept. 11 become part of our collective past, their repercussions shape our present and future. The legacy of these attacks embodies an ugly truth: namely, that the Bush Administration has exploited Sept. 11 to advance a pre-existing agenda.
[The complete article]

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COMMENT -- What foreigners so often fail to appreciate is that a sharp mind has never been regarded as a job requirement for an American president. George Bush may not be well-read or well-travelled and when he deviates from his script, he's prone to putting his foot in his mouth, but isn't that all exactly what makes him a man of the people?

George Bush? He's nice but dim, says crown prince
Matthew Engel, The Guardian, May 15, 2002

In the most regal possible manner, Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia skewered President George Bush yesterday as a man so ignorant about the Middle East, and specifically about the suffering of the Palestinians, that he needed several hours of personal tuition to bring him up to speed.
[The complete article]

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The axis of nonsense
Andrew Murray, The Guardian, May 15, 2002

Washington's war is going à la carte. Each passing week is placing both new targets and new justifications for attack on the menu for military action. There is now not the slightest pretence that the scope of the US's regime-change wishlist is in any way tethered to the attacks of September 11. Instead, the world is witnessing the rapid emergence of a plan to dispose of any government hateful to the sight of US ultra-conservatism.
[The complete article]

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Thousands who backed wrong side held in Afghan 'Auschwitz'
Mark Baker, Sydney Morning Herald, May 14 2002

The European Union's special envoy to Afghanistan has called for urgent action by Afghan authorities to end the plight of more than 2000 starving Taliban supporters being held prisoner in conditions he compared to the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.
[The complete article]

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COMMENT -- While some people will argue that many of the actions of the Israeli Defense Force amount to a form of "state-sponsored terrorism," as the promise of Palestinian statehood moves closer to becoming a political reality, the threat of Jewish terrorism - terrorism in the form of bombings and suicide attacks on innocent civilians - will steadily increase.

Only a few days ago, a plot to bomb an Arab girls school in East Jerusalem was prevented as the bomb was being moved into position. Noam Federman was arrested Monday on suspicion of being involved in the plot and was quoted as saying that "I think the government should put bombs in [Palestinian] hospitals, but unfortunately the government doesn't do it, so it is up to the people to do those things."

Federman is part of the Kahanist movement (followers of Kach leader, Meir Kahane) which has branches in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Florida, and Milwaukee. In "Voice of Hebron", a feature on the New Kach (Kahanist) Movement web site, the columnist, Gary M. Cooperberg (who is both a US and Israeli citizen) suggested that following the IDF's incursion into the West Bank, "Had Ramallah been leveled and all of its inhabitants, men women and children, summarily executed, followed by a warning to all other would be terrorists to leave or else, there is no doubt that most would have fled and many lives, both Jew and Arab would have been saved as a result."

While forms of extremism such as this are rarely highlighted in the mainstream media, they are unfortunately views that are not limited to a few isolated individuals. One of the most infamous (and celebrated) Jewish terrorists of recent years was Baruch Goldstein, an American doctor in the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba. In 1994 on Purim, Goldstein stormed a mosque and fired on praying Muslims in the Hebron's Tomb of the Patriarchs - a shrine sacred to both Muslims and Jews. Twenty-nine people died in the attack, and the angry crowd lynched Goldstein in retaliation. Since the massacre, Kach supporters visit Goldstein's grave annually and hold a celebration. It is reported that by March 2000, 10,000 people had visited his grave.

In 1997, an Israeli settler and soldier Noam Friedman, claiming that he was avenging the death of Baruch Goldstein, walked into the Hebron market and opened fire on Palestinian shoppers, wounding eight but, fortunately, killing no one. Two months later Friedman was "discharged from the army and committed to a mental institution after a military court accepted recommendations from a team of IDF-appointed psychiatrists that he was mentally unstable and could not stand trial." A few weeks later, a Health ministry spokeman said that "Friedman has begun a process of rehabilitation in which he goes out twice a week to study and at weekends is on vacation at his home." Is this the implementation of justice for attempted mass murder?

Another man inspired by Goldstein was Yigal Amir, the assasin of Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin. Amir described his fascination with Goldstein by saying, "I was very intrigued by how a man like that could get up and sacrifice his life.... This was a man who left a family and martyred himself." Amir is now serving a life sentence.

Kach and Kahane Chai have been outlawed in Israel since 1994 after they declared support for Baruch Goldstein, but they, along with the Jewish Defense League (JDL - founded in the US by Meir Kahane) still receive active support in the United States. Since September 11, the only charges that have been made against anyone attempting a new act of terrorism inside the U.S., were Federal charges against top officials of the Jewish Defense League, Irv Rubin and Earl Krugel, who are accused of plotting to blow up a Los Angeles area mosque.

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U.S. arms transfers and security assistance to Israel
Frida Berrigan and William Hartung, Foreign Policy in Focus, May 8, 2002

U.S. press coverage of Israeli attacks on the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian towns on the West Bank often treat the U.S. government as either an innocent bystander or an honest broker in the current conflict, often without giving a full sense of the importance of the U.S. role as a supplier of arms, aid, and military technology to Israel. In its role as Israel's primary arms supplier, the United States could exert significant potential leverage over Israeli behavior in the conflict, if it would choose to do so.
[The complete article]

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Poll points toward peace
Jim Lobe, AlterNet, May 13, 2002

An in-depth poll conducted by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Initiatives (PIPA) found that a majority of Americans do not agree with the views advocated by pro-Israeli hawks in the White House and Congress.
[The complete article]

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Book reviews
Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam, by Gilles Kepel, Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia by Ahmed Rashid, What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response by Bernard Lewis, reviewed by Laura Miller, Salon, May 13, 2002

What "Jihad" illustrates (and what often gets lost or glossed over in other books on the subject) is how foolish it is to generalize about Islam. Beyond the familiar schism between the Sunnis and the Shiites, the faith is spectacularly diverse, from the mystical brotherhoods of the Sufis, to the puritanical Wahabbites, to (what remains of) the relatively secularized cosmopolitan elites of more developed countries like Egypt. It makes as much sense to draw conclusions about all Muslims on the basis of the beliefs of the Taliban or bin Laden as it does to expect a Quaker to light candles to Santa Barbara or a Unitarian minister to plant bombs in abortion clinics simply because other people who call themselves Christians do so.
[The complete article]

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Why does John Malkovich want to kill me?
Robert Fisk, The Independent, May 14, 2002

In 26 years in the Middle East, I have never read so many vile and intimidating messages addressed to me. Many now demand my death. And last week, the Hollywood actor John Malkovich did just that, telling the Cambridge Union that he would like to shoot me.

How, I ask myself, did it come to this? Slowly but surely, the hate has turned to incitement, the incitement into death threats, the walls of propriety and legality gradually pulled down so that a reporter can be abused, his family defamed, his beating at the hands of an angry crowd greeted with laughter and insults in the pages of an American newspaper, his life cheapened and made vulnerable by an actor who – without even saying why – says he wants to kill me.
[The complete article]

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Gov't approves freeze on reunification of Arab families

Mazal Mualem and Moshe Reinfeld, Ha'aretz, May 13, 2002

The Israeli government yesterday retroactively approved Interior Minister Eli Yishai's April 1 freeze on all family reunifications between Israeli Arabs and West Bankers and Gazans, to prevent Palestinians from the territories gaining Israeli citizenship. [...] The Association for Civil Rights in Israel went to the High Court with a petition against the decision yesterday, claiming it was "racist, discriminatory, and gravely harms the basic right to family life by Israeli citizens who married Arabs."
[The complete article]

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Settlers strategically split East Jerusalem

Ben Lynfield, Christian Science Monitor, May 13, 2002

On the eve of Israel's Jerusalem Day holiday, marked last Thursday, Jewish settlers moved into a vacant, dilapidated building in an Arab area of East Jerusalem and began studying sacred texts. Their inspiration was religious, but the far-right politicians who encouraged them have a not-so-hidden agenda: making the city less Palestinian.
The move comes two weeks after 43 Palestinians were evicted in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood after they lost a legal battle against settlers.

In Jerusalem, what may sound like microgeography has far-reaching implications: New settlements in Sheikh Jarrah can, say settler leaders, cut off the Palestinian core in the Old City from the populous northern Palestinian neighborhoods of Shuafat and Beit Hanana. Severing this link – and thereby breaking the continuity of Palestinian East Jerusalem – would make it even more difficult to enact a peace plan that includes a hand over of East Jerusalem to the Palestinians.
[The complete article]

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COMMENT -- It isn't a conspiracy theory, though it has spawned many, and even if it has officially been described as an urban legend, it is backed up by detailed documentation. It is of course the story of an alleged spy-ring made up of Israelis posing as art students. All of the "students" had military backgrounds - and so does every other Israeli apart from those who manage to dodge military service. They were working illegally - and the INS isn't blind to the fact that many a young foreign traveller is willing to become an "undocumented worker" if it helps them fund an extended trip around the States.

But was it bravado, ignorance, or entrepreneurial zeal that led some of these hungry artists to sneak into Federal buildings in pursuit of a quick sale? And what were the odds that by sheer chance several of them would rent an apartment just a few blocks down the street from the one in Hollywood, Florida, where lead hijacker, Mohammad Atta, lived for several months? And how come several of them were carrying cell phones purchased by an Israeli vice consul in the United States?

This story raises these and many other questions. Unless a few straightforward explanations soon come to light, it seems likely that the story will continue to circulate.

Suspicious activities involving Israeli art students at DEA facilities
60-page report from the DEA reprinted by

Spies, or students?
Nathan Guttman, Ha'aretz, May 13, 2002

The Israeli "art student" mystery
Christopher Ketcham, Salon, May 7, 2002

Urban myth, my ass!
John Sugg, Creative Loafing, March 27, 2002

The spies who came in from the art sale
John Sugg, Creative Loafing, March 20, 2002

Intelligence agents or art students?
Paul M. Rodriguez, Insight, March 11, 2002

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B'Tselem report: settlers control 41.9% of West Bank
Nadav Shragai, Ha'aretz, May 13, 2002

B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, published a report Monday on settlement policies in the West Bank, which revealed that although only 1.7 percent of settlement territory in the West Bank is built upon, settlers in fact control 41.9 percent of the West Bank.
[The complete article]
B'Tselem's report - Land Grab: Israel's Settlement Policy

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U.S. pays PR guru to make its points
Stephen J. Hedges. Chicago Tribune, May 12, 2002

When U.S. troops go into a war zone, John Rendon is rarely far behind. He was in Panama in 1989 for the brief invasion that toppled strongman Manuel Noriega. He was in Kuwait when allied forces took it back from Saddam Hussein in 1991, making sure that citizens had little American flags to wave for the conquering troops and television cameras. He has worked in Haiti and in the Balkans, and is now fully engaged in the war against terrorism. But John Rendon is not a military officer, government adviser, diplomat, spy or journalist. He is, to use his own words, "an information warrior and a perception manager." Rendon makes images, manipulates scenes and manages news. He advises politicians and spreads propaganda. Rendon and his public-relations firm, The Rendon Group, have many clients, but none bigger--or more loyal--than the U.S. government.
[The complete article]

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The road to The Hague
Gideon Levy, Ha'aretz, May 12, 2002

The feeling that prevails today is that there are virtually no restrictions on killing Palestinians because the IDF will back up its soldiers in every case. The soldiers no longer need to have a "lawyer at their side," as they complained with exaggeration during the first intifada; Yitzhak Rabin's dream of a war "without the High Court of Justice and without B'Tselem" has become a reality. Is it not the case that the soldiers' knowledge that no harm will befall them prompts them to open fire too easily? [...] [But] In the international community, the killing of a woman and her two children, the killing of five children on their way to school, the blocking of medical treatment for the wounded and the refusal to allow women in labor or seriously-ill individuals to pass through roadblocks are crimes and the perpetrators must be punished.
[The complete article]

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Why I refuse to fight for Sharon's settlements
David Zonsheine, Washington Post, May 11, 2002

My parents instilled in me the notion that I must do everything for the state. In Israel, serving in the army is a central expression of that ethos. When I was a high school student, it was not only obvious to me that I would go to the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), but it was also vital that I become a paratrooper and serve in a special unit. It was also clear to me that my service to the state and my patriotism would require that I participate in an officer's course and serve an extra year.

Now that I have done several tours of duty in the West Bank as a reserve officer, this axiom that the army and the state are one and the same, and my belief that the army serves the vital security interests of the state have been eroded. There was no single development that made me an objector; rather it was a succession of small incidents. It became increasingly clear to me that the little orders that I was issued, and then the orders I gave my soldiers to carry out, had precious little to do with protecting the state. They had everything to do with protecting a group of zealots and their settlements, and maintaining a Kafkaesque system that spelled misery for ordinary Palestinians.

After two years of deliberation and many sleepless nights, I came to the inescapable conclusion that Zionism is not what the zealots have made it. Zionism is not about occupation and territories; it is about obtaining a secure and internationally recognized home for the Jewish people. While some in Israel view refusal as betrayal, I refuse to betray the basic values and goals of Zionism. The continuing occupation imperils the future of the Jewish state. We must choose between land and legitimacy and between occupation and democracy.
[The complete article]

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Israelis rally for pullout from West Bank, Gaza
Reuters, May 11, 2002

Tens of thousands of left-wing Israelis rallied on Saturday night to call for an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territories in what organizers said was the biggest peace demonstration for 20 years. The protest was organized by the Peace Now movement, which has been marginalized of late by public outrage over Palestinian suicide bombings which have killed scores of Israelis in an uprising against occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Police estimated the crowd at about 50,000. Peace Now put the figure at above 100,000, calling it the biggest peace rally since some 200,000 people turned out in 1982 to call for an Israeli military pullout from Lebanon.

Opposition politicians and artists addressed a throng waving a sea of banners saying "Leave the territories for the sake of Israel" and "Two states for two peoples."
[The complete article]

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