An Eye for a Thousand Eyes

Arabist reader and friend Ryan O’Kane sent me the following piece he wrote:
An Eye for a Thousand Eyes The Political Morality of Supporting Israel Israel’s carefully managed escalation game is sucking the world into political chaos. But its success depends on the world’s moral confusion and paralysis. If we are to act in time to end this unfolding catastrophe, we need clarity – now. In some ways, the strategy for beginning this war was similar the buildup to the 1967 war. The well-documented Mossad and CIA (under Richard Helms) operation to spread rumours of an impending Israeli war on the region was intended to deliberately heightened tensions and provoke Israel's neighbours into pre-emptive action – i.e. the mobilisation of Nasser’s troops in Sinai [1].
Over the past 3 years a similar campaign of unsubstantiated intelligence estimates, paranoid rumour mongering and public sabre rattling has pushed towards the international isolation of Iran and forced US/UK/Israel’s enemies to make military preparations for an impending attack.
This strategy is extremely effective for, even though its targets understand that such pre-emptive actions or preparations will serve as the public pretext for US/UK/Israel’s war, failing to make preparations would expose them to an untenable risk of national martyrdom. The regional parties targeted in this conflict - Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran – all claim that they had predicted and planned for the enemy’s aggression. Hassan Nasrallah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards claim that Israel had originally planned the war on Lebanon to take place in October, and that Hezbollah’s “cross-border� raid was intended to draw Israel into the conflict before their war preparations were complete [2]. This is, of course, a rational public stance to defend their moral superiority in the conflict. Offence must always be portrayed as defense. At first glance it seems ironic that the destabilising precedent set by America’s doctrine of pre-emption gives Nasrallah’s claims increased international legitimacy. But for the US/UK/Israel this is a price worth paying. They understand that the battle for moral superiority is not won in the UN or international courts but through the “information war� for “hearts and minds�. The pro-Zionist “spin and spam� machine - the “hasbara� - believes that it has the technological, financial and ideological superiority [3] to counteract international diplomatic pressure with the “human shield� of public opinion. But it is not the “legality� of Hezbollah’s “kidnap� of Israeli troops that is the subject of public debate. If it were, we would have to investigate the claims by the Lebanese Police that the Israeli soldiers were confronted and captured in Aitaa al-Chaab, a village on the Lebanese side of the border [4], or that kidnapping civilians for bargaining purposes has been practised systematically by Israel throughout the middle-east conflict. Instead, the battlefield assigned to the “hasbara� is that of political morality, in order to focus on the “superior legitimacy� of their cause and the “debased� values of their enemies. This is a battle that Israel must not be allowed to win, for tribalism and racism are the only values that could legitimate the lack of “moral equivalence� (to use John Bolton’s favourite phrase) between Israel’s 60-year “low/high-intensity� warfare against its Palestinian and Arab neighbours and the occasional risks to which Israelis are exposed by the sporadic and largely ineffectual military resistance to occupation. This is not a blurry line. This is not some dinner party ethical conundrum, or complex “moral maze�, about between humanity’s responsibility to “the planet�, the rights and wrongs of euthanasia, or the abstract concept of “property as theft�. The morality of Israel’s rampage is not complex at all. It is deafeningly simple. For the moment let’s put aside the historical-political abstractions of “the middle-east conflict�, of “the cycle of violence�, and of “religious� or “ethnic tensions�. Just once, let us unclothe reality from its banal words - its “collateral damage� and “surgical strikes�. Draw a line around the events in Lebanon and Gaza and fix your gaze on human consequences in the raw. Since June 28, Israeli cluster bombs, chemical weapons, guns and soldiers have killed more than 700 people, forced almost a million people to flee their homes in terror and subjected at least 4 million others to a level of deprivation, fear and psychological torture that very few middle-class suburbanites could describe from their own experience – and that includes those in Tel Aviv. The amount of Israelis killed in the same period – 51. Maybe the “numbers game� is crude. As if balancing the books on this morbid balance sheet could cancel the debt of revenge. Unfortunately, as death cannot be “exchanged� for life, “balancing the books� only means only one thing, more killing. But ethics are all about “proportionality�, about ensuring that the consequences of your actions are “proportionate� to your human needs. Only a racist ideology such as Zionism could conclude that the consequences of Israel’s attacks on Gaza and Lebanon are “proportionate� to the need of Israelis for “security�. Indeed, Olmert confirmed at the outset of the conflict that the “lives, security and well-being� of Israelis is “more important� than those of Palestinians [5]. The tribal exceptionalism of Zionism is therefore perfectly suited to the ideological demands imposed by the modern doctrine of “asymmetric warfare� – i.e. the crushing of the weak by the strong. Universal values, such as “human rights�, are therefore the real “existential threat� to the “Jewish State� and to US foreign policy. The hijacking of the United Nations by the US and other “friends of Israel� has served to discredit not only the UN, but the very viability of a universalist system of political morality. The “liberal myth� of Western democracy has been debased by a long history of hypocrisy, but no issue has been so corrosive throughout the short lifespan of the UN than its defense of Israel’s colonial apartheid state. The murder of 4 UN soldiers by targeted Israeli strikes on the Lebanese border is the lethal injection for this terminally ill institution and the utopian dream of political universalism that it represents. The UN and Israel were twins, both born out of the “never again� urge following the catastrophe of World War II and the Nazi holocaust. As has become all too clear, these two dreams – one of a world based on universal human rights, international law and political consensus and the other on a hierarchy of racist “exceptionalism� – are entirely incompatible. The unilateral imposition of a “New Middle East� will effectively end the 60-year stalemate between Israel and the United Nations and consign the UN and its naïve fantasies to the dustbin of history. Despite the precedent Israel’s exceptionalism sets for the emergence of rival “tribal� movements, the Zionists seem to believe that the death of universalism is in their interests. Simply put, in a world system debased to the level of “survival of the fittest�, many friends of Israel believe it to be the “fittest� nation in history - more so even than the United States. But the exposure of naked power at least brings clarity. It is self-evident that preventing the fulfilment of this fascist prophecy is the most important moral duty to face political progressives since the 1930s. 1. Tolan, Sandy. 2006. New Lessons from the Six-Day War: Documents Show Complex History before First Shot In, SFGate, (accessed July 28, 2006). 2. SITE Institute. 2006. A Speech from Hassan Nasrallah, Leader of Hezbollah, Speaking of a New Middle East Project and Attacks of Greater Intensity Than in Haifa. In, SITE Institute, (accessed July 28, 2006). 3. El Fassed, Arjan 2006. Israel's Foreign Ministry Provides Free Internet Tool to Online Activists. In, Electronic Intifada, (accessed July 28, 2006). 4. Frank, Joshua. 2006. Kidnapped in Israel or Captured in Lebanon? In, Daily Kos, (accessed July 28, 2006). 5. Macintyre, Donald. 2006. Olmert: Israeli Lives Worth More Than Palestinian Ones. In, Independent, (accessed July 29, 2006).
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Updates on Lebanon

Can't remember if Issandr posted something before or not about this, but when you get the time try following this blog, Arabist reader Chaymaa sent me. It posts good updates, maps and illustrations on the Israeli aggression against Lebanon. Chaymaa also sent another blog by a French-Lebanese teacher, War on Lebanon, July 2006, which also tries to provide updates on the situation in English and French. Here's a map of the latest Israeli operations.
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الجو جميل

Shatta Theatre Troop would like to invite you to: “El Gaw Gameel� "الجو جميل" Based on Louis Calaferte’s “Un Riche, Trois Pauvres� Directed by Nada Sabet An absurd play, composed of split second disjointed scenes that bring out the circus in the streets and the street in the circus. The performance is the result of improvisation based on the original text that leads to an ever-changing picture on stage where the street and circus are always evolving into each other until they gradually merge into one. “There are as many realities as you care to imagine� (Lawrence Durell). Monday 7th August, 2006, 9pm El-Hanager Theatre, Opera House As part of the independent theatre troops festival

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State Security arrests 4 Kefaya activists in Port Said

Four Kefaya activists have been detained by State Security Police in the northern city of Port Said last night, Kefaya's website reported. The four were picked up after they took part in a march to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the nationalization of the Suez Canal. The detainees are: Youth for Change coordinator Mohamed Hegazi, Fathi Farid, and two other activsts whose names were not available. UPDATE: The four activists spent the night in a police station, and were referred to a prosecutor on the following day, Kefaya's website reports. Prosecutor Khaled el-Shami interrogated them on charges of "disturbing public order," and then ordered their release.
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NYT: Tide of Arab Opinion Turns to Support for Hezbollah

More on the growing regional support for Hizbollah...

July 28, 2006 Changing Reaction Tide of Arab Opinion Turns to Support for Hezbollah By NEIL MacFARQUHAR

DAMASCUS, Syria, July 27 — At the onset of the Lebanese crisis, Arab governments, starting with Saudi Arabia, slammed Hezbollah for recklessly provoking a war, providing what the United States and Israel took as a wink and a nod to continue the fight.

Now, with hundreds of Lebanese dead and Hezbollah holding out against the vaunted Israeli military for more than two weeks, the tide of public opinion across the Arab world is surging behind the organization, transforming the Shiite group’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, into a folk hero and forcing a change in official statements.

The Saudi royal family and King Abdullah II of Jordan, who were initially more worried about the rising power of Shiite Iran, Hezbollah’s main sponsor, are scrambling to distance themselves from Washington.

An outpouring of newspaper columns, cartoons, blogs and public poetry readings have showered praise on Hezbollah while attacking the United States and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for trumpeting American plans for a “new Middle East� that they say has led only to violence and repression.

Even Al Qaeda, run by violent Sunni Muslim extremists normally hostile to all Shiites, has gotten into the act, with its deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, releasing a taped message saying that through its fighting in Iraq, his organization was also trying to liberate Palestine.

Mouin Rabbani, a senior Middle East analyst in Amman, Jordan, with the International Crisis Group, said, “The Arab-Israeli conflict remains the most potent issue in this part of the world.�

Distinctive changes in tone are audible throughout the Sunni world. This week, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt emphasized his attempts to arrange a cease-fire to protect all sects in Lebanon, while the Jordanian king announced that his country was dispatching medical teams “for the victims of Israeli aggression.� Both countries have peace treaties with Israel.

The Saudi royal court has issued a dire warning that its 2002 peace plan — offering Israel full recognition by all Arab states in exchange for returning to the borders that predated the 1967 Arab-Israeli war — could well perish.

“If the peace option is rejected due to the Israeli arrogance,� it said, “then only the war option remains, and no one knows the repercussions befalling the region, including wars and conflict that will spare no one, including those whose military power is now tempting them to play with fire.�

The Saudis were putting the West on notice that they would not exert pressure on anyone in the Arab world until Washington did something to halt the destruction of Lebanon, Saudi commentators said.

American officials say that while the Arab leaders need to take a harder line publicly for domestic political reasons, what matters more is what they tell the United States in private, which the Americans still see as a wink and a nod.

There are evident concerns among Arab governments that a victory for Hezbollah — and it has already achieved something of a victory by holding out this long — would further nourish the Islamist tide engulfing the region and challenge their authority. Hence their first priority is to cool simmering public opinion.

But perhaps not since President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt made his emotional outpourings about Arab unity in the 1960’s, before the Arab defeat in the 1967 war, has the public been so electrified by a confrontation with Israel, played out repeatedly on satellite television stations with horrific images from Lebanon of wounded children and distraught women fleeing their homes.

Egypt’s opposition press has had a field day comparing Sheik Nasrallah to Nasser, while demonstrators waved pictures of both.

An editorial in the weekly Al Dustur by Ibrahim Issa, who faces a lengthy jail sentence for his previous criticism of President Mubarak, compared current Arab leaders to the medieval princes who let the Crusaders chip away at Muslim lands until they controlled them all.

After attending an intellectual rally in Cairo for Lebanon, the Egyptian poet Ahmed Fouad Negm wrote a column describing how he had watched a companion buy 20 posters of Sheik Nasrallah.

“People are praying for him as they walk in the street, because we were made to feel oppressed, weak and handicapped,� Mr. Negm said in an interview. “I asked the man who sweeps the street under my building what he thought, and he said: ‘Uncle Ahmed, he has awakened the dead man inside me! May God make him triumphant!’�

In Lebanon, Rasha Salti, a freelance writer, summarized the sense that Sheik Nasrallah differed from other Arab leaders.

“Since the war broke out, Hassan Nasrallah has displayed a persona, and public behavior also, to the exact opposite of Arab heads of states,� she wrote in an e-mail message posted on many blogs.

In comparison, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s brief visit to the region sparked widespread criticism of her cold demeanor and her choice of words, particularly a statement that the bloodshed represented the birth pangs of a “new Middle East.� That catchphrase was much used by Shimon Peres, the veteran Israeli leader who was a principal negotiator of the 1993 Oslo Accords, which ultimately failed to lead to the Palestinian state they envisaged.

A cartoon by Emad Hajjaj in Jordan labeled “The New Middle East� showed an Israeli tank sitting on a broken apartment house in the shape of the Arab world.

Fawaz al-Trabalsi, a columnist in the Lebanese daily As Safir, suggested that the real new thing in the Middle East was the ability of one group to challenge Israeli militarily.

Perhaps nothing underscored Hezbollah’s rising stock more than the sudden appearance of a tape from the Qaeda leadership attempting to grab some of the limelight.

Al Jazeera satellite television broadcast a tape from Mr. Zawahri (za-WAH-ri). Large panels behind him showed a picture of the exploding World Trade Center as well as portraits of two Egyptian Qaeda members, Muhammad Atef, a Qaeda commander who was killed by an American airstrike in Afghanistan, and Mohamed Atta, the lead hijacker on Sept. 11, 2001. He described the two as fighters for the Palestinians.

Mr. Zawahri tried to argue that the fight against American forces in Iraq paralleled what Hezbollah was doing, though he did not mention the organization by name.

“It is an advantage that Iraq is near Palestine,� he said. “Muslims should support its holy warriors until an Islamic emirate dedicated to jihad is established there, which could then transfer the jihad to the borders of Palestine.�

Mr. Zawahri also adopted some of the language of Hezbollah and Shiite Muslims in general. That was rather ironic, since previously in Iraq, Al Qaeda has labeled Shiites Muslim as infidels and claimed responsibility for some of the bloodier assaults on Shiite neighborhoods there.

But by taking on Israel, Hezbollah had instantly eclipsed Al Qaeda, analysts said. “Everyone will be asking, ‘Where is Al Qaeda now?’ � said Adel al-Toraifi, a Saudi columnist and expert on Sunni extremists.

Mr. Rabbani of the International Crisis Group said Hezbollah’s ability to withstand the Israeli assault and to continue to lob missiles well into Israel exposed the weaknesses of Arab governments with far greater resources than Hezbollah.

“Public opinion says that if they are getting more on the battlefield than you are at the negotiating table, and you have so many more means at your disposal, then what the hell are you doing?� Mr. Rabbani said. “In comparison with the small embattled guerrilla movement, the Arab states seem to be standing idly by twiddling their thumbs.�

Mona el-Naggar contributed reporting from Cairo for this article, and Suha Maayeh from Amman, Jordan.

You can find pix of solidarity demos in Egypt here and here.
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Hiding among civilians... really?

One of Israel’s main justifications behind its aggressive bombing of civilian targets in Lebanon has been the claim that Hizbollah is "hiding among civilians." The Israelis' lies, as noted before, resembles the the US army's rubbish about “VC communities� during the Vietnam War--rubbish that was used to justify bombing entire villages back to the stone age, and the use of Agent Orange. Kay sent me this article from debunking this Israeli myth
The "hiding among civilians" myth Israel claims it's justified in bombing civilians because Hezbollah mingles with them. In fact, the militant group doesn't trust its civilians and stays as far away from them as possible. By Mitch Prothero
Jul. 28, 2006 The bombs came just as night fell, around 7 p.m. The locals knew that the 10-story apartment building had been the office, and possibly the residence, of Sheik Tawouk, the Hezbollah commander for the south, so they had moved their families out at the start of the war. The landlord had refused to rent to Hezbollah when they requested the top floors of the building. No matter, the locals said, the Hezb guys just moved in anyway in the name of the "resistance." Everyone knew that the building would be hit eventually. Its location in downtown Tyre, which had yet to be hit by Israeli airstrikes, was not going to protect it forever. And "everyone" apparently included Sheik Tawouk, because he wasn't anywhere near it when it was finally hit. Two guided bombs struck it in a huge flash bang of fire and concrete dust followed by the roar of 10 stories pancaking on top of each other, local residents said. Jihad Husseini, 46, runs the driving school a block away and was sitting in his office when the bombs struck. He said his life was saved because he had drawn the heavy cloth curtains shut on the windows facing the street, preventing him from being hit by a wave of shattered glass. But even so, a chunk of smoldering steel flew through the air, broke through the window and the curtain, and shot past his head and through the wall before coming to rest in his neighbor's home. But Jihad still refuses to leave. "Everything is broken, but I can make it better," he says, surrounded by his sons Raed, 20, and Mohammed, 12. "I will not leave. This place is not military, it is not Hezbollah; it was an empty apartment." Throughout this now 16-day-old war, Israeli planes high above civilian areas make decisions on what to bomb. They send huge bombs capable of killing things for hundreds of meters around their targets, and then blame the inevitable civilian deaths -- the Lebanese government says 600 civilians have been killed so far -- on "terrorists" who callously use the civilian infrastructure for protection. But this claim is almost always false. My own reporting and that of other journalists reveals that in fact Hezbollah fighters -- as opposed to the much more numerous Hezbollah political members, and the vastly more numerous Hezbollah sympathizers -- avoid civilians. Much smarter and better trained than the PLO and Hamas fighters, they know that if they mingle with civilians, they will sooner or later be betrayed by collaborators -- as so many Palestinian militants have been. For their part, the Israelis seem to think that if they keep pounding civilians, they'll get some fighters, too. The almost nightly airstrikes on the southern suburbs of Beirut could be seen as making some sense, as the Israelis appear convinced there are command and control bunkers underneath the continually smoldering rubble. There were some civilian casualties the first few nights in places like Haret Hreik, but people quickly left the area to the Hezbollah fighters with their radios and motorbikes. But other attacks seem gratuitous, fishing expeditions, or simply intended to punish anything and anyone even vaguely connected to Hezbollah. Lighthouses, grain elevators, milk factories, bridges in the north used by refugees, apartment buildings partially occupied by members of Hezbollah's political wing -- all have been reduced to rubble. In the south, where Shiites dominate, just about everyone supports Hezbollah. Does mere support for Hezbollah, or even participation in Hezbollah activities, mean your house and family are fair game? Do you need to fire rockets from your front yard? Or is it enough to be a political activist? The Israelis are consistent: They bomb everyone and everything remotely associated with Hezbollah, including noncombatants. In effect, that means punishing Lebanon. The nation is 40 percent Shiite, and of that 40 percent, tens of thousands are employed by Hezbollah's social services, political operations, schools, and other nonmilitary functions. The "terrorist" organization Hezbollah is Lebanon's second-biggest employer. People throw the phrase "ghost town" around a lot, but Nabatiya, a bombed-out town about 15 miles from the Lebanon-Israel border, deserves it. One expects the spirits of the town's dead, or its refugees, to silently glide out onto its abandoned streets from the ruined buildings that make up much of the town. Not all of the buildings show bomb damage, but those that don't have metal shutters blown out as if by a terrible wind. And there are no people at all, except for the occasional Hezbollah scout on a motorbike armed only with a two-way radio, keeping an eye on things as Israeli jets and unmanned drones circle overhead. Overlooking the outskirts of this town, which has a peacetime population of 100,000 or so -- mostly Shiite supporters of Hezbollah and its more secular rival Amal -- is the Ragheh Hareb Hospital, a facility that makes quite clear what side the residents of Nabatiya are on in this conflict. The hospital's carefully sculpted and trimmed front lawn contains the giant Red Crescent that denotes the Muslim version of the Red Cross. As we approach it, an Israeli missile streaks by, smashing into a school on the opposite hilltop. As we crouch and then run for the shelter of the hospital awning, that giant crescent reassures me until I look at the flagpole. The Lebanese flag and its cedar tree is there -- right next to the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It's safe to say that Ragheh Hareb Hospital has an association with Hezbollah. And the staff sports the trimmed beards and polite, if somewhat ominous, manner of the group. After young men demand press IDs and do some quick questioning, they allow us to enter. Dr. Ahmed Tahir recognizes me from a funeral in the nearby village of Dweir. An Israeli bomb dropped on their house killed a Hezbollah cleric and 11 members of his immediate family, mostly children. People in Lebanon are calling it a war crime. Tahir looks exhausted, and our talk is even more tense than the last time. "Maybe it would be best if the Israelis bombed your car on the road here," he said, with a sharp edge. "If you were killed, maybe the public outcry would be so bad in America that the Jews would be forced to stop these attacks." When I volunteered that the Bush administration cared little for journalists, let alone ones who reported from Hezbollah territory, he shrugged. "Maybe if it was an American bomb used by the Israelis that killed an American journalist, they would stop this horror," he said. The handful of people in the town include some from Hezbollah's political wing, as well as volunteers keeping an eye on things while the residents are gone. Off to the side, as we watch the Israelis pummel ridgelines on the outskirts of town, one of the political operatives explains that the fighters never come near the town, reinforcing what other Hezbollah people have told me over the years. Although Israel targets apartments and offices because they are considered "Hezbollah" installations, the group has a clear policy of keeping its fighters away from civilians as much as possible. This is not for humanitarian reasons -- they did, after all, take over an apartment building against the protests of the landlord, knowing full well it would be bombed -- but for military ones. "You can be a member of Hezbollah your entire life and never see a military wing fighter with a weapon," a Lebanese military intelligence official, now retired, once told me. "They do not come out with their masks off and never operate around people if they can avoid it. They're completely afraid of collaborators. They know this is what breaks the Palestinians -- no discipline and too much showing off." Perhaps once a year, Hezbollah will hold a military parade in the south, in which its weapons and fighters appear. Media access to these parades is tightly limited and controlled. Unlike the fighters in the half dozen other countries where I have covered insurgencies, Hezbollah fighters do not like to show off for the cameras. In Iraq, with some risk taking, you can meet with and even watch the resistance guys in action. (At least you could during my last time there.) In Afghanistan, you can lunch with Taliban fighters if you're willing to walk a day or so in the mountains. In Gaza and the West Bank, the Fatah or Hamas fighter is almost ubiquitous with his mask, gun and sloganeering to convince the Western journalist of the justice of his cause. The Hezbollah guys, on the other hand, know that letting their fighters near outsiders of any kind -- journalists or Lebanese, even Hezbollah supporters -- is stupid. In three trips over the last week to the south, where I came near enough to the fighting to hear Israeli artillery, and not just airstrikes, I saw exactly no fighters. Guys with radios with the look of Hezbollah always found me. But no fighters on corners, no invitations to watch them shoot rockets at the Zionist enemy, nothing that can be used to track them. Even before the war, on many of my trips to the south, the Lebanese army, or the ubiquitous guy on a motorbike with a radio, would halt my trip and send me over to Tyre to get permission from a Hezbollah official before I could proceed, usually with strict limits on where I could go. Every other journalist I know who has covered Hezbollah has had the same experience. A fellow journalist, a Lebanese who has covered them for two decades, knows only one military guy who will admit it, and he never talks or grants interviews. All he will say is, "I'll be gone for a few months for training. I'll call when I'm back." Presumably his friends and neighbors may suspect something, but no one says anything. Hezbollah's political members say they have little or no access to the workings of the fighters. This seems to be largely true: While they obviously hear and know more than the outside world, the firewall is strong. Israel, however, has chosen to treat the political members of Hezbollah as if they were fighters. And by targeting the civilian wing of the group, which supplies much of the humanitarian aid and social protection for the poorest people in the south, they are targeting civilians. Earlier in the week, I stood next to a giant crater that had smashed through the highway between Tyre and Sidon -- the only route of escape for most of the people in the far south. Overhead, Israeli fighters and drones circled above the city and its outlying areas and regular blasts of bombs and naval artillery could be heard. The crater served as a nice place to check up on the refugees, who were forced by the crater to slow down long enough to be asked questions. They barely stopped, their faces wrenched in near panic. The main wave of refugees out of the south had come the previous two days, so these were the hard-luck cases, the people who had been really close to the fighting and who needed two days just to get to Tyre, or who had had to make the tough decision whether to flee or stay put, with neither choice looking good. The roads in the south are full of the cars of people who chose wrong -- burned-out chassis, broken glass, some cars driven straight into posts or ditches. Other seem to have broken down or run out of gas on the long dirt detours around the blown-out highway and bridge network the Israeli air force had spent days methodically destroying even as it warned people to flee. One man, slowing his car around the crater, almost screams, "There is nothing left. This country is not for us." His brief pause immediately draws horns and impatient yells from the people in the cars behind him. They pass the crater but within two minutes a large explosion behind us, north, in the direction of Sidon, rocks us. As we drive south toward Tyre, we soon pass a new series of scars on the highway: shrapnel, hubcaps and broken glass. A car that had been maybe five minutes ahead of us was hit by an Israeli shell. Three of its passengers were wounded, and it was heading north to the Hammound hospital at Sidon. We turned around because of the attack and followed the car to Sidon. Those unhurt staked out the parking lot of the hospital, looking for the Western journalists they were convinced had called in the strike. Luckily my Iraqi fixer smelled trouble and we got out of there. Probably nothing would have happened -- mostly they were just freaked-out country people who didn't like the coincidence of an Israeli attack and a car full of journalists driving past. So the analysts talking on cable news about Hezbollah "hiding within the civilian population" clearly have spent little time if any in the south Lebanon war zone and don't know what they're talking about. Hezbollah doesn't trust the civilian population and has worked very hard to evacuate as much of it as possible from the battlefield. And this is why they fight so well -- with no one to spy on them, they have lots of chances to take the Israel Defense Forces by surprise, as they have by continuing to fire rockets and punish every Israeli ground incursion. And the civilians? They see themselves as targeted regardless of their affiliation. They are enraged at Israel and at the United States, the only two countries on earth not calling for an immediate cease-fire. Lebanese of all persuasions think the United States and Israel believe that Lebanese lives are cheaper than Israeli ones. And many are now saying that they want to fight.
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Haaretz on Lebanese support for Hizbollah

A good article from Haaretz on Lebanese support for Hizbollah…
28/07/2006 Analysis / The alternative to Hezbollah may be occupation By Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz Correspondent "So, you don't want peace? You want war all the time?" asked a young Lebanese participant in a fascinating televised discussion Thursday night on Lebanon's LBC station. She was addressing a group of young men, some with shaved heads and short beards, dressed in the latest fashions and uttering nationalist slogans. She seemed to stand no chance. Only two of those men identified themselves as Hezbollah supporters; the rest, both Muslims and Christians, proclaimed the "need for unity." A poll on Thursday confirmed what was apparent during the television discussion: Some 96 percent of Shiites expressed support for the abduction of the Israeli soldiers, as did 73 percent of Sunnis, 54 percent of Christians and 40 percent of Druze. Most of the participants in the poll felt that Israel will not be able to defeat Hezbollah.
This public opinion is no secret to the Lebanese government, which, during the Rome Conference on Wednesday, realized that it must return home and improve its offer if it wants to obtain a cease-fire. Therefore, the meetings held on Thursday between the Speaker of the Parliament, Nabih Berri, Hezbollah and members of the largest blocs in the government were meant to shape a political agreement. The characteristics of this agreement are beginning to take shape. They include an immediate cease-fire, an Israeli withdrawal from Shaba Farms, a map of Israeli mine fields left in southern Lebanon following the May 2000 withdrawal, an exchange of prisoners, and implementation of the Taif Agreement of 1989, which reiterates the 1949 cease-fire agreement between Israel and Lebanon. The proposal will also include the imposition of Lebanese sovereignty throughout the country, including the border area with Israel. What the various Lebanese factions have not yet agreed on is the order in which all this will happen, or how the demilitarized area in southern Lebanon will be guaranteed. Furthermore, there is no unified view on the deployment of a multinational force in this area. Naim Qassem, the deputy of Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, said in an article published in Al-Nahar on Thursday that the group will consider it a victory if Lebanon does not become an American bridgehead in the Middle East. This does not reflect merely an ideological aspiration, but a real opposition to the deployment of a NATO force controlled by the United States in southern Lebanon. As for disarmament, if at all, Hezbollah would like to leave this issue to domestic discussions between the group and the government, without any external interference or dictates. The question now is whether it will be possible to obtain a declaration of intent from Israel and the United States. In short, will Israel agree, in advance, to withdraw from Shaba Farms, if Syria transfers an official document confirming it to be Lebanese, and if the Lebanese army deploys there in place of the Israel Defense Forces? Will Israel agree to negotiations with the government of Lebanon, and not Hezbollah, over an exchange of prisoners? These two issues are directly relevant to the way the results of this war will be viewed, because any declarations of intent on these points will be considered Hezbollah achievements. On the other hand, if Israel decides that it can register achievements without cooperating with the Lebanese government - that is, without allowing Hezbollah any gains - it may find itself faced with Lebanese unity of the kind that it experienced during its years of occupation. In that case, Israel might find itself caught in a situation similar to the one it has faced in the territories since it chose to give up its partner: a direct, long-term occupation.
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Who ghostwrites for Hosni?

Time magazine runs written answers sent by Hosni Mubarak to their questions. Nothing fascinating, but look at the language: if Hosni actually wrote or dictated those answer, then George Bush was born and raised in Menoufiya. Makes you wonder who wrote them, using American vernacular ("from day one," "to say the least," "a bit too little, too late," etc.) Maybe Gamal? There's plenty of other American-educated kids working at the presidency (as well as a few older advisors), but Gamal seems like a logical choice. He has to get his foreign affairs training at other events than impromptu visits to the White House, after all.
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All out of Kool Aid

Another clear example of why things need to change in Washington in the NYT article on Arab and Israeli lobbies' efforts to gain influence in Congress:
Although people in both diasporas are glued to their television screens, the parallel ends there. While the American Arab and Muslim groups say they are better organized than ever before, they say they have not made a dent in American foreign policy. Their calls for an immediate cease-fire by Israel have been rebuffed by the White House and most legislators on Capitol Hill. “I’m devastated,” said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, in Washington. “I thought we’d come further. We’re doing well, so far, in terms of our capacity to deal with everything from the humanitarian crisis to identifying families and working to get people out. What is distressing is the degree to which this neoconservative mindset has taken hold of the policy debate. It’s like everyone has drunk the Kool-Aid.” Salam al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said, “This is probably the only issue in Washington where there’s no real debate.”
Which is why the fight has to be more aggressive than this.
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Mais quel con!

Is there a more disgusting public intellectual anywhere in the world than Bernard Henry-Levy? Disgusting not because of his political views, but because of his smarmy prose, his idées préconçues, his affection for brutal regimes such as Algeria's or Israel's? There is a two-page article by him, reporting from Israel, in which you he writes the usual mixture of neo-con diatribe against "Islamofascism" (he dares to make a comparison between the current war and the Spanish civil war, started 70 years ago this month), describes Sderot as a martyred town like Lebanon, makes facile descriptions of Hizbullah as an Iranian puppet (several times for emphasis), and compares Gilad Shalit to Daniel Pearl. But most criminal of all, surely, is how he waxes lyrical about how great Shimon Peres is. Shimon Peres! Shimon Peres! As the Angry Arab put it recently, why do I do this to myself?
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Brzezinski: Israel essentially killing hostages

"I hate to say this but I will say it. I think what the Israelis are doing today for example in Lebanon is in effect, in effect -- maybe not in intent -- the killing of hostages. The killing of hostages." "Because when you kill 300 people, 400 people, who have nothing to do with the provocations Hezbollah staged, but you do it in effect deliberately by being indifferent to the scale of collateral damage, you're killing hostages in the hope of intimidating those that you want to intimidate. And more likely than not you will not intimidate them. You'll simply outrage them and make them into permanent enemies with the number of such enemies increasing."
Anti-semite America-hating Hizbullah member Zbigniew Brzezinski. Also a former US National Security Advisor.
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The new euro-racists

The Muslim minorities of Europe are a problem. It's a problem of integration, culture shock, social policy and radicalization of small but vocal groups of Muslims and non-Muslims, as well as political mismanagement. This kind of analysis, though, is just pure racism. It posits a world where all Muslims are radical, none want to integrate, and glorifies the agenda of the far-right. In this world, Europeans live in constant fear of Arabs and other Muslims who conspire with multiculturalists to impose totalitarian rule. And this is a popular website! I travel to Europe several times a year, my family lives there, and never have I come across this kind of crap apart from advertisements from the former Vlaamsblok in Belgium. It insults the hundreds of thousands of Muslim migrants who have earned an honest living in Europe in often difficult situations simply to make life better to their families. It insults the hundreds of thousands who are just ordinary people by trying to portray unusual incidents as routine. This is Mein Kampf, just more dangerous because it disguises itself as conservative libertarianism. They don't even make sense because they are against making racist public statements an offense on the pretext of freedom of speech but complain of offensive material being distributed in mosques. I know where I stand: neither of these things have a role in any decent society. Close the radical mosques down and send the racists to court. But do show me those banned South Park episodes.
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