Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff

Wherever you are, whoever you are… heres hoping that you and yours have the best in the New Year. Let us hope that 2008 will usher in a lasting peace and justice for all of humanity… a year of love and understanding for all of us.

AFRIKAANS gelukkige nuwejaar
ALBANIAN Gëzuar vitin e ri
ALSATIAN e glëckliches nëies / güets nëies johr
ARABIC aam saiid / sana saiida
ARMENIAN shnorhavor nor tari
AZERI yeni iliniz mubarek
BAMBARA bonne année
BASQUE urte berri on
BELARUSIAN З новым годам (Z novym hodam)
BENGALI subho nababarsho
BERBER asgwas amegas
BETI mbembe mbu
BOBO bonne année
BOSNIAN sretna nova godina
BRETON bloavezh mat / bloavez mad
BULGARIAN честита нова година (chestita nova godina)
BURMESE hnit thit ku mingalar pa
CANTONESE kung hé fat tsoi
CATALAN bon any nou
CHINESE xin nian kuai le / xin nian hao
CORSICAN pace e salute
CROATIAN sretna nova godina
CZECH šťastný nový rok
DANISH godt nytår
DUTCH gelukkig Nieuwjaar
ESPERANTO felicxan novan jaron
feliæan novan jaron (Times SudEuro font)
ESTONIAN head uut aastat
FAROESE gott nýggjár
FINNISH onnellista uutta vuotta
FLEMISH gelukkig Nieuwjaar
FRENCH bonne année
FRISIAN lokkich neijier
FRIULAN bon an
GALICIAN feliz aninovo
GEORGIAN გილოცავთ ახალ წელს (gilocavt akhal tsels)
GERMAN ein gutes neues Jahr / prost Neujahr
GREEK kali chronia / kali xronia
eutichismenos o kainourgios chronos (we wish you a happy new year)
GUJARATI sal mubarak
GUARANÍ rogüerohory año nuévo-re
HAWAIIAN hauoli makahiki hou
HEBREW shana tova
HINDI nav varsh ki subhkamna
HMONG nyob zoo xyoo tshiab
HUNGARIAN boldog új évet
ICELANDIC farsælt komandi ár
INDONESIAN selamat tahun baru
IRISH GAELIC ath bhliain faoi mhaise
ITALIAN felice anno nuovo, buon anno
JAVANESE sugeng warsa enggal
JAPANESE akemashite omedetô
KABYLIAN asseguèsse-ameguèsse
KANNADA hosa varshada shubhaashayagalu
KAZAKH zhana zhiliniz kutti bolsin
KHMER sur sdei chhnam thmei
KIRUNDI umwaka mwiza
KOREAN seh heh bok mani bat uh seyo
KURDE sala we ya nû pîroz be
LAO sabai di pi mai
LATIN felix sit annus novus
LATVIAN laimīgu Jauno gadu
LIGURIAN feliçe annu nœvu / feliçe anno nêuvo
LINGALA bonana / mbula ya sika elamu na tonbeli yo
LITHUANIAN laimingų Naujųjų Metų
LOW SAXON gelükkig nyjaar
LUXEMBOURGEOIS e gudd neit Joër
MACEDONIAN srekna nova godina
MALAGASY arahaba tratry ny taona
MALAY selamat tahun baru
MALTESE is-sena t-tajba
MAORI kia hari te tau hou
MARATHI navin varshaachya hardik shubbheccha
MONGOLIAN shine jiliin bayariin mend hurgeye (Шинэ жилийн баярын мэнд хvргэе)
MORÉ wênd na kô-d yuum-songo
NORWEGIAN godt nyttår
OCCITAN bon annada
PERSIAN sâle no mobârak
POLISH szczęśliwego nowego roku
PORTUGUESE feliz ano novo
ROMANCHE bun di bun onn
ROMANI bangi vasilica baxt
ROMANIAN un an nou fericit / la mulţi ani
RUSSIAN С Новым Годом (S novim godom)
SAMOAN ia manuia le tausaga fou
SANGO nzoni fini ngou
SARDINIAN bonu annu nou
SCOTTISH GAELIC bliadhna mhath ur
SERBIAN srećna nova godina
SHIMAORE mwaha mwema
SHONA goredzwa rakanaka
SINDHI nain saal joon wadhayoon
SINHALA suba aluth avuruddak vewa
SLOVAK stastlivy novy rok
SLOVENIAN srečno novo leto
SOBOTA dobir leto
SPANISH feliz año nuevo
SRANAN wan bun nyun yari
SWAHILI mwaka mzuri / heri ya mwaka mpya
SWEDISH gott nytt år
SWISS-GERMAN es guets Nöis
TAGALOG manigong bagong taon
TAHITIAN ia orana i te matahiti api
TAMIL iniya puthandu nalVazhthukkal
TATAR yaña yıl belän
TELUGU nuthana samvathsara subhakankshalu
THAI สวัสดีปีใหม่ (sawatdii pimaï)
TIBETAN tashi délek
TURKISH yeni yiliniz kutlu olsun
UKRAINIAN Z novym rokom
URDU naya saal mubarik
UZBEK yangi yilingiz qutlug’ bo’lsin
VIETNAMESE Chúc Mừng Nǎm Mới / Cung Chúc Tân Niên / Cung Chúc Tân Xuân
WALOON (“betchfessîs” spelling) bone annéye / bone annéye èt bone santéye
WELSH blwyddyn newydd dda
WOLOF dewenati


Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff
In plain simple English, Palestinians are sick and tired of being bullied by outside forces. They have lived now for six decades as a dispossessed nation, for four of those decades under the most brutal occupation of the century.

Their political choices have been rejected both by Israel and the West leading to a situation of political frustration that can and will lead to a ‘backlash’ unseen until now…. one that will surely be regretted by her enemies. One view on this situation was just sent to me, it’s quite an interesting take on the situation….

Narrowing Hamas’ horizons means one thing: Helping al-Qaida

Comment by Khalid Amayreh in Occupied East Jerusalem

The day when Israel, the West and puppet Arab regimes will be regretting their approach to Hamas may not be very far-off.

Israel and its guardian-ally, the US, along with despotic Arab regimes, calculate that the callous blockade of the Gaza Strip and systematic savaging of its 1.5 million human beings will eventually force Hamas to fall on its knees and cause many Palestinians to shun the movement.

However, in light of evidence accumulating through the years, the weakening of Hamas would more likely lead to the consolidation and strengthening of the al-Qaida among Palestinians, both as an ideology and an organization.

The unrelenting savaging of innocent Gazans, coupled with an affronting peace process under whose rubric Israel is building more settlements on occupied Arab land, is only preparing the most fertile ground for the growth of al Qaida.

This is why Osama Bin Laden’s recent statements that al-Qaida will intensify its operations in Palestine should be take very seriously.

Bin Laden seems to know what he is talking about. According to usually-reliable Palestinian sources, al-Qaida succeeded of late in recruiting hundreds of young Palestinians to its ranks, many of them erstwhile members of Hamas and Fatah.

One Gaza journalist described al-Qaida as “ constantly winning more hearts and minds.”

“Al-Qaida is telling potential recruits that the only way for salvation in this world and the hereafter is the way of al-Qaida and that Hamas made a grave mistake when it believed the western lie about democracy and that it is now paying the price for its naivety and blunder.”

In short, the misery that transcends every aspect of life in Gaza is the perfect environment conducive to the consolidation and growth of al-Qaida.

A few weeks ago, I asked Palestinian political analyst, Hani al Masri, if he thought that the weakening of Hamas would be good news for Fatah in the long run.

His answer was interesting.

Masri pointed out that the Palestinian arena would soon become a fertile soil for all kinds of radical organizations, not just al Qaida, since many Palestinians, religious and otherwise, would feel they had nothing to lose from engaging in an extended and uncompromising political program.

“A serious weakening of Hamas would have far-reaching consequences, with the main ramification being the exodus of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of erstwhile Hamas’ supporters, to al-Qaida.”

Abdul Sattar Qassem, Professor of Political Science at the Najah University in Nablus, believes most Palestinians who might shun Hamas (because of its perceived moderation) wouldn’t join Fatah or similar factions.

“Some of them might join Fatah,” he argued, “ but the vast majority wouldn’t because Fatah’s way of thinking and behavior doesn’t attract them. These people are religious and are well-inculcated in religious doctrine, and it would be difficult for them to join Fatah and retain their religiousness.

“Al-Qaida would be their natural destination.”

Israel, the West and certain Arab regimes think that an implosion of Hamas’s house will enable Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to capitulate to Israeli hegemony without having to worry about a serious Palestinian opposition to his rule.

However, this thinking is misleading and very short-sighted. Today, the Palestinian society is very much experiencing a state of frozen rage resembling the days and weeks preceding the outbreak of the Aqsa intifada in the fall of 2000.

Indeed, a general examination of the prevailing mood in the Main Palestinian street reveals that the outbreak of a new uprising is only a matter of time. The frozen rage can simply go off anytime. Palestinian forbearance seems to have reached its limits.

However, unlike the previous two uprisings, the new intifada would witness the active appearance of a new un-Orthodox player, namely the al-Qaida organization, with its ideological nihilism, fearlessness and unmatched radicalism.

In the short run, an effective, high-profile presence of al Qaida in the occupied Palestinian territories might provide an unprecedented asset for Israel, especially from the propagandistic view point. It would also provide the Zionist state with a ready-made, plausible and effective excuse to take even more draconian measures against the Palestinian population.

Hence, it is not out of question that Israel, for its own strategic reasons, may well be interested in seeing al-Qaida gain a certain foothold in the West Bank and Gaza.

But in the long run, Israel, too, stands to lose. Israel can’t fight al-Qaida using the same tactics it has been employing against Hamas. Al-Qaida pays very little attention to public opinion and has nothing to lose in terms of a civilian apparatus—because it has none. Moreover, al-Qaida has no MPs or political activists whom Israel can round up and throw in jail, nor does it have charities and other institutions which the Israeli army can close down.

Indeed, al-Qaida, a secret and secretive organization, would be much more immune to Israeli retaliations than is Hamas, a generally pragmatic organization that pays attention to the balance of power and wouldn’t cross certain red lines in its low-combustion confrontation with Israel.

This means that al-Qaida would be freer and bolder than Hamas in attacking mainly Israeli civilian targets, using suicide bombings.

Some Palestinian leaders predict that should al-Qaida succeed in gaining a real foothold in the occupied Palestinian territories, not only Israelis would be targeted, but Palestinians as well, probably including Hamas itself.

“We are talking about a nihilistic organization which believes in open-ended confrontation until the Day of Judgment,” one Hamas leader intimated to this writer.

“Al Qaida views all those opposing, even differing with its ideology, as enemies that ought to be liquidated. I wouldn’t even rule out the possibility that al-Qaida would detonate car-bombs in the heart of Palestinian cities in order to spread terror in the hearts of those who might dare oppose its ways.”

Jordan, which has large concentrations of Palestinians, also stands to sufferer immensely as a result of the mushrooming of al-Qaida in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Then, numerous Palestinians wouldn’t stand idle watching their brothers in faith across the River Jordan being scuttled and decimated by Israel, the US and treasonous Arab regimes that are at Israel’s and America’s beck and call. Hence, suicide bombings and similar acts of terror might then turn Jordan’s present political and economic stability upside down.

Egypt, too, would suffer, and no amount of security precautions would prevent determined and frustrated al-Qadia militants from targeting the soft-underbelly of the Egyptian economy, namely Egypt’s tourism industry.

This is more than just a prophecy of doom and gloom, for the writing is already on the wall for those who are willing to see.

This week, the collective Palestinian frustration reached unprecedented levels when hundreds of helpless Palestinian pilgrims returning from Mecca, having performed the Haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, were kept stranded like livestock at the Egyptian port of Nwebie’.

The Egyptian authorities reportedly were still refusing to allow them to return to their homes in Gaza via the Rafah border crossing. The pilgrims refuse to go through an Israeli-controlled border-crossing, fearing arrest and torture and lengthy imprisonment for their suspected affiliation with Hamas.

Meanwhile, Israel keeps murdering Palestinians in large numbers and is expanding Jewish settlements while PA leaders, like wide-eyed imbeciles, are watching helplessly, not knowing what to do, apart from imploring Condoleezza Rice to pressure Olmert to respect the Annapolis spirit.

Well, who is then pushing the Palestinians to join the ranks of al-Qaida?


Image by Ismael Shammout
There’s no other way to put it…. Egypt is literally under the control of its zionist neighbours. Over a thousand observant Muslims are being punished for going on a pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca.

The joint excuses of both the Israeli and Egyptian governments show the disregard for the very lives of the Palestinian people, a people who for 60 years have literally been at the mercy of both Israel and the Arab world.

The rhetoric we hear is nothing but nonsense…. leading many to believe that the only reason many of these pilgrims made the trip is so they can ‘sneak’ into Israel on their return trip. NONSENSE!

They just want to go home and be with their families… a crime?
The want to return to their jobs… a crime?
There is a crime involved in all of this, it’s called silence and complicity… where are the protests from the rest of the world? Doesn’t anybody give a damn??

Egypt moves stranded Palestinian pilgrims to temporary Sinai camps

By The Associated Press

More than a thousand Palestinian pilgrims, including members of the militant Hamas group, were put in camps in the northern Sinai on Sunday until a dispute over how they will return to the Gaza Strip is resolved.

The Palestinians arrived in the Egyptian port city of Nuweiba in southern Sinai on Saturday after completing their pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia but have resisted Egypt’s attempts to have them return to Gaza through the Kerem Shalom border crossing, where they must go through Israeli security checks.

Some of the pilgrims are members of the radical Islamic group Hamas, which seized Gaza in June, and they fear Israel will arrest them if they return through Kerem Shalom. Instead, they want to cross into Gaza through Rafah, which is outside Israeli control.

The 1,166 Palestinians who left Nuweiba Sunday boarded 29 buses headed for El-Arish, some 250 kilometers north of the Sinai port city and less than 25 kilometers west of Rafah, the security official said.

A total of 3,060 Palestinians have arrived in Nuweiba on two ferries, and authorities plan to send a second batch of buses to transport those who remain, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Hamas representatives had indicated Saturday that some 1,900 pilgrims were stuck in Nuweiba, but this figure apparently only included those on the first ferry.

Egypt’s attempts to force the pilgrims to use the Kerem Shalom crossing have outraged Hamas supporters in Gaza, who staged large-scale protests on Saturday.

Al-Jazeera television aired interviews with the pilgrims before they left Jordan in which they showed a paper Egypt allegedly asked them to sign saying they would to return to Gaza through Kerem Shalom.

Israel fears that if the pilgrims are allowed to return to Gaza through Rafah, Hamas militants might get through and sympathizers could smuggle cash to the Islamic group.

Some 7,000 demonstrators gathered at the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing Saturday waving Palestinian and Hamas flags and demanding the pilgrims be allowed to enter.

Hamas lawmakers echoed these calls, saying Egypt has a moral obligation to bring the pilgrims home as quickly as possible by allowing them to cross through Rafah.

The leader of Egypt’s largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, called on the Egyptian authorities Sunday to exercise their historical duty to the Palestinians and let them return to Gaza using the Rafah crossing.

Egypt has set up 11 temporary camps in El-Arish to house the pilgrims until authorities come up with a solution to the current crisis, security officials said.


Definitely one of the greatest men of American letters of the 20th century, Kurt Vonnegut passed away earlier this year at the age of 85.

And the US news media all but ignored him….


Here are some of the simple truths he spoke
about whenever he was given a public forum…..

Also see THIS post..


Women in Black protesting in Jerusalem Friday. (Tomer Neuberg/Jini)

Women have traditionally been the motivating force and inspiration of the various peace movements throughout the world. They work tirelessly and seem to have a special energy unknown to the males in the species.

This has been true in the States, most of Europe and in Israel. One group of these courageous women, Women in Black, just marked the 20th year of their formation. They have demonstrated continuously against the Israeli occupation and have pledged to continue until they achieve their goals.

Following is a report from their ‘anniversary demo’…..

Women in Black marks 20th year, but occupation continues
By Tamara Traubmann, Haaretz Correspondent

The hundreds of women and the few men who on Friday celebrated the 20th anniversary of Women in Black didn’t seem to know whether the event they were attending was a somber one, or a party. After all, the cause the movement has championed for the past 20 years has not been achieved. The Israeli occupation still exists.

“It’s the only demonstration that has been going on for 20 years now,” one of the participants said.
The place where the crowd of 250 women gathered was the same place where Women in Black always hold their Friday demonstrations: Paris Square in Jerusalem. As always, they were carrying signs against the occupation.

“The peace movements have succeeded. We have thousands of demonstration hours,” Hanna Safran boasted. “We have all been very creative. We’ve marched naked, we went down to the Territories. Our message has been accepted, but it hasn’t put an end to the occupation and the wrongdoings that go along with it. In fact, things only got worse.”

The movement was born in late 1987, weeks after the outbreak of the first intifada, which turned the attention of most Israelis to the very fact that the Palestinians were living under occupation. The first demonstrators, Safran among them, gathered at Paris Square, not far from the prime minister’s official residence. They stood in silence, carrying signs the shape of a stop sign, reading: “Stop the occupation.”

Within several months, other women joined the protest, demonstrating at junctions outside towns and cities. The members of Women in Black represent the full spectrum of the Israeli Left, from Labor to the anti-Zionists.

Two of the most frequently asked questions Women in Black have had to answer over the years were why women, and why black. They say the absence of men in their ranks is meant to allow women to make their voice heard in a militaristic society.

As for black, there are several versions as to why the color was chosen as a trademark.

“What can I tell you, it’s just a visually strong color,” said Debbie Lerman from Tel Aviv.

One characteristic of Women in Black’s protest rallies was the torrent of swear words, curses and fulminations they usually elicited from passersby, who vent out their hostility toward the organization. But nowadays they are no longer targeted.

Women in Black members explain that the hostility subsided because 20 years ago, a congregation of women engaged in political protest was perceived as defiant ipso facto.

“That’s why the first demonstrators were spat on, and subjected to sexist and bigoted remarks from passersby,” one activist said.

In Israel, Women in Black has failed to bring about the end of occupation. But the movement has become a role model for other countries, where certain sectors of the population have to endure humiliation, oppression and racism.

At present, Women in Black organizations exist in over 40 countries, the Israeli members say. In India they are protesting religious discrimination. In the former Yugoslavia, various splinter states saw the formation of Women in Black protesting the war. In Germany they address fascism, nuclear weapons, and the Israeli occupation, too.


Over two thousand Muslims returning from their Pilgrimage to Mecca are being prevented from returning home to gaza… not by Israel, but by their ally Egypt.

Palestinians have been a ‘pawn in the game’ for years as far as the Arab world is concerned alowing the zionists to continue with their genocidal policies against them…. SHAMEFUL!

Hamas urges Egypt to open Gaza border to pilgrims
Fearing Israel will arrest wanted militants making their way through with Muslim pilgrims returning from Mecca, Hamas demands more than 2,000 stranded Palestinians be allowed to return to Gaza through Rafah crossing

News Agencies

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Hamas Islamists called on Egypt on Saturday to open its shuttered border crossing with the Gaza Strip to let more than 2,000 Palestinians return to their Gaza homes from the annual haj pilgrimage in Mecca.

Hamas, which controls Gaza, is demanding that Egypt reopen the Rafah crossing to allow the pilgrims to pass directly into the coastal territory rather than force them to pass through Israeli border posts first.

Hamas fears Israel will arrest wanted militants among the pilgrims.

Hamas officials estimated that 2,200 Gaza pilgrims were stranded on ships at an Egyptian port on the Red Sea.

Israel believes some of the militants may be carrying money for Hamas and other groups.

“We are aware of the Israeli and American pressures on Egypt, and we urge Egypt to reject these pressures and to allow the pilgrims a safe return through Rafah,” Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told a news conference.

Hamas said a 62-year-old woman who fell ill died aboard one of the ships, which have been stranded for a second day.

Abu Zuhri said the Gaza pilgrims have rejected Egyptian demands that they agree to return through Israeli-controlled crossings.

Egyptian officials had no immediate comment.

Israel and the United States are pressing Egypt to do more to prevent the smuggling of guns, explosives and funds into the Gaza Strip.

Egypt has rejected Israeli complaints about the smuggling, accusing Israel of trying to distract attention from settlement.

In mid-December, Israel allowed hundreds of Palestinians from Gaza to cross Israeli territory on their way to the annual haj pilgrimage.

Earlier in the month, about 2,200 pilgrims heading for Mecca crossed from Gaza into Egypt through Rafah.


Osama bin Laden is Dead

Who murdered Benazir Bhutto?

Murdered by intelligence agency
supported terrorists

When Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan to take a stand for democratic government, 3 million Pakistanis greeted her at the airport.

Now she is dead.

At 6:15 in this video, Benazir Bhutto refers in a matter-of-fact manner to “the man who killed Osama bin Laden.”

If this was a misstatement, she did not correct herself, nor did the interviewer call attention to it.

Before she was murdered, there was another attack on Benazir Bhutto’s life. She told David Frost that she was not even allowed to file a police report let alone get a serious investigation of the attack.

She specifically stated that she wanted the finances of the terrorists traced.

Saeed Sheikh is the man Bhutto refers to in this interview.

He is charged with killing Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl who tracked the relationship between Pakistani intelligence and terrorist groups. He is also suspected of having wired money to Mohamed Atta on behalf of Pakistani intelligence right before the 9/11 attacks.

George Bush & Company wholeheartedly support the current Pakistani regime.


Benazir murdered: what next?

With global scrutiny once more on Pakistan, Kanishk Tharoor offers a guide through the fall-out of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto


delicious | digg | reddit | newsvine | furl | google | yahoo | technorati | diigolet


Former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated today in an attack that has sent shock-waves across the world. As she left a political rally in the northern town of Rawalpindi, Bhutto was allegedly shot three times before the gunman detonated a suicide bomb, killing twenty-one others.

Her death has incited unrest across Pakistan, with activists of her party, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), taking to the streets. Violence overnight is thought to have left at least a further dozen people dead. President Pervez Musharraf has called for a three-day period of national mourning, while leaders around the world have condemned the murder of Pakistan’s ostensibly pro-democratic, pro-western champion. It is still unclear which fragment of the country’s shattered and bleak political landscape is responsible for the attack; while Islamist, anti-American militants remain the most likely culprits, many in Pakistan – especially PPP supporters – blame the Musharraf government itself.

With international scrutiny once again fixed on Pakistan, a number of issues demand greater attention amidst the fall-out of Bhutto’s murder.

  • Elections: Will elections, scheduled for 8 January, continue as planned? Probably not. PPP activists may be unwilling to go ahead without their talismanic leader. Nawaz Sharif has now pledged, as was his original position, to boycott the elections. Western leaders have insisted that postponement of the elections is tantamount to “appeasing the terrorists”, but Musharraf may find it impossible to hold parliamentary elections in the present tumult. Expect the democratic future of Pakistan to once more be cast into gloomy doubt.
  • The future of the PPP: As Anatol Lieven told toD in our recent seminar on Pakistan, Bhutto’s PPP is hardly a political party in real terms, but more of an alliance of “feuding barons” held together by the gel of Bhutto’s persona. Without her, the PPP is in disarray. It remains to be seen who will take the leadership of the party, or whether the party will even stay intact.
  • Investigation: Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, Mahmud Ali Durrani, has told the American press that a formal investigation into Bhutto’s killing will soon be launched. Who will conduct the investigation, and how independent will it be? In the past, Bhutto has called Musharraf to bring the FBI or Scotland Yard into Pakistan. Will Musharraf belatedly invite foreign agencies to join the investigation?
  • Popular unrest: Bhutto’s killing has sparked off riots across the country. Security forces in Pakistan are on “red alert”. If violence continues, will a degree of emergency rule once again descend on the country?
  • Claims of responsibility: If Bhutto’s assassination was indeed perpetrated by al-Qaida or al-Qaida-affiliated groups, one would expect to soon uncover claims of responsibility for the attack. The successful killing of an avowedly pro-American leader like Bhutto could make for invaluable propaganda. Al-Qaida has been behind numerous failed attempts on Pakistani political leaders, including Musharraf.

Already, Bhutto’s death is swallowed in the sound and fury of the “war on terrorism”. Musharraf and Pakistani officials have blamed her murder on Islamist militants, just as they justified November’s emergency rule on the threat posed by jihadists. So too have governments around the world – including those in Washington and New Delhi – used today’s tragic events to urge more vigorous action against terrorists.

Terrorism in Pakistan and elsewhere must be tackled head-on. But the killing of Benazir Bhutto amounts to more than the martyring of a modern democrat by the forces of intolerance and extremism. In the coming weeks, one cannot afford to lose sight of the specifics of Pakistani politics – darker and more difficult though they may be – in the face of casual over-simplification.



Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff

A year of Palestinian disunity

Amid intense foreign interference, 2007 marked a year of critical meltdown for Palestinians and their enduring cause, writes Khaled Amayreh in occupied East Jerusalem

Click to view caption
Hamas members walk through the streets of Gaza few days before the movement took over the city in June (photo: AFP)

2007 has not been an ordinary year for Palestinians and their enduring cause. It witnessed a mini-civil war between Fatah and Hamas, a short-lived government of national unity, followed by a brief but bloody showdown in Gaza that ended with Hamas taking over the coastal strip. For its part, Fatah retaliated by establishing its own separate authority in Ramallah and instigating a vindictive and widespread inquisition against Hamas supporters and institutions in the West Bank.

Towards the year’s end, another “peace conference” sponsored by the United States took place in Annapolis, Maryland. However, like numerous prior peace conferences and initiatives, the Annapolis meeting, despite its initial fanfare and euphoria, carried little promise for genuine peace in Palestine. And as always, the reason was Israel’s adamant refusal to end its decades-old occupation of Palestinian territories, particularly Arab-East Jerusalem.

The harsh financial, economic and political sanctions imposed by Israel and the West on the Palestinian Authority (PA) following Hamas’s electoral victory in January 2006 continued to devastate the Palestinian economy and living conditions in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 2007. Draconian sanctions soon paralysed the Hamas government’s ability to pay regular salaries for over 165,000 employees and civil servants.

This, coupled with Israel’s refusal to release Palestinian tax revenues levied as tariffs on Palestinian imports passing through Israeli seaports, created an implosive situation, especially in Gaza. Rampant poverty and a haunting sense of claustrophobia tempted Fatah to destabilise Hamas through a host of disruptive tactics, such as instigating demonstrations, organising strikes, and vandalising public property.

Eventually, mounting tension between Fatah and Hamas culminated in open street battles, with each painting the other as responsible. Infighting in 2007 killed as many as 350 Palestinians. In retrospect, the near tribal confrontation between the two largest Palestinian political organisations seemed inevitable given the active interference of the United States in internal Palestinian affairs.

Indeed, through its security “envoy” to the PA, General Keith Dayton, a visibly rabid Bush administration did everything possible to ignite the flames of civil war between Hamas and Fatah, transferring large amounts of cash and weapons to former Fatah security chief Mohamed Dahlan, ostensibly in preparation for military insurrection against the Hamas government.

Truckloads of high-velocity rifles, machineguns, night-vision equipment and other military hardware were seen on several occasions crossing into the Gaza Strip from Israel. At one point, Hamas said it seized a truckload of weapons that was en route to a PA security headquarters in Gaza. Hamas asked PA President Mahmoud Abbas for an explanation, but none was forthcoming. Infighting continued intermittently in Gaza in the first few weeks of 2007 as Egyptian General Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman and his lieutenants sought laboriously to bring it to a halt. However, ceasefire agreements were violated as soon as they were signed, a clear indication that certain people were hell-bent on expediting a decisive showdown. Hamas accused former Fatah strongman in Gaza Dahlan of standing at the helm of the “coup-mongers”, an accusation that seemed to carry more than a modicum of veracity. Indeed, American officials — in addition to the Western media — pointed out on numerous occasions that Dahlan was being used by as a pawn to destabilise Hamas’s rule and hopefully bring it down entirely.

Fatah retorted by attacking Hamas and accusing it of subservience to Iran and of harbouring Shia loyalties. These insinuations were more rhetorical than real and were essentially aimed to incite the Arab masses against Hamas, an authentic religious Sunni movement. More seriously, Fatah militiamen in Gaza carried out a series of assassinations targeting Hamas politicians as well as university professors and religious scholars. In February, delegations from Fatah and Hamas travelled to Mecca for national reconciliation talks. The Saudi-mediated talks eventually yielded the “Mecca Accord” signed under the auspices of Saudi King Abdullah on 8 February. According to the accord, both Hamas and Fatah agreed to form a government of national unity that would seek to negotiate a final peace settlement with Israel pursuant UN resolutions. In the accord, Hamas agreed to “honour” outstanding agreements between the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Israel, which tacitly implied recognition of Israel. For its part, Hamas denied that the use of the word “honour” implied recognition of Israel, saying the issue was a religious and moral redline that Hamas would never cross. The Mecca Accord sought to resolve this knot by stipulating that only the ministers of national unity governments — not their respective political factions — would be committed to upholding prior agreements with Israel.

Hamas and Fatah thereafter formed a national unity government. However, as the West — especially the United States — and Israel kept sanctions intact, disharmony reappeared and sporadic but bloody clashes between the two militias continued, eventually evolving into an all-out war with no holds barred. Infighting escalated sharply on 14 June as Hamas’s Executive Force and Fatah security agencies — superior in numbers and armaments but inferior in quality and motivation — fought for control of Gaza. The fighting, lasting for 10 days, ended with Hamas routing Fatah and taking control of erstwhile PA security headquarters in Gaza.

Outraged by “the bloody coup” against Palestinian “legitimacy”, Abbas immediately dismissed the national unity government headed by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and appointed a de facto emergency government in Ramallah headed by Salam Fayyad, a former finance minister favoured by the US and Europe. In principle, the Ramallah government was illegal and illegitimate, as testified by scholars of constitutional law who prepared Palestinian basic law. However, Abbas and the Fatah movement were in no mood to discuss constitutionality in light of the “Hamas coup” in Gaza.

For its part, Hamas denied the accusation of a coup, arguing that it embodied Palestinian legitimacy since it came to power via the ballot box, not by decree or violent revolution. Moreover, Hamas leaders in Gaza told Al-Ahram Weekly on several occasions that the Palestinian Islamic movement had to act swiftly to thwart a real coup against the democratically elected government, backed and financed by the Americans.

Hamas politician Yehia Moussa told the Weekly : “what were we supposed to do? What would anyone have done in such circumstances, seeing Dahlan and Dayton sharpening their knives and preparing to decapitate us?” Abbas didn’t stop at bringing down the national unity government and neutralising the Hamas-dominated Palestinian parliament. He also ordered his forces, beefed up by fresh American weapons, to wage a widespread campaign against Hamas throughout the West Bank. The campaign targeted Hamas’s social, charitable, educational, cultural and even religious institutions, many of which were thoroughly vandalised.

Further, nearly 3,000 Hamas political leaders and activists were arrested, with many of them harshly tortured. This inquisition wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for active security coordination between PA-Fatah forces and the Israeli occupation army. Fatah gunmen killed several Hamas supporters and Hamas’s political and cultural activities were effectively banned.

In December, the Fatah-backed Minister of Religious Endowments Jamal Bawatneh issued a decree closing down all zakat (alms) committees in the West Bank. Bawatneh sought to justify the decision by arguing that the charities needed to be reformed. It was clear to many, however, that the main purpose of the decree was to stamp out Hamas’s influence over these committees. Gleeful at Palestinian schism and national disunity, Israel and the US hastened to back the Ramallah-based authority of Abbas. Israel agreed to unfreeze some of the Palestinian tax revenue money withheld in order to “strengthen Abbas”. Similarly, the US and European states resumed financial aide to the Salam Fayyad government. Citing the Hamas takeover of Gaza, Israel — possibly in collusion with the US and the Ramallah regime — on 19 September 2007 declared the Gaza Strip a “hostile entity”, imposing a hermetic blockade on the densely populated and thoroughly impoverished territory. The blockade, unprecedented in its ruthlessness and harshness, brought 1.4 million Gazans to the brink of starvation with dozens of ill Palestinians dying because of a dearth of medicine.

Additionally, Israel decided to significantly reduce fuel and electricity supplies to Gaza, apparently to force Gazans to revolt against Hamas. Further, Israel generally barred Gazans from either leaving or returning to the Strip, which also caused tremendous distress to tens of thousands of students, patients seeking medical care abroad, as well as ordinary Palestinians. Some reports from Gaza described the situation as “very similar to Warsaw Ghetto” and as “a slow-motion genocide”. On 13 December, and in a rare foray into politics, the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) harshly condemned Israeli policies against Palestinians. “Palestinians continuously face hardship in simply going about their lives; they are prevented from doing what makes up the daily fabric of most people’s existence. The Palestinian territories face a deep human crisis, where millions of people are denied their human dignity. Not once in a while, but every day,” an ICRC report stated.

The ICRC report also highlighted Israel’s economic stranglehold on Gaza and its system of roadblocks that has divided the West Bank into disconnected cantons, cutting farmers off from their lands and preventing free movement. Concomitant with the virtual humanitarian and economic meltdown in Gaza, Israeli and the PA leaders held a plethora of high-profile meetings aimed at reaching a broad common understanding of how a final status settlement of the enduring conflict would look. However, the numerous meetings, often accompanied with high-expectations and propped up by highlighted visits to the region by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, failed to reach any agreement as Israel continued to refuse to commit itself to ending the 40-year-old military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Eventually, Israeli and Palestinian leaders did attend the American-hosted peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland, which most Arab commentators and observers described as a resounding failure, some of them applying to it the famous Arab proverb, “the mountain went into labour, but gave birth to a rat.” Though such epithets may carry an air of exaggeration, Israel and the PA continue to be as far apart from each other on core issues as they were before the Annapolis conference. The two sides did agree to commence talks that would lead to a final status settlement based on the now-revived American-backed “roadmap” plan. However, the two sides do not share a common understanding or interpretation of the American plan, which could cause the rupture of talks sooner rather than later. For example, Israel does not consider East Jerusalem part of the West Bank, and insists that pledges made by President Bush to former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon be treated as part and parcel of the roadmap.

Israel also continues to build hundreds of “for Jews only” settler units all over the West Bank, especially in and around Arab East Jerusalem. Similarly, Israel insists that in the context of a final status agreement with Palestinians, the future Palestinian entity would have to recognise Israel as a “Jewish state” of the Jewish people everywhere — a clear allusion that non-Jewish Israelis have no permanent right to residency, let alone equality.

As to the PA leadership, it is clear that it is negotiating from a position of critical weakness, not only because of the enduring rift with Hamas, which is likely to persist for sometime, but mainly due to American and Israeli pressure on Abbas. The Weekly has been struggling in vain to obtain from PA and Fatah leaders in Ramallah a coherent and credible answer for the following question: What strategic alternatives does the PA have in case negotiations with Israel hit a dead end?

Alternatives there must be. The failure of talks with Israel, which is more than expected, may very well lead to the collapse of the PA itself, in which case all parties concerned would return to square one. Such an ominous event would be the best news ever for radical forces on both sides, including for the United States and its strategy of “creative chaos” in the so-called “Greater Middle East”.



Killings… killings and more killings…. much like the set of a Robert de Nero movie, in other words…. unbelievable.

BUT… to millions of Palestinians the situation is very real, not a work of fiction. Sixty years of occupation has created a monster more frightening and more dangerous than any ever written about in a screenplay…. more frightening than the Twilight Zone itself…. see for yourself in this report…

Twilight Zone / Deer hunters
By Gideon Levy

After a night of rain, the sun broke through the clouds. Two brothers and their brother-in-law decided to go for a hike in the wild, through the spectacular valley of olive trees, west of Ramallah in the West Bank. Around midday they suddenly noticed a herd of deer descending pell-mell into the valley. They stood and watched, certain that in the wake of the frantically fleeing animals, other people would appear. And, in fact, a few minutes later they spotted a group of soldiers slowly making their way into the valley.

The three young Palestinians stood on the ridge of the hills that overlook the valley, a few hundred meters from the soldiers as the crow flies. Suddenly, according to the testimony of one of them, without any prior warning, the soldiers fired bursts of bullets at them. Firas Kaskas, 32, an unemployed gardener from the village of Batir, near Bethlehem, who had come to visit his brother-in-law in his new apartment, fell to the ground. He died of his wounds the next day. He left a young wife and three daughters, of whom the eldest is four.

This week the sun poured down again on the beautiful valley. We went there with Jamil Matur, the victim’s brother-in-law, who was with him on that brilliantly bright, but grimly dark day. We stood exactly where the three had been when Firas was shot and killed. Here, this is where Matur was standing; Kaskas was here, and his brother, Baha, was standing there.

A shepherd gathered his flock in the valley below, making strange groaning noises that carried a long way. In contrast, the tinkling of the sheeps’ bells was sharp and pleasant to the ears. A great calm descended on the valley, on whose stepped terraces are a number of ancient ruins. On the ridge across the way are the houses of the Mustaqbal neighborhood. The way to the valley also cuts through A-Tira, a prestigious neighborhood on the western slopes of Ramallah, a city which is today experiencing a building boom and economic prosperity. A few weeks ago, the members of the Kaskas family – Firas, his wife Majida, and their three little girls – visited Majida’s brother in A-Tira. He had just moved in, and the family went to see the new place and spend a peaceful weekend together.

On that Sunday morning the family had a late breakfast and lounged on the porch of their house. Firas suggested a walk. Majida wanted to visit another brother in nearby Bitunia; Jamil, Faris’ brother-in-law, suggested that they go into town. Finally, they decided that Majida and the girls would go to Bitunia and the three men – Jamil, Firas and Baha – would go for a little hike. Leaving their neighborhood, they walked along the ridge above the wadi. Near one concentration of ruins they stopped to watch the deer. Ramallah residents like to come here on weekends to spend some time in nature, to barbecue meat, smoke a nargileh and enjoy the view.

The three men were standing a few meters apart from each other when they noticed a group of soldiers descending into the wadi. They were about 300 meters away, as the crow flies, the valley separating them. The soldiers stopped next to the ruins on the slopes of the ridge opposite them. Jamil counted seven or eight soldiers. Then, suddenly, without any prior warning, Jamil relates, the soldiers opened fire. It came in one or two bursts, he says. Jamil immediately took cover behind a boulder, Baha lay down supine behind him, while Firas stood out in front, exposed to the gunfire. Jamil managed to call to Firas to take shelter behind the boulder, Firas turned toward him – and then collapsed.

“Are you hit?” Jamil asked in a panic.

“It’s nothing, just a rubber bullet,” Firas replied.

Jamil and Baha moved cautiously toward Firas, who was able to stand up. They supported him for a few steps, and then he fell again. Foam gathered on his lips and he gasped for breath. Jamil stripped off his brother-in-law’s clothes and saw a few drops of blood on his underpants and small holes in his lower stomach and lower back. Leaving the wounded man with his brother, he ran to the nearest house to summon help. He also waved his hands toward the soldiers, so they would not shoot at him, too. They stood mute. Employees from an ironworker’s shop and a few neighbors rushed over. They carried Firas to a private car and called a Palestinian ambulance. They met the ambulance up on the road and transferred Firas to the vehicle.

“Firas, are you alive?” Jamil asked his brother-in-law.

“It’s nothing,” Firas replied.

In the emergency room of the government hospital in Ramallah, he was still able to resist having his pants removed, but finally agreed and was taken immediately to surgery.

From the medical report: “The above-named man was brought to the government hospital in Ramallah on December 2, 2007, after being hit by a bullet, which penetrated behind the stomach region and exited in front. The patient was operated on urgently and it emerged that the small intestine was torn. Part of it was removed and the other part was stitched. It also emerged that there was heavy bleeding as a result of a torn central artery in the hip region. The bleeding was stopped and the arteries were connected. After the operation the patient was placed in intensive care. After the surgery the stomach bleeding began anew. The patient was taken to the operating room. It turned out that there was bleeding of all the stomach tissues.”

Firas died at five the next morning.

The Israel Defense Forces spokesman informed us that after a preliminary investigation, it transpired that soldiers at an army observation post had spotted three Palestinians who were behaving suspiciously.

“The three, who were identified as being busy on the ground for quite a few minutes, were suspected by the force of planting a bomb,” the statement said. “A force … was rushed to the site and launched a pursuit of the suspects, during which they called on them to stop and also fired into the air. When the calls were ignored, the force opened fire at the suspects.”

According to the IDF, “the incident was investigated at all levels of command, and the lessons will be learned and applied. The findings of the investigation will be conveyed to the Mili-tary Advocate General’s Office.”

Antigona Ashkar, from the human rights organization B’Tselem, who also investigated the event, wrote to the chief military prosecutor, Colonel Liron Liebman, saying: “The soldiers opened fire at Jamil, Baha and Firas suddenly, with no prior warning. The three were sitting on a boulder and looking at the view, and did not endanger anyone. They were surprised by the emergence of the soldiers from between the trees and remained where they were until the soldiers started shooting at them.” B’Tselem requested a Military Police investigation of the circumstances of the killing.

The B’Tselem field-worker in the Ramallah region, Iyad Hadad, said this week at the site of the killing: “It was a hunt. Those soldiers went on a hunting expedition. They killed Firas the way you hunt a deer or a stag. They couldn’t have had any other reason for shooting him.”

Jamil added: “What did the soldiers see in his hand? What did we do? Did they see a weapon in his hand? Was there a demonstration going on? Did we throw stones at anyone? They just shot us without batting an eyelash.”

In the village of Batir, Firas’ widow, Majida, in black mourning clothes, sits in her small, simple home. She is holding her infant daughter Sadil. At three months, Sadil’s father has been taken from her. The other two girls – Latifa, four, and Naama, two and a half – wander restlessly about their meager living room, blowing soap bubbles, until the whole room is filled with them.

Majida waited and waited in her brother’s home in Bitunia for Firas to arrive that day, as he had promised, after the hike. But Firas did not arrive. Not until the next day did her father come and tell her, “Firas is dead.”

Now Majida, her voice broken with crying, says: “I want to ask you and the whole world: What did he do? What was his crime? What was he guilty of? The father of three little girls – I want to know, why was he killed? Because I don’t know.”


The Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs gets the truth out…. the problem is getting Americans to read that truth.

Presented here are two recent reports from Gaza… just two of many that must be read. The facts must be known to avoid the situation of ‘I didn’t know’….. no one can say that in 2007….. a far cry from 1940.

“I Want to Live”: Israeli Authorities Deny Dying Young Cancer Patient Access to Care

By Mohammed Omer

At his funeral, Mahmoud Abu Taha’s mother, Umm Hani, and sister Asma’a hold pictures of the young man who died en route to an Israeli hospital (Photo M. Omer).

Frail, a mere ghost of a youth, 20-year-old Mahmoud Abu Taha lay listlessly in a Gaza hospital room, nurses helpless to assist. The strain of his illness and uncertain future was etched on the faces of his family members who surrounded his bed.

Diagnosed with colon cancer earlier this year, the young man’s life had been taken over by the disease. Merely raising his head or speaking required all his energy. “It hurts,” he whispered when asked how he’s doing. “I feel pain in every part of my body.”

Having lost one-third of his body weight in the months since his diagnosis, Abu Taha was unable to walk or stand. The lack of vitamins, essential nutrients and medications in Gaza due to the closure of its borders meant that even the most basic treatments are unavailable to him. In August doctors discovered that the cancer had spread to his small intestines.

The U.S.- and EU-backed and Israeli-enforced siege of Gaza continues to devastate the healthcare system, depriving hospitals and clinics of medications, supplies and equipment—not to mention the absence of basic necessities such as food, water and electricity, denied to all Gazans. Those who require medical care must seek treatment in Egypt, Jordan or Israel, with Israel being the closest. Regardless of their destination, however, all must overcome one major obstacle: permission from Israel to leave Gaza.

The first attempt by aid workers, physicians, and Abu Taha’s friends and family members to secure papers for the chronically ill youth failed because, according to an Israeli army official, he had been deemed a “security risk.” Two subsequent attempts also failed, with no explanation given.

Of course, the denial of passage for critically ill Palestinians represents the norm rather than the exception to Israeli control of Gaza’s borders. According to a coordinator with the Palestinian Ministry of Health, six such patients currently are awaiting Israeli permission to leave Gaza for medical treatment. Most have cancer or require heart surgery, but one is a young girl whose neck was broken in a car accident. She has been denied passage to a hospital with a trauma unit.

“At least three patients denied exit permits have died since June,” a spokesperson for Human Rights Watch noted, “and others have lost limbs or sight.”

But Abu Taha’s family refused to give up. A fourth attempt finally yielded the necessary papers and permits from the Israeli Army Coordination and Liaison Administration at Erez Crossing to transfer the teen to Tel HaShomer hospital in Tel Aviv—a mere hour’s drive away.

On Oct. 18, 2007, their papers in order, Abu Taha’s 58-year-old father, Kamal, accompanied his son in an ambulance to the Erez Crossing. All appeared to be proceeding well when, after a half-hour wait, the father heard his name called over the loudspeaker. Mahmoud’s brother Hani continued the saga.

“My brother continued to wait, lying on a stretcher receiving a transfusion and hooked up to an oxygen tank in the ambulance,” Hani said. “After two hours, the loudspeaker announced he was denied entry into Israel.”

Forced to turn around, the ambulance transporting its young cancer patient returned to the hospital in Gaza. Mahmoud’s father, however, was detained at Erez. A few days later, Hani received a phone call informing him that their father had been arrested by Shin Bet. Palestinian sources have since confirmed that Kamal Abu Taha was transferred to Israel’s Ashkelon prison. No reason for his arrest was given.

Another cancer patient’s father had a similar experience. When Mohammad Al Najjar’s 20-year-old daughter’s condition recently worsened and he attempted to escort her to Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, where she previously had been treated, the Israeli army official at Erez conditioned their passage on the father’s becoming a collaborator for the Israeli military. He refused, and his daughter was denied entry to Israel and the medical attention she needed.

Meanwhile, Mahmoud’s time continued to run out. “I want to live,” the young man pleaded, his voice wavering under the strain. “I don’t want to die.”

Finally, on Oct. 29, his family received assurances from the Israelis that Mahmoud would be allowed to pass through Erez. When the ambulance transporting him once again arrived at the Israeli-controlled border, however, it was kept waiting for eight hours, according to a spokesperson for Physicians for Human Rights.

When it finally was allowed to cross into Israel, it was too late to save the young Palestinian’s life. Mahmoud Abu Taha died en route to the hospital—having spent his final weeks of life suffering not only because of his disease, but from the political whims of a hostile and inhumane occupier.—M.O.


Ramallah Government Pays Gaza’s Civil Servants—If They Promise Not to Work

By Mohammed Omer

At a post office in Gaza, a Palestinian Authority employee receives his much-needed salary (Photo M. Omer).

A PLUME OF smoke, its scent redolent of roasted apples, wafts out the paneless window into the autumn air. A rhythmic bubbling can be heard as 47-year-old Abu Khaled inhales from the ornate hookah set beside him. As he exhales deeply, his heavy eyes watch the latest snakelike plume follow its predecessor. Once a man of action, today he simply sits, sentenced by political maneuvering to a sedentary existence and lamenting the life he until recently led.

Prior to June of this year, Abu Khaled worked as a security officer at Gaza’s border crossings. Walkie-talkie in hand, he bustled between the operations room, gates and terminals, shouting orders, checking identifications and maintaining order. Today he idles his day away channel surfing his TV and keeping up with current events on the Internet. He would rather work, yet today civil servants in Gaza receive wages from the U.S.-backed Palestinian government in Ramallah on one condition: that they not work.

A few weeks after Hamas came to power in January 2006 elections, Israel and Washington imposed an international boycott on the new, democratically elected government. Eighteen months later, having failed to topple Hamas, U.S.- and Israeli-funded and trained Fatah militia attempted a coup. While Fatah gained control of the West Bank, Gaza remained under the control of Hamas.

The American and Israeli governments began funneling cash and support to Fatah, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, and declared the elected Hamas government illegitimate. Declaring Gaza a “hostile entity,” Israel proceeded to increase its pressure. Tactics have included sealing Gaza’s borders, Israeli military incursions and regular bombings, the cutting off of water and electricity, bank closures, and cutting off aid.

Ramallah’s latest anti-Hamas tactic is to pay government employees not to work, while providing them a small stipend to compensate for 18 months of unpaid wages. Those who continue to work at hospitals, schools, police stations and other public institutions have their wages withheld.

The result of this strategy was quickly apparent. Commerce skidded to a halt, inflation soared, and the most basic necessities of life virtually disappeared from this 23-mile strip of land, home to 1.5 million people, of whom 68 percent are under the age of 18. An atmosphere of fear enveloped Gaza.

“Why should I work?” asked Abu Khaled in a hushed voice, looking around to ensure no one could hear him. “I support our leader, President Abbas. If I work under Hamas, my salary will be cut off by the Ramallah-based government.”

Abu Khaled, who declined to reveal his full name, personifies the anxiety shared by most Fatah loyalists in Gaza. By not working, the idle security guard could get in trouble with Hamas. On the other hand, he at least receives compensation. Officials estimate that 55,000 Gazans currently are being paid not to work. Some do it out of loyalty to Fatah, others out of fear or necessity.

A Life-or-Death Decision

Healthcare providers face a unique dilemma. Their choice whether or not to work can literally be a matter of life or death.

At Al Nasser Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, 30-year-old staff nurse Hamam Nasman remained on duty, assisting in operations. The Ministry of Health in Gaza falls under the control of Hamas.

“Ramallah’s government deprived me of my salary,” he explained in frustration. “How can I sit at home and just leave children to die? This is a crime!”

In enforcing the salary rules laid down by the U.S. and Israel, the Fatah government in Ramallah has created a severe crisis for public employees in Gaza, forcing them to choose between feeding their own families and serving or saving the lives of others.

“This is my human duty,” Nurse Nasman insisted. “I took an oath to treat patients, not to be a tool used for political purposes.”

Speaking on behalf of Hamas, Palestinian Legislative Councilman Dr. Salah Al Bardawil summarized the purpose of the latest directive from Ramallah.

“The objective in cutting off employee salaries is political,” he stated. “It is designed to cause a failure of democracy in Gaza—the same democracy which is not honored by the American or Israeli administrations.”

Though strapped for cash, the Hamas government manages to sporadically pay approximately 10,000 public sector workers as funds become available. According to Dr. Al Bardawil, however, 33,000 civil employees currently work without pay, and that number is increasing. Gaps in services are filled by Hamas supporters who volunteer by stepping into critical positions in the various municipal agencies, schools and hospitals.

But not all gaps can be filled in Gaza, where today only emergency humanitarian aid is occasionally allowed to enter.

A Culture of Fear

The worsening shortage of necessities resulting from this latest tightening of the screws on Gaza increasingly is pitting friends and families against one another. Abu Khaled knows this pain only too well. Trepidation coupled with discretion has prevented him from spending time with a friend in the Hamas security force.

“I’m afraid that if Fatah agents see me hosting him, the Ramallah-based government will assume I am not loyal and cut off my salary,” he explained nervously.

Even those in positions of authority feel pressured to comply. Abu Waled, a Fatah loyalist and supervisor at the local police station, admitted that he now spends his days like a retiree, visiting friends and sitting at home.

“I’m not going to risk losing my salary by going to work,” he said sharply. “Let Hamas manage Gaza by themselves.”

Mohammed Omer, winner of New America Media’s Best Youth Voice award, reports from the Gaza Strip, where he maintains the Web site <www.rafahtoday.org>. He can be reached at <gazanews@yahoo.com>.


Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff

A DesertPeace Editorial

As far as Ehud Olmert is concerned, the Annapolis ‘farce’ gave him and his government the go ahead to expand existing settlements on Palestinian soil. The ‘promises’ to halt these operations fell on deaf ears as did all the other promises regarding roadblocks and the dismantling of illegal West Bank outposts.

As far as Abbas is concerned, his ‘job’ is on the line unless he outwardly appears to oppose these expansionist policies.

Hence a new meeting in Jerusalem between the two misleaders of the region, the first since Annapolis.
One Israeli official is quoted as saying, “We attach great importance to our dialogue with the Palestinian leadership and we understand that the process is challenging,” Olmert spokesman Mark Regev said ahead of the meeting at the prime minister’s residence. “Israel is committed to doing everything we can to make this process work.”

Sounds good, right? WRONG!!!! One slight problem being the term ‘Palestinian leadership’….. Abbas??? Correct me if I’m wrong, but it was Hamas that was elected to be the leadership of Palestine. It was Abbas that walked away from the coalition government set up in the Palestinian Authority. It was Abbas that literally sold his soul to the Elders of zion for his ‘place in the sun’. It is Abbas that represents those very same zionists sitting in Jerusalem while the Palestinian people continue to suffer under their occupation….

Now he wants to discuss settlements again? Could it have anything to do with Bush’s planned visit next month? Could it be that Olmert and Abbas want it to appear as if peace is REALLY on the agenda? Bush just might be an easy target to fool, given his understanding of the situation (zilch), but there are millions of other people in the region that see and know the truth…

President Bush, trying to nurture fragile peace talks between Israeli and Palestinians, will make his first trip to Israel and the West Bank next month as part of a nine-day swing through the Middle East.

In Jerusalem, Bush will meet with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and in the West Bank he will meet with President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. The president will then travel to Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.

Bush says conditions in Israel and the Palestinian territories now are ripe for a more aggressive U.S. role: Abbas and Olmert agreed in Annapolis to renew peace talks, there is a unifying fight against extremism fed by the Palestinian conflict, and the world understands the urgency of acting now.

The above (in italics) is taken from THIS report…

So it appears that the non elected President of the United States has decided that the non elected President of Palestine is the true representative of the Palestinian people…. talk about ‘conspiracy theories’…..

The amazing thing is that the American people don’t seem to recognise this international farce and don’t realise what their President is doing, not only to them, but to the entire world. Must we wait for an election for this to stop? One more year means thousands more dead…. the world must not allow this to continue. Impeachment is no longer an option, it is the only solution.

Israeli attrocities since Annapolis… (just this week alone) can be read about HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Also read Amira Hass’ take on the situation from today’s HaAretz.


The Abraham Lincoln Brigade – A Profile in Courage, Honor and Hope

Stephen Lendman

The Abraham Lincoln Brigade was an American contingent of about 2800 volunteers who fought on the side of the Second Spanish Republic during the country’s 1936 – 1939 Civil War against the fascist Nationalist rebellion under General Francisco Franco. From 1937 through 1938, it aimed to stop international fascism under Hitler and Mussolini that led to WW II. This essay explains who the “Lincolns” were, why they’re important, and what their relevance is to America today under George Bush. First a look at the Spanish Civil War and why these Americans fought in it.

The war began when Franco’s troops invaded Spain in July, 1936 to unseat an unstable Republic that developed from the social dislocations after WW I. Post-war saw a wave of revolutionary unrest that led to the military dictatorship of General Primo de Rivera in 1923. Rapid decline followed under him after the boom years of the 1920s. It weakened Spain’s monarchy, returned the country to republican rule, but things weakened when a liberal-Socialist coalition tried addressing agrarian problems that beleaguered all Spanish governments for generations. Reforms failed and so did the coalition. It came apart after an attempted military coup on the right and an anarchosyndicalist insurrection on the left that culminated in the Casas Viejas massacre of Andalulsian peasants in January, 1933.

By summer, Spain’s many parties and organizations began regrouping and polarizing. In November, the Spanish Confederation of Right Groups (CEDA) coalition replaced the liberal-Socialists. Positions then hardened on the left and right leading to the 1934 “October Revolution” when Asturian miners in northern Spain became the epicenter of a general uprising throughout the country. It brought “Army of Africa” commander Francisco Franco from Spanish Morocco to the mainland for the first time in five centuries to defend “Christian Civilization” from “red barbarism.” It was the start of class and regional conflict that became the Spanish Civil War two years later.

It pitted an alliance of Nationalist forces on the right under Franco against a “Popular Front” Republican/Loyalist coalition consisting of trade unionists and their political organizations:

— the General Confederation of Workers (UGT), a labor federation of the Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), and an anarchosyndicalist General Confederation of Labor (CNT);

— they, in turn, were allied with the Workers Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) coalition of Spanish Trotskyists, Communist Left (ICE), and Workers and Peasants Bloc; the United Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSUC); and the small Communist Party (PCE).

Few in America remember the Spanish Civil War, its significance or even that it happened which says a lot about the state of education in the richest country in the world. It should be the best anywhere but instead opts for mediocrity, ignorance and an effort to produce good citizens, most barely literate, to serve the nation’s ruling class and not the greater good. That, however, is a topic for another time.

The Spanish Civil War – July 17, 1936 – April 1, 1939

Like all extended wars, this one was ugly. Before it ended in April, 1939, hundreds of thousands died and many by mass killings that included Hitler’s infamous fire-bombing of Guernica on April 26, 1937 that destroyed the town and killed an estimated 1650 people. An eye witness described it as follows: “The only things left standing were a church, a sacred tree, the symbol of the Basque people….There hadn’t been a single anti-aircraft gun in the town. It had been mainly a fire raid….A sight that haunted me for weeks was the charred bodies of several women and children huddled together in what had been the cellar of a house. It had been a refugio.” The same scene was repeated throughout the town. Guernica was in flames, but it was just a warmup, a prelude for what lay ahead.

April 1, 1939 marked the end of the Spanish Civil War. Five months later in September, Hitler invaded Poland, and the world again was at war with Spain staying out of it this time. Franco instead concentrated on solidifying power at home while nominally supporting his fascist allies. He imprisoned and slaughtered tens of thousands of his opponents in a post-war bloodbath/reign of terror. The Spanish war, while it lasted, however, was an historic revolution, and how different things might have been had the other side won. A radical working class movement, never seen before or since, lost out to a fascist alliance that became dominant and is now resurgent in America.

Back then, it was a rare time when oppressed workers, peasants and leftist intellectuals stood on one side and were aided by Soviet Russia, the international Socialist movement and the International Brigades. Against them were centralized state power elitists that included monarchists, the Catholic church, and the landowning and industrial fascist right supported by Germany, Italy and Portugal. Workers wanted a classless, stateless social democracy with implications far beyond a civil conflict in Spain.

They were attracted to it when Franco invaded and threatened their vision. Spontaneously they seized factories and other workplaces, collectivized the land, formed workers’ militias throughout the country, dismantled the pro-fascist Catholic church, confiscated its property, and established political institutions run by workers’ committees. It was a remarkable event for a short-lived social transformation toward a genuinely autonomous, free and democratic society until Franco finally prevailed.

In a decade of economic depression, disillusion, the rise of fascism, torment and turmoil up to WW II, the Spanish revolution was a sign of hope for working-class emancipation across the world, including in the US. It inspired intellectuals, trade unionists, and others as well as freedom-fighting men and women of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. They went Spain to support the type government they wanted at home and hoped would emerge if the “Popular Front” prevailed.

The Abraham Lincoln Brigade

They were around 2800 American volunteers who fought alongside the “Popular Front” Republican Loyalists as the American contingent of the International Brigades. From 1937 to 1938, they joined with 35,000 others from 52 countries to defend the free Spanish Republic against Franco’s Nationalist fascist alliance.

They were mostly young men and women from across America, deeply affected by the The Great Depression’s despair, and they feared the fascist scourge engulfing Europe could affect them back home. They were ordinary people – working class, students, teachers, artists, dancers, athletes, the unemployed and others unified in a common belief that it’s “better to die on your feet than live on your knees.”

Most were members of the Young Communist League (CP). They allied with Industrial Workers of the World members (“Wobblies”), socialists forming their own (Eugene) Debs Column, and unaffiliated others. They were all committed in a common struggle. Some sought escape from The Great Depression, others went to fight for a better world unavailable at home, but all wanted to defeat fascism and risked their lives to do it. They also risked arrest or recrimination back home by defying a State Department prohibition against traveling to Spain so by doing it they broke the law.

It was worth it for what many saw as the quintessential struggle between democracy and tyranny. British author, social critic and journalist Eric Arthur Blair, aka George Orwell, felt the same. He went to Spain in 1936 to be with the Republican side and joined with the POUM coalition. He later wrote about it in what some call his finest work – “Homage to Catalonia.” It sold just 50 copies in his lifetime, but another to it with a copy owned, read and admired long ago by this writer. It was more about social revolution than a civil war and centrally about tyranny against socially democratic forces on the left.

The allied groups on both sides, however, had their own agendas. On the left, the socialists (POUM) wanted a worker-controlled government, the communists (PSUC) a centralized one, and the Anarchists/Anarchosyndicalists (CNT) one that was decentralized. On the right, Franco loyalists wanted a fascist Spain like in Germany and Italy, latifundistas (big landowners) wanted a feudal system, and the Roman Catholic Church supported the monarchy and had its own elitist, pro-fascist conservative agenda.

The “Lincolns,” wanted democratic freedom and fascism defeated. Its volunteers became known as the Abraham Lincoln Brigade although fighting units chose their own names and identities. In keeping with the “Popular Front” culture, they became part of the Fifteenth International Brigade along with nationals from other countries. They called themselves the Abraham Lincoln Battalion, the George Washington Battalion, and the John Brown Battery that included 125 doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers and technicians with the American Medical Bureau. They were all volunteers for a noble cause and among them was the first ever racially integrated unit in US history and first one ever led by a black commander. Most never fired a rifle or had military training, but they were committed to learn and they did fast.

They also practiced what they believed in the ranks and created an egalitarian “peoples’ army.” Rank-and-file soldiers at times elected their own officers and generally shunned traditional military protocol. With them were well-known, or aspiring, writers, artists, composers and filmmakers, including James Lardner (son of Ring Lardner Sr.), Joseph Vogel, Ralph Fasanella, Conlon Nancarrow, Edwin Rolfe, Alvah Bessie, Phil Bard, William Lindsay Gresham and famed author Ernest Hemingway. He supported the “Popular Front,” went to Spain in 1937 to report on the war, and spent most of it with the International Brigades.

After the war in 1940, he wrote his famous novel, “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” It became a Hollywood film in 1943 and was the top box office hit of the year even though it failed to tell what really happened on the ground. It’s the story of a young American in the International Brigades attached to an anti-fascist guerilla unit. The novel’s theme is how the main characters react to the prospect of death in a struggle for their vision and how they bond and are willing to die for its sake. It was how Hemingway felt. He spoke publicly on it to raise money for the Republican side he supported.

The “Lincolns” fought bravely and took casualties, including at the town of Brunete near Madrid where half its contingent was wiped out. But they gave as much as they took until Republican forces began losing later in 1938. It took a great toll on both sides, including on the International Brigades as the war continued. It finally ended for the “Lincolns” and other International Brigades volunteers in late 1938. Spanish Prime Minister Juan Negrin struck a futile deal with Hitler to repatriate captured forces and ordered them withdrawn. He didn’t understanding what others later learned that Hitler didn’t make deals. He imposed them.

Of the 2800 “Lincolns,” around one-third perished. Survivors came home heros, got no official recognition for their efforts, were lucky to escape recrimination for breaking the law, but were later harassed and hounded as explained below.

One survivor was its last commander – freedom-fighter, novelist and well-known peace and civil rights activist Milton Wolff. Hemingway described him as “23 years old, tall as Lincoln, gaunt as Lincoln, and as brave and as good a soldier as any that commanded battalions at Gettysburg. He is alive and unhit by the same hazard that leaves one tall palm tree standing where a hurricane has passed.” He was part of Spain’s bloodiest battles at Brunete, Quinto and Belchite but managed to emerge unscathed.

Wolff arrived in Spain in 1937, trained as a medic, became a machine gunner with the Washington Battalion and then its leader. When Commander Dave Reiss was killed, Wolff took over and led its great offensive across the Ebro and Sierra Pandols. He then went home when the International Brigades left Spain in 1938 but continued fighting fascism as an activist, speaker and novelist in spite of being branded a “premature anti-fascist” and getting caught up in the post-WW II anti-communist hysteria. It affected anyone of prominence who was accused of leftist leanings along with many other “Lincolns” hounded by the FBI, Committee on UnAmerican Activities, and Subversive Activities Control Board (SACB). They lost their jobs and were prosecuted under the Smith Act and state sedition laws although few had convictions hold up.

This was how a nation that defeated fascism rewarded them and then wiped them from the historical record for added shame. They’re remembered, however, in the official Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA). The effort was founded in 1979 by Lincoln Brigade living veterans as an “educational and humanitarian organization devoted to the preservation and dissemination of the history of the North American role in the Spanish Civil War….and its aftermath.”

It’s committed to preserving the memory and record of these heroic freedom fighters and their sacrifices by “continually expanding archival collections in exhibitions, educational programs, publications, and performances (to preserve) the legacy of activism and commitment as an inspiration for present and future generations in working conscientiously and effectively toward a better and more just society” – the one “Lincolns” fought and died for 70 years ago without success.

On the eve of the great war, the Spanish Republic ended on April 1, 1939 when Madrid fell to the Nationalists and then Valencia. It held out under great pressure but gave it up the next day. In the end, the revolution failed from its own divergent ideologies and internal conflicts. They frustrated Orwell enough to say “Why can’t we drop all of this political nonsense and get on with the war.” It also lost to a more powerful Nationalist force that outmanned and outgunned them because Hitler and Mussolini supplied many more aircraft, artillery pieces, tanks, bombs, small arms and ammunition to give Franco the edge.

It let him outlast Spanish Republican forces that got less aid from the Soviet Union while countries like Great Britain, France and the US stayed technically neutral. But a careful look shows otherwise. Britain and France refused to supply arms or assist the Republican side. Even FDR’s government was duplicitous. It pressured the Martin Aircraft Company not to honor an agreement made prior to the 1936 insurrection to sell aircraft to the Republic and also strong-armed Mexico not to ship Republicans war materials that were bought in the US for that purpose. The Mexican government complied and instead sent some financial aid.

Roosevelt said companies supplying the Republic were unpatriotic, but had no such feeling for those trading with the Nationalists like General Motors and the Texas Company, now part of oil giant Chevron. It cancelled contracts with Republicans but sold oil to Franco much like the dealings Charles Highham described in his 1983 book, “Trading with the Enemy.” He documented how US corporations like Chase Bank, Standard Oil, Ford, GM and IBM did business with the Nazis in WW II in direct violation of the law. They betrayed their country and got away with it.

The Spirit of the “Lincolns” in the Age of George Bush

In their day, “Lincolns” were anti-facist freedom-fighters who are still respected by their admirers. Since the Reagan era, however, they’d be called “terrorists” because they oppose unfettered capitalism and all its harshness.

Reagan launched his war on “international terrorism” that was a precursor for what lay ahead. In 1981, his Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, announced the new administration would shift from Jimmy Carter’s so-called “human rights” agenda to one focused on anti-terrorism without saying what it was or that it existed. Unexplained then or now is that the US is the world’s leading exponent of the very scourge it claims to oppose. Empires have that privilege. They get to have it both ways. They make the rules that others ignore at their peril.

They weigh on many today under George Bush who makes Reagan’s era look tame by comparison. Post-9/11, the administration declared permanent war on the world without boundaries in space and time that won’t end in our lifetime. It’s against any designated countries we target with ones with the most energy reserves and independent leaders topping the list.

It isn’t just countries that are in jeopardy. Any group, organization or individual qualifies if they dare challenge US dominance or have views opposing ours. As an anti-fascist group, the “Lincolns” would be targeted because they wanted democratic freedom, not tyranny. During the Great Depression and rise of Nazism, they were galvanized to go to Spain to “make Madrid the tomb of fascism.” They’d now target Washington, their struggle would be nonviolent, but it would put them at risk in an unfriendly environment to dissent and a passion to express it.

Today, there’s a serious threat at home no different from the extremist ideology “Lincolns” fought against in Spain – the scourge of fascism now in America. It mirrors the Nazi kind that was based on corporatism, patriotism and nationalism; a claimed messianic Almightly-directed mission; authoritarian rule; bipartisan support; iron-fisted militarism; and thuggish “homeland security” enforcers.

It illegally spies on everyone, conducts warrantless searches and seizures, makes unwarranted mass arrests and incarcerations, and can designate anyone, anywhere for any reason an “unlawful enemy combatant” with no corroborating evidence needed. It tolerates no dissent at a time the law is what the executive says it is, and checks and balances, separation of powers, and equal justice for all no longer exist. It’s called fascism, despotism or tyranny that masquerades as a model democracy in an America only beautiful for the privileged, no one else. It’s what “Lincolns” fought against in Spain, now threatening the US 70 years later.

The dominant media support it and are part of the problem. They use hard right commentators, pundits, and talk show hosts like CNN’s Glenn Beck who also hosts a nationally syndicated radio program as a platform for his type extremism. Media giant Time Warner put him in prime time (starting May, 2006) to boost ratings and billed him as “an unconventional look at the news.” It barely disguises a hateful hard right agenda. Beck is one of many right wing hawks. He and the others attack anyone opposing the “war on terror” that includes the Bush agenda of iron-fisted militarism, permanent war, repression at home, and gutting social services so the most vulnerable are on their own and out of luck.

Muslims top their target list in the age of “terror.” They’re demonized mercilessly on-air overtly and by innuendo as well as being harassed and persecuted through mass witch-hunt roundups, detentions, prosecutions and deportations. So are Latino immigrants with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) shock troops the enforcers and media hosts like Lou Dobbs fully supportive. This writer called him “CNN’s Vice-President of Racism” in an August, 2006 article that included others like him. They target others anyone voicing dissent at a time getting along demands going along.

The “Lincolns” would be targets if they were active and and similar groups as well. They’d be savaged in a typical Beck comment like this one about Muslims: “We need to be….lining up to shoot the bad Muslims (meaning all of them) in the head (and) with God as my witness….human beings are not strong enough, unfortunately, to restrain themselves from putting up razor wire (meaning concentration camps, Nazi-style) and putting you (Muslims) on one side of it….(meaning locked up inside).”

He’s serious and is backed by an administration targeting any perceived opposition with hardball tactics that include secretly constructed homeland concentration camps. They’re for tens of thousands of aliens and anyone considered a threat to absolute rule.

It’s extremely threatening because all media giants are supportive. They fill their programming with Beck-like people while opposition voices are silenced. The scheme is to instill fear and demand loyalty of a government that may have in mind ending the republic, replacing it with tyranny, and it’s arguable they’ve already done it.

Renown print journalist George Seldes saw it emerge during the golden New Deal era under Franklin Roosevelt. If fascism threatened then, its could happen any time, and no democracy is secure without constant vigilance. Seldes monitored it around the world as a foreign correspondent and at home. He was one of the great independent journalists of his time and did what’s practically extinct today outside alternative spaces.

In his 1934 book “Iron, Blood and Profits,” he wrote about a “world-wide munitions racket” citing WW I militarists and weapons makers in Europe and America as proof. Fascism was spreading in Europe, and he saw it emerging in America with powerful corporatists behind it. They included munitions makers, industrialists and Wall Street bankers promoting wars for profits. Seldes called them “merchants of death” financing “patriotic organizations” promoting “imperialism (and) colonization – by means of war….the healthfulness of their business depends on slaughter. The more wars (they got) the richer the profits.”

They traded with the enemy, sabotaged disarmament efforts, promoted war scares in newspapers, supported dictators, and lobbied and bribed government officials for continued conflict. “The war to end all wars” was just a slogan as new dark forces arose in the 1930s.

Seldes returned to the theme in his 1943 book, “Facts and Fascism,” that explained “Fascism on the Home Front” in the book’s Part One called “The Big Money and Big Profits in Fascism.” In Parts Two and Three, he went into “Native Fascist Forces” in US industry and the media of his day that had far less reach and influence than now.

Seldes was an archetype crusading journalist. He was a “witness to a century” (the title of his 1987 book) until he died in 1995 at age 104. He saw it all by covering the greats and infamous like Benito Mussolini who expelled him for exposing truths he wanted suppressed. So did Lenin after Seldes interviewed him in 1922. He was very hostile to Seldes’ honesty that was forbidden by Russian journalists.

Seldes also covered the Spanish Civil War and believed it was a dress rehearsal for World War II. In “Facts and Fascism” he wrote: “Fascism in Spain was bought and paid for by numerous elements who would profit by the destruction of the democratic Republican Loyalist government.” He cited generals wanting glory, the right wing conservative Catholic Church, the aristocracy wanting the old order back, and the “force of (big) Money” in Europe and America that wouldn’t let social democracy interfere with business. He named names, knew the risks, but was a rare journalist who did what few others ever do – their job.

Seldes passed before the George Bush era, and the “Lincolns” are just a memory in the ALBA archives collection at New York University’s Tamiment Library. It’s the largest and most important resource available for study that includes their papers, oral histories, films, photos, posters, and selections of the microfilmed records of the International Brigades. They’re maintained to preserve a historic record of their achievements, memory and spirit and as an inspiration to others. They represent courageous freedom-fighters who volunteered to fight and die for equality, justice and social democracy. It’s never handed to us, is always imperiled, and is only gotten and kept when men and women like “Lincolns” risk everything for it. That spirit more than ever is needed now with America’s freedom imperiled.

Sinclair Lewis feared it in his 1935 novel, “It Can’t Happen Here.” It was about a charismatic self-styled reformer, populist and champion of the common man senator who became president. It was all a front to hide his alliance with corporate interests and the religious extremists of his day. He takes full advantage of The Great Depression, supports a strong military, and gets unconstitutional laws passed during a national emergency. He further convenes military tribunals for dissenters who are called unpatriotic and traitors.

Fast forward to the current era when we’re all potential “unlawful enemy combatants,” there are no freedom-fighting “Lincolns,” and the threat of full-blown tyranny may be one more real or contrived “terrorist” attack away. Stopping it needs the same spirit of sacrifice “Lincolns” made when they risked everything abroad for what they wanted at home. Something to reflect on over the holidays. Something to act on in the new year.



Image by Ismael Shammout

No praises from On High this year in Bethlehem…. a city under occupation. No reason to rejoice in Bethlehem…. a city under occupation….

No, the Angels were silent this year as the anti-Christ stood guard at the checkpoints…. Perhaps next year, Christmas in a FREE PALESTINE.



Image by David Baldinger

If you believe that the Annapolis ‘Peace’ Conference was a success then you can believe the following report from Reuters as well…

Former Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is optimistic that Palestinian Independence is near…. I wonder what he bases that theory on seeing as since the Conference ended the genocide against innocent Palestinian civilians continues, the blockade against Gaza continues, the roadblocks remain in place, the wall of apartheid continues to be built….. all in the name of ‘self defense‘… NOTHING HAS CHANGED SINCE ANNAPOLIS.

So, where does Abbas get his information from? And worse yet, why does Reuters quote his rantings?? Reuters would serve the Palestinian people best if they reported the truth on what is happening in Gaza and the occupied West Bank… not the myths spread by the likes of Abbas that “the new year, God willing, will be a year of security and economic stability.”

Security and economic stability will become realities when the government the Palestinians elected is recognised by the zionist occupier and when negotiations take place involving those true representatives of the Palestinian people…. not those chosen by the zionist enemy.

You heard of Reality T.V. ~~ We need reality press reports instead of the following…..

Abbas tells Bethlehem pilgrims independence is near
By Reuters

Thousands gathered in Bethlehem on Monday for a Christmas mass promoted by and Western powers as a chance to highlight the benefits of peacemaking.

“We pray next year will be the year of independence for the Palestinian people,” Abbas continued.

Christmas carols played through a packed Manger Square ahead of the traditional midnight mass, though the majority of those gathered were Palestinians and not the foreign tourists local vendors were hoping for.

Earlier in the day, religious and political leaders arrived in the town where Christians believe Jesus was born.

At a U.S.-sponsored peace conference last month, Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert launched negotiations with the goal of reaching a statehood agreement by the end of 2008.

Ahead of the festivities, Palestinian security forces, many carrying newly issued rifles, took up positions on the streets of Bethlehem in numbers not seen in years.

“Despite all the security, people couldn’t be more friendly,” said Eaddy Kiernan, 22, on holiday from the United States, about the large number of armed guards. “It’s the most special place you could celebrate Christmas.”

Bethlehem was particularly affected when tourism slumped during the early years of a Palestinian uprising – or Intifada – that erupted in 2000.

Israel allowed dozens of Christians from Gaza to travel to Bethlehem to take part in the festivities

Store owners this year say they are celebrating their most peaceful – and profitable – Christmas in seven years.

“We are more satisfied. The economic situation is getting a little better,” said Khaled Msalam, a 42-year-old Bethlehem shop owner. “Still, people have financial trouble and can’t afford a lot of our products.”

Tourism, the lifeblood of Bethlehem’s economy, has improved as Western powers have sought to bolster Abbas in his power struggle with Hamas Islamists who took over the Gaza Strip in June.

Nadia Hazboun, who manages a souvenir store opposite the Church of the Nativity said: “This year is better than other years because this peace process is making people feel more calm.”

After struggling for years to fill rooms, many Bethlehem hotels are fully booked for Christmas.

Middle East envoy Tony Blair has been trying to improve tourist access and facilities in Bethlehem. The former British prime minister recently stayed overnight in one of the city’s best hotels to send a message it is safe.

But local leaders remain cautious; tourism numbers still hover at just 60-70 percent of pre-Intifada levels, and many Western governments still warn against non-essential travel.


Image by Elly Halfers
Taking a quote out of context is one thing, lying about a quote is quite another issue. The infamous gossip columnists with the aid of their paparazzi entourage have ruined many a successful career with their rantings….

The latest ‘would be’ victim was Will Smith, popular actor. His statement of “Everyone is basically good”, along with… “Even Hitler didn’t wake up going, “let me do the most evil thing I can do today,” came out as ‘hitler was a good guy’…..

C’mon guys…. let’s have an ounce of truth in your reporting. It’s bad enough the political reporters lie about everything under the sun, at least let’s see some reality when it comes to important stuff like gossip.


The following Associated Press report should clear up any misunderstandings on this matter…..

Will Smith angry, says Hitler comment misinterpreted

‘Hitler was a vile, heinous vicious killer responsible for one of the greatest acts of evil committed on this planet,’ American actor says in response to gossip website articles claiming he said German leader was ‘basically good’

Associated Press

Will Smith is angry over celebrity gossip website articles that he said misinterpreted a recent remark he made in a Scottish newspaper about Adolf Hitler.

In a story published Saturday in the Daily Record, Smith was quoted saying: “Even Hitler didn’t wake up going, ‘let me do the most evil thing I can do today.’ I think he woke up in the morning and using a twisted, backwards logic, he set out to do what he thought was ‘good.”‘

The quote was preceded by the writer’s observation: “Remarkably, Will believes everyone is basically good.”

For full interview with Scottish newspaper click here

Over the weekend, dozens of celebrity gossip websites posted articles about the comment, many saying that Smith believed that Hitler was a “good” person.

“It is an awful and disgusting lie,” Smith said in a statement Monday provided by his publicist. “It speaks to the dangerous power of an ignorant person with a pen. I am incensed and infuriated to have to respond to such ludicrous misinterpretation.”

“Adolf Hitler was a vile, heinous vicious killer responsible for one of the greatest acts of evil committed on this planet,” read the statement.


Thanks Robin


Image by David Baldinger
MIDEAST: In Gaza, Santa Is Insolvent

By Mohammed Omer

GAZA CITY, Dec 24 – “Santa Claus is empty handed this year…insolvent,” says Father Manuel Musallam, head of the Holy Family School in Gaza City.

“All forms of celebration are absent,” he says, raising his empty palms skywards. “We Christians and Muslims all live in fear and instability. The Israeli tanks, bulldozers and warplanes have laid siege on us all.”

His school, which has both Muslim and Christian students, likes to celebrate including all; this year few celebrations were planned, for fewer children.

The Sunday school headmaster of the Greek Orthodox Church, Jaber al-Jilda, echoes his Catholic colleague’s sentiments. “This year’s celebrations are mainly religious,” he says. “We want to celebrate, but our hearts are full of pain and grief. We cannot celebrate and at the same time watch as the funeral of another killed by Israeli occupation passes in front of our church.”

On Friday the building where he teaches is a mosque. On Sunday, it is a church.

“I don’t feel like celebrating Christmas,” says 16-year-old Merkiana Tarazi. “Without safety and peace, even if I wear new clothes, I won’t be happy.”

Like many in Gaza who have family members in Israel, Jordan or the West Bank, Merkiana is cut off from much of her family. Her elder sister attending Beir Ziet University in the West Bank cannot come home for Christmas “because of the Israeli siege.”

In the past, even under occupation, Gaza’s Christian community celebrated Christmas, though without the commercialism and grandeur of the West. Before the second Palestinian uprising, the Intifadah, began in 2000, Christians and Muslims would gather at Gaza’s main square on Christmas Day. A giant Christmas tree was set up in the square, and a Santa Claus handed out gifts to people on the street. Today, the municipality cannot afford a tree.

“We used to offer chocolate to our children at the school,” Father Musallam said. “But now because of the Israeli siege, no chocolate is available.”

The Christmas decorations are gone, too. “Paper and drawing materials are scare. And if we happen to find supplies in the market, we cannot afford them. Even clothes or just the basic ingredients needed to make a Christmas cake are not available here.”

But the conditions have still not killed spirits; in place of chocolate, Father Manuel’s school arranged strawberries. Strawberries grown in Gaza were one of the products destined for Europe this year, but Israel stopped the export. That made them some hope at Christmas.

Jilda too has found his own substitutes. For Christmas gifts he is offering religious books instead of chocolates, dresses and more traditional gifts.

Christmas comes this year amidst stories that continue to surface in Western media accusing the Hamas government or Muslims in general of persecuting Christians in Gaza or Palestine. Not many Christians in Gaza say that.

“Hamas has never done that,” Jilda says emphatically. “They send representatives from Hamas to our celebrations. Last year, as the year before, they came and offered Christmas greetings at our Church to the entire congregation.”

In the absence of much else, the Christian leaders offer words of hope.

“Christmas is about forgiveness and peace,” says Father Musallam. “It begins with a child. If we each plant a tree of happiness in our children’s hearts, the fruit produced will be peace. I send my love and respect to the world at a time when our people live in hope, and in despair.”



This is truly a Christmas miracle!
Stare at the center of the image below for at least 30 seconds. Then look at a blank white wall, or a piece of paper. What do you see?



I just thought of something….. just who has been writing speeches for the President since the Writers Guild is on Strike?

Perhaps we can get them to declare peace throughout the world?


The photo at the left shows Matthew Perry and Lisa Kudrow (from ‘Friends) demonstrating in support of the writers.


Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff

Cease fire…… sounds good!
Mutual cease fire….. sounds better!!

Hamas proposes
A mutual cease-fire:
An end to the launching of Qassams,
An end to incursions and assassinations.

Israeli security experts
Support the acceptance of this offer
But dare not speak up.

The security establishment
Does not want to stop.
As always.

Olmert answers:
“There is nothing to speak about.”

That is a crime against
The inhabitants of Sderot,
Against the inhabitants of Gaza,
Against all of us.

There is somebody to speak with!
-Gush Shalom ad published in Haaretz, Dec. 21, 2007

Israel Rejects Hamas Truce Offer, Continues Attacks on Gaza (via: Washington Report)

As Muslim and Christian Arabs, Europeans, and Americans celebrate Eid and Christmas-and Jews having recently celebrate Hanukkah-Israel is attacking Gaza. In less than a week-since Tuesday, Dec. 18-Israeli air strikes and ground troops have killed 20 Palestinians, and injured many more (including at least one journalist).

Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinians in Gaza have proposed a truce, but Israel isn’t interested in examining their cease-fire proposals. According to a Dec. 21 AFP report, while two Israeli senior cabinet ministers urged Israel to examine any serious cease-fire proposal from Hamas, the government ruled out direct political negotiations with the Islamist movement unless it recognizes Israel.

“If a serious offer for a truce from Hamas reached us, I think we should examine it seriously,” Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz told reporters.

“If Hamas comes to us with a serious proposal for a long-term truce, in my opinion Israel should not reject it. For that, it would not be vital for Hamas to recognise Israel first,” said Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer. “Making recognition of Israel a precursor to negotiations would be the best way of torpedoing it from the beginning,” said the former defense minister. (See the entire AFP article printed in Middle East Times: )

What is President Bush’s administration doing about the Israeli attacks, occurring so soon after it professed to want peace at Annapolis?


According to an article by Nathan Guttman in the Dec. 19 Forward (”Israeli Operations in Gaza Meet Little Resistance in Washington; Billions in Aid Pledged to West Bank”): “As Israel stepped up air attacks on Gaza this week, the Bush administration refrained from blocking any measures or criticizing Israel’s activity. Israel, according to diplomatic sources in Washington, was not asked to scale down its actions or to refrain from a ground operation. ‘I haven’t heard of any red light,’ an Israeli official said.”


Write or telephone those working for you in Washington:

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
(202) 456-1414
White House Comment Line: (202) 456-1111
Fax: (202) 456-2461

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
Department of State
Washington, DC 20520
State Department Public Information Line:
(202) 647-6575

Any Senator
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-3121

Any Representative
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-3121

E-Mail Congress and the White House:
Congress: visit [www.congress.org] for contact information.
President Bush: president@whitehouse.gov
Vice President Cheney: vice.president@whitehouse.gov


See also THIS report from The Nation

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