- While Saddam Hussein’s execution was greeted with delight by many of his victims – Iranians, Kuwaitis, and Iraqi Shia – it also generated widespread criticism among many Arabs and Muslims. This evokes one of the more confounding paradoxes relating to Saddam – the wide discrepancy between his actual track record and the adulation in which he was held by non-Iraqi Arabs.
- Saddam transformed Iraq into the most repressive police state in the world, where a joke or a reported thought could cost a person his life, where tens of thousands of civilians were brutally murdered by their government, and where millions starved while their unelected ruler spent incredible sums of money on monuments and palaces for himself.
- Saddam embroiled his country in a string of catastrophic foreign adventures that claimed more than one million lives and wrought untold physical and economic wreckage. Upon his ascendance in 1979, Iraq was a regional economic superpower, boasting some $35 billion in foreign exchange reserves. Twenty-three years later, it had been reduced to dire poverty and underdevelopment, with tens of billions in foreign debt.
- Why has such an abysmal record been widely applauded by Arabs and Muslims?
- It is the Middle East’s violent political culture that has created and perpetuated the monstrosity of Saddam (and his ilk). Only when this culture is fully eradicated will the region’s inhabitants be able to look forward to a better future. Saddam’s execution, at long last, sets a precedent of holding a local tyrant accountable for his crimes.The writer is head of the Mediterranean Studies Program at King’s College, University of London.
January 14, 2007
December 26, 2006
Reports that Israel is considering allowing a group of gunmen who were
deported in 2002 after hiding inside the Church of the Nativity to return
home have left some Christian residents here seriously concerned for their
Thirteen of the gunmen were deported to different European countries, while
another 26 were expelled to the Gaza Strip.
The gunmen, belonging to both Fatah and Hamas, were holed up in the church
for 39 days before European mediators reached a deal with Israel according
to which the fugitives would be permitted to walk out unharmed.
On Saturday, Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat announced that the
deportees would soon be allowed to return to Bethlehem. The announcement was
made following the summit between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA Chairman
Mahmoud Abbas in Jerusalem.
While most Muslim residents here welcomed the news about the impending
return of the gunmen, some Christian families expressed fear that the
deportees would once again impose a reign of intimidation and terror in the
“What a wonderful Christmas gift from Father Christmas, Ehud Olmert,”
commented a local businessman. “These men were responsible for a spate of
attacks on Christians, including extortion and confiscation of property.”
He said the biggest threat came from those gunmen belonging to Fatah’s armed
wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, whose members often targeted “peaceful”
“I’m aware that most Christians living here are afraid to speak publicly
about the issue, but the overwhelming majority was not unhappy when these
thugs were deported from the city,” he added. “Now some people here are once
again worried because of the reports that they will return. They remember
all the bad things that happened to the Christians when these gunmen were
roaming the streets. People also remember how the gunmen mistreated the
monks and nuns who were held hostage during the raid.”
The families of the Bethlehem deportees have been campaigning for the past
four years to allow their sons to return home. The issue has been raised
several times during meetings between Israeli and PA officials, but no
solution was ever found.
Former prime minister Ariel Sharon agreed at the 2005 Sharm e-Sheikh summit
with Abbas to the formation of a joint committee that would discuss and
solve the problem of the deportees.
Mary, who works in a local tourist agency, said not all the deportees were
involved in anti-Christian actions.
“Some of them were good boys, but there were a few who used their guns and
rifles for criminal purposes,” said the 44-year-old woman. “Some residents
are now worried that these guys will return to the streets of Bethlehem. We
heard that one of them, who is now in Europe, was involved in the murder of
two Christian sisters in Beit Jala.”
Tony [not his real name], who owns a small souvenir shop near Manger Square,
said he and many of his fellow Christians used to live in fear when the
gunmen were around.
“They used to take cigarettes and other goods for free from my neighbors,”
he recalled. “When they were deported from the city, there was a sigh of
relief not only among Christians, but some Muslims as well. Let’s hope that
when they come back, they will return to normal life.”
The few Christians who agreed to go on the record had only words of praise
for the gunmen.
“They are heroes,” said Bishara Hazboun, a 22-year-old university student.
“There’s no difference between Christians and Muslims and we are all one
people. Some people have been trying to defame the fighters by spreading all
kinds of lies against them. I never saw them do any harm.”
December 5, 2006
JERUSALEM, Dec. 4 — Israel’s military, which has been accused of abuses in its war against Hezbollah this summer, has declassified photographs, video images and prisoner interrogations to buttress its accusation that Hezbollah systematically fired from civilian neighborhoods in southern Lebanon and took cover in those areas to shield itself from attack.
In a new report, an Israeli research group says Hezbollah stored weapons in mosques, battled Israelis from inside empty schools, flew white flags while transporting missiles and launched rockets near United Nations monitoring posts.
“This study explains the dilemma facing the Israeli military as it fights an enemy that intentionally operates from civilian areas,” Mr. Erlich said. “This is the kind of asymmetric warfare we are seeing today. It’s not only relevant to Lebanon, but is also what we are seeing in the Gaza Strip and in Iraq.”
New York Times
December 3, 2006
A hitherto unknown group calling itself the Just Swords of Islam issued a warning to Palestinian women in the Gaza Strip over the weekend that they must wear the hijab or face being targeted by the group’s members.
In pamphlets distributed in various parts of the Gaza Strip, the group also claimed responsibility for attacks on 12 Internet cafes over the past few days.
The warning was directed primarily against female students in a number of universities and colleges who do not cover their heads in line with Islamic tradition.
The group said its followers last week threw acid at the face of a young woman who was dressed “immodestly” in the center of Gaza City. They also destroyed a car belonging to a young man who was playing his radio tape too loudly.
Addressing female students, the group said: “We will have no mercy on any woman who violates the traditions of Islam and who also hang out in Internet cafes.”
According to the group, its members used rocket-propelled grenades to attack 12 Internet cafes and a number of music shops in different parts of the Gaza Strip.
It said the places were targeted because they
were “distracting an entire generation of Palestinians from their duty to worship [Alla] and jihad so that they could serve their Zionist masters and the Crusaders.”
Hamas officials denied any connection to the group, noting that their movement does not resort to methods of “intimidation and terror” against the people.
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip reacted with mixed feelings to the group’s threats. While many seemed to support the demand that all women wear the hijab, others expressed fear that the group was trying to create a Taliban-style regime.
December 2, 2006
Virtually not a day has passed recently without some famous person declaring that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the key to solving all the problems of the Muslim world – from Kofi Annan (“As long as the Palestinians live under occupation… so long will passions everywhere be inflamed”) through Henry Kissinger (“a restarted Palestinian peace process should play a significant role” in resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis) to Tony Blair (an Israeli-Palestinian settlement is “the core” of any effort to resolve other Middle East problems and defeat “global extremism.”)
It is astonishing that so many intelligent people could seriously espouse such an obvious falsehood. Do they really believe that Sunni Muslims and Shi’ite Muslims – whose views on Israel are identical – are slaughtering each other in Iraq because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Or that anti-Syrian politicians in Lebanon – who are no less anti-Israel than the pro-Syrian sort – are being assassinated by Syria and threatened with a coup by Hizbullah because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
That Arab Muslims are committing genocide against black Muslims in Sudan because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
That Taliban Muslims are murdering non-Taliban Muslims in Afghanistan because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
That Chechen Muslims took Russian schoolchildren hostage in Beslan because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
That Muslims and Hindus are killing each other in Kashmir because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
That Muslims worldwide rioted over Danish cartoons because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? The list could go on for pages.
But the theory of Israeli-Palestinian centrality is not only false, it is dangerous – because it prevents the world from addressing the real root cause of all these conflicts, including the Israeli-Palestinian one: a widespread culture in the Muslim world that views violence and threats of violence as legitimate means of resolving disputes.
Via MEMRI, the sword of Allah gets his close-up.
Q: When you behead more than three or four people at once, does it affect you? My second question is: Do you need a break between executions? Does it affect you or not?
Abdallah Al-Bishi: Allah be praised, there is nothing to it. Three, four, five, or six — there is nothing to it. It’s entirely normal. An execution is an execution, and as long as the person stands straight… As long as the person stands straight, it makes our job much easier.
December 1, 2006
ConclusionIran’s missile and space programs are progressing with singular urgency. No
other country in the world, including established industrialized powers,
comes close to Iran in the number and variety of ballistic missiles in
development or already deployed. The Iranians are covering almost all
technological bases, from ordinary liquid propulsion to storable liquid
propulsion to solid propulsion. Side by side with investing in ballistic
missiles and space launch vehicles, they seem poised to add a cruise missile
component to their strategic forces. The range of their missiles is growing
steadily decade by decade: from the 600 km or so of the late 1980s to 1300
km in the early 1990s, to 2000 km in the early 2000s all the way to
2500-3500 km today. From purely local reach, their missiles’ range grew to
dominate the entire Middle East as well as some portions of Europe. At this
rate, Iranian missiles will dominate the entire continent of Europe by the
end of this decade. Once they perfect their workhorse SLV, their reach will
become truly global.
While the missile forces are built up, Iran is using whatever is already
available to good psychological purpose. Not only are its missiles paraded
in public on a yearly basis; they are frequently alluded to by Iranian
officials in heralding the military prowess of the regime. The transparency
of the Shahab 3 missile program was most impressive. Contrary to the other
three radical regimes in the region who have or have had their own missile
programs – Libya, Syria, and Saddam’s Iraq – the Iranians announced their
missile tests, at least the successful ones, and released impressive
photographic material to the media.
Only recently have the Iranians retreated somewhat from the policy of
transparency. Until then, the amount of material released and the number and
variety of statements was abundant, though there at times conflicting
reports lent the programan air of secrecy cloaked behind a veil of
Furthermore, the record is not unmixed. The deluge of images and statements
and the large number of programs have yielded an inconsistent picture. To
date the Iranians have paraded at least three variants of the Shahab 3
missiles, transported by at least four different variants of the basic
transporter-launcher. This does not indicate a truly focused effort. An
average flight test rate of about one per year forall three variantsis not
especially rigorous, and many of those tests apparently ended in some kind
of failure. The acquisition from abroad of a new missile that has never been
tested before may be indicative of some urgency to correct a perceived
deficiency,perhaps some skepticism about the Shahab 3 design. The eight-year
old space program resulted to date in one single launch of a foreign-made
satellite by a foreign SLV. All the indications are that the missile and
space programs have suffered from deficiencies in leadership and
resources.Significantly,thereis noIranian Von Braun and no Iranian Sergey
Korolev behind the overall effort. The disparate programs are making
headway, but in a somewhat chaotic manner.
Yet Iran’s missile and space programs are no paper tigers. They are
obviously the keystones of an overarching defense policy, the objective of
which is first and foremost to deter the US and its allies from blocking
Iran’s path towards regional hegemony. However, today’s weapons of
deterrence are apt to become tomorrow’s weapons of dominance.
If and when Iran perfects its own nuclear weapons, by then it will have
several reliable ballistic and cruise missiles available as means of
Nuclear Iran’s missiles will project the power of its radical,
uncompromisingly fundamentalist mastery over Israel and other US allies in
the Middle East, over the entire continent of Europe, and over the US
It is incumbent for the intended targets to stand up in defense of liberal
democracy against this looming threat.
November 29, 2006
Some said I should have my head examined after I agreed to become the chief executive of a pro-Israel advocacy group, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre. But people said the same when I joined Labour in the mid-80s.
There is never a wrong time to do the right thing and if, like me, you are convinced of Israel’s cause, then why not support Israel and why not now? I have always been a practical idealist, a non-Jew who has always believed in a two-state solution. But I have never been more concerned about the false reality many people are constructing around Israel and the Middle East, here and abroad. Our polling shows that opinion formers know that Israel is a fully functioning democracy, but care more about what Israel does than what Israel is.
Since its birth 58 years ago, Israel has always been prepared to compromise for peace. From Begin’s agreement with Sadat in 1979 to the Arafat-Barak talks at Camp David in 2000, Israeli leaders have been prepared to challenge their own people in pursuit of peace. Last summer Israel withdrew from Gaza, angry settlers and all. Yet the terror from the Gaza Strip has continued – more than 1,000 rockets have been fired into southern Israel in the past year. Since 2000, nine fatalities have been caused by Qassam missiles.
Some media have reported the panic these missiles have caused but they downplay the impact because of the small scale of fatalities compared with those on the Palestinian side. My husband, a British soldier, is currently serving a tour of duty in Iraq. His unit has come under mortar fire nearly every night for the past six months. Not many service personnel have been killed by these missiles but every soldier fears that the next one might have his or her name on it. Do you think that a child, a parent or a grandmother in one of the towns bordering Gaza thinks there have been “only” nine fatalities? Can you imagine what that does to a civilian population?
We need to think carefully about the consequences of questioning the defensive reactions of a nation-state that is constantly bombarded by an enemy calling for its destruction, especially after it has withdrawn from Lebanon and Gaza. Would we as British citizens accept a single rocket on a British town, let alone hundreds?
The commentators’ objection is that the response is “disproportionate”. But how does a nation-state defend itself against a terrorist organisation or organisations that are part of, and deliberately hide behind, ordinary citizens? Of course the Israeli military and all military forces must act ethically. But if the number of civilian casualties continues to be the main issue, there is no incentive for the terrorists to stop using the civilian population as a shield.
We live in dangerous times when, in parts of the left especially, you can’t be a friend to Islam or to Muslims unless you are anti-Israel. That is exactly what al-Qaida wants us to think. Events in Rochdale at the last election represent a microcosm of what we are sleepwalking into globally. The Islamists and the left argued that, because I supported Israel and its right to exist, all my work for my Muslim constituents was a lie. They suggested I was an opportunistic, neocon Zionist, aiming to dupe them.
Israel’s willingness to compromise for peace has never been enough, because Israel alone cannot gain peace. The Palestinians and others in the region also have to want peace. Israel needs a serious interlocutor so that peace can stand a chance. So my question to the left is this: why not concentrate your attention there, rather than on the one player in the region who has always been serious about peace?
· Lorna Fitzsimons is chief executive of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre and the former Labour MP for Rochdale
November 28, 2006
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | It was only a matter of time. Depraved Palestinians first sent young adult men wearing explosives to blow themselves up on Israeli buses and in pizza parlors. Then came the phenomenon of young women doing the same. Now a grandmother has chosen this fiendish way of death.
Fatma Omar An-Najar was a mother of nine and grandmother of more than 30. Her suicide in the Gaza Strip lightly injured three Israeli soldiers, so she failed to take “infidels” with her. But that is of little comfort. The use of a grandmother means more horror is coming.
With teenagers as young as 16 already blowing themselves up, children are next in line to become “martyrs.”
Terror masterminds are brainwashing a new generation in Muslim countries. Everything from animated cartoons to educational programs to textbooks urge young people to kill and die for Islam. Clerics preach that the fastest way to get to Paradise is Shahada, or to die for Allah. Those who do are called shahids and children as young as 8 are drinking this murderous Kool-Aid.
Newspapers, television, the Internet and even music videos routinely extol the virtues of a violent death. A show on Palestinian TV involving two 11-year-old girls offers a chilling example. According to a transcript and video clip provided by an Israeli-based group called Palestinian Media Watch, the show, which first aired in 2002, features an interviewer talking with the bright, normal-looking girls.
Interviewer: You described Shahada as something beautiful. Do you think it is beautiful?
Walla: Shahada is a very beautiful thing. Everyone yearns for Shahada. What could be better than going to Paradise?
Interviewer: What is better, peace and full rights for the Palestinian people or Shahada?
Walla: Shahada. I will achieve my rights after becoming a shahid. We won’t stay children forever.
Interviewer: Okay, Yussra, would you agree with that?
Yussra: Of course. It is a good [sweet] thing. We don’t want this world, we want the afterlife. We benefit not from this life but from the afterlife ….
Interviewer: Do you actually love death?
Yussra: Death is not Shahada.
Interviewer: No, I mean the absence after death, the physical absence, do you love death?
Yussra: No child loves death. The children of Palestine adopted the concept that this is Shahada. They believe that Shahada is very good. Every Palestinian child, say someone aged 12, says, O Lord, I would like to become a shahid.
The spread of the culture of suicide — “martyrdom” to adherents — is the most disturbing trend in the Muslim world. Starting with Hezbollah in Lebanon in the early 1980s, it has been adopted as a legitimate weapon by both Sunnis and Shiites in numerous nations, especially Iraq.
Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch, recently gave a lecture at Manhattan College to document how a celebration of suicide bombers has taken root among Palestinians in everyday life. He told of how one soccer league for 14-year-olds named its teams after suicide bombers. Wafa Idris, the first female suicide bomber, became a heroine to many Palestinians after she blew herself up and killed an 81-year-old Israeli man and wounded 100 others four years ago.
Marcus, citing a textbook for eighth-graders that says “your enemies seek life and you seek death,” called this sewer of propaganda “an impediment to peace.”
That’s an understatement. For years, conservative Israeli politicians were criticized when they claimed that “we don’t have a partner for peace.” When grandmothers strap explosives to themselves, and when children are taught to follow, the world must finally understand what they, and we, are up against.