Thursday, November 23, 2006

whats in the Turkey!

( Ottoman Sultan)

It’s Thanks Giving, and for Americans it means a national day where the whole family gathers to celebrate this national holiday by eating a Turkey.

While it is known that Thanks Giving is celebrated to commemorate the original settler’s survival in the New World.
But where did the name “Turkey” come from? What kind of relation the name Turkey has to do with the country of Turkey?

Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis wrote in the New York Review of Books in 2003 that the reason Americans or “westerners” named the exotic bird they encountered in the new world “Turkey” because for one it was a strange, exotic and unknown bird to them, and since the Ottoman Empire at the time, the 17th century, was an unfamiliar and exotic landscape for most westerns especially that the Ottoman “Turkish” Sultan was also exotic looking with his colorful turban and attire. So according to Lewis analysis, the Western pilgrims named the exotic unknown bird they encountered “Turkey” because Turkey also represented an exotic unfamiliar place to them.

A Harvard scholar however wrote that Westerners who visited turkey in the 16th and 17th century saw a native Turkish bird called "├žulluk" that looks like the Turkey bird however smaller, and when they encountered the Bird in the new world, they mistakenly thought it was the same bird.

But also, there is this theory that explains the reason for the naming mistake by the Europeans was that they called an African bird called now called " Guinea Foul" which came to Europe via Turkey as the "Turkey Cock" hence the name " Turkey" when the encountered the Turkey bird in the New World.

Interestingly, however, the Turks do not call the Turkey” Turkey”, the name for it in Turkish is “ Hindi” from “ Hind” which is India, so it is called the Indian Bird.

The reason is that the Turks thought the Bird was originated in India.

In Arabic the bird is called the Ethiopian bird “ Deek Habash” ( Deek is rooster or bird) because Ethiopia was called Abyssinia and Habash is Arabic for Abyssinia.

In Egyptian Arabic the bird is called “ Deek Roumi” which means a Roman Bird. Perhaps if I follow Bernard Lewis analysis, the Egyptians associated the bird with the westerners or even the Roman Emperor because the Roman Emperor, much like his Ottoman Sultan counterpart sported a crown and colorful attire.

( Charlemagne,Holy Roman Emperor)

In Macedonian Slavic the bird is called simply Misir which means “the Egyptian bird” (Misir, for male bird and Miserika for female) the Arabic word for Egypt is “Misir”

This like going after a wild Turkey chase!

But what do they call this worldly bird in India.

by now I thought India would have the answer to this chase, but to my utter surprise, i found that the bird does not even exist in India.

And I also found that there is no word for it in any of the Indic languages I researched!
Still, i asked few Indians i know about it.and they said that there is no Turkey or a name for it in India.

This is shocking eh!

However,the common theme I found when digging the archeological eytmology of the word “Turkey” was that in most European languages, the Bird is always called or referred to as an Indian Bird or the bird from India or from the Indian city Calcutta.

The reason for that I think it had to do with the Greeks who originally called it “Indike ornitha” which means Indian Bird.

In polish its called “Indyk” while in Russian its “Indjuk”
while in Portuguese the bird is called “Peru” named after the country Peru.

In Mandarin Chinese it is called the hu ji, which roughly translates into “fire chicken”, while in Japanese it is called shichimenchoo, which means “the Seven-sided bird”

The bird is perhaps truly native to the new World, America, but almost every country and major language in the world named him after another country that thinks is far away and exotic.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Democrats are here

It is a good day today for the Democrats. With the US national election in full bloom and the Democrats will have clear majority in the US House of representatives while the Senate, with the Democrats picking up three more seats, is still up for grab and it go either way.

The victory for the Democrats is a referendum on President George Bush’s performance and policies during his reign in the past six years.

The War in Iraq was a major factor in the Democratic sweep f the House. The sentiments of the American people were against this war and see it as a killing ground for American troops.

Republican candidates even tried to distant themselves from the unpopular president whose approval ratings kept sinking further with every new poll.

One Republican candidate even ran an add advocating leaving Iraq and “ divide the country if we have to” in order to just get rid of this nagging problem called “ Iraq”

Security and terrorism issues apparently did not top the issues for American voters, which were the Republicans strongest issues. But other domestic issues such as stem cell research, minimum wage and the economy played a major factor in the Democratic sweep of the House.

In the Arab world, the US election was followed very closely, its news topped Aljazeera broadcast as Americans were heading to the polls yesterday. But with Israeli killing off Palestinian civilians by the dozens in the town of Biet Hanoon in Gaza strip for a week now, it was hard for the US elections to remain on top of the news.

The US election will have special meaning for Iraq and its new leaders. Maliki and others in his Shia coalition have so much stock with the Republican administration. Maliki and other Shia leaders wish to see American troops remaining in Iraq until they consolidate their hold on power. But with new Congressional leaders hostile to this war, Maliki has so much to worry about now that the US congress will no longer give him a blank check anymore.

While Muqtada Sadr, the young Shia leader who’s “ Mahdi Army” is implicated in sectarian killings of Sunnis and other Shias, is looking forward for an American withdrawal from Iraq.

For the Palestinians, a democratic Congress might offer a reprieve form George Bush’s “ evangelically driven” policy regarding the Israeli Palestinian issue. Bush’s “ Vision” for peace remained just that, with his base of neo-conservative and evangelical Christians see that Israel has a divine right to occupy the Palestinians areas forever, or until Jesus comes.

The Democrats, however, are no less enthusiastic supporters of Israel than the Republicans. But without the “Evangelical baggage”. Joe Lieberman was reelected senator for Connecticut is a very staunch supporter of Israel and one of the war in Iraq biggest advocates. Despite his wining on an Independent platform, he will be caucusing with the Democrats.

Rham Emanuel, a rising Star Democrat from Illinois will end up holding key leadership position in the new Congress is a duel Israeli/American citizen and had served in the Israeli Army.

It does not look good for Palestinians regardless who is in control of the US Congress. Israel has killed over 80 Palestinian civilians in a week offensive inside the densely packed Gaza strip with no end in sight. The world stared at these tragic massacres retardedly.

The Arab world, Arab commentators argue, would like to see a more balanced approach of the US polices in the Middle East. With Democrats in power in Congress,it might put brakes on or at least slows down President Bush’s more aggressive polices in the Middle East and furthermore hasten the withdrawal of the US troops from Iraq even if that meant Iraq will plunge in a full-scale bloody civil war destroying the entire country, but that would be an Iraqi problem.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The verdict on Saddam

Perhaps history will not be kind to Saddam Hussein, but history, for certain, will register that Saddam was sentenced to death by no less brutal state than his was.

By any respectable legal standards, Saddam’s trial was a joke, a kangaroo court, but the trial was not about legality or about legal justice, it was more like “a reality vengeance show” which is now has become a norm in the tribal Iraqi society.

Iraqis have killed and dragged the dead bodies of their past leaders in the streets of Baghdad since the inception of the modern state of Iraq. Starting with the HashimiteKing Faisal in the 50s all the way until the draconian rule of Saddam took strong hold over Iraq.

No doubt that Saddam has committed grave injustices and crimes against the Iraqi people, and have killed and caused to be killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis. He deserves to be brought justice, the problem however, is that those who are administrating justice were themselves former terrorists and militia leaders who plotted, killed and assassinated Iraqis while Saddam was in power. It is an ironic twist of history.

Nouri Maliki for example, the current Iraqi prime minister himself was a terrorist who attempted to assassinate Tariq Aziz former foreign minister of Iraq during the eighties. His Iran-made-based organization, Dawaa party, has waged military campaign against Iraq from Iranian territory. If Maliki were an American citizen, his past actions (against the state, or the head of the state) would warrant a trial for high treason and he would be executed by American justice standards. He is now, however, a leader of Iraq. What is the difference is really there between him or any other new Iraqi chief and Saddam!

Since Iraqi “ liberation” 650.000 Iraqis were killed according to published reports, a staggering figure for three years worth of democracy in Iraq, and over 18 billion dollars were looted from the Iraqi oil revenues by the new rulers of Iraq. Not to mention that the “ new” Iraq is a failed state where sectarian militias and government death squads fight each other for turf and profits. The new regime cannot say that they are better than Saddam regime or that Iraq today is in better shape than it was under Saddam.

The sad reality is that the innocent victims of Saddam’s crimes, Kurds, Sunnis and Shias were victimized again when their own country is being looted, robbed, and torn into pieces by the new order of power.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Rezko and the Emir of Qatar

UPDATE:Thursday:10-19-2006, 2:30 PM
Tony Rezko had arrived at Chicago O'Hare international airport today and was taken into custody by FBI agents on charges of fraud and extortion

While the feds are awaiting the return of Tony Rezko from overseas, a sideshow is opening up about how Tony Rezko made a web of friends and contacts by using them to channel campaign donations to Chicago area politicians and to his friend governor Blagojevich. And ultimately back to him through kickbacks as the indictment alleges.

Rezko’s contacts and partners are not restricted to Arab Americans, his partners include other Americans, which he did business with and as the government alleges conspired with to commit criminal conduct.

Rezko even was trying to get the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, to partner with him in one of his businesses! He was quoted in Springfield newspaper, last year saying, "I'm planning to get him to do business in Illinois," Rezko said of the emir. After the Emir visited Springfield in May of last year.
Rezko told columnist Bernard Shoenburg of the Star Journal Register, a Springfield newspaper, that he is “ friend with the Emir”
The Emir of Qatar later made a $1 million donation to the Lincoln presidential library and Museum in Springfield.This was also reported by Chicago Tribune last year.

( Emir of Qatar)

According to the SJR newspaper in Springfield , Rezko said that he made a trip to Qatar a month before the visit, apparently trying to get the Emir to come to Springfield. And to make the $1 million donation
“The expectation is within three months he will make a donation to the museum" Rezko said then.
This appears to be true to Rezko’s fundraising pattern. Bringing the Emir to come to Springfield,have dinner with the governor and pay a million dollar. A very expensive dinner if you ask me. knowing what we know now about Rezko's "business" methods, most likely he was trying to set the unsuspecting Emir up.

What did Rezko get out of it? It remains to be seen.

Relating to Rezko –Blagojevich affair (Blzko) the Chicago Tribune ran a story yesterday about Khalil Shalabi and how he got a $78000.000 a year state job apparently as a result of his campaign work and fund raising for Blagojevich in conjunction with Tony Rezko. Khalil Shalabi is one of the leaders of the Arab American Democratic Club.

The Arab American Democratic Club was the vehicle through which some members of the Arab community worked through Rezko, to donate and collect money for Blagojevich, and now one can infer from press reports and government indictments that those donations were made with a tacit quid pro quo understanding of all parties involved.

The Arab American Democratic Club, or the Democratic Club as it is known in the community was something like of a black sheep in the Arab community. It was a private club and according to many community leaders I spoke to for this story, the Democratic club hardly had anything to do with the community.

*The Beginning
The Democratic club, started in 1994 by Ray Hanania and others among them were Khalil Shalabi, Samir Khalil, Ayoub Talhami and Miriam Zayed.The DC was organized to help Miriam Zayed who in 1994 ran for election to high school board district 230 in the southwest suburbs of Chicago.

Miriam Zayed, an active community member, well meaning and an honorable lady, did not win.But because of some disagreements among the board members Ray Hanania left and since then it became Khalil Shalabi and Samir Khalil organization.

Ayoub Talhami, now a retired city engineer was, according to many people I talked to, in it in good faith and not for personal gains. He for a long time worked for the City of Chicago, and needed no connections or clout to get a job.

The first time I met Khalil Shalabi was in the early nineties when I went to his business for a story I was writing. I am not too sure what was it about then but Maybe it was about some community squabble!

His activism with Rezko and others in this league had finally paid off in a form of a state job. But because of state’s Inspector General investigations of his professional conduct while on state payroll had recommended his dismissal. “Blagojevich is moving to fire him” The Chicago Tribune reported yesterday.

For Samir Khalil, the first time I met him was at the West 63RD street Chicago Police station when the Commander of whom I was interviewing for a story pertaining to Arab Americans, invited him to sit with us. He owned Ski Insurance agency across the street. That was in the early nineties also. He is now sitting on some fire fighters commission in Palos Hills.
Illinois Board of Election records shows that he made a $1000.00 donation to Blagojevich campaign on 9-21-02.

The Democratic club gave Blagojevich $10,500.00 since 2002 according to state records.

Ali Ata is another member of the Democratic club who had made it all the way to head a state finance commission without having any finance experience, and according to the Chicago Sun-Times investigation earlier this year he actually failed to pay mortgage on a property he owned. He resigned amid state investigation.

( Ali Ata)
According to state records, Ali Ata made a total of $ 81,750.00 donations to political candidates. 85% of it went to governor Blagojevich and his father in law Alderman Dick Mell. Blagojevich got the lion share in the total of $ 65000.00, and 34th Ward Alderman Dick Mell got $4000.00

Ata’s donations to Blagojevich:
6-30-2000----- $1000.00
7-30-2000---- $4000.00
8-20-02----- $5000.00
9-04-02---- $25000.00
7-25-03----- $25000.00
6-20-05---- $5000.00
(source: Illinois board of elections)

Alderman Dick Mell Chicago’s 34th Ward got the total of $4000.00 from Ata.

12-25-02 $ 1000.00
12-29-03 $2000.00
1-19-05 $1000.00
(Source: Illinois board of elections)

(Blagojevich's father in-law,chicago 34th ward alderman, Dick Mell)

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Blzko scandal

(Governor Blagojevich)

Tony Rezko story is making headlines in Illinois because of his powerful web of connections to most of Chicago area politicians, thanks to his donations to their political campaigns.

Since he was indicted last week, no one knows for sure where Rezko is. The FBI said that he was in an Amman Hotel; he also was reportedly in Qatar, where he is believed to be the Emir’s pal.
Rezko could go to his native Syria, and simply not comeback. In addition to his legal troubles, Rezko is in really big financial trouble. His house in the ritzy suburbs of Wilmette has over 3 million dollar lean to GE Capital after defaulting on payments. His businesses are faltering.

Rezko is also being sued by his former friend, also a native Syrian, Semir Serazi for defaulting on a million dollar loan, Serazi secured for Rezko.
Serazi, who heads the Semir and Liyla Serazi educational foundation,a businessman and a noted philanthropist,, is seeking 10 million dollars in his lawsuit.

( Semir Serazi)

Joe Duffy. Rezko’s attorney said that Rezko would be back to answer the charges mounting against him.

The question is that if Rezko goes to Syria and end up becoming a fugitive, would the Syrian government turn him in to the US despite that there is no extradition treaty with Syria.?

My guess is that the draconian Syrian government, eager to please, will gladly turn any Syrian in to any government, and might even torture him as a bonus, and a sign of good will to the Americans!

Tony Rezko is in a lot of trouble. The man has accumulated a confusing maze of companies and shell businesses that requires days of connecting them together to get a clear picture of those companies.
Rezko was awarded the "Entrepreneur of the decade " award from the Arab-American Business and professional Association.

( "Entrepreneur of the decade" Tony Rezko)

The main dough in Tony’s business is Pizza, but he was sued by the parent company,. He is also owns 7 Subway sandwich shops on Illinois toll way, thanks to his chummy connections to the governor.

Blagojevich administration was not very friendly to Arab Americans; perhaps it was to Rezko and his friends and associates whom all have gotten cushy jobs after “ donating “ some cash to the political campaign.

During the previous Republican Administration, an Arab American lady, Safia Shillo headed former lieutenant governor, Colleen Wood’s office of ethnic affairs. Safia Shillo was instrumental in helping the community to get access to government to solve social and political problems
Blagojevich came and abolished that office and fired Shillo. But to his credit he appointed other Arab Americans to state boards and commissions!!

The difference however was that those appointees were self-serving and interested in enriching themselves, and have rarely if ever helped or served the Arab American community.

The Blzko scandal is not even new in Chicago politics, which is still basically work the way it worked during Al Capone times but with heavy make-up.

Patrick Fitzgerald the assistant US attorney in Chicago, who is investigating the White House leak of Plame CIA connections, is also investigating City Hall as well as the Governor Mansion in Springfield.

( Governor Blagojevich and Rezko, ABC-7 picture)

Former Governor George Ryan is due to report to prison after the New Year to serve out his jail sentence after being convicted for corruption early this year.

Fitzgerald office has charged over 30 people for corruption in hiring schemes in the City Hall and 20 have been convicted so far.

Also this was not a very unique in the Arab American community. I mean, the City of Chicago has for many years what is called the “ The Advisory Commission on Arab affairs and Human relations” The problem is however is that the overwhelming members of the community, and the average Arab American “Billy Joe Mohammad” have never heard of it, nor have seen its “ helping hand” it’s a ghost Commission.
It is basically Daley’s men! Hardly have they done anything worthy for the community despite the major social, economical, and political upheavals the community had went through in the past few years.

( Mayor Daley)

Rezko’s scandal is just the beginning for the Governor Rod Blagojevich whose trouble started when his own father in law Alderman Richard Mill, one of Chicago's fossilized king makers accused him of corruption and money for jobs schemes after a family feud over business and political turfs.

After all, this is how it all started for former governor Ryan, whose corruption and subsequent conviction looks like a chum change comparing to Blzko scandal.

The rise and fall of Tony Rezko

Antoin “ Tony” Rezko, 51, a millionaire businessman in Chicago area was indicted on allegations that he used his influence with governor Rod Blagojevich to extort money from companies that seek business with the state.

Rezko is a key Blagojevich fundraiser and adviser, and has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the governor campaign as well as to other state and city public officials.

The indictment alleges that Rezko along with co-conspirator Stuart Levin attempted to force businesses to pay certain associates finders and consultant fees in the range of millions of dollars before in order to be approved to do business with the state.The scheme according to the indictment and reports in the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Suntimes worked like this:

Tony Rezko because of his influence with the governor recommends certain people to be appointed by the governor on State’s boards, commissions, and agencies who in turn would compel companies that seek to do business with the state to pay finder’s fees to consultants and other intermediary as well as make donations to Blagojevich campaign.

State agencies and Commissions such as the Teachers Pensions Funds have Billions of dollars to be invested. Board members appointed by governor can decided on companies that seek contracts with those commissions.

Some of this money finds its way to Rezko and Levine.
In one such cases the Chicago Tribune reported last Wednesday that:

“In one instance, the indictment alleges that Levine used his influence on the pension board in 2004 to withhold a planned allocation of $220 million in funds unless a kickback of $2 million was paid to a consultant of Rezko's and Levine's choosing or arrange for $1.5 million in campaign contributions to be made to an unnamed public official”

Rezko’s rise to prominence in the past two decades is something of an American dream success story. Born in Halab (Aleppo) Syria and moved to Chicago after high school and graduating from Illinois institute of Technology in degree in Engineering.

Rezko’s businesses and interests are wide and far, from communication company, to inner city rehab company that renovates buildings in low-income areas to Pizza. He reportedly owns between 25-30 Pizza restaurants named Papa Tony’s Pizza, after Papa John Pizza franchise terminated its affiliation with him.

Papa Tony’s Pizza is in financial trouble however, and Rezko might have sold it off.

Tony Rezko was scheduled to appear in court this past Friday but failed to appear due to his travel overseas. The FBI issued a warrant for his arrest. Patrick Fitzgerald the assistant US attorney for the Northern district of Illinois said that he will seek to designate Rizko a “ Fugitive” if he did not appear for last Friday hearing.

Rezko attorney Joseph Duffy, however, was able to convince the judge to give Rezko until the end of this week to make it back to the United Satiates to answer the charges against him.

The FBI in a statement said that Rezko was last know to have been in Amman Jordan and that he check out of his hotel and paid in cash.

Robert Grant Special agent in charge of the FBI, promised more indictments in this federal investigation dubbed “ Operation Board Game”

"This is a gathering storm of an investigation with a goal of rooting out the parasites that have plagued our public institutions," Grant said. "Our investigative efforts and those of our partners are ongoing, methodical, aggressive and relentless."

The Democratic Club
The Democratic club is an Arab American organization in Chicago area, and like its name, it is just a club of wealthy Arab American businessmen who held fundraising events for the democratic governor (last one was 2 weeks ago) and other democratic candidates.

The Democratic club seems to be a Rezko’s creature because some of the principle players in it are close associates of Rezko and were recommended and gotten state jobs by Rezko.

Ali Ata is one such associate and a Democratic club associate and who had gotten himself in a lot of trouble over his appointment to the finance commission without having any finance experience and subsequently resigned amid allegations of misconduct.

Ali Ata’s appointment would fit the pattern made by Rezko and his other associates.
They recommend people to the State jobs in order to personally profit financially and channel some of that money back to elections campaigns.

Arab Americans have long sought inclusion and access to the levers of power in Chicago politics and the state, in part to improve their lot as a community and to participate in the decisions that might effect and shape their lives.

(Ali Ata)

This however, was a scam the community had nothing to do with it nor anyone benefited from it except those who bought themselves jobs with the state.

The democratic club was not a community organization per se, it was a club of people who deliberately seek to make donations to democratic campaigns in exchange for jobs for themselves and their families.

That was the trade off.
Another new organization in the Arab community with an eye on "votes" and " Voting" American Middle Eastern Alliance, is the name of this new organization,, and is headed by Republican powerhouse, Talat Othman, and Bill Haddad a democratic cook county Judge,some of the members are : Attorney Rohey Shalabi who was appointed by Mayor Daley to the Park Distict, and Shafiq Budran of ADC.Dr.Emil Totanchi, one of the top doctors in chicago area. All of these men I personally know,and highly respect, however, the question is whether such efforts, albeit in good faith, would lead to empowerment of the community or lead to further disenfranchisement. The Rezko scandal should serve us an example that too much power sometimes corrupts the best of men.

We know from experience that Mayor Daley likes to encourage ethnic communities in Chicago to form their own Democratic organizations with the help from City Hall.

We also know that the Hispanic Democratic Organization and its founding leaders the Mayor's Hispanic hands,were under Federal investigation and indictments were issued against some of it leaders accused of corruption, giving city jobs to friends and buddies, muscles voters to vote a certain way, and practically serve as the Mayor's foot soldiers in the Hispanic community.

The Mosque Foundation and the Park district.

In another looming scandal, the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, better known as the Harlem Mosque has decided to make an unprecedented donation of $100-150.000 to the Chicago park district at the former down town airport Meigs Field which was converted (City’s bulldozers plowed the runways in the middle of the night to head off any opposition) into a park by Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley.

What’s strange about this donation is that it’s coming from a religious institution, a non-for profit entity that depends on donations of the community to run its affairs.
In addition, the Mosque is not in the city of Chicago to begin with, and has nothing to do with the city of Chicago, let alone a park in a down town area.

Opposition to this donation is spearheaded by attorney Omar Najib , an attorney and a voting member of the Mosque foundation.

Najib accuses long time Harlem’s mosque imam, Sheik Jamal Said of forcing this donation on the Mosque board for political and personal reasons.

Sheik Jamal Said is a shrewd fundraiser, under his stewardship; the Mosque has become a multi million-dollar operation. Said is known to have collected millions of dollars from the community. He collected almost 2 million dollars during a month of Ramadan alone. One million dollar in one night and in a span of one hour.!

Attorney Omar Najib told me that he is considering filing a lawsuit against Sheik Jamal Said and attorney Rohey Shalabi to prevent this donation form going through.

Rohey Shalabi is the Mosque attorney and was appointed as a Park district commissioner by Mayor Daley a few years ago.

“ I was told by Mosque members that this donation (to the park district) is a PR for the Mosque” said Omar Najib when I asked him about why would the Mosque make this donation.

But Najib thinks that there are other political reasons behind this donation, which he thinks it has to do with Sheik Jamal Said.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Reshuffling the Cards.Gaza first

(Olmert, Abbas and King Abdullah)
The recent gun fights between Fatah gunmen and Hamas gunmen not only shows the dangerous level of violence that sweeps the Palestinian areas now. The violence that claimed many dead and injured, also shows how bad the political situation has become especially after the election of Hamas to power.

Rioting on streets touting machine guns and torching down government buildings were Palestinian “ anti riot” police who were mostly Fatah loyalists and who were allegedly acting on orders from Fatah leaders to spread chaos and unrest for Hamas government in order to eventually unseat the democratically elected government.

Hamas government, which assumed power with an empty treasury, is facing the daunting task of paying salaries to an army of government employees while facing international pressure and sanctions to force it to recognize Israel.

Adding to this pressure is Abbas collusion with regional and international powers as well as Israel to isolate Hamas and eventually unseat its government.
What’s happening on the streets of Gaza were not simply acts of violence but rather part of a scheme designed to buttress Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah men, and infuse his war chest with tens of millions of hard cash and supply his loyal forces with Israeli and Jordanian weapons for a possible showdown with Hamas militants.

The plan to support Abbas against Hamas comes as part of a larger thinking that wishes to establish a broad regional alliance between Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Abbas to counter another regional alliance that is taking shape between Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah.
( Palestinian "anti riot" police, rioting)

But Hamas is chaotic and not moving forward either, its leadership in Damascus seems to be unwilling to accommodate Abbas or the regional powers other than Syrian and Iran. Hamas in unclear on how it wants to continue govern while it is unable to meet the basic necessities of the people of Gaza and the West Bank. In order to move forward and to stay a viable political power, Hamas has to show some pragmatism on some issues and must shed some of its political rigidity.

US secretary of State Condoleeza Rice who is visiting the region in these days will try to show US support and commitment to such regional alliance which will in the larger scheme of things serve the US interests in the region.
Those interests being:
1. Ensuring the safe flowing of oil at reasonable prices
2. Political stability in the region
3. Continuing unqualified support for Israel

Hezbollah’s recent success against Israeli attempts to smash it or at least weaken it made such alliance an urgent realty that prompted the US administration to call on its allies in the region to play a role in a new,active and "hostile containment" policy against the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas alliance.

Iran’s nuclear ambitions are simply red lines for US policy in the region. At no point will the US live with a nuclear-armed Iran. For the US, a nuclear Iran is like giving a certified nut a machine gun and let him loose on the street. For that, a possible confrontation with Iran is looming before the end of George Bush’s term.

Meanwhile, the Intense violence on Gaza streets should be understood in light of two major events in the region.

1: the press reported a meeting between Israeli PM Ehud Olmert and an “ extremely senior ” Saudi Official. This official some reports speculate to be Prince Bandar Ben Sultan the former ambassador to US and now advising the king on National Security, or the meeting could have occurred with King Abdullah himself. If those reports were true, it would represent a tectonic shift for the Saudi Arabian policy, and underscores the seriousness of the US policy makers intentions not to allow Iran to go nuclear and also shows a yet-offensive US posture in the region.

The Saudis are also playing their own cards in Lebanon through their ally Saad Hariri, a Saudi Citizen, and others in the March 14th movement who oppose Hezbollah.

But the problem for Saudi Arabia in Lebanon, is that it does not have any divisions on the ground, it has no military power or borders with Lebanon, and Syria is in the other camp this time around. Also Israeli internal politics will not permit yet another war, at least in the foreseeable future. Therefore any confrontationS between Hezbollah and the Saudi allies, would smash the later and put Hezbollah in power in Lebanon.

2: Recent meetings at the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba between Abbas, Israeli PM Olmert, King Abdullah, and Mubark confirms that the coordination between those powers is at the highest level and has the current US administration full backing and support.

Elsewhere,the Jordanian government is actively seeking to drive a wedge and possibly split the largest Jordanian opposition bloc, the Muslim Brotherhood, along East Bankers-West Bankers lines, in other words it seeks to isolate pro-Hamas ( a sister organization) groups within the organization through Jordification of the group in line with " Jordan First" slogan.Thus deprive Hamas of local support in Jordan.

This, however, has nothing to do with Jordan in the strategic sense, but it is related rather to the larger regional configurations that are taking place and Jordan is part of it and already on the bandwagon .

For the Palestinians they are in a loose loose situation. They will not reap any major benefits out of their compliance with the new regional formation especially that Olmert is in no mood to dismantle illegal Jewish Settlements in Palestinian lands, and is not ready to allow a viable Palestinian state to emerge. But For Abbas and others in Fatah, this has become a secondary goal.
( A hearty moment)

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sexual content on Arab satellite channels

(Originally Published by Media Monitors, Friday September 23 2005)

( May Hariri)

The subject of sex on television or in public in general in the Arab world is still in the realm of the taboo; it has always been dealt with in the mildest of manners so as not to offend the sensibilities of the Arab audience.

The Arab world is by nature and circumstance belongs to the traditional and conservative societies of the East, such as India, China, Japan and other cultures.
Arabs tend to be tradition-bound and conservative. Both Christians and Muslims
With this backdrop came the explosion of satellite channels that has entered every home in the Middle East with avalanche of good and bad programming.

Aljazeera for example comes across as a representative and respectful of popular Arab values, as well as feelings and attitudes toward current events, whether be it war, culture or religion. It is no small wonder that Aljazeera is viewed by 40 million people daily and is the number one satellite news channel in the Middle East and Arab Diaspora in the west.

Its strength seems to be coming from its understanding of its viewers taste and cultural sensibilities

At the other end, Satellite channels such as the Lebanese Broadcast channel, LBC, the Future (Mustakbal),owned by the Hariri family, ART, MBC and others MTV-like channels that peddles unprofessional, sleazy programs come across as very offensive to good taste, to Arab families and the Arab value systems in general.

The casual observer of those mostly Lebanon-based, and Dubai-based channels such as the LBC and the Future channel notice their emphasis on flavoring their programming with sexual innuendo, and sexually suggestive “entertainment”
LBC for example features “news readers” and reporters whose clothing for the most part revealing and unprofessional so as to, one might argue, to bring the attention of the audience to the “news readers” and reporters’ body features and not to the news!

Perhaps the vast majority of its shows regardless of its nature are from an Arab and Middle Eastern perspective is sexualized. We see for example women talking about the weather in tights, or semi dressed women doing a cooking show, or women in night club clothing talking about how to raise children and so on!
All that might not raise eyebrows or seems outlandish for the average American or European viewer.

Shouldn’t a news organization reflect the values of the society it operates within?
In this case it is not necessarily. Societal norms and values are of secondary importance to the owners and operators of those channels.
LBC was founded by former warlords of the Lebanese forces, a mix of Para-military and feudal bosses and Saudi investor-prince Walid Bin Talal. That alone shows that such satellite channels were created to serve and advance political agendas and not as professional news organizations.
( AlJazeera anchor Layla Al-Shayeb)

Lebanon serves as the perfect environment for such enterprises, it is a country of feuding medieval clans, who for centuries, and still today fight each other over power and treasure, and is where sexual entertainment and sexual tourism is geared toward rich playboys from the gulf and Europe to fatten up the pockets of warlords and their princely overlords.

Other channels like the Arab Radio and Television, ART, Middle East broadcast channel, MBC , are all virtually owned by Saudi royals, and, strangely all uses semi-dressed women to twist and turn, speaking in sexually suggestive tones and moves in an attempt to win an audience through sexualizing the imagination.
Conspicuously absent however, are the commercials, or the multi million-dollar advertising deals, and more importantly a rating system to determine market share and price index of airtime.

Sex sells,Freedom sexualized
It is universally true that most Television programming around the world uses sex appeal in their programming to garner a wide range of viewer ship as possible therefore increasing market share and ratings. The ratings and market share in turn will determine price and sales of advertisement.
Emily Barr, president and General Manager of ABC Television in Chicago was astonished when I asked her opinion about sexual content on some of the Arab satellite channels.

Mrs. Barr assumed that Arab Television should be more conservative than American and western ones, simply because the Arab society is generally more traditional and conservative in an Arab context.

(Freedom rally in Lebanon last year :) )

Mrs. Barr , whose news organization is number one in ratings in several news segments according to Nielsen ratings, Chicago is the third largest media market in the US, said that it was not uncommon that about fifteen years ago, for news directors to ask their women subordinates to be a bit more revealing in their dress.
That was the norm until Barbara Walters refused to go along with that idea and more and more women became news managers and news directors, and things changed toward morerespectful and professional attitude toward women in the business.

In the Arab World the trend is going in the opposite direction, news, media, and entertainment is increasingly going toward subtle and often times explicit sexual direction. At this point there seems to be no Arab Barbara Walters in sight.
Arab Satellite channels have virtually no advertising revenues, and from a business perspective they all are losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year, including Aljazeera, but the question remains why sexualizing the news and entertainment.
As a consequence, Arab and Muslim audience have to endure a barrage of sleaze and an avalanche of third-rate music videos done by third-rate singers, or “video clip” as it’s called in the Middle East.
( ALJazeera news team)

Part of the problem lies in negative westernization, which is the assumption that if Arabs imitate everything in the west, they become westernized.
This particular issue is rooted in the power relations between underdeveloped societies and super advanced European and American cultures.
The weak seems to gravitate toward the strong trying to emulate him so he can be like him and so he can reach an imagined sense of accomplishment, pride and superiority.

These segments the in Arab world and particularly in Lebanon, where this problem is more acute feel that if they act in the ways of the west ( in their mind, that basically means living a glamorous Hollywood life style) they themselves become modern and advanced. Some thinkers in the Arab and Muslim world called this phenomenon a “Westoxification”

But those westernized slices of Arab societies are misguided in their westernization. Freedoms of thought, press, opinion, or equal opportunity of citizens, let alone having the right to live as sovereign citizen in one’s own country, are all, in the modern sense, western inventions and hard won accomplishments, are almost non-existence in the Arab world.

( Flag of Saudi Arabia)
Perhaps encouraging those freedoms to take root in the Arab and Muslim world is much more important than spreading societal ills into traditional Arab homes.
The normalization of sexual promiscuity, largely perceived as a western import, in a society that is largely geared toward channeling sex into the institution of marriage, is likely to breed resentment and discontent against the west.
Another problem is that such covert-sexual programming and sexually coded music videos reach Arab homes and Arab children unencumbered and unfiltered and without warning.

(Barbara Walters)

In the absences of a rating system (as in the US) that warns parents about sexual content, and without civic organizations that monitor and lobby against such programming, there are hundreds of such organizations in the US. Moreover, the absence of Arab-wide agency similar to the United States Federal communication commission, FCC, which monitors the airwaves and fines violators of pubic indecency and public morality, the problem, will have overarching consequences.

by courtesy & © 2005 Ali Alarabi

A martyr: The hero of a people

originally published by :The Oregonian - Commentary

Friday, November 12, 2004

A martyr: The hero of a people


Yasser Arafat's life symbolized a nation struggling in pain to be born
on the world stage. He was the living, charismatic symbol of a
would-be nation. An imperfect symbol, yet the only real Palestinian
voice for the past 50 years.

His enemies portrayed him as a bloodthirsty killer, a terrorist and
the embodiment of evil. But any attempts to dehumanize Arafat, and
thus weaken him, only lifted his popularity and swelled his influence.

Surely, some parts of the world may wince at the thought of glorifying
Arafat, but to the Palestinian people he was a larger-than-life hero
who helped legitimize and internationalize the Palestinian cause.

His 40-year dominance of Palestinian politics was unrivaled; his
leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization resulted in his
people gaining a diplomatic voice on the world stage. For that, this
man should be revered, not reviled.

For tens of millions around the world, he was a romantic figure, no
different from any other guerrilla leader fighting for a national
liberation movement. In their eyes, Arafat's armed resistance was used to advance political ends and nothing more.

Arafat was no more a terrorist than Nelson Mandela, who because of his
armed resistance also was labeled as a dangerous terrorist and a thug
by the former racist South African regime. Even Charles de Gaulle was
a terrorist in the eyes of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.

Muchspeculation in the days leading up to Arafat's death focused on his
supposed vast wealth, yet his actions reflected a frugal life .

Arafat's image often suffered because one is judged by the company he
keeps. For him, that meant cronies and corrupt officials, many who
were loathed by the Palestinian people. Despite his authoritarian
rule, the opportunistic leeches that attached themselves to the cause
ultimately began to chip away at the man and his power base.

The internal problems were compounded in that he not only faced a
ruthless enemy in Israel, but also Arab rulers who plotted his death
and often attempted to control his fledging PLO through their proxy.
So Arafat had to operate in this difficult Middle East environment,
and perhaps because of it he adapted in a way unpalatable to much of
the world.

An Arab proverb sums up his world: "If you do not become a wolf, you
will be eaten by wolves." Arafat, by necessity, became a wolf for the
Palestinian cause. He was a lonely wolf, too. His predicament with the
Arab rulers drew these words from former President Carter: "I never
met an Arab leader who in private professed a desire for an
ndependent Palestinian state."

Knowing the difficulties of his cause, Arafat, by necessity, became a
realist. His pragmatism took him to work on establishing contacts with
Israeli leftists to advance peaceful relations based on United Nations
resolutions and international law.

For his enemies, Yasser Arafat will die a reviled man. But for the
long-suffering Palestinian people, he was a visionary, a martyr, a man
of conviction. He may not have succeeded in changing their lives, but
he without a doubt succeeded in changing their world.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Mr. Nasrallah's Opus

On Saturday evening, over a million and a half Lebanese gathered to hear the most popular man in the Middle East today. This man is Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah who appeared for the first time in months, an appearance came to crown his Magnum Opus ever.

According to press and security officials the crowed gathered in the southern areas of Beirut this past Saturday September, 23, was the largest ever in the history of Lebanon. They came to see and hear Hassan Nasrallah, arguably, the most popular man in the Arab and Muslim world today.

( Nasrallah Super star)

Hassan Nasrallah popularity stems from his effective leadership of Hezbollah,a group founded in 1982, after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Hezbollah is credited with liberating South Lebanon in 2000, through a war of attrition that lasted over two decades through which Hezbollah fighters honed their military and leadership skills against their Israelis nemesis.

Nasrallah who appeared for the first time publicly since the beginning of hostilities with Israel on July 12, dubbed his victory as “ Divine victory” engaging the public with his masterful rhetoric coupled with humility he is known for and dedicating the victory to the martyrs, the Lebanese, Arabs and Muslims.

( southern Beirut Saturday 9/23)

Nasrallah’s demeanor of being candid and honest appeals to the public and has been constant theme in his speeches and interviews throughout the war, in which he came across as a pan-Arab-Muslim leader, appealing to all Arabs and Muslims rallying them sometimes and often times thanking them, “the Nation” with striking simplicity and humility, a rare quality among Middle East leaders. His appeals did not go unheeded in the Arab street, It had made major difference in making the official Arab countries tone down their anti-Hezbollah rhetoric and press for cease fire after they were squarely and publicly against it.

Arabs and Muslims throughout the Middle East and around the world did not fail Nasrallah either. They took to the streets by the thousands, held up his posters; hoisted Hezbollah flags and banners proclaiming support and solidarity. This wave of support was unprecedented in the modern Middle East, for it sent shock waves in the Arab palaces and halls of power, and partly because Hezbollah, to the Arab populace, was making history that for once in their lifetime they felt they were witnessing an Arab party bloodies Israel’s nose and remains standing despite its merciless bludgeoning blows.

In commenting on Nasrallah’s speech and the ramifications of Hezbollah success against Israel; Dr. Khair aldean Hasib, president of Arab Unity Studies institute in Beirut,in an interview on Aljazeera Channel Open Dialogue program, when asked about the meaning of this success and how would it impact the future of the Arab world and perhaps the Middle East, This is an “ Earthquake” he said, “the change might not be immediate or apparent now, slowly but surely the politics of Arab World will change based on this historic event” he added. “ In Jordan, already the trade unions,and the opposition parties feel empowered in standing up to government policies, in Egypt too, the opposition has become more vociferous and emboldened by Hezbollah’s victory” added Mr. Hasib.1

Nasrallah’s first public appearance in months was not without grave risks to his life. Israel had made it known that it wants to kill the leader of Hezbollah. Acknowledging this danger, Nasrallah said, "My presence here is not without any danger. However, my heart and my soul would not allow me to address you from a distance and through some screen."

* Hidden diplomacy

Rosana Abu Munsef a columnist for Lebanese daily Al-Nahar wrote that “ there were hidden diplomacy before Nasrallah public appearance, in which there was an implied understanding that if Israel were to harm Nasrallah, the implications would be catastrophic, not only for Lebanon and Israel but also for the entire region"

" Harming Nasrallah would be considered a blatant violation of UNSC 1701 but such move on part of Israel would transform the conflict from a conflict between Hezbollah and Israel into a conflict between the state of Lebanon and Israel,which would drag the entire region into yet another destructive war" Abu Munsef added.2
unconfirmed reports claim that French fighter jets protected the Lebanese skies to deter any Israeli attempts to kill Nasrallah.

20.000 rockets and more!

In one of the most important parts of his speech; Nasrallah declared that Hezbollah is even stronger, {militarily) than it was before the start of hostilities in July 12. “ The resistance has replenished its military, organizational and firepower strength in the immediate days after the cessation of hostilities with Israel” said Nasrallah".

The resistance today is stronger than it was on July 12 the day the war started with Israel. With regard to Hezbollah rockets, Nasrallah declared that the resistance possess “over and above 20.000 rockets”

This astonishing declaration underscores Hezbollah ability of maintaining its supply routes with Syria despite extensive Israeli bombardment of all major roads and bridges that lead and connect Lebanon with Syria.

This comes after knowing that a week after the fighting broke out Israel bombed the entire road and bridge systems in Lebanon to cut off the supplies lines from Iran that runs through Syria. According to Nasrallah statement,it appears that Israel had destroyed much of Lebanon civilian infrastructure in vain.

The efforts to deprive Hezbollah of its arms, however,or at least preventing it form rearming itself were not a unilateral Israeli effort. In an almost simultaneous move with Israel, on July 12, the US administration moved to immediately trying to intercept arms shipments to Hezbollah.

On July 19, US spy satellites apparently photographed Iranian military planes being loaded with eight Chinese-designed C802 anti-ship “ Noor” missiles, the same kind of Missile that hit the Israeli ship across Beirut shores in July, and three launchers at the military terminal of Mahrebad Airport. The Turkish authorities apparently acting on a tip from the American intelligence refused to allow the transport planes to use Turkish air space on its way to Damascus. 3

This type of information about early US involvement in the war supports Hezbollah assertion that the war was preplanned and it was planned to occur in late September or early October in order to destroy Hezbollah with a preemptive strike.It also undermines Israel's casus belli to save its two captured soldiers as the reason for its massive bombardment of Lebanon.

moretellingly,the argument and analysis putforth by Seymour M. Hersh in his famed essay in August issue of The New Yorker magazine, supports this line of thinking, that the war was essentially a joint effort between Israel and the US, a war that from a US perspective, would serve as a dress rehearsal to an anticipated conflict with Iran.4.

It is no surprise that the chief of US diplomacy Ms. Condoleeza Rice refused repeated calls and resisted pressure form world leaders and from US’s Lebanese allies to convince Israel to halt its fire and agree to a some kind of cease fire especially after it became clear that Israel in its efforts to destroy Hezbollah, it was turnning the entire country of Lebanon into a one big pile of rubble.

Ms. Rice went on describing the war as a “ Birth Pangs” of the new Middle East. In Other words, the war against Hezbollah was necessary to rework the political map of the Middle east, beginning with obliterating Hezbollah or as Max Rodenbeck had put it, in that “ The Shia party will be brought to heel, and its revolutionary zeal, culturally as well as politically jarring to many Lebanese will be muted. A foreign army, and the vaunted and powerful Israeli one at that, would eliminate the last remaining nonstate actor of the civil war.” 5
( Hezbollah fighters parade)

Unfortunately for the US, Israel and their allies, Hezbollah turned out to be a tough nut to crack and a bigger surprise than they were expecting and even beat them to the punch. Thanks to years of diligence and preparation clocked in deep secrecy.

Moreover, Britain the closest US European ally was on it too. John Kempfner the Scottish writer wrote on August 7 that :

“I am told that the Israelis informed George W. Bush in advance of their plans to "destroy" Hezbollah by bombing villages in southern Lebanon. The Americans duly informed the British. So Blair knew. This exposes as a fraud the debate of the past week about calling for a ceasefire. Indeed, one of the reasons why negotiations failed in Rome was British obduracy. This has been a case not of turning a blind eye and failing to halt the onslaught, but of providing active support. 6

Hezbollah surprised even the most seasoned military observers and analysts with its performance in the battlefield and the strength of its military doctrine, logistical preparedness, level of training and the quality of its fighters.Those were matched by surprising military hardware and the quality of weapons that were not known to have had.

Hezbollah came into this war a guerrilla fighting force with a classical or regular army weapons, training,intelligence apparatus, and battle-hardened leadership.

For Hezbollah, victory means that they withstood the Israeli devastating onslaught and were at the same time able to punish Israel with painful loses to its elite units and even more devastating loses to its celebrated Mirkava tanks.

Key to understand Hezbollah's success in facing off with Israel and come out intact militarily and without any loses to its top military and political leadership include those general themes:

1. The native son : Hezbollah fighters were defending their own homes, land, towns and villages. they were not about to cut and run, this was a determined indoctrinated force.

2. Intelligence: Hezbollah has a superior Intelligence apparatus , one of the best in the region, with resources equal or even more than those of small independent countries.

Its intelligence units ran spying and code-cracking operations inside Israel and on the battle field during the war which enabled its command and control centers to react to constant military development on the battle field.

3:Training and armaments: Hezbollah has battle-hardened career soldiers with vestiges of a standing army . It also has weapons inventories that include its long range rockets that enabled it to strike back at Israel almost at will.

( South Beirut in July)

During the war and in a move that shows Hezbollah’s leadership strategic thinking and foresightedness; Hezbollah embarked on ambitious rearmament program to foil an Israeli or international attempt to prevent it from replenishing its inventories and thus weaken it in any possible future arrangements after the war.

For its part,Iran,Hezbollah's patron, fearing a Hezbollah demise, made sure that Hezbollah remains battle ready and fully equipped with Iranian weapons. Especially that a Hezbollah victory would strengthen Iran’s angling in the region and would give her the recognition it desperately wants as a regional power to be reckoned with.

For that, Western intelligence and diplomatic sources confirmed Iran's intent to supply Hezbollah with Surface-to-air-missile {SAM} systems. Also Iran, according to those sources will supply Hezbollah with Russian made SAMS including SAM-7, known as "Grail” in western military parlance, Strela-3 ( SA-14" Gremlin" ), and man portable Igla-1E ( SA-16 Gimlet) 7

*Intelligence War.

( Imad Mughaniyeh)

While fierce battles raged in the hills surrounding the southern towns of Bint Jubail, Aita al-Shaab,and Marwaheen between Israel's Mirkava tanks and Hezbollah highly mobile anti-tanks units, another cloak and dagger battle was raging between Hezbollah’s Intelligence and Israel’s Mossad and Military Intelligence.

Hezbollah intelligence capabilities has surprised even the Israelis during this war, it was widely known,however,that Hezbollah’s intelligence apparatus is much better than that of the Lebanese state and that Hezbollah’s operatives are planted deep under cover in different government agencies and security organs, Hezbollah intelligence has also infiltrated all of the Lebanese factions, which would make it very difficult for them to openly challenge them, in fact “ Hezbollah intelligence on the Lebanese factions is even better than Israel’s intelligence on those factions” noted a senior official in the Jordanian Department of General Intelligence. 8

During the first weeks of the war, Hezbollah was able to arrest and dismantle several Israeli spy rings in the Southern Beirut areas and arresting several local informants working for Israel.

Imad Mughaniyeh,one of the world’s most elusive and wanted men, whose picture is not even authenticated and no updated picture of him is known to exist;unconfirmed reports claim that Mughaniyeh is Hezbollah's Intelligence Chief . He is, also implicated in numerous acts of terrorism against US, French, Israeli targets in Lebanon and around the world. Mughaniyeh, some reports claim that he was put in charge of military operations in the south during the war.

Hezbollah also has what’s called “ Preventive Intelligence” which is something like the counter-espionage departments in western intelligence agencies. Preventive Intelligence, PI, is tasked with enforcing security and protecting the leadership and ensuring that members of the Party especially top leadership tiers rarely use communication technology that would enable Israel to spy on them. It has been rumored that Nasrallah has rarely used a telephone ever since he became the Secretary General of the group.

This strategy has paid off for Hezbollah. In an interview with Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel, Nasrallah said that Hezbollah has suffered no loses in its first, second and third tier leadership. The only loses Hezbollah sufered as far as its leadership,were four or five village commanders who were 4th-tier leadership level.9

Hezbollah seems to have learned from the PLO mistakes during its days in Lebanon in the sixties and seventies. The rakish PLO suffered catastrophic loses in its top commanders and political leaders to Israeli Mossad assassination units whose spies have infiltrated the different PLO organizations in part due to the party and thuggish life style its leaders had adopted during their days in Lebanon.

Another lesson learned from the PLO fighters who flaunted themselves everywhere they went, was for Hezbollah to remain invisible among the population and lay low to hide its capabilities therefore cause its enemies to underestimate its real strength as this war has shown.

Hezbollah intelligence units for example were able to intercept and decode Israeli transmission traffic, and militray signals during the war signifying that Hezbollah had higher military capabilities than what American and Israeli officials thought. Throughout the war Hezbollah continued to surprise Israel by deploying different types of missiles and military tactics. 9

Hezbollah intelligence breakthrough enabled its fighter’s to thwart and hunt down Israeli Mirkava tanks destroying and damaging tens of them, an embarrassing defeat to Israel’s most celebrated tank, and the pride of Israel’s military industries,considered to be a moving fortress for its heavy armor.
( Israeli Mirkava MBT series)

“ We were able to monitor Israeli communications, and we used this information to adjust our planning," said a Hezbollah commander involved in the battles. 10

One of the major military lessons that came out of this war was that a small, well-trained, well-armed determined militias can inflict and even defeat well established super powerful armies. A lesson that was madeduring the nineties in the battle of Grozny, when the mighty Russian army suffered heavey losses and was unable to defeat the Chechen guerrillas for the city of Grozny despite obliterating the entire city.

Lebanon’s other battle.

Hezbollah’s victory might not be the best thing for several Lebanese segments and politicians who view Hezbollah's emerging regional power as a threat to the fragile balance between its many religious and political groupings. During his “ Divine Victory" Speech on Saturday, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah outlined his Party’s future plans in Lebanon.

1: A National unity government
2: New national election law, which would ensure more accurate representation of different Lebanese groups.

Nasrallah is demanding, in light of Hezbollah’s victory, a major realignment of the Lebanese political system that was based on sectarian representations of the 1930s and 1940s. The Shia today represent the largest segment of the Lebanese population, almost half of the population of Lebanon. Yet they are represented by 1940’s standards when they were considered the runt of Lebanon, mostly rural and mostly poor.

Today, Hezbollah stands to demand, and perhaps forcibly, a rearrangement in Lebanon’s political system based on its new realities.

(PM Siniora and parliament speaker Berri)

The problem, for Hezbollah, however, is that the political machination in post July-war Lebanon is already being aligned and polarized. Samir Geaga, one of the Lebanon’s leading Christian politicians, and former warlord, speaking to thousands of supporters the next day on Sunday in a rebuttal to Nasrallah’s speech,addressing his supporters with: “ O’Christians” an ominous sign and a grizzly reminder of Lebanese tribal- religious warfare between 1975-1990.

Fawaz A. Gerges, a Lebanese American who teaches at Sarah Lawrence College,wrote describing the break down of state and civil society in Lebanon during its bloody civil war, 1975-1990, the following:

“ Religious coexistence gave way to estrangement and suspicion. Waving holy banners, neighbor railed against neighbor. People seized upon their communal identity in a desperate effort to self-preservation. The state of war pushed people into their sectarian bunkers and turned an open, tolerant society into a jungle”12

The future of Lebanon today depends on its leaders ability to cause Fawaz Gerges's words to come to life again, or not.


1:Al-Jazeera, Open Dialogue interview, Arabic 9/25/06
2:Annahar newspaper: Arabic, issue # 22783, 9/23/06
3: Jane’s Defense weekly, September 6 2006
4: The New Yorker magazine, issue of 2006-08-21
5:New York Review of Books Magazine, 9- 21,2006 issue
6:The New Statesman newspaper, 8/7/2006 issue
7: Jane's Defense weekly, 8/7/2006 issue
8:Jane's Defense Weekly 8/14/2006 issue
9: AlJazeera channle, Ben-Jeddo interview with Hasan Nasrallah
10:Newsday: 9/18/2006
11:Newsday 9/18/2006
12:Fawaz.A. Gerges: Journey of the Jihadest, Harcout Books, 2006

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A public apology to Palestinian Christians

( Old Palestinian Church at Yafa port)

After the unfortunate comments last week by Pope Benedict regarding his views ( or not) of Islam, things did not bode well for either Muslims or Christians.

The Pope should have known better, and perhaps ought to follow in the steps of his predecessor Pope John Paul II who was very much beloved by Christians, Muslims and Jews for his tireless work to promote dialogue and understandings between religions and nations.

Strangely and of all people around the globe some Palestinian Muslims decided to burn and destroy their fellow Palestinian churches and property!

Why! Perhaps we can call it stupidity, act of extremism and severe case of ignorance or actually all of these things.

Some Muslims who protested the Pope’s words,have proven his words to be true that they are “ violent creatures” that do not know any other way to express disagreement or discontent but only through violent means!

Aside of the validity of the Pope's remarks, which I find highly disrespectful to Muslims,let alone invalid, what’s more disrespectful, however, was the actions taken by some Muslims in torching down Christian properties in Palestine.

I find it abhorring and quite embarrassing to Palestinians and Muslims in general that Palestinians Christians came under assault, which to me represent an act of betrayal and a stab in the back.

( The late Edward Said throws a stone at the Israeli side of the border in Lebanon)

Palestinians Christians happened to be at the forefront of struggle and sacrifice for Palestinian rights and the quest for Freedom and independence.

People like world-renowned intellectual the late Edward Said who made the Palestinian cause an international issue in the academic world,and whose work inspired generations of Palestinians as well as millions of people around the world, and whose gallantry had lent itself to great many men empowering them unafraid.

Also Greek Orthodox Archbishop Atallah Hanna, one of the greatest religious leaders In Palestine today, an ardent Palestinian patriot who defended both Muslims and Christians against repeated Israeli violations, and suffered indignation and many arrests by the Israeli authorities for his patriotic zeal.

(Ray Hanania)

Here in the US, I am fortunate to know great many Christian Palestinian colleagues, friends and brothers. Men like Ray Hanania a great friend and a mentor who tirelessly worked for his Palestinians identity and cause since the early seventies and who pioneered Arab American journalism in Chicago and in the country.

My friend and professor Mazen Qmsiyeh who not only dedicate a great deal of his time to work for Palestinian freedom for both Muslims and Christians,. But also suffered professionally as a result of his work. His work and devotion continues to inspire so many people for his exemplary dedication

Palestinian poet, author, and playwrite and best friend, Natalie Handal, who lives and breathes Palestinian issues personally and professionally and whose thoughts I find very inspiring and touching every time we talk and in her deep soul I often found insights to issues of identity and exile I wrestled with over the years. for that I am deeply indebted
( Natalie Handal on a cover of her latest CD, of Arabic Musical sound and her poetry)

Through this forum, I would like to publicly and deeply apologize to my friends and to the rest of the Palestinian Christians for the transgression committed against them and their property and churches in the Palestinian areas.

This crime I am sure does not represent the feelings of the general Palestinian public or authorities. The actions of a few do not represent the will and feelings of the whole.

It would be the same thing if Christians started burning down mosques and hunt for Muslims to kill them because Bin Laden killed Christians or as he often does when preaching of hatred and terrorism!

However, one must take a hard look at the reasons behind such acts of self-destruction, and I am not talking about the Pope’s remarks.

*The man in the prison
The way I see some of the Palestinian people behavior in West Bank and Gaza, is like a grown man who was abused as a child, and have grown disturbed, and unstable because of injures and violations during his childhood.

He is a traumatized, unstable, disturbed, and often times resort to violent expressions of himself at the slightest provocation.

The cause for this man’s misery and state of insanity, is the Israeli occupation, in itself a violent enterprise, built on enslaving, humiliating and exploiting an entire segment of humanity.
(Father Atallah Hanna arrested by Israeli Police)

Over 900,000 Palestinian civilians went through the Israeli prison system in the past 30 years according to official Palestinian figures. Israeli prison system tortured, humiliated, and destroyed the lives of Palestinians who were entangled by its web of violence.

After the prison experience, the Palestinian leaves bitter, unstable, injured, his manhood shaken, his humanity taken way, and then let loose in the society to either heal on his own or stay traumatized forever by the prison experience.

Generations of Palestinians went without meaningful education because of long prison terms and constant arrests.

For such man, violence becomes the only expression he knows to express his views. He was victimized before but helpless in prison shackles, but now he is provoked and insulted, but now without the shackles so he feels free to strike back with the only way he knows best. Which is violence.

Violence restores his lost confidence and the gun becomes the symbol of his lost manhood.

Unfortunately he directs his expected act of violence at harmless holy sites belonging to people who share him his own identity, nationality and language and above all the misery of being themselves occupied and victims of the same executioner

( The late Palestinian intellectual Edward Said)

The behavior of the late Yaser Arafat and now Mahmoud Abbas’s men did not help either, they too became abusers of the Palestinian people, often times behaving like Mafia bosses, thugs and sheer criminals instead of Politicians or statesmen.

Muslims should raise funds to repair Churches

( Mosque-Yafa)

This, however, does not justify attacking Christian places of worship, and therefore Muslims should help in raising funds to repair the damage incurred by those attacks.

This should represent a token of solidarity between Christian and Muslim Palestinians.

I call on Muslim religious leaders in the US especially in Chicago to reach out to Christian Palestinian religious leaders and work together to repair those damaged churches and repair the souls too.