MideastWeb Middle East Web Log
Wednesday, December 31, 2003
In your face, Bashar Assad
"Israel wants land, not peace." That is the theme of a new anti-Israel smear campaign initiated - by right-wing Israeli Minister of Agriculture Yisrael Katz.
The revelation that Israel is planning an ambitious expansion of settlements in the Golan Heights has caused quite a stir. The Israeli economy is in trouble. The Knesset has not approved the budget, and bitter parliamentary squabbles have accompanied allocation of every Shekel. Miraculously, NIS 300 million were found to pay for 900 new housing units in the Golan heights. The timing of the announcement of this plan, so close after the the recent offer by Syrian President Bashar Assad to resume peace negotiations with Israel, was not an accident. It is evidently intended to be Israel's response to the Syrian peace offer.
How to win friends and influence people - by shooting them
The IDF almost opened up a new front - against Sweden
Last week's shooting of two protesters at the Israeli security barrier that is under construction was bad enough, but the aftermath was worse. The IDF defended its actions by saying that if they had known the protester was Israeli, they would not have shot at him, confirming the idea that it is OK to shoot Palestinians even if they are not endangering anyone's life. The IDF also revealed that it had no non-lethal weapons on hand to deal with civil disturbances, and apparently, they aren't intending to acquire any.
Monday, December 29, 2003
The Middle East in one easy lesson
[Revised and updated!] So how is a person who lives in America or Europe supposed to know what to think about the Mideast these days? It's easier than you think. First of all, don't worry about familiarizing yourself with the details. That's too time-consuming, and you have a life to live.
by Analyst @ 10:07 AM CST [Link]
Sunday, December 28, 2003
They shoot Palestinians, don't they?
Once again, Israeli forces have used inappropriate, potentially lethal force against demonstrators. IDF troops opened fire with live ammunition on demonstrators near the Palestinian village of Maasha, who were protesting the erection of the security barrier and who had begun cutting the fence, injuring two. Gil Na'amati, an Israeli from Kibbutz Re'im in the Negev, was seriously injured, and an American tourist was lightly hurt.
Thursday, December 25, 2003
Crystal Ball: What will happen in 2004
Last year, yours truly made ten predictions for 2003 - Eight out of ten were mostly correct.
This year, editors of MidEastWeb and other Middle East experts were asked to rate the probability of a larger number of events and to add their own predictions. This is our forecast for 2004
1. One or more serious Al Qaeda terror operations in the coming year though not necessarily any spectacular ones like 9-11. Everyone agreed that Al-Qaeda is still with us.
3. The US will not succeed in pacifying Iraq completely, but the situation will not go out of control. US will reduce its presence and perhaps declare "success."
The promise of the Internet, Mideastweb and Paris Hilton
Everyone who runs a Web site or Web Log wants to know if anyone is out there reading it, and MidEastWeb is no exception. This past year we had over a million visitors. That is as many visitors as we have have in all previous years together, from August 22, 1999. Our traffic statistics are not a secret, since they are displayed on the front page of MidEastWeb. A million visitors is not bad, but it is not nearly enough of course.
Monday, December 22, 2003
Prophet and Loss Statement 2003 - How good was the MEW Crystal Ball?
Last year about this time I made 10 predictions for 2003. At that time, some "experts" were predicting disaster for the US in Iraq, others predicted there would be no war, and some were even predicting victory for Amram Mitzna over Ariel Sharon. How did I do?
Lessons from Libya
Libya's disclosure of its clandestine nuclear weapons program, connected to an offer of dismantlement, promises to add another chapter to the surprisingly long list of countries that have abandoned the quest for the only true kind of weapons of mass destruction. Four states so far have handed over or dismantled existing nuclear devices. A larger number have stopped short of building them. In the Middle East, Algeria and Egypt already appear on the list, although many more such countries can be found in Latin America, Europe, and East Asia.
Libya's move is positive at any number of levels. Among other things, it helps to undermine the usual rationale put forward for Iranian nuclear weapons -- if Israel has them, then Muslim states in the region must also have them. But these revelations also offer signs of deeper troubles that threaten to accelerate the spread of nuclear weapons worldwide.
by Analyst @ 12:55 PM CST [Link]
Sunday, December 21, 2003
Sharon's unilateralism: What it means
Israeli PM Ariel Sharon delivered his long awaited speech last week concerning his new "plan" for dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. The bottom line of the speech is that if there is no progress in implementing the quartet road map. Israel will "move" some settlements that are difficult to defend and withdraw to as yet undefined borders that are secured by the famous and infamous security fence-wall-barrier and other physical barriers.
Urgent - Help Jailed Bangladesh Journalist
Jailed Bangladesh journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury needs your help. His is being held without bail in trying conditions, his health is failing, and he has been undergoing "interrogation" for over three weeks. He was arrested because of his attempt to travel to Israel and to speak about the role of the media in peace efforts at a conference organized by IFLAC, an Israeli and international non-government group that promotes dialog.
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
America stands alone in Iraq
If nothing else, the capture of Saddam offers a nice excuse to pause for a moment's reflection on what we have seen unfold in the last year or so. It's not pretty. We in the United States walked into a trap of our own making. And let's not fool ourselves: it's overwhelmingly likely that America will continue to face a very difficult series of problems in Iraq on its own. To paraphrase Vice President Dick Cheney, help is not on the way.
by Analyst @ 07:17 AM CST [Link]
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Israeli security Experts: Israeli withdrawal is a security necessity.
The annual conference on Israeli Security and Strength is a stronghold of conservative Israeli opinion on defense issues. The speakers are security professionals and defense experts, not peace activists or amateur political pundists. Remarkably, speakers this year showed agreement on the need for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories. This view is in marked contrast to the position of certain right-wing Zionist groups, who would have us believe that the territories are a must for Israeli security.
Behind McNamara's "no comment" on Iraq
In a recent interview with US News & World Report, Vietnam-era Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara explained that he doesn't feel it that it's appropriate for him to comment on the conduct of the war in Iraq. But it's not too hard to guess what he probably thinks, based on his own experiences and the conclusions he has drawn about them. In his unique 1995 book In Retrospect, McNamara listed eleven lessons from Vietnam that are very much worth reflecting on.
by Analyst @ 06:05 AM CST [Link]
Monday, December 15, 2003
Saddam: Back to Business as Usual
On the day following the announcement of the capture of Saddam Hussein, two more horrendous explosions rocked Iraqi police stations, killing nine and signalling to everyone that American problems in Iraq are not over yet. It was naive to expect that the capture of Saddam would end the murderous "resistance." Very likely, he did not personally run the resistance movement from his hiding holes, but had set up a network that still remains intact. Of course, Saddam's people are not the only ones who have a motive to fight the American occupation, and they undoubtedly attracted support from Iraqis who were disgruntled with heavy-handed coalition tactics, but the Ba'ath party is still the most likely candidate for being the hard core of the resistance.
Sunday, December 14, 2003
In Saddam's prison
The brief re-emergence of Saddam into daylight calls to mind the reaction of some Iraqis to the fall of his regime last spring. They searched furiously for missing relatives, convinced they were hidden in underground prisons.
by Analyst @ 03:48 PM CST [Link]
Saddam Hussein Captured Alive
[December 14] Saddam Hussein, former ruler of Iraq, has been captured alive in or near Tikrit by US forces, apparently assisted by Kurdish guerilla forces. President Bush has announced the capture of Saddam. At a press conference that began this moment in Baghdad by the US provisional government, Paul Bremer announced "Ladies and Gentlemen - We got him."
Friday, December 12, 2003
What's a Wahhabi?
Living in America, Europe, or the Middle East in this decade should give us all a better sense of what Europe must have been like in the 1930s. It's particularly disconcerting to observe allegedly thinking people display a penchant for the construction and dissemination of convoluted ideologies involving imaginary enemies.
To be more precise, intellectuals have begun to develop pseudo-scholarly systems of classification for the identification of a Satanic foe, which corresponds to a greater or lesser degree to real people. Today's discussion starts with "Wahhabi."
by Analyst @ 09:46 PM CST [Link]
Geneva and the Fence: two non-solutions
The critics say that the Geneva Accords solve nothing. Are they right?
The critics say that the "separation fence" solves nothing. Are they right?
Strictly speaking, and for different reasons, both are right. Neither approach is a solution to the problems of Israel and the Palestinians.
by Analyst @ 06:25 AM CST [Link]
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Geneva Accord: Spelling out the real alternatives
For the past three years it seemed Palestinians and Israelis could not agree on anything, other than the fact that they could not agree. News coming out of our area focused on suicide bombings, lynchings, kidnappings, transfer plans, house demolitions, closures, assassinations, incursions and other tragedies, that created daily media happenings for hate and despair. The opponents of peace used the failure of the Oslo talks and the violence to build a case that agreement is impossible in principle. So-called "one-state solutions" that really spell genocide for Jews or Palestinians proliferated.
Monday, December 8, 2003
ANTI-AMERICANISM IN CONTEMPORARY SAUDI ARABIA
Saudi Arabia has been rocked by terrorist acts and demands for reform, as increasing discontent with the rule of the US-backed Saud family is exploited by extremists. MidEastWeb News Service editor Josh Pollack gives the background for the rise of anti-Amercianism in this article in the MIDDLE EAST REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS (MERIA). [more]
The Apostasy of Ehud Olmert
The process of awakening to reality, aka the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, will take many years, and it has many aspects. Last week there were two major breakthroughs. They are unofficial breakthroughs to be sure, but very important ones. Palestinian political figures agreed to the Geneva Accord, which essentially gives up on the right of return of Palestinian refugees and recognizes the state of Israel.
Sunday, December 7, 2003
The Hudna Bust & Why it Happened
Palestinian factions met in Cairo over the weekend to discuss a truce with Israel. All of the omens for this truce were right, according to those who read the entrails in this part of the world, as Zvi Bar'el explained in Ha'aretz newspaper. Pressure produced by the Geneva accords, American pressure on Israel, success of Ahmed Qurei and whatever else once could hope for. There were even no Israeli assassinations of late. Bar'el explained precisely why there would be a truce. He was so sure there would be a true that he titled his article "Upgraded Hudna lets both sides claim victory."
The latest reason America is in Iraq
At first it was the irrational fear that Saddam would unleash a "mushroom cloud" over an American city. Once the mushrooms failed to materialize, it became the promotion of democracy in Iraq. Then it became the need to fight terrorists wherever they challenge us. Then it was the promotion of democracy throughout the Middle East. But almost unnoticed amidst his Thanksgiving theatrics at the Baghdad airport, President George W. Bush declared yet another reason to keep Americans slogging in Iraq: sheer stubbornness. [more]
by Analyst @ 09:05 PM CST [Link]
Monday, December 1, 2003
Today there is a launching ceremony for the "Geneva Accord" in Geneva, Switzerland, a semi-private exercise in peace making led by Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abd Rabbo. The document is still incomplete, but already it has has had an undeniable significant effect on Israeli and Palestinian politics. Israel Labor party bigwigs including Shimon Peres, Benjamin Ben Eliezer and Ehud Barak condemned the agreement, but the Labor party then adopted major provisions of the accord for its platform. Palestinian hardliners fulminated against the "betrayal" of Palestinian rights, but Yasser Arafat gave his approval for Fatah officials to attend the ceremony.
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