Majesty and massacre at Maroun al Ras

Majesty and massacre at Maroun al Ras

Franklin Lamb at the Lebanon-Palestine border

Maroun al Ras is a beautiful hillside Lebanese village on the border with
Palestine. 63 years ago today its villagers lifted their lights to welcome
ethnically cleansed Palestinians, who were part of the approximately 129,000
from 531 Zionist pillaged and destroyed villages who sought temporary refuge in Lebanon. A similar number of Palestinian expellees entered Syria a few miles to the West and another half million were forced into Jordan and Gaza.

On Sunday May 15, 2011, in observance of Nakba (Catastrophe) Day, Maroun

al Ras welcomed approximately 27% of all the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, this time coming from the opposite direction heading back toward their homes in Palestine. Palestinians in Lebanon now number approximately
248,000, approximately half of whom live in 12 squalid camps (and as many

so-called, unofficial “gatherings”), although 423,000 remain registered with


The discrepancy in numbers is explained by the fact that Lebanon’s

Palestinian refugees, without any of the most elementary civil rights, in gross
violation of international Law, Lebanon’s Constitution, and bi-lateral and

multilateral agreements, tend to leave Lebanon to seek work, decent housing,
and a better life whenever they are able to secure a visa to Europe or

For a majority of the more than 72,000 (some estimates this morning exceed

100,000 because many refugees and supporters traveled south independently

and did not register or use provided transportation) arriving from all the
camps and corners of Lebanon, in more than 1200 buses & vans, and many
on foot, it was their first sighting of their country.  Lebanon law has long

prevented Palestinians from coming anywhere near the blue line to even look
towards their stolen homes and lands or to cross the Litani River north of
Tyre. This year, for one day only, the Lebanese authorities reluctantly
decided not to interfere with this human rights project.

For the teen-agers on the crowded bus I rode on from Shatila Camp, the

stories and descriptions of Palestine told by their parents and grandparents

was what they talked about.

As we approached Maroun al Ras, some of them were anxious, others silent and reflective, and some, like many teenagers from my generation about to see the Beatles or Elvis were giddy and squealing as the bus rounded a bend in the road south of Aitayoun and we looked to the approaching hills.

“Is that my country Palestine over there?,” Ahmad, a graduate in Engineering
who was born in Shatila camp asked. “Nam Habibi!” (“Yes Dear!”) came the
reply from the microphone of our “bus mother” gripping her clip board and
checking the names to keep track of her flock. This bus seemed to inflate
with delirium as we all smiled and shouted. Some of the passengers had
prepared signs that read: “People want to return to Palestine,” inspired perhaps by the slogan made famous in Egypt and Tunisia, “People want the fall of the regime.”

The esprit was reminiscent of a Mississippi freedom ride James Farmer of
CORE used to tell us about and I thought of Ben Gurion’s boast from 1948
that the old will die and the young will forget Palestine.  The Zionist

leader could not have been more mistaken. The old, many still vital, continue

to teach and inspire the young from their still-remembered stories, guaranteeing that the dream of every Palestinian shall never die.

The organizers from the camps did a tremendous job, but no one could have
anticipated the huge numbers who would participate in this truly historic

and likely region-changing event that was also fueled by Facebook, Tweets

and text messages.

All the Palestinian organizations and factions were united for this project.

Hezbollah kept a low profile so as to keep the focus on the Nakba. However,
when the organizers discovered a shortage of buses last week Hezbollah

arranged for more, even bringing some from Syria, where more than 800 buses were used yesterday to take Palestinians from Syria’s 10 Palestinians camps,

including Yarmouk, to the Syrian Golan border with occupied Palestine.

At certain points along the narrow and winding village roads in South
Lebanon the convoy would pause and Hezbollah members would appear and
distribute bottles of water, fresh croissants and large chocolate-filled
cookies.  They also did traffic control work and provided civil defense and
medical services as needed.  One imagines it was their guys who erected the
nifty new road signs throughout the South that showed the distance to
Palestine with an arrow pointing toward Jerusalem.  Whenever the buses
would pass one of the signs that read in Arabic and English, for example,
“Palestine: 23 km”, our bus would erupt in cheers.

The Mabarat Charity, founded by the late scholar Mohammad Hussein

Fadlallah, who was from the village of Bint Jbeil near Maron al Ras, operates
several gas stations, the proceeds of which are used to support orphans,
discounted gas on Nakba Day for the hundreds of buses & vans.

It is difficult to exaggerate the camaraderie, emotion and sheer power of
the event. The came to renew their commitment and send the world a message that they are determined to return to their land no matter the sacrifices required. For some coming to see Palestine, including some of those who have been forced out of their homes and off their lands, 63 years ago, it appeared to be almost a sacred and religious act.

One man, who appeared to be in his 80’s stood not far from me and gazed
toward his stolen land near Akka, seen in the distance.  Suddenly he slumped
to the ground. Two of us elevated his legs and tried to make him comfortable
on the rocky ground until first aid arrived.

My best friend in Shatila camp, Zeinab Hajj, whose father walked from his
village of Amouka near Safad as a child, stared toward Safad also visible in
the distance.  Tears ran down Zeinabs cheeks as she gazed at her village. It
was a common site among the old and the young.  Even toddlers whose parents wanted them to witness and be part of this historic day appeared to grasp its solemnity and importance.

For the large American contingent and other international guests observing
Nakba Day 2011 at Maroun al Ras , it was a majestic and cherished experience.

However as the World soon learned, 10 Palestinians were killed by Israeli
snipers and more than 120 wounded, some critically. None of the demonstrators
had weapons. Those murdered were all civilians from the camps and were

shot in cold blood as they nonviolently placed Palestinian flags at the fence and

gave the peace and victory sign. After Israeli troops fired on them, some threw
rocks at the soldiers. Fortunately some lives were saved by a field hospital
affiliated with the group, the Martyr Salah Ghandour Hospital, from nearby
Bint Jbeil.

Zionist occupation forces, some peering out from behind trees or barriers,
could be clearly seen by those gathered near the blue line at Maroun Al Ras.
One knowledgeable source informed this observer that unseen Hezbollah
resistance fighters at one time yesterday afternoon had as many as 32 Israelis

in the cross-hairs as they silently watched what was happening but did
not fire which would only have accommodated Israel’s deadly intent.

Meanwhile, Lebanon has filed a complaint against Israel with the UN Security

Council calling on it to pressure Israel to stop its hostile and provocative

policies against Lebanon and hold it accountable for killing civilians. Today
is a day of general strikes in the camps in mourning for the victims who
were killed with funerals being held in the refugee camps of al-Bass,
Burj al-Shemali, Mieh Mieh and Ain al-Hilweh. All UNWRA schools are

Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah commended Lebanon’s

Palestinians this morning as he explained his interpretation of Nakba Day

“You do not accept a homeland other than Palestine, and so let no
one fear naturalization in Lebanon because your firm decision is to
return. Your loud and clear message to the enemy is that you are
determined to liberate the land no matter what the sacrifices are; and
the fate of this entity (enemy) is demise and that no initiatives, treaties

or borders will protect it. Your return to Palestine is [an] inalienable

right, and its realization has become closer than any other time.“
Hassan Nasrallah’s words require that Lebanon’s next Parliament, with the

full, active, direct, and unequivocal support of Hezbollah, immediately
repeal the racist and discriminatory  2001 law that outlaws home ownership
for Palestinians in Lebanon and that Lebanon’s Palestinians be immediately
granted the right to work just as all refugees do globally and all foreigners
in Lebanon enjoy.

There must be no more resistance to Palestinians being granted the
elementary right to work and to own a home.  Yesterday at Maroun al Ras
Lebanon’s Palestinians once again earned the right to live in dignity and

care for their families until The Return. As the Palestinians continue their

struggle for elementary civil rights here in the inhumane camps of Lebanon,

they and the advocates are heartened by Nasrallah’s words of a few
hours ago:

“We are with you, and by your side. We are happy for your happiness
and sad for your sadness, we carry with you the same hopes and
pains, and move on together in the path of resistance so that we
continue our victories and liberate all our land and sanctities.”
Hopefully Lebanon’s Palestinian refugees will after 63 years in Lebanon be
granted internationally mandated civil rights.

Franklin Lamb is doing research in Lebanon and is reachable c/o

Ukraine To Receive No IMF Injection Until It Submits to Draconian Austerity Measures

[SEE:  XE Report]

IMF rep says no talks with Ukraine until reforms passed


May 16 (Reuters) – Ukraine must pass vital financial and pension reforms before it can resume talks with the International Monetary Fund to resume a suspended loan programme, the IMF’s country representative said on Monday.

Max Alier said there had been no IMF missions to Kiev since February and none were planned until after the reforms were passed. “As of now, we’re waiting for progress… before we set up dates for the (next) mission,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of Adam Smith Conferences’ Ukrainian Investment Summit.

Ukraine’s $15 billion IMF programme has been effectively frozen by Kiev’s refusal to implement unpopular austerity measures such as raising the retirement age and hiking consumer gas prices by 50 percent.

The IMF refused to release a $1.6 billion loan tranche scheduled in March after the government failed to pass a pension reform bill and watered down gas price increases for households.

“Structural reforms have been lagging, not for the last two years but for a number of years,” Alier told the conference.

He said Ukraine needed to bring down its “outrageous” level of pension expenditure, which at 18 percent of gross domestic product is one of the highest in the world.

“This (reform) is very important for Ukraine’s medium-term sustainability,” Alier said.

Savings from a reduction of pension spending could be better deployed to infrastructure, health and education, he added.

The IMF also wants Kiev to repeal a measure introduced during the financial crisis that required the central bank to buy recapitalisation bonds from banks.

“This is an extraordinary measure that made sense during the crisis and was meant to expire end-2010,” he said.

Alier also warned that Ukraine’s non-performing bank loan levels (NPL) were high.

Though international bad debt measures are not strictly comparable, Ukraine’s NPL level may be about 30 percent of total loans, he said. Ukraine’s hryvnia currency has been under pressure since March when the IMF suspended the loan disbursement.

(Reporting by Sebastian Tong; editing by John Stonestreet)

Will India Continue to Rise Peacefully?

Will India Continue to Rise Peacefully?


The 21st century’s great shift of power from West to East is not limited to China alone. The Asian century also belongs to India. 

Already the world’s fourth-largest economy, India has continued to grow swiftly even after the financial crisis, expanding at 8-9 percent annually. With more than 60 percent of its population younger than 35, it possesses the world’s most potent demographic dividend. Its recent affluence has also increased India’s appetite for military power. India’s annual defense expenditure stands at $30 billion today, or 2 percent of global defense spending, making it the world’s biggest importer of arms. From 2006-2010, India accounted for 9 percent of the global arms trade. After the Indo-U.S. civilian nuclear agreement, India stands as a de facto nuclear weapons state, and almost all Security Council veto holdershave accepted India’s candidacy for a permanent seat on the council.

Compared to that of China, few feel threatened by India’s rise. The China-threat syndrome defines the new geopolitical reality. In fact, the rhetoric of China’s avowedly peaceful rise suggests Beijing is wary of the negative fallout from perceptions of a hostile China. India’s rise, in contrast, has been welcomed as a necessary counterweight to China and as a sign of an egalitarian world in the making. The absence of an official narrative on India’s global trajectory suggests that even New Delhi’s leadership believes that India’s rise will be inherently peaceful.

Why is a rising India not considered a threat when a growing China is?

First, India is a democracy, whereas China is an authoritarian state. India’s democratic credentials engender an extremely positive image around the world, especially among liberal democracies — plainly visible in the recent bonhomie between the U.S. and India. Democracy is India’s most important soft power resource. China’s opaque political system, on the other hand, acts as a threat multiplier.

Second, whereas the Indian government’s legitimacy rests on the free will of its people, China derives its state authority from constant policing of its citizenry and its ability to satisfy their growing material demands. Many fear that Beijing would resort to a belligerent, hypernationalist foreign policy if it lost its domestic credibility, a tendency evident in China’s ubiquitous anti-Japan protests.

Finally, as Stephen Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta argue in their book “Arming Without Aiming,” India practices a policy of strategic restraint on security matters. Even after a complete victory over Pakistan during the liberation of Bangladesh, India did not press for a solution to the Kashmir problem. China, however, is extremely assertive on issues it considers vital to its sovereignty. Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan, Diaoyu and the South China Sea are manifestations of China’s acute sovereign anxieties. The threat of the use of force if disputes are not solved amicably has been a constant in China’s narrative. From the time of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, New Delhi has always relegated force to the backdrop.

However, the influence of India’s democratic dividend should not be exaggerated. Two factors can complicate India’s peaceful rise.

First is the role of increasing power capabilities. India is still not powerful enough to be a serious threat to other dominant powers. Whereas China has achieved a degree of relative autonomy in global affairs, India’s growth trajectory is dependent on other states. Because India’s power capabilities are still underdeveloped — at least compared to China’s — few states consider it a serious threat. By the same logic, Indian decision-makers also desist from openly challenging the current world order, even when their worldview is at odds with the West’s, as evident in the impasse on Doha Development Round and India’s criticism of interventions in the Middle East.

India’s current strategy is to bandwagon with other liberal democracies to ensure its ascent. The history of international politics tells us, though, that rising states often turn aggressive. Wilhelmine Germany and contemporary China fit this bill. If India’s rise continues, delusions of power may lead it to be assertive in its neighborhood and around the Indian Ocean. Pakistan’s apprehension toward India’s continuous growth is not without reason, and other smaller South Asian countries are courting China to counterbalance India. In fact, the narrative of rising power is slowly percolating in New Delhi as it pursues a colossal military buildup. Remarks by the chief of the Indian army in the aftermath of Osama bin Laden’s death, indicating that India has the capability to undertake U.S.-like surgical strikes in Pakistan, are a case in point. As India’s power grows, so will its appetite for power projection — and other states’ anxieties.

Second, when power and nationalism collide, the results are often explosive. India’s democracy does not shield it from deleterious nationalism. India’s nuclear weapons tests are an apt example. Although the 1974 nuclear test aimed primarily to bail out an incompetent and corrupt government by fomenting nuclear nationalism, the 1998 tests were motivated by the Bhartiya Janta Party’s desire to brand itself as the symbol of a muscular — Hindu — India. The “maximalists,” as eminent Indian scholar Kanti Bajpayee calls them, believe in an open-ended nuclear arsenal to deter the U.S., as well as China and Pakistan.

The recent rise of Hindu extremism and nationalism threatens the secular and democratic fabric of the Indian state, as illustrated by the 2001 Godhra riots and killings of minority Muslims in Gujarat state. Pakistan and China have been the primary targets of India’s right-wing nationalists, but the U.S. has also received flak for its terror policies and for cajoling China at India’s expense. If India’s economy stagnates or religious polarization accelerates, the increasing hold of right-wing Hindu fundamentalists on domestic politics may result in an overtly hostile foreign policy.

To sustain its peaceful rise, India needs to shield itself from the ill effects of delusional power and crude nationalism. The time has come for a rising India to think thoroughly about its role in the future global order and the peaceful mechanisms it must employ to achieve its desired ends.

Yogesh Joshi is a graduate student at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and a CSIS-Pacific Forum Young Leader. 

Photo: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao at the BRIC summit, June 2009, Yekaterinburg, Russia (photo by the Web site of the president of the Russian Federation).

Nuclear power park at Jaitapur is a serious mistake

Nuclear power park at Jaitapur is a serious mistake


I am taking the unusual step of sending this direct request because I believe that the announcement by the PMO on the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl, to continue with the proposed French-built nuclear power park at Jaitapur is a serious mistake with long term implications for our people.[1]
Along with several others I participated in the “Tarapur to Jaitapur” Yatra (march) in Maharashtra, to protest against the proposed nuclear plant in Jaitapur.[2] We did not reach Jaitapur because many of us were detained/arrested for participating in this peaceful protest.[3]
It is well known that the Jaitapur nuclear plant is on an earthquake-prone zone [4] and the French EPR reactors have not yet been tested anywhere in the world.[5] Surprisingly the government has rejected the demands to cancel the project, which will result in the loss of land and livelihoods for many. Further, the government has shown disregard for the views of the many scientists, academics, military and other citizens from the rest of the country calling for a review of its earlier decisions on nuclear power plants.
Apart from announcing the creation of an independent regulatory board to ensure safety standards, the government has taken no action on the widespread demand for a complete fresh review of nuclear energy policy in the country. We need to tell Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that he cannot ignore serious concerns raised by the people of this country. You should send a fax to the PM asking him to stop the Jaitapur nuclear plant.
Add your signature to the message and we will fax it to the PM for you. 73,000 petition signatures opposing this plant have already been delivered to the PM.[6] Now a large number of faxes asking him to stop the plant will make it difficult for him ignore the demand.
Safe and clean renewable energy options and energy efficiency can help meet our energy demands, all of which are available and at a much lower cost than nuclear[7]. The government needs to invest in these instead of dangerous nuclear energy. Tell the PM to stop this dangerous plant now!

Thank you for taking action!

Admiral L. Ramdas,
Former Chief of Naval Staff,
Indian Navy.

Japan’s Fukushima crisis drives protests over world’s largest nuclear plant in India

Japan’s Fukushima crisis drives protests over world’s largest nuclear plant in India

Even as Japan has decided to forgo nuclear expansion following the Fukushima crisis, India’s government is insisting it will proceed with the world’s largest nuclear facility despite mounting public opposition.

A woman shouts slogans during an anti-nuclear protest in Mumbai April 26. India will tighten safety systems at a proposed $10 billion nuclear plant, potentially the world’s largest, a minister said on Tuesday, after protests against the plan turned violent in recent weeks following last month’s nuclear disaster in Japan. Clashes between protesters and police in April killed one person and injured at least 20 near the plant site in Jaitapur, western India, where anger over land acquisition has intensified on fears of a similar disaster.

Vivek Prakash/Reuters

By Aarti Betigeri

New DelhiJapan’s nuclear crisis has influenced a protest movement in India that is violently opposing plans to build the world’s largest nuclear plant. As international agencies eye India’s growing energy market, they’ll also be watching how India responds to this case.

India’s break-neck growth has driven an intense need for energy – and nuclear power has been accepted within the country as a suitable and clean way to deliver this. But in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, citizens in and around Jaitapur, the seismic activity-prone region where the Indian government plans to build a 9,900 mega watt power station, are upset.Tensions came to a head in mid-April when one antinuclear demonstrator was killed during a protest, and several others were injured.

“The locals, especially after what’s happened in Fukushima, are not of two minds. They simply don’t want it,” says Greenpeace India activist Vinuta Gopal. “They see nothing to gain from it, and everything to lose,” she says. On top of that, “India certainly doesn’t have [Japan's] capacity for disaster management preparedness.”

RELATED Top 10 most nuclear-dependent nations

India has 20 nuclear plants in operation, providing only about 3 percent of the country’s energy. Another 23 are on the way, according to a former government minister, as the country attempts to more than double its reliance on nuclear power by 2030. The Indian government and nuclear reactor builder Areva, a French company, plan to start construction of the $12 billion Jaitapur facility in 2018 or 2019, despite the heated protests.

In an effort to help assuage concerns, the Indian government has promised it will undertake a safety review of all plants and reimburse those displaced through land acquisition.

But, so far, locals say that hasn’t been enough. They can’t seem to keep from bringing up what happened to the fishing and agriculture industry in Fukushima.

“We have been offered compensation for giving up our land, but only around 122 of 2,335 districts have accepted the money,” says Jaitapur-based farmer Pravin Gavankar. “We don’t want a plant, and we don’t want their money.”

Indeed, similar to the towns near the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, Jaitapur is located about 250 miles south of India’s financial capital Mumbai, on a scenic coastal stretch, and it is home to thriving agriculture and fishing industries. If a sophisticated nation like Japan can’t deal with a potential nuclear catastrophe, they reason, just how would India fare?

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TEPCO Admits Cores Damaged at Three Reactors


TOKYO—Substantial damage to the fuel cores at two additional reactors of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex has taken place, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Sunday, further complicating the already daunting task of bringing them to a safe shutdown while avoiding the release of high levels of radioactivity. The revelation followed an acknowledgment on Thursday that a similar meltdown of the core took place at unit No. 1.

Junichi Matsumoto, an official of Tokyo Electric Power Co. listens to questions during a press conference regarding the meltdown of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant at the company headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, May 13, 2011.
European Pressphoto Agency

Workers also found that the No. 1 unit’s reactor building is flooded in the basement, reinforcing the suspicion that the containment vessel is damaged and leaking highly radioactive water.

The revelations are likely to force an overhaul of the six- to nine-month blueprint for bringing the reactors to a safe shutdown stage and end the release of radioactive materials. The original plan, announced in mid-April, was due to be revised May 17.

The operator, known as Tepco, said the No. 1 unit lost its reactor core 16 hours after the plant was struck by a magnitude-9 earthquake and a giant tsunami on the afternoon of March 11.

The pressure vessel a cylindrical steel container that holds nuclear fuel, “is likely to be damaged and leaking water at units Nos. 2 and 3,” said Junichi Matsumoto, Tepco spokesman on nuclear issues, in a news briefing Sunday.

He also said there could be far less cooling water in the pressure vessels of Nos. 2 and 3, indicating there are holes at the bottom of these vessels, with thousands of tons of water pumped into these reactors mostly leaking out.

Tepco found the basement of the unit No. 1 reactor building flooded with 4.2 meters of water. It isn’t clear where the water came from, but leaks are suspected in pipes running in and out of the containment vessel, a beaker-shaped steel structure that holds the pressure vessel.

The water flooding the basement is believed to be highly radioactive. Workers were unable to observe the flooding situation because of strong radiation coming out of the water, Tepco said.

A survey conducted by an unmanned robot Friday found radiation levels of 1,000 to 2,000 millisieverts per hour in some parts of the ground level of unit No. 1, a level that would be highly dangerous for any worker nearby. Japan has placed an annual allowable dosage limit of 250 millisieverts for workers.

The high level of radioactivity means even more challenges for Tepco’s bid to set up a continuous cooling system that won’t threaten radiation leaks into the environment.

Tepco separately released its analysis on the timeline of the meltdown at unit No. 1. According to the analysis, the reactor core, or the nuclear fuel, was exposed to the air within five hours after the plant was struck by the earthquake. The temperature inside the core reached 2,800 degrees Celsius in six hours, causing the fuel pellets to melt away rapidly.

Within 16 hours, the reactor core melted, dropped to the bottom of the pressure vessel and created a hole there. By then, an operation to pump water into the reactor was under way. This prevented the worst-case scenario, in which the overheating fuel would melt its way through the vessels and discharge large volumes of radiation outside.

The nuclear industry lacks a technical definition for a full meltdown, but the term is generally understood to mean that radioactive fuel has breached containment measures, resulting in a massive release of fuel.

“Without the injection of water [by fire trucks], a more disastrous event could have ensued,” said Mr. Matsumoto.

Tepco also released its analysis of a hydrogen explosion that occurred at unit No. 4, despite the fact that the unit was in maintenance and that nuclear fuel stored in the storage pool was largely intact.

According to Tepco, hyrogen produced in the overheating of the reactor core at unit 3 flowed through a gas-treatment line and entered unit No. 4 because of a breakdown of valves. Hydrogen leaked from ducts in the second, third and fourth floors of the reactor building at unit No. 4 and ignited a massive explosion.

Zionist Borders Quiet Today, So Far—(Monday)

Border Region Quiet as Palestinians Declare Day of Mourning













The Israeli military said Monday that Israel’s frontiers are quiet the same day Palestinian camps across Lebanon declared a day of mourning as families of 10 people killed when Israeli troops opened fire on protesters at the border prepared to bury their dead.
"Today is a day of general strikes in the camps in mourning for the victims who were killed by the enemy," Fatah commander in Lebanon Munir Maqdah, who is based in the notorious refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh, told Agence France Presse.
Funerals will be held Monday in the refugee camps of al-Bass, Burj al-Shemali, Mieh Mieh and Ain al-Hilweh, all located in south Lebanon.
The National News Agency said that Israeli planes, which regularly conduct flights over south Lebanon, circled overhead on Monday morning.
Israeli troops on Sunday shot dead 12 people and wounded hundreds more as Palestinians marking the "nakba" marched on its borders with Gaza as well as Lebanon and Syria, which are home to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled or were driven out in 1948.
The Lebanese army said that 10 of those killed were approaching a barbed wire fence at Lebanon’s border with the Jewish state, sending tension spiraling in the country’s volatile south.
More than 100 more were wounded when the crowd of thousands of refugees, who were throwing rocks at Israeli troops from the Lebanese town of Maroun al-Ras, came under fire.
Two others died of gunshot wounds in clashes in the Golan Heights, medics there said.
A military source told As Safir daily that the army informed peacekeepers stationed in the south that it was dealing with the incident and that Israeli troops should not open fire on unarmed civilians. But the soldiers "continued in committing the massacre although none of the protestors had crossed the technical fence."
"Even if they had crossed the Blue Line, they shouldn’t have been confronted by gunfire," he said.
But Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak defended the use of force against Nakba Day protesters, saying the soldiers’ restraint actually saved lives.
"We used protest dispersal methods, but the number of people involved made this difficult. There comes a moment when there’s no choice but to fire at their legs and it is very good that forces acted with restraint and judgment and we did not have here a ruinous bloodbath," he told Channel 2 TV station.
Maqdah said talks were underway for a "Martyrs’ Friday" to honor the victims.
"This will not end here," he said. "We may hold a ‘Martyrs’ Friday’ but what the program will entail has not been finalized and we are still holding talks with our comrades here and abroad."(AFP-Naharnet)

15 killed by Israel during Nakba Day protests, May 16, 2011

15 killed by Israel during Nakba Day protests, May 16, 2011

Associated Press

It was the deadliest incident along the volatile border since Israel fought Hezbollah during a month-long war five years ago.
It was the deadliest incident along the volatile border since Israel fought Hezbollah during a month-long war five years ago.
MAJDAL SHAMS, Golan Heights: Mobilized by calls on Facebook, thousands of Arab protesters have marched on Israel’s borders with Syria, Lebanon and Gaza in an unprecedented wave of demonstrations, sparking clashes that left at least 15 people dead in an annual Palestinian mourning ritual marking the anniversary of Israel’s birth.Sunday’s marches were a surprising turn of events.

Hundreds of Palestinians and supporters poured across the Syrian frontier and staged riots, drawing Israeli accusations that Damascus, and its ally Iran, orchestrated the unrest to shift attention from an uprising within Syria. It was a rare incursion into Israel from the usually tightly controlled Syrian side and could upset the delicate balance between the two longtime foes.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who heads to Washington at the end of the week, said he ordered the military to act with “maximum restraint” but vowed a tough response to further provocations.

“Nobody should be mistaken. We are determined to defend our borders and sovereignty,” he declared in a brief address broadcast live on Israeli TV stations.

The violence showed Israel the extent of Arab anger over the Palestinian issue, beyond the residents of the West Bank and Gaza, and came at a critical time for U.S. Mideast policy.

President Barack Obama’s envoy to the region, George Mitchell, resigned Friday after more than two years of fruitless efforts. The U.S. president may now have to retool the administration’s approach to peacemaking. Obama is expected to deliver a Mideast policy speech in the coming week.

Deadly clashes also took place along Israel’s nearby northern border with Lebanon, as well as in the Gaza Strip on Israel’s southern flank. The Israeli military said 13 soldiers were wounded, none seriously.

Sunday’s unrest – which came after activists used Facebook and other websites to mobilize Palestinians and their supporters in neighboring countries to march on the border with Israel – marked the first time the protests that have swept the Arab world in recent months have been directed at Israel.

The events carried a message for Israel: Even as it wrestles with the Palestinian demand for a state in the occupied West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem – areas Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war – there is a related problem of neighboring countries that host millions of Palestinians with aspirations to return.

The fate of Palestinian refugees is one of the thorniest issues that any Israeli-Palestinian peace deal will have to address.

Palestinians were marking the “Nakba,” or “catastrophe” – the term they use to describe their defeat and displacement in the war that followed Israel’s founding on May 15, 1948. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were uprooted. Today, the surviving refugees and their descendants number several million people.

Each year, Palestinians throughout the region mark the “Nakba” with demonstrations. But never before have marchers descended upon Israel’s borders from all directions. The Syrian incursion was especially surprising.

Israel captured the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Middel East war, and Syria demands the area back as part of any peace deal.

Israel occupied the territory. Despite hostility between the two countries, Syria has carefully kept the border quiet since the 1973 Mideast war.

Around midday, thousands of people approached the frontier, hoisting Palestinian flags, shouting slogans and throwing rocks and bottles at Israeli forces. When hundreds of people burst across the border fence into the Israeli-controlled town of Majdal Shams, surprised soldiers opened fire.

Syrian forces did not intervene – and Syrian officials reported four people were killed, and dozens wounded.

Rioters paraded through the town, flashing Syrian ID cards and holding Palestinian flags.

“This was a surprise for everyone. I have been here my whole life and never saw anything like this,” said Khatib Ibrahim, a 51-year-old resident who watched the clashes unfold as he worked in his family’s grove.

The Israeli Army said more than 100 people were sent back to Syria by the time the unrest died down several hours later.

Israeli defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information, acknowledged the military was caught off guard by the violent marches.

Officials also said there were strong signs that Syria and its Iranian-backed Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, orchestrated the unrest.

“The Syrian regime is intentionally attempting to divert international attention away from the brutal crackdown of their own citizens to incite against Israel,” said Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman.

Israel’s military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, told Channel 2 TV he also saw “fingerprints of Iranian provocation and an attempt to use Nakba Day to create conflict.”

Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV was in place to film much of the day’s clashes, and defense officials said the activists were bused in from Palestinian refugee camps throughout Syria. Many of them held European passports and told interrogators they had been flown in from abroad for the march.

“It’s our land,” one of the infiltrators, Sufian Abdel Hamid, told Israel’s Channel 2 TV. “We won’t stop trying to come back.” An explosion of unrest along the border could play into the hands of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has faced two months of popular protests against political repression and rights abuses in his country. The uprising, in which human rights groups say more than 800 people have been killed, is the most serious challenge to the Assad family’s 40-year dynasty.

Assad has cast himself as the only person who can bring stability to Syria – a country with a volatile mixture of religions and sects, and with a hostile neighbor in Israel.

About 40 kilometers to the west, Israeli troops clashed with a large crowd of Lebanese demonstrators who approached that border. The military said it opened fire when protesters tried to damage the border fence. Security officials in Lebanon reported 10 dead.

It was the deadliest incident along the volatile border since Israel fought Hezbollah during a month-long war five years ago.

Sunday’s shooting erupted at the tense border village of Maroun el-Rass, which saw some of the fiercest fighting in 2006. Thousands of Palestinian refugees traveled to the village in buses adorned with posters that said: “We are returning.” Many came from the 12 crowded refugee camps in Lebanon where some 400,000 Palestinian refugees live.

Hundreds of Lebanese soldiers, U.N. peacekeepers and riot police deployed heavily in the area, taking up positions along the electrified border fence and patrolling the area in military vehicles. Young Hezbollah supporters wearing yellow hats and carrying walkie-talkies organized the entry to the village and handed out Palestinian flags.

In Cairo, a security official said more than 1,000 protesters tried to push their way past a tight security cordon toward the Israeli Embassy, located on the top floor of a building. Egyptian soldiers guarding the embassy fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. One protester burned an Israeli flag.

There was also violence in Gaza.

Palestinian medics said 125 people were wounded when demonstrators in the Gaza Strip tried to approach a heavily fortified border crossing into Israel. One man was killed by an Israeli sniper. The military said he was trying to plant a bomb.

In Jordan, meanwhile, police blocked a group of protesters trying to reach the border with Israel. In addition, hundreds of West Bank Palestinian threw stones at Israeli police and burned tires at a checkpoint outside Jerusalem before they were dispersed.

Inside Israel, police were on high alert for disturbances among the country’s large Arab minority, and Israeli police spokeswoman Sigal Toledo said a deadly traffic incident involving an Arab truck driver in Tel Aviv was “most likely” an attack.

The truck plowed through a crowded street, crashing into a bus, several cars and pedestrians, killing one and injuring 16 others. Police said the 22-year-old driver claimed it was an accident, but a witness said he had to subdue the man and that he was shouting slogans against Jews.

West’s duplicity in Bahrain

West’s duplicity in Bahrain

By Yaser Qazvini Ha’eri

Although a number of articles are written every day in the U.S. press on the NATO strikes against Libya and the participation of U.S. forces in this military campaign, the U.S. press has barely addressed the issue of Bahrain.   However, what is occurring in Bahrain is no less grave than the situation in Libya.

Storming mosques and Hosseiniyas (congregation halls for Shia ritual ceremonies), setting houses on fire, arresting and torturing physicians, raping women, as well as the fact that dozens of people have gone missing and a former Bahraini MP died under torture, are issues that cannot be ignored by Western countries, which are the self-proclaimed standard-bearers of human rights.   Although Arab media outlets have also remained silent, Bahraini protesters expect Western human rights organizations to do something for them.     Zainab al-Khawaja, the daughter of one of the detained protesters, recently went on hunger strike and wrote a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, who claimed that the U.S. entered the war in Libya to protect the lives of the people, but he did not reply to her letter.    Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have paid attention to the issue of Bahrain, but governments that have the power to do something and to exert pressure on the Al Khalifa government have not adequately addressed the Bahrain issue.    Meanwhile, certain research centers and think tanks connected with decision-making circles in the United States are not only ignoring what the military forces, which were dispatched to Bahrain under the aegis of the Peninsula Shield Force created by the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC), are doing in the country, but have also highlighted the role of this council.   In a recent report, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which is affiliated with the Zionist lobby, advised Obama to make efforts to better understand the concerns of Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud.   The institute emphasized that the U.S. should maintain its friendly relations with the PGCC member states and should cooperate with these countries, not only to retain its control over the region’s extensive oil and gas reserves but also to facilitate its military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and to contain Iran.
The institute also pointed to the $60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia.   The Brookings Institution has also turned a blind eye to what is taking place in Bahrain but has hailed the position that the PGCC has adopted toward certain countries outside the Persian Gulf region, namely Libya and Yemen.   On the other hand, the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has suggested that the United States should withdraw its troops from Iraq and assure the friendly Persian Gulf littoral states that it will not abandon them.
The CSIS also said that instead of maintaining a direct presence in these countries, the U.S. should train the security forces of these countries just as it trained the Saudi Arabian National Guard.   In addition, on April 20, 2011, Foreign Policy magazine indirectly hailed Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Bahrain and wrote that the intervention indicates that Arab states do not just address their own internal affairs but are also concerned about what is happening around them.     However, certain writers and some U.S. newspapers have published articles on the suffering of the Bahraini people.   Karen Leigh, in an article published in Time magazine on April 27, 2011, asked why Bahrain is trying civilians before a military court.   She noted that the military court in Bahrain convicted four Shia protesters and sentenced them to death for the murder of two policemen during anti-government demonstrations in May in the Persian Gulf kingdom, and three other Shia activists were sentenced to life in prison for their role in the policemen’s deaths.
Leigh added, “Bahrain’s military prosecutor said the seven men are being tried under a 2006 anti-terrorism law which mandates the death penalty. The statute has long been criticized by international rights groups as being vague, providing a too-broad definition of what qualifies as terrorism.”     Michael Slackman and Stefan Pauly, in an article published in the New York Times on April 28, 2011, wrote that U.S. officials have closed their eyes to developments in Bahrain and pointed to the U.S. alliance with the Al Khalifa regime.    The Washington Post, in an article published on April 4, 2011, commented on the Bahrain issue and wrote that the Bahraini government is brutally suppressing the Shias.   And the Aljazeera television network presented appalling details about the torture of women in detention facilities in Bahrain.   It seems that the media climate is different than the climate prevailing at institutions affiliated with decision-making circles of power.   As we discussed, the centers affiliated with decision-makers have emphasized that U.S. officials should maintain their relations with Saudi Arabia and the PGCC while the media has addressed what is going on in Bahrain, though briefly.
U.S. newspapers have also reported that two political camps exist in the White House in regard to developments in the Arab world, one that is idealistic and the other pragmatic.    According to these newspapers, the idealistic White House officials maintain that the Obama Administration should focus on U.S. values, such as respect for human rights and freedom, when intervening in the affairs of other countries. On the other hand, the pragmatic White House officials maintain that the U.S. government should only take its own interests into consideration and devise its strategies based solely on those interests.
According to a number of reports, the U.S. Congress hosted the representatives of Bahraini human rights organizations at a meeting held on May 13, 2011, in order to be briefed on what is taking place in Bahrain.   It is said that Maryam al-Khawaja, the sister of Zainab al-Khawaja, attended the meeting and spoke about the atrocities being committed by the Al Khalifa government.
But will U.S. officials sacrifice their strategic relations with Saudi Arabia for humanitarian values, particularly now that former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whom the U.S. regarded as an element contributing to the balance of power, has been ousted, and Saudi Arabia and Jordan have been left to their own devices and are in need of U.S. support?    On the other hand, the PGCC recently invited Morocco and Jordan to attend its meetings. This invitation could be indicative of a number of things, including that the U.S. is making attempts to strike a new balance of power or to gather representatives of all kingdoms together in one council.   However, it is still not clear if the PGCC invitation will lead to the accession of these two countries or if powerful countries like Qatar will agree to the new make-up, particularly now that Qatar has withdrawn from the PGCC initiative on Yemen.

Rana Trial Likely To Be Final Nail In Pakistan’s Coffin

Trial likely to link Pakistan to terror

Witness says ISI backed India plot

Associated Press

CHICAGO — The allegations against Chicago businessman Tahawwur Rana are fairly straightforward: He helped a former boarding school friend serve as a scout for terrorists who carried out a 2008 rampage that killed over 160 people in Mumbai.

But the implications of Rana’s trial, which begins with jury selection today in Chicago, could be enormous: To make their case, federal prosecutors may lay bare alleged connections between the militant group blamed for the Mumbai attack and Pakistan’s main intelligence agency, which has come under increasing scrutiny after Osama bin Laden, the Al Qaeda terrorist leader, was found living in a compound not far from Pakistan’s capital.

The key government witness could be David Coleman Headley, a Pakistani-American with a troubled past who pleaded guilty last year to laying the groundwork for the Mumbai attack by the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Headley is cooperating with US officials and told interrogators that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency provided training and funds for the attack against India, the country’s archnemesis.

Headley told authorities that Rana provided him with cover for his scouting missions to Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay. Rana is on trial on charges of providing material support for terrorism in India and Denmark.

Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist organization that some suspect of having ties to the ISI, is accused of carrying out the three-day siege in Mumbai in which 10 gunmen attacked two luxury hotels, a Jewish center, and a busy train station in India’s financial capital, killing 166 people, including six Americans.

© Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.

the Englishness we so despise

If Scotland goes, all we’ll have left is the Englishness we so despise

We must start shaping a progressive English nationalism that we can be proud of – as the Scots did in the 1970s

The conversation round the family supper table started sensibly enough, with questions such as whether we would need passports to go toScotland if it became independent. Then, steered by an eight-year-old, it took a more sinister turn: will there be a war? Will it be like Afghanistan or Libya? He looked almost disappointed when I insisted, absolutely no chance.

Andrzej KrauzeIllustration by Andrzej Krauze

Like a lot of English families, there’s a deep, romantic attachment to Scotland in our household with plenty of photographic evidence of how the place has shaped our sense of family. It was the same in my childhood, all our holidays were in the Highlands. This streak of diluted diaspora romanticism goes even further back to my much loved grandfather, a Farquharson, born in Southampton. It’s absurd, but on my last visit to Edinburgh I bought Farquharson souvenirs for all the kids; I want them to feel the connection – they are part Scottish, I tell them, as I was always told.

So the suppertime conversation left me more deeply disturbed than I cared to admit. On the one hand, I recognise that if Scotland wants greater autonomy, even one day full independence, it is entitled to it; on the other hand I dread the shorn smallness of England. The more I thought about the vibrant rejuvenated Scottish Nationalists driving a debate north of the border about what kind of relationship it wants with England, the more I grimly contemplated the fallout this side of the border. At an emotional level I feel bereft.

Over the last few decades questions of national identity – British, English – looked rather like a board game to some people; a way to pass the time but basically pointless. Suicide bombing on the tube: go back 10 places; sunshine and a royal wedding: pass go and collect double bonus. But Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond, is doggedly demonstrating that all those endless conversations about Scottish nationalism over at least four decades have concrete political results. The talking shops of geeky policy wonks, historians and pollsters end up shaping nations.

But even more unsettling is the realisation that we’ve been playing entirely the wrong board game. Cool Britannia, Brown’s Britishness: a waste of hot air sponsored by Labour for obvious reasons of self interest. The nationalism that urgently needs definition is Englishness. Britain will probably be vestigial within a few decades, and 50-odd million of us are then left with England, hopefully still within some form of UK.

Why does that make us shiver? What is it about Englishness that, in some contexts, makes polite society nervous? We’re happy to talk about the wonders of the English language, the delights of the English landscape and English rock or pop, but definitions of English nationalism have been abandoned to football hooligans and the far right. There’s a curious and debilitating disconnect between the rich cultural traditions of Englishness and its political expression.

We are in the midst of a mini-boom in cultural Englishness. To pick one example, the surprise success of Alexandra Harris’s book Romantic Moderns last year, which traces the imagining of England by artists and writers in the 1930s in the shadow of looming war. The popularity of such distinct writers as Richard Mabey and Paul Kingsnorth speak also to this quest to connect to land and place, and describe a sense of home.

But this cultural flowering has no political corollary. Our institutions of state and nation are British not English. British is seen as the inclusive, accommodating civic identity for a multicultural society and, by default – dangerously so – English has become a racialised political identity of resistance, resentment and grievance. British Muslim, British Asian are widely used terms; English is still perceived as predominantly white. The 2011 national census in England, unforgivably, defined English as white.

There have been brave attempts to stem this slow capture of English as an identity of far right protest – the singer Billy Bragg for instance – as well as a rapidly expanding literature offering new historical narratives of English identity and its possibilities as liberal, cosmopolitan and multicultural. English history is littered with material that can be fashioned as a backstory for a confident, small, multicultural nation, argues Professor Mike Kenny, who is writing a book on English nationhood. We’ve forgotten what Daniel Defoe was well aware of in the 18th century, namely that English – both the language and the people – have absorbed new influxes and influences for centuries: "Thus from a mixture of all kinds began, That het’rogeneous thing, an Englishman."

Part of the dangerous disconnect is because few major politicians want to go anywhere near the knotty problems of an English political identity and the unappealing option of an English parliament. For Labour, it’s a subject to bury because it spells the party’s demise; for the Tories, Englishness is to be ignored as an unruly nationalism of grievance characterised by the former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie‘s attitude to Scotland as a "sick, skint nation, the sooner we take them off the payroll the better". Nor is this nervousness of the political elite likely to ease soon, given Salmond’s appetite for fiscal autonomy.

Several times in the last week, the Barnett formula (which allocates public expenditure across the UK) has been crudely and inaccurately summed up as a £7bn "subsidy" to Scotland, taking no account of North Sea oil revenues. The more Salmond asks for, the more it will intensify the tendency to grievance now sinking deep into English nationalism. The process of separating Scotland and England is being driven solely by Scottish nationalists – England is passive, without the institutions or politics to give it a voice. Scroll through comments on blogs, and what emerges is an unattractive narrative of the English being ignored, taken for granted – or for a ride.

Questions of national identity have suddenly acquired a pressing new urgency south of the border. It’s no longer just a board game. If we don’t start shaping an English nationalism – just as the Scots started doing in the 1970s – that is outward-facing, optimistic and progressive, we’ll end up with a traumatic politics of decline. Because the unavoidable backdrop to all this is a loss of status, the final curtain on the long strung-out post-imperial legacy of Britain strutting the world stage. Trends far bigger than the nationalism of islands off north-west Europe are inexorably driving that process; another issue which Westminster politicians are lamentably failing to prepare their voters to face with confidence.

Combine these global trends with our island family relations and the powerful emotional responses they prompt, and it has the potential to get toxic. What has to be articulated in its place is what the Scottish writer Pat Kane describes as a conviviality between equal nations that have shared so much history. The consolation for "losing" Scotland would be a reinvigorated English politics as a "community of purpose and will" in the phrase of that prophet of Scottish nationalism, Tom Nairn.

This is a massive political challenge, but the first step is to start talking about it. We have plenty to learn from our Scottish neighbours, not least novelist Alasdair Gray’s use of the quotation now engraved on the wall of the Scottish parliament: "Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation."

Palestinians Returning–Israel’s Only Real “Existential” Threat

[Unleashing his "Arab Spring," did Obama realize that this was the inevitable result, or has he merely stumbled into this mess, the end of Israel?]

Analysis: Palestinian “Arab Spring” confronts Israel on borders

By Dan Williams


(Reuters) – Founded as a Jewish homeland and post-Holocaust haven, forged in border wars with Arab forces, Israel now confronts a redefinition of the conflict after Palestinian refugees massed fearlessly on its frontiers.

The thousands of protesters who surged from Syria, Lebanon and Gaza on Sunday, flattening some buffer-zone fences and drawing deadly Israeli gunfire, reminded many in the country of the image-corroding consequences of pitting the region’s mightiest military against stone-throwing demonstrators.

That the unprecedented rallies fired up annual Palestinian events mourning Israel’s creation, and were mobilized like the citizen revolts of the “Arab Spring” welcomed by the West, only deepened Israeli doubt about finding acceptable countermeasures.

Officials and commentators agreed a repeat of the “Nakba Day” marches was likely imminent, given Palestinians’ campaign to challenge Israel at the U.N. assembly in September with their own declaration of independence if peace talks remain stalled.

“The danger is that more mass processions like these will appear, not necessarily near the border, but also other places,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in a television interview, apparently referring to Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, where Palestinians want statehood, or even Israel itself.

“We’re only at the outset. We could see more complex things and complex challenges in this area. I recommend not to expect plans to be prepared systematically and be ready right on time.”

Most Israeli analysts wrote off any option of adapting police anti-riot tactics for such large-scale clashes over tense armistice lines. Some recommended sowing new minefields instead.

A senior Barak aide, Amos Gilad, hinted that Israel would hone and perhaps even sharpen its response. He likened the rallies to lethal attacks by organized guerrillas in the past.

“We already had very tough challenges that looked impossible,” he told Army Radio. “There were terrorist attacks by sea, of a kind we have not heard about in decades because of our (operational) successes. For many long years, we had suicide attacks. Now the country is quiet and stable.”


As it happened, the Nakba protests were relatively peaceful in the West Bank. Israelis credited their continued coordination with the security forces of U.S.-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The demonstrations were similarly muted in Jordan and Egypt, the only Arab states to have signed peace accords with Israel.

Moshe Yaalon, a deputy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accused the governments of Lebanon and Syria of encouraging the protesters to reach the borders in a bid to destabilize Israel.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Israeli officials said, may have seen a reprieve in shifting the violence to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights after cracking down for weeks on domestic unrest over his authoritarian rule.

But the tinderbox issue of Palestinian refugees will remain, regardless. Hundreds of thousands were dispossessed by the 1948 Middle East war and, along with millions of their descendants, they demand the right to return to lands lost to the Israelis.

Israel rules that out as demographic suicide and two decades worth of American-sponsored peace efforts have often foundered over murky proposals — never taken up formally by the Palestinian leadership — that refugees be resettled elsewhere.

So even if U.S. President Barack Obama, who hosts Netanyahu in Washington on Friday, finds the elusive formula for reviving negotiations, it is unlikely to placate Nakba-style protesters.

“(Israel) lacks means to prevent the breaching of its borders by tens and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who will succeed in organizing and fulfilling the dream of return with their own feet,” wrote Alex Fishman, defense analyst for Israel’s best-selling Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

“The more people talk about the possibility of a diplomatic arrangement or the establishment of a Palestinian state, the right of return will become the flag of the Palestinian struggle.”

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Motorcycle Assassins Kill Saudi Diplomat In Karachi (Second Attack There This Week)

Gunmen kill Saudi diplomat in Pakistan’s Karachi

By Faisal Aziz and Sheree Sardar

KARACHI/ISLAMABAD | Mon May 16, 2011 6:00am EDT

(Reuters) – Gunmen on motorcycles shot and killed a Saudi diplomat in the Pakistani city of Karachi on Monday, police and the Saudi ambassador said, the second attack on the mission since the killing of Osama bin Laden increased tensions in the region.

Al Qaeda is violently opposed to the Saudi government and has vowed revenge for the killing of its leader, Saudi-born bin Laden, by U.S. special forces in a Pakistani military town on May 2.

Four people riding motorcycles opened fire on the Saudi diplomat’s car, a Karachi police official said. The diplomat, a low ranking security official, was on his way to the consulate when the assailants struck.

“We condemn this attack. No one who carries out this kind of attack can be a Muslim,” the Saudi ambassador, Abdul Aziz al-Ghadeer, told Reuters.

The ambassador suggested “terrorists,” a reference to Muslim militant groups such as al Qaeda, carried out the attack.

The shooting occurred days after unidentified attackers threw two hand grenades at the Saudi consulate in Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial hub. No one was hurt in that attack.

The Utter Hypocrisy of Obama’s Duplicitous Middle Eastern Morality Play

Experts note differences in U.S. approach in Syria, Libya

By Oren Dorell, USA TODAY

When Libya’s dictator Moammar Gadhafi attacked his own cities to crush peaceful protesters calling for democratic reforms, the West reacted with a punishing air campaign that has destroyed command centers, tank columns and government forces.

  • A crowd raises photos of Syrian President Bashar Assad as coffins of 11 soldiers and security force members are loaded into ambulances Saturday in Homs.

Syrian Ar0ab News Agency, via AP

A crowd raises photos of Syrian President Bashar Assad as coffins of 11 soldiers and security force members are loaded into ambulances Saturday in Homs.

Syria’s dictator Bashar Assad also has been attacking his own cities to crush peaceful protesters demanding democratic reforms. He, too, has killed hundreds of civilians with troops and tanks and indiscriminate shelling of the kind that led the United Nations to approve theNATO air campaign that continues in Libya today.

Yet Assad has escaped the same treatment from the West, and President Obama has not called for the world to unite in a military action against it as he did for Gadhafi.

Some foreign policy experts say the White House is conflicted over Syria not because it is any less violent than Libya but because it is critical to Obama’s attempt to end Iran’s nuclear program and to promote Arab-Israeli peace. They say Obama’s State Departmentwants Syria, which is Iran’s greatest ally in the region, to persuade Iran’s leaders to end its nuclear program and its support of anti-Israeli terrorism and if not, end its alliance with Iran.

“For the president to take a forceful approach to Syria they’d have to admit that the policy of engagement with Syria was an absolute failure and that they have to completely recalibrate the policy,” says Tony Badran a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank in Washington. “The policy for the entire region has to be redone.”

By Ben Curtis, AP

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi waves to supporters as he arrives in Tripoli for a speech in March.

Others say what’s happening in Syria is much different than in Libya. Think tanks such as the Center for American Progress, which generally supports Obama’s stances, says a much larger segment of Libyan society is opposed to the regime than is the case in Syria. The center’s Ken Gude says it also is much more difficult to use military force against the Assad regime, which unlike Gadhafi’s has the support of other Middle East regimes.

“The elite in Syria doesn’t seem fractured at all,” Gude says, adding that there have been few defections in the Syrian military, unlike in Libya. “They’ve united behind President Assad.”

Washington and the European Union have announced economic sanctions on senior Syrian officials but have not targeted Assad. Human Rights Watch and U.S. lawmakers, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have called on Obama to demand Assad to step down, something he did with Gadhafi. The oft-used diplomatic rebuke of recalling one’s ambassador in protest has not been invoked.

“We’ve repeatedly called on (Syria) to stop human rights violations, stop arrest campaigns, release political prisoners and detainees and start political change,” said Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, adding that other steps can still be taken.

Syrian-born political blogger Camille Otrakji, is not convinced that the protest movement in Syria has significant support. Otrakji says Syrians have many complaints against Assad but do not want a revolution.

Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says unlike Libya, regional countries are not calling for intervention.

“Syria’s neighbors seem to be quite anxious about what the fall of Bashar al-Assad would mean,” Alterman says.

Badran sees a double standard granted to an enemy of the United States. Syria has allowed hundreds of Islamic extremists to slip into Iraq to fight, and kill, U.S. forces. And Obama was much harder on the actions of former dictator Hosni Mubarak, where 300 people were killed in recent protests, Badran says.

“In the case of (Egypt), an ally that kept peace with Israel for 30 years, you’d think you’d follow restraint,” Badran says. “We abandoned restraint and immediately embraced democracy. With an enemy you’re embracing restraint.”

Reuel Marc Gerecht, who worked in post-revolutionary Iran as a specialist in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, says the reason is adherence to U.S. foreign policy that originated in the 1970s, which is dominated by the Alawites, a minority Shiite Muslim sect.

“The theory has been there a long time, that somehow (Alawites) could be pulled away from the Iranians” and help promote peace with Israel in the region, Gerecht says.

He says Obama can effect change without military action. Obama should call for Assad to step down and offer inducements to the Syrian military to initiate reforms.

“The whole analysis of the (Syrian) regime is wrong,” Gerecht says. “Whatever the … regime was before the Arab revolt happened, they’re going to be that in spades if they survive. They’re going to become more repressive and nasty. They’re going to cling to that which saved them.”

The Obama administration is in a bind because none of these measures would be enough to drive Assad from power, says Aaron David Miller, a former State Department expert on the Middle East .

“The administration’s policy in Syria is driven by hope and fear,” Miller says. “Hope that the Assads are redeemable and can one day be engaged, and fear that if the region falls you’d end up with civil war, an al Qaeda base or an extremist Sunni regime” in Syria

No B. L. Photos–Fear of Nasty Photoshop Manipulation

Pictures of Bin Laden’s death are being kept under wraps over Photoshop fears


President Barack Obama’s decision not to release photos of a dead Osama bin Laden was made out of fears that the images would be electronically altered and “misused” in a way to fuel anti-American sentiments.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates said the decision was made largely to protect U.S. personnel who are working overseas.

He said:  ‘One of the things that I think concerns Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and I is the risk not only of the pictures themselves inflaming people who were bin Laden’s adherents and radical extremists, but we were also worried about the potential for manipulation of those photos and doing things with those photos that would be pretty outrageous in terms of provoking a reaction that might in fact put our troops at greater risk in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Gruesome images: The photos taken after bin Laden's death show he was blasted in the chest and then in the faceGruesome images: The photos taken after bin Laden’s death show he was blasted in the chest and then in the face

Speaking at a meeting with Marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina on Thursday, Mr Gates said: ‘The primary reason I think that the president made the decision he did was not only to protect our troops, but also to protect other Americans who are living abroad – our civilians, our diplomats and others – because if these photos were misused, then the danger of them inflaming reaction we considered to be very real.

‘I think it was the right decision. I realise the desire for closure on the part of a lot of folks who … suffered losses on 9/11, and since then at the hands of this guy, and before. But I think this was the right decision in this case.’

Mr Gates said his concerns about releasing the bin Laden photos were dramatised by Photoshopping of an official White House picture taken of Obama’s national security team while they were monitoring a live video feed of the operation in which Navy SEALs ultimately killed bin Laden.

Run down: Bin Laden's shabby compound was stormed by 25 U.S. Navy Seals Run down: Bin Laden’s shabby compound was stormed by 25 U.S. Navy Seals

He said: ‘I have gotten from friends all over the country copies of the picture that was this iconic picture taken in the Situation Room while we were watching the operation.

‘They have been Photoshopped in every way you can imagine, including putting you know, coming after the royal wedding, one of these had all of us in one of these big, wide-brimmed hats from the wedding.

‘Another had various football players seated at the table that had been photoshopped in.’

Obama’s decision not to release official U.S. government photos of bin Laden’s body have not prevented fake Photoshopped images of his death from appearing on the internet. Some appeared within hours after he was killed.

The moment the terror leader was killed, and every second of the 40-minute mission, was recorded by tiny cameras fixed to the helmets of the 25 U.S. Navy Seals who entered the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 1.

One clip shows how Bin Laden’s young Yemeni wife lunged forward at the Navy Seals – but investigators believe she may have been pushed forward from behind.

Iconic photo: Defence Secretary Robert Gates cited the widespread Photoshopping of the Situation Room picture as an example of why the White House is not releasing the bin Laden photosIconic photo: Defence Secretary Robert Gates cited the widespread Photoshopping of the Situation Room picture as an example of why the White House is not releasing the bin Laden photos

Manipulated: When the Hasidic newspaper Der Zeitung ran the photo, Hillary Clinton and security team member Audrey Tomason were missingManipulated: When the Hasidic newspaper Der Zeitung ran the photo, Hillary Clinton and security team member Audrey Tomason were missing

Combat captured: A Navy SEAL with a camera attached to his helmetCombat captured: A Navy SEAL with a camera attached to his helmet

The detailed footage reveals how the Navy SEALs first saw Bin Laden when he appeared on the third floor landing to see what was going on after the commandos stormed into the compound.

Shots were fired at him, but they missed.

Bin Laden, visibly shaken, then dashed back inside his bedroom.

The soldier tossed aside the wife and shot Bin Laden in the chest. Another Navy Seal then blasted him in the head.

The footage shows that Bin Laden was standing a few feet behind Amal Ahmed Abdel-Fatah al-Sada, 29, when he was shot in the chest and then head.

He was dressed in a white undershirt and tan robe.

Once the terror leader was dead, the soldiers rampaged through the house to collect any intelligence.

One of the most valuable finds was a handwritten 12-page journal belonging to Bin Laden. Nine photographs were taken at the scene of the raid and three more were from the U.S.S. Vinson, where Bin Laden’s body was prepared for burial at sea.

Hypocrite: A still from a video showing bin Laden watching himself on televisionHypocrite: A still from a video showing bin Laden watching himself on television

Nine photographs were taken at the scene of the raid and three more were from the U.S.S. Vinson, where Bin Laden’s body was prepared for burial at sea.

A Republican senator who was the first politician to see photos of Bin Laden’s bloodied corpse said it was ‘gruesome.’

James Inhofe, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, described the images in graphic detail after he viewed the pictures in a secure room.

He said the pictures showed that Bin Laden had either been shot in the eye socket, or a bullet travelled through the ear and exited the eye socket.

The CIA this week offered to show the photos to members of the House and Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees.

Mr Inhofe was the first member of the Senate to take the agency up on its offer.

Legislators are still debating the merits of releasing the photos to the general public.

A conservative legal watchdog group, meanwhile, has filed the first lawsuit seeking public release of video and photographs of the raid.

Judicial Watch is asking the Department of Defense to comply with a Freedom of Information request for the material, especially photos of the September 11 mastermind lying dead on the third floor of his Pakistan hideout.

The legal complaint to force compliance was made in federal court in Washington on Friday.