Tribal elders thank President Zardari for announcing compensation package, increasing FATA ADP

Pakistan's Jamiat Ulma-e-Islam (JUI) party leader Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman addresses tribal elders from South Waziristan during a "jirga", or assembly, as part of his election campaign in Dera Ismael Khan February 16, 2008. Pakistani politicians were winding up campaigns on Saturday for a general election that is meant to complete a transition to civilian rule but has been overshadowed by fear of violence and accusations of rigging. From Reuters Pictures by Reuters.

Tribal elders thank President Zardari for announcing compensation package, increasing FATA ADP

WANA, Feb 8 (APP): Eminent tribal elders, maliks and chieftains here Saturday thanked President Asif Ali Zardari for announcing a huge compensation package of Rs.280 million for those killed and wounded in the tribal areas due to militants’ attacks.

The tribal chieftains and maliks also highly appreciated President Asif Ali Zardari for announcing increase in the annual development outlay of the FATA by Rs.3 billion for the current fiscal taking it to Rs.11 billion from Rs.8 billion.

“The President has won the hearts and minds of over six million tribal people by announcing a huge developmental package for FATA today,” remarked elders and maliks from Mehsud, Burki and Wazir tribes during a press briefing here.

Malik Saeed Anwar Khan, Malik Muhammad Azam Khan and Malik Tofan Burki said that increase in the FATA development outlay by Rs.3 billion would greatly help address problems of tribal people and will bring FATA on road to progress and development.

They said that FATA annual development budget in the past was very low and hoped that would bring positive socio‑economic changes in lives of downtrodden tribesmen. The major hurdle in establishment of durable peace in Waziristan is the repeated drones attacks. He said that stopping of drone attacks is necessary to bring durable peace to the restive Waziristan.

They demanded immediate stopping of drone attacks on Waziristan as majority of its victims were civilians, women and children. They assured full cooperation to the government in fight against militancy and terrorism and development of FATA.

‘NATO Knows Top Ergenekon (Deep Turkish State) Names’

‘NATO Knows Top Ergenekon (Deep Turkish State) Names’

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has in its records the names of the individuals who form the nucleus of Ergenekon, a clandestine terrorist organization charged with scores of unsolved murders and other atrocities conducted for the purpose of ruling the country from behind the scenes or triggering a military takeover, according to a claim put forth by Gultekin Avci, a retired public prosecutor experienced with shadowy formations and illegal gangs inside the state.

Avci claimed that the names of the members of the illegal network were kept at centers of intelligence services in Washington and London, but he did not specify the names of the agencies.

Avci said these records held names of civilian and military members of Ergenekon.

He also claimed that if NATO wanted to, it could share this information with the prosecution to help the Ergenekon investigation.

He also pointed to the similarities between Ergenekon’s organizational structure and NATO’s experience, noting that Ergenekon bears the basic qualities of Operation Gladio — a stay-behind army set up in NATO countries during the Cold War years to counter a communist invasion.

Avci said in NATO’s experience, stay-behind organizations were formed at the level of generals. He stated that over time, the confidential elements inside these armies, which hold great power given to them by the state, have gotten out of control and have recruited more civilians.

“In all these structures, the techniques and system used were the same. Intelligence units trained these agents. They set up secret burial sites to store munitions, wireless devices and similar equipment,” he said.

“The major contributors to these behind-the-scene networks that were established all over Europe were these countries’ armies and military intelligence services. All of these secret networks were set up under the supervision and directive of the military intelligence services of the given country.”

Avci also claimed that Turkey’s illegal structures are backed by important Masonic connections and individuals, recalling the ties of the Masonic lodge P2 in Italy to the Gladio network. He said if NATO shared its records with the prosecution, it would be of significant help to the investigation; but he also noted that this was a distant possibility.

Recalling the munitions found buried underground, Avcı said most clandestine organizations tended to have secret arms depots and underground arms caches to avoid being left without munitions. He also expressed his belief that there could not be fewer than 200 such munitions burial sites in Turkey.

He claimed that heads of separate units in the military knew the locations of these arms caches and were given maps to these places by their superiors. “When these weapons and ammunitions are needed for an operation, they can easily be obtained,” he said.

“Those who are at the level of hit men do not know the location of a given arms cache. The prosecution has to compare every single item of weapons or ammunitions found during the investigation to the inventory of the Special Forces Command and military intelligence units. But we are seeing that the General Staff has not been so helpful thus far regarding this.”

Friday, 6 February 2009

Journal of Turkish Weekly

Palestinians dumped by road in no man’s land, their plight ignored by all


Palestinians dumped by road in no man’s land, their plight ignored by all

By Catherine Philp in al-Tanf , Times

The Syrian authorities stopped the UN from improving life in the camp where 900 Palestinians live. Families stay in tents by the roadside and have to endure sandstorms, floods and fire. Two children were killed by lorries

Feb 5, 2009

Arab solidarity is not a phrase that Salim Ahmad wants to hear any more. On a battered television inside a windblown tent he watches with scepticism as the crowds demonstrate in the streets of Damascus over Israel’s war in Gaza.

“If they really cared anything for Palestinians, they would not leave us here in this terrible place,” he said, gesturing around him. “Don’t tell me about solidarity when nobody cares that we are here at all.”

For the past three years this desolate spot between the Iraqi and Syrian border posts has served as home to hundreds of Palestinians fleeing persecution in Iraq. Favoured by Saddam Hussein as proof of his solidarity with the Palestinian cause, they were among the first targets of vengeful Shia militia after the fall of the regime.

When they tried to flee to Syria, however, they found their paths blocked. While Iraq citizens swanned through the border post Palestinians were turned back, unable to enter Syria but unable to return to Iraq either. Stateless and without passports the Palestinians sat down where they were dumped, in the walled-off layby by the road between the two glowering border posts.

The al-Tanf camp is the invisible face not only of the Iraqi refugee crisis but also of the miserable history of perpetual refugeehood that is the Palestinian plight. The Syrian Government has kept it hidden, embarrassed by what it shows, but yesterday The Times became one of only two news organisations to see al-Tanf for themselves.

“This is a prison, get us out of here,” were the first words of Adnan Abdullah. His family were driven from their house in Baghdad by a Shia landlord after the fall of Saddam and they moved to an impromptu camp in a football field in the city. The camp was attacked and closed in 2005.

Other Palestinians who tried to flee to Jordan had been held at another camp on the border there, so Mr Abdullah decided that he would try to stay in Baghdad with other family members despite the threats to leave. In June of that year militiamen from the Badr Brigade came for him in the middle of the night. They took him to a secret detention centre where they hung him from his wrists and goaded him to confess to planting bombs.

“They shouted screw Palestine, screw Jerusalem,” Mr Abdullah said. “They said, ‘We want to empty Iraq of Palestinians’.”

They were on the way to succeeding. When Mr Abdullah was released by a court after a year of prison and torture the family sold everything they owned to pay for fake Iraqi passports that would get them into Syria. Unlike some others they got through the border to Damascus where they found others from their community. Living illegally, unable to work and with their money exhausted, however, they became increasingly afraid that they would be caught.

Syrian intelligence officials were carrying out regular sweeps of Iraqi refugee areas in Damascus and many Palestinians had been caught and locked up or deported to al-Tanf. At least at al-Tanf there would be assistance, Mr Abdullah calculated, and possibly a way out.

What they found there, however, was a shock. The Syrian authorities forbid the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from providing any help that might make the camp more permanent, so the refugees live in tents by the side of the road where lorries thunder by. In December 2007 it snowed; last summer a sandstorm ripped several tents from their pitches; floods in December wrecked food stores and shelters. Two children have been killed by lorries and a pregnant woman died when her tent caught fire and burnt down in 12 seconds.

Resettling the refugees was not an option then. “Resettlement is a dirty word when it comes to the Palestinians,” Laurens Jolles, the head of the UN refugee mission in Damascus, said. The Palestinian Authority and the governments of Arab states oppose resettlement on grounds of political principle, an abrogation of the right to return to Palestine and an abandonment of hopes of a Palestinian state. “We don’t agree with that,” Mr Jolles said.

Neither do the refugees. “We don’t have a nationality, a passport, a home,” Mr Ahmad said. “We want to be settled. Who are they to tell us what is good for Palestinians? No Arab country wants us so if a European one does then I will go there. It is about our children’s future.”

The Palestinian Authority and Syrian Government have caved in to the pressure and agreed to allow a number of refugees to be resettled. Chile has taken 113, 181 went to Sweden and 13 to Switzerland. Britain has taken 30 Palestinian refugees from Iraq but none from al-Tanf.

From the original camp of 350 people who could not get across the border the camp has swelled to 900, despite the resettlements. Palestinians arrived after being deported or arrested in Syria or they came voluntarily, exhausted by their fugitive life.

Much of the pressure for resettlement came from the refugees. A group of young men banded together to start a media unit gathering footage of camp life, the floods, fires and snow, which they took to Damascus and aired on the al-Jazeera network.

“We wanted to end our isolation from the world,” Yunis, one of them said. Another member of the group contacted news organisations when the Gaza protests began, telling them: “The Government are hypocrites. We are Palestinians and they don’t care about us at all.”

At 93, Hazana is the oldest member of the camp. She was driven out of Haifa in 1948 and has contact with only 2 of her 11 children. Another has been killed and the others she does not know about. “She will never leave here. The only place she’s going from here is heaven,” her daughter-in-law, Zainab, confided as Hazana recounts her story, the story of Palestine, a long tale of exile and betrayal.

“We are scattered sheep without a shepherd,” she murmured, her eyes filling with tears. “I never thought I would be here. I thought the kings and princes of Arabia would take us back home. But it turned out to be a false promise.”

:: Article nr. 51554 sent on 06-feb-2008 04:27 ECT


Jingoism All The Way

Jingoism All The Way

Khalid Amayreh

Netanyahu, Livni, Barak
Netanyahu, Livni, Barak

One of the main but undeclared goals of the recent Israeli blitzkrieg against the Gaza Strip was to significantly enhance the chances of the Kadima and Labour parties in upcoming Israeli elections, slated for 10 February.

Conventional wisdom has it that Israeli Jewish voters are more likely to give their votes to candidates with a reputation of toughness vis-à-vis the Palestinians. In the popular and political lexicon, this means spilling Palestinian blood, destroying more Palestinian homes and narrowing Palestinian horizons.

Kadima and Labour party leaders had hoped that the killing and maiming of thousands of Palestinians, mostly innocent civilians, coupled with the relentless bombing and destruction of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure, including schools, hospitals and agricultural land, would put both parties in an advantageous position against the Likud, led by Benyamin Netanyahu. However, post-war polls have shown that the genocidal Gaza onslaught didn’t dramatically help Kadima and that the popularity boost it briefly obtained during the Gaza campaign proved variable rather than constant.

Indeed, the polls show that Netanyahu remains the candidate most favoured by Israelis to become the country’s next prime minister. According to a poll released 25 January, 29 per cent of Israelis said they want to see Netanyahu become Israel’s next premier. Kadima leader Tzipi Livni received only 16 per cent support, with Labour leader Ehud Barak trailing with nine per cent. Another recent poll, released 23 January, showed that the Likud would win 28 of the 120 seats contested making up the Israeli parliament. Kadima came second with 24 seats, with both the Labour Party and Yisrael Beteinu (Israel is our Home) Party receiving 16 seats each.

Yisrael Beteinu is led by Avigdor Lieberman, an extremist right-wing Jewish immigrant who shamelessly advocates ethnic cleansing of non-Jews as well as the use of nuclear weapons against Israel’s adversarial neighbours, including Lebanon and the Palestinians. Lieberman is widely considered one of the main winners of the Israeli war on Gaza as Israeli Jewish voters “go jingoistic” in times of war and uncertainty. Deteriorating economic conditions, including growing unemployment, and especially among the estimated one million Jewish Russian immigrants, militate in Lieberman’s favour.

The Likud hopes to draw many potential voters from Lieberman’s supporters, especially in light of ongoing police investigations into charges of fraud, money laundering and violations of public trust against the Yisrael Beteinu chief. However, it is not likely that Lieberman would lose significantly as a result of this corruption scandal since the Jewish Russian public has little faith in the Israeli justice system and in police integrity.

Disappointed by her party’s mediocre boost despite the Gaza bloodbath, Kadima leader Livni and her hawkish partner, former army chief Shaul Mofaz, have been issuing more bellicose statements against Hamas, seemingly in the hope of attracting more voters. In her election tours, Livni has been projecting a tough and uncompromising stance vis-à-vis the Palestinians, especially Hamas. For his part, Mofaz on 26 January threatened to assassinate Ismail Haniyeh, the elected prime minister of the Gaza-based Hamas government.

“As long as Gilad Shalit doesn’t see the light of day, you won’t see the light of day. As long as Shalit doesn’t go free, you and your friends will not be free. We won’t hesitate to send you on the way we sent Yassin and Rantisi,” he said referring to Hamas’s spiritual leader Ahmed Yassin and deputy Abdel-Aziz Al-Rantisi who were murdered by Israel in 2004.

Barak, too, has been playing on the war, trying to sell himself as “the war hero of the Gaza campaign”. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Barak will try to woo Russian Jewish voters by quoting Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s famous statement about killing Chechen fighters: “As you people say, they should be whacked when they’re on the toilet.”

Until a few weeks ago, Barak was nearly irrelevant in the Russian street as polls indicated that the Labour Party would get less than half a Knesset seat from the Russian sector. With the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip failing to eradicate Hamas, which is reemerging defiant and politically triumphant, it is probably safe to assume that the Likud and other extreme- right parties will receive the lion’s share of the Knesset’s seats.

However, Likud leader Benyamin Netanyahu is also facing a serious image problem as his opponents in Kadima and Labour are arguing that as premier he wouldn’t be on good terms with new US President Barack Obama, paralysing if not killing the peace process. In response, Netanyahu has sought to enhance his image by declaring that if elected prime minister he wouldn’t allow the building of new Jewish settlements. He did say, however, that present settlements could continue to expand as part of what he called “natural growth”.

This week, and using the Obama election jingle “Yes, we can”, Netanyahu spelled out his political priorities, which included numerous attempts to divert the attention of the new US administration from the core issue, namely the Israeli occupation of Palestine and continued building of Jewish-only colonies on occupied territories. Netanyahu mentioned, inter alia, Iran’s nuclear programme (ignoring Israel’s huge nuclear arsenal), Hamas (ignoring the fact that it was elected by the Palestinian people in free and democratic elections), its alleged rearmament and smuggling, and Hizbullah’s “control” over Lebanon, as if these were issues preventing Israel from ending its occupation and persecution of the Palestinian people.

Nonetheless, Israeli leaders are beginning to sense that Obama is not exactly George W Bush, and that he won’t be as easily bamboozled by Israeli disinformation. There seems to be widespread support for the idea of forming a government of national unity, led by the Likud and including the Kadima and Labour parties as well as Shas, the ultra Orthodox Haredi Party representing Jews from the Middle East. Such a coalition would muster a comfortable parliamentary majority of at least 75 Knesset seats.

However, given significant political differences between the Likud, which harbours many of the features of an extreme right-wing party, and Kadima, such a government could well be a government of “national paralysis” rather than unity. In all events, it appears that Netanyahu will have to choose between forming a stable and strong government with extreme right- wing and religious parties, which would potentially put him in conflict with the Obama administration, or a coalition with Kadima, Labour and probably Shas, which would be weak and fraught with internal problems.

Source: Al-Ahram Weekly

When Israel is at War, Expect No Peace

When Israel is at War, Expect No Peace

Jonathan Cook

When Israelis rally behind a war, it is never an easy time to be engaged in Jewish-Arab relations, says Nisreen Murkos, a 20-year veteran of co-existence projects.

As one of the heads of the Arab section of the Adam Institute for Democracy and Peace, Ms Murkos is preparing – with trepidation – to organise the first encounters between groups of Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens since the fighting in Gaza ended.

According to surveys conducted during the fighting, about 90 per cent of Israeli Jews backed the war, with 82 per cent also hoping that the army would intensify its assault.

The numbers are reversed for Israel’s 1.2 million Arab citizens, with almost all profoundly opposed to the fighting. Israeli Jewish commentators and politicians have widely denounced the community as “traitors” and “a fifth column”.

Almost alone among the coexistence organisations in Israel, the Adam Institute arranges meetings where Israeli Jews and Arabs can confront each other as equals and freely air their views. But Ms Murkos, 48, said the institute’s staff were expecting a rough ride in the shadow of the war fever that gripped the country for three weeks.

“We often work in schools because attitudes have not yet totally hardened among the young,” she said. “But most of the staff at a meeting described the situation – given the anti-democratic atmosphere in Israel – as too dangerous for us to work.

“Both our Jewish and Arab staff are afraid of the angry responses if they are seen to be encouraging unpatriotic views.”

She added that teachers in Arab schools co-operating with Adam’s programme had their own reasons to be worried. “They are afraid they could lose their jobs or even be arrested, as has happened to hundreds of Palestinian citizens protesting against the war.”

As an illustration of the current mood, she pointed to a report in a local newspaper about Yonit Levy, a popular news anchor for the country’s highest-rated station, Channel 2.

Ms Levy is under concerted attack after she became tearful when announcing Gazan casualties during a broadcast. An online petition demanding her sacking hoped to raise 10,000 signatures. In a few days, it had attracted three times that number.

“Levy is accused of ‘weakening nationale morale’ and ‘empathising with the enemy’,” Ms Murkos said. “I look at this story and it makes me wonder what hope there is for the encounters we arrange when this kind of ‘war consensus’ dictates views.”

Riding the wave of patriotism sweeping Israel’s Jewish majority have been such right-wing parties as Yisrael Beiteinu, which campaigns for the expulsion of Palestinian citizens, one fifth of the population. The party also instigated a ban on Arab parties standing in next month’s election, a decision overturned last week in the courts.

Polls taken immediately after the Gaza ceasefire show Yisrael Beiteinu winning 15 seats in the 120-member parliament and becoming the fourth largest party. Its platform is reported to be even more popular in schools.

The Adam Institute, Ms Murkos said, faced an uphill struggle even in times of relative quiet in persuading the Jewish majority of the benefits of dialogue with their Arab fellow citizens.

“Our problem is often with the schools themselves and the parents. In accordance with the principle of equality, there must be reciprocity in the meetings: just as Palestinian students visit a Jewish ‘partner’ school, so Jewish students must visit the Palestinian school. But many Jewish parents aren’t happy about that and refuse permission.”

On occasion, she said, Jewish students have arrived at Arab schools with armed guards.

As well as ethnic and national tensions surfacing in the meetings, she said, some Israeli Jews demonstrate an ambivalence towards the values of equality and democracy.

Israel’s laws do not encode the principle of equality, setting the tone for popular opinion. A poll in 2003 found that nearly one quarter of Israelis were hostile to any form of democracy. In other surveys, 60 per cent of Israeli Jews said it was more important that their state be Jewish than democratic.

Such trends are only exacerbated in times of war, Ms Murkos said.

Contacts between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied territories, she said, had been all but non-existent for some time, especially after Israel began building barriers around Gaza and much of the West Bank.

But encounters between Jewish and Arabs inside Israel are rarely more meaningful. Both live in segregated communities, and in the workplace, Israeli Arabs, usually in lowly positions under Jewish bosses, dare not speak openly.

Making Arab Israelis and their concerns more visible to Israeli Jews is one of the goals of Ms Murkos’s work. Experience during the attack on Gaza, however, has only underlined how big a challenge she faces.

“During the fighting I went into a major chainstore that wanted to deduct an extra three shekels [Dh2.75] as a contribution towards a food basket for the soldiers in Gaza. They looked astounded when I said no.

“Even though I live in northern Israel, where Palestinians are a majority of the population, it was simply assumed that I would support the soldiers over the people of Gaza. Anything else is unthinkable.”

Source: The National Newspaper (Abu Dhabi)

America The Unpopular

America The Unpopular

In a scene from the 1994 Roger Avary/Quentin Tarantino film “Killing Zoe,” an American tourist accidentally finds himself in the middle of a Paris bank heist:

Tourist (to robbers): Hey! This is insane! I mean, I’m a U.S. citizen. Come on, I’m just here exchanging some dollars. You must let me go— I’m an American. You know, from America. US of A. Come on, don’t you understand English? If it wasn’t for my country you’d all be speaking German!
Robbers (to tourist): (Machine gun fire)

On Monday, Reuters’ Ellen Wulfhorst reported on America’s unpopularity around the globe. She wrote:

The United States is viewed favorably by the majority in only two of 21 other countries with large economies, according to a survey released on Sunday, and it draws the harshest criticism for its foreign policy.

In research designed to measure global opinion and released days before Barack Obama takes office as U.S. president on Tuesday, India and Poland, along with the United States itself, were the only countries with majorities giving America a favorable rating.

The online poll of 22,000 people was conducted for Reuters by Ipsos Global Public Affairs, an international market research and polling company, in late November, weeks after Obama was elected to succeed President George W. Bush.

According to the piece, Ipsos polled people residing in the 22 countries that make up 75 percent of the world’s gross domestic product. Wulfhorst added:

The nations with the strongest unfavorable views overall of the United States were Russia and Turkey, followed by Argentina, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands…

Overall, the United States was viewed favorably by 72 percent of Indians, 53 percent of Poles and 74 percent of Americans. Sixty percent of Russians and 55 percent of Turks gave the United States unfavorable ratings.

Hey, at least we know who our friends are, right?



“U.S. gets weak marks on global relations: poll”
Ellen Wulfhorst
Reuters, January 19, 2009