Archive | January 17th, 2012

Knesset panel bans Arab MK for reciting controversial poem


Ahmed Tibi will not be able to participate in parliament sessions for one week following a verbal attack on Yisrael Beiteinu’s Anastasia Michaeli after she spilled a glass of water on a fellow MK.

By Jonathan Lis

The Knesset’s Ethics Committee baned Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi participating in sessions in any of the Israeli parliaments’ sessions on Tuesday, following a controversial poem he recited following an incident involving Yisrael Beiteinu MK Anastasia Michaeli.

Last week, Michaeli was banned from the Knesset after she poured a glass of water on Israeli Arab MK Raleb Majadele (Labor) during a committee session last week.

Tibi reciting his poem:

Following the incident, Tibi read a short poem poking fun at Michaeli, the words of which were: “Anastasia, who has a problem with her plumbing / who grew there in the garbage pile of Yisrael Beiteinu [Israel our Home], / Or should we say, Russia our Home, / From which the road was short for the bill called muezzin, now a joint Bibi- Anastasia venture / As well as her unwise use of water, during a dry spell in which every drop counts / For, Israel may be drying [mityabeshet], but it is far from being ashamed [mitbayeshet], / Anastasia, who has run amok, / Poured water on her colleague / And thus I will call the baby by its name: Kos Amok [literally, a ‘glass of madness’, but a play on words on an Arabic profanity].

Michaeli spilling water on Majadele:

The Knesset Ethics Committee ruling, which allows Tibi vote, came after earlier this week the United Arab List – Ta’al MK lodged an official complaint with Knesset security after a number of death threats were posted to his Facebook page following his recitation.

Knesset authorities have transferred the complaint to Israel Police.

“The ethics committee has no Arab members and I am treated by some of its members as enemy, thus its decision is tainted prejudice,” Tibi responded to the decision.


MK Ahmed Tibi - Oliver Fitoussi - 20092011 MK Ahmed Tibi
Photo by: Oliver Fitoussi

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Syria: beyond the wall of fear, a state in slow-motion collapse


Despite the superficial calm in Damascus, everyone knows change is coming. The only question is, how much will it cost?

Members of the Free Syrian Army in Idlib

Members of the Free Syrian Army demonstrate against Bashar al-Assad near Idlib. Photograph: Handout/Reuters

Sipping tea in a smoky Damascus cafe, Adnan and his wife, Rima, look ordinary enough: an unobtrusive, thirtysomething couple winding down at the end of the working day in one of the tensest cities in the world.

But like much else in the Syrian capital, they are not what they first seem: normally, he is a software engineer and she a lawyer; now, they are underground activists helping organise the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

It is dangerous work. Over the past 10 months, thousands of Syrians have been killed – perhaps twice the 5,000 figure given by the UN – as Assad has pursued a ruthless crackdown that shows no sign of ending. But his opponents are equally determined to carry on.

Adnan and Rima are unable to work or contact their families. They have false identities. Adnan changes his appearance regularly. He has just shaved off his beard. It clearly works: a friend at a nearby table fails to recognise him.

Most of their friends are on the run from the mukhabarat secret police. “It used to be scary but we’ve got used to it,” said Adnan. “The revolution destroyed the wall of fear. At school, we were taught to love the president – Hafez – first. And it didn’t get any better when Bashar took over. Now, everything has changed. Assad’s picture is defaced everywhere and we are certain that at some point we will topple the regime.”

On the face of it, Damascus is calm. The bloodiest frontlines of the revolution may be in Homs, Hama, Idlib and Deraa, but the appearance of normality in the capital is deceptive. Intrigue, fear and anger are just below the surface.

“Damascus is crucial to the survival of the Assad regime,” a leading opposition figure told the Guardian. “They will never allow a Tahrir Square here. If Damascus falls, it’s all over.”

Large protests organised by the tansiqiyat, local co-ordination committees, are held almost nightly in many suburbs, and always on Fridays. Even in the centre, daytime “flash” demonstrations last for a few minutes and disappear before they are pounced on by security forces, the worst of whom are shabiha louts in army trousers and leather jackets who loiter at junctions and squares.

The demonstrators are ingenious: in one case, volunteer drivers created traffic jams all around the old Hijaz railway station to create a space in which a brief but eyecatching protest could be held.

Creativity and secrecy are crucial. On the first day of Ramadan, loudspeakers concealed in the busy shopping area of Arnous Square blared out the stirring song “Irhal ya Bashar” (“Leave, Bashar”), written by Ibrahim Qashoush, who was murdered in July after performing in Hama. His killers cut his throat and carved out his vocal chords.

“At first, people were frightened,” said one Damascus resident who had heard the song. But when it was played for a second time, they relaxed. “By the third time, they were laughing,” he said.

The speakers were positioned on a roof and the area around them was smeared with oil to make it harder to silence them.

The tactics are effective but risky: one activist accidentally started playing a tape of the song in a taxi but the driver turned out to be a mukhabarat agent, who handed him in. Jawad, a computer scientist involved in one of these groups, was held for two months and beaten repeatedly to try to make him betray the names of his friends.

Other nonviolent acts have been stunningly symbolic: in August blood-red dye was poured into the fountain outside the central bank in Saba’a Bahrat Square, the scene of raucous pro-Assad rallies. Black-ribboned candles have been distributed to commemorate Ghayath Matar, famous for handing out roses to soldiers, who was tortured and killed last September.

“People are taking risks here,” said Salma, a human rights worker. “But in Idlib and Homs, it’s a matter of life and death; that’s not true in Damascus.”

Still, some cannot quite believe what they are daring to do. “Look at us,” laughed Bassam, a manufacturer in his 20s. “Using false names and driving around to avoid police checkpoints. The first time I went to a demonstration, it was frightening. Now it’s exhilarating.”

Yet no one thinks the revolution will have a happy end any time soon. Last week’s speech by Assad was seen as a declaration of war, designed to rally his supporters. In the live broadcast on state TV, the crowd looked enormous; in fact, a leaked unofficial shot suggested there were probably no more than a few thousand people in Umayyad Square.

Damascus is surrounded by the army’s 4th division, commanded by the president’s brother Maher. Government buildings are protected by anti-blast barriers. Roads near the presidential palace and defence ministry are closed. At the state security HQ, in Kafr Sousseh, machinegun-toting guards look out from sandbagged emplacements.

It was there, two days before a cheerless Christmas, that twin suicide bombings killed 44 people and were blamed (20 minutes after the blasts) on al-Qaida – a reminder of the unrelenting official narrative that Syriafaces only “armed terrorist gangs”, not the mass popular protests that have become an emblematic event of the Arab spring.

On 6 January, terrorists struck again. In nearby al-Midan, an opposition stronghold, there was what looked, at least at first glance, like another suicide attack, which reportedly killed 26 people. But key details remain confused.

Locals spoke of the area being mysteriously cordoned off by police the night before. Many noted the remarkably swift response by the Syrian media and emergency services. And a rapidly assembled crowd of demonstrators, who were not from the neighbourhood, chanted pro-Assad slogans for journalists bussed in by the ministry of information. Suspicions that the event was somehow staged look reasonable, rather than the product of a conspiracy theory.

Abu Muhammad, a chatty Sunni taxi driver, had no doubt about it. “It was pure theatre, all fabricated,” he said. “The idea is to frighten people in Damascus.” Nader, a shopkeeper, was even blunter: “The government knows Syrians don’t believe them. But they count on people being too afraid to break the silence.”

Hassan Abdel-Azim, leader of the opposition National Co-ordination Committee, who is often criticised for being too close to the regime, said he too had “serious doubts” about the official version.

On 11 January, the killing of the French TV correspondent Gilles Jacquier by mortar fire during a government-escorted trip to Homs left more troubling questions unanswered. Was it a warning message to the international media? What is extraordinary about all these incidents is the assumption of so many Syrians that the regime would act with such murderous duplicity.

“No one has any illusions,” said another anti-Assad figure. “People think [the regime] is capable of anything. There are no red lines.”

The president’s supporters see things very differently. The regime’s grand conspiracy narrative, in which the US, the west, Israel and reactionary Arab “agents”, led by Qatar, plot against Syria, is pumped out daily by state media. Its most aggressive exponent is Addounia TV, a satellite channel owned by the wealthy brother-in-law of Maher al-Assad. Above all Addounia loathes the broadcaster al-Jazeera, the Qatari-owned cheerleader for the Arab revolutions, which it has accused of staging fake demonstrations in studio mock-ups of Syrian cities. In his speech the president referred to 60 TV channels as part of this vast “plot”.

Big lies seem to work. “The emir of Qatar is a Jew, worse than the Jews,” an Alawite taxi driver raged. “There are no demonstrations in Syria, or only by people who have been paid, and the terrorist gangs.” No wonder so many Syrians berate the few foreign journalists who are allowed into the country and urge them to “tell the truth like it really is”.

Regime loyalists who speak to the international media claim to support political reform and dialogue with the peaceful opposition: these are people like the Assad adviser Buthaina Shaaban and Jihad Makdissi, director of information at the foreign ministry, who engages in Twitter debates with supporters of the uprising. Overthrowing the president, warns Makdissi, “will open a Pandora’s box”.

But Syria’s powerful security chiefs, who are unavailable for briefings or interviews, emphasise the grave danger posed by Salafi extremists or al-Qaida – the same “foreign fighters” the mukhabarat used to help cross into Iraq to fight the Americans. Stomach-churning pictures showing decapitated bodies or corpses with their eyes gouged out are produced as evidence of the savagery of these terrorists. Opposition supporters do not claim such horrors are faked but insist the regime bears overwhelming responsibility for the current violence.

“For the Syrian security people, the solution now is to kill until it’s all over and wait until there is some change in the position of the west,” said a well-connected but despairing businessman.

Assad supporters also accuse the opposition of naivety and of forgetting the early 1980s, when a wave of assassinations and bombings by the Muslim Brotherhood culminated in the Hama uprising, in which government forces killed at least 20,000 people. But that was 30 years ago: such a draconian “security solution” would be hard to repeat in the age of YouTube – and unlikely to end the uprising.

Sectarianism is also rearing its ugly head, with the opposition blaming the regime for fomenting tensions between Alawites, who dominate the security forces, and the Sunni majority.

In the current climate, it is easily done. Mudar, a young Alawite with close establishment links, tells of a soldier cousin who was killed and mutilated, and then clicks on a high-quality video clip of a bushy-bearded man sawing off the head of his screaming victim.

In an area near the Umayyad mosque, an Alawite woman visiting a Sunni friend said she dare not take a taxi home because a Sunni driver might kidnap her and sell her on to be killed.

Rumblings of concern are audible. Last spring, a group of influential Alawites urged Assad to apologise for the repression and pursue genuine rather than cosmetic reforms. “Alawites feel their fate is connected to the Assads,” warned a veteran opposition leader, “and that is very dangerous.”

Pressure is clearly mounting. Alawite businessmen are reported to have been bribing the mukhabarat to avoid releasing their employees to attend pro-regime rallies. Fadwa Suleiman, an Alawite actress, won huge admiration when she came out in support of the uprising, but she was ostracised and denounced on TV by her brother.

Christians, traditionally loyalists, are worried, too, especially about the Salafi element of the uprising, and the churches keenly demonstrate public support for Assad. To some, though, it seemed a very mixed blessing when Daoud Rajha, a Greek Orthodox Christian, was appointed army chief of staff, perhaps in an attempt to guarantee the community’s support.

Another sign of Syria’s deepening crisis is that the state is no longer functioning properly. It is “collapsing in slow motion”, in the words of one expert. Security chiefs are concerned about bribes being demanded to release detainees. Half the weapons acquired by rebels are estimated to have been sold by army personnel while customs agents look the other way as shipments come in from Lebanon. Rumours persist of different branches of the secret police shooting at each other on clandestine operations. And officials are said to have been destroying documents recording off-the-book payments authorised by a phone call from the president’s palace.

Syria’s economic plight has also deepened in the last few weeks. Power cuts for several hours a day are now routine. Shops in the priciest streets of Damascus depend on generators on the pavement. Petrol is in short supply, in part because of massive use by the security forces, and the prices of heating and cooking oil have risen steeply.

This joke illustrates the impact: Abu Fulan – everyman – buys a chicken for dinner. He asks his wife to roast it but she says, ‘Sorry, there’s no gas’. Maaleish (never mind), he replies: let’s pluck it and put it in the microwave. ‘Sorry,’ his wife answers, ‘there’s no electricity either.’ At this point, the chicken miraculously comes to life and squawks: Allah, Souriya, Bashar, wa bas! (“and that’s all you need!”)

The punchline is borrowed from Libya, where the propaganda line was that the thing people needed apart from God and country was Muammar Gaddafi – until his overthrow and murder. It can hardly be a good omen for Assad.

The president was ridiculed for praising the quality of the country’s olive oil and wheat – an allusion to self-reliance. Yet even if ordinary people grumble and make do, the macroeconomic outlook is bleak. Foreign investment and tourism have collapsed. Hotels are empty. US sanctions block most international financial transactions. The EU has stopped oil purchases. Credit cards can no longer be used. And the value of the Syrian pound has been falling steeply.

The regime understands the dangers but its room for manoeuvre is diminishing: when it banned luxury imports, in November, Sunni businessmen protested. The measure was rescinded a few days later.

It is hardly surprising, then, that all this is taking its toll: doctors report an increase in heart attacks, high blood pressure and other stress-related symptoms. Pharmacists are doing a brisk trade in anti-depressants. Two years ago the government introduced a smoking ban, but government offices, cafes and restaurants are still wreathed in clouds of smoke. People are also drinking more.”Doctors tell you to go and watch some silly Egyptian films – anything except the news,” a friend laughed.

Many now have first-hand experience of the apparatus of state repression, and describe details of underground cells, beatings and torture. It is common knowledge that Iranian security advisers are on hand with their sinister expertise in communications monitoring and riot policing. Damascus feels, and looks, like Tehran in 2009 during protests over the rigging of the presidential election.

“The people who are being arrested now don’t have Facebook pages,” the economist Raja Abdel-Karim said wryly. “They don’t care about actors, journalists and writers. The effect of the footage of the demonstrations and the killings is far greater than any quote someone like me can come up with.”

Abu Ahmad, a middle-aged man who was sacked from his government job, wept as he described being at a funeral in Midan, scene of the last dubious suicide bombing, with his wife and children when the shabihastarted shooting.

State media reports only on martyrs among security personnel or regime supporters. Bodies are returned to families bearing unmistakable signs of torture.

“Perhaps the worst human rights violation committed by the regime against the Syrian people is no time to mourn each martyr, no time to grieve,” tweeted the blogger Razan Ghazzawi.

Elements of the anti-Assad opposition are uncomfortable with the “militarisation” of what began as a peaceful uprising inspired by the revolutions in TunisiaEgypt and Libya. The expectation is that violence will intensify as the Free Syrian Army, composed largely of defectors, continues to grow. “If you shoot at people for months, you shouldn’t be surprised when they start shooting back,” observed one western diplomat.

Overall, Syria’s divisions appear to be deepening. “For the last 10 months, millions of people have occupied the middle ground,” says Badr, a lecturer. “But Assad is leaving us with no choice.”

Another joke makes the point well: citizens are being told they must no longer wear grey clothes – only black or white are allowed.

No one can accurately predict how long the uprising will continue. On the opposition side, optimism of the will is tempered by a realisation that in the short term the balance of forces is not in their favour and is unlikely to change quickly – barring a Libyan-style foreign military intervention, which few want or expect. “Our tomorrow is in our hands,” tweeted one supporter of the revolution, “or we will have no tomorrow.”

Louay Hussein, an independent, Alawite writer and intellectual, said only a political solution could bring down the regime. “The crisis is in deadlock,” he argued. “All the signs are that we are heading for open-ended civil war. Assad still has quite a lot of support. It’s not just a question of repression.”

The economist Abdel-Karim takes the long view. “I have no doubt the regime will be toppled. The problem is that the longer it takes, the more powerful the Islamists will become. Those who advocate violence will gain ground. It’s a question of time and cost: time is getting shorter but the price is getting higher.”

Mouna Ghanem, of the Syrian State-Building Movement, one of very few independent nongovernmental organisations, agrees fully with this gloomy analysis. “We are happy that there is change,” she says. “We thought change would never come to Syria. But we fear what is it going to cost.”

Names in this article have been changed

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Zio-Nazi False Flag


A series of CIA memos describes how Israeli Mossad agents posed as American spies to recruit members of the terrorist organization Jundallah to fight their covert war against Iran.


Buried deep in the archives of America’s intelligence services are a series of memos, written during the last years of President George W. Bush’s administration, that describe how Israeli Mossad officers recruited operatives belonging to the terrorist group Jundallah by passing themselves off as American agents. According to two U.S. intelligence officials, the Israelis, flush with American dollars and toting U.S. passports, posed as CIA officers in recruiting Jundallah operatives — what is commonly referred to as a “false flag” operation.

The memos, as described by the sources, one of whom has read them and another who is intimately familiar with the case, investigated and debunked reports from 2007 and 2008 accusing the CIA, at the direction of the White House, of covertly supporting Jundallah — a Pakistan-based Sunni extremist organization. Jundallah, according to the U.S. government and published reports, is responsible for assassinating Iranian government officials and killing Iranian women and children.

But while the memos show that the United States had barred even the most incidental contact with Jundallah, according to both intelligence officers, the same was not true for Israel’s Mossad. The memos also detail CIA field reports saying that Israel’s recruiting activities occurred under the nose of U.S. intelligence officers, most notably in London, the capital of one of Israel’s ostensible allies, where Mossad officers posing as CIA operatives met with Jundallah officials.

The officials did not know whether the Israeli program to recruit and use Jundallah is ongoing. Nevertheless, they were stunned by the brazenness of the Mossad’s efforts.

“It’s amazing what the Israelis thought they could get away with,” the intelligence officer said. “Their recruitment activities were nearly in the open. They apparently didn’t give a damn what we thought.”

Interviews with six currently serving or recently retired intelligence officers over the last 18 months have helped to fill in the blanks of the Israeli false-flag operation. In addition to the two currently serving U.S. intelligence officers, the existence of the Israeli false-flag operation was confirmed to me by four retired intelligence officers who have served in the CIA or have monitored Israeli intelligence operations from senior positions inside the U.S. government.

The CIA and the White House were both asked for comment on this story. By the time this story went to press, they had not responded. The Israeli intelligence services — the Mossad — were also contacted, in writing and by telephone, but failed to respond. As a policy, Israel does not confirm or deny its involvement in intelligence operations.

There is no denying that there is a covert, bloody, and ongoing campaign aimed at stopping Iran’s nuclear program, though no evidence has emerged connecting recent acts of sabotage and killings inside Iran to Jundallah. Many reports have cited Israel as the architect of this covert campaign, which claimed its latest victim on Jan. 11 when a motorcyclist in Tehran slipped a magnetic explosive device under the car of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a young Iranian nuclear scientist. The explosion killed Roshan, making him the fourth scientist assassinated in the past two years. The United States adamantly denies it is behind these killings.

According to one retired CIA officer, information about the false-flag operation was reported up the U.S. intelligence chain of command. It reached CIA Director of Operations Stephen Kappes, his deputy Michael Sulick, and the head of the Counterintelligence Center. All three of these officials are now retired. The Counterintelligence Center, according to its website, is tasked with investigating “threats posed by foreign intelligence services.”

The report then made its way to the White House, according to the currently serving U.S. intelligence officer. The officer said that Bush “went absolutely ballistic” when briefed on its contents.

“The report sparked White House concerns that Israel’s program was putting Americans at risk,” the intelligence officer told me. “There’s no question that the U.S. has cooperated with Israel in intelligence-gathering operations against the Iranians, but this was different. No matter what anyone thinks, we’re not in the business of assassinating Iranian officials or killing Iranian civilians.”

Israel’s relationship with Jundallah continued to roil the Bush administration until the day it left office, this same intelligence officer noted. Israel’s activities jeopardized the administration’s fragile relationship with Pakistan, which was coming under intense pressure from Iran to crack down on Jundallah. It also undermined U.S. claims that it would never fight terror with terror, and invited attacks in kind on U.S. personnel.

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Qatar: A tiny country asserts powerful influence


Watch the Segment »

The Arab Spring is spreading, but not to Qatar, a tiny, oil-rich country wedged between Saudi Arabia and Iran. What keeps the peace in Qatar? Bob Simon reports.

(CBS News)

Qatar is a sliver of a country wedged between Saudi Arabia and Iran, yet Qatar has avoided the chaos, violence and killing of the Arab Spring. There have been no protests, no unrest. Ironically, many Arab leaders believe the engine behind the region’s violent revolution is Al Jazeera, a 24-hour satellite television network based in Qatar. The man behind Al Jazeera, the man who created the influential channel, is the emir of Qatar, His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. Why are Qataris so tranquil? Maybe it’s because Qatar’s 250,000 citizens are, quite literally, the richest people in the world and very content with their lives in this oil-and-gas-rich speck of a nation. Bob Simon reports.

The following script is from “Qatar” which aired on Jan. 15, 2012. Bob Simon is the correspondent. Harry Radliffe, producer.

The Arab revolution keeps spreading, leaving chaos and turmoil in its wake. But one country has been untouched by all that: The tiny speck of a nation called Qatar, wedged between Saudi Arabia and Iran. There have been no protests or demonstrations there. That might be because the 250,000 Qatari citizens are the richest people in the world and there are no taxes. There isn’t much democracy either, but Qataris don’t seem to mind. The same family has ruled them for 150 years and life couldn’t be much better.

Qatar? Easy for you to say…
No matter how you say it, chances are you’re pronouncing “Qatar” wrong. Bob Simon sorts it out.

Today, Qatar is not only wealthy, it’s powerful, admired or feared by everyone in the Middle East. That’s because of its television network, Al Jazeera, which has been the engine of the Arab Spring. The man behind it, the man behind everything there, is His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the emir of Qatar.


The emir is the master of everything he surveys. All around him revolutions are swirling, regimes are teetering, dictators falling. Yet his desert country is an oasis of tranquility.


Bob Simon: You are surrounded, emir, by revolution. We call it the “Arab Spring.” How have you managed to avoid it?


Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani: We started our “Qatari Spring” a long time ago.


To be precise, 16 years ago, when the emir overthrew his father in a palace coup and started creating a country which could startle anyone living anywhere else.


Bob Simon: I think Americans are going to be shocked about a few things here: That there are no taxes. That electricity is free. Health care is free. Education is free. Sounds like a paradise.


Bin Khalifa: Well, I welcome you in this paradise.


The emir’s “paradise” is rising from the sands along the western edge of the Arabian Gulf. In Doha, Qatar’s capital, entire new neighborhoods have been built on land reclaimed from the sea. And the buildings have one thing in common: Bling.


Doha’s skyline looks like it was designed by architects who didn’t talk to each other, didn’t like each other, and engaged in experiments they could never get away with at home. And a Qatari can live anywhere without ever leaving home. A virtual Venice is around the corner. Rodeo Drive is down the block. And there are world-class restaurants in the ancient Arab souk, which was built five years ago.


Fahad al Attiyah, one of the royal family’s army of advisers, took us for a drive.


Simon: You were born here?


Al Attiyah: Yes, born in Qatar.


Simon: There wasn’t any of this?


Al Attiyah: There wasn’t, yes.


Bob Simon: Nothing?


Al Attiyah: Nothing.


Simon: How far back do you have to go? Your grandfather or your great grandfather lived in tents?


Al Attiyah: My father.


Simon: Your father lived in a tent?


Al Attiyah: Yes. The amazing thing: It is my father’s generation that transitioned from living in a tent to living in an urban environment, from commuting on a camel to commuting in a 747. And that transition, within such a short period of time, is astonishing.


The work is being done by a million man army of immigrants: 94 percent of Qatar’s labor force is foreign; Filipinos, Indians, Nepalese mainly – creating a home for a mere 250,000 Qataris. Paying for it? No problem. Qatar sits on top of the third largest natural gas reserves on the planet.


A new plant called “The Pearl” turns those reserves into liquid fuels. It cost $18 billion and took five years to build. It is the largest, most sophisticated plant of its kind and the centerpiece of the emir’s strategy to keep Qatar rich. When we ran into him at its inauguration, he seemed genuinely proud.


Simon: Well, congratulations. Now you’ve got the biggest plant in the world.


Bin Khalifa: Oh, that’s great, and I’m happy that they finish it.


Simon: Indeed. On time too.


Time is a precious commodity here; everything’s happening at once. They’re finishing a new hospital – the Qataris say will be one of the most advanced in the world. There’s a new concert hall, with a new symphony orchestra. The emir imported the musicians. Six American universities have built campuses here, offering American degrees in the heart of the Middle East. The Museum of Islamic Art, with a billion dollar collection, opened last year. Admission, of course, is free.


Sheik Hamid bin Jasim: Everything is free. That become, like, a part of our culture.


Sheik Hamid bin Jasim is Qatar’s prime minister.


Bin Jasim: Even when the– people died, they were– we take care of them.


Simon: Free funerals.


Bin Jasim: Yes.


Simon: From cradle to grave–


Bin Jasim: Yes, yes.


Simon:–everything’s taken care of.


Bin Jasim: That’s– we can make a logo.


Simon: This is a pretty good place to live.


Bin Jasim: Yes. We are living in good environments. Let us pray that problems around us cool down.


Those “problems” – the chaos, violence and killings throughout the Middle East are not cooling down at all – and many Arab leaders say, to a large extent, it is the emir’s fault.


That’s because of the television network he created 15 years ago. It’s called Al Jazeera and it does something unprecedented in the Arab world. It covers the news. It’s on the air 24 hours a day, broadcasts in Arabic and English and is widely considered to be the engine of the Arab Spring.



Bin Khalifa: I believe we made a good reform.


Simon: This was the first and the only network in the Arab world that was independent. Everyone else was just doing what their government told them to do.


Bin Khalifa: Of course, it caused us a lot of problem with the top people in the Arab countries.


Simon: You say that Al Jazeera created problems for some leaders in the Middle East. It created big problems. It got them overthrown.


Bin Khalifa : Well I– I’m not sure if it’s Al Jazeera was behind this.


He may not be sure, but others are. Egyptians watched the Tunisian revolution “live” on Al Jazeera, discussed it on Facebook, and took to the streets. Libyans watched the Egyptians. Yeminis watched the Libyans and the Syrians watched them all. Al Jazeera has become the region’s only real reality show.


Faisal al Qasim: We Arabs have been fond over the years of hiding our dirt under the carpet.


Faisal al Qasim is the host of one of Al Jazeera’s most popular talk shows.


Al Qasim: We are here to reveal everything, to cover everything. That’s why they don’t like us. We are talking here about Arab governments, Arab regimes. I’m not talking about the Arab people. The Arab people love Al Jazeera.


Egyptians sure loved it last February. Thousands of protesters in Tahrir Square watched themselves and their own revolution “live” on Al Jazeera.


Al Qasim: And nobody can negate the fact that Al Jazeera played a big role in what happened in Egypt at the time.


Simon: Here at Al Jazeera, are you covering the news or do you have an agenda?


Al Qasim: What is wrong with transforming the Arab world from tyranny and despotism into a democracy? What’s wrong with that? If there is an agenda, it’s a very good agenda.


Critics charge that Al Jazeera is not completely independent, that it’s part of the emir’s plan to increase his clout in the region, something he’s hesitant to admit.


Bin Khalifa: Actually, we don’t have the influence. We are supporting the people of those countries who is asking for justice and dignity.


Simon: That’s influence.


Bin Khalifa: Okay, if this influence, I think this is a healthy influence. I think all the world should support this.


It was the emir’s support that made it possible for the French, the British and the Americans to form a NATO coalition to overthrow the Libyan tyrant Muammar Qaddafi. The allies said they wouldn’t do it without an Arab partner. The emir deployed six war planes to help enforce the no-fly zone, gave the rebels millions of dollars of weapons and military hardware, and didn’t conceal where they came from.


When Qaddafi’s compound finally fell, Qatar’s flag could be seen flying over the ruins.


Bin Jasim: This is the first fruitful coalition between the Arabs and the NATO to help an Arab country.


Simon: How did you feel when you saw the Qatari flag go up over Qaddafi’s old compound?


Bin Jasim: Well I believe that leaders should limit their stays. That’s where the problem is happening.


That didn’t really answer our question, so we tried again.


Simon: How did you feel when you saw the Qatari flag go up in Tripoli?


Bin Jasim: I was trying to get out of this question.


Simon: No kidding.


Bin Jasim: Yes. Seriously, I was trying to get– well, I’m proud that we– we help the Libyan people. Let us put it this way.


Simon: Must’ve been a great moment for you.


Bin Jasim: It is– it is a new experience for us.


So is the emir’s emergence as the most influential leader in the Arab world. In England, he was hosted by the queen. And last April, President Obama thanked him for helping promote democracy in the Middle East.


But the emir also has good relations with Hamas – the militant Palestinian group that runs Gaza – which the U.S. labels a terrorist organization.


Simon: Do the Americans ever come to you and say, “Hey, will you cut it out with Hamas, it’s really bothering us?”


Bin Khalifa: They didn’t like our relation with Iran, with Hamas, with Hezbollah. But maybe if you go to the other side, the Iranian, they don’t like to see our relation with Israel. Hamas, they don’t want to see our relation with Israel. So it’s– it’s completely mixed.


The emir appears to have no ideology and, critics say, no loyalties. When his close personal friend Syrian President Assad refused to stop killing his people, the emir abandoned him. Today, he talks tougher than any other world leader on what should be done in Syria.


Simon: Would you be in favor of Arab nations intervening in Syria?


Bin Khalifa: I think for such a situation to stop the killing, we have some– some troops should go to stop the killing.


The killing is worlds away from Qatar. What you see here is contentment. There have been no protests, no calls for democracy. After all, what could an opposition offer that Qataris don’t already have? But the emir just bought himself some additional insurance. He raised the salaries of all Qatari government workers by 60 percent. Soldiers and policemen got 120 percent. The prime minister insists this has nothing to do with politics.


Bin Jasim: We have one obsession– is how to continue to let the people live in the same standard. That’s very difficult target. We are trying to do that target.


Simon: Excellency, can you think of any other country in the world that has a better standard of living?


Bin Jasim: Well there is good living standard in many places in the world. But the main thing is what sort of quality of people you produce. We would like our people not to be spoiled by this. We need our children not to be spoiled by this. That’s, I think, the big challenge for us.


And, there’s a bigger challenge. Here is Qatar’s military on parade at last month’s National Day celebrations. Picturesque, but not very intimidating, not when your next door neighbors are Iran and Saudi Arabia. So how does the emir keep his island of happiness afloat when the seas are getting rougher every day?


Simon: It often seems as if the basis of your foreign policy is to be friends with everyone.


Bin Khalifa: Don’t you think this is a good policy for a small country?


Simon: Yes, it is if you can pull it off.


Bin Khalifa: Well, we are trying.










Posted in Middle EastComments Off on Qatar: A tiny country asserts powerful influence



Kamel Hawwash first Jewish PSC vice Chair

A (small) Thank you to anti-Israel Jews

Guest Post, January 1st 2012

This  is a guest post by Anthony Cooper. A version of this article originally appeared in the Jewish Chronicle.

If for every two Jews there are three opinions, it is hardly surprising that there is a distinct lack of unanimous support for any policy decision from any Israeliadministration. But, while most British Jews prefer to leave the public criticism to Israel’s many willing opponents, some feel the need to state their disagreements loudly and “as Jews”. Their apparent willingness to lend support to the complete delegitimisation of the Jewish state leaves the rest of us unsure how to respond and it is tempting to simply label them “self-hating Jews”. However, the truth is never so straightforward.

In many, perhaps most, cases the motivation to publicly denounce Israel is the desire to fight antisemitism. As the CST has observed, the number of antisemitic attacks in the UK is directly related to tensions and actions in the Middle East. Some believe that the support Israel receives from Britain’s mainstream Jewish organisations is a cause of antisemitism and the only way to fight that is to create Jewish anti-Israel organisations.

The founding declaration of Independent Jewish Voices, for example, places the fight against antisemitism at the heart of the organisation. Likewise, Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP) state that they “extend support to Palestinians trapped in the spiral of violence and repression” because they “believe that such actions are important in countering antisemitism”.

Unfortunately, these campaigns are naïve and counter-productive. Racists are generally not entirely rational people. The egg-throwing thug is unlikely to weigh up the probability that the man walking home from synagogue might disapprove of settlements. Nor is the desecrater of cemeteries going to check first that his victims haven’t signed an anti-Israel letter to the Guardian.

More likely is the attitude shown in a comment allegedly left by a member of the Reading Palestine Solidarity Campaign on a website that “not all adherents to the Torah are enemies of humanity” because Neturei Karta are not. By opposing any and every action by Israel, the impression is given that anyone not joining the public denunciations is fully supportive of all these policies. Far from destroying the impression of Jewish support for Israeli actions, their opposition reinforces it. And all this is aside from the impact of delegitimisation on our fellow Jews in Israel.

Nevertheless, very few anti-Israel Jews are self-hating. We should recognise this and make sure to keep them within the big tent against antisemitism rather than making them pariahs. They may be opponents of Israel but they can be our allies in the struggle against antisemitism.

An example are the Jews of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). The PSC is a leading force in delegitimisation, using trade unions to advance its call to boycott all things related to Israel. Its public meetings are often attended by Labour MPs and it invited the banned Sheikh Raed Salah to speak at one such meeting to be held in the Houses of Parliament. Many believe the organisation is incapable of distinguishing between criticism of Israeli actions and antisemitism.

However, during 2011 there has been something of a mini-purge of the organisation with some previously important members forced to resign because of their antisemitism. Those effectively expelled include a former national chair, the chair of one branch, the secretary of another and the webmaster of a third. Behind all these resignations appear to be rank and file Jewish members with support from a Jewish member of the Executive Committee. While the PSC itself may be unable to work our what antisemitism looks like, its Jewish members certainly can.

We have enough enemies already that we shouldn’t be looking to create more.

So long as anti-Israel Jews retain their sensitivity to antisemitism we can be sure that they are neither self-hating nor hate us. They remain allies in our struggle against antisemitism and in some ways are capable of achieving results in it that the rest of us cannot. We should thank them for that. If we don’t make enemies of them, we may find that we have more friends than we thought. May 2012 be a year of reconciliation and greater unity in our small community. We will all be better off for it.






The leader of Qatar has said Arab troops should be sent to Syria to stop the regime’s violent crackdown on protesters.

Zionist puppet  Hamad Shlomo  bin Khalifa Al Thani’s comments, made to CBS, are the first by  Zionist puppet calling for the deployment of troops inside Syria.

They come amid growing claims that a team of Arab League observers dispatched to the country to curb the bloodshed has failed in its mission.

Qatar, which once had close relations with Damascus, has been a harsh critic of the 10-month crackdown by President Bashar al Assad‘s government.

The wealthy and influential Gulf state withdrew its ambassador to Syria in the summer to protest against the killings.

The leading Qatar-based Zionist al Jazeera television has also been a strong supporter of the ‘Arab uprisings’, although some say the station remained largely silent during anti-government protests in the Gulf state of Bahrain.

Qatar and Bahrain are part of the Saudi-led six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.

Arab League observers began work in Syria on December 27, to verify whether the government is abiding by its agreement to end the military crackdown on dissent.

Meanwhile, the US has accused Iran of supplying Syria with weapons to reinforce its crackdown on protesters.

Officials in Washington claim the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards visited Damascus this month, a sign – they say – that Iranian aid to Syria includes military hardware.

“We are confident that he was received at the highest levels of the Syrian government, including by President Assad,” an official said on condition of anonymity.

“We think this relates to Iranian support for the Syrian government’s attempts to suppress its people.

“The US government believes Iran has supplied Syria with munitions for use in the military crackdown,” he said.

The US has long suspected that Iran has been aiding Syria’s purge against protesters as President Assad tries to cling to power and avoid the fate of other Arab dictators felled by the Arab Spring uprisings.

At least 5,000 people are believed to have been killed in the violence.




With officials desperately hoping that the eighth time is the charm, they have reported today that they believe the January 12 drone strike against a pair of cars in North Waziristan has killed Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Hakimullah Mehsud.

Readers may remember Hakimullah from the last seven times officials have claimed he was killed, most of them “confirmed kills.” Hakimullah was first slain in August 2009, and slain six addition times between then and February 2010. He appeared in May 2010 to report that despite being killed so many times he was basically ok.”

As usual, officials cited “intercepted radio communication” in their speculation, because no one ever actually identified any of the victims of the US attacks and they simply hope that they got somebody they meant to get.

And, just as usual, the TTP has already denied the death, with spokesman Asimullah Mehsud saying that Hakimullah wasn’t even in the area where the strike occurred. Indeed the last reports on North Waziristan were that the TTP leadership had agreed to leave the region at the behest of the Bahadur faction, and that they had all moved to South Waziristan, Kurram and Orakzai.

Posted in Afghanistan, Pakistan & KashmirComments Off on IS EIGHT ENOUGH? US REPORTS KILLING HAKIMULLAH MEHSUD YET AGAIN



Speaking today in an interview with Sky News, British Foreign Secretary William Hague today insisted that the nation will never rule out a military attack on Iran, saying that “all options” would remain on the table.

Hague defended the position, insisting Britain wasn’t really “calling for or advocating military action” but rather believed that the threats would eventually “get some flexibility from Iran.”

British officials announced in November that they were ratcheting up their preparations for participating in a US-led attack on Iran, saying that they believed a war would be launched soon.

On Friday the French government insisted that the military option wasn’t really an option, and that indeed the West had run out of ideas on how to deal with Iran, since they weren’t willing to make any concessions.


Difficult Conversations: Syria as seen from Lebanon


Joseph El-Khoury

Few Lebanese can pretend to be fully objective when it comes to events in Syria. The emotional baggage from the ‘Pax Syriana’, the infamous Status quo imposed by the Assad’s regime on the country, still runs deep in the Lebanese psyche bringing significant bias to any cold-hearted analysis.

From the mid 1980s onwards the Syrian regime through its instruments of domination and deception determined the balance of power between the various religious sects; and also within these sects.  The winners and losers from this orderly distribution of musical chairs that followed the chaos of the civil war are the same principal actors of the current political stage, characterised by the confrontation between March 8th and the March 14th alliances (pro- and anti-Hezbollah respectively). Ever since that fateful day in 1976 when troops under the banner of the Arab dissuasion forces rolled across the border at Masnaa, we have had a pro-Syrian camp and an anti-Syrian one. Neutrality was not an option, and contrary to the politically correct discourse, it is that dichotomy that trumps all others, including the divergence of position vis-a-vis Israel and the Palestinians.

And Syria; from Lebanon; for all intent and purposes is Assad’s Syria; with its figures, its slogans and its modus operandi.

My compatriots can pretend, on both sides of the argument, that their interest in the future of Syria is primarily motivated by a sense of justice and deep empathy for those dying in  the uprising that has raged on in March 2011. Te truth is that their position on this matter is neither selfless nor shaped by facts. For most Lebanese It is pre-established and unshakeable.

Personally, I am from that generation that was at the receiving end of that mixture of humiliation, pain and fear that simply won’t go away; and invariably I seek some form of retribution. Still, which opinion is not shaped by personal experience; and who can argue with a straight face that it is unreasonable to wish for the demise of the Baath regime or at least a radical overhaul?  My position is unashamedly based on its track record since 1970, not March 2011, in Syria and also in Lebanon. For me, it avoids the distraction of arguing over whether the demonstrators in Deraa were armed infiltrators who shot first or those in Homs are trained Jihadists with Salafi ambitions.

Even if Assad can claim support among sections of the population, including minorities and the business classes, his assessment sheet should make disappointing reading for any outsider sympathisers. With the threat of an Islamic Emirate internally and the challenge of an Arab-Western a coalition externally, after 40 years of totalitarian rule a self proclaimed secular progressive regime has failed at delivering its socialism, freedom and unity; at home and abroad.

As for us Lebanese; the neighborhood is changing and a radical adjustment is on the cards.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Difficult Conversations: Syria as seen from Lebanon

The actually Zionist-controlled media tries to make its mark


By Dan Klein


NEW YORK (JTA) — It is a strange irony: Jews have been successful in the television business — but Jewish TV, not so much.

It’s not for lack of trying. Right now, no fewer than three Jewish-focused national cable channels are trying to carve out a viable niche within the already small niche for Jewish TV.

It’s a road others have taken in the past, only to reach a dead end.

Jay Sanderson, who served for 21 years as CEO of the Jewish Television Network, knows better than most.

“There’s been dozens of attempts and dozens of failures,” said Sanderson, now the president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. “It’s a cycle that’s been happening for 30-plus years. People want it to happen.”

The current Jewish television channels — The Jewish Channel, Shalom TV and Jewish Life Television — have scored some successes. They all launched in the past five years.

The Jewish Channel garnered national attention twice in the last two months with news broadcasts that ended up metastasizing into international stories.

Launched in 2007 as a subscription video on-demand channel, TJC has been touted as “a Jewish film festival in your living room.” But it has been the channel’s news coverage, which makes up a small fraction of TJC’s overall programming and mostly is not original content — that has thrust the channel into the public eye.

A November news report on an Israeli government-sponsored ad campaign urging Israeli expatriates in the United States to return home sparked an uproar in the United States, with many suggesting that the ads were dismissive of American Judaism. The Israeli government ultimately apologized and ended the campaign.

And in December, TJC landed a sit-down interview with Newt Gingrich in which the Republican presidential candidate suggested that the Palestinians are an “invented” people. Gingrich’s remarks drew headlines and criticism from GOP rivals, including Mitt Romney.

Steven I. Weiss, the director of original programming and new media at TJC as well as its news anchor, credited the channel’s success to “hard work and good luck, and doing the hard work until you get lucky.”

While TJC officials describe their channel as a Jewish HBO, Shalom TV –– a free on-demand channel launched in 2006 — describes itself as a Jewish version of C-SPAN and PBS. Shalom TV features educational programming, including Hebrew lessons, as well as videos of Jewish events, lectures, debates and speeches.

This month, the network will begin operating as a linear cable channel, with programming throughout the day, according to Mark Golub, Shalom TV’s founder and CEO. Golub said that five small cable systems across the country will carry the linear channel initially, while three larger cable systems have committed to picking it up once it is up and running. The programming also will be streamed online.

Jewish Life Television, which launched in 2007, already is operating as a 24/7 linear channel. It airs a variety of programming, from music videos and cooking shows to religious services and entertainment news. JLTV appears on cable systems across the country, and recently joined DIRECTV to be broadcast in all 50 states. In December, JLTV broadcast and streamed online President Obama’s speech at the Union for Reform Judaism’s biennial conference.

Officials at all three channels say there are distinct challenges in creating a television network aimed at a broader American Jewish audience.

“If you’re reaching Russian, Chinese audiences, you can rely on language barrier to make people have to watch your material,” TJC’s Weiss said. “With the Jewish audience, everyone speaks English.”

Golub said it was an uphill fight to sell cable companies on Shalom TV and the concept of a Jewish channel.

“No one had ever been able to convince a major cable system to launch a Jewish network. There was every kind of ethnic, Haitian, Russian, Spanish television. There was Christian, but no Jewish,” Golub said. “No cable system would say that we’re going to devote server space to feature a Jewish channel in its own lineup of channels alongside MSNBC, the Cooking Channel. We convinced them.”

In addition to Shalom TV, Golub is president of the Russian Media Group, which produces two of its own Russian-language channels and also distributes a package of satellite channels aimed at Russian speakers. Golub is a co-creator of the company’s flagship Russian Television Network of America, a 20-year-old cable and satellite channel that targets immigrants from the former Soviet Union, most of whom are Jewish.

Representatives of all three English-language channels cast their projects not as luxuries but as necessities in the Jewish community.

“If the Jewish culture was not a rich culture, you could say there’s no place for Jewish television,” Weiss said. “But in a community that produces as many cultural pieces as we produce, as much fascinating political news discussion and as much fascination with Israel — that culture needs a TV channel, it wants a TV channel and it deserves one.”

Weiss told JTA that TJC has 50,000 subscribers who pay $5 to $7 a month. He said the channel expects to begin turning a profit sometime this year.

Phil Blazer, the founder of JLTV, says his channel’s audience has grown on DIRECTV to nearly 2 million households monthly. Based on that figure, he estimates that an additional 1 million viewers are watching on other cable affiliates. Blazer attributed the relatively large viewership to the channel’s appeal to Christian audiences interested in Judaism and Jewish culture.

Shalom TV says that its on-demand programming is accessed by 40,000 to 50,000 households monthly.

Shalom TV says it tracks audience using the media organization RenTrak; JLTV uses Kantar Media. TJC declined to say how it tracks its numbers.

None of the channels provided original tracking documents, and JTA was unable to independently verify their viewership claims.

Blazer says that JLTV, which is a for-profit company, generated $2 million in gross advertising revenue in 2010. He also is the president of the Jewish Life Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supplies some of JLTV’s original content. According to IRS filings, Blazer draws no pay from the foundation. Blazer told JTA that he also does not receive a salary from the channel itself.

Golub, Shalom TV’s CEO, also does not receive a salary, according to the channel’s IRS filings. The channel, Golub added, is a nonprofit that has been funded by him and his brother to the tune of “seven figures” over the past four years. Shalom TV raises additional funds through outside donations and by selling DVDs of its programming. Golub said he is starting to seek additional funding.

“We wanted to prove that a Jewish television network was viable and could have an impact before we talked to the foundations about funding,” Golub said.

Sanderson, however, was less optimistic.

“I’m sure some of the programming has redeeming value,” he said. “The question is — is it worth the cost and will it succeed and will it make an impact and will it penetrate the Jewish American community in ways that are successful? I think history doesn’t lie in this particular world.”

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“To smile when confronted with the most severe oppression, is an act of Resistance rooted in unparalleled beauty.”

~ Jonathan Azaziah


“And I, a Palestinian from occupied Palestine, refuse to share
my homeland with Zionist colonizers

~ Reham Alhelsi

“Facts” do NOT need laws to enforce or defend them, what they need is research to prove or disprove them

“When a man who is honestly mistaken hears the truth, he will either cease being mistaken, or cease being honest.” 

Posted in ZIO-NAZIComments Off on The actually Zionist-controlled media tries to make its mark

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