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Dear Friends,


8 items below.


The initial one is an Amnesty International petition to end Administrative Detention.  If you have not yet signed it, please consider doing so now.


Item 2 is a powerful letter from Khader Adnan’s wife.


Item 3 is a brief note from the New York Times informing us that Israel is planning to build another 600 units in the West Bank.


In item 4 we learn that the IOF is planning to move military bases or camps to the Negev, and with that families, and much more.  The Bedouins occupy approximately 2% of the Negev.  Apparently this is too much.  No!  Israel has to Judaize the Negev at the expense of the Bedouins, whose tribes lived there much before Israel was even a glimmer in any one’s eye.


Item 5 informs us that Tel Aviv is no haven for Asylum seekers—just in case you didn’t know.


Items 6 and 7 are both about Iran.  Even were it true that Iran is developing nuclear weapons (and there are many learned voices that doubt it), I can hardly see its leaders attacking Israel, which has so many more nuclear weapons.  But the war drums get louder.  65% of Israelis oppose going it alone in a war with Iran.  I can’t imagine that Americans are anxious to have another war either.  But apparently it is going to happen, no matter how much I wish it wouldn’t.    Item 6 says that the US and Israel are sending mixed messages on Iran.  Item 7 tell us what the Iranian elites think about the West.


Item 8 is ‘Today in Palestine’ for February 23.  One item that I hope that you will not neglect is one that argues that the high court gives Israel “license to pillage” West Bank resources.  Of course all the items in ‘Today’ offer important information.  But this I think tells us much about how the colonization operates.


All the best, and still hoping for better days,



1 Please take action – visit the link to AI’s petition

17 February 2012

Israel: End use of administrative detention 


Randa Musa,

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Maali Adnan with Khader Adnan picture

Maali Adnan holds a picture of her hunger-striking father, Khadar Adnan, a member of Islamic Jihad. Photograph: Mohammed Ballas/AP


The name of my husband, Khadar Adnan, has now become known across the world. Four months ago he was unknown outside our homeland, Palestine. His hunger strike of 66 days has transformed him into a global figure and a shining symbol of my people’s struggle.

Our life was turned upside down on 17 December 2011 when Israeli troops raided our home in Araba village, south of Jenin, in the occupied West Bank. It was about 3am when they broke down the doors and stormed into our house. The havoc they wreaked will always remain etched on the minds of our two daughters, Ma’ali, aged four, and Baysan, one-and-a-half years old. I would not be surprised if even our unborn baby will also be affected. Such was the trauma that accompanied the Israeli raid.

Khadar has been an student activist for many years. He is no shadowy figure but an outspoken local leader against the Israeli occupation. He is well known to both the Israeli occupation authorities and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. Both have detained him for various periods without charge.


This constant harassment has stood between Khadar and the completion of his master’s degree in economics. Yet, we remain a normal couple, yearning for the much-needed stability and freedom to raise our children; to give them the happiness that is the entitlement of every child. With my own university degree, I have no doubt that as parents, we are well equipped to realise our ambitions. But life under Israel’s military occupation has turned our dream into a nightmare.


Not for the first time, Khadar has used hunger strike, his powerful form of peaceful protest, to great effect. When the Palestinian Authority forces detained him in 2010 he went on a hunger strike for 12 consecutive days, forcing the Ramallah authority to release him.


Likewise, he staged several hunger strikes in the occupation’s detention camps. The last of these was carried out in 2005, which lasted nine days in solitary confinement.


What drives my husband to pursue this dangerous and difficult form of resistance? I have no doubt it is the unjust nature of “administrative detention” and its notorious methods of torture and humiliation. From the moment he was bundled into their military vehicle in December, insults and veiled threats were thrown at him. They even tried to unhinge him psychologically by claiming I was unfaithful, a vicious calumny he dismissed with scorn.


I know my husband well; I love him, and will always remain faithful to him. He knows this and this is why he spurned the cheap talk of his tormentors.

Khadar was never motivated by personal hurt or inconvenience. He, like thousands of other young Palestinians, is determined to see an end to the occupation. He is driven by a higher logic: to expose to the world the plight of imprisoned Palestinians. Since 1967, more than 650,000 Palestinians have passed through Israeli jails – many of them in administrative detention – an average of one in four in the occupied territories.

Administrative detention is a nebulous and vindictive measure used by the occupation against our young men and women. It is one of the cruel legacies of the old British mandate in Palestine. Today, in the absence of any deterrent or condemnation from the international community, Israel uses it with increasing frequency against university students and lecturers, young professionals and even elected parliamentarians. Some 300 are being held. It is part of an immoral policy used to keep Palestinians in a state of perpetual poverty and underdevelopment.


When a military commander issues an order for administrative detention, no evidence is produced. No charges are brought against the victims, and the occupation has no obligation to give reasons for the detention. This is by no means a legal mechanism. It is simply an arbitrary draconian measure used to inflict psychological and physical harm on its victims. When they are fortunate enough to be brought before a judge, he can detain them for periods of six months that can be extended indefinitely. The prisoners problem is so prevalent today that Palestinians have had to create a special ministry for prisoners’ affairs.


I know my husband is not selfish. This is why I supported him every step of the way. As with any devoted wife, I am duty bound to help him bear the burden of our oppressed people. Our relatives and extended family have supported us with equal fortitude. Indeed, I would not be telling a lie if I say that all Palestinians across the whole political spectrum and millions of freedom-loving people in the world have also stood with us.The occupation has decided, under pressure, to free my husband in April, but hundreds more will continue to languish in putrid cells under the same illegal, inhuman scheme. Khadar has, however, delivered his message: that this long night of tyranny and inhumanity will come to an end.


We are well aware that the Israelis may try to renege on this week’s agreement – as they have done with the recent prisoner exchange deal – by re-arresting the freed prisoners. But for every occasion there will be a response, and I have no doubt my husband would not hesitate to resume his stoic struggle with even more strength and determination.

For me, the most difficult part of this ordeal has been the knowledge that at any time I could receive a phone call announcing that my husband is dead. But this is the price for our freedom. It is the indispensable sacrifice needed so that our children might enjoy a life of freedom and dignity.

To the free world, the millions who heard of Khadar and supported him by calling for his release, I extend our heartfelt thanks and appreciation.

My husband, Khadar Adnan, has shed light on Israel’s disregard for human rights | Randa Musa


This article was published on at 13.30 GMT on Wednesday 22 February 2012. A version appeared on p34 of the Main section section of the Guardian on Thursday 23 February 2012. It was last modified at 00.05 GMT on Thursday 23 February 2012.



3  NY Times

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Israel Approves Building Plan for 600 Homes in West Bank




Israel gave preliminary approval on Wednesday to a plan to build 600 new homes in a settlement deep inside the West Bank, a move that drew rebukes from the United Nations and Palestinians. Israeli officials tried to play down the decision about building in Shiloh, saying that construction was years away at best. But Yariv Oppenheimer, director of Peace Now, called it the biggest settlement construction plan in the West Bank since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office three years ago. Mark Toner, a spokesman for the United States State Department, declined to comment about the announcement but said the administration’s stance on settlement activity was clear. “We don’t believe it’s in any way constructive to getting both sides back to the negotiating table,” he said.


Thanks to Ruth H for forwarding this.



IDF is dedicated to developing the Negev; Barak: Transition will bring “opportunity and momentum on a scale never seen before”

Date: 23/02/2012, 12:10 PM     Author: Rotem Pesso

The IDF is in the midst of the planning stages of a large transition to the Negev desert. The large transition, which is to include the construction of a city of training bases, will soon take shape. Along with the announcement of the amounts of grants given to officers and career soldiers who serve in the Negev, additional data has been released showing the large benefits the IDF’s move will have for the entire Israeli society and economy, especially in the peripheral areas.

A meeting of Negev area city mayors was held Wednesday and was attended by Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Barak stated, “The move of IDF bases to the Negev will bring with it opportunity and moment on a scale never seen before. Along with the transfer of bases and operations to the Negev, the challenge will be to leverage the IDF’s move to bring about maximum economic and social impact that will bring the Negev from a peripheral area to a central one.”

As a part of the transition to the Negev, the IDF will provide grants and housing support to families moving to the south. In addition, the IDF has estimated that the transition will encourage additional investment in education, health, transport and municipal infrastructure in the south. The increased purchases and services demanded by army units will bring additional business and jobs. All these factors will contribute to the prosperity of the economy in the Negev.

The move will also bring about a large a demographic shift. The south is preparing to absorb large quantities of professional soldiers and civilian IDF employees, alongside the regular soldiers who will serve in the region. According to the chief of staff’s economic adviser, 40% of those moving will be married, and 33% have children. Roughly 60% of new residents are between the ages of 22 and 30. Moreover, data shows that approximately 63% of those intending to move to the Negev live in Tel Aviv and central Israel, with the same percentage being well educated, with bachelors or graduate degrees.

The IDF transition is being described as “the locomotive behind an economic, social and national revolution,” by the chief of staff’s economic advisor. The expected demographic shift to Negev, which was the vision of Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion, will increase the Jewish population of the Negev as well as improve the balance of migration. The army will also bring advanced educational infrastructure and development to the south, resulting in a stronger higher education system in the Negev, closing the gaps with central Israel.

The IDF believes the transition will also increase the size of the student population. Moreover, the developments in public transportation will also take large steps in bringing the periphery towards the center. A developed road and rail network is in the works to facilitate mobility for the new residents. These improvements will come with a more developed healthcare infrastructure that will help promote advanced medical studies.



5 Al Jazeera

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Charlotte Silver

Charlotte Silver is a journalist based in the West Bank, Palestine. She is a graduate of Stanford University.



Tel Aviv is no haven for asylum seekers


African refugees going to Israel take a harrowing journey to get there – only to be left to fend for themselves.

For many refugees and asylum seekers, Israel is considered a last resort destination [EPA]


Ramallah, West Bank – The notion of a “Jewish and democratic state”, never a feasible reality, continues to unravel as its inherent racism is revealed in a new way. Any political discussion of refugees that are of the wrong ethnicity inevitably refers to African migration to Israel as an “existential threat”. Labelling these refugees as “threats” allows the state to criminalise and imprison them. Meanwhile, the country continues to solicit immigrants from East Asia to fulfil the need for cheap labour, and Jewish immigrants to battle the internal demographic war.


Brutal violence at the hands of their own governments has forced tens of thousands of people from the horn of Africa into Israel. In response the state has approved a significant rearrangement of its ministries’ budgets, allowing it to pour significantly more money into efforts that punish these refugees for seeking asylum in Israel – a place which has long advertised itself as the only democracy in the Middle East.


 Israel’s Sudanese ‘enemy nationals’


State officials estimate that around 2,000 asylum seekers enter the country every month. Most of the men end up in Levinsky Park in southern Tel Aviv. At any time during the day or night, one can find young black African men sitting on the park’s benches, swings and concrete walls. In late January, a man who lived in the park died from exposure during the night.


The majority of the men who live in Levinsky Park are from Eritrea and Darfur. They are luckier than most of their compatriots who remain in the perilous countries from which they have fled, but not so fortunate as those who manage to make it to the USA or Europe. For these refugees, Israel is considered a last-resort destination due to its rapidly worsening conditions for refugees and asylum seekers.


Alienation of immigrants


While community members and organisations have responded to the refugee-related crises developing in the country’s founding city by setting up an emergency shelter and serving warm dinners to a hungry crowd, these generous gestures are the exception in a state that fosters growing hostility to outsiders.


In late 2010, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu announced his three-pronged strategy to battle “illegal immigration”. The Knesset approved a 2 per cent cut from all ministries in order to tackle this internal “threat”. Israel’s government has allocated nearly $5.4m to build a wall on Israel’s border with Egypt and a 10,000-person detention centre in the Negev that is expected to cost $3m a year just to operate. Netanyahu’s proposed bill would also slap a $21,000 fee on corporations that hire undocumented immigrants.


Then, in the first two weeks of 2012, the Israeli Knesset approved an amendment to the “Prevention and Infiltration Act” that allows indefinite detention of immigrants from “enemy states”, and a three-year detention without charges for asylum seekers.


“This is how the public becomes racist,” Yohannes Bayu, the director of African Refugee Development Centre (ARDC), tells me, explaining the government’s campaign against African asylum seekers, who are labelled as “labour infiltrators”.


Founded in 2007 – when mass migration from Africa to Israel spiked – ARDC works directly with refugees and asylum seekers in Israel. However, Bayu explains that since the organisation’s founding, Israeli society has become increasingly antagonistic to its work.


“People are attacked in the streets. People are not allowed to rent houses to African refugees.”


– Yohannes Bayu, director of ASSAF


“In the beginning of 2008, the public donated and helped ARDC immensely. But now that is not there anymore, we feel it and we see it also – because the media and the government has ramped up this hatred,” explains Bayu.


But Bayu adds that overt racism in Israeli society has become common, “People are attacked on the streets. People are not allowed to rent houses to African refugees.”


But as the government rails against African migrant workers, it imports workers from East Asia – primarily the Philippines and Thailand – to make up its imperative cheap labour force. Since Israel lost Palestinians as its reliable source of low-paid, exploitative labour due to the country’s policy of separation, it has granted hundreds of thousands of temporary work permits to those non-Jewish immigrants who can afford the expensive work permit and agency fees.


Furthermore, Israel is one of the only states in the world that actively campaigns around the world to increase immigration, offering incentives to Jews who immigrate to the country.


The desperate men – and some women – who leave their families and homelands behind in Africa escape torture, forced military conscription and murder. As confirmed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Eritrea and Sudan have been two of the top producers of refugees over the past two years. These states’ betrayals of their own citizens have rendered tens of thousands stateless.


Conventions and detentions


Israeli politicians’ claims that only a “drizzle” of the African immigrants are rightfully refugees is quickly belied by the fact that almost none of the men are deported. Of the approximately 17,000 asylum seekers who reached Israel in 2011 via Egypt, only 270 have been returned to Egypt. Israel is a party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. The country’s already shaky moral standing internationally would surely slip further if it began to ship refugees back to persecution.

 Refugees face deportation in Israel


However, allowing asylum seekers to remain in the country without rights hardly fulfills the directions of the Convention, which was composed in 1951 after the world saw and acknowledged the dangers posed to stateless human beings.


Before reaching Israel’s borders, asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan must survive a harrowing journey across the Sinai. They routinely experience rape and enslavement, and are reportedly the targets of organ traffickers.


Whether jumping the fence or walking across the border into Israel, asylum seekers are immediately picked up by border police and taken to a detention centre where they are held for weeks or months. Bayu expects that immigration authorities will begin holding these men to the extent of the new law – three years – once the new detention centre is built. Planning authorities expect the prison to be operating within the first half of 2012.


But for now the scenario for these men follows a predictable pattern: They are released in less than three months and given a three to six-month visa and then bussed up to Levinsky Park in Tel Aviv, where they are left to fend for themselves.


Levinsky Park was named after a Lithuanian Zionist who immigrated to Palestine in search of safety from pogroms in the Russian Empire at the turn of the twentieth century – yet another bitter example of the irony that Israel is anything but a haven to the dispossessed.


Charlotte Silver is a journalist based in the West Bank, Palestine. She is Editor at The Palestine Monitor and a graduate of Stanford University.



6 U.S., Israel send mixed messages on Iran

As the U.S. seeks to tamp down talk of an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear sites, some analysts and officials see a campaign to wring concessions from Tehran.


Hans Blix, right, former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Robert Kelley, former IAEA chief inspector in Iraq, chat on Capitol Hill before a panel discussion on Iran’s nuclear capabilities. (Karen Bleier / AFP/Getty Images / February 21, 2012),0,6499590.story


By Paul Richter and Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times


February 21, 2012, 9:00 p.m.

Reporting from Washington and Jerusalem— The Obama administration is bluntly warning Israel about the danger of bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities, but it is far from clear whether the allies are truly at odds over a core policy question or orchestrating an elaborate campaign to wring concessions from the Islamic Republic.


Both countries say that at least for now, tightening a web of economic sanctions around Iran’s vital oil exports is the best way to pressure Tehran into serious negotiations about its nuclear program, which the U.S. and its allies suspect is aimed at mastering the know-how to build a bomb.


But Israel regards a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat, and in recent weeks officials have suggested they may attack its nuclear facilities before the program reaches a point of no return.


Early Wednesday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement that Iran denied a request for access to a site where the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency suspects explosives testing related to a nuclear weapon took place, news services reported. The statement was released after the IAEA team left on a return flight to Vienna. The unusual timing, shortly after midnight in Europe, reflected the urgency of the communique.


With Tom Donilon, the White House national security advisor, visiting Israel over the weekend and James R. Clapper, the top U.S. intelligence official, due in this week, some Israelis suggested that Washington doesn’t appreciate the threat their nation faces and is undermining the chance of success. Public signs of strain in the relationship are beginning to emerge.


After meeting separately Tuesday in Israel with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Ambassador Daniel B. Shapiro, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona told reporters that “there is clearly significant tension that now exists on how to approach this whole issue.”


“It’s not helpful if there is well-publicized tension between the United States and Israel, and we would like to see the administration and Israel agreeing on a course of action toward a goal that we both share,” McCain said.


At times, U.S. officials have appeared worried that overheated war talk could ignite a conflict and sought to tamp it down.


Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday that diplomacy and economic sanctions were beginning to have an effect, and that they were the “most prudent path.”


But the administration has struggled “to find the right mix of threat and persuasion,” said Suzanne Maloney, a former State Department official now at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy.


“Wildly oscillating” messages “are playing out in the media in ways that are not helpful to whatever the diplomatic aims of the Israelis and the Americans might be,” she said.


U.S. sanctions aimed at Iran’s central bank make it harder for the nation to export oil, and pending legislation would cut Iran out of a global clearinghouse for financial transactions. Last month, the European Union imposed an embargo on Iranian oil. Fear of hard times to come has led to hoarding and a steep drop in the value of Iran’s currency.


Tehran has accused Israel of being behind bombings that have killed Iranian nuclear scientists. Israel charged that Iran was behind plots aimed at Israeli targets last week in India, Georgia and Thailand.


After days of signals that Tehran might return to the bargaining table, a senior Iranian military official warned Tuesday that Iran could launch a preemptive strike if it believed its enemies were preparing an attack.


Cliff Kupchan, a former State Department official now with the risk analysis firm Eurasia Group, said the Obama administration “is using the real possibility of an Israeli attack to both push sanctions and to wring concessions out of Iran. And the same time, U.S. military and other officials are publicly and privately telling Israel not to go, because they think it’s a truly bad idea.”


Israeli officials insist publicly that the two countries are working closely together.


“Not only is there no crisis, but coordination and understandings are tightening,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. “We see nearly eye-to-eye on the course of action as well as on the whole.”


Israeli news reports have portrayed the flurry of visits by top American security officials as an attempt to dissuade Israel or, in the words of one published report, to “implore” it not to attack Iran.


Whether Israel really is considering an airstrike is far from clear. For one thing, Netanyahu does not appear to have convinced his security Cabinet or the military that bombing Iran is the proper course.


“The problem for Netanyahu is that some military insiders are still against it,” said an Israeli official, who did not want to be identified when speaking about the sensitive issue.


Several high-ranking military and intelligence officials who retired last year, including Meir Dagan, who headed the spy agency Mossad, have come out publicly against preemptive military action.


To some, the mixed messages appear to be part of a grander strategy.


“It’s a shell game in which the Europeans play the ‘good cop,’ the U.S. is the ‘bad cop’ and Israel is the ‘crazy cop,'” said Cameron Brown, international affairs columnist for the Jerusalem Post. “The idea is to appear so irrational that you scare the other side into making concessions. It’s a strategy Israel has used for a long time.”


A military official said the “crazy Israel” strategy has served as an effective deterrent over the years.


In 2006, after the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers, Israel reacted by invading and fighting all the way to Beirut. In 2009, about 1,400 Palestinians were killed during an assault on the Gaza Strip. Though Israel was accused of responding disproportionately in both cases, military officials say they served as important deterrents against future rocket attacks by Hezbollah and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza.


If Israel is preparing to attack Iran, it does not appear to be preparing for retaliation.


Israeli intelligence officials recently estimated that as many as 200,000 missiles are aimed at Israel by Iran and its proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas. In comparison, about 4,000 rockets struck Israel during the 2006 Lebanon war.


Yet defenses are not being shored up. About 40% of Israel’s population lacks gas masks, and 25% doesn’t have access to adequate bomb shelters. Israel’s minister of home front defense is leaving to become ambassador to China and no replacement has been named.


Israel’s short-range rocket-defense shield, known as Iron Dome, barely protects the sparsely populated south. Planned deployments to cover Tel Aviv and key military facilities are in limbo because of budget shortages.


Meanwhile, the government is debating whether to trim its defense budget, leading military officials to warn that their ability to train reserves and defend the country is at risk.


“The scope of the failure to protect the home front … is almost incomprehensible,” Haaretz columnist Sefi Rachlevsky wrote Tuesday.


Richter reported from Washington and Sanders from Jerusalem.



7  SPIEGEL ONLINE;/international/world/c-676/r-4705/p-druckversion/a-816867/be-PB64-aW50ZXJuYXRpb25hbC9hcnRpa2Vs/szwprofil-1182?r=http%3A//


What Iranian Elites Think

An Inside Look at Views of the West,1518,816867,00.html

By Hasnain Kazim, in Islamabad, Pakistan

Israeli hawks are threatening a military strike in order to stop Iran’s nuclear program and many Republican presidential candidates in the US also support action. A loose survey of students and academics in Tehran shows that even among opponents of President Ahmadinejad, anti-Western sentiment is strong.

These days, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad agitates against the United States, Israel and the West, all the while presenting himself as a proud advocate of nuclear energy in his country. The deputy chief of Iran’s military forces is threatening to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s enemies. Bombs believed to have been set by Iranian agents have exploded in India, Georgia and Thailand. And, in a show of force, Iran has dispatched warships to the Mediterranean.

Such actions, which are more customary for a major power, dominate the headlines on an almost daily basis. In turn, the West has toughened its sanctions, and Israeli politicians have openly discussed a possible military strike against Iran.

Such reports and statements usually only provide clues about what leaders and experts are thinking. But how do educated Iranians feel about these rising tensions and their potential for triggering a conflict?

Of course, it’s difficult to ascertain the views of Iranians. State censorship is tight, and foreign journalists are rarely allowed into the country. Nevertheless, it is possible to make contact with some Iranians. And when you speak with them, you learn something quite surprising: Even if they oppose Ahmadinejad, their radical president, most of these Iranians still view their country as the victim in the current circumstances. They also view the West as an enemy and fail to consider or acknowledge that there are massive differences between hawks in Israel and doves within the Obama administration.

“After 9/11, George W. Bush systematically portrayed Iran as the bogeyman. That’s happening again now. I have seen no indication that we are building a nuclear bomb,” says one professor in Tehran who, like the others interviewed for this story, preferred to remain anonymous. There is no freedom of opinion in Iran, and saying the wrong thing can stir up trouble — especially when it has to do with the country’s nuclear policies.

Aircraft Carriers, Murdered Scientists and Sanctions

Iran is upgrading its weapons inventory, sabotaging the work of independent nuclear inspectors and installing new underground centrifuges for efficient uranium enrichment. But when asked about these issues, educated Iranians are evasive and merely assert that, despite all indications to the contrary, Iran’s nuclear program is geared toward civilian purposes. “We have the right to do this, just like any other country,” says one university student in Tehran.

In the media, President Ahmadinejad can constantly be seen gloating over his nuclear program. But many find his claims of only pursuing peaceful aims difficult to believe. Indeed, the mullah-ruled regime has been badgering Israel since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and denying its right to exist. Nevertheless, even seemingly enlightened people in Tehran believe that they are the ones being attacked and that they are surrounded by enemies. In this atmosphere, conspiracy theories abound.

In their heavily censored television broadcasts, Iranians now see images of three American aircraft carriers cruising in the Persian Gulf. On maps, they see how many US military installations are in the region. They hear the government’s anti-Western propaganda. What’s more, they are also suffering from the sanctions imposed by the West.

The Iranians take note of Israel’s military exercises. They hear that Israeli politicians are threatening to launch an attack. They read about the murders of Iranian nuclear scientists. They see that, according to one Gallup poll, 87 percent of Americans view Iran as their No. 1 enemy.

However, people in Iran seem to give little or no thought to the fact that the Obama administration has been warning Israel against unilaterally triggering a risky war in addition to trying to get hawks in Tel Aviv to cool off. But, even among Iran’s intelligentsia, the image of America and Israel as the enemy is too deeply ingrained.

“And we’re the warmongers?” asks one medical student in Qom in disbelief. He then defends the recent bombing attacks in India, Georgia and Thailand as merely being responses to attacks on Iran. He stresses that there are “enough forces in Iran in favor of negotiating with the West,” but he says they have been “severely weakened” by radical politicians beating the war drums in the United States.

Power in Iran is controlled by the mullahs led by Ayatollah Khamenei. Though they represent those who fought in the Islamic revolution, the latter only make up a certain segment of the population. “Instead of buttressing the forces of reform,” the medical student says, “the West has merely bolstered the power of the clerics.”

An Ongoing War against the Islamic World

Since American forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and launched a war against Iraq in 2003, a record number of people in the region have come to believe that the United States is actually waging a war against the Islamic world in pursuit of its own economic interests. “They talk a lot about democracy and human rights,” says one student studying in Tehran, “but that’s not really what they have in mind.”

According to this way of seeing things, Iran and Pakistan are next on the list after Afghanistan and Iraq. Washington supposedly doesn’t dare to enter into open conflict with Pakistan because Islamabad has nuclear weapons. Indeed, even Iranian moderates fully support the idea of having Iran join the nuclear club as quickly as possible. “Still, that’s far from saying that Iran will do that, too. Does anyone really know that Iran is striving after a nuclear bomb?” asks the professor in Tehran. “After all, perhaps these findings are, well, just as factual as the ones about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.”

What’s more, many find it hypocritical that the United States, as the country with the most deployable nuclear warheads, would demand that Iran put a halt to its nuclear program.

Are Threats Counterproductive?

People in Iran and the neighboring countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan are united in their belief that a war would most likely lead not only to the annihilation of Israel, but also to a rupture between the East and West. What’s more, they believe it would risk a nuclear confrontation that could endanger the already weakened global economy. In short, according to this logic, war would be insanity.

Nevertheless, politicians continue to get carried away with backing actions that could have disastrous consequences. Indeed, people at the University of Tehran say that Western politicians are no less at fault than President Ahmadinejad when it comes to fanning the flames of war. “Our president continues to call for the annihilation of Israel in order to unite the hard-liners behind him. That’s lunacy,” says one university lecturer.

At the same time, the lecturer points out, almost all of the remaining candidates in the race to become the Republican nominee in the US presidential race are using calls for a military attack on Iran as a way to display their toughness and determination. The lecturer believes that such rhetoric only shows how the risk of war is being underestimated. “With these kinds of words,” he says, “one only weakens backers of democracy in the region.”

When asked what kind of backing supporters of democratic principles in Iran would still have if calls for a war against Iran became part of a democratic election campaign, one Tehran student said it would show that “American politicians had once again achieved the opposite of what lies in the United States’ interest.”

The student also says that Iranians have noted with growing concern how even Western academics and experts are letting themselves be enlisted into this “war of words.”

For example, Matthew Kroenig, a 34-year-old Middle East expert and special adviser to the US defense secretary until 2011, titled a recent essay in the respected periodicalForeign Affairs “Time to Attack Iran: Why a Strike Is the Least Bad Option.”

Likewise, Niall Ferguson, a prominent economic historian, claimed in a recent column in the US magazine Newsweek that: “There are plenty of arguments against an Israeli attack on Iran. And all of them are bad.” He even ended his essay on an optimistic note, saying: “It feels like the eve of some creative destruction.”

All of the students and teachers in Tehran agree that writing things like this is “simply irresponsible.” And the majority of people in the West would most likely agree with them on that point. But, even so, both sides continue to view the other as the enemy.





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8 Today in Palestine

February 23, 2012

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