Friday, February 01, 2008

Arab town plans big celebration for Israel's Independence Day

How about a GOOD news story?

...from Ynet News, 2/1/08, by Sharon Roffe-Ofir :

Shfaram mayor decides to include his town in festivities for Israel's 60th anniversary; says 'we feel we are a part of Israel, we don't want our children to hate country'

Unlike most of the Arab sector, the Arab town of Shfaram has decided to take part in Israel's celebrations of its 60th anniversary this year, and hold ceremonies to mark the occasion.

The town's mayor Ursan Yassin and other local officials met with members of the state committee in charge of the celebrations Thursday to discuss the nature of the festivities to be held in town.

Yassin recently spoke with the committee chairman, Minister Ruhama Avraham-Balila, and stressed to her that while many in the Arab community felt unconnected to the historic date, Shfaram had no plans to be left out of the party.

Yassin told the committee that he objected to the incitement against the state among the Arab sector. "This is our country and we completely disapprove of the statements made by the Higher Monitoring Committee. I want to hold a central ceremony in Shfaram, raise all the flags and have a huge feast.

"The 40,000 residents of Shfaram feel that they are a part of the State of Israel," Yassin added. "The desire to participate in the festivities is shared by most of the residents."

The mayor stated, "We will not raise our children to hate the country. This is our country and we want to live in coexistence with its Jewish residents."

The committee members praised Yassin's words and vowed to include the town in plans for the state-wide events, including a traveling exhibit featuring Israel's achievement in the 60 years since its inception.

Minister Avraham-Balila also lauded Yassin's "courageous statements, saying it was time for the leaders of Israel's Arab community "to express what a large part of their public feels." The 60th anniversary events "are an excellent opportunity to emphasize the unifying aspects shared by all sectors in the country," she added.

Israeli embassy in Mauritania attacked by Islamic gunmen

From Feb 1, 2008 by JPOST.COM STAFF AND AP:

... six gunmen opened fire on the Israeli Embassy in Nouakchott, in the northwest African country of Mauritania early Friday morning, trading fire with guards before fleeing and screaming "Allah Akbar" .....

....TV network Al Jazeera said that five people had been wounded in the attack, but the Israeli Foreign Ministry said that since the attack occurred in the early hours of the morning at a time when few embassy workers had arrived, none of the embassy workers was hurt.

....."Israel and Mauritania have had full diplomatic relations since 1999 ... both countries understand the severity of the incident," [Israeli Ambassador to Mauritania, Boaz] Bismut told Army Radio.

....Last week Mauritanian protesters mounted pressure on their government to cut ties with Israel as a punishment for alleged Israeli mistreatment of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Among the demonstrators were members of the government's main opposition....

Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Modest Proposal for Middle East Peace

From Nationa Review Online, January 29, 2008, by Victor Davis Hanson:

The U.N. need only take five simple steps.

... perhaps it is time for a new global approach to deal with Israel and its occupation..... there could be five U.N. sessions:
  • disputed capitals;
  • the right of return for refugees;
  • land under occupation;
  • the creation of artificial post-World War II states; and
  • the use of inordinate force against suspected Islamic terrorists.

In the first session, we should try to solve the status of Nicosia, which is currently divided into Greek and Turkish sectors by a U.N. Greek Line. Perhaps European Union investigators could adjudicate Turkish claims that the division originated from unwarranted threats to the Turkish Muslim population on Cyprus. Some sort of big power or U.N. roadmap then might be imposed on the two parties, in hopes that the Nicosia solution would work for Jerusalem as well.

In the second discussion, diplomats might find common ground about displaced populations, many from the post-war, late 1940s. Perhaps it would be best to start with the millions of Germans who were expelled from East Prussia in 1945, or Indians who were uprooted from ancestral homes in what is now Pakistan, or over half-a-million Jews that were ethnically cleansed from Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria following the 1967 war. Where are these refugees now? Were they ever adequately compensated for lost property and damages? Can they be given promises of the right to return to their ancestral homes under protection of their host countries? The ensuring solutions might shed light on the Palestinian aspirations to return to land lost sixty years ago to Israel.

A third panel would take up the delicate issue of returning territory lost by defeat in war. Ten percent of historic Germany is now part of Poland. The Russians still occupy many of the Kurile Islands, and Greek Cyprus lost sizable territory in 1974 after the invasion by Turkey. The Western Sahara is still annexed by Morocco, while over 15 percent of disputed Azerbaijan has been controlled by Armenia since 1994. Additionally, all of independent Tibet has been under Chinese occupation since 1950-1. Surely if some general framework concerning these occupations could first be worked out comprehensively, the results might then be applied to the much smaller West Bank and Golan Heights.

In a fourth panel, the international conference should take up the thorny issue of recently artificially created states. Given the tension over Kashmir, was Pakistan a mistake — particularly the notion of a homeland for Indian Muslims? North Korea was only created after the stalemate of 1950-3; so should we debate whether this rogue nation still needs to exist, given its violent history and threats to world peace?

Fifth, and finally, is there a global propensity to use inordinate force against Muslim terrorists that results in indiscriminate collateral damage? The Russians during the second Chechnyan War of 1999-2000 reportedly sent tactical missiles into the very core of Grozny, and may have killed tens of thousands of civilians in their hunt for Chechnyan terrorists — explaining why the United Nations later called that city the most destroyed city on earth. Syria has never admitted to the complete destruction of Hama, once home to Muslim Brotherhood terrorists. The city suffered the fate of Carthage and was completely obliterated in 1982 by the al-Assad government, with over 30,000 missing or killed. Did the Indian government look the other way in 2002 when hundreds of Muslim civilians in Gujarat were killed in reprisal for Islamic violence against Hindus? The lessons learned in this final session might reassure a world still furious over the 52 Palestinians lost in Jenin.

In other words, after a half-century of failed attempts to solve the Middle East crisis in isolation, isn’t it time we look for guidance in a far more global fashion, and in contexts where more lives have been lost, more territory annexed, and more people made refugees in places as diverse as China, Russia, and the broader Middle East? The solutions that these countries have worked out to deal with similar problems apparently have proven successful — at least if the inattention of the world, the apparent inaction of the United Nations, and the relative silence of European governments are any indication.

So let the international community begin its humanitarian work! Greek Cypriots can advise Israel about concessions necessary to Muslims involving a divided Jerusalem. Russians and Syrians can advise the IDF on how to deal properly and humanely with Islamic terrorists. Poland, Russia, China, and Armenia might offer the proper blueprint for giving back land to the defeated that they once gained by force. A North Korea or Pakistan can offer Israel humanitarian lessons that might blunt criticisms that such a recently created country has no right to exist. Iraq and Egypt would lend insight about proper reparation and the rights of return, given its own successful solutions to the problems of their own fleeing Jewish communities.

But why limit the agenda to such a small array of issues? The world has much to teach Israel about humility and concessions, on issues ranging from how other countries in the past have dealt with missiles sent into their homeland, to cross-border incursions by bellicose neighbors.

No doubt, Middle East humanitarians such as Jimmy Carter, Arun Gandhi, and Tariq Ramadan could preside, drawing on and offering their collective past wisdom in solving such global problems to those of a lesser magnitude along the West Bank.

Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution

Saudi Arabia and Tehran Step into Gaza Crisis

From a DEBKAfile Special Report, January 29, 2008, 11:33 AM (GMT+02:00):

On the sixth day of the Palestinian surge out of Gaza into northern Sinai, Egyptian intelligence is discovering that, far from being chaotic, it was minutely planned by the fundamentalist Hamas group which rules the Gaza Strip.

According to DEBKAfile’s military sources, each of the estimated half a million Gazans in flight, one-third of the total population, received a $300 grant, which accounts for the shopping spree they could suddenly afford. Hamas was therefore willing to spend $150 million on a maneuver for seizing control of an enclave in northern Sinai.

Egyptian border troops were forced to stand aside by this mass of surging humanity. Dozens were injured by gunmen shooting from inside the mob. Early Monday, Jan. 28, Cairo deployed a border guard brigade in the northern Sinai town of El Arish, to hold the line against the spread of the Palestinian tide into the largest town in the peninsula. It is calculated that if the Palestinians take over El Arish, they will use as a springboard to advance on Egypt proper.

Egyptian forces have in the last 24 hours, apprehended 30 Palestinians on their way to the Suez Canal armed with weapons, explosives and devices for monitoring Egyptian and Israeli security communications, and a second group heading for the unfenced 220-km Egyptian-Israeli border.

DEBKAfile’s military sources also report that Cairo has, without making a public announcement, clamped an economic blockade on El Arish, closing down shops, hotels, restaurants and gas pumps, to make the town less attractive to the roving Palestinians than their own towns in Gaza.

In Riyadh, meanwhile, Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faisal is holding talks Monday with the Hamas bureau chief Khaled Meshal, summoned from Damascus where the conference of 17 rejectionist Palestinian organizations has just ended. This conversation will prepare the ground for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s meetings in Cairo Wednesday with a Hamas delegation.

The Saudi government backs Hamas. Therefore Faisal and Meshaal are expected to agree on a formula for resolving the crisis that will keep the Gaza-Egyptian border terminal of Rafah open to traffic under the joint control of Egypt, Hamas and a token Palestinian Authority presence. The Saudis will use this formula as the key to unlock their long-sought objective of a process of reconciliation between Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah and the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority. The Saudis will bring all their clout to bear to persuade Abbas to drop his conditions for negotiations with Hamas on the reconstitution of a Palestinian national unity government.

Tehran, for its part, sent Iran’s foreign ministry director general Ali Asghar to Cairo Sunday, Jan. 27, to put its oar into the standoff. He was quickly received by Egyptian foreign minister Aboul Gheit. For three decades, Egypt and Iran have not had formal diplomatic relations, but in the last two months, their government ministers have met frequently and, last week, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad phoned Mubarak to discuss how Tehran could cooperate in solving the Gaza border issue.

Asghar brought to Cairo, according to our sources, an offer to airlift tons of foodstuffs and medicines to El Arish airport for Egyptian authorities to distribute to the Palestinians. This step would bring Iranian airplanes into the Egyptian-Israeli border region for the first time. Iran would thereby claim a stake in the lives of the Palestinians living around Israel’s borders for the entire Arab world to see...

...In any case, Mubarak knows that a tough Egyptian crackdown on the Palestinians and their Hamas leaders would spark violent protests in his own streets by the Hamas' parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood...

....Hamas and its terrorist confederates have now acquired a safe haven on Egyptian soil, out of Israel’s reach, much like Hizballah’s enclave north of the Litani River or al Qaeda’s across the Afghan border in Pakistan’s tribal regions. Saudi Arabia and Iran are not expected to rob them of this prime strategic advantage, despite the dangerous precedent of a terrorist organization capturing Arab land twice in seven months – Gaza from the Palestinian Authority and an enclave in northern Sinai from Egypt.

'We shot down crusader Howard', says al-Qaeda

The following is from the main article, by Mark Schliebs, January 31, 2008 of a special investigation that uncovers how Islamic extremists are taunting Australians on covert websites of hate. Follow the this link to the portal with the whole series of articles.

AL-QAEDA-linked insurgency groups are cheering Australian troop casualties and mocking the Federal Government for “fleeing like a cornered mouse” from Iraq.

The claims are made in Arabic on secretive web networks bonded by a hatred of the West and filled with images and video clips from warzones that terror experts say are becoming more effective than Kalashnikovs in the modern jihad. A special investigation by infiltrating these global networks has identified jihadi references to the “embarrassing collapse” of the Howard government and cites Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s Iraq withdrawal as a “victory”. The investigation also uncovered:

  • STATEMENTS from the Taliban in Afghanistan detailing the deaths of Australian troops just hours after they were killed (Full story)
  • CLAIMS by al-Qaeda in Iraq that it attacked and damaged a helicopter carrying then prime minister John Howard
  • HOW Baghdad Sniper, “Juba”, is driving recruitment through a graphic new video that shows him shooting Coalition troops dead (Full story)
  • VIGILANTES who infiltrate the websites and shut them down (Full story)

“Cornered mouse”

Some of the fiercest propaganda comes from a coalition of Sunni insurgents in Iraq known as the Jihad and Reform Front. In a recent post from “The political office of The Conquerors’ Army” titled “Australia – a new ally fleeing like a cornered mouse”, the group said the insurgents were on track for victory in Iraq. “Today we see the withdrawal of another Christian ally leaving the Americans drowning alone in this swamp,” the statement says in Arabic. “This ally is Australia, and despite the few numbers of soldiers that this country has in the Christian Alliance its withdrawal will be considered an achievement and victory to be added to the numerous victories of the Muslim fighters, praise Allah.” Read full translation here

...t the effectiveness of such propaganda can be seen in public discussions igniting on forums popular with Islamic extremists. A search through one forum registered in Cairo shows a file picture of a visibly dejected John Howard over a derisive post on the result of the Australian election just hours after the outcome was declared. “After a rule that lasted 10 years, Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s government suffered an embarrassing collapse in the Australian elections,” the post says. “John Howard the biggest supporter of America, siding with Britain during its war against what is called terrorism. “What must be said is that the winner of the elections, Kevin Rudd, has promised to withdraw Australian troops from Iraq … that is what we wished would happen.” The forum goes on to deride a list of Western leaders who have made their political exits.

Kevin Rudd’s office declined to comment and Mr Howard has yet to return calls....

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Jews Must Lead Condemnation of China

From Arutz Sheva, 23 Shevat 5768, January 30, '08, by Hillel Fendel:

Rabbi David Druckman, the Chief Rabbi of the northern city of Kiryat Motzkin ...says Jews must take the lead in condemning China for its murder of prisoners of conscience in order to harvest their organs.

"The atrocity is so great... to cut organs from people under the cover of medical help for other people is simply astonishing and shocking from every human vantage point...It is especially incumbent upon us as Jews to lead the campaign that expresses total disgust at this phenomenon," Rabbi Druckman says. "Especially us, the Jewish Nation, that suffered the crimes of the Nazis, may their names be blotted out, and those of the Communists under Stalin - who can stand by and comprehend the world's silence at all this?"

Israeli Petition Against Chinese Cruelty
Three months ago, over 220 Israeli rabbis, academics and politicians signed a petition calling for an end to the atrocities taking place in China. Among the signatories were 8 Knesset Members (Hendel and Levy from National Union, Melchior and Cabel from Labor, Kachlon of Likud, and Oron, Gal'on and Vilan of Meretz).

Over 40 rabbis signed, including Rabbis Chaim Druckman, Shlomo Aviner, Yuval Cherlow, Shmuel David of Afula, as well as Temple Mount loyalist rabbis, Moshe Feiglin and leaders of his Jewish Leadership group, and more.

Chinese Torture
China is accused of holding thousands of political prisoners without trial, beating and torturing people who protest being thrown out of their homes, employing slave labor for their mass manufacturing industries, and more. Among the most persecuted groups are the Falun Gong, which numbers at least 70 million members in China alone. Tens of thousands of practitioners of the Falun Gong system of meditation and character-building are ruthlessly persecuted by the government, including having organs removed from their bodies while still alive....

...In [a] video-taped speech, Rabbi Druckman says that one of the seven Noachide commandments that the Jews are bidden to disseminate in the world is not to murder: "We as Jews must therefore stand at the front lines of this war, and employ every possible tactic in order that the world expunge atrocities such as this."......

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Barack Obama's Middle East Expert

From a (long) article in American Thinker, by Ed Lasky, January 23, 2008 [my own emphasis added]:

Barack Obama's real thinking about Israel and the Middle East continues to be an enigma. The words he chose in an address to AIPAC create a different impression than the composition of his foreign policy advisory team. Several advisors have evidenced a history of suspicion and worse toward Israel. One of his advisors in particular, Robert Malley, clearly warrants attention, as does the reasoning that led him to being chosen by Barack Obama.

A little family history may be in order to understand the genesis of Robert Malley's views....His father Simon Malley was born to a Syrian family in Cairo and at an early age found his m├ętier in political journalism. He participated in the wave of anti-imperialist and nationalist ideology that was sweeping the Third World. He wrote thousands of words in support of struggle against Western nations. In Paris, he founded the journal Afrique Asie; he and his magazine became advocates for "liberation" struggles throughout the world, particularly for the Palestinians.

Simon Malley loathed Israel and anti-Israel activism became a crusade for him-as an internet search would easily show. He spent countless hours with Yasser Arafat and became a close friend of Arafat. He was, according to Daniel Pipes, a sympathizer of the Palestinian Liberation Organization --- and this was when it was at the height of its terrorism wave against the West . His efforts were so damaging to France that President Valerie d'Estaing expelled him from the country.

Malley has seemingly followed in his father's footsteps: he represents the next generation of anti-Israel activism. Through his writings he has served as a willing propagandist, bending the truth (and more) to serve an agenda that is marked by anti-Israel bias; he heads a group of Middle East policy advisers for a think-tank funded (in part) by anti-Israel billionaire activist George Soros; and now is on the foreign policy staff of a leading Presidential contender. Each step up the ladder seems to be a step closer towards his goal of empowering radicals and weakening the ties between American and our ally Israel.

Robert Malley's writings strike me as being akin to propaganda. One notable example is an op-ed that was published in the New York Times (Fictions About the Failure at Camp David). The column indicted Israel for not being generous enough at Camp David and blamed the failure of the talks on the Israelis.

Malley has repeated this line of attack in numerous op-eds over the years, often co-writing with Hussein Agha, a former adviser to Yasser Arafat (see, for example, Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors ). He was also believed to be the chief source for an article by Deborah Sontag that whitewashed Arafat's role in the collapse of the peace process, an article that has been widely criticized as riddled with errors and bias.

Malley is a revisionist and his views are sharply at odds with the views of others who participated at Camp David, including Ambassador Dennis Ross and President Bill Clinton. Malley's myth-making has been peddled in the notably anti-Israel magazine, Counterpunch and by Norman Finkelstein, the failed academic recently denied tenure at DePaul University . Malley's Camp David propaganda has also become fodder for Palestinians, Arab rejectionists, and anti-Israel activists across the world....

...Malley has written a range of pieces over the years that reveal an agenda at work that should give pause to those Obama supporters who truly care about peace in the Middle Peace and the fate of our ally Israel.

Playing Into Sharon's Hands: which absolves Arafat of the responsibility to restrain terrorists and blames Israel for terrorism. He defends Arafat and hails him as
..the first Palestinian leader to recognize Israel, relinquish the objective of regaining all of historic Palestine and negotiate for a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 boundaries. And he remains for now the only Palestinian with the legitimacy to sell future concessions to his people.

Rebuilding a Damaged Palestine: which blames Israel's security operations for weakening Palestinian security forces (absurd on its face: terrorists filled the ranks of so-called Palestinian security forces-which, in any case, never tried to prevent terrorism) and calls for international forces to restrain the Israelis

Making the Best of Hamas's Victory: which called for international aid to be showered upon a Hamas-led government and for international engagement with Hamas (a group that makes clear in its Charter, its schools, and its violence its intent to destroy Israel). Malley also makes an absurd assertion: that Hamas' policies and Israeli policies are mirror images of each other.

Avoiding Failure with Hamas: which again calls for aid to flow to a Hamas-led government and even goes so far as to suggest that failure to extend aid could cause an environmental or health catastrophe-such as a human strain of the avian flu virus!

How to Curb the Tension in Gaza: which criticizes Israel's for its actions to recover Gilad Shalit who was kidnapped and is being held hostage in the Gaza Strip. He and co-writer Gareth Evans call Israel's actions ‘collective punishment" in "violation of international law".

Forget Pelosi: What About Syria?: where Malley calls for outreach to Syria, despite its ties to Hezbollah, Hamas, and the terrorists committing murder in Iraq; believes it is unreasonable to call for Syria to cut ties with Hezbollah, break with Hamas, or alienate Iran before negotiations; he believes a return of the Golan Heights and engagement with the West will somehow miraculously lead the Syrian regime to take these steps -- after they get all they want.

Containing a Shiite Symbol of Hope: that advocated engagement with the fiercely anti-American Iraqi Moqtada al-Sadr, who has been responsible for the murder of many Americans and Iraqis as the leader of the terrorist group, the Mahdi Army. He also has very close ties to Iran.

Middle East Triangle: (co-written with former Arafat advisor Hussein Agha) calls for Hamas and Fatah to reconcile, join forces, and to frustrate, in their words, Israel's attempts to "perpetuate Palestinian geographic and political division". Then Hamas will grant Abbas power to make a political deal with Israel that will bring peace. Noah Pollack of Commentary Magazine noting, as Malley habitually fails to do, Hamas intends to destroy Israel, eviscerated this op-ed.

The U.S. Must Look to its Own Mideast Interests: (co-written with Aaron David Miller) which advocates a radically different approach towards the Middle East which, in their words, does not "follow Israel's lead" and encompasses engagement with Syria (despite problems with Lebanon and their support for Hezbollah) and Hamas (regardless of its failure to recognize Israel or renounce violence).

A New Middle East: which asserted Hezbollah's attacks on Israel and the kidnapping of Israelis, which sparked the Israel-Hezbollah war in 2006, were motivated by Hezbollah's desire to retrieve Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails and were a response to pressure being exerted on its allies-Syria and Iran.

Robert Malley also testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in February, 2004. In that appearance he called for the Road Map to be cast aside because incremental measures intended to build trust were unworkable. He advocated that a comprehensive settlement plan be imposed on the parties with the backing of the international community, including Arab and Moslem states. He anticipated that Israel would object with "cries of unfair treatment" but counseled the plan be put in place regardless of such objections; he also suggested that waiting for a "reliable Palestinian partner' was unnecessary.

This is merely a sample of Malley's views -- which are focused on disengaging from our ally Israel (whose lead America should not "follow") and engaging with and, in some cases financially supporting, the likes of Syria, Moqtada al-Sadr, Hezbollah and Hamas. His ideology is radically at odds with American foreign policy as it has been practiced by two generations of Presidents -- both Democrats and Republicans -- over the years. This is the type of advocacy Robert Malley has been pursuing in the years since the end of the Clinton Administration and from his perch at the International Crisis Group -- an organization that may share his agenda.

The [...characters at the] International Crisis Group ....are uniformly passive on dealing with terrorism and terrorists; critical of US efforts in Iraq and American-led efforts to constrain Iran; advocate aid be given to Hamas despite its record of terrorism; endorse engagement with Syria despite its links with Hezbollah, its role in oppressing Lebanon and its involvement in the assassinations that have helped to destroy Lebanon. They also seemingly have no qualms about advocating outreach to Iran, regardless of its role in the killing of American and Iraqis in Iraq and its proclaimed goal of destroying Israel.

....Why would Barack Obama have on his foreign policy staff a man who has been widely criticized for a revisionist history of the Middle East peace process sharply at odds with all other accounts of the proceedings?

Why would Barack Obama give credibility to a man who seems to have an agenda that includes empowering our enemies and weakening our friends and allies?

How did Robert Malley, with a record of writing that reveals a willingness to twist facts to serve a political agenda, come to be appointed by Obama to his foreign staff?

Was it a recommendation of Zbigniew Brzezinski to bring on board another anti-Israel foreign policy expert?

What role did the left-wing anti-Israel activist George Soros play in placing Robert Malley (or for that matter, Brzezinski himself) in a position to influence the future foreign policy of America?

What does it say about Senator Obama's judgment that he appointed a man like Malley to be a top foreign policy advisor?

Or does it speak more to his true beliefs?

*A digression, if I may, regarding Malley and impressive sounding titles. A Washington Post article on Senator Obama's foreign policy advisors described him as having been President Clinton's Middle East envoy. Now this would come as a surprise to Ambassador Dennis Ross who actually was Clinton's Middle East envoy. Indeed, there is a paucity of mentions of Malley in Ross's exhaustive history of the Middle East peace process during the Clinton years, The Missing Peace, where more often than not he is described as a note-taker-once serving as Yasser Arafat's stenographer.

Related article: Barack Obama and Israel.
Ed Lasky is news editor of American Thinker.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Rapid developments in Lebanon

The story of Lebanon's descent into civil strife over the last two days is captured in the following three news articles. [My own emphasis added - SL]

...first from Agence France-Presse, by Jocelyne Zablit in Beirut, January 26, 2008 03:13am:

Slaying of top investigator sparks outrage

LEBANON'S top anti-terrorism investigator was slain along with three other people in a powerful car bombing that ripped through a neighbourhood of eastern Beirut. Captain Wissam Eid, 31, a member of the Internal Security Forces (ISF), and his bodyguard were killed along with two civilians, a security official said. He said 38 other people were wounded, with nine taken to hospital.

"Eid was a key member of the ISF and was involved in many investigations related to terrorist bombings in Lebanon in recent years," the official said. "He was involved in sensitive probes and this is a major loss for us."...

....Brigadier General Ashraf Rifi, head of the ISF, said the car bomb was yet another attempt at destabilising the country as it grapples with its worst political crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war....

...A senior member of the anti-Syrian majority pointed the finger at Damascus. "This bombing is proof that the (Syrian) mukhabarat (intelligence) have infiltrated Lebanese security services," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity....

...."This attack is a clear message to all Arabs that the future of Lebanon will remain under the stranglehold of crimes and terrorism despite all the initiatives to resolve the political crisis," Mr Hariri said. "That compels us to call once again on Syria to stop its interference in Lebanon."...

...and from Agence France-Presse, by Pierre Sawaya in Beirut, January 27, 2008 12:03am:

Angry mourners vow revenge for killings

LEBANON'S senior security chief has vowed to fight what he called "the empire of terror" as angry mourners vowed revenge at the funeral of a top intelligence officer killed in a car bombing....."We are determined to confront the empire of death and terror," Internal Security Forces chief Brigadier General Ashraf Rifi said at a ceremony at ISF headquarters in Beirut before the funeral.

He paid tribute to Eid and Mereb, calling them heroes and martyrs, and pledged that the ISF "will continue to confront those who have decided to terrorise the nation."

....Hundreds of mourners lined the streets of Tripoli, which is decked with black flags. Women threw fistsful of rice and rose petals as the funeral cortege entered the city while men shouted slogans denouncing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah. They chanted: "Syria is the mother of terrorism" and "We swear to Allah that we will seek revenge"....his coffin was welcomed by thunderous applause as mourners chanted: "With our blood and our soul we redeem you, Wissam."

Eid was buried in the family cemetery after a fiery speech by senior Sunni cleric Sheikh Oussama al-Rifai, who demanded that the truth behind the killings be made known. Saad Hariri, the leader of Lebanon's Western-backed parliamentary majority and a scion of the Sunni Muslim community, on Friday indirectly accused Syria of involvement in the murder....

...and from Reuters, by Laila Bassam, [Mon 28 Jan, 2:38am Beirut time]:

Eight shot dead in Beirut opposition protests

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Eight Lebanese opposition supporters were shot dead in Beirut on Sunday in some of the worst street violence since Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war, raising tensions in a country gripped by political conflict.

A senior opposition source said all the dead were members of Hezbollah or Amal -- Shi'ite Muslim groups that have been locked in a power struggle with the anti-Damascus governing coalition for more than a year. At least 29 more people were wounded.

...Most of the eight dead activists, all men, were killed in the same area, but it was not clear who was responsible. The army said it was investigating who was behind the shooting....

....Gunfire was heard into the night in Beirut, and the streets were deserted. Gunmen were seen in Shi'ite and Christian areas near the scene of the shooting in Mar Makhaeil....

... tensions are still high between Sunni Muslim followers of governing coalition leader Saad al-Hariri and Shi'ites loyal to the opposition.....

... Saudi Arabia...backs the governing coalition.

...Iran...supports Hezbollah [opposition]....

George Habash dead

Good news from, by Agence France-Presse correspondents in Amman, January 27, 2008:

GEORGE Habash, the ailing founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), died on Saturday in Amman at the age of 82....

....Mr Habash stepped down as head of the Damascus-based PFLP in July 2000 after having led the faction - which is a key [terrorist] component of the Palestine Liberation Organisation - for more than 30 years....

...The PFLP under Mr Habash [who opposed peace deals with Israel and believed "peace" could come only with Israel's destruction - SL] ...hijacked airliners [including the Air France hijacking to Entebbe - SL] and...called for the overthrow of Jordan's monarchy in 1970 before the Black September clashes in which the Jordanian army expelled the PLO from the kingdom....

[and from Jewish Virtual Library...The PFLP advocates armed insurrection and perpetrates media-oriented attacks, particularly the hijacking of planes, to bring the Palestinian cause to public attention. The PFLP hijacked Israeli aircraft in 1968. It abducted and threatened four American journalists in Beirut in 1981 (two from the New York Times, one from the Washington Post and one from Newsweek). PFLP members have continued to perpetrate terrorist acts through the years....]

More UN capers

From THE JERUSALEM POST by MICHAL LANDO, Jerusalem Post correspondent, NEW YORK , Jan. 27, 2008:

NEW YORK - The UN Security Council is expected to make a final decision about a presidential statement on the situation in Gaza on Monday... the Libyan envoy stood out among the 15-member council as the only country unwilling to accept a new draft which now includes a condemnation of the Kassam attacks on Israel.

For most of the week-long negotiations over a draft statement proposed by Libya, the current president of the council, which harshly condemned Israel for the "humanitarian crises" in Gaza and made no mention of attacks on Israel, the US refused to agree to a statement they called unbalanced.

But Friday, after a long series of bargaining sessions that produced several amendments to the nonbinding statement, it was Libya's UN Ambassador Giadalla Ettalhi who said he had to refer the latest text to Tripoli.

Ettalhi's statement that he had unspecified problems with a text accepted by the 14 other members came after consulting with other Arab UN ambassadors. Western diplomats say the majority of the Arabs were willing to okay the draft, except for Syria and Qatar who strongly rejected it. The Palestinians, on the other hand, supported the draft, thinking it may strengthen Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, diplomats said.

..."Although ...the Security Council should not have been involved in it in the first place... the...fact that 14 countries are willing to condemn Kassam rockets is very important, and puts the emphasis where it should be, on terrorist attacks and security risks to Israel," Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. ....

....The latest draft calls on Israel "to minimize the impact of itsactions on the civilian population in Gaza" and "to facilitate safe and secure access for humanitarian aid to the Palestinians." It also says the council "condemns the daily rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli civilians, particularly since Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005," and that the council "calls for an immediate cessation of such attacks."

Olmert must go

An opinion by Naomi Chazan , THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 24, 2008:

The publication of the final report of the Winograd Commission this coming week will bring the simmering political scene to a boil....detractors within [Ehud Olmert's] party are gearing up to demand his resignation. ...only Labor along with, surprisingly, segments of Meretz, remain ambivalent. They... should understand that Olmert should go and will go. If they don't act accordingly, they will be compromising their own principles on the altar of political shortsightedness....

...there is no objective reason to bolster Olmert at this juncture. The prime minister's integrity has been queried repeatedly for years; several investigations are still pending. His economic and social policies are anathema to the social-democratic teachings of the Left; his behavior in the teachers' and lecturers' strikes was inexcusably passive. And he has failed the ultimate leadership test in the Second Lebanon War. Regardless of the precise contents on the Winograd Commission report, Olmert will be remembered as the prime minister who led the country into a war it did not win despite the heavy human price it exacted....

...WHAT, THEN, explains the willingness of some advocates of a permanent agreement to sustain the Olmert premiership?.... For the Labor Party under Barak, the reasoning goes, it is better to stay in government as long as possible than to face the voters at the polls. ....Those who represent Israel's substantial peace constituency must display the courage of their convictions.

Wrapping Ehud Olmert in cotton wool is therefore thoroughly counterproductive....Proponents of negotiations must ...abide by their principles. Meretz cannot even contemplate joining this government. Ehud Barak must keep his word and withdraw from the coalition immediately. Surely they realize that elections are in the offing - either in the spring or, after a period of increasing political turmoil, in the fall -..... They owe it to their voters and to society as a whole to .....subject this vision to the voters' test. This is the essence of democracy and nobody - least of all the Left - can avoid its full meaning.