Archive for January, 2009

News and Analysis (1/30/09)

Friday, January 30th, 2009

“Erdogan says his reproach “you know very well how to kill” was aimed “not against the Israeli people or Jews but against the Israeli administration”:

While the Obama administration weighs its opinions in dealing with Iran…

…Manouchehr Mottaki, Iran’s foreign minister, claims Tehran will be “co-operative” as soon as US policy in the Middle East changes “not in saying but in practice”:

An Israeli human rights group reports “Israeli authorities are ‘systematically violating international law and the property rights of Palestinian residents'”:

In an election with serious implications on the future of Iraqi politics…

…Five candidates have been murdered; four of them Sunni Muslims:

For many in Rafah, the smuggling tunnels remain an necessary source of revenue:

Gaza Aftermath: The Return of Netanyahu?

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

I was recently interviewed by Javier Méndez Araya, journalist in El Mercurio newspaper in Santiago Chile about the potential for Benjamin Netanyahu’s return to the helm of Israel politics after the tragic and disastrous invasion of Gaza. Here are my answers to his questions.

Q. After the war in Gaza, do you think there is a chance that Netanyahu will be Prime Minister in Israel? Is it possible for Likud to win the next election in Israel?

A. Netanyahu’s chances have improved. Usually a war situation helps those already in power, but Olmert and Livni succeeded in none of the professed objectives of the invasion of Gaza. The electorate, still gripped by the frenzy of fear whipped up to justify the war effort, now seems to be demanding someone with a more hawkish reputation like Netanyahu or Avigdor Lieberman.

Q. What are the strengths and weaknesses of Netanyahu?

A. Netanyahu is a strong campaigner who has successfully used American election tactics to win Israeli elections in the past. However, he is an extremist who, once in power, will only take positions that will continue to jeopardize peace and therefore Israel’s security. His well-known ability to be convincing to American audiences only means that he will be able to effectively put obstacles in the way of President Obama’s professed intentions to seriously address the Palestinian/Israeli dispute.

3) What are platform planks of his Likud Party?

The Likud supports the illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, calls for undermining Palestinian civil society under the cover of security, restricting freedom of expression under cover of halting incitement, weapons collections that would leave an unarmed Palestinian population at the mercy of armed settlers, reducing the size of the Palestinian police, flat rejection of “a Palestinian Arab state West of the Jordan River,” flat rejection of abandonment of illegally occupied East Jerusalem, insistence on Israeli occupation of Palestine up to the Jordan River, and of the Golan. On the plus side Likud is willing to negotiate with Syria without preconditions.

4) Are there possibilities for a Netanyahu’s government to resume peace negotiations with the Palestinians?

In their extreme desperation to maintain the grip on authority, the Fatah leadership will negotiate with anyone, even under such terms as Netanyahu might insist; but without including the party elected to lead Palestine, Hamas, any such negotiation would be a sham, without meaning or prospects for a lasting peace.

5) Will Netanyahu have a hard-line policy with Iran and Syria?

Netanyahu has made his hard line position on Iran abundantly and incontrovertibly clear. That he would also take a hard line stance on Syria should be inferred from his behavior after the Israeli air strike against Syria in 2007, when he brazenly flaunted censors to boast of the attack and to claim a role in it.

6) What is Netanyahu’s military history or record?

Like all Jewish citizens of Israel Netanyahu served in the military. He volunteered for service in an elite commando unit of the IDF. In contrast, Netanyahu’s nephew Jonathan Ben-Artzi is a conscientious objector who served over 200 days in a military prison for bravely refusing to enlist for mandatory service in the occupation army.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute

News and Analysis (1/29/09)

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the military arm of Fatah, claimed responsibility for an attack from Gaza that led to an Israel response killing at least nine:

Violence surrounding the elections as been relatively calm compared to the chaos preceding the 2005 elections…

… but in Afghanistan, security concerns making voting originally scheduled for May impossible:

“The BBC decision not to air the aid appeal for victims of the conflict ‘violates the rules of basic human decency which are there to help vulnerable people, irrespective of who is right or wrong'”

After Blackwater’s involvement in nearly 200 shootings since 2005, including the Nisoor Square shooting, the decision was obvious:

Ghaleb al-Bihani has been imprisoned for seven years on accusations of being a cook for the Taliban:

The Taliban’s influence in Pakistani is not limited to the “tribal belt” but extends into “Pakistan proper” as well:

News and Analysis (1/28/09)

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

In harmony with Obama’s emphasis on a revival of diplomacy with the Muslim world, Secretary Gates believes only limited goals can be reached militarily in Afghanistan:

Israel’s system of controlling humanitarian aid across the Gaza border frustrates aid officials and volunteers …

… as Israel targets Gaza’s only other means of receiving aid …

… and setttlers continue to devour the West Bank:

“Those who say they want to make change … should apologize to the Iranian nation and try to make up for their dark background and the crimes they have committed against the Iranian nation”:

Currently holding only two seats of the 275-member national parliament, Communists pin their slender hopes on reactions against “sectarian politics” and “freewheeling capitalism”:

News and Analysis (1/27/09)

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Contradicting Obama’s claim that Mitchell will speak “to all the major parties involved,” the state department proclaims that “Mitchell will not have contact with Hamas”:

600 prisoners are packed into Bagram prison, which is described as “tougher and more spartan” than Guantanamo…

…Meanwhile, divided over how or whether to help, E.U. members gave no specifics on their commitment to facilitate closing the detention center in Cuba:

After “two incidents of Palestinians shot by soldiers across the border” …

… and “[m]any analysts rate the chances for Arab-Israeli peace as the worst in decades”:

Voting scheduled for January 31 conflicts with Shi’ite holy pilgrimage to Kerbala, but one pilgrim says, “We’re going to walk as far as we can, then come back. The Marjaiya [Sistani] says we have to vote, so we vote”:

Despite being the only certified candidate to fit the threshold requirements, Abu Awaja was denied office because of his affiliation with the northern Islamic Movement in Jaffa:

News and Analysis (1/26/09)

Monday, January 26th, 2009

BBC and Sky claim airing an appeal for the victims of Israel’s offensive in Gaza is incompatible with their ability to provide balanced and objective reporting:

The Israeli occupation of Gaza may have inspired another generation of “resistance”:

The major difference between the cease fire proposals of Hamas and Israel centers over how many border crossings will be open and who will monitor them:

Critics believe Obama’s plan to raise troop levels will only increase of violence and civilian casualties, which topped 4,000 over the past year:

Daniel Friedman has been appointed to defend Israeli commanders and soldiers against “self-righteous people” who hold Israel accountable for war crimes:

Although approved if used solely as an aid to fitness, “Yoga practice that contains religious rituals of Hinduism, including the recitation of mantras is ‘haram'”:

Extreme dissatisfaction in the quality of basic infrastructure leaves

News and Analysis (1/24-25/09)

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

It seems Obama does not plan to reverse course on all of Bush’s policies …

…Meanwhile, a call for justice remains strong for those denied habeas corpus at Guantanamo:

They won’t say where they got the money, but

Will Obama heed his own advice for Middle East peace made during the campaign that “we’re not going to make progress” without “an honest dialogue”?

Control of Iraq’s Nineveh province, decided by upcoming elections, could be an emerging challenge in stabilizing Iraq this year:

Amid calls for Palestinian unity, Hamas, viewing the Gaza war as a victory, wants the Rafah crossing into Egypt to stay open continuously, while many call for a Palestinian unity:

Gazans attempt to rebuild, return to a normal life after the Israeli occupation:

War on Gaza: Old Questions in Need of New Answers

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

War on Gaza: Old Questions in Need of New Answers

By Omar Sha’ban
PalThink for Strategic Studies

Despite the fragility of the cease fire declared unilaterally by Israel on Saturday morning, people of Gaza Strip in general, and those who live in Gaza City in particular, were able after 22 days to get out from their places of residence to check on their houses and belongings, on their families and friends. People were in shock with the first sights of huge destruction that was caused by the heavy shelling. Everything, whether on the surface of the earth or underneath, was a target to the Israeli shelling; buildings, hospitals, roads, electrical networks, water networks and even trees.

In the areas and neighborhoods where Israeli ground forces have gone into or through, the damage touched every single object, including TV sets, furniture, windows, doors, bedrooms … nothing was excluded. There were many marks that stated clearly “Israeli army has passed by….”

In some areas, people started to dig under the rubble searching for their family members. As expected, more than 100 bodies were found in just few hours of search. An international worker describing the view of Gaza City, just hours after the cease fire was announced: “It is like the view of an earthquake!!!” Another international worker said: “It is more than an earthquake; it is a volcano whereas earthquakes cause death and destruction but volcanoes cause death, destruction and burning”. Some of the bodies found on Saturday were still  smoking indicating that the white phosphorous that was used extensively is still active.

Nevertheless, with big pains and sorrows, people of the Gaza Strip started to ask some of the Old but Big Questions:

a)     What is the outcome of the whole thing? What outcome equals or could justify the big sacrifices? Was there any way to avoid what happened? Was this war avoidable or not?

b)     If the war was avoidable, who is to be blamed for not making enough effort to avoid what happened?

a.      Should Hamas be blamed for not making enough efforts to renew the truce with Israel, be blamed for its poor assessment of the Israel military capacities or for not making enough effort to achieve the national reconciliation?

b.      Should we blame the PA in Ramallah that did not make enough effort to reconcile with Hamas, to ease the closure or to take strong position against the Israeli offensives?

c.      Should we blame the international community, which put the entire Gaza Strip under unfair and severe sanctions?

d.      Should we blame the Israeli occupation that has never ceased killing and destroying Palestinians over the past decades?

e.    Or should we blame the Palestinian factions that have never been traditionally responsible for their actions and their outcomes? 

c)      People might accept big sacrifices if the outcomes will bring an end to their prolonged suffering. People may not know exactly what is good for them, but they are sure that genuine hope requires fundamental changes in their leadership. During the war period and afterwards, Gazans were wondering:

            “Where are the PLC members we voted for in 2006 elections?”

            “Where are those leaders who wanted to be ministers?” 

            “Where are those who always appeared on TV praising themselves and their actions?

People in the streets were highly disappointed as they didn’t find those leaders during the crisis. In my assessment the war on Gaza will affect the trust of the Palestinian public on the current political system, mainly the leadership and its traditional techniques. Moreover, Palestinians will be looking at the concept of “resistance” differently. It won’t be easy for the current leadership to sell to their constituency old products of same old people, with the same old methodology. I expect people will be more decisive about their destiny.

d)     Which changes, if any, would the war on Gaza bring into Hamas movement? It is clear now that the war on Gaza neither aimed at nor succeeded in taking Hamas out of power. How will Hamas re-shape its relations on the local level with Fatah Movement, the civil society, the media, and the PA in Ramallah, and position itself on the issue of the crossings? These issues are worth following especially as there is big fear among Fatah supporters that Hamas will crack down aggressively against them due to two  accusations: Fatah people did not join in the fighting and some Fatah members have shown their “happiness” for the war against Hamas.

e)     Who is going to help the affected people in recovering their assets? And how much and how long they need to suffer until the reconstruction process begins? People are fully aware how difficult the reconstruction will be, considering the siege, the shortage of raw materials and considering the political division between the PA in Ramallah and Hamas in Gaza. People are very modest in their hopes and demands; they want to have their assets re-built as they were before the war, nothing less—and nothing more. If Hamas is going to continue to rule Gaza, how will the International community and the PA pour into Gaza their donations and support? Will they bypass Hamas as they attempted after the 2006 elections?

In my assessment, both Hamas and the PA want to use the possible aid to restore their reputation. Hopefully, both will come to realize soon that without reconciliation, they both are doomed to fail in meeting the expectations of the Gazans.

I think the international community should push both sides to reconcile as a prerequisite to enable the flow of aid into Gaza. This condition must be used by the international community to encourage both sides to make serious compromise to allow all forces committed to human rights and humanitarian aid to face the real serious question: “How can the reconstruction process start if the crossings remain closed by the Israeli occupation?”

Omar Sha’ban is an economist and the chairman of PalThink for Strategic Studies.
He can be reached in Gaza Strip at

News and Analysis (1/23/09)

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

Almost 1,000 refugees were set loose in international water on boats with no engines and little food and water:

With thousands left devastated by the indiscriminate nature of the Israeli attack…

… yet another turf war emerges:

The victim spoke under the condition of anonymity and Taher al-Nunu, a spokesman for Hamas denies any involvement, “There are no people from Fatah killed by anyone”:

Financial troubles lead to a court ordered closure of the predominant English newspaper:

Hoping to improve accessibility to Halal meat:

Highlighting difficulties in undoing the damage of the Bush administration:

After the deaths of at least 10,000 people and the displacement of 1 million, the US now supports the return of the moderate leaders ousted two years ago:

News and Analysis (1/22/09)

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

Will President Obama continue to support Israel with the same “blank-check policy” of the Bush administration?

As Taliban forces continue to enjoy a high level of autonomy…

…they cite the failures of Bush and the Soviets as indicators they will maintain in control:

In addition to use of white phosphorus, Israel is accused of using Dense Inert Metal Explosive (Dime) weapons, a device that “expels a blade of charged tungsten dust that burns and destroys everything within a four-metre radius”:

With more than 14,000 candidates competing for 440 seats, “Iraqis speak about the power and promise of the ballot with a mix of optimism, apprehension and skepticism”:

Hamas indicates they will control the rebuilding effort in Gaza:

“Rights activists say the current case so far hinges solely on taped confessions by imprisoned suspects”:

Under the Patriot Act, unruly behavior on planes that poses no threat to public safety and does not amount to an act of terrorism can still be prosecuted as a felony offense: