Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|12/21/01 at 15:55:57|
|Bismillah and salam,|
Here is a most interesting article from antiwar.com which discusses the Israeli spy ring
which has been operating in the United States and the degree of
penetration of American political structures and its telephone
monitoring abilities. It also explores possible Israeli links to 9/11.
9/11 – What Was Israel's Role?
Fox News revelations point to an ominous conclusion
by Justin Raimondo
When is American foreign policy going to start putting America first? The US had nothing to gain, and everything to lose, by vetoing a UN resolution condemning violence on all sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The resolution condemned terrorism, no matter what the source, called for the creation of a "monitoring mechanism" to prevent violence, denounced executions without trial, and said the destruction of property must cease. You gotta problem with that?
This administration does: John Negroponte, American ambassador to the UN, justified the US veto by averring that the resolution aimed to "isolate politically one of the parties to the conflict through an attempt to throw the weight of the Council behind the other party.'' The resolution, said Negroponte, was unsatisfactory because it didn't specifically mention "recent acts of terrorism'' against Israelis. Naturally, this scuttled the whole thing, as it was intended to do.
The Victimological Olympics
For this argument, if carried on long enough, would lead to an infinite regression of victimological examples: the pro-Arab bloc would insist on specifically mentioning the supposedly accidental killing of five Palestinian children by an Israeli booby-trap bomb planted near a school. This would be the cue for the Israeli side to come up with a Hamas-Hizbollah atrocity that merits inclusion – and, before you know it, we're all the way back to 1948 with the pro-Arabists demanding the inclusion of the massacre at Deir Yassein, and, naturally, the Zionist bloc doing them one better by moving for some mention of the Roman conquest and persecution of the Jews.
THE WAR AGAINST THE WORLD
The US veto undermines the war effort, and makes the Americans seem as if they are waging a war not only on Islam, but against the entire world on behalf of Israel. After decades of trying to prove its bona fides as an honest broker of peace in the region, it is the US that is effectively isolated. The resolution was co-sponsored (or amended) by France and the Security Council vote was 12-1, with Britain and Norway abstaining. Whatever credibility the US had in the Arab world – very little, I'm afraid – was lost with that one arrogant gesture. So much for the grand "coalition" that Colin Powell has been building: the Israeli lobby in the US has demolished it with a single blow.
THE LAST LAUGH
Is that the demonic laughter of the Mad Sheik I hear, chortling in his cave at this act of American self-sabotage? It may be Osama bin Laden is not long for this world. Yet he will die happy in the knowledge that the US is sowing the seeds of his future warrior army, who will spring like Muslim Myrmidons out of Palestine's blood-soaked earth.
Speaking of sabotage, the story of the gigantic Israeli spy operation in the US – and its mysterious activities in the weeks prior to 9/11 – continues to amaze and shock even me. When I wrote, a few weeks ago, that the detention of some 60 Israelis in connection with 9/11 was "ominous" little did I realize just how much of an understatement that would turn out to be. It is often said that, post-9/11, the US is going through what the Israelis have had to endure for decades. The series of Fox News special reports on Israeli penetration of US intelligence assets puts this insight in an entirely new light. For it appears, from what we are learning, that the struggle between two desert tribes in a far away land has truly been brought home to the US: America, we are discovering to our horror, has become a battleground for both sides in that ancient conflict.
ENDS & MEANS
As I related last week, the first part of this astonishing four-part series by Fox News reporter Carl Cameron presents credible evidence suggesting Israeli intelligence had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. The second and third parts show they had the means to acquire this knowledge. According to Cameron,
"Fox News has learned that some American terrorist investigators fear certain suspects in the Sept. 11 attacks may have managed to stay ahead of them, by knowing who and when investigators are calling on the telephone."
ALL ROADS LEAD TO AMDOCS
Cameron takes us through an explanation of how and why virtually all telephone calls in the US are billed by a single company, Amdocs Ltd., which just happens to be headquartered in Israel. Chances are that when you make a call, the record of the call and the billing is done through Amdocs. With a virtual monopoly in the US, and tentacles worldwide, Cameron reports that "it is virtually impossible to make a call on normal phones without generating an Amdocs record of it." Amdocs denies any wrongdoing, but sources tell Fox News that, in 1999,
"The super secret national security agency, headquartered in northern Maryland, issued what's called a Top Secret sensitive compartmentalized information report, TS/SCI, warning that records of calls in the United States were getting into foreign hands – in Israel, in particular."
SPIES IN THE WOODWORK
It's not that anyone is listening in on all these calls, but that these methods are a way to know who is calling whom, when, and for how long – vital information in and of itself. Cameron assures us that the White House and the Pentagon are immune from such surveillance, but an article in Insight, the magazine put out by the Washington Times, showed how Israeli intelligence had thoroughly penetrated the communications system at the Clinton White House. According to co-authors J. Michael Waller and Paul M. Rodriguez, writing in May of last year, the FBI was
"Probing an explosive foreign-espionage operation that could dwarf the other spy scandals plaguing the U.S. government. Insight has learned that FBI counterintelligence is tracking a daring operation to spy on high-level US officials by hacking into supposedly secure telephone networks. The espionage was facilitated, federal officials say, by lax telephone-security procedures at the White House, State Department and other high-level government offices and by a Justice Department unwillingness to seek an indictment against a suspect."
"The espionage operation may have serious ramifications," wrote Waller and Rodriguez, "because the FBI has identified Israel as the culprit."
MONICA TELLS ALL
Dozens of officials confirmed the story, telling the authors of this fascinating piece how the Israelis had managed to penetrate not only State Department telephone lines, but also those in the White House, the Defense Department, and the Justice Department. That the President knew this at the time is beyond doubt; it came out, you'll remember, during l'affaire Lewinsky, when Monica testified that, on March 29, 1997, she and Clinton were desecrating the Oval Office and she specifically remembered it because, as the Starr Report put it:
"He suspected that a foreign embassy was tapping his telephones, and he proposed cover stories. If ever questioned, she should say that the two of them were just friends. If anyone ever asked about their phone sex, she should say that they knew their calls were being monitored all along, and the phone sex was just a put on."
LITTLE DID THEY KNOW
That "foreign embassy" was the Israelis'. It is spooky, in retrospect, to read the comments of the American intelligence and law enforcement officials who sourced this pioneering Insight piece (which, for some reason, is no longer available on their website but is still available, thanks to the miracle of Google). "It's a huge security nightmare," said one senior US official. "The implications are severe," another unnamed official chimed in. "We're not even sure we know the extent of it," said a third high-ranking intelligence official. "All I can tell you is that we think we know how it was done. That alone is serious enough, but it's the unknown that has such deep consequences."
OUT OF THE MURK
Ah, but the deepness of these consequences is just beginning to be known. As the Fox News revelations make all too clear, they are a lot deeper than anyone, including Waller and Rodriguez, could possibly have imagined last year. The picture that is beginning to emerge out of the murk is this: the Israelis were watching the hijackers and/or their associates, and they very possibly had access to a complete set of the conspirators' phone records, if not direct access to the content of their conversations. In the months prior to the attacks, the Israelis did indeed issue a warning of "massive" terrorist attacks, but, in an effort to protect both their sources and methods, their warning gave no details and was therefore practically useless.
THE COMVERSE CONNECTION
The third part of the Fox series shows how the Israelis had access, not only to phone records, but also to the wiretaps being conducted by US law enforcement agencies. This access could have easily been provided, Cameron points out, by yet another hi-tech Israeli communications company, Comverse, which operates as practically a branch of the Israeli government, and enjoys near monopolistic status here in the US.
When you place a call, it goes through a complicated network of routers and switchers. The way wiretapping works is that customized computers are linked to that network via specialized software, and the system intercepts, records, and stores wiretapped calls. But this system has a "back door" that could have easily been opened by Israeli intelligence. Comverse maintains a link to the wiretapping computers, on the grounds that it is necessary for system "maintenance." Over the opposition of some patriotic law enforcement officers, this process was authorized by the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA). But that wasn't the end of it. According to Fox News,
"Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller were both warned Oct. 18 in a hand-delivered letter from 15 local, state and federal law enforcement officials, who complained that 'law enforcement's current electronic surveillance capabilities are less effective today than they were at the time CALEA was enacted.'"
But Ashcroft is too busy rounding up Arabs and closing down their organizations to worry about the wholesale penetration of our communications system – including "secure" networks at the White House, the Defense Department, and elsewhere – by our wonderful allies, the Israelis. Cameron cites several unnamed law enforcement agents – concerned about the ominous implications of the Israeli penetration in light of 9/11 – who say that even raising the issue is "career suicide."
I HOPE YOU'RE SITTING DOWN
Okay, so the Israelis have the phone lines over at the White House, the Defense Department, the Justice Department, and, for all we know, your local dogcatcher's office bugged to the max. So they have the capability to know where and when practically every phone call in the US, and large sections of the rest of the world, is made, and to whom. As fantastic as it sounds, given the advance of technology and the reputation of the Mossad, I'm willing to believe it. What's really alarming, however, is that, as Cameron reports:
"On a number of cases, suspects that they had sought to wiretap and survey immediately changed their telecommunications processes. They started acting much differently as soon as those supposedly secret wiretaps went into place."
BEYOND THE BEGUINE
The implications of this stunning news go far beyond my original contention: that the Israelis had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks and simply failed to let us know the details. For it all depends on the intended target of the wiretaps: was it the Israelis, or Bin Laden's agents? If the former were acting differently after wiretaps were put in place, it means only that the Israelis were using their sources and methods to protect their own: if the latter, it means the Israelis were using their sources and methods to protect the Bin Ladenites. That is a possibility no one – including me – wants to contemplate, and, in all truthfulness, I must confess I cannot believe it. I am forced to concede, however, that, given what we now know, it is possible. Until and unless the government comes clean, we won't know for sure.
INVESTIGATE THE ISRAELI CONNECTION
At the end of his second report, Carl Cameron remarked to Brit Hume that the question of the Israeli connection to 9/11 "came up in the select intelligence committee on Capitol Hill today," and "they intend to look into what we reported last night." Naturally, all this is occurring in secret, with the likelihood of a cover-up all but certain. What is needed is a public investigation, and full disclosure of the Israeli role, if any, in 9/11.
WHERE IS THE MEDIA?
That, of course, is the role of the media – and, in this regard, it is interesting to note that Cameron's explosive investigation has not been picked up by a single news outlet, as far as I know (although I would be happy to be proved wrong) or discussed by a single "mainstream" columnist. Yet Fox News is hardly a marginal new source. In a business where scandal and especially spy stories are hot, you would think that a story like this, with its tie-in to 9/11, would have the other networks and the major media falling all over themselves to get a piece of the action. But not this time, at least so far.
FAN MAIL FROM SOME CRANKY FLOUNDER
It's funny, but when I wrote my first column on this subject, I got a whole bunch of nutball letters from anti-Semitic cranks who told me that "the Jews" would never let me get away with it, and that I am now a "marked man." This story, wrote one correspondent, "will go nowhere," because "the Jews" control the media, blah blah blah. I laughed, reading these perfervid notes, most of them WRITTEN IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, wondering at the infinite capacity of people to fit reality into ideological categories rather than the other way 'round. After all, the mere fact that the story was broadcast on Fox News, a major media organization, appears to contradict the self-evidently absurd thesis that the "Elders of Zion," sitting in a control room somewhere, determine what news we're allowed to read.
THE ANTI-SEMITIC FALLACY
I can only hope, for Mr. Cameron's sake, that what amounts to "career suicide" in law enforcement doesn't hold true at Fox News. Israel certainly has many vocal and very active supporters, who are quick to make their opinions known. But it is false to posit a "Jewish-controlled" media, no matter what the ethnicity or political persuasion of editors, owners, or whatever: these media companies are beholden to their shareholders, and to the market. Reporting the news is an intensely competitive business: there is no way to enforce an embargo on certain information, not in this day and age. There is no "Jewish conspiracy" – only the machinations of a particular foreign government and its uncritical supporters in this country, who span the ethnic and religious as well as the political spectrum.
THE TRUTH, AT LAST
It is too soon to say whether or not this story has "legs," as they say, and is going anywhere soon. But one thing's for sure: Fox News has blown the mystery of 9/11 wide open. This isn't going to just go away. On September 11, the American people looked on in disbelief at the sight of not only the World Trade Center going down but the Pentagon – the Pentagon, fer chrissake! – under attack and apparently defenseless. My first thought, at any rate, was: How could this happen? With these latest surprising developments – pointing to an ambiguous Israeli role, at best, in all this – I fear we are just beginning to discover the answer to that question.
Mr. Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com
by courtesy & © 2001 Justin Raimondo & Antiwar.com
by the same author:
The Gulf War In Retrospect: The "Isolationists" Were Right
The Myth of The Saddam Bomb..
|Re: Some articles|
|12/21/01 at 15:58:19|
|Bismillah and salam,|
Here is some distrubing info on the U.S. campaign to destroy Iraq's
Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2001 5:00 AM
Subject: [SOURCE-WEEKLY] Source Weekly, no. 48-49, 17 Dec 2001
SOURCE WATER AND SANITATION WEEKLY
A joint endeavour of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council
(WSSCC) and the IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre.
ISSUE NO. 48-49, 17 DEC 2001
NORTH AFRICA/MIDDLE EAST
*** IRAQ: US Accused of Destroying Water Supply
Over the last two years, documents of the Defense Intelligence Agency
(http://www.gulflink.osd.mil/) have been discovered indicating that the US
government intentionally used sanctions against Iraq to degrade the
country's water supply after the Gulf War. They show the US knew what the
impact would be for civilian Iraqis, especially children. The primary
document, "Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities," is dated 22 Jan 1991. It
spells out how sanctions will prevent Iraq from supplying clean water to its
citizens. The document notes that the import of chlorine "has been
embargoed" by sanctions. Other DIA documents confirm the Pentagon's
monitoring of the degradation of Iraq's water supply. These documents have
not been publicized until now.
Contact: Thomas J. Nagy, School of Business and Public Management, George
Washington University, fax: +1-202-9944930, mailto:email@example.com,
(Nagy, T.J. (2001). The Secret Behind the Sanctions : How the U.S.
Intentionally Destroyed Iraq's Water Supply. The Progressive, vol. 65, no.
9. URL: http://www.progressive.org/0801issue/nagy0901.html)
|Re: Some articles|
|12/21/01 at 16:03:14|
|Bismillah and salam,|
Here is an article written by Jennifer Loewenstein, on the United States Department of State Report on Israel and the Occupied Territories Even the U.S. Department of States documents the severe human rights abuses Israel inflicts on the Palestinians under occupation. Yet another member of the Jewish community speaks out.
Media Monitors, Dec. 19,2001
Don’t mention it
The US State Department’s Human Rights Reports on Israel and the Occupied Territories
by Jennifer Loewenstein
On Saturday, 15 December 2001, the United States vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have cleared the way for international monitors in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Many believe that such monitors would help reduce the violence in the increasingly bloody low-intensity war Israel is waging against Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories, as well as stop the devastating suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. Among the reasons the US gave for its veto was that the United Nations is not the proper forum for resolving Middle East violence. The US prefers to see itself as the sole arbiter in this conflict despite or perhaps because ofits marked pro-Israel bias, all the more evident of late in its backing of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s public condemnation of PA President Yassir Arafat, and in its refusal to challenge Israel’s appropriation of the Bush administration’s language regarding America’s “War on Terror”. We are expected to accept that Israel’s policies and strategy towards the Palestinians are analogous to US policies and strategy towards al-Qa’eda in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Most people in the Arab and Muslim worlds know that this is a standard example of US hypocrisy and support for unjust regimes. The United States government is well aware of Israel’s poor human rights record both towards the Palestinians living under its 34-year-old occupation and towards Palestinian citizens of Israel itself. Our politicians and pundits regularly distort the reality of the situation, however, ignoring or overlooking carefully documented records of Israeli human rights abuses. To highlight this point one need not only quote from the extensive reports of Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch. The US State Department has yearly, detailed reports of Israeli human rights abuses available for anyone interested.
The State Department’s “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2000: Occupied Territories” (February 2001) states unequivocally that “Israel’s overall human rights record in the occupied territories [is] poor.” It goes on to report that “Israeli security forces committed numerous serious human rights abuses during the year…. Since the violence began, [September 2000] Israeli security units often used excessive force against Palestinian demonstrators. Israeli security forces sometimes exceeded their rules of engagement, which provide that live fire is only to be used when the lives of soldiers, police, or civilians are in imminent danger. …Israeli security forces abused Palestinians in detention suspected of security offenses. … There were numerous credible allegations that police beat persons in detention. Three Palestinian prisoners died in Israeli custody under ambiguous circumstances during the year. Prison conditions are poor. Prolonged detention, limits on due process, and infringements on privacy rights remained problems. Israeli security forces sometimes impeded the provision of medical assistance to Palestinian civilians. Israeli security forces destroyed Palestinian-owned agricultural land. Israeli authorities censored Palestinian publications, placed limits on freedom of assembly, and restricted freedom of movement for Palestinians.”
Often lauded as the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel nevertheless appears to have difficulty applying its high human rights standards to non-Jews. Oje might plausibly argue that these standards are, out of necessity, suspended in areas under military occupation were it not for the fact that the Jewish settler population in the territories benefits from the same rights and privileges accorded their counterparts within Israel’s internationally recognized borders. One might also argue that Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are equal participants in the country’s democratic social institutions were it not for certain serious problems such as that nearly 70,000 Arab Israelis live in legal limbo: the more than 100 villages they live in within Israel are unrecognized by the government. As a result these residents pay taxes to the government but are “not eligible for government services…. Consequently, such villages have none of the infrastructure, such as electricity, water, and sewers, provided to recognized communities. The lack of basic services has caused difficulties for the villagers in regard to their education, health care, and employment opportunities. New building in the unrecognized villages is considered illegal and subject to demolition.” The Israeli government has yet to resolve the legal status of these villages and their inhabitants. [Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2000: Israel; US Department of State, February 2001.]
In addition, the report continues, Palestinian citizens of Israel are continually subjected to discrimination in education, housing, and employment and are underrepresented in most of the professions and in government. Arab land ownership remains problematic owing to policies prohibiting the transfer of land to non-Jews. In 1996 Arab Israelis challenged a state policy known as the “Master Plan for the Northern Areas of Israel” which “listed as priority goals increasing the Galilee’s Jewish population and blocking the territorial contiguity of Arab villages and towns” on the basis that it discriminated against Palestinian citizens of Israel. The government continues to use this document as the basis for its planning in the Galilee. [Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2000: Israel; US Department of State, February 2001.]
This is but a small sample of the abuses listed against Arab Israeli citizens. The report documenting Israeli human rights abuses in the occupied Territories is still more extensive and not limited to Israeli security forces such as the IDF (Israel Defense Forces). The settler population, whose presence in the territories contravenes international law, serves as a daily provocation to Palestinians living under the occupation. “Israeli settlers harass, attack, and occasionally kill Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza,” the report informs us. “There were credible reports that settlers injured a number of Palestinians during the ‘al-Aqsa Intifada’, usually by stoning their vehicles, which at times caused fatal accidents, shooting them, or hitting them with moving vehicles. Human rights groups received several dozen reports during the year that Israeli settlers in the West Bank beat Palestinians and destroyed the property of Palestinians living or farming near Israeli settlements. For example, according to Palestinian eyewitnesses, a group of Israeli settlers beat a 75-year-old Palestinian woman in April (i.e., 5 months before the uprising began). …Settlers also attacked and damaged crops, olive trees, greenhouses, and agricultural equipment, causing extensive economic damage to Palestinian-owned agricultural land. The settlers did not act under government orders in the attacks; however, the Israeli Government did not prosecute the settlers for their acts of violence. In general settlers rarely serve prison sentences if convicted of a crime against a Palestinian. According to human rights organizations, settlers sometimes attacked Palestinian ambulances and impeded the provision of medical services to injured Palestinians.” [CRHRP-2000: Occupied Territories; US Dept. of State; Feb. 2001.]
The US State Department report takes note of the fact that “Settlers convicted in Israeli courts of crimes against Palestinians regularly receive lighter punishment than Palestinians convicted in Israeli courts against either Israelis or Palestinians.” It also notes that Palestinians accused of security offenses (defined so broadly as to include almost everything) in the Occupied Territories are tried in Israeli military courts, whereas Jewish settlers accused of security and other offenses are tried in Israeli civil courts. That this point is noted in a report on the human rights abuses of another country may interest Americans recently informed that non-US citizens accused of terror-related crimes will now be tried by US military tribunals. A US State Department-issued human rights report on the United States could prove highly instructive.
The description of human rights abuses conducted by the Israeli government, security forces, and civilians against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories goes on for twenty pages of tiny, single-spaced print. The list includes home demolitions; lengthy and damaging military “closures” on Palestinian cities, towns, and villages; the restriction of freedom of worship and of travel; the arbitrary closing of schools and universities; the state-sponsored destruction of olive and citrus orchards; censorship of Palestinian media; restrictions on freedom of assembly; extradition of Palestinian prisoners to prisons in Israel and the difficulty of obtaining proper legal counsel; it takes note of the IDF killings of hundreds of demonstrators and of the policy of assassinating terror suspects without ever attempting to bring them to trial.
The State Department report on the Occupied Territories details the human rights abuses committed by both the Palestinian and Israeli regimes, but makes clear that the international community considers Israel’s authority in these areas not only abusive but also illegal. In the report on Israel we are reminded that “the international community does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over any part of the Occupied Territories,” and any mildly critical glance at the body of international law dealing with this subject, including the 1949 Geneva Convention relating to the Protection of Civilians in Time of War (to which Israel is a signatory), will reveal the full extent of Israeli legal and human rights violations.
According to government documents on US Foreign Military Assistance, Israel will receive $720,000,000 in economic support (allowing it to free up money for military expenditures), and $2,040,000,000 in foreign military aid for fiscal year 2002. Congress approved this aid package on 24 October 2001, eight months after the US State Department published its latest human rights report on Israel and the Occupied Territories. Because it is no secret that Israel commits serious human rights abuses (indeed, Senator Russ Feingold [D-WI] called the most recent State Department human rights report on Israel “disturbing” in a letter to me dated 31 October 2001) one has to wonder how it is that this public record is virtually unknown to, or ignored by, our major media and intellectual classes. Could it be that our reasons for supporting Israel have nothing to do with valuing those who believe in “progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom”? (George W. Bush; 20 September 2001) We may need to redefine what “civilized” means. Or perhaps we should simply urge Attorney General Ashcroft to suppress such information in the future.
|Re: Some articles|
|12/21/01 at 16:05:33|
|Bismillah and salam,|
a bit of inspiration?!
Why I Write (for Newspapers) December 20, 2001
By Robert Jensen
My clearest memory of the 1991 Persian Gulf War is a few moments on a bus when
the world melted in front of me.
I was in graduate school at the time, finishing a doctoral degree and working
evenings on a daily newspaper copy desk. I was going to antiwar demonstrations
and arguing with people about the war during the day, and then working at night
to process the propaganda-like stories that were filling the papers.
I felt whiplashed between incredible rage and a deep sadness over what my
government was doing and how little I could affect the coverage of it from my
desk at the newspaper.
One afternoon coming home from school on a bus, all those emotions broke open.
As I sat looking out the window, I couldn’t stop thinking about what was
happening to people in Iraq, the bombs and the blood; I couldn’t shut the death
out of my mind.
I started to cry. I have no idea if people around me thought it strange; I had
no sense of being around people. I felt alone, and I felt a grief as huge as the
horror that brought it on. It was a moment when the pain was so raw that I had
Nearly 10 years later, as I write this, I can remember looking out that bus
window and feeling that despair, and I realize that I have never completely
recovered from that moment. There is no shortage of suffering and evil in the
world that has moved people, and the Gulf War was in some ways nothing out of
the ordinary for a country with a history as brutal as the United States.
But it was a turning point for me, a moment after which there was no going back
to believing that my country ’tis of thee was a land of sweet anything. It was
not a moment of purely rational assessment; it was a moment in which I realized
things I had known but until then not completely taken in, a moment of letting
myself feel what I had up to then kept at bay.
Later that night, I tried to explain what I was feeling to the one coworker at
the newspaper, a man a decade older than I, who I thought could understand. "I
know what you mean," he shrugged. "That’s what happened to a lot of us during
Vietnam. There’s no going back. It’s never the same again."
That feeling comes back to me often. It came back on a day in May 2000, as the
spring semester at the University of Texas was winding down, I sat down in my
office one morning to finish end-of-the-semester chores. I lingered a bit with
the morning paper, enjoying the slower pace that comes when the students start
leaving for break.
As I read a story about the controversy over reporter Seymour Hersh’s story on
war-crime allegations against a Gulf War general who violated rules of
engagement and, in effect, murdered Iraqis after the cease-fire, I started to
get angry about the war --angry about the unnecessary death, outraged about
abuses of power that officials of my government take as their birthright, and
pissed off about the ease with which fellow citizens accept it all as the
natural order of things.
But the anger quickly turned to sadness, and I felt myself slipping back to
1991. I put the paper down and began to sob. All the emotion I had felt during
the war flooded over me, magnified a decade later by the knowledge of how the
crippling effects of the economic embargo on Iraq have made routine the ongoing
death and misery. I felt pulled back into that sense of despair.
So I wrote.
I wrote for a lot of different reasons that morning -- personal and political,
long-term and immediate, strategic and principled. I wrote because I knew the
Hersh revelations would be a good hook for an op/ed and that if I jumped on it
quickly, I might be able to wedge into a mainstream paper a bluntly critical
I wrote because I’m expected to write in my job as a journalism professor. I
wrote because I like to see my thoughts in print. I wrote because somewhere in
Iraq at that moment a parent like me was watching a child like mine die because
of U.S. policy.
I wrote because I think citizens should know the truth about the crimes their
government commits. I wrote because forcing people to rethink the Gulf War often
can help in the work to end the sanctions on Iraq. I wrote because writing is a
craft in which I have always found pleasure.
But that day, I wrote mostly because I did not know what else to do with my
anger and pain. I wrote because when I was done writing, I felt as if there was
a purpose for the pain and anger. I wrote because if I hadn’t written, I would
have felt worse than I did.
I wrote to cope and to vent. And I wrote to be part of a larger movement for
progressive change. I wrote for myself, and I wrote for others. I thought about
myself, and I thought about the late Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero’s plea
that those with privilege use it to be a "voice for the voiceless."
But, one might justifiably ask, does one op/ed in one paper really mean
Though it is silly to think that writing in and of itself will bring change, it
is not silly to believe in the power of writing. Most people can think of a
piece of writing -- whether a newspaper op/ed, a great novel, or a brilliant
political book -- that changed them in some way.
On occasion I get letters from people who tell me that an op/ed or an article I
wrote made a difference in their lives. All it takes is one of those letters
every so often to keep me writing. Virtually every day I read words that someone
else has written that make a difference in my life; that keeps me writing, too.
I may be naïve. Others (including many of my professor colleagues) may be right
-- you can’t beat the system, so you might as well cut the best deal you can,
find work that is satisfying personally, and be comfortable. "I admire what you
do," one colleague told me, "but I have to live in the real world."
The last time I checked, I do live in the real world. It is a world full of
injustice and pain and suffering, along with joy and love and solidarity. It is
also a world in which we must live with uncertainty, both moral and practical. I
can never know with absolute certainty that what I believe will turn out to be
right, or that the choices I make to act on those beliefs will be most
After I’m long dead and perhaps someone can assess the political effects, it may
turn out that all the words I wrote had no tangible effect on the world, that I
was kidding myself by thinking those words would make a difference. Maybe I am
wasting my time. But even if I knew all that to be true, I would still write.
I write because I hurt, and because I see others hurting.
I write not because of who I am, but because of who I want to be.
I write because sometimes I don’t know what else to do.
I write not because I don’t understand what the "real" world is all about, but
because I want to believe that we can make real another kind of world.
I write to keep the world from melting in front of me.
Excerpted from Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the
Mainstream by Robert Jensen (New York: Peter Lang, 2001).
Jensen, an associate professor in the School of Journalism at the University of
Texas at Austin, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Other writings are
available online at http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~rjensen/freelance/freelance.htm
|Re: Some articles|
|12/21/01 at 16:09:56|
|Bismillah and salam|
This article written by Tanya Reinhart, a well known Israeli academic
and professor at Tel Aviv University, is one of the most disturbing
articles that I have recently read on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
what she writes is an accurate depiction of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians. It should be published in every North American newspaper. It is a crime that it will not be published.
Media Monitors. Dec. 19,2001
by Tanya Reinhart
In mainstream political discourse, Israel's recent atrocities are described as 'retaliatory acts' - answering the last wave of terror attacks on Israeli civilians. But in fact, this 'retaliation' had been carefully prepared long before. Already in October 2000, at the outset of the Palestinian uprising, military circles were ready with detailed operative plans to topple Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. This was before the Palestinian terror attacks started. (The first attack on Israeli civilians was on November 3, 2000, in a market in Jerusalem). A document prepared by the security services, at the request of then PM Barak, stated on October 15, 2000 that "Arafat, the person, is a severe threat to the security of the state [of Israel] and the damage which will result from his disappearance is less than the damage caused by his existence". (Details of the document were published in Ma'ariv, July 6, 2001.) The operative plan, known as 'Fields of Thorns' had been prepared back in 1996, and was then updated during the Intifada. (Amir Oren, Ha'aretz, Nov. 23, 2001). The plan includes everything that Israel has been executing lately, and more.(1)
The political echelon for its part (Barak's circles), worked on preparing public opinion to the toppling of Arafat. On November 20, 2000, Nahman Shai, then public-affairs coordinator of the Barak Government, released in a meeting with the press, a 60 page document titled "Palestinian Authority non-compliance...A record of bad faith and misconduct", The document, informally referred to as the "White Book", was prepared by Barak's aid, Danny Yatom.(2) According to the "White Book", Arafat's present crime - "orchestrating the Intifada", is just the last in a long chain of proofs that he has never deserted the "option of violence and 'struggle'". "As early as Arafat's own speech on the White House lawn, on September 13, 1993, there were indications that for him, the D.O.P. [declaration of principles] did not necessarily signify an end to the conflict. He did not, at any point, relinquish his uniform, symbolic of his status as a revolutionary commander" (Section 2). This uniform, incidentally, is the only 'indication' that the report cites, of Arafat's hidden intentions, on that occasion.
A large section of the document is devoted to establishing Arafat's "ambivalence and compliance" regarding terror. "In March 1997 there was once again more than a hint of a 'Green Light' from Arafat to the Hamas, prior to the bombing in Tel Aviv... This is implicit in the statement made by a Hamas-affiliated member of Arafat's Cabinet, Imad Faluji, to an American paper (Miami Herald, April 5, 1997)." No further hints are provided regarding how this links Arafat to that bombing, but this is the "green light to terror" theme which the Military Intelligence (Ama"n) has been promoting since 1997, when its anti-Oslo line was consolidated. This theme was since repeated again and again by military circles, and eventually became the mantra of Israeli propaganda - Arafat is still a terrorist and is personally responsible for the acts of all groups, from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad to Hizbollah.
The 'Foreign Report' (Jane's information) of July 12, 2001 disclosed that the Israeli army (under Sharon's government) has updated its plans for an "all-out assault to smash the Palestinian authority, force out leader Yasser Arafat and kill or detain its army". The blueprint, titled "The Destruction of the Palestinian Authority and Disarmament of All Armed Forces", was presented to the Israeli government by chief of staff Shaul Mofaz, on July 8. The assault would be launched, at the government's discretion, after a big suicide bomb attack in Israel, causing widespread deaths and injuries, citing the bloodshed as justification.
Many in Israel suspect that the assassination of the Hamas terrorist Mahmoud Abu Hanoud, just when the Hamas was respecting for two months its agreement with Arafat not to attack inside Israel, was designed to create the appropriate 'bloodshed justification', at the eve of Sharon's visit to the US. (Alex Fishman - senior security correspondent of 'Yediot' - noted that "whoever decided upon the liquidation of Abu Hanoud knew in advance that would be the price. The subject was extensively discussed both by Israel's military echelon and its political one, before it was decided to carry out the liquidation" (Yediot Aharonot, Nov. 25, 2001)).
Israel's moves to destroy the PA, thus, cannot be viewed as a spontaneous 'act of retaliation'. It is a calculated plan, long in the making. The execution requires, first, weakening the resistance of the Palestinians, which Israel has been doing systematically since October 2000, through killing, bombarding of infrastructure, imprisoning people in their hometowns, and bringing them close to starvation. All this, while waiting for the international conditions to 'ripen' for the more 'advanced' steps of the plan.
Now the conditions seem to have 'ripened'. In the power-drunk political atmosphere in the US, anything goes. If at first it seemed that the US will try to keep the Arab world on its side by some tokens of persuasion, as it did during the Gulf war, it is now clear that they couldn't care less. US policy is no longer based on building coalitions or investing in persuasion, but on sheer force. The smashing 'victory' in Afghanistan has sent a clear message to the Third-World that nothing can stop the US from targeting any nation for annihilation. They seem to believe that the most sophisticated weapons of the twenty-first century, combined with total absence of any considerations of moral principles, international law, or public opinion, can sustain them as the sole rulers of the world forever. >From now on, fear should be the sufficient condition for obedience.
The US hawks, who push to expand the war to Iraq and further, view Israel as an asset - There are few regimes in the world like Israel, so eager to risk the life of their citizens for some new regional war. As Prof. Alain Joxe, head of the French CIRPES (peace and strategic studies) has put it in Le Monde, "the American leadership is presently shaped by dangerous right wing Southern extremists, who seek to use Israel as an offensive tool to destabilize the whole Middle East area" (December 17, 2001). The same hawks are also talking about expanding the future war zone to targets on Israel's agenda, like Hizbollah and Syria.
Under these circumstances, Sharon got his green light in Washington. As the Israeli media keeps raving, "Bush is fed up with this character [Arafat]", "Powell said that Arafat must stop with his lies" (Barnea and Schiffer, 'Yediot', December 7, 2001). As Arafat hides in his Bunker, Israeli F-16 bombers plough the sky, and Israel's brutality is generating, every day, new desperate human bombs, the US, accompanied for a while by the European union, keep urging Arafat to "act".
* * *
But what is the rationale behind Israel's systematic drive to eliminate the Palestinian Authority and undo the Oslo arrangements? It certainly cannot be based on 'disappointment' with Arafat's performance, as is commonly claimed. The fact of the matter is that from the perspective of Israel's interests in maintaining the occupation, Arafat did fulfill Israel's expectations all these last years.
As far as Israeli security goes, there is nothing further from the truth then the fake accusations in the "White Book", or subsequent Israeli propaganda. To take just one example, in 1997 - the year mentioned in the "White Book" as an instance of Arafat's "green light to terror" - a 'security agreement' was signed between Israel and the Palestinian authority, under the auspices of the head of the Tel Aviv station of the CIA, Stan Muskovitz. The agreement commits the PA to take active care of the security of Israel - to fight "the terrorists, the terrorist base, and the environmental conditions leading to support of terror" in cooperation with Israel, including "mutual exchange of information, ideas, and military cooperation" (clause 1). [Translated from the Hebrew text, Ha'aretz December 12, 1997]. Arafat's security services carried out this job faithfully, with assassinations of Hamas terrorists (disguised as 'accidents'), and arrests of Hamas political leaders.(3)
Ample information was published in the Israeli media regarding these activities, and 'security sources' were full of praises for Arafat's achievements. E.g. Ami Ayalon, then head of the Israeli secret service (Shab"ak), announced, in the government meeting on April 5, 1998 that "Arafat is doing his job - he is fighting terror and puts all his weight against the Hamas" (Ha'aretz, April 6, 1998). The rate of success of the Israeli security services in containing terror was never higher than that of Arafat; in fact, much lower.
In left and critical circles, one can hardly find compassion for Arafat's personal fate (as opposed to the tragedy of the Palestinian people). As David Hirst writes in The Guardian, when Arafat returned to the occupied territories, in 1994, "he came as collaborator as much as liberator. For the Israelis, security - theirs, not the Palestinians' - was the be-all and end-all of Oslo. His job was to supply it on their behalf. But he could only sustain the collaborator's role if he won the political quid pro quo which, through a series of 'interim agreements' leading to 'final status', was supposedly to come his way. He never could. . .[Along the road], he acquiesced in accumulating concessions that only widened the gulf between what he was actually achieving and what he assured his people he would achieve, by this method, in the end. He was Mr. Palestine still, with a charisma and historical legitimacy all his own. But he was proving to be grievously wanting in that other great and complementary task, building his state-in-the-making. Economic misery, corruption, abuse of human rights, the creation of a vast apparatus of repression - all these flowed, wholly or in part, from the Authority over which he presided." (Hirst, "Arafat's last stand?" (The Guardian, December 14, 2001).
But from the perspective of the Israeli occupation, all this means that the Oslo plan was, essentially, successful. Arafat did manage, through harsh means of oppression, to contain the frustration of his people, and guarantee the safety of the settlers, as Israel continued undisturbed to build new settlements and appropriate more Palestinian land. The oppressive machinery, - the various security forces of Arafat, were formed and trained in collaboration with Israel. Much energy and resources were put into building this complex Oslo apparatus. It is often admitted that the Israeli security forces cannot manage to prevent terror any better than Arafat can. Why, then, was the military and political echelon so determined to destroy all this already in October 2000, even before the terror waves started? Answering this requires some look at the history.
* * *
Right from the start of the 'Oslo process', in September 1993, two conceptions were competing in the Israeli political and military system. The one, led by Yosi Beilin, was striving to implement some version of the Alon plan, which the Labor party has been advocating for years. The original plan consisted of annexation of about 35% of the territories to Israel, and either Jordanian-rule, or some form of self-rule for the rest - the land on which the Palestinians actually live. In the eyes of its proponents, this plan represented a necessary compromise, compared to the alternatives of either giving up the territories altogether, or eternal blood-shed (as we witness today). It appeared that Rabin was willing to follow this line, at least at the start, and that in return for Arafat's commitment to control the frustration of his people and guarantee the security of Israel, he would allow the PA to run the enclaves in which the Palestinians still reside, in some form of self-rule, which may even be called a Palestinian 'state'.
But the other pole objected even to that much. This was mostly visible in military circles, whose most vocal spokesman in the early years of Oslo was then Chief of Staff, Ehud Barak. Another center of opposition was, of course, Sharon and the extreme right-wing, who were against the Oslo process from the start. This affinity between the military circles and Sharon is hardly surprising. Sharon - the last of the leaders of the '1948 generation', was a legendary figure in the army, and many of the generals were his disciples, like Barak. As Amir Oren wrote, "Barak's deep and abiding admiration for Ariel Sharon's military insights is another indication of his views; Barak and Sharon both belong to a line of political generals that started with Moshe Dayan" (Ha'aretz, January 8, 1999).
This breed of generals was raised on the myth of redemption of the land. A glimpse into this worldview is offered in Sharon's interview with Ari Shavit (Ha'aretz, weekend supplement, April 13, 2001). Everything is entangled into one romantic framework: the fields, the blossom of the orchards, the plough and the wars. The heart of this ideology is the sanctity of the land. In a 1976 interview, Moshe Dayan, who was the defense minister in 1967, explained what led, then, to the decision to attack Syria. In the collective Israeli consciousness of the period, Syria was conceived as a serious threat to the security of Israel, and a constant initiator of aggression towards the residents of northern Israel. Dayan (tBut according to Dayan, this is "bull-shit" - Syria was not a threat to Israel before 67: "Just drop it. . .I know how at least 80% of all the incidents with Syria started. We were sending a tractor to the demilitarized zone and we knew that the Syrians would shoot." According to the interview he confessed some regrets). What led Israel to provoke Syria this way was the greediness for the land - the idea that it is possible "to grab a piece of land and keep it, until the enemy will get tired and give it to us" (Yediot Aharonot, April 27 1997)
At the eve of Oslo, the majority of the Israeli society was tired of wars. In their eyes, the fights over land and resources were over. Most Israelis believe that the 1948 Independence War, with its horrible consequences for the Palestinians, was necessary to establish a state for the Jews, haunted by the memory of the Holocaust. But now that they have a state, they long to just live normally with whatever they have. However, the ideology of the redemption of land has never died out in the army, or in the circles of the 'political generals', who switched from the army to the government. In their eyes, Sharon's alternative of fighting the Palestinians to the bitter end and imposing new regional orders - as he tried in Lebanon in 1982 - may have failed because of the weakness of the spoiled Israeli society. But given the new war-philosophy established in Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan, they believe that with the massive superiority of the Israeli air force, it may still be possible to win this battle in the future.
While Sharon's party was in the opposition at the time of Oslo, Barak, as Chief of Staff, participated in the negotiations and played a crucial role in shaping the agreements, and Israel's attitude to the Palestinian Authority.
I quote from an article I wrote in February 1994, because it reflects what anybody who read carefully the Israeli media could see at the time: "From the start, it has been possible to identify two conceptions that underlie the Oslo process. One is that this will enable to reduce the cost of the occupation, using a Palestinian patronage regime, with Arafat as the senior cop responsible for the security of Israel. The other is that the process should lead to the collapse of Arafat and the PLO. The humiliation of Arafat, and the amplification of his surrender, will gradually lead to loss of popular support. Consequently, the PLO will collapse, or enter power conflicts. Thus, the Palestinian society will loose its secular leadership and institutions. In the power driven mind of those eager to maintain the Israeli occupation, the collapse of the secular leadership is interpreted as an achievement, because it would take a long while for the Palestinian people to get organized again, and, in any case, it is easier to justify even the worst acts of oppression, when the enemy is a fanatic Muslim organization. Most likely, the conflict between the two competing conceptions is not settled yet, but at the moment, the second seems more dominant: In order to carry out the first, Arafat's status should have been strengthened, with at least some achievements that could generate support of the Palestinians, rather then Israel's policy of constant humiliation and breach of promises."(4)
Nevertheless, the scenario of the collapse of the PA did not materialize. The Palestinian society resorted once more to their marvelous strategy of 'Sumud' - sticking to the land and sustaining the pressure. Right from the start, the Hamas political leadership, and others, were warning that Israel is trying to push the Palestinians into a civil war, in which the nation slaughters itself. All fragments of the society cooperated to prevent this danger, and calm conflicts as soon as they were deteriorating to arms. They also managed, despite the tyranny of Arafat's rule, to build an impressive amount of institutions and infrastructure. The PA does not consist only of the corrupt rulers and the various security forces. The elected Palestinian council, which operates under endless restrictions, is still a representative political framework, some basis for democratic institutions in the future. For those whose goal is the destruction of the Palestinian identity and the eventual redemption of their land, Oslo was a failure.
In 1999, the army got back to power, through the 'political generals' - first Barak, and then Sharon. (They collaborated in the last elections to guarantee that no other, civil, candidate will be allowed to run.) The road opened to correct what they view as the grave mistake of Oslo. In order to get there, it was first necessary to convince the spoiled Israeli society that the Palestinians are not willing to live in peace and are threatening our mere existence. Sharon alone could not have possibly achieved that, but Barak did succeed, with his 'generous offer' fraud. After a year of horrible terror attacks, combined with massive propaganda and lies, Sharon and the army feel that nothing can stop them from turning to full execution.
Why is it so urgent for them to topple Arafat? Shabtai Shavit, former head of the Security Service ('Mossad'), who is not bound by restraints posed on official sources, explains this openly: "In the thirty something years that he [Arafat] leads, he managed to reach real achievements in the political and international sphere... He got the Nobel peace prize, and in a single phone call, he can obtain a meeting with every leader in the world. There is nobody in the Palestinian gallery that can enter his shoes in this context of international status. If they [the Palestinians] will loose this gain, for us, this is a huge achievement. The Palestinian issue will get off the international agenda." (interview in Yediot's Weekend Supplement, December 7, 2001).
Their immediate goal is to get the Palestinians off the international agenda, so slaughter, starvation, forced evacuation and 'migration' can continue undisturbed, leading, possibly, to the final realization of Sharon's long standing vision, embodied in the military plans. The immediate goal of anybody concerned with the future of the world, ahould be to halt this process of evil unleashed. As Alain Joxe concluded his article in Le Monde, "It is time for the Western public opinion to take over and to compel the governments to take a moral and political stand facing the foreseen disaster, namely a situation of permanent war against the Arab and Muslim people and states - the realization of the double phantasy of Bin Laden and Sharon" (December 17, 2001).
1) For the details of this operative plan, see Anthony Cordesman, "Peace and War: Israel versus the Palestinians A second Intifada?" Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) December 2000, and it summary in Shraga Eilam, "Peace With Violence or Transfer", 'Between The Lines', December 2000.
(2) The document can be found in: http://www.gamla.org.il/english/feature/intro.htm
(3) For a survey on some of the PA's assassinations of Hamas terrorists, see my article "The A-Sherif affair", 'Yediot Aharonot', April 14, 1998, http://www.tau.ac.il/~reinhart/political/A_sharif.html
(4) The article (in Hebrew only) can be found in: http://www.tau.ac.il/~reinhart/political/01GovmntObstacleToPeace.doc
|Re: Some articles|
|12/21/01 at 16:12:46|
|Bismillah and salam|
Poll: Bush a hit among US Jewish voters
By Melissa Radler December, 16 2001
NEW YORK (December 16) -- Impressed with his response to the September 11 terrorist attacks
and wowed by his unwavering support for Israel, US Jewish voters are switching allegiances away from the Democratic Party to President George W. Bush, according to a new poll commission by the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC).
The poll, which surveyed 400 registered Jewish voters from November 28 to 29 and has a margin of error of 4.9%, shows Bush's approval rating among Jews
at 80% -- four times the percentage of Jewish votes he received in November 2000.
In a proposed rematch of Elections 2000, Bush was shown to double his share of the Jewish vote to 42%, compared to 39% for former presidential candidate
and past Jewish favorite Al Gore. Nearly 50% said theyÕd consider voting for Bush in 2004, a figure that jumped to 61% among voters age 18-39.
US Jews also appear to support BushÕs domestic agenda, with 44% giving him a thumbs up on domestic issues, and 42% stating their support for the
administration's economic policies.
"For the first time the Jewish community is taking an honest, real look at a Republican president and they are liking what they see," said RJC executive
director Matt Brooks.
Bush administration officials received high marks, with 79% for Secretary of State Colin Powell, 76% for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and 54%
for Attorney-General John Ashcroft.
Noting that the approval ratings seen in the poll reflect general American approval ratings for Bush, Frank Luntz, whose Luntz Research Companies conducted the poll, said, "Bush's performance has completely transcended partisanship, it has transcended gender, so why shouldn't it transcend religion?"
Among the factors Luntz attributed to BushÕs soaring popularity among Jewish voters is his performance after the September 11 attacks on New York and
Washington, the waning influence of the Christian Coalition in the Republican Party, and his support for Israel, including his boycott of the United Nations World Conference on Racism, his refusal to meet with
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and his inclusion of Palestinian terror groups in the fight against terrorism.
Two thirds of respondents said they approve of the way Bush has handled US-Israel relations.
When asked about the problems and concerns facing the US today, just 1% of respondents cited Israel -- a finding Luntz attributed to the community's confidence in Bush's Middle East policies. Half said terrorism is their biggest concern, followed by the economy (12%) and Afghanistan (5%).
"For the first time since Ronald Reagan's second term, the Jewish community is finding things it likes about a Republican president, and that can only be good news for other Republican candidates," wrote Luntz in the survey. He noted that New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan are two Republicans who have received strong Jewish support.
But just 27% of those polled said that Bush's performance will make them more likely to vote for other Republicans. A slightly higher number -- 28% --
said Bush's performance will make them less likely to vote Republican in the future.
Republican voters are shown to back Israel in higher percentages than Democratic voters, according to a Qunnipiac University poll released on Wednesday. The poll, which surveyed 1,237 registered voters from November 29 to December 5, found that 62% of Republicans back Israel and 9% back the
Palestinians, compared to 47% for Israel and 17% for Palestinians among Democrats. The poll has a margin of error of 2.8%.
|Re: Some articles|
|12/21/01 at 16:16:30|
|Bismillah and salam,|
This article by Israeli Journalist Amira Hass, from
Ha'aretz the largest circulation Israeli newspaper.
The next round of shelling
By Amira Hass
What will happen if and when Yasser Arafat's orders for a cease-fire are ignored? What will the IDF bomb if and when the implementation of Arafat's orders don't meet the conditions set by the Israelis and Americans?
The first "if" is already superfluous. On Monday, less than 24 hours after Arafat's speech and his call to obey the cease-fire, four Israelis were wounded in Palestinian ambushes in various locations in the West Bank. Three Palestinians happened to be killed by IDF fire that same day, including, according to Palestinian reports, a 13-year-old who was holding a plastic rifle.
The Israeli and American conditions are firm:
1. Arafat will arrest people on the lists he was given, even while the buildings used by the security forces that are supposed to make the arrests are being bombed and Palestinian security force personnel are killed, without shooting back, in Israeli raids.
2. Arafat cannot guarantee Palestinian compulsory education because the blockades and checkpoints prevent children from reaching school; he can not guarantee that patients will get treatment before they die at checkpoints, or that vaccinations for children reach every village. He and his security apparatus cannot guarantee that children won't be killed by mines left behind by the IDF, or that fresh food reaches every besieged village. But he is required to guarantee that every Israeli feels safe on the streets of Jerusalem or on the roads of the West Bank and Gaza.
3. Arafat is required to control every individual of his people, without controlling the territory in which those people live. Israeli-only roads are still being paved in the West Bank, with Palestinian land expropriated for that purpose; neighborhoods in the settlements are expanding, while Palestinian construction requires Israeli approval. Arafat can't change any of that, even though the construction clearly costs the Palestinians in land reserves and in their future. But he is required to make sure that not a single shot is fired from one of the villages already crowded by a nearby settlement.
To Israelis and Western countries, these conditions appear logical. They are largely based on the reasoning behind the Oslo Accords and their accompanying letters: Arafat promised to immediately cease the acts of terror and violence. In exchange, he was promised a gradual Israeli withdrawal from the territories, from an undefined area, at a pace that Israel can slow down or speed up. Arafat received no guarantee that there would be an end to the constant devouring of land for settlements.
These conditions do not appear logical to Palestinians. But this time, when it's not the withdrawal that is at stake but the Tenet work plan and the Mitchell recommendations, the Palestinian leadership had to obey, because, among other things, the Palestinian political system and civil society failed morally and tactically when it did not repudiate in time and loudly - meaning before massive external pressure - the terror attacks against Israeli civilians and its logic of revenge, and did not stick to the grass-roots campaign against the occupation.
Most Israelis and the American administrations don't regard the IDF's unbridled reign over three million Palestinians as the main problem. But every Palestinian sees the occupation as the root problem. The Palestinians do count their dead. All it takes is three people to decide that they aren't bound by the conditions imposed on Arafat, and that they have the right to avenge the death of a 13-year-old, for the Israeli government to feel free to continue its military offensive, claiming it is defensive, and for the Israeli public to accept the next steps without question. Therefore, the question what will be bombed the next time is relevant.
There aren't many buildings belonging to the Palestinian security forces left to bomb. Meanwhile, as far as the Israeli public is concerned, with its feeling that there is a military solution to the terrorism, the problem is solved with the exaggerated importance given to every building that is shelled once or many times. But how many times can a pile of rubble be bombed?
Will the next buildings be the Ministry for Planning and Cooperation, headed by Nabil Sha'ath? There's one well-appointed building in the Ramallah neighborhood currently under IDF control, and a second one in Gaza. Usually polite, after Sha'ath went through the bombings last week and saw the destruction of 36 Khan Yunis buildings by IDF bulldozers, he also publicly cursed the United States.
So, what about the Palestinian Education Ministry? Aren't the schools responsible for the incitement, which is the only thing that prevents Palestinian children from being happy to see armed soldiers in their homes and neighborhoods or helicopters firing missiles from above?
The same logic of constant attack, which has yet to encounter any serious grass-roots opposition inside Israel and has made the conditions presented to Arafat the only option available, will continue to develop - grotesquely and with disastrous consequences. And while the first time the Palestinian Education Ministry is bombed, there will be big headlines, with lengthy explanations of the security significance of the operation, the second and third bombings will get only a couple of lines in the papers.
|Re: Some articles|
|12/21/01 at 16:18:19|
|Bismillah and salam,|
interesting non-CNN perspective article on oil politics and Afghanistan from Tom Lawand. From the Bangladesh Independent.
Afghanistan, Taliban and oil resource
by Brig Gen M. Sakhawat Hussain (retd)
It was on February 15, 1989, when General Boris Gromov, supreme
the last Soviet soldier, crossed the Amu Darya river, the old Oxus; and
that marked the end of ten years of Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
Hearing the news the newly installed 40th President of the USA, George
Herbert Walker Bush and the CIA celebrated the victory with champagne in
the CIA headquarters in Lengley, Virginia.
Least did he (Bush) comprehend that early in his presidentship the
he abandoned would be focal point of contesting regional powers to
strategic as well as economic exploits in collaboration with American
and gas giants . Bush and the CIA had no time to look back at the mess
had left in Afghanistan and in the region.
When America walked away from Afghanistan after 10 years of Jihad
erstwhile Soviet Union they left millions of AK-47 Kalashnikov guns,
thousands of RPG rockets, millions of land mines, Soviet built tanks,
artillery pieces, missiles, and air assets with thousands of tons of
ammunition that could arm at least two medium sized armies. The United
States and the CIA also left the presence of ISI, a host of local CIA
in Afghanistan and fractured Mujahideen to fight each other.
The USA also requested the UN to clear the mess at the fag end of Afghan
fiasco and create condition to fill the power vacuum with the feuding
Mujahideens after the collapse of the Socialist regime of Dr.
All these resulted in a bloody civil war that devastated the country and
made the ground to breed worldwide terrorism, Al-Qaida and the tyranical
regime of Taliban.
In this void, two of the Islamic powers, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan both
allied with world's only remaining super power, the USA had by 1994
a monster of religious extremism, the Taliban movement. Ironically, it
Pakistan's Western-educated first woman prime minister Benazir Bhutto
supported the rise of one of the most repressive anti-women regime to
capture Kabul to bring some kind of order. Pakistan's stance was purely
strategic and more economic than Saudi motivation of Wahabi movement in
neighbourhood of Shiaite Iran. By then the world map had changed
The emergence of several Central Asian countries rich with untapped
resources opened the floodgate of emerging market as well as the
opportunity for new investment.
Early nineties witnessed the rush of investors many of them were giant
companies in oil and gas sector such as UNOCAL, SOCAL, EXXON and
The opportunity that was provided by the collapse of the Soviet Union,
economic plight and the windows of opportunity provided by the concept
global economy swinged newly established Russian Federation to communist
The New World order saw the rapid economic growth in Asia as well as in
China in particular. Pakistan found an affinity with the newly
Islamic Republics of former Soviet Union in the field of new investment
large scale trade in private sector.
The growing energy market in Asia became the focal issue with the
multinational oil and gas companies. The CIS (Commonwealth of
States) Central Asian republics having proven reserve both in gas and
attracted maximum investment. Once again the "great game" began, with
involvement of Pakistan, Iran in one hand and the US and the
companies on the other.
The two neighbouring countries were vying for the prospect of developing
Turkmenistan's energy resources for Asian market. Pakistan was fast
to sign a protocol in 1993 of a joint venture with Turkmenistan for
developing energy resources. The pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan
to be constructed through Afghan territory that would run 400 miles
it reaches Pakistan border.
Accordingly California-based company UNOCAL was in contract with
Turkmenistan to construct both oil and gas pipelines. The entire project
was envisaged to be worth $ 18 billion and UNOCAL had spent $10 million
the project study alone. The study recommended the oil pipeline through
Afghanistan then to Pakistan into a special terminal port that had to be
constructed. The study clearly suggested bypassing Iran totally due to
diplomatic imbroglio that country have with the western world. The
plan to utilise Afghan territory was also to thwart Iranian ambition to
develop and transport Turkmenistan's oil and gas.
However, UNOCAL's project appeared to have been frozen if not dead by
Taliban regime came under US scrutiny for harbouring Osama bin Laden. By
1999 Afghanistan was under strict UN economic sanction.
Meanwhile supply of natural gas from Afghan northern field Shibargan,
has a reserve of 1,100 billion cubic meters, to Moscow was stopped by
Taliban government on charges that Russia had purchased gas from
warlord Rashid Dostam having undercut the price that was earlier fixed
the agreement of 1977.
Moscow did not like the Taliban's attitude. Under the agreement Kabul
supplying 2 billion cubic meter per year. The negotiation that was
initiated by Moscow in 1987 with the Taliban government for resumption
the supply that too broke down. The Taliban government asked Moscow to
provide the details of the undercut unofficial deal that they had with
Dostam. The authorities in Moscow never obliged the Taliban.
The Afghan civil war that broke out soon after Dr. Najibullah left power
Kabul, had come as a severe blow to the prospect of economic growth of
Central Asia both in terms of trading and investment. Pakistan failed to
mediate between the factions. Their new found trade route to the Central
Asian Republics was disrupted due to the heavy fighting in Kabul that
forced Pakistan to look for new truck route through Kandhar -
Heart-Mazar-e-Sharif. The rise of Taliban in these areas was completed
1997 that facilitated Pakistan to open up towards Central Asia but
Alliance was still there fighting the Taliban.
Meanwhile UNOCAL revived the entire project plan. UNOCAL along with
Asia Pipeline, Ltd (CentGas) laid out the plan to market in Duletabad,
Turkmenistan, and gas through well-laid out pipeline both in the north
south. In October 2000, plan was approved to lay a 790-mile pipeline to
south through Afghanistan to Multan in Pakistan.
This section of the pipeline would cost $2 billion and the proposed
extension of another 400-mile pipeline to Delhi would cost additional
million. The evaluation on the production of Duletabad field indicates
there could be steady supply of 2 billion cubic feet gas per day for 30
years for these markets.
Apart from the natural gas the most critical item that the entire world
concerned about is the future of oil. At present the European markets
gloated with Middle Eastern oil and there is fierce competition in that
market. The alternative market where there is steady growth of the
is in the Asian market specially in the emerging economy of South and
By year 2020 Asia would be a market of 700 million people. Yet Japan
would remain the biggest buyer in the Asian market and solely dependent
the import of oil. Experts feel that existing Middle Eastern oil fields
pretty old and would exhaust the resources by another 20 to 30 years. In
such circumstance analysts feel that if Asia's energy needs are not met
from alternative sources they would simply put pressure on all world
markets driving the price astronomically high.
To make the huge Central Asian energy resources available to the Asian
market there could be two possible alternative routes. One, through
that would need total 5000 kilometres of oil pipe line, that would not
cheaper due to long supply lines. Therefore, the choice is alternate
through Afghanistan to terminal in or on the Arabian Sea in Pakistan.
UNOCAL envisions the creation of a Central Asian Oil Pipeline
This line would then become the regional oil pipeline system that will
utilise together oil from existing infrastructure in Turkmenistan,
Uzbekistan, Kazakistan and Russia. The plan conceives building
long oil pipeline that would originate near the town of Chardzhou, in
Northern Turkmenistan and extend southward through Afghanistan to the
terminal on Pakistani coast. This 42-inch dia pipeline would be capable
shipping one million barrels per day. The estimated cost is about $ 2.5
The US companies in their report supported by the World Bank suggests
would bring this benefit to the Central Asian Republics in terms of oil
revenue. On the other hand the World Bank also indicates the benefit
Afghanistan would derive from the revenue of transport tariffs. That
encourage trade, and economic prosperity to one of the poorest nations
the world and bring stability.
Yet in another study made for the World Bank suggests that for West
Siberian crude, the netback values will increase nearly $2.00 per barrel
going South. In Kazakistan, the netback value will increase more than
However, millions of US dollars have already been invested in terms of
feasibility study and possible mobilisation of resources for the two
consortium created for Central Asia and CentGas could not proceed any
further unless internationally recognised government was in place in
Taliban government did not have the international legitimacy to start
On February 12, 1998 UNOCAL Vice President, International Relations, in
testimony brought out the issue to the House Committee on International
Relations Subcommittee on Asia and Pacific. In summery he explained to
House Committee and emphasised that the US government must recognise the
economic importance and that the region is made stable.
The report also implored the US government to provide stronger support
on going UN peace process in Afghanistan. He also emphasised that unless
the settlement of conflicts in the region was made cross-border oil and
pipeline would not likely to be built. Taliban by then was in control of
per cent Afghan territory and only three countries had recognised the
regime. Only Pakistan is still maintaining diplomatic link with Kabul.
There seem to have existed economic reasons for developing rift between
US-Taliban and Taliban-Pakistan over the pipeline issue whereas QS was
sympathetic towards Taliban. There were several attempts at private
attempt to negotiate with Taliban on the issue. Though, multinationals
denied the report but intelligence agency now reports that one of the
multinationals had approached Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Omar for
negotiation and that he refused to oblige saying that the deal did not
safeguard the interest of Afghanistan.
It is also said that Mullah's close confidante Osama bin Laden advised
Taliban supreme leader to closely scrutinise the deal in light of
Turkey-Syria and Syria-Iraq pipeline deal. Mullah said to have engaged
Argentinean consultant to work out the alternative. Since then UNOCAL
other oil companies have been pestering US government either to
the authority in Kabul to open a dialogue or take action.
On the other hand there were other deals that were earlier made with
Pakistani entrepreneur for selling few nationalised prime industrial
concerns at a much lower rate and that was also stopped by the Taliban
government in 1998. It is also reported that after intense negotiation
Taliban leader refused to hand over these units unless these sales were
made under international norm. It was also reported that Osama was
constantly guiding Mullah on international deals.
Many reports now indicate that the United States was preparing anyhow to
throw the Taliban out of power either by covert or overt operation with
help of Northern Alliance much before snowfall in current year. On
18, 2001 the Washington Post said in a lead news item that CIA was at
to mount an operation in Southern Afghanistan since 1997.
In another report published in London-based Jane's International
said in its March 15, 2001 issue that the new American administration
working with India, Iran and Russia, "in concerted front against
Afghanistan's Taliban regime". The report goes on to suggest that these
forces were asking Northern Alliance to start serious effort to
the Taliban. The tragic events of September 11, 2001 provided
opportunity to execute the long-awaited plan.
The scenario has since then changed dramatically.
Pakistan, which had been mentor of Taliban, had withdrawn all kinds of
support since September 11, 2001. USA-led alliance in pursuit of
dismantling Al-Qaida network and to eliminate Osama bin Laden, prime
suspect of attack on America, has struck on Taliban. Taliban are on the
and their enemies, for the last five years, Northern Alliance once again
calling the shot. But they would not be able to hold power unless a
broad-based government in Kabul is finally established and good old
warlords are taken care of. Unless an amicable settlement in Kabul the
region may remain unstable for few more years and "War on Terror" may
by Brig Gen M. Sakhawat Hussain (retd) writes from Dhaka
Courtesy : The Independent ( Dec 15 , 2001 Edition )
Top Index Index Page
|Re: Some articles|
|12/21/01 at 22:26:47|
|Bismillah Rahman Rahim, Wa salatuhu wa salam ala'a Rasul Karim|
Mash'Allah sister Ama'tuLLah, as they say in French " Chapeau Madamme", and the only thing which come to my mind was " O Allah show us the truth as the truth is, and make us accept it, and show us falsehood as falsehood is and make us reject it". May He(swt) always guide you and protect you and gives you the strenght to continue on your path with deepth.Amin.
|Re: Some articles|
|12/27/01 at 11:23:58|
JAKS for all the great articles, i found this one at http://www.csmonitor.com/2001/1219/p1s3-wogi.html
yes, thats right, the Christian Science Monitor
there is also a link to jannah.org on the page to give readers further information! :-D
Voices from behind the veil
Women in conservative Islamic societies talk about their lives, and how the West perceives them.
By Nicole Gaouette Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - Reported by staff writers Nicole Gaouette in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Scott Baldauf in Jalalabad, Afghanistan; and special correspondent Haleh Anvari in Tehran, Iran.
If there is a Western shorthand for Muslim women, it might look like Heba Attieh.
Veiled and cautious about encounters with men outside her Saudi family, she was married at 17 to someone she barely knew. Soon after, she was pregnant with the first of three children. She can't travel in Saudi Arabia without a man's permission, leave the house alone, or drive.
But look again.
Ms. Attieh, tall, slim with an easy sense of humor, is also a doctor at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where she works fulltime alongside male colleagues.
She holds a PhD in speech pathology, does community work, and is organizing a group to work on school-curriculum issues and playground development.
"How many Western women do as much?" challenges her sister-in-law, Sahar Abdul Majid.
In these days of tension between Islam and the West, it's a question that resonates with many Muslim women. The US war against Afghanistan's Taliban regime has put Islam front and center in the American consciousness. Some of the most popular news reports are about Afghan women reclaiming their jobs, their studies, and their right to remove the head-to-toe burqa covering.
To many Westerners these moments are ripe with symbolism: In their eyes, the veil reflects Islam's oppression of women. Some commentators have even hailed the liberation of Afghanistan's women. "Muslim women see it in a slightly different light," Attieh wryly observes.
It is too early to tell how events will play out for Afghanistan's women. But the fall of the Taliban leaves just two countries - Saudi Arabia and Iran - that dictate, by law, that women cover themselves. For outsiders who hold that Muslim women need freeing from the shackles of their faith, these would be the countries to turn to next. Most Iranian and Saudi women, though, won't be having any of it. Despite differences of geography, culture, and language, the women of these two countries echo each other's tart appraisals of the West and its view of Muslim women.
They bridle at Western assumptions about the nature of Islam and a woman's place in it. Like their Afghan sisters, these women stress that culture shapes their lives as much as religion and if they have problems, the veil certainly isn't one of them. They want change, but on terms that suit their society. Most of all, they would like Westerners to stop rehashing kld clichés about who they are.
"Talk to us, see us," says Attieh in a hospital room brightened with children's drawings. "It's true we may not have many rights. But we deal with the same problems you do - juggling jobs and kids, finding some balance and a place for ourselves. A lot of people here want change, we just have to do it in a way that works with our culture, not against it."
In the lush green courtyard of Shafiqa's family home in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, a half-dozen highly educated women are doing what they have done for the past five years: laughing, gossiping, and raising their children.
None of these sisters and cousins - doctors, teachers and professionals - has ventured outside their home in that time. Husbands, brothers, and fathers do the grocery shopping, they say, though not very well.
The Taliban may have left Jalalabad now, replaced by mujahideen guerrillas loosely aligned with the Northern Alliance, but Shafiqa and her relatives say they still will not leave their homes without a veil.
"In our culture, it is necessary to wear a scarf and [long] sleeves," says Shafiqa, a medical-school graduate. Another reason for her caution, she says, is that the new rulers of Jalalabad are just as conservative - and perhaps less law-abiding - than the Taliban.
Few Afghan women forget that the Northern Alliance organized campaigns of rape against women of different ethnic backgrounds before the Taliban took over. "People are not safe because the mujahideen are just like the Taliban," Shafiqa says.
In some places, the departure of the Taliban means a return to freedoms that Afghan women enjoyed before - to work, study, and move at will. In more traditional areas, where most of Afghanistan's 25 million people live, the change is more modest, as ancient customs replace strict Taliban laws.
In the cool shade of a tree, a farmer named Sher Jan and his wife, Rahmona, reflect on their lives since the Taliban's departure. They get sidetracked easily by gentle differences of opinion. She corrects him when he says they have three children. ("Yes, we have three boys, but we also have four girls," she says.) And he corrects her on her age. ("Forty," she says. "Fifty," he says.)
But on one subject, the couple speaks in harmony. The Taliban were enforcing Islamic laws that most Muslims already obeyed. "To wear a burqa, this is the instruction of the holy Prophet Muhammad and they made it obligatory, as if almighty God said it," says Sher Jan. The Taliban had good intentions and made the city safe for women, says Rahmona, but occasionally, out of zealotry, the Taliban themselves became harassers.
"One day, I was forced to get down by the Taliban from a bullock cart," she recalls. Reflexively, she pulls her black scarf across her face in the presence of a male stranger. "They told me, you should wear the burqa. I told them, I'm too old to wear a burqa. Eventually, they let me go."
It is midnight in Jeddah, and in Neda Hariri's plush living room the conversation is just picking up steam. During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast all day and socialize late into the night, and Attieh has come to visit her niece and sister-in-law.
Out of her hospital whites, Attieh is coolly elegant in a gray linen suit. Ms. Hariri, newly married and pregnant, is still slender in a silk tank top and skirt. As she hands around cake and sweets, her mother whispers hostessing advice.
But when talk turns to Afghanistan, tips on serving implements are forgotten as the women start discussing Western reports on Afghan women and the veil. "You have to understand that most of these [Afghan] women want to cover their head," interjects Attieh. "They have no malls, no Internet, there is just religion. The veil is a symbol of faith, a form of protection, like a second skin."
Hariri complains about first lady Laura Bush's radio address last month on Afghan women, arguing that it was meant to provide the US with an excuse to keep bombing. "It's not for women in the US to say Afghan women are oppressed and should take off the veil," she says. "If an Afghan woman is upset about her situation, she should change it, not you."
History gives her good reason to be suspicious. European nations often used Muslim women to justify their intrusions into Islamic countries. In the late 1800s, the English envoy Evelyn Baring urged his superiors to colonize Egypt, arguing they could do so on behalf of the country's downtrodden women. At the time, Baring sat on a committee bent on denying English women the vote.
French charities in late 19th-century Algeria would dispense free oil and flour to the poor, but only if they removed their veils. "[Mrs. Bush's] speech resonates so much with this earlier use of women as a reason to interfere in internal affairs," observes Barbara Petzen, the Outreach Coordinator for the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. "Before Sept. 11, there wasn't much Western interest in Afghan women. The Islamic world was much more vocal about Taliban practices."
The misgivings aren't confined to Hariri's living room. Iran Aflatouni, a retired computer programmer in Tehran, doubts the West's understanding of Afghan women. "Even if women are liberated from Taliban rule, they have a culture that does not accept women as equals to men," she says.
Iranians have their own reasons to distrust Western interference. The US toppled a democratically elected Iranian government in the 1950s to put the shah in power. Iranians endured the shah's brutal secret police and while he instituted changes for women, his attempt to graft Western-style reforms onto Iranian culture wasn't a success.
So many families felt Iranian society was immoral that some experts estimate that up to 50 percent of young women were kept from university. For these women, the 1979 Islamic revolution was a liberation. They could study, work and become a public force. Women now take 60 percent of university places.
Today, Iran's hardline Islamic clerics present a stumbling block for women as they vigorously block attempts at political and social reform. Crackdowns on women's dress often represent the clerics' resistance to larger kinds of social change. In Saudi Arabia, too, religious conservatives make women a scapegoat when fighting off change of any kind.
Despite the obstacles thrown up in the name of religion, many Iranians still see the revolution as a blessing.
"People from the outside, when they look at us, they just see the small percentage like me who have gone under the [veil]," says Negar Eskandarfar, the publisher of a Tehran literary magazine. "They don't see that huge percentage who have come out into society from inside their houses, from the back rooms, from illiteracy."
The Western preoccupation with the veil puzzles many women. "Iranian women have far more important issues than the veil," says Aflatouni. "Our laws are backward."
Courts deny Iranian women child custody after divorce, which men get more easily. Women are considered half a witness and are entitled to only half what their male siblings inherit. They need a male guardian's permission to travel abroad and must cope with the basij, the morality police who enforce proper Islamic behavior and dress.
Saudi women have their own religious police and similar legal hurdles, but in both countries women are working the gap between law and attitude.
In Iran, this is most colorfully expressed through clothing. Since the revolution, women's clothing has cycled through political as well as fashion seasons. Women test the political boundaries by shortening their coats, letting more hair show under their scarves and dusting their faces with a light bloom of makeup. After government crackdowns, coats get longer, and hair is carefully tucked away.
Saudi women have even less flexibility with dress, so challenges to the status quo are less visible. But there are middle-class women who presage change and Nadia Baeshen is one of them. She runs her own Jeddah-based consulting company, heads the women's business department at a local university and teaches at two women's colleges.
"There are certain rules you have to follow, but once you're out there, you're out there," she says. "Just don't defy the system and no one cares what you do." Seated in her office in black jeans and a funky black-and-white jacket, Ms. Baeshen projects a sharp intelligence. She dismisses travel permits as a technicality, doesn't bother with all-women banks and says her gender is a plus.
"My American friends don't believe it, but being a woman in my culture is very advantageous," she says. "In the men's bank, everyone lets me go to the front of the line. People give women some leeway and lots of respect."
She sees a silver lining in the ban on women driving. Like most women of means, she uses a driver, most of whom come from abroad to work for a few hundred dollars a month. "I do all my phone calls, set up appointments and I don't have to worry about parking," Baeshen says. "Is that so bad by American standards?"
She doesn't say how she deals with the requirement that women appoint a male proxy to conduct their business in the public arena, at government offices for instance. But some women pay a man to fill the role on paper, then take care of public business themselves.
Women without Baeshen's means may have a harder time, but change is filtering down the socioeconomic ladder, says Abubaker A. Bagader, a sociology professor at Jeddah's King Abdul Aziz University. Travel, satellite TV, and the Internet provide some impetus for change, but much of it comes from within, he says.
While Saudi Arabia is one of the wealthiest Muslim nations, it has one of the lowest female labor rates in the Middle East. It's literacy rate among women lags behind Egypt, Algeria, and Libya. But Saudi Arabia has also undergone a huge rural-urban shift. Sixty percent of the population is now under age 20, and live in nuclear families. As attitudes change, more women are being educated. In a 1990 survey, Mr. Bagader found 80 percent of men wanted a college-educated wife, up from just over 50 percent in 1979. Very slowly, more women are working - out of necessity as much as by choice - as a lackluster economy squeezes incomes.
Fatin Bundagji, director of Women's Training Programs at Jeddah's Chamber of Commerce, helps women polish their skills for the job market, but with so few places available it can be discouraging work. "A friend of mine at a government office has 90,000 women's resumes," she says. "Where are these women now? Where do girls go when they graduate? Nowhere. And I'm educating them even further to go nowhere. It really saddens me."
It is almost 2 a.m. and the discussion in Neda Hariri's living room is still going strong. Her mother, Mrs. Abdul Majid, is complaining about the requirement that women get male permission to travel. "Some [Islamic] scholars say no, you don't need it," she fumes. "I think it's just wrong."
When Saudi women talk about restrictions that chafe, they sometimes point out that the Islamic basis for the rule is debatable if not invisible. More often than not they point to culture as the impediment to being more politically active or more mobile.
Attieh says the answer lies in creating change within the culture. And if women are stereotypically confined to the spheres of home, children, and schooling, she says that can be a strength. "There is great potential for change and social power there," she says. "Cultural rules change with time. Just look at your mother's life and your own."
Some, though not many, say Attieh has a silent partner in the government. In Jeddah, it has backed the recent creation of two new women's colleges and set up a national employment and training project. And it recently began issuing Saudi women their own identification card, instead of a paper that only identified them by their male guardian. Some women see this as a step toward allowing women to drive. "The government is on the side of women," insists a male media analyst. "But it's held captive to the [religious conservatives]."
A crackdown on Saudi women followed the Gulf War, when critics say the government moved to appease religious conservatives angry about the stationing of US troops on Saudi soil. Some worry that this may happen again, in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on the US and its subsequent war on Afghanistan.
But even so, women and analysts say change is simply a matter of time. Iran's women have voting power. And like Iranians, Saudi women are becoming increasingly well educated, a point observers stress strongly. "Watch what educated Muslim women do," says Elizabeth Warnock Fernea, an American writer and filmmaker who focuses on Middle Eastern women and the family. "They will be a force to be reckoned with."
Hariri who dropped her university studies when she got pregnant, plans to go back one day. Looking ahead to her long-term hopes and goals, she starts thinking aloud, her kohl-rimmed eyes fixed in the distance. More freedom, she says, the ability to drive and choose a profession, the chance to vote and be politically active. "Because I'm a human being and I should have my freedom," she says, snapping back into focus. "Especially from my husband's family," she adds, and the room around her echoes her laugh.
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