The IDF’s Criminal Record Again…

 

Expecting the unexpected in Lebanon—or should we say—the very expected?

By Forward Magazine

The unexpected was for this round of battle on the Lebanese-Israeli border to be between the IDF and the Lebanese Army—and not Hizbullah. The expected was for Israel to strike—four days after the Syrian-Saudi Summit in Beirut—in order to drown all Arab initiatives aimed at protecting Lebanon from slipping into chaos. Israel is setting the stage for a new war with Lebanon—clearly from the blatant violation of UNSCR 1701 and its invasion of Lebanese territory on August 2.

Earlier today, a patrol from the IDF crossed the border into Lebanon and was confronted by the Lebanese Army at the Odeissi village in the South. UNIFEL tried to halt the advancement, with little luck, leading to the death of 3 Lebanese soldiers, the wounding of 4, and according to Hizbullah’s al-Manar TV, the killing of a “senior Israeli officer.” The Lebanese Army, with full support of President Michel Suleiman and Army Commander Jean Kahwaji, has stressed self-defense, blaming the IDF for outbreak of hostilities and placing full support behind the Lebanese Army. Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri called on the Lebanese government to take the matter to the Security Council, words echoed from the other side by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said that the Lebanese Army had violated UNSCR 1701. All parties are currently waiting for a speech by Hasan Nasrallah, expected at 8:30 Beirut time, to lay out the vision for what will happen in the hours ahead.

For four years, all eyes have been on Lebanon, predicting a new war between the IDF and Hizbullah. All objectives set forth by then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert were not met: the two Israeli soldiers were not released and far from being annihilated, Hizbullah emerged from that battle, stronger than ever before, morally, politically, and militarily. Several consecutive senior Israeli military officials were forced to resign as a result of that war, including the Chief-of-Staff.

It was reasoned for long that the US wanted that war more so than Israel. The Bush White House wanted to prevent Hizbullah-like groups from emerging in failed states throughout the world; in Pakistan, Sudan, and Iraq. The Pentagon wanted the war to test the pulse of Iran’s military abilities prior to waging war against Tehran. The State Department wanted the war because it had adopted the pro-Western cabinet of then-Prime Minister Fouad al-Siniora, which had taken a strong Hizbullah position.

Time and again, that war did not happen. Primarily this was because nobody in Lebanon wanted a new round of battle—certainly not Hizbullah. Additionally Israel was not going to venture into another war, where results were not 100% guaranteed against Hizbullah. Israel was not going to go into another war—and not win. In 1973, Golda Meir resigned from her post as Israeli Prime Minister not because Israel lost the war against Egypt and Syria. She resigned because Israel did not win.   

For months now, however, the Israelis have been setting the stage for a new war in the Middle East. It started with a November 2009 accusation that Iranian arms were discovered on a German ship headed for Hizbullah. Then came a fabricated story in mid-April 2010, claiming that Hizbullah was receiving advanced Scud missiles from Syria. More recently Israeli Army Commander Gaby Ashkenazi further provoked the Lebanese fighters by claiming that an earthquake was in store for them next September, when the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) names Hizbullah officials in the 2005 murder of Rafiq al-Harriri. Last Thursday, Israeli TV came out with a blatant statement, naming a senior Hizbullah commander in the Harriri Affair. Hizbullah—which has repeatedly said that it does not want war but would be ready for it—refuses all blame for Harriri’s blood, claiming that the STL is an “Israeli project” aimed at targeting the Lebanese resistance. Hizbullah would continue to refuse the STL, its leaders stressed, so long as the international probe refuses to even consider Israeli involvement in the Harriri murder.  What Israel could not achieve through bullets and missiles, Hizbullah leader Hasan Nasrallah was saying, it would try to attain through the STL.

What is happening today brings back strong memories of the war of 2006—an Israeli army desperate to strike back at Lebanon and Hizbullah for having enforced the worse defeat on the Jewish State’s history since its creation in 1948.  

President Bashar al-Assad got on the phone with his Lebanese counterpart Michel Suleiman, expressing his country’s full support for the Lebanese in the hostilities that broke out on the border with Israel.

Echoing the Syrian leader’s words were the people of Syria and the Arab World, who have old and grey watching Israel kill whatever chances of peace and stability emerge in the Middle East.

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Setting the example to boycott boycotting

45758-resized-un-racism-conferenceLast year, on March 14, The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Isesco) called on all 50 of its member states to boycott the Paris book fair. Why? Because the French had dared to choose Israel as its guest of honor. In the ultimate act of shooting itself in the foot, the organization not only denied authors and publishers the chance at international review and recognition, it also failed to provide a counterpoint to the Israeli perspective highlighted at the fair. Whatever your stand on Israel is, the fact that no Muslim country was there offered them a free pass to promote their own ideas unchallenged.

Similarly, the international community was outraged when Israeli tennis star Shahar Peer was denied a visa to Dubai this past February. The UAE’s reasoning was that denying this player passage to the Dubai Championship would be an effective method to protest the Israeli agression against Gaza at the turn of the new year. Instead, the country was fined, faced incredible censure, and was forced to take in Andy Ram if it wished to continue holding their international competition.

Boycotts and denial of access are simply ineffective ways of protest. They limit communication, and therefore understanding and agreement. While they occasionally have some short-term success, the resentment it creates in the side that was bullied into submission lasts for so long, it will pounce on whatever chance it can take later on to gain retribution, often in the most destructive manner possible.

Why should Muslim countries act any different, however, when the US, Israel, Canada, and the EU, supposedly the paragons of “liberal” and “democratic” countries in the world, don’t provide a better example? Today, April 19, 2009, the US has confirmed that it will not be attending the UN forum on racism in Geneva next week, because of disagreements on how the guiding document views Zionism. This follows similar confirmations from Canada and Israel, as well as serious discussions on behalf of the EU to do the same.

The US decision should hardly come as a surprise to most Muslims, many of whom had their hopes somewhat dampened when President Barack Obama practically promised Jerusalem to Israel, a decision that was not his to make. However, we are still shocked that an administration that is taking pride in its willingness to engage with both those the country agrees and disagrees with, would do something so self-destructive.

What have the past few weeks of international good will visits by the US President and his staff amounted to, then? Why has President Obama ruined all the good faith he has worked so hard to create, over one article within the document, one the forum intends to discuss, and is nowhere near final?

Also, since the president and his government are supposed to be so forward-looking, why is it that they can’t see that not attending is a disadvantage for activism against racism in America as well? The US may be proud to have elected its first African American president, but that is not the end of racism in the United States. There are so many issues it could help resolve concerning those disadvantaged because of prejudice in the US, which can only come by attending these conferences. It can help flesh out African American, Arab and Muslim American, Asian American, Latino American, and other American minority group issues, as well as maybe voicing their extreme disapproval on the “Zionism is racism” segment of the document in person. Camping out in the White House just makes it look like he’s hiding, something President Obama cannot afford to do at this point.

To Barack Obama from a Syrian citizen

Damascus, 13 December 2008

Mr. Barack Obama
President-elect of the United States of America
c/o President Jimmy Carter

Dear Barack, 

You certainly want to know more about Syria, and I will volunteer —even uninvited— to share some information that can be useful until you manage to see for yourself.

This is a time of festivity in Syria. The end of Eid Aladha is marked by the joyous return of pilgrims from Mecca, each of them celebrating the completion of a journey of a lifetime to live peace with God, with themselves and with one another. It’s also Christmas, when bells of some the world’s oldest churches ring in unison with the carols’ sweet repeat of “peace on earth, goodwill to men.” And it is the end of a year, an opportunity to reflect on the time bygone and to embark on new beginnings. Beginnings have in them the promise of a miracle that still happens in abundance every day: a new birth.

My letter comes to you from Damascus, an ancient city where many civilizations have seen their beginnings. I hear from visitors often that in Damascus they feel at home. Much of that is due to a fact that I find amusing: any visitor will find a Syrian that looks like them!  I will show you when you are here. This is because our people are not the product of today, or of the turbulent 20th century.  We are a blend of cultures that have triumphed over their ethnic or religious identities to form one nation. Our Arab identity is flavored with a rich Islamic culture, a Mediterranean character, a proximity to Europe, and a nucleus location that connects the East to the West. The contributions to humanity by people that called Syria home through the ages are too many to count. And above all, we have a double-edged blessing; the overwhelming majority of youth in our population holds the keys to both, the crisis and the solution.

Those young men and women will arrive at a crossroad as they enter the ‘real life.’ What they decide to do today determine how our tomorrow is going to look like.  The two easier choices are to accept the status quo and fuel it, or to quit in pursuit of ready-made opportunities elsewhere. The more difficult choice is to challenge the status quo and become an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are inspired by their emancipation, and driven by their ability to take charge and stop relying on “the other” whether this “other” is a government, a parent, or a friend. It makes them stronger and more determined to achieve great results, all the while maintaining even a stronger attachment to their nation.

Our country today has a vision of what it can be, and has set on course to implement it. Thousands of Syrians, in government, civil society, and the business sector, and “quiet heroes” of ordinary citizens have worked hard to maintain that course despite the immense and unjust pressures that we have endured. Our military is perhaps not as strong as the ‘army’ that is working make available to our worthy young generation a vision of what they need to have as able citizen of Syria and of the world; a vision of how they can be makers of peace —inner peace before anything else— not seekers of peace. When they are at this crossroad, we want them to choose to be positive and assertive in Syria, not be that somewhere else, nor be passive and submissive. We want them to follow in the traditions of their forefathers and become the self-consciences entrepreneurs that are agents of change and progress in all walks of life, from medicine to technology; from music to sports, and from business to philanthropy.

The dynamism and energy of the reforms in Syria today has a global perspective too. The long heritage and cultural accumulation gives confidence that transcends from one generation to the next.  We are an old country that now has new people shaped by the globalization of knowledge and technology. By virtue of that, our people are citizen of the world, just as much as they are citizen of Syria, the ancient nation.  In many ways, Syrians have not thought of their country only as home, but also a meeting place; a refuge for the persecuted and the displaced; and a hub where ideas, resources, and goods can be exchanged in a free and just manner. They have believed in partnership as a means for creating added value, sustainability and growth. They have believed in equality, justice, and solidarity as their social capital—an infinite resource that maintains our social stability in the tides of crises hitting everywhere in the world, and one that will not only reduce financial poverty, but also enlighten the soul, and restore a deserved and much need meaning of human values, often lost in the quest of needs and wants satisfied by money.

More severe probably than the crisis of prosperity today is a “crisis of heroes.” A few of them still exist however. Last night, at Marquand House in the American University of Beirut, I sat at the dinner table with one of them, President Jimmy Carter. Thirty years ago he was where you are today. His hopes had their share of fulfillment and disappointment. But at eighty-four, he seemed as driven and unrelenting in his quest to “wage peace” around the world. Many young people are looking to you, Barack, as they arrive at the crossroad. You have inspired them, but can you be their hero? They think you can, as Abraham Lincoln’s promise of a “new birth of freedom” has been renewed by your election, America’s new –and much needed– triumph.

Peace through justice and equality, and friendship through peace and common human values, are the pillars upon which you can build the foundations not only for a new America, but for a new world. It’s going to be a hideously tricky mission should you decide to take it. But you are an entrepreneur, and entrepreneurs are not derailed by obstacles along the way but believe instead that it is only the results that are measured at the end —when the curtain falls— that matter. Your kind of people firmly believes that the smallest of deeds are greater than the biggest of words, and they lead by example to chart new horizons. “Yes, we can”. This is what they have faith in as they strive to leave the world better than they had it.

Congratulations and good luck with the transition and inauguration. I will be watching it, and praying that you succeed where most others have not had enough courage or attitude to try or persist. As you are taking the oath to give the United States of America “the change we need ,” do remember that millions of proud and peace-loving people in Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria —and indeed the world— are extending a firm and warm hand of friendship to you.

I hope you can do the same, Barack. I hope you will.

Haykal's signature

 

 

Abdulsalam Haykal

Copy to President Jimmy Carter

Religious Double Standard: Big Surprise

islam chrisianity in Damascus

By Mehdi Rifai,

Part of me wants to leave this particular can of worms alone, but I’m not going to. It’s been a few years since the Danish cartoons, since the Dutch Submission, and since the Pope’s somewhat insensitive comments about Muslims. Personally – and I do mean personally: These are not Forward Magazines views, not Syrians’ views, not anybody’s views but my own – I thought the reaction was overblown, and a case of things that could have disappeared into obscurity had it not been to all the Muslim anger bringing attention to it.

That said, it has been a constant let down by the West the way they do not practice what they preach at all. They always tell us that we should respect others right to voice their opinions even if we do not agree with them ourselves, poo-poohing Muslim indignation at the above as a sign of our obvious lack of appreciation for such treasured concepts such as the freedom of speech. Its a different story when the Catholic church protests an Israeli program mocking Jesus or the Virgin Mary ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7905884.stm ), or when a Canadian MP is chastised for laughing at a joke about Native Canadians.  ( http://www.thestar.com/News/article/175169 ) Even Scientology gets the time of day when they complain about the South Park episode that mocks their religion ( http://www.usatoday.com/life/television/news/2006-03-17-south-park-scientology_x.htm ). When it comes to these groups, mocking them is an act of intolerance: When it comes to Muslims, it is free speech.

Again, do not get me wrong: I believe there should be room for humor and even voicing opinions. You should be able to make jokes about religion (in my opinion, and only my opinion), especially if the goal is furthering understanding. Many believe that humor is the way some people process and familiarize the new and unfamiliar, and if this is truly the aim, then more power to them. I also don’t want this to be a “Woe is me, Muslims get the short end of the stick all the time.” Self-pity is for the weak. But why is it that not only is there this obvious double standard, but no one is standing up to these groups and saying, “you’re allowed to react in anger, but we reserve the right to have these opinions”? Why is it that everyone is bending over backwards to apologize when all they’ve done wrong is tell or listen to a joke?

Where is the line drawn? What is blasphemy, and what is good taste? When do you say, “hehe, oh, that’s just silly,” and when is it alright to exclaim, “Dear GOD!!! HOW DARE THEY?”

What do you think?

Reacting in moderation: How not to let the death of those in Gaza be in vain

Smoke, SyriaBy Mehdi Rifai

First off, an easy confession for me to make is that what is happening in Gaza appalls me, and makes me rethink a lot of my former “moderate” opinions concerning Israel. It has been my opinion for some time that Arab grief over Palestine has been stuck too long in the “anger” and “denial” phases, and that perhaps it is time to move on to some strong bargaining and get what we realistically can out of the whole situation. The recent events, however, while only proving once again the disdain Israel has for the international community and their conventions regarding the rules of war and proportionality, does make me wonder how much we can achieve negotiating with a people that have become so incredibly fascist and over-reactionary. The age of leaders in Israel who, while we might hate them, we can respect is over. Israel has become as tactless and inefficient as the Americans in their recent war efforts, and therefore deserve nothing but contempt.

That said, how we phrase our contempt should be a matter of extreme study. Right now, all eyes are on us, and the international community seems to finally agree that the Israel situation is completely out of hand. It’s therefore a little disturbing for me when I receive, as I had this morning, a mass email falsely claiming to feature quotes from Hollywood stars talking about the situation, fabricating quotes like “Arabs are dirty creatures that must be annihilated.” One of those quoted, Keanu Reeves, was born in the American University Hospital in Beirut and has always been proud of it. Another, Harrison Ford, an Irish Catholic, is quoted as saying that “We the Jewish people are the chosen ones, and therefore need to destroy the Arab stain on Jerusalem.”

These blatant lies only serve to make us look ridiculous in the eyes of the people who can help us overcome this situation with a gain, and who can finally make the Israeli government revise these murderous tactics. You don’t think that these emails are noticed, or they have no effect? I’ll tell you about another forwarded email I got when I was in Canada. These were of a real protest in London, one I had actually seen on the news a few days earlier, and was embarrassed to see what some people had decided to write on the signs. “Behead all the enemies of Islam,” said one, while another claimed that soon, an Islamic wave would wash over Europe, wiping it clean. The caption under all these pictures was “Do you still think the war on terror is not necessary?”

“I wish people would keep Islam out of it,” says one friend of mine, who prefers to remain anonymous. “There are plenty of reasons to be angry with Israel, but when people propagate stories like all Muslims will one day march on Israel and wipe them away, except for those who hide behind sycamore trees, since those were always Jewish trees, people stop taking us seriously. I don’t hate Israel because I’m Muslim. I hate them because they kill indiscriminately, and don’t use the technology and weaponry that they’re so proud of, and claim is so precise, to minimize casualties. I hate them because they cut off aid, and don’t recognize the conventions that allow personnel like UN and Red Cross and Crescent workers safe passage to heal and help the injured and the helpless on both sides. I hate them because they block every agreement that would ban certain weapons, such as WMDs or, on a much smaller but practically deadlier scale, land-mines. I hate them because as a supposedly democratic country, they allow the people that represent them to commit atrocities like this unhindered. It is not my religion that makes me angry with them; it’s my human decency.”

What we say and how we react to these situations is most definitely noticed, which is why our reactions must be studied and educated, not emotional and unbridled. Many I have told this too say, “Well, it’s impossible to control all your reactions, and we need to “Fish Khilq” (blow off steam) somehow.” To this, I say, no, you don’t need to blow off steam; you need to take that steam and use it to power some kind of motion forward. Use your emotions to finally make some headway in a situation that has kept us down as a people for so long. Israel has finally lifted its mask to reveal its true, and ugly, face; now is the time to make progress.

A Syrian Message To Rabbi Krinsky: My Heart Goes Out to You

Moshe (2 years) was orphaned by terrorists in India on 26/11

Moshe (2 years) was orphaned by terrorists in India on 26/11

Sara (2 years) is one of 7 siblings and 20 cousins all under 16 that were orphaned by Amrican terror on 26/10

Sara (2 years) with her 7 siblings and 12 cousins were orphaned by terrorists in Syria on 26/10

By Abdulsalam Haykal

Dear Rabbi Krinsky:

I changed my plan and stayed in the hotel room in Chicago to watch your press conference on Friday following the horrific tragedy in Mumbai.  Your commitment to adopt the innocent toddler Moshe, Prophet Moses’ namesake, spoke volumes of the solidarity of your community, and the sense of responsibility you have towards them.

My heart goes out to Moshe in as much strength as it denounces the terrorist attack on the Chabad house and scorn the evil perpetrators. Perhaps what makes a child’s life so precious is the promise of a better tomorrow that lies in it.  What an impression is the daunting idea of having parents killed by terrorist going to have on Moshe? These cold-blooded terrorist have not killed only Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg but also Moshe’s future ability to be a peacemaker.

Gavriel (29) was a man of peace who dedicated his life to the serving human beings. So was Faisal (34), father of Sara, also a toddler of 2 years, and her 7 brothers and sisters. Gabi was killed by terrorists in India, and Faisal was killed by American “hellcopters” in a raid on Syria one month ago. The orphaned Sara and Moshe remind us of Moses, a Man of God whose story and heroism has defined justice. You are a servant of God, Rabbi Krinsky, and probably you recite everyday: “Justice, justice, you should pursue.” The essence of that sacred text is that when we are concerned about others’ justice, they will be concerned about ours.

I worry just as much, like you must do too, about the numerous children that are orphaned everyday in Iraq and Palestine- also by terrorists regardless if they are dressed in a uniform and work under the umbrella of an official flag.  It’s not only when terrorists kill a child that they kill a brighter part of the future. It is also when terrorists kill a father or torture him at Guantanamo or Abu Gharib, or widow a mother, or demolish a home, or besiege a people within a wall…

From Damascus today, I do not have strong enough words to condemn the horrendous crime that orphaned Moshe, and the crimes that do that to countless children in the Middle East and around the world. My fears however are not of terrorism per se, but of its consequences that prevent us from giving future generations the foundation to prosper and live safely, right at home in our region rather than in Brooklyn. My heart goes out to leaders like you who carry on their shoulders the cumbersome responsibility of stopping the terror campaings everywhere, trying not to end as a failed Messiah.