Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Make Assad an offer he can't refuse

Make Assad an offer he can't refuse: Bush should surprise Syrian leader with invitation to summit with Israel
Published: 10.28.06, 19:05


The writer served in senior intelligence posts and was a senior instructor at the National Security College.

Israeli warplanes fly low over Beirut, suburbs

Israeli warplanes fly low over Beirut, suburbs
REUTERS 1 hour, 20 minutes ago

Israeli warplanes flew at a low altitude over Beirut, its suburbs and large areas of south Lebanon on Tuesday, witnesses and Lebanese security sources said.

United Nations peacekeepers and Lebanon say Israeli overflights violate Security Council Resolution 1701 that ended a 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in August.

Israel says its combat planes would continue to fly over Lebanon to ensure that weapons are not smuggled into southern Lebanon from Syria to resupply Hezbollah.

Security sources said eight planes entered Lebanese airspace from the south and flew north to Beirut and its southern suburbs, a Hezbollah stronghold.

Israeli air raids during the war destroyed large districts of the southern suburbs and several towns and villages in south Lebanon.

Monday, October 30, 2006

UN vows answers on whether Israel used uranium munitions during summer war

UN vows answers on whether Israel used uranium munitions during summer war
Samples from 2 bomb craters in south show high radioactivity

BEIRUT: The United Nations, which has been studying ecological damage in Lebanon caused by Israel's summer offensive, said Saturday that it would soon be able to say whether uranium-based munitions were used, as reported by a British newspaper. The Independent newspaper said scientists studying samples of soil after Israeli bombing in Lebanon have shown high radiation levels, suggesting that uranium-based munitions were used.It said samples taken from two bomb craters in Khiam and Al-Tiri have been sent for further analysis to the Harwell laboratory in Oxfordshire, southern England, for mass spectrometry. "If there is uranium we will find it," said Boutros Harb, director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) for Asia and the Middle East, based in Bahrain.

The samples thrown up by Israeli bombs showed "elevated radiation signatures," Chris Busby, the British scientific secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, was quoted as saying. Britain's Defense Ministry has confirmed the concentration of uranium isotopes in the samples, the report added.In his initial report, Busby said there were two possible reasons for the contamination."The first is that the weapon was some novel small experimental nuclear fission device or experimental weapon based on the high temperature of a uranium oxidation flash," it said. "The second is that the weapon was a bunker-busting conventional uranium penetrator weapon employing enriched uranium rather than depleted uranium," Busby was quoted as saying.

A photograph of the explosion of the first bomb shows large clouds of black smoke that might result from burning uranium, the newspaper said. An Israeli Army spokesman denied Saturday the use of illegal munitions. "All the arms and ammunition that we use are legal and conform to international laws," he told AFP. "The analysis of samples taken by our munitions experts is being done in a laboratory at Spitz in Switzerland. I am not able today to neither confirm nor rule out the presence of uranium," Harb told AFP by telephone from Bahrain. "The results should be sent to us by mid-November."

Around 20 UNEP experts spent two weeks, with Lebanese environmentalists, from the beginning of October evaluating the impact on the environment of the July 12 to August 14 war, Harb said. The experts tested air, water and soil samples at some 75 heavily bombarded sites in southern Lebanon and the mainly suburbs of southern Beirut, Harb added. Their report will be made public mid-December in Beirut. At least 1,140 civilians - 30 percent of them children under 12 - have been killed along with 43 Lebanese Army and police troops in the offensive, the state Higher Relief Commission said. Many have unexplained wounds and burns that are still being studied. - Agencies

Berlin confirms second incident with Israeli planes off coast of Lebanon

Berlin confirms second incident with Israeli planes off coast of Lebanon
German defense minister plans visits to tell aviv, beirut on Friday
Compiled by Daily Star staff

Germany confirmed on Sunday that its naval forces serving with the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon were involved in a second incident with Israeli warplanes last week, and said its defense minister would visit the region this week. Conflicting reports emerged last week about an incident that apparently took place on Tuesday. German officials said Israeli F-16 fighter-bombers buzzed the Alster, an intelligence-gathering vessel operating in international waters about 50 kilometers off the coast of Lebanon, and even fired several shots over the ship. Israel denied that shots were fired and said the planes approached a helicopter after it took off from a German ship without notifying Israeli forces. The German Defense Ministry said Sunday that its navy had been involved in a second incident involving Israeli jets. The Defense Ministry said this one occurred later on Tuesday and that it involved a German Navy helicopter and Israeli F-16s. The helicopter had taken off from an unidentified ship and was heading in the general direction of Israel but was turned back by the F-16s. "We are aware of the episode, but it was not menacing," the spokesman said after the Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported that the Israeli planes had "dangerously badgered" the helicopter. The spokesman said the area was used by the Israeli Air Force for training, adding: "Perhaps other standards apply for them than for us." There were certain incidents, which we have discussed with Israel in the appropriate form," German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung was quoted as saying by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily in a preview of an interview to be published Monday. "Conclusions have been drawn from this for the future. I view the case as closed," he added.

Jung will be traveling to Israel and Lebanon on Friday to discuss the incident with his counterparts. The trip to the Middle East was finalized after Jung held a telephone conversation with Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz over the weekend in which Peretz "expressed his regret" to his German counterpart for the incident and said he wanted to "achieve improvements in the cooperation with the state of Israel." "I don't expect any repeat of such an incident," Jung said late Friday on Germany's state-run ZDF television. After meeting with Peretz in Tel Aviv, Jung will fly to Beirut and meet with Lebanese Premier Fouad Siniora and Defense Minister Elias Murr. Jung added that things were smooth with his Lebanese counterpart, saying: "This mission is proceeding properly. We have excellent cooperation from the Lebanese authorities." The incidents have highlighted a problem of clarity over the naval force's jurisdictions, with the German press reporting that the naval force's mandate does not allow ships to come within 10 kilometers of the Lebanese coast without permission from Beirut. But according to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, German ships can patrol all coastal waters without restrictions on to their deployments. In mid-October, Germany took charge of the multinational naval force patrolling Lebanon's coastline to prevent alleged arms shipments from reaching Hizbullah following the recent war with Israel. Merkel was quoted in Beirut's Al-Mustaqbal daily, which is owned by the late Premier Rafik Hariri's family, on Sunday as defending the presence of the Germany Navy off Lebanon. "They are there to preserve the truce and Lebanon's sovereignty," she told the paper Merkel added that in the event "the German [Navy] can't do its job, then there will be renewed discussions over their tasks," adding that so far, she is "comfortable" with how things are going for the German peacekeeping contingent.

The incidents with the Israeli forces have led to a heated debate within Germany, with several media outlets reflecting on the troops' mandate in Lebanon and the risk that they could clash with Israeli soldiers - a possibility that is viewed with considerable unease in Germany because of the country's Nazi past. - With agencies

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Israeli F-16s tangle with German warship off Lebanese coast

Israeli F-16s tangle with German warship off Lebanese coast
By Rym Ghazal, Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Two Israeli warplanes and a German Navy vessel clashed off the Lebanese coast, the Defense Ministry in Berlin said on Wednesday. Details on the incident were not available by the time The Daily Star went to press. The incident is the first reported clash between the Israeli Army and the international peacekeeping force in Lebanon. German daily Der Tagesspiegel quoted a junior Defense Minister on Wednesday as telling a parliamentary committee that two Israeli F-16 fighter-bombers flew at a low altitude over the German ship and fired two shots. It wasn't clear from the report what type of ammunition was used or where the shots were aimed. The jets also released infra-red countermeasures to ward off any missile attack, the newspaper said.

The minister, speaking on condition of anonymity, did not say when the incident happened or what had caused it, it added. "I can confirm that there was an incident," a German Defense Ministry spokesman told Reuters on Wednesday. The official was unable to provide further information as an investigation was under way. UNIFIL officials refrained from commenting on the incident, telling The Daily Star they were also conducting their own investigation. A spokesman for the German mission in Lebanon said it was investigating the reports, but was not itself aware of any such incident. But according to the Naval Operations Command in Berlin, there was "an incident." "We are still investigating the incident and will have the fuller picture by tomorrow," a spokesperson at naval command told The Daily Star.

Israel, however, has denied any such incident.

Germany assumed command of a UN naval force off the coast of Lebanon 10 days ago and has sent a force of eight ships and 1,000 service personnel to join the international peace operation in the region. The naval force is charged with preventing weapons smuggling and helping maintain an August 14 cease-fire between Israel and Hizbullah. Germany is only heading the naval component of the UN force in Lebanon, having refused to contribute ground troops in a bid to avoid clashes with Israeli forces due to lingering sensitivities over the Holocaust. The incident also follows repeated warnings by France and the United Nations over the past two weeks that Israel was endangering the multinational peace mission in Lebanon by sending its fighter planes into Lebanese airspace. - With agencies

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

more babies for Iran!!!! looooooool

Iranians told to beat West by making more babies
By Michael Theodoulou of The Times

Iranians were today instructed to produce more babies as part of their nation's struggle against the West. The Islamic state's hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said he wanted the country's 70 million strong population to almost double in an effort to ensure the country's "dominance". Iran, named by President Bush as one of the three "Axis of Evil" powers and subject to intense pressure over its alleged nuclear weapons programme, has previously been held up by the United Nations as an example of how to control a burgeoning population. Yet today Mr Ahmadinejad told a meeting of government ministers and deputies that Iran could use its oil wealth to expand its population by another 50 million. Mr Ahmadinejad, a father of three, said that he wanted to overturn the current policy that discourages Iranian couples from having more than two children. He said: "Western countries have problems, and since they have a negative population growth, they are worried and scared that if our population grows we may dominate them." He added: "I am against saying that two children are enough. Our country has a lot of capacity. It has the capacity for many children to grow in it. Iran even has the capacity for 120 million people."

The president also suggested that he was ready to decrease the working hours of married women or women with children to make it easier for them to have more children. He said he was not against women working but believes they can work part-time while being paid full-time to allow them to spend more time with their children.

His appeal for a baby boom has alarmed critics who say the country would not be able to cope. Despite Iran’s oil wealth, many ordinary people need several jobs to make ends meet. Inflation officially stands at 10 per cent but is thought to be twice that high while unemployment, officially around 12 per cent, is probably twice as high among young people. The reformist newspaper Etemad-e-Melli said that his remarks were "ill-considered". It added: "He stresses the necessity of population growth and the triumph of Iran over western governments, ignoring the fact that what leads to such triumph is not population size but knowledge, technology, wealth, welfare and security." One Iranian businessman said: "This guy (Ahmadinejad) says a lot of things without thinking them through." An economist added that Mr Ahmadinejad’s call was a publicity-seeking gimmick to distract attention from the government’s economic failures. Birth rates surged after the 1979 Islamic Revolution when, during the devastating eight year war with Iraq, the religious authorities encouraged Iranians to have more babies. By 1986 the population had soared in a decade by 17 million to 50 million. The birth rate stood at 3.2 per cent, among the highest in the world.But when the bloodshed with Iraq ended in 1988 and the economy dived, Iran’s ruling clerics realised they would have huge difficulties reconciling the population explosion with the goals of social and economic development. Ayatollah Khomeini, the father of the revolution, gave his blessing to a progressive national family planning programme that was launched in 1989. Virtually every form of contraception became encouraged and provided free of charge through the extensive health system. Mobile teams visited remote areas to offer on-the-spot vasectomies.

Iran became unique among Muslim countries in implementing a system of prenuptial counselling on contraceptive methods that both partners must attend before they can marry. The country also became home to the region’s only state-sponsored condom factory which employs mostly women and produces some 45 million condoms a year. Ordinary condoms are produced for state clinics and counselling centres. More exotic varieties, textured or in flavours such as mint and banana, are available on the retail market.

Today, Iran’s population growth rate stands at around 1.2 per cent, similar to that of the United States. The Koran makes no specific mention of birth control, although the Prophet Muhammad himself is recorded as saying: "Marry and multiply, for I shall make a display of you before other nations on the Day of Judgment". Advocates of family planning counter with other words from the Prophet: "The most gruelling trial is to have plenty of children with no adequate means."

Pix from Lebanon...

Saturday, October 21, 2006

some numbers...

part of...
Reconstruction Lebanon
on the road again

by Mr. Mohamad Rabih Chatila
ACW Magazine - Sept. issue

[...] in an interval of a 34-day war, the Israeli offensive on Lebanon has obliterated the ongoing past-war economical developement which had been expected to grow by 5 to 6% this year and brought it down to 0-3%.

The unwarranted shelling destroyed 94 roads and 77 bridges- rendering them unusable; more than 22 fuel and gas stations were bombed and 10 industrial factories lost.

Consequently, the value of indirect losees have exceeded the amount of direct loss (US$ 3-3.5 billion): roads, bridges and airports (US$ 386 million), power (US$ 180 million), Telecoms (US$ 85 million), water (US$74 million), Industry (US$180 million).

The Center for Economic Research in Beirut envisages that the repair and reconstruction expenditures will be around US$ 9.5 billion; the biggest cost will be to roads and birdges.

Finally, the public debt is estimated to read the US$ 42 billion by the end of the year. [...]

Friday, October 20, 2006

and another one...

I love its people, its energy, its unique beauty, I love so many small things.
I love many small parts of Ashrafieh, Monot, Abdel Wahab, Rue du Liban, Sursock, the trees that arc over the roads bringing shade and shading off rain, I love getting lost in it.
I love the Corniche at dusk and dawn, the magnificent Beirut sunset from anywhere, the AUB campus, Bliss street, Hamra street and the smell of falafel, shawarma and sweets, I love that you can be stuck in traffic at 3am somewhere..
I love how informal our darak are with us drivers sometimes.
I love the "everything goes" attitude.
I love how I hear three languages all the time and it's totally normal. e.g. "Maitre, le Hseb Please"
I love 'Zaatar W Zeit' after a heavy night of partying. Always finding a place to sit in that teeny place.
I love sitting at 'Casper & Gambini' overlooking the ancient Roman Ruins, I love Martyr Square, I love the churches and mosques scattered around the city.
I love how complex being Lebanese is.
I love how people ALL around the world keep telling me that someone they now or heard of or their parents has been to Lebanon and talks about its gorgeousness and amazing people.
I love the Mediterranean, and we will clean it!
I love our amazing cuisine, so proud of our HOMMOS and FALAFEL and MEZA and the world wide reputation of our food (people now refer to Arabic food as Lebanese
I love the world class rest, bars and night clubs we have. WOW. I love the old B-018... and the new one...and the Classic one too...
I love our new and upcoming Lebanese designers (clothes, shoes, bags, jewelry)... and their gorgeous little shops.
I love Sour, Saida, Jounieh, Tripoli, Baalbak, and Chouf…
I love the smell of the city after the rainfall, and the spring smell of gardenia... or the boys who sell you gardenia necklaces at traffic lights.
I love how we get wild flowers growing everywhere in sprint, red, white and yellow.
I love the energy of the people, their eternal optimism, faith in their city and country, resilience, passion, love, hospitality.
I love and will see you soon Beirut.

Why do We love Beirut?

A little rough on the edges ;) but rings rather true... enjoy!

Member of A Small World, answered the question the "Why do you love Beirut?" as such, enjoy it!

I love Beirut for its opposites. I love Beirut because I see a girl in a mini skirt and her sister in a Tchador.
I love Beirut because it is neither West nor East it is both.
I love Beirut because one can party till 6 in the morning and not realize that it is Tuesday morning.
I love Beirut because Beirutis live as if they are going to die tomorrow and party as if they are going to live forever.
I love Beirut because I can be swimming in the morning and 30 minutes later I'm on the slopes skiing or doing "apr├Ęs ski".
I love Beirut because I have never seen the sun this strong anywhere in the world.
I love Beirut because I can see 6,000 years of history.
I love Beirut because Christians and Muslims are living an understanding and do not need to have Christian Muslim understanding classes.
I love Beirut because every Beiruti has a political opinion and will share it with you even if you could care less about his and you want to share yours with him.
I love Beirut for all the conspiracy theories and how many people actually believe them.
I love Beirut because any night I can find a friend to go out with.
I love Beirut because I do not need to call my friends to go and see them at their houses I just stop by.
I love Beirut because as soon as I arrive at one of my friends houses his mom takes me to the kitchen and becomes the spokesperson of the refrigerator.
I love Beirut because one can smell gardenia, and jasmine.
I love Beirut because strawberries taste like strawberries and fruits taste like fruits.
I love Beirut because the food is so good that one gains pounds even if she tries to lose.
I love Beirut because although the Lebanese women at times look alike as some did their surgeries at the same plastic surgeon they are the most elegant women I have ever seen.
I love Beirut because when I go out at night I don't know at which women to look at as each one is gorgeous in her own way.
I love Beirut because everyone knows me by name.
I love Beirut because I don't have to explain myself.
I love Beirut because of the traffic jams and the people you meet because of them.
I love Beirut because of the noise pollution from cars honking.
I love Beirut for the spirituality of the people whether Muslim or Christian.
I love Beirut because I'm the first to call my Muslim friends on Ramadan and they are the first to call me on Easter.
I love Beirut because on May 1st I see Muslims visiting Harissa (Virgin Mary) just like I see Christians.
I love Beirut because on the 22nd of every month I see Muslims going to Mar Charbel (Saint Charbel) and believing that a miracle will happen.
I love Beirut because women look like as if they are out of a Vogue magazine.
I love Beirut because you eat to live and live to eat.
I love Beirut because one leaves one cafe to go to another and one does this all day.
I love Beirut because all the Lebanese living outside want to come back and the Lebanese who are in Lebanon envy the ones who are living abroad not realizing what it means to live away from Beirut.
I love Beirut because my sister and her husband are there; my niece and nephew who are 5 are waiting to see their uncle.
I love Beirut because my niece asks me to bring her a pink skirt and tells me: "I love You".
I love Beirut because a girl or a guy can easily tell you I just had a couple of Lexo or Xanax as if they just had a chewing gum.
I love Beirut because for every Lebanese we have a singer.
I love Beirut because the Lebanese star singers sing in nightclubs.
I love Beirut because women go into the swimming pool with full make up.
I love Beirut because guys go in with their cigars.
I love Beirut because it has been destroyed 7 times in History and has risen.
I love Beirut because the Beirutis will not accept anyone to occupy them and rule over them.
I love Beirut because we feel that it is better to die on our feet than to live on our knees.
I love Beirut because each street is a two way street even if it is a one way officially.
I love Beirut because one can park anywhere and not get a ticket.
I love Beirut because one can go as fast as his speedometer.
I love Beirut because MEA (Middle East Airlines)lands there.
I love Beirut because on MEA we can clap in unison when we are about to land.
I love Beirut not because it is my city, but because it is the city of every Lebanese.
I love Beirut because it welcomes every exile freethinker, independent mind of the Arab world.
I love Beirut because we have hundreds of newspapers and our press is finally Free.
I love Beirut because most Arabs dreams of coming to Beirut and wishes his capital was more like Beirut.
I love Beirut because when I explain Beirut to my Western friends, my friends see the passion of Beirut in my eyes.
I love Beirut because there is so much misconception about Beirut in the media and in the minds of people who have never visited.
I love Beirut because when I tell my friends that I'm going to Beirut they tell me can you take me with you.
I love Beirut because we argue over who is going to pay the bill at a restaurant as everyone wants to pay it.
I love Beirut because although many whine about not making enough money everyone is living.
I love Beirut because if I do the cross before I start driving the person next to me does not ask me if I fear that I'm going to get into a car accident but instead does his cross as well.
I love Beirut because we accept our differences as we disagree with each other.
I love Beirut because it serves as a beacon of freedom to the rest of the Arab world.
I love Beirut because to paraphrase what Gibran said about Lebanon "Had Beirut not been my city I would have chosen it to be."
I love Beirut because there is no city like it.
I love Beirut because even if Beirut is being destroyed you are still beautiful and will remain beautiful no matter how disfigured you are.
I love Beirut because you are always on my mind.
I love Beirut for no reason.
I love Beirut for all the reasons of the world.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Syrian Website :D

Run for Victims of Cluster Bombs


Run for Victims of Cluster Bombs
Join the Beirut Marathon Association’s program for this year has decided to help children who are victims of cluster bombs.

You can help by donating at the following account number:

Account Name : Beirut Marathon Association (Children Donation)
BLOM BANK – Main Branch, Beirut / Lebanon
A/C # 040/01/304/1184815/1 (LBP)
040/02/304/1184815/1 (USD)
Swift Code: BLOMLBBX

Register Online NOW!
Click here to register for the BLOM Bank Beirut Marathon '06

Travel Info Middle East Airlines are offering a special discount on airfares to BLOM Bank Beirut Marathon 06 participants.
For more information, please contact the MEA office closest to you.

UNIFIL denies French threat to fire on intruding Israeli jets

UNIFIL denies French threat to fire on intruding Israeli jets
By Rym Ghazal, Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Plenty of eyes turned upward Tuesday as disagreements soared over persistent Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace, with Israel claiming UNIFIL's French contingent had threatened to fire at its planes. According to Israeli media outlets, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said senior commanders of the French forces in South Lebanon had relayed a warning to Israel that its violations of Lebanese airspace might draw French anti-aircraft fire. In comments to the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Peretz said this was a "threat." "They said that planes fly over them and that there was no certainty that they wouldn't open fire on them," he said, citing the French commanders' alleged statement, which the minister said was made at a meeting of the joint Israeli UNIFIL-Lebanese military committee. But UNIFIL spokesperson Alexander Ivanko told The Daily Star he had no idea where the statement quoted by Peretz came from. "I am not aware of any such comments made by any senior UNIFIL officers," he said.

Sources close to the dispute said there are serious discussions about the French contingent bringing in aircraft to assist monitoring of Lebanese skies, but nothing has been decided yet. The French Foreign Ministry last week condemned Israel's violations and announced that France was working with the UN to "organize the rules of managing Lebanese airspace." "So far, we only have Italian helicopters, and discussions are still ongoing," Ivanko said. Beirut has repeatedly called for an end to Israeli transgressions, with Prime Minister Fouad Siniora describing the air intrusions as "hostile actions" and demanding an "immediate" halt to violations of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

Israeli warplanes have been violating Lebanese airspace regularly for decades, gathering intelligence, making their presence known and sometimes setting off sonic booms. Given that the Lebanese military lacks effective anti-aircraft weapons, the Israeli jets are rarely challenged.

But Israel contends its overflights do not contradict 1701. Peretz said Israel would continue to patrol Lebanon's airspace as long as 1701 remained "unfulfilled," adding that his country is collecting evidence that Syria has renewed arms shipments to Hizbullah. "We intend to announce by means of the coordinating committee for Israel, the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL that if the transfer of weapons to Hizbullah becomes systematic, we will have to take care of it ourselves," he told the Maariv daily. In response, the Lebanese Army Command released a statement saying Lebanon's territory and national waters are "carefully controlled and there has been no transfer or entry of any arms into Lebanon." "The army considers the statements by the Israeli defense minister interference ... to cause disruption and instability, and an excuse to continue criminal Israeli acts against Lebanon," it said.

Israeli airspace violations were many on Tuesday, with aircraft flying over Tyre, Wadi Assel, the western part of the South and along the occupied Golan Heights. At the same time, according to the National News Agency (NNA), two Israeli bulldozers and three humvees crossed the UN-demarcated Blue Line near Kfar Kila. Dozens of Israelis then began digging canals to channel what appeared to be floodwater, caused by recent heavy rains, from Israel into Lebanon. Ivanko said UNIFIL had no knowledge of "any violation in that area" but added that some "engineering work" was taking place on the border fence. The NNA also noted an increase in the number of Israeli vehicles patrolling the border.

Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot said Tuesday that the US and a European nation offered Israel satellite images of Lebanon in return for a cessation of its flights. Yediot said Israel rejected the proposal, saying the flights were needed to collect intelligence. - With agencies, additional reporting by Mohammed Zaatari

Monday, October 16, 2006

Should we believe the tears of Sanioura?

On Christmas 2003, Marcel Ghanem invited Sanioura to a special episode of "Kalam el Nass" with an Handicapped person from Bourj Hammoud (Georges Bitar). Sanioura was very touched, he cried live on TV, promised (and even confirmed) he would help the family of George Bittar.

After 4 years, the results of the tears and the promises are as per attached picture took on Saturday 7/06/2006 : ZERO help.

So should we still believe the tears and the promises of Sanioura ?


Thursday, October 12, 2006

"Save the Heritage of the South of Lebanon" petition

Dear all;

The "Save the Heritage of the South of Lebanon" petition is now accessible on line for you to sign. Please visit the site to sign it and circulate it to your lists.

Kindly sign it again if you had already done so over email. http://www.PetitionOnline.com/howayda/petition.html

Thank you

Mona Harb

on behalf of the Reconstruction Unit atAUB's Department of Architecture & Design

Monday, October 09, 2006

If killing civilians is terror, then who's the terrorist? For the Middle east, Hizbullah emerges as a bulwark against injustice and oppression
By Nir Rosen
First Person Nir Rosen

In the wake of Israel's 34-day war with Hizbullah, the 24-year-old Islamic movement has become the most popular political party in the Middle East. Here's why that shouldn't worry us. Over 1 million Lebanese gathered in a vast square in a southern Beirut suburb on September 22 to celebrate their country's largely successful campaign against Israel. Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, secretary general of Hizbullah, risked his life by appearing in public after Israeli leaders had sworn to kill him, and spoke to his adoring supporters in Lebanon and around the world. Many children were given the day off from school, and buses ferried supporters from all over Lebanon for the victory celebration. Lebanon had endured 34 days of war, and not only was the Shiite Hizbullah movement undefeated, it had achieved a near parity of casualties with the Israeli military - a first in the history of Arab-Israeli wars. In an Arab world whose leaders were dictatorial, mendacious and corrupt, who made false promises and were beholden to the United States, Nasrallah was renowned for his integrity and for maintaining his movement's defense of Lebanon at all costs. It had made him the most popular leader in the Arab world.

Women, children and men waved the flags of Lebanon and Hizbullah from outside the windows and sang in jubilation as they waited in traffic. Also on display were the flags of Palestine and Palestinian movements, Lebanese Christian movements, the Communist Party, Sunni and Druze movements, as well as secular nationalists. Although many of the celebrants were men with beards or women whose hair was covered, many were not. There were youths in trendy attire, girls in tight jeans with hair exposed and who had turned their Hizbullah T-shirts into stylish form-fitting fashion statements. Stuck in the crowds with my seven-months-pregnant American wife, we opted for a better view from the balcony of an apartment building above the crowds. When the singing of Hizbullah songs and the Lebanese and Hizbullah anthems had ended and Nasrallah began his speech, the women on the balcony with us shrieked as though at a rock concert and ran into the living room to confirm on the television screen that it was indeed him. They waved their arms and started to cry, and a frisson of emotion ran through the men in the room.

Nasrallah not only spoke to his natural constituents, the Lebanese Shiites, but he also singled out the inhabitants of Palestine, Syria, Iran, Kuwait and Bahrain. He told his audience that they were sending a political and moral message to the world that Lebanon's resistance was stronger than ever. Their victory was a victory for every oppressed, aggrieved and free person in the world, he said, and an inspiration for all who rejected subjugation or degradation by the United States. He mocked Arab leaders for not using their oil resources as a strategic weapon, for prohibiting demonstrations, for not supporting the Palestinians and for kowtowing to Condoleezza Rice. He extended his people's hearts, grief and empathy for the Palestinians who were being bombed and killed daily, and whose homes were being destroyed while the world, and in particular the Arab world, was silent. Surveying this massive crowd of boisterous people - the men and women, the teenagers and the small children, celebrating their identity and their steadfastness together with music - I knew this was not the stuff of religious fundamentalism or terrorism. I was struck by how the reality of Hizbullah differed from its distorted image in the West. For although Hizbullah, the Party of God, is undoubtedly of Shiite origin, it is in fact a secular movement, addressing real temporal issues, its leaders speaking in a nationalist discourse, avoiding sectarianism and religious metaphors. They participate in politics, compromising and negotiating, and do not seek to impose Islamic law on others. Proof of this is readily available in Hizbullah strongholds, where many of their followers are secular, supporting Hizbullah because it represents their political interests and defends them.

Throughout the country, women in chadors walk beside scantily clad beauties. Along Lebanon's highways, or what is left of them, billboards celebrating Hizbullah's "divine victory" over Israel share advertising space with posters depicting half-naked women wearing jeans or lingerie. Hizbullah may have preferences, but unlike the authoritarian leaders of the Taliban or Saudi Arabia, it does not impose them. Nor has the movement shown a long-standing inability to reconcile with its enemies. Most strikingly, in 2000, after Israel's withdrawal from the Lebanese territory it was occupying, the thousands of Shiite and Christian collaborators suddenly found themselves vulnerable to retribution and street justice from understandably aggrieved Lebanese. On strict orders from Hizbullah, however, the vast majority were not touched. Rather they were handed over to the Lebanese Army, dealt with by the Lebanese government and imprisoned and amnestied prematurely, in a move that offended many Lebanese. Nevertheless, today they can be spotted in towns in the South; everyone knows who they are, and they remain unharmed. Hardly the actions of a violent fundamentalist terrorist organization. And what was so unreasonable about Hizbullah's demands? The movement insisted it wanted Lebanese prisoners to be freed by Israel, all of Lebanon's territory to be evacuated by Israel, and for the Lebanese Army, which had never defended Lebanon, let alone its South, to come up with a national defense plan. Thirty years of proven Israeli brutality and 60 years of Lebanese government neglect of the South gave Hizbullah a raison d'etre its leadership insisted it did not want. And unlike many of his counterparts in Iraq, Nasrallah is ingenuously urging a course of national unity in Lebanon. During his September 22 speech, he went out of his way to use the rhetoric of Lebanese nationalism while condemning sectarianism. In previous speeches Nasrallah had declared that he was fighting for the umma, the world Muslim community, which is vastly Sunni. He charmed the Lebanese in a recent television interview when he looked his female interviewer in the eyes, allowed her to interrupt him and smiled with her, practically flirting. His posters can be found in Iraq, Palestine, Egypt; his name is spoken with pride in Saudi Arabia. In Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, I recently saw shops named in his honor, and heard a local cleric compare the conflict the cleric's Islamic court militias were facing with Ethiopia and US-backed warlords to Hizbullah's conflict with the American-supported Israelis. The details of that conflict are instructive, because in it I again saw the tragic error inherent in the Bush administration's policy of viewing the entire Muslim world through the "war on terror" prism, rather than judging each conflict on its own. In Somalia, it is widely believed that the CIA is funding a slew of unpopular and criminal warlords against a popular Islamic militia movement (which the CIA neither confirms nor denies, of course). This suspected US support comes despite the fact that most analysts believe the militias are not harboring any significant terrorists nor are they likely to set up a Taliban-style regime in the country. As a result, the perception in Somalia is that the US has allied itself with warlords who are terrorizing the populace in an attempt to stamp out a popular Islamic uprising.

It is this same distorting war-on-terror prism that has led the Bush administration to view resistance fighters in Iraq as mere terrorists - as opposed to elements of a popular movement made up of Sunnis and Shiites with real grievances against an oppressive and increasingly onerous occupation. As a result, the inhabitants of entire towns and provinces have been branded as terrorists and "anti-Iraqi forces" - and treated as such. When I was visiting Fallujah in the spring of 2004 it was clear that the vast majority of the defenders of that city were locals who believed they were fighting in self-defense against a foe that sought to destroy their city and oppress them. They were nationalists, fighting against foreign occupation. Their city of 300,000 was virtually destroyed - turned into the proverbial parking lot. Fallujah became legendary in the Muslim world for its resistance to occupation and for its martyrs - much like the people of South Lebanese villages such as Aita al-Shaab, who boast of their willingness to die for their ideals and of their sumud, or steadfastness. During his September 22 speech Nasrallah paid tribute to their sumud, but he also spoke of national unity, insisting that the resistance had prevented civil war from recurring in Lebanon. He called for the Lebanese state to become strong, just, capable and free of corruption. When the state became able to protect Lebanon, the resistance would give up its weapons, he promised. Hizbullah was not a totalitarian movement, he insisted, and he was not a ruler - nor would his sons be. Support for Hizbullah transcends economic-class divides and the divide between reli-gious and secular Shiites. Hizbullah is one of the few movements in Lebanon addressing substantive issues that transcend sectarian identity - issues like corruption, social justice, rejection of America's new Middle East project, resistance to Israeli occupation, and support for the oppressed Palestinians. Hizbullah now has strong allies and supporters among most of Lebanon's Christians (who make up some 40 percent of the population); it also enjoys the support of most of the 400,000 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanese camps. Indeed, the war has only increased Hizbullah's supporters. I spoke to Sheikh Maher Hammoud, a powerful Sunni leader in Sidon, who told me that although he had objected to many of Hizbullah's positions before the war, he had supported them during the war and had no disagreements with them now. Hizbullah's victory was a victory for Lebanon, Arabs and all Muslims, he said, adding that "our pride was restored." I spoke to Joseph Moukarzel, owner of the newspaper Ad-dabour, and a leading organizer of the March 14 movement that was Hizbullah's main opponent in Lebanon. "I was for taking Hizbullah's weapons before the war, and I still am," he told me, "but in the war I had two choices, to be with Hizbullah or to be with Israel. I chose Hizbullah. Hizbullah was David and Israel was Goliath." Followers of other Lebanese sects - Greek Orthodox, Maronite, Sunni, Druze - merely follow their leaders because of their positions, not because of their ideas. Hizbullah is a people's movement, having emerged in 1982 as an inchoate umbrella group representing the marginalized and oppressed and cultivating a culture of resistance to oppression and injustice.

It was this culture of resistance that led to Hizbullah's surprise victory in what is now being called in Lebanon "the Sixth War" with Israel. (A note on my usage of "surprise victory:" If war is politics by other means, then Israel failed to achieve its stated political goals of disarming Hizbullah and pushing it north of the Litani River; so too did it fail to achieve its unstated goals of cleansing the South of all Shiites and intimidating Lebanese and Palestinian resistance - two failures that even Israel's own generals are beginning to admit. Hizbullah, on the other hand, not only survived the war intact, and with relatively few casualties, but it inflicted relatively heavy casualties on the Israeli military and achieved greater popularity than it ever had - winning the hearts of Muslims around the world, and many non-Muslims in Lebanon.) On September 17 I attended a memorial service for some of Hizbullah's dead soldiers in the small town of Aita al-Shaab, a few hundred meters from the Israeli border. Aita al-Shaab has suffered numerous attacks from Israel since 1970, but in this last war 85 percent of the town was destroyed. Only 100 Hizbullah soldiers fought in Aita al-Shaab, and 60 of them were local. The vast majority were not professional soldiers. The nine local martyrs who died in the 34 days of war were typical of Hizbullah's soldiers. They were a high-school history teacher, a high-school principal, a sweets-shop owner, two high-school graduates about to start university for engineering, and a university student home on summer break. They were restaurant waiters, farmers, car mechanics, bakers. They had completed Hizbullah's boot camp and training and returned to their normal lives, occasionally going for refresher courses, much like our army reserves or National Guard. The people of Aita al-Shaab blamed America as much as they did Israel for the war that had been waged against them. In the memorial service Hizbullah representative Nawaf al-Musawi spoke of "the American, British and Israeli war against Lebanon." Even little children were aware of Rice's comments about the "birth pangs" of the "new Middle East," and 7-year-old Sajah Bajouk mocked Rice and John Bolton, playing on words and changing "the new Middle East," or al-sharq al-awsat al-jadid, to "the new Dirty East," or al-sharq al-awsakh al-jadid. Most of Hizbullah's soldiers in the most recent war were between 18 and 25 years old and had never fought before. Somehow these 100 fighters in Aita al-Shaab held the town, never surrendering it to the Israeli military. Many of the town's old people stayed behind to cook and care for Hizbullah's soldiers. Other people left their homes and shops open for them. The town was Hizbullah. And the entire town gathered on Sunday, September 17, to mourn its dead and celebrate its victory. Hundreds of black-clad women made their way up a dirt road from the newly constructed martyrs' cemetery where the nine Hizbullah soldiers and the nine civilian war casualties had been buried. Many tearfully carried large framed pictures of their lost men. After the ceremony, thousands of prepackaged meals of rice and meat were provided for the townspeople. Aita al-Shaab's people reaffirmed their support for Hizbullah and resumed rebuilding their lives. As one hears so many times in Lebanon, the entire South is Hizbullah; and Israel knew this, hence its war was against the people of the South. But they can't all be terrorists, can they? Israel claims it gave a 48-hour warning to civilians, ordering them to leave the South or face death. Under international law, however, civilians never lose their immunity, and, besides, it is well known that in some instances Israel gave no warnings of its impending attacks on civilian areas. When climbing amid the ruined schools, fuel stations, shops, homes, roads and bridges of Southern Lebanon or driving through village after village flattened and pulverized by the terror that rained down, it is clear that the civilian population was deliberately targeted. Over 1 million cluster bombs were dropped, and 40 percent of them did not explode. They remain in the South, waiting for children to play with them, for farmers to step on them, a gift that keeps on giving.

The agricultural fields on which the South depends for its economy are destroyed. Then as now, Israel knows what it and America continue to deny: Hizbullah is the people, and hence the only way to push Hizbullah north of the Litani River as Israel stated it wanted to do was to cleanse the south of Shiites and make sure it was too dangerous, and economically impossible, for them to return. But the Shiites of Lebanon pride themselves on their steadfastness, and their culture of resistance to oppression. They cannot be so easily dislodged. At fighting's end, they returned and ensconced themselves in the ruins, trusting Hizbullah to provide and reward them for their loyalty.

The media has fast forgotten Lebanon: Americans are distracted by what former Representative Mark Foley wrote to congressional pages; many Muslims worldwide are more concerned with whether or not the pope insulted Islam than with who is actually killing Muslims. As the 1 million Lebanese refugees who fled Israeli terror return to sift through the rubble of their lives, they will be sidestepping cluster bombs and trusting that Hizbullah will house and shelter them from the fast-approaching winter. As we Americans mourn our losses in the September 11 attacks and in the subsequent war on terror (which has now cost more American lives than were lost in the attacks that provoked it), it is worth wondering: What exactly is terrorism? And if it is the infliction of violence on civilians for political reasons, then who are the terrorists?

From THE DAILY STAR: This article is reprinted with permission from www.truthdig.com, where it first appeared.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Youth labor builds a new Lebanon out of ideals

Youth labor builds a new Lebanon out of ideals
Nearly 150 volunteers work to repair structures destroyed by war
By Haro Chakmakjian, Agence France Presse (AFP)

AL-KAWZAH: Singing and dancing under the shade of olive trees, a group of university students takes a break from their efforts to build a new Lebanon with their labor and idealism. "We do everything together. As you can see, we are happy and smiling. This can change minds, it inspires," says Amal Haber, 22, part of a team of young men and women working to repair the war-damaged hamlet of Al-Kawzah near the Israeli border. In the face of the violence and confessionalism which have plagued Lebanon for decades, "You have to say 'no' through action," insists Melhem Khalaf, founder of their Offre Joie (Joy of Giving) association. "It's not just a dream bringing the young people together. It's an action," says the French-educated lawyer and teacher, whose group, like several other teams of young volunteers, has been active in the post-war reconstruction efforts for South Lebanon. "Of course we are idealists, but not utopians, and we turn these ideals into reality," says Khalaf, 43, who launched Offre Joie back in 1987 during the country's 1975-1990 Civil War. Thousands of young people have since passed through the ranks, coming from all over Lebanon and from its myriad of sects, according to Khalaf. "We got past all [religious differences] quickly. At the start there may have been some preconceived ideas but now we don't even think about it ... Religion is like the color of your hair," says 19-year-old Sandra Raad. Along the way, she has picked up some skills. "I never thought I would know how to mix cement and paint walls. I don't panic now, I know how to fix stuff," she says as her group admires their handiwork at a school being repaired in nearby Mays al-Jabal before war-delayed classes resume on October 9. Mohammed Khatoon, 22, nods in agreement when asked about the group's religious affiliations. "I am first of all a human being, then Lebanese, and the last detail is religion," Khatoon says. Wearing blue workers' dungarees and white T-shirts stamped with Lebanon's cedar tree inside a white dove, many of the students admit it's the first time they have ventured to South Lebanon. Almost 40 volunteers have been working since late August in Al-Kawzah, home to some 250 Christians, and in the Shiite villages of Mays al-Jabal and Houla, both of which had their schools damaged during Israel's July-August war which targeted Lebanon's infrastructure and civilian population. They have also been repairing the church in Al-Kawzah, which has a view of Aita Shaab on the border where Hizbullah's capture of two Israeli soldiers on July 12 sparked the war that cost more than 1,200 lives in Lebanon alone. "We have a pool of 150 people to draw from and do rotations. It's a mobilization you can not imagine," says Khalaf, as he ferries groups along roads, past pick-ups salvaging the twisted metal leftovers of homes reduced to rubble. "I tell my youths: 'You don't have to be a president to change the world, at least a little bit for the better," he explains, passing under Hizbullah banners claiming victory "with our blood." The road twists and turns along rolling hills with abandoned tobacco fields littered with cars pulverized in Israeli air strikes. In a straw poll on the packed truck, the volunteers, architecture and agronomy students say they all plan to stay, unlike many other young educated Lebanese, and make their future in Lebanon. "We came to send out a message that this country has a future. We want to show we can stand together and send out a message of solidarity," says Khalaf. Outside the Mays al-Jabal school, in a region long a victim of government neglect, headmaster Hussein Hamadeh is full of praise. "We are not used to having such quick and efficient work done round here," he says. In peacetime, Offre Joie, which relies on donations for its funding, undertakes projects such as renovating prisons around Lebanon or restoring basic services to some of the country's poorest areas.

Berri included on US 'no-fly' list - American TV

Berri included on US 'no-fly' list - American TV
Compiled by Daily Star staff

A "no-fly" list meant to keep terrorists off airplanes contains the name of Speaker Nabih Berri, according to a report by a television news show. The story by CBS' "60 Minutes" builds on previous reports that detailed how young children and well-known Americans like Senator Edward M. Kennedy have been stopped at airports because their names match those on lists. Berri was listed along with Bolivian President Evo Morales, as well as several dead people, on a list hastily elaborated after September 11, 2001, CBS' "60 Minutes" program was to report Sunday, after obtaining the secret US government list of 44,000 names. However, "60 Minutes" said the names of potential terrorists were not included, such as the 11 Britons recently accused of planning to blow up plans headed for the US, although they had been under investigation for a year. Critics say the government does not provide enough information about the people on the lists, so innocent passengers can be caught up in the security sweep. - With agencies

Friday, October 06, 2006

Peace with Syria- Lunch in Damascus

October 5, 2006
Peace with Syria-Lunch in Damascus
* * *
Once while, traveling in a taxi, I had an argument with the driver--a profession associated in Israel with extreme right-wing views. I tried in vain to convince him of the desirability of peace with the Arabs. In our country, which has never seen a single day of peace in the last hundred years, peace can seem like something out of science fiction. Suddenly I had an inspiration. "When we have peace," I said, "You can take your taxi in the morning and go to Damascus, have lunch there with real authentic Hummus and come back home in the evening." He jumped at the idea. "Wow," he exclaimed, "If that happens, I shall take you with me for nothing!" "And I shall treat you to lunch," I responded. He continued to dream. "If I could go to Damascus in my car, I could drive on from there all the way to Paris!"
* * *
BASHAR AL-ASSAD has done it again. He has succeeded in confusing the Israeli government. As long as he voices the ritual threat to liberate the Golan Heights by force, it does not upset anybody. After all, that only confirms what many want to hear: that there is no way to have peace with Syria, that sooner or later we shall have a war with them. Why is that good? Simple: peace with Syria would mean giving back the Golan Heights (Syrian territory by any definition). No peace, no need to give them back. But when Bashar starts to talk peace, we are in trouble. That is a sinister plot. It may, God forbid, create a situation that would compel us to return the territory. Therefore, we should not even speak about it. The news must be buried in some remote corner of the papers and at the end of the news on TV, as just "another speech of Assad". The government rejects them "on the threshold", adding that it cannot even be discussed until ..... Until what? Until he stops supporting Hizbullah. Until Syria expels the representatives of Hamas and the other Palestinian organizations. Until regime change takes place in Syria. Until a Western-style democracy is installed there. In short, until he registers as a member of the Zionist organization.
* * *
THE RELATIONS between Israel and Syria have a documented history of at least 2859 years. In the year 853 B.C. Israel is mentioned--for the first time, it seems--in an authentic document outside the Bible. Twelve monarchs of the region, led by the kings of Damascus and Israel, united against the growing threat of Assyria, The decisive battle took place at Karkar (in the north of today's Syria). According to an Assyrian document, 20 thousand soldiers and 1200 chariots of Damascus fought side by side with 10 thousand soldiers and 2000 chariots of Ahab, king of Israel. It is not quite clear which side won. But that was a temporary alliance. For most of the time, Israel and Aram-Damascus fought against each other for regional supremacy. Ahab died a hero's death in one of these wars against Aram, just two years after the battle against the Assyrians. In modern times, the Syrians (although then still under French colonial rule) strenuously opposed the Zionist enterprise right from the beginning. But they also opposed the Palestinian national movement. That is grounded in history: in the Arabic language, the name al-Sham ("the North"), as Syria is called, includes the entire territory between Egypt and Turkey. Therefore, in Arab consciousness, not only Lebanon, but Jordan, Palestine and Israel as well are really part of Syria. When Yasser Arafat created the independent Palestinian national movement at the end of the 1950s, the Syrians demanded to be acknowledged as the protectors of the Palestinian people. When he refused, the Syrians threw the entire Palestinian leadership into prison. (Only the wife of Abu Jihad, Intissar al-Wazir, remained at liberty and took over the command of the Fatah fighters--thus becoming the first woman in modern times to command an Arab fighting force.) Naturally, all the enemies of Arafat found refuge in Damascus, and that is the original reason for the presence of some leaders of Hamas and other organizations there. They were more of a threat to the PLO than to Israel.
* * *
IN THE 1948 war, the Syrian army was the only Arab army that was not defeated. They continued to occupy some Israeli territory. Along this border, many incidents took place (mostly initiated by an officer by the name of Ariel Sharon). In the end, the Israeli army occupied the Golan Heights in the Six-day war, for the outbreak of which Syria bears some responsibility. Since then, all the relations between Israel and Syria have been centered on this occupied territory. Its return is a paramount Syrian aim. Israel has applied Israeli law there (which, contrary to the accepted view, means less than annexation). Hafez al-Assad re-conquered it in the 1973 war, but in the end was pushed back to the approaches of Damascus. Since then, the Syrians have been trying to harass Israel mostly by means of Hizbullah. Once upon a time, the idea of an "Eastern Front"--a coordinated attack by Jordan, Syria and Iraq--used to cause nightmares in Israel. The prophecy of Jeremiah (1, 14), "Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land", echoed through the war-rooms of the army High Command. Since then we have made peace with Jordan, Iraq has been blown to smithereens by the Americans, with the enthusiastic support of Israel and its American lobby. But the Syrians are still considered a menace, because they are allied with Iran and connected with Hizbullah. Is it worthwhile for us to live in this situation in order to keep the Golan Heights? Common sense says no. If we reach a peace agreement with Syria, it will automatically entail an agreement with Hizbullah, too. Without Syrian consent, Hizbullah cannot keep an efficient military force, since practically all Hizbullah's arms have to come from Syria or pass through Syria. Without Syrian support, Hizbullah will become a purely Lebanese party and cease to constitute a threat to us. Moreover, Syria is a thoroughly secular country. When the Muslim Brotherhood rebelled against Assad Sr, he drowned them in blood. Also, the great majority of Syrians are Sunni. When Syria makes peace with Israel, it will have no reason to remain allied with the fanatical Shiite Iran. So why don't we make peace with Syria?
* * *
AT THIS time, there are two reasons: the one domestic, the other foreign. The domestic reason is the existence of 20 thousand settlers on the Golan Heights, who are far more popular than the West Bank settlers. They are not religious fanatics, and their settlements were set up under the auspices of the Labor Party. All Israeli governments have been afraid to touch them. That is the real reason for the failure of all the attempts to negotiate with Syria. Yitzhak Rabin thought about it and drew back. He argued that we should first of all concentrate on settling the Palestinian issue. Ehud Barak almost came to an agreement with Syria, but escaped at the last moment. The only question that remained open was almost ludicrous: should the Syrians reach the shoreline of the Sea of Tiberias (the situation prevailing before the Six-day war) or stay at a distance of a few dozen meters (according to the border fixed between the British, then ruling Palestine, and the French, then ruling Syria). In popular parlance: will Assad dangle his long feet in the water of the lake? For Assad Sr. that was a question of honor. Is it worthwhile to risk for this the lives of thousands of Israelis and Syrians, who may die in another war? Until Israel has a government ready to answer this question and to confront the settlers, there will be no agreement with Syria. The second reason for rejecting peace with Syria is connected with the United States. Syria belongs to George Bush's "axis of evil". The American president doesn't give a damn for the long-range interests of Israel, what is important to him is to achieve some sort of victory in the Middle East. The destruction of the Syrian regime ("a victory for democracy") will compensate him for the Iraq fiasco. No Israeli government--and certainly not that of Olmert--would dare to disobey the American president. Therefore, it is self-evident that all peace feelers from Assad will be rejected "on the threshold". Tsipi Livni, who last week opened a new front against Olmert and presented herself almost as a peace-lover, opposes the start of negotiations with Syria as well.
* * *
THIS AFFAIR throws some light on the complex relations between Israel and the United States: who is wagging who--does the dog wag its tail or the tail its dog? Olmert says that we must ignore Assad's peace offers, because we must not help him to escape Bush's wrath. Let's dwell on this utterance for a moment. An Israeli patriot would, of course, have said exactly the opposite: If Assad is ready to make peace with us--even if only because he is afraid of the Americans--we should jump at this opportunity and exploit this situation to achieve at long last peace on our northern front. Last week Olmert made a remarkable declaration: "As long as I am Prime Minister, we shall not give up the Golan for all eternity!" What does that mean? Either Olmert believes that his term of office coincides with God's term of office, and he will rule in eternity--or in Olmert's world, eternity extends to four years, at most. Anyhow, until then, my taxi-driver and I shall have to wait for our lunch in Damascus.

Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is one of the writers featured in The Other Israel: Voices of Dissent and Refusal. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch's hot new book The Politics of Anti-Semitism. He can be reached at: avnery@counterpunch.org .


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Lebanon beach resorts - some pix

Lebanese beach resorts mourn promising summer ruined by conflict

Lebanese beach resorts mourn promising summer ruined by conflict
By Pierre Sawaya, Agence France Presse (AFP)

BEIRUT: Lebanese beach resorts that had invested huge sums for a promising summer season are now counting their losses with millions of dollars in damage inflicted by Israeli strikes and ensuing oil slicks. "Our direct losses and the loss of earnings amount to $10 million," said Roger Edde, owner of the Edde Sands resort north of Beirut. Israel launched a 34-day offensive against Lebanon on July 12 after the Hizbullah captured two Israeli soldiers. The hostilities forced tourists to flee Lebanon, which had been preparing for a record summer season. The Israeli strikes also caused an environmental catastrophe on Lebanon's coast by destroying fuel tanks at the Jiyyeh power station south of Beirut, unleashing an estimated 15,000 tons of fuel oil into the Mediterranean Sea. "We closed for three weeks to clean the beach from the oil slicks which also evaporate, causing breathing problems, and activities have been slow since the September 2 reopening," Edde said. "From 3,000 lunches and dinners a day before the war, we are now serving an average of 30 meals a day." Hussein Sharafeddin, owner of the Pangea beach resort south of Beirut, expressed the same grievances and has been forced to carry out massive lay-offs. "Our losses amount to $2 million. We had invested a lot in order to offer Lebanese and tourists one of the world's most beautiful resorts," he said. "We keep cleaning the sand and the sea, but the oil slicks keep coming back," he added. But Sharafeddin refuses to give up: "We intend to continue to invest and we are considering building a hotel despite the [Israeli] threats." Edde is also optimistic. He decided to reopen after the end of the war in order to "keep the morale high" and to continue work on a new 2,500-seat conference center. But he has decided to freeze future investments until the situation is more stable. "We want to see where the country is heading," he said. Millions of dollars have been invested at dozens of beach resorts which have mushroomed along Lebanon's 220-kilometer coastline in recent years. The Bamboo Bay resort south of Beirut has reported direct losses of $560,000 and loss of earnings of $350,000. It opened for 10 days last month but was forced to close for lack of clients. "We need at least two or three years to regain the tourism boom of the past few years," said Sharafeddin.

Israeli minister says war may resume

Israeli minister says war may resume
Compiled by Daily Star staff

Israel's national infrastructure minister said on Tuesday that war with Hizbullah might restart in a few months, and called for an enhancement of the Israeli Army's capacities. Benjamin Ben-Eliezer told Israeli public radio that the deployment of the Lebanese Army along the border with Israel "will not ensure safety for Israel" and that Hizbullah still presents a threat to the Jewish state. Meanwhile, Britain-based Jane's International Defense Review reported that Hizbullah received direct intelligence support from Syria during the month-long Israeli offensive on Lebanon, using data collected by listening posts jointly operated by Russian and Syrian crews. Hizbullah was also fed intelligence from new listening posts built on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, which are operated jointly with Iran, it claimed. Israel has also alleged that Russian anti-tank missiles procured by Syria were reportedly transferred to Hizbullah and used during the war. Syria's centrality to the collection and transfer of intelligence to Hizbullah is based on separate agreements Damascus signed with Moscow and Tehran on intelligence cooperation, the Haaretz report said, adding that the deal with Russia is much older than the one with Iran, which was signed earlier this year. The intelligence cooperation agreement between Syria and Iran is part of a broader strategic cooperation accord that was achieved in November 2005 and confirmed during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinjead's visit to Damascus in January 2006, Haaretz said.According to the Jane's report, in its agreement with Syria, Iran insisted that no Russian intelligence officers should be allowed access to the new listening posts, in spite of the long-standing deal between Damascus and Moscow. The Russian Embassy in Beirut was not available for comment. A Hizbullah spokesperson said his party had no comment.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Higher Relief Commission: Lebanon Needs YOU!

Young Lebanese seek professional alternatives abroad as hope in home grows faint

Young Lebanese seek professional alternatives abroad as hope in home grows faint
By Haro Chakmakjian Agence France Presse (AFP)

BEIRUT: As Lebanon turns another page in its turbulent history, with Israeli firepower giving way to peacekeepers from around the world, the summer war has left young Beirutis seeking an exit strategy of their own. "There is a hopelessness in this country. Even if the war is over, there is no stability," said Sara Haddad, 20, a management student and part-time shop assistant at a mall in Achrafieh. "You can't build your future in such a country. You could wake up tomorrow and war will have come back," she said. "I want to go to any European country, any civilized country." She is by no means alone in her bleak assessment. A brain drain which started well before the devastating July-August war with Israel continues to sap Lebanon of much of its educated youth. "Every time we move forward, something happens to set us back again. I believe we will have another war ... That's the cycle," said business student Tareq Ghosn, who doubles as a waiter at a student hangout in west Beirut. "Every political party here wants to make Lebanon his Lebanon," he said. "Eight out of 10 of my colleagues plan to emigrate once we graduate" to escape the insecurity and a tight job market that offers paltry salaries.

Huge "Keep Walking" billboards advertising a famous brand of whisky pay tribute to the legendary resilience of Beirutis, showing the figure having crossed a bridge like the ones which were favorite targets for Israeli pilots. Battling the odds, Beirut's international film festival is back, while young artists in the capital managed to found a new organization in the back room of a popular restaurant even while the war still raged. But the list of Lebanon's "martyrs" and heroes from its mosaic of sects and differing loyalties only grows longer, with their posters vying for space on walls and lamp posts. As Lebanon fades from the radar of world attention, Beirutis are taking comfort from the roar of passenger planes flying over the center of the city, while the main runway from the sea awaits repairs from a July 13 air strike. It means a return to normal links with the outside world, even if it also reminds older residents of the 1975-90 Civil War years before the main runway was built. In place of screaming Israeli jets and the pounding of the Shiite southern suburbs, the air has been filled with music, balloons and flags for rival rallies.

An obsession with numbers has been rampant on Lebanon's sorely divided political scene, as supporters of the anti-Syrian March 14 group play down the turnout figures for Hizbullah's huge "victory" celebration on September 22. A rival demonstration was held two days later by Samir Geagea, head of the Lebanese Forces [LF] and member of the March 14 group, at which the war of words continued with the pro-Syrian "March 8" group. "They say Hizbullah does not have Lebanese blood on its hands from the Civil War but they are catching up," said a resident of a mountain village in the Christian heartland, north of Beirut, near where the LF rally was held. "Lebanon will have no peace, no future, no security, so long as the regime in Damascus does not fall so that we can breathe," the Christian villager said, asking not to be identified. Reflecting a general mistrust of rival communities or even in their own camp's politicians, Elsie Obeid, a mother of two young children shopping for the war-delayed return to school, was clearly frustrated. "There is no work and the political situation is very bad. All the politicians have to be changed. We need people who create jobs, and who create some security because we don't feel safe in this country," Obeid said. Foreign UN peacekeepers are pouring into South Lebanon, adding complexity to a political scene that remains paralyzed amid the potentially explosive international investigation into former Premier Rafik Hariri's assassination. "There is a feeling of anxiety in the air again. Everyone is wondering who is next," after a series of deadly attacks that followed Hariri's murder in February 2005, said Beirut television producer Philip Bajjaly.

A postwar survey published in the latest edition of a business magazine, Le Commerce Du Levant, found that an alarming 48 percent of Lebanese planned to emigrate for professional reasons. "Middle-class families with young children are also planning to up sticks" and leave, said a Western diplomat. "I've asked politicians why they are not encouraging young people to get more involved in politics ... but there seems to be a general air of hopelessness," the diplomat said. Whatever lies in store for Lebanon, it provides rich pickings for the French author of the spicy and popular SAS spy series, Gerard de Villiers, who was at the Hizbullah rally and visited the home village of its leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. "I've also been several times to Baghdad, but there's not much interest in Iraq any more. The situation there is not going anywhere - it's just more of the same," said de Villiers, who is also a journalist.

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