Thursday, 29 January 2009

Barack Obama is No Different from George W. Bush When It Comes to Solving Israel-Palestinian Problem

Read here full article

Read related article in Malaysian Unplug's earlier posting:
President Barack Obama Receiving Marching Orders from the powerful Jewish Lobby

It is confirmed that Obama's Special Envoy,George Mitchell has REFUSED to meet with HAMAS Officials.

That is, he will only be talking and listening to the Israelis' version of the conflict and only learn the one-sided view of the Palestinian problem from the Israelis.

President Obama misled American voters and the rest of the world during his presidential campaign for Change and Hope to now ask his Special Envoy NOT to talk or listen to Hamas, for fear of the US Jewish Lobby.

His action as US President since Day One shows an AUDACITY OF FEAR , not his highly publicised AUDACITY OF HOPE . Fearful and scared of the politically powerful US Jewish Lobby, like all recent past US presidents did.

For the Muslim world, despite his rhetoric, expect NO CHANGE from this 44th President to solving the Middle East conflict.
Malaysian Unplug

United States President Barack Obama had said Monday night that envoy George Mitchell is visiting the Middle East to listen and learn what are the various positions. Interviewed by al-Arabiya television, Obama said ,

"All too often the United States starts by dictating -- in the past on some of these issues -- and we don't always know all the factors that are involved. So let's listen. He's going to be speaking to all the major parties involved. And he will then report back to me. From there we will formulate a specific response. Ultimately, we cannot tell either the Israelis or the Palestinians what's best for them."

However, it is learnt today that the US envoy to the Middle East will NOT meet with Hamas officials despite the movement's goodwill gesture towards the Obama administration.

Newly-appointed US peace envoy George Mitchell, who kicked off a Middle East tour on Tuesday, is expected to hold talks with Acting Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank on Thursday.

He, however, has no plans to meet with the leaders of Hamas -- which the European Union, Israel and its closest ally, the US, brand as a "terrorist" group.

Mitchell's refusal to talk to Hamas comes while on Wednesday, senior Hamas official Ismail Haniya congratulated Obama on his inauguration, expressing the movement's willingness to work closely with the new US administration.

Despite the friendly approach by Hamas, Mitchell's refusal to meet with the movement's leaders hints that the 'CHANGE ' administration is only rebranding the failed Bush administration's policies.

The move suggests that the US is not open to hearing all sides and is siding with Mahmoud Abbas whose term expired on January 9 and therefore his rule, according to Hamas, is no longer legal under the Palestinian constitution.

Hamas won the parliamentary elections in 2006 but Abbas sacked Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya's unity government in 2007 and formed his own cabinet. Following the move Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in mid-June the same year.




Aijaz Zaka Syed
(Aijaz Zaka Syed is a Dubai-based commentator.)

Read here for more in Arab News

I don't know about others but I am really beginning to miss George W Bush. Seriously!

The more you see of President Barack Obama, the more you miss the shenanigans of his inimitable predecessor. In fact, I feel eternally indebted to the with-us-or-against-us crusader because without suffering him, we wouldn't have known the true value of his successor and the phenomenal change he embodies. And I am not talking about his color or his impossible middle name.

After eight years of Oedipal wars, incompetence, deceit, terror tactics and casual contempt for everything that the world holds in esteem, it's so refreshing to finally see someone who knows what he's talking about and believes in what he's doing.

That historic day, on Jan. 20, I made it a point to watch Obama's inauguration with my kids and joined them in cheering for the man who is not just the first black president of America but perhaps the first people's president of the global community. I am sure my kids will remember the day long enough to share it with their children.

What an amazing change has it been! Words fail to capture and translate the groundbreaking nature of this revolution. Perhaps it's possible only in America or a country like India!

What is more heartening than the rise of the son of a Kenyan Muslim to the highest office in the world is the fact that Obama has already begun proving that the Americans were not wrong in picking him up over an all-white, all-American war hero.

Look at the alacrity and determination with which Obama has moved to clear the mess his predecessor left behind. Within minutes and hours of moving into the White House, he started taking steps to undo the damage done to the US' standing around the world. He wasted little time celebrating his historic success. As promised, he indeed hit the ground running.

And again as promised, the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison and end of America's absurd war on the rule of law and just about everything else are among the first orders the new president has signed.

It's amazing how one individual could change the world, especially if it happens to be an American president. One man could make that critical difference between war and peace, between justice and injustice and between sweet reason and sheer madness.

I do not think anyone, not even the new supercool US president, could ever really undo what Bush and his cronies inflicted on the world, especially on the Middle East. Arabs and Muslims are not likely to forget as long as they live what they had to suffer at the hands of the born-again lunatics.

But Obama could win back their confidence and bridge this frightening gulf between the West and the Muslim world if he sets about undoing the historical injustices repeatedly visited on the Middle East.

With the deepening financial crisis, Obama will have his hands full at home over the next four years. However, he cannot afford to ignore the Middle East either. Because it remains the world's biggest crisis, even bigger than the global meltdown. Everything starts and ends here.

Even the seeds of the current economic catastrophe were sowed in the region. It's Bush's wars in the Middle East financed by the trillions of dollars of taxpayers' money that set the Wall Street ablaze and blew up the world economy. Besides, the Palestine conflict has had a direct link to both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama seems to know this. He already has a plan and his troubleshooter George Mitchell, widely respected as the architect of the Northern Ireland peace accord, is already in the region. The appointment of Mitchell and Richard Holbrooke as his special envoys for the Middle East and Afghanistan-Pakistan was again one of the first major policy decisions Obama made in the Oval Office.

But the Middle East has had more than its fair share of peacemakers and envoys. No wonder they're seldom taken seriously. Besides, merely designating someone a peacemaker doesn't make him one. Look at Tony Blair. What has the Quartet's special envoy done to promote peace, except live in style with the handsome paycheck he gets every month?

I hope to God Obama's envoys will be different. In his first interview with a Middle East media outlet, Obama told Al Arabiya TV this week that time was ripe for the Palestinian-Israel breakthrough.

But we've been here before. Obama is not the first US president to hold out the hope of a Middle East peace.

In fact, every US president comes to White House with great promise and ambitions of ending this conflict. But they all fall by the wayside - or rather end up on Israel's side, quickly giving in to the pulls and pressures of the all-powerful Israeli lobby.

A very dear Palestinian American friend of mine, who remains skeptical of Obama's ability to change the US or Middle East, poured cold water over my soaring hopes this week saying:

"I agree Obama won't be as bad as Bush. But I think this is more about a massive institution called the (Israeli) Lobby that controls every facet of life in this country of any relations to Palestine/Israel.

Any serious change would have to overhaul the institution that runs, influences and shapes US policies. We've seen no signs that this is happening. I hope I am wrong!"

I hope so too. Because no US leader had been as uniquely placed as Obama today is to defy his country's history and change the Middle East, and the world, for the better. His unusual background and the extraordinary global goodwill he enjoys make Obama an ideal peacemaker.

I think Obama knows this too. He has been sending all the right signals and saying all the right things to demonstrate the Middle East peace tops his agenda.

Asking his envoy to spend time in the region and listen to what it has to say, Obama told Al Alarabiya: "All too often the US starts by dictating and we don't always know all the factors that are involved. So let's listen. He (Mitchell) is going to be speaking to all the parties involved."

Earlier announcing Mitchell's appointment, he had said: "The cause of peace in the Middle East is important to the US and our national interests. It's important to me personally!"

These are promising words - uttered by someone who understands what promising words mean to a people long dispossessed and wronged.

Which is why I dare to hope that Obama could indeed break this endless cycle of violence in the Holy Land that has claimed hundreds of thousands of innocent lives and turned the entire Muslim world into a huge ball of fire and brimstone.

If anyone could untangle this impossible knot, I believe it's him.

Like my Palestinian friend, I am conscious of the long arm of the Israeli lobby. I know how it has plotted for decades to defeat all sincere attempts to end this conflict.

But I also know that someone who has had the "audacity of hope" to take on the US establishment and break an ancient taboo to become the first black man in the White House, could do anything - even bring peace to Middle East. If anyone could give the Palestinians their due, it's our man in Washington. Let's dare to hope!

The Parting of Ways of Two Prominent Bloggers

UPDATE: (30th Jan 2009)

Haris Ibrahim replies:

Excerpts: Read here for more .

"... In your post under reply, you had said that you had expected me to do my homework, to grill and cross-examine my informant. Truth be told, Rocky, I did. And that’s what left me with the predicament.....

The predicament? Who to believe? You or my informant? Confronted with this predicament, I resolved to narrate both your assertion that no such meeting took place and the insistence of my informant to the contrary in the ‘Right to reply’ post....I am sorry if you feel I have fallen short of your expectations.

If I have erred in resolving my predicament referred to above by inclining towards my informant’s version rather than yours, I proffer my sincerest apologies...."
-Haris Ibrahim

--- End of update

Prior to the March 2008 General Election, they were both comrade-in-arms.

Now, no more.

Blogger "Rocky's Bru " @ journalist Ahiruddin Atan turned Pro-UMNO Blogger since March 2008 election now calls Pro-Pakatan Rakyat Blogger/Lawyer "People's Parliament" @ Haris Ibrahim a LIAR.

Read here for more

Hisham E. Neumanuddin, Minister of Education/ UMNO Youth Chief

Read here for more on The Rhino Blog

Read here for more on his twin, Alfred E. Neuman

Hishammuddin Hussein aka Hisham E. Neumanuddin is living proof that Umno is dead.

He represents to the public just how deeply stupid and incapable Umno's next generation is, whatever the advantages they have been given.

  • He's the young bangsawan with the yokel manners.

  • He's the youth leader with the right wing rhetoric.

  • He's the keris-wielder with a mind of mush.

  • He's living proof of the principle of regression to the mean.
It wouldn't be so bad if he were a marginal or older figure in Umno.

But as Youth Chief, and Minister of Education, he is the paragon of Umno's, and BN's future.

And he's determining your kids' future.

Let's see what Bernama reports him saying today:
Hishammuddin: Compromise on contest possible
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 28 — The suggestion by the Besut Umno division that candidates for the party’s deputy presidency compromise to avoid a contest is not a far-fetched one, said Umno Youth chief Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein.
He said the matter was not impossible as that was Umno’s way and that due consideration for determining the party’s leadership was not just Umno’s or the Barisan Nasional’s matter but should be a comprehensive matter.

“If there is something that can be discussed, we should discuss it, and what needs to be distributed after March we should distribute now,” said Hishammuddin who is in Mecca to perform the umrah.

Hishammuddin said this when commenting on the Besut Umno division’s suggestion that the candidates for the party’s deputy presidency and the vice-presidents’ post compromise ahead of the party’s polls in March.

In the same statement, Hishamuddin also commented on the suggestion by Umno’s discipline board’s chairman, Tan Sri Tengku Ahmad Rithaudeen Tengku Ismail, that the party restructure its organisation by abolishing its wings if it really wanted to do away with money politics.

Hishammuddin said the call was not acceptable and was impractical to implement.

I respect him as an experienced veteran but in all humility I feel the suggestion is not right. If that were to happen it would portray that we are faced with great pressure.

“Party members have been in the wings from very early on. Several roles have been played effectively by the wings and we have seen a good organisational structure
,” he said.

Hishammuddin said Tengku Ahmad Rithaudeen may have his own opinions and reasons on the matter but to resolve the matter there was no short-cut
. — Bernama
It's ok to stitch up the contest for Deputy and Vice Presidential Posts. 'it's Umno's way', to avoid open elections.

Wherever possible, avoid the open, go for the stitch up. And when in government, avoid open tender. If you can't direct nego, then collude. Same principle. The Umno way.

Just "distribute", he says. And let's get down to it as soon as possible.

Why come to think of it, this is exactly all that he has done in his years as Minister of Education. Distribute. Projects. Don't ask him if he's done a thing to improve our schools in four years.

On the other hand, Ku Din's suggestion for reform is unacceptable because, horror of horrors, it makes Umno look like it's actually "under pressure. " This is supposed to be a refutation of Ku Din's suggestion. It's hard to do, and it makes us look like we need to do something.

In the immortal words of Alfred E. Neuman, "What, me worry?"

He backs a reactionary suggestion. He quashes a progressive one.

He says the proposal to dissolve Umno's wing's is 'impractical to implement' but then calls it a 'short cut'. Pre-empting party elections by cutting a deal is not a 'short cut', however.

When in doubt, remember the Neumanuddin maneuver: spout something that makes 'em go "Huh?"

Hishammuddin is the perfect antidote to anyone who still harbors fantasies that Umno will get better. He hasn't a whit of the intelligence or dignity of the old man he patronizes, and he's the future.

Every time he gets up to say something I cringe in embarrassment. For him. For me, for Malaysians who suffer having him represent us abroad at UNESCO and in front of our school children, where it becomes clear to all the moment he opens he mouth, the man is a simpleton, an arrogant, entitled simpleton. And he is our Minister of Education.

If this man and his like are the future of Umno, the entire country must hope Umno is buried. Soon. Please.

President Barack Obama Receiving Marching Orders from the powerful Jewish Lobby

Read here for more in American Free Press

Jewish Lobby Gives Obama His Marching Orders


Michael Collins Piper
(Michael Collins Piper is a journalist and the of The High Priests of War, The New Jerusalem, Dirty Secrets, The Judas Goats, The Golem, Target Traficant and My First Days in the White House )

President Obama's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel
is an American Jew and also holds an Israeli citizenship.
THE POWERFUL JEWISH LOBBY in Washington is already issuing MARCHING ORDERS to President Barack Obama.

One of the most influential voices of the lobby has published an array of “working papers” designed to tell the president how he must:

  1. maintain the “special relationship” between the United States and Israel,

  2. increase pressure on a variety of Arab and Muslim states that are perceived as dangers to Israel, and

  3. generally assure that Israel’s interests will always be first and foremost in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy, not only in the Middle East but around the globe.
The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), a particularly vocal force in the Jewish lobby, published an entire edition of its Journal of International Security Affairs (dated fall 2008), sending the official word to Obama.

JINSA was founded by one Stephen Bryen who—along with a host of other well known names connected to JINSA—was once investigated by the FBI on charges of espionage for Israel.

A variety of articles in the journal addressing “Middle East Policy and the Next President” and “Iran, Iraq and Beyond,” make it clear that JINSA—best known as a nest of the infamous “neo-conservatives” who misdirected U.S. foreign policy during the outgoing Bush administration, sparking the war in Iraq and continuing to clamor for action against Iran—wants Obama to pursue Bush-style policies.

AIPAC is particularly obsessed with using U.S. military and economic power to force Arab and Muslim nations to “reform” from within.

Talk of “democracy” flows freely within AIPAC’s assorted essays, demanding that Israel’s neighbors conform to the Western version of democracy. But when the Palestinian people voted the Hamas movement into power in the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza strip, AIPAC and other elements in the Jewish lobby immediately began calling for the United States to reject that freely elected government.

Now, of course, Hamas is largely only in control of the beleaguered Gaza—which many refer to as “ghetto”— and the Palestinian statehood movement has been eviscerated, at least for now.

This makes AIPAC and the lobby for Israel quite happy, for Israel has long encouraged U.S. policies—and helped create conditions—that have the effect of “divide and conquer” in the Arab and Muslim world.

Israel is not like any other nation in the world, in that it seems to thrive best (and enjoys the benefits of) having its neighbors quarreling among themselves and rent within.

Other nations prefer neighbors that are peaceful and internally secure. Israel wants its neighbors in chaos, because this prevents them from waging war against Israel, either individually or united.

And although in the wake of the debacle in Iraq, which led many Israelis and their allies in the United States to suddenly proclaim that the Iraq war should never have been waged, the fact is that Israel and its U.S.-based agents-in-place were the prime movers behind that war .

It was Israeli intelligence that was providing what critics now recognize was the “bad intelligence” that led the Bush administration to “mistakenly” conclude that Iraq was working toward an assembly of nuclear weapons to rival that of Israel.

The Israelis and their American spokesmen evidently now believe that if they tell the “big lie” often enough—the LIE that Israel’s interests played no part in orchestrating the debacle in Iraq—that it will make Americans forget that Israel was the foremost advocate of the war in the first place.

However, the evisceration of Iraq by the United States is part and parcel of a long-standing Israeli national security policy aimed toward “balkanizing” the Muslim world.

Yet, AIPAC, in its journal, is now working to perpetuate the myth of Iraqi nuclear weapons and suggesting that Iraq’s weapons were transported into Syria, another nation which has been on the “wish list for war” of Israel and its lobby in America.

And AIPAC makes it clear that the destruction of Iran’s nuclear development program is a “must.”

Note: Why does, Wolf Blitzer, an American Jew and a former editor at AIPAC, the powerful Jewish lobby group, have a job as a news anchor at CNN ( for the Situation Room program)?

What does it mean to "objective" journalism when an individual with a record as a blatantly pro-Israel propagandist is afforded power to mediate information in CNN?

Wolf Blitzer, former editor of the AIPAC's newsletter, Near East Report, became Washington correspondent for the Jerusalem Post and then, with much help from "the lobby", was promoted to his current still expanding role at CNN.
Read here for more

AIPAC is not the only Israeli lobby unit sending the message to the new president. COMMENTARY magazine, long affiliated with the American Jewish Committee, has—in recent issues—been trumpeting a similar bellicose refrain directed at Obama.

The editorial director of the Jewish lobby journal is John Podhoretz, a longtime close personal and political associate of the ubiquitous William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard magazine, which is the most infamous voice of the neo-conservative, hard-line pro-Israel elements operating in the media, in the think tanks, and in official policy making and national security and intelligence circles in Washington.

Their fathers, Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz, are two of the founding fathers of the neoconservative network, both Trotskyite Marxists who announced their “conversion” to conservatism during the latter days of the Cold War, banging the drum for intensified U.S. support for Israel.

A complete overview of the neo-conservative power structure and its rather bizarre origins in the days when American Jewish communists like Kristol and Podhoretz turned on the Soviet Union when then- Soviet chief Josef Stalin began moving against Jewish and Zionist elements inside Russia can be found in The High Priests of War and The Judas Goats, two works by this author.

Whether President Obama intends real change, as he promised, or whether he will advance the Israeli agenda (which saw its power expand exponentially in the Republican administration of George W. Bush) remains to be seen.

But “the lobby” is making its voice heard and Obama knows that he better not ignore it.

UMNO's Vengeance Against the Imam Who Told the Truth

Read here in Malaysiakini

Imam Ramlang Porigi was sacked by the Islamic Affairs Department (JAKIM ). The reasons given for the sacking was that he had "spoilt the name of the public service".

He was the Imam in the Federal Territory Mosque who witnessed the oath-taking by alleged sodomy victim Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan against Anwar Ibrahim.

After he appeared at Permatang Pauh by-election ceramahs held by Pakatan Rakyat to tell his side of the story on the oath-taking, he was transferred to JAKIM in September last year.

Ramlang was faced with four charges, three of them for speaking on three separate occasions on Aug 24 during the Permatang Pauh campaign.

Read here for more in Malaysiakini

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Solving UMNO's Money Politics Problem: Dismantle Umno Putera, Umno Puteri, UMNO Youth and Umno Wanita

Read here in Malaysiakini


"What's the purpose of having Putera and Puteri, anyway if their role is merely put to subjudice?

Some described Puteri and Putera Umno members as 'GROs' to the seniors, having to become 'chaperons' at all party functions." Read here for more
Jailani Harun

Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen Tengku Ismail, Umno disciplinary committee chairperson suggested one solution to prevent money politics in UMNO:
Umno should restructure its organisation by ABOLISHING the wings.
He said money politics could be checked if the party elections could be reduced by abolishing the wings, particularly Umno Putera and Umno Puteri. He believed that the young wings were involved in money politics.

Even the relevance of having the UMNO Youth and UMNO Wanita wings should be reviewed.

Tengku Rithauddeen was quoted in Bernama as saying,

"Perhaps even having the Youth and Wanita wings should be weighed now. In England, there is no women's wing in the Conservative Party nor the Labour Party.

I was thinking whether there was a need for Puteri Umno and Putera Umno, as this means more money politics. They don't need political exposure that early.

Many of them are still in their teens and twenties. If they are preoccupied with politics, they won't be able to focus on anything else. "

Tengku Rithauddeen said Puteri and Putera members who were still young, should focus on their studies rather than on politics. He said this group of people still needed to learn a lot of things as the country depended on its youths to lead the country in the future and to compete with the rest of the world.

Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen also proposed that the nomination quota system should also be abolished because of its ill effect of money politics.



Disband Putera and Puteri Umno

"...I am in support of what Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen said on Wednesday, that Putera and Puteri Umno should be disbanded.

What's the purpose of having Putera and Puteri, anyway if their role is merely put to subjudice?

Some described Puteri and Putera Umno members as 'GROs' to the seniors, having to become 'chaperons' at all party functions.

Now that there was a call for Barisan Nasional to become a Malaysian party instead of its each and every single component to fly their own flags and banners each time a general elections or a by-election takes place, Umno should also forego its Wanita wing.

Just make it Umno. All levels of position should be open to contest, both to men and women and youth. Those with high popularity and positive charismatic leadership talent will find out that money politics wont take a hand no more.

Less wings means lesser positions for contest. Money politics would be easier to monitor. Only then will the party regain its altitude. "

FROM Kuda Ranggi: Read here for more

Cadangan Ku Din ibarat mencurah air ke daun keladi

"...Pengerusi Lembaga Disiplin UMNO, Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen (Ku Din) jelas dah bosan dengan gejala rasuah politik atau politik wang dalam UMNO. Apa tidaknya, pihaknya berdepan dengan satu masalah yang amat serius dan beliau tahu apa yang diperkatakannya.

Bubar saja Wanita, Pemuda dan Puteri UMNO jika ia dapat mengubati penyakit tersebut. Itulah luahan rasa yang terbit dari hati kecil Ku Din. Dia ikhlas dan sudah memikir semasak-masaknya sebelum mengeluarkan kata-kata itu.

Apakah reaksi atau kenyataan balas daripada para pemimpin UMNO? Ya, seperti yang dijangkakan mereka terus menempelak saranan Ku Din itu dengan bermacam alasan.

Sudah tentu Wanita, Pemuda dan Puteri UMNO tidak setuju. Saya tidak menyebut Putera UMNO kerana ia sekadar sebuah Biro di bawah Pemuda UMNO sama seperti Biro Sukan atau Biro Kebajikan. Jadi ia tidak penting.

Kenapa mereka tidak setuju? Saya tidak salahkan mereka kerana siapa mahu kehilangan lubuk yang begitu berharga? Sudah tentu tidak.

Selain membuka peluang kepada mereka untuk memegang jawatan dalam Wanita, Pemuda dan Puteri UMNO, mereka juga berpeluang mendapat pangkat (Datuk dan sebagainya) dan berpeluang menjadi wakil rakyat (MP mahupun ADUN) atau dilantik sebagai Senator dan berpeluang menjadi sama ada Setiausaha Politik, Setiausaha Parlimen, Timbalan Menteri ataupun Menteri.

Andai kata Pergerakan Wanita, Pemuda dan Puteri UMNO dimansuhkan, maka dengan sendirinya peluang untuk mereka menjadi pemimpin, mendapat pangkat dan memegang jawatan dalam pentadbiran negara mahupun negeri agak tipis malahan amat sukar.

Oleh itu, siang-siang lagi mereka menentang cadangan Ku Din yang disifatkan oleh Wanita UMNO sebagai perbuatan membakar kelambu.

Inilah budaya yang masih tebal di kalangan mereka yang memimpin UMNO sama ada di peringkat induk, mahupun Wanita, Pemuda ataupun Puteri.

Mereka harus memikirkan kelangsungan hidup UMNO dan bukan kepentingan-kepentingan lain terutama peribadi. Mereka harus sedar bahawa sokongan terhadap UMNO semakin hari semakin pudar bukan semakin kukuh.

Lihat saja perkembangan di Perak yang pada satu ketika kubu kuat UMNO yang kedua selepas Johor dan sebelum kemasukan Sabah.

Dunia sudah berubah tetapi UMNO masih dok tang tu! "

China Teaches President Barack Obama His First Lesson on Foreign Fiscal Policy

Read here for more and here and here

President Barack Obama’s choice for Treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, was playing with fire last week when he told US senators that China was manipulating” its currency.

China took Barack Obama’s views on the yuan seriously.

So seriously that China is doing the exact OPPOSITE of what the U.S. President would like. China let the yuan FALL the most in a month on Jan. 23, right after Timothy Geithner, Obama’s pick for Treasury secretary, relayed Obama’s campaign position that China was “manipulating” its currency.

The reaction was China’s way of telling the new U.S. leader what he can do with his foreign-exchange views.

Since China abandoned its dollar peg in 2005, the renminbi has in fact gained more than 20 per cent against the greenback. No wonder, the Chinese feel slighted by Mr Geithner’s rebuke.

It’s hard to believe that Geithner hasn’t stressed the dangers of a trade war with the largest holder of U.S. government debt.

U.S. interests lie in an economically strong China,” says Marc Chandler, head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. in New York.

“Manipulate” is a charged word, and it’s politically incorrect in financial circles. And yet it was hard to keep a straight face when a Commerce Ministry official argued on Jan. 24 that “China has never tried to gain advantage in international trade by manipulating its currency.”

Yes, China manipulates its currency. Arguably, so do Singapore, Argentina, Saudi Arabia and any nation that either pegs its currency, maintains a tight trading band or oversees a “managed float” system.

Even Hong Kong, routinely ranked as the world’s freest economy by the Heritage Foundation, manipulates its currency. It has to maintain its link to the U.S. dollar.

The currency-manipulator label is rather toothless anyway. The administration of former President George W. Bush avoided it so as not to antagonize China. Yet China didn’t let the yuan gain 21 percent between July 2005 -- when China scrapped its dollar peg -- and July 2008 because the U.S. demanded it. China did it because it was best for China.

Elected on a platform of diplomatic engagement, Mr Obama said in his inaugural address that “our power grows through its prudent use”. Mr Geithner’s opening shot could be seen as IMPRUDENT.

China and the US are both responsible for the enormous international capital flows that inflated the bubbles that have now burst: China because of excessive spending, the US because of excessive borrowing. China because of excessive spending, the US because of excessive borrowing.

Since the US is going to remain a net borrower – the retrenching private sector is simply passing the borrowing baton to the government – China must save less. China can do this by expanding domestic spending more aggressively, directing the fruits of Chinese growth towards ordinary Chinese citizens instead of American borrowers.

(But) if China starts spending at home, it could provoke China into a sudden and dramatic re­adjustment of its exchange rate and foreign reserves management – up to and including its willingness to hold US sovereign bonds.

The U.S. obsession with the yuan underlines a failure of imagination. Yes, an undervalued currency helps China, but it’s not the only reason for the nation’s export prowess.

Anyone who thinks China is about to let its currency strengthen is dreaming.

That goes for the U.S. president, too.

Related Article

Beijing Snaps Back At Obama Over the Yuan

Read here for more

A top official in China's central bank, alluding to comments by Treasury Secretary nominee Timothy Geithner, said the charge that Beijing manipulates its currency was inaccurate and implied there were bigger issues to address in the global financial crisis.

While China's official comments have indicated official frustration at Mr. Geithner's remarks, they also seemed crafted to avoid appearing to overreact or further escalate the dispute.

China's Ministry of Commerce said China won't rely on they yuan's depreciation to support exports.

"Directing unsubstantiated criticism at China on the exchange-rate issue will only help U.S. protectionism and will not help toward a real solution to the issue," the ministry said in its statement.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Malaysiakini - The Vanguard of Media Revolution in Malaysia

Read here in AFP newswire

Malaysian cyber-paper at vanguard of media revolution


Sarah Stewart

A Malaysian newspaper that exists only in cyberspace has inspired a torrent of online debate since its launch a decade ago, in a phenomenon that has shaken up the nation's media and political scene.

The pioneering website Malaysiakini and the thriving political blogosphere it helped spawn have been key to the rise of the opposition which after decades of obscurity now has a real chance of gaining power.

Shawn Crispin, Southeast Asia representative for the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists, said,

"The Malaysian blogosphere has really exploded and pushed the boundaries of press freedom in Malaysia in unprecedented ways.

Without question Malaysiakini was on the vanguard of the Malaysian online news phenomenon and provided a brave, bold example that this whole generation of online bloggers and news providers has been able to draw on."
Malaysiakini -- "Malaysia Now" -- stumbled into a void waiting to be filled in a country where the government-friendly media have close ties to political parties, and where new publishing licences are virtually unheard of.

It was the vanguard for a flowering of news and views from a wide range of commentators, who use the relative freedom of the Internet to broach once-taboo topics such as opposition politics, race and religion.

It's all a long way from 1999 when founders Steven Gan and Pramesh Chandran launched Malaysiakini online, at a time when many people were only just signing up for email accounts and learning how to navigate the Internet.

Steven Gan said reader support through the years has given him the drive to press on. The co-founder and editor-in-chief of the online Malaysian political newspaper, Malaysiakini, has had his brushes with the law as a result of his strong belief in a free press.

As a reporter back in 1996, he was arrested and thrown in jail for five days while covering a conference on East Timor's political issues held in Kuala Lumpur. In 2003, Malaysiakini's office was raided by the authorities after a complaint was filed by an arm of the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) against the site because of a letter it published.

Gan and Chandran were
ranked 18th in Asiaweek's annual "Asia's 50 Most Powerful People" supplement in 2001. Read here for more

"The Internet was our last resort. I knew we wouldn't reach a lot of people but we had no choice as we didn't get a publishing licence," Steven Gan said in an interview at his headquarters in Kuala Lumpur's lively Bangsar district.

"We thought we'd run it like any other media organisation as that was where our experience was, and make it different from other political websites by being credible and professional."

The path has not been all smooth. Malaysiakini's offices were raided in 2003, staff were banned from official events until recently, and the mostly young employees have made some errors and mis-steps.

But the editorial team has expanded from four to 25, daily hits have peaked at 500,000 during major events when the subscription-only site is thrown open to the public, and it has been profitable for the past four years.

The Internet-led news phenomenon helped breath life into the opposition just as its figurehead, former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim was returning to the political stage after a spell in jail.

In March 2008 general elections, his opposition alliance seized five states and a third of parliamentary seats, humbling the coalition which has dominated Malaysia for half a century since independence from Britain.

The political earthquake stunned the government which had vilified bloggers and threatened them with jail. Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi admitted his "biggest mistake" had been to ignore cyber-campaigning.

"We thought that the newspapers, the print media and television were important, but young people were looking at SMS and blogs," he said.

James Chin from the Kuala Lumpur campus of Australia's Monash University, said Malaysia's vibrant online scene was the result of a unique set of factors including a muzzled mainstream media and relatively good Internet access.

"Malaysiakini could only have existed in places like Malaysia, Singapore or Burma, simply because the mainstream press have NO credibility," the political analyst said.

The phenomenon has also provided more space for the mainstream media -- which largely practices self-censorship -- to cover stories that in the past they would have had to ignore, he said.

"The traditional press can justify covering a story because they can argue that it's already in the public domain," Chin said. "They act as a safety valve for local papers."

Jeff Ooi, one of the nation's top bloggers who has now become an opposition parliamentarian, said there were fears that deputy premier Najib Razak, who will replace Abdullah in March, could clamp down on the Internet.

Malaysia made a 1996 pledge not to censor the Internet, but websites and blogs are still subject to strict slander and security laws which critics say can be wielded as political weapons.

Another high-profile blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin, an outspoken critic of the government, was jailed for two months last year under an internal security law that allows for indefinite detention without trial.

But Chin said the Malaysian blogosphere is now so large and diverse, with many pro-government sites also reaching a wide audience, that the genie can never be put back in the bottle.

"It's unclampable right now. The Internet has gone far beyond the conventional control methodology," he said.

"Regulators are saying that whatever is illegal offline is illegal online, but there are loopholes that mean bloggers are still having a heyday."

Monday, 26 January 2009

PAS's Pre-occupation with SEX: PAS Leaders Suffering from Symptoms of Suppressed Sex Syndrome

Rihanna 'Too Sexy' For PAS.

PAS wants to stop R&B star Rihanna from performing here on Feb 13.

PAS Federal Territory Youth chief Kamaruzaman Mohamad said inviting the Barbados-born singing sensation to Malaysia was “akin to insulting eastern culture, belittling local artistes, intentionally causing losses to the country’s economy and supporting Israel’s war policy, which is supported by America”.

The PAS wing said it also found the Grammy award winner to be unsuitable because she often performed suggestively and wore skimpy, sexy outfits.
Read here for more

28th August, 2008: Avril Lavigne’s big concert in Malaysia was on (Aug 29) despite Islamic (PAS) protests tried to have her banned.

The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, slammed the show for being “too sexy.”

However, PAS has said that they will continue to protest, this time outside the venue before it starts.Nasrudin Hassan of PAS said in a statement: “A concert of this nature is not conducive to teach the younger generation to become good citizens, upright and competitive, but instead would weaken them morally and mentally.

If the concert organisers do not heed this warning to cancel the concert, PAS youth will order all Muslim youth to turn up and protest the concert in order to prevent it from taking place.”

Read here for more

22 Oct 08 :Indonesian dangdut performer Inul Daratista was first slated to perform in Stadium Larkin, Johor Baru on 19 July, but the concert was cancelled.

The singer is famous for her sexy gyrations. She performed instead at the Indonesian Embassy premises in Kuala Lumpur.

Inul Daratista is only one example in an extensive list of popular foreign artists who have had their performances frustrated or banned altogether on apparently moral grounds.

Inul Daratista's July 27 concert at Bukit Jalil Stadium was cancelled by Kuala Lumpur City Hall at the eleventh hour after strong protests by PAS Youth.

Federal Territory branch of PAS Youth chief Kamaruzaman Mohamad handed over a memorandum registering the group's outrage to Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Abdul Hakim Borhan,saying "concerts by such artists contribute to the collapse of morals and rise of social ills that afflict Malaysian youth." .Read here for more

Two high-profile artistes have already given Malaysia a miss.

They have opted for more hospitable venues in the region, where the enforcement of entertainment licenses are relatively clearer and less easily manipulated by moral outcry.

Christina Aguilera's 2007 Back To Basics tour included stops in neighbour Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines, but she refused to perform here.

Since her concert would not be held in Malaysia, Celcom took taking her fans to the concert in Singapore instead.

Beyoncé Knowles has shelved a concert in Malaysia to avoid running into problems anticipated by her raunchy costumes.

Beyonce Knowles, also in 2007, swapped her Kuala Lumpur concert for one in Jakarta.

Pineapple Concerts' chairperson Razlan Ahmad Razali told the press: "Though Indonesia is also a Muslim country, it doesn't have all these issues that we have. She can perform as she likes there."

August 17, 2007: Federal Territory PAS Youth Exco members headed by Kamaruzaman Mohamad have handed a memorandum to Kuala Lumpur Mayor Datuk Hakim Borhan calling for the cancellation of Gwen Stefani’s The Sweet Escape 2007 concert.

Kamaruzaman said it was not just about her dressing but her image, which was obscene and would bring down the moral of youths.

Asked if he had seen any of her concerts, he said he had not but had seen her pictures on the Internet and advertisements on television and they were indecent.

June 17, 2008: The youth wing of PAS opposed a planned concert by two popular female singers, saying their sexy attire and erotic dance moves tarnish the image of Islam.

Rock singer, better known as Ella, and pop singer Mas Idayu were due to perform July 6 at a concert in central Selangor state to kick off an annual football match.

The event is organized by Selangor's opposition-led government.

Mas Idayu is known as the "Queen of Dangdut," a genre of Indonesian popular music.

Ella is hailed as Malaysia's "Queen of Rock". PAS said their performance was inappropriate as the event would be attended by many youngsters. "Their dressing and performance don't reflect the true Malay culture. Their image is unacceptable to Islam. We are not against the concert but we feel the two singers should be replaced," The Associated Press was told.

PAS youths may stage a peaceful protest if the two singers are not banned from the concert, he warned. Read here for more


From Colleen McAllister : Read

Remember back in August when Avril Lavigne’s Best Damn Tour concert stop in Malaysia was in danger of being cancelled because protestors thought she was “too sexy”?

WELL! Rihanna is having the same problem!

According to the same group, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, the “Disturbia” singer is “sexier and more dangerous” than Avril! The 20-year-old performer’s management say that she is “aware of the country’s regulations and the difficulties of doing a show.”

Other performers who have had problems performing in Malaysia include Gwen Stefani and the Pussycat Dolls.

Stefani made what she called a “major sacrifice” by not wearing outfits that showed a lot of skin while the Pussycat Dolls were fined almost $3,000 for going against regulations with their costumes.

Rihanna’s concert is scheduled for February 13 and is already selling a lot of tickets.

Gaza: Israel's Lies Suppressed by the American Media

Read here article by Henry Siegman in London Review of Books website


"...Western governments and most of the Western media have accepted a number of Israeli claims justifying the military assault on Gaza.

Let me state bluntly that each of these claims is a LIE.

Israel, not Hamas, violated the truce: Hamas undertook to STOP firing rockets into Israel; in return, Israel was to ease its throttlehold on Gaza. In fact, during the truce,Israel tightened it further.

Everyone seems to have forgotten that Hamas declared an end to suicide bombings and rocket fire when it decided to join the Palestinian political process, and largely stuck to it for more than a year. Bush publicly welcomed that decision, citing it as an example of the success of his campaign for democracy in the Middle East.

Hamas is no more a ‘terror organisation’ (Israel’s preferred term) than the Zionist movement was during its struggle for a Jewish homeland. In the late 1930s and 1940s, parties within the Zionist movement resorted to terrorist activities for strategic reasons.

In other words, when Jews target and kill innocent civilians to advance their national struggle, they are patriots. When their adversaries do so, they are terrorists.

Israel’s leaders (are) so determined to destroy Hamas because they believe that its leadership, unlike that of Fatah, cannot be intimidated into accepting a peace accord that establishes a Palestinian ‘state’ made up of territorially disconnected entities over which Israel would be able to retain permanent control.
- Henry Seigman



Henry Siegman,
(Henry Siegman is the Director of the US Middle East Project in New York, and a visiting research professor at SOAS, University of London. He is a former national director of the American Jewish Congress and of the Synagogue Council of America.)

Western governments and most of the Western media have accepted a number of Israeli claims justifying the military assault on Gaza:

  1. that Hamas consistently violated the six-month truce that Israel observed and then refused to extend it;

  2. that Israel therefore had no choice but to destroy Hamas’s capacity to launch missiles into Israeli towns;

  3. that Hamas is a terrorist organisation, part of a global jihadi network; and

  4. that Israel has acted not only in its own defence but on behalf of an international struggle by Western democracies against this network.
I am not aware of a single major American newspaper, radio station or TV channel whose coverage of the assault on Gaza questions this version of events.

Criticism of Israel’s actions, if any (and there has been none from the Bush administration), has focused instead on whether the IDF’s carnage is proportional to the threat it sought to counter, and whether it is taking adequate measures to prevent civilian casualties.

Middle East peacemaking has been smothered in deceptive euphemisms, so let me state bluntly that each of these claims is a LIE.
Israel, not Hamas, violated the truce: Hamas undertook to stop firing rockets into Israel; in return, Israel was to ease its throttlehold on Gaza.
In fact, during the truce, it tightened it further. This was confirmed not only by every neutral international observer and NGO on the scene but by Brigadier General (Res.) Shmuel Zakai, a former commander of the IDF’s Gaza Division.

In an interview in Ha’aretz on 22 December, he accused Israel’s government of having made a ‘central error’ during the tahdiyeh, the six-month period of relative truce, by failing ‘to take advantage of the calm to improve, rather than markedly worsen, the economic plight of the Palestinians of the Strip . . . When you create a tahdiyeh, and the economic pressure on the Strip continues,’ General Zakai said, ‘it is obvious that Hamas will try to reach an improved tahdiyeh, and that their way to achieve this is resumed Qassam fire . . . You cannot just land blows, leave the Palestinians in Gaza in the economic distress they’re in, and expect that Hamas will just sit around and do nothing.’

The Truce

The truce, which began in June last year and was due for renewal in December, required both parties to refrain from violent action against the other.

  • Hamas had to cease its rocket assaults and prevent the firing of rockets by other groups such as Islamic Jihad (even Israel’s intelligence agencies acknowledged this had been implemented with surprising effectiveness), and

  • Israel had to put a stop to its targeted assassinations and military incursions.
Israel Violated the Truce

  • This understanding was seriously violated on 4 November, when the IDF entered Gaza and killed six members of Hamas. Hamas responded by launching Qassam rockets and Grad missiles.

  • Even so, it offered to extend the truce, but only on condition that Israel ended its blockade. Israel refused.

  • It could have met its obligation to protect its citizens by agreeing to ease the blockade, but it didn’t even try.

  • It cannot be said that Israel launched its assault to protect its citizens from rockets. It did so to protect its right to continue the strangulation of Gaza’s population.
Everyone seems to have forgotten that Hamas declared an end to suicide bombings and rocket fire when it decided to join the Palestinian political process, and largely stuck to it for more than a year.

Bush publicly welcomed that decision, citing it as an example of the success of his campaign for democracy in the Middle East. (He had no other success to point to.)

When Hamas unexpectedly won the election, Israel and the US immediately sought to delegitimise the result and embraced Mahmoud Abbas, the head of Fatah, who until then had been dismissed by Israel’s leaders as a ‘plucked chicken’.

They armed and trained his security forces to overthrow Hamas; and when Hamas – brutally, to be sure – pre-empted this violent attempt to reverse the result of the first honest democratic election in the modern Middle East, Israel and the Bush administration imposed the blockade.

Israel seeks to counter these indisputable facts by maintaining that in withdrawing Israeli settlements from Gaza in 2005:

Ariel Sharon gave Hamas the chance to set out on the path to statehood, a chance it refused to take; instead, it transformed Gaza into a launching-pad for firing missiles at Israel’s civilian population.
The charge is a lie twice over.

  1. First, for all its failings, Hamas brought to Gaza a level of law and order unknown in recent years, and did so without the large sums of money that donors showered on the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority.

  2. Hamas eliminated the violent gangs and warlords who terrorised Gaza under Fatah’s rule.

  3. Non-observant Muslims, Christians and other minorities have more religious freedom under Hamas rule than they would have in Saudi Arabia, for example, or under many other Arab regimes.

  4. The greater LIE is that Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza was intended as a prelude to further withdrawals and a peace agreement. This is how Sharon’s senior adviser Dov Weisglass, who was also his chief negotiator with the Americans, described the withdrawal from Gaza, in an interview with Ha’aretz in August 2004:
    What I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements [i.e. the major settlement blocks on the West Bank] would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns . . . The significance [of the agreement with the US] is the freezing of the political process.

    And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and you prevent a discussion about the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem.

    Effectively, this whole package that is called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed from our agenda indefinitely. And all this with [President Bush’s] authority and permission . . . and the ratification of both houses of Congress.
Do the Israelis and Americans think that Palestinians don’t read the Israeli papers, or that when they saw what was happening on the West Bank they couldn’t figure out for themselves what Sharon was up to?

Israel’s government would like the world to believe that Hamas launched its Qassam rockets because that is what terrorists do and Hamas is a generic terrorist group.


In fact, Hamas is no more a ‘terror organisation’ (Israel’s preferred term) than the Zionist movement was during its struggle for a Jewish homeland.

In the late 1930s and 1940s, parties within the Zionist movement resorted to terrorist activities for strategic reasons.

According to Benny Morris, it was the Irgun that first targeted civilians. He writes in Righteous Victims that an upsurge of Arab terrorism in 1937 ‘triggered a wave of Irgun bombings against Arab crowds and buses, introducing a new dimension to the conflict’.

He also documents atrocities committed during the 1948-49 war by the IDF, admitting in a 2004 interview, published in Ha’aretz, that material released by Israel’s Ministry of Defence showed that ‘there were far more Israeli acts of massacre than I had previously thought . . . In the months of April-May 1948, units of the Haganah were given operational orders that stated explicitly that they were to uproot the villagers, expel them, and destroy the villages themselves.’

In a number of Palestinian villages and towns the IDF carried out organised executions of civilians. Asked by Ha’aretz whether he condemned the ethnic cleansing, Morris replied that he did not:
A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population.

It was necessary to cleanse the hinterland and cleanse the border areas and cleanse the main roads. It was necessary to cleanse the villages from which our convoys and our settlements were fired on.
In other words, when Jews target and kill innocent civilians to advance their national struggle, they are patriots. When their adversaries do so, they are terrorists.

It is too easy to describe Hamas simply as a ‘terror organisation’.

It is a religious nationalist movement that resorts to terrorism, as the Zionist movement did during its struggle for statehood, in the mistaken belief that it is the only way to end an oppressive occupation and bring about a Palestinian state.

While Hamas’s ideology formally calls for that state to be established on the ruins of the state of Israel, this doesn’t determine Hamas’s actual policies today any more than the same declaration in the PLO charter determined Fatah’s actions.

These are not the conclusions of an apologist for Hamas but the opinions of the former head of Mossad and Sharon’s national security adviser, Ephraim Halevy.

The Hamas leadership has undergone a change ‘right under our very noses’, Halevy wrote recently in Yedioth Ahronoth, by recognising that ‘its ideological goal is not attainable and will not be in the foreseeable future.’

It is now ready and willing to see the establishment of a Palestinian state within the temporary borders of 1967. Halevy noted that while Hamas has not said how ‘temporary’ those borders would be, ‘they know that the moment a Palestinian state is established with their co-operation, they will be obligated to change the rules of the game: they will have to adopt a path that could lead them far from their original ideological goals.’

In an earlier article, Halevy also pointed out the absurdity of linking Hamas to al-Qaida.

In the eyes of al-Qaida, the members of Hamas are perceived as heretics due to
their stated desire to participate, even indirectly, in processes of any
understandings or agreements with Israel.

[The Hamas political bureau chief, Khaled] Mashal’s declaration diametrically contradicts al-Qaida’s approach, and provides Israel with an opportunity, perhaps a historic one, to leverage it for the better.

Why then are Israel’s leaders so determined to destroy Hamas?

Because they believe that its leadership, unlike that of Fatah, cannot be intimidated into accepting a peace accord that establishes a Palestinian ‘state’ made up of territorially disconnected entities over which Israel would be able to retain permanent control.

Control of the West Bank has been the unwavering objective of Israel’s military, intelligence and political elites since the end of the Six-Day War. They believe that Hamas would not permit such a cantonisation of Palestinian territory, no matter how long the occupation continues. They may be wrong about Abbas and his superannuated cohorts, but they are entirely right about Hamas.

Middle East observers wonder whether Israel’s assault on Hamas will succeed in destroying the organisation or expelling it from Gaza. This is an irrelevant question.

If Israel plans to keep control over any future Palestinian entity, it will never find a Palestinian partner, and even if it succeeds in dismantling Hamas, the movement will in time be replaced by a far more radical Palestinian opposition.

If Barack Obama picks a seasoned Middle East envoy who clings to the idea that outsiders should not present their own proposals for a just and sustainable peace agreement, much less press the parties to accept it, but instead leave them to work out their differences, he will assure a future Palestinian resistance far more extreme than Hamas – one likely to be allied with al-Qaida.

For the US, Europe and most of the rest of the world, this would be the worst possible outcome.

Perhaps some Israelis, including the settler leadership, believe it would serve their purposes, since it would provide the government with a compelling pretext to hold on to all of Palestine. But this is a delusion that would bring about the end of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

Anthony Cordesman, one of the most reliable military analysts of the Middle East, and a friend of Israel, argued in a 9 January report for the Center for Strategic and International Studies that the tactical advantages of continuing the operation in Gaza were outweighed by the strategic cost – and were probably no greater than any gains Israel may have made early in the war in selective strikes on key Hamas facilities.

‘Has Israel somehow blundered into a steadily escalating war without a clear strategic goal, or at least one it can credibly achieve?’ he asks. ‘Will Israel end in empowering an enemy in political terms that it defeated in tactical terms? Will Israel’s actions seriously damage the US position in the region, any hope of peace, as well as moderate Arab regimes and voices in the process? To be blunt, the answer so far seems to be yes.’

Cordesman concludes that ‘any leader can take a tough stand and claim that tactical gains are a meaningful victory. If this is all that Olmert, Livni and Barak have for an answer, then they have disgraced themselves and damaged their country and their friends.’
-Henry Seigman

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Gaza: Israel is Guilty of Crimes Against Humanity, And Guilty of War Crimes Many Times Over

Read here full article in The Independent, UK by Raymond Whitaker and Donald Macintyre

President Barack Obama must turn the page on US's relationship with Israel.

The US's "Special Relationship" with Israel is destroying the image of the United States internationally and it endangers the security and safety of ALL American citizens around the world.

President Barack Obama should not be another line of hypocritical Presidents of the past, when it comes to Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

President Obama, without any fear of or favour to, the Israeli and Jewish Lobby in the US, should, in no uncertain terms, make Israel face the international community on charges of crimes against humanity and for war crimes against the Palestinians.

Otherwise, his campaign call for CHANGE and HOPE for Americans and for the rest of the world, is just another nonsensical crap from a Presidential candidate.

The world noted clearly the irony that President Obama appointed an American who is also an Israeli citizen to be his Chief of Staff (read here: Rahm Emanuel), who happened to be the son of a Zionist terrorist.
(Rahm's father, Benjamin, was a member of the Irgun, the Zionist terrorist organization that coined a new word as they blew up hotels, train stations, and other buildings in Palestine in the 1930s and 40s. Read here for more)

Malaysian Unplug

Related Article:

Israeli Massacre in Gaza - Timelines and Key Maps, from BBC

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Did Israel commit war crimes during 22 days and nights of aerial assault, rocket launches and ground fighting in Gaza?

In one sense the question is academic, because Israel will not recognise the conflict as an international one. It has not signed the 1977 Geneva protocol designed to apply to the victims of internal conflicts.

But international lawyers say general principles can be drawn from the laws of war, which may have been violated in several ways.

The main issues are these:


Up to 10 times as many Palestinians were killed as Israelis. The Palestinian Ministry of Health says 1,314 Palestinians were killed, of whom 412 were children or teenagers under 18, and 110 were women. On the Israeli side, there were 13 deaths between 27 December and 17 January, of whom three were civilians killed by rockets fired from Gaza. Of the 10 soldiers killed, four were lost to "friendly fire".

Even if the Palestinian figure is disputed, it is clear that the death toll was massively higher for Palestinians than Israelis. Proportionality is not simply a matter of numbers, however. There will also be a debate over whether the destruction wrought by Israel's huge land, sea and air arsenal was proportionate to the threat posed by Hamas militants to civilians – itself also a violation of international humanitarian law.

With foreign journalists barred from Gaza by Israel throughout the war, it is especially hard to come by hard information on the exact circumstances in which all civilian casualties were caused.

But unofficial comment from senior military officers in the Israeli media have suggested that a deliberate choice was made to put the protection of its soldiers first, and that of civilians second.

If true, it appears to have been successful, but even if it wasn't, the "collateral damage" inflicted on civilians appears to have significantly exceeded the norms even of previous Israeli operations in Gaza, suggesting looser rules of engagement for military operations.

The head of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, pointed out that there was an "expansive" definition of military targets, to include civilian government offices, police stations and the parliament building, on the grounds they at least indirectly helped Hamas.

Firing into urban areas

Israeli forces did not penetrate into the heart of Gaza City or Khan Yunis. But many of the areas where they deployed their forces were heavily built up.

Probably the most lethal incident was the 6 January mortar attack that hit the UN school being used as a shelter for hundreds who had fled their homes in the northern Gaza town of Jabalya. It killed 30 straight away, and an estimated 13 more died from their critical injuries in subsequent days.

Israel's initial claim in this and several other incidents was that it was responding to fire from Hamas. The militants could be at fault for "locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas", in the words of the Geneva Conventions. But the conventions also forbid any attack expected to cause death or injury to civilians "which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated" – a rule Israel is accused of breaking several times.

Though it fortunately caused no deaths and only two injuries, the incident in which shells containing phosphorus hit the UN Relief and Works Agency headquarters – where many were also sheltering – was almost as high profile. Not only did they set fire to food and medical supply warehouses, they landed as the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, was holding meetings with Israeli leaders.

UN chiefs vigorously denied Israeli suggestions made in the media, though apparently not to the UN itself, that Hamas gunmen had been sheltering in UN premises.

In the first case Chris Gunness, UNRWA's chief spokesman, revealed that diplomats had been told by the Israeli authorities that Hamas was not operating from the school. And in the second, Mr Ban said that Israel's Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, had acknowledged a "grave mistake".

White phosphorus

White phosphorus – which can cause horrific injuries, and is heavily restricted in international law – is now widely accepted to have been used by Israel in this war at several locations.

Dating originally from the First World War, white phosphorus and its distinctive plumes of white smoke can legally be used to mark objectives, spread smoke for concealment or set fire to military targets, but not in civilian areas. Israel first denied using it at all, then claimed it was being used only in uninhabited areas, and then last week announced an investigation into its use.

A high school student Mahmoud al-Jamal, 18, was lucky to have been hit by phosphorus shelling during the third week of the war.

By the time he reached the care of Gaza City's Shifa hospital, unconscious and severely burned in his left arm, legs and chest, the head of the burns unit, Dr Nafez abu Shaban knew the only hope of saving him lay with surgery. Shifa had no experience of it before 27 December, but "by the last week of the war we knew that we had to get the patient to the operating room and excise all the burnt tissue".

Mahmoud was running from the heavy fighting between Hamas gunmen and Israeli forces in the southern Gaza city district of Tel Al Hawa when a shell dropped in front of him. "I could feel my whole body burning," he said. "I fell and asked someone next to me to help. But he was dead. Then I fainted."

Part of his body was still smouldering when he was being anaesthetised in theatre. "A piece extracted itself from his body and burned the anaesthetist on his chest," said Dr Shaban. Mahmoud will live; unconfirmed estimates are that dozens of others burned by phosphorus have not survived.

Dime bombs and other unusual weapons

While the vast majority of Palestinians were killed by conventional weapons, a Norwegian doctor, Erik Fosse, said injuries he had seen in Gaza were consistent with the use of Dime (dense inert metal explosive) bombs. "It was as if [patients] had stepped on a mine, but there was no shrapnel in the wounds," he said.

A UN convention, which Israel has signed, prohibits "the use of any weapon the primary effect of which is to injure by fragments which in the human body escape detection by X-rays". This could apply to Dime bombs, but by their nature it is extremely difficult to prove they have been used.

Amnesty International last week called on Israel to give details of weapons beside phosphorus it had used in Gaza, so that medics could better treat the injuries they inflict. Donatella Rovera of Amnesty, currently on a munitions fact-finding mission to Gaza, said doctors were encountering "new and unexplained injuries, including charred and sharply severed limbs" after air strikes.

The UK human rights agency also quoted Dr Subhi Skeik of Shifa hospital's surgery department as saying: "We have many cases of amputations and vascular reconstructions where patients would be expected to recover in the normal way. But to our surprise, many of them died an hour or two after operation. It is dramatic."

Dr Shaban of Shifa's burns unit said surgical colleagues had encountered bloodless amputations of limbs after attacks during the war, and that some Egyptian and Jordanian doctors with experience in Lebanon and Iraq had suggested that Dime bombs could be responsible. But both Amnesty and Human Rights Watch's weapons expert Mark Galasco, who is also in Gaza, are highly cautious about speculating on the possibility of Dime, not least because of the difficulty of finding provable traces of it.

Israel has always insisted that its weaponry – including controversial flechette darts, which have been used in Gaza before and have been found so far in two northern Gaza locations this time – is legal. There is no outright ban on Dime bombs, flechettes or even white phosphorus. It is the time and the manner in which they are used that can be illegal.

Targeting of civilians

Israel has continued to contrast what it says are its strenuous efforts to avoid civilian casualties with Hamas's undoubtedly deliberate targeting of civilians with Qassam rockets. There have, however, been several cases in which Palestinian civilians were hit while taking shelter. In other incidents, people in Gaza said they were fired on while seeking to flee to safety, in some cases waving white flags.

In the most widely publicised case, the UN says 80 members of the Samouni family were sheltering in a warehouse hit by missiles early on 5 January, killing 29. Several survivors said they had been ordered by the army to go there the previous day.

Meanwhile, Khaled Abed Rabbo said a single soldier shot three of his young daughters from a tank, killing two, as they obeyed orders to flee their home on the outer edge of Jabalya. He suggested it was a deliberate act, The army is investigating, but reaffirms that "the IDF does not target civilians".

Yesterday Mr Rabbo's mother Suad, 54, who was shot in the arm and abdomen at the same time, corroborated his account. She said she, her daughter and her seven-year-old granddaughter were all carrying white flags when they were shot. She did not see the soldier who fired, but insisted there were no Palestinian fighters in the vicinity.

Humanitarian aid

While basic humanitarian supplies, including medicine, continued to flow into Gaza from Israel during the war, the UN and other agencies complained more than once that there were severe problems in distributing food and other aid within Gaza because of continuing security problems.

These were compounded when a driver contracted by UNRWA was shot dead near the Erez crossing as he prepared to load food, ready for moving it south during a three-hour humanitarian pause.

There were also several complaints from the Red Cross and Israeli human rights agencies that medics and rescue services were prevented from reaching the wounded and dead. Four weak and terrified children from the Samouni family were finally found by the Red Cross, two days after the attack that killed 29 other family members.

After the ground attack started, one convoy, consisting of an ICRC truck and a Palestinian Ministry of Health truck, both carrying medical supplies for hospitals in southern Gaza, and 13 ambulances carrying intensive care patients to Egyptian hospitals, had to turn back after the ICRC driver was shot and injured near a military checkpoint in the centre of the strip.

Fuel shortages and power cuts continued to deprive about a million Gazans of electricity at any one time. Sewage and water supplies were badly hit, because pumps could not operate.


From Financial Times

Saudis call for US rethink on Arab-Israeli rift

Read here article by Roula Khalaf

A prominent member of the Saudi royal family is warning the Obama administration that failure to radically alter US attitudes towards the Arab-Israeli conflict would threaten the kingdom's "special relationship" with the US and could force Riyadh to abandon its own support for a peaceful resolution of the dispute.

In an article in today's Financial Times, Prince Turki al-Faisal, former Saudi intelligence chief and former ambassador to Washington, says that, if the US wants to continue playing a leadership role in the Middle East and maintain its strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil producer, it "will have to drastically revise its policies vis a vis Israel and Palestine".

Writing days after the end of Israel's three-week Gaza offensive, he says the Bush administration, which supported the onslaught, has left a "sickening legacy in the region".

And while Saudi Arabia has so far resisted Iranian calls to lead a "jihad" against Israel, "eventually the kingdom will not be able to prevent its citizens from joining the worldwide revolt against Israel".

The prince holds no official position in the Saudi government at this time but his views reflect the mounting frustrations within the al-Saud royal family, and the apparent need to exert immediate pressure on the Obama administration for a more even-handed Middle East policy.

President Barack Obama has signalled a readiness to work for peace between Arabs and Israelis and called Palestinian, Israeli, Jordanian and Egyptian leaders on his first day in office in an effort to help consolidate Gaza's fragile ceasefire.

Last week King Abdullah warned that the Arab peace initiative that he had sponsored in 2002 - offering Israel normal relations with the whole Arab world if it withdrew from all lands occupied in 1967 - was still on the table, but would not remain forever.

The statement came after weeks of turmoil in the Arab world as the images of Gaza fuelled widespread outrage, embarrassing Saudi Arabia and other states that have been committed to peace negotiations yet have little to show for their efforts.

The pressure intensified when Mahmoud AhmadiNejad, the Iranian president, wrote to King Abdullah, asking him to take action to end the Israeli offensive.

In his FT article, Prince Turki calls on Mr Obama to address the "disaster" in Gaza and its "causes" and condemn Israel's "atrocities" against Palestinians, not only Hamas's firing of rockets at Israel. He appeals to the president to "strongly promote" the Arab peace initiative.

The prince's article recalls the letters that King Abdullah, as crown prince, sent to George W. Bush in 2001, warning that the kingdom would review relations with the US unless the administration adopted a forceful push for Middle East peace.

The letters rang alarm bells in Washington but were soon overshadowed by the September 11 attacks, which were waged by a group of Saudis.

It was only after Riyadh launched its own campaign against terrorism two years later and started addressing the root causes of radicalism that ties with the US improved again.

President Obama Didn't Get It on Gaza

Read here article by Robert Fisk in Independent UK "So far, Obama's missed the point on Gaza..."

It would have helped if Obama had the courage to talk about what everyone in the Middle East was talking about. No, it wasn't the US withdrawal from Iraq. They knew about that.

They expected the beginning of the end of Guantanamo and the probable appointment of George Mitchell as a Middle East envoy was the least that was expected. Of course, Obama did refer to "slaughtered innocents", but these were not quite the "slaughtered innocents" the Arabs had in mind.

There was the phone call yesterday to Mahmoud Abbas.

Maybe Obama thinks he's the leader of the Palestinians, but as every Arab knows, except perhaps Mr Abbas, he is the leader of a ghost government, a near-corpse only kept alive with the blood transfusion of international support and the "full partnership" Obama has apparently offered him, whatever "full" means.

And it was no surprise to anyone that Obama also made the obligatory call to the Israelis.

But for the people of the Middle East, the absence of the word "Gaza" – indeed, the word "Israel" as well – was the dark shadow over Obama's inaugural address.

Didn't he care? Was he frightened?

Did Obama's young speech-writer not realise that talking about black rights – why a black man's father might not have been served in a restaurant 60 years ago – would concentrate Arab minds on the fate of a people who gained the vote only three years ago but were then punished because they voted for the wrong people?

It wasn't a question of the elephant in the china shop. It was the sheer amount of corpses heaped up on the floor of the china shop.

Sure, it's easy to be cynical. Arab rhetoric has something in common with Obama's clichés: "hard work and honesty, courage and fair play ... loyalty and patriotism".

But however much distance the new President put between himself and the vicious regime he was replacing, 9/11 still hung like a cloud over New York. We had to remember "the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke".

Indeed, for Arabs, the "our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred" was pure Bush; the one reference to "terror", the old Bush and Israeli fear word, was a worrying sign that the new White House still hasn't got the message.

Hence we had Obama, apparently talking about Islamist groups such as the Taliban who were "slaughtering innocents" but who "cannot outlast us". As for those in the speech who are corrupt and who "silence dissent", presumably intended to be the Iranian government, most Arabs would associate this habit with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt (who also, of course, received a phone call from Obama yesterday), King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and a host of other autocrats and head-choppers who are supposed to be America's friends in the Middle East.

Hanan Ashrawi got it right.

The changes in the Middle East – justice for the Palestinians, security for the Palestinians as well as for the Israelis, an end to the illegal building of settlements for Jews and Jews only on Arab land, an end to all violence, not just the Arab variety – had to be "immediate" she said, at once.

But if the gentle George Mitchell's appointment was meant to answer this demand, the inaugural speech, a real "B-minus" in the Middle East, did not.

The friendly message to Muslims, "a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect", simply did not address the pictures of the Gaza bloodbath at which the world has been staring in outrage.

Yes, the Arabs and many other Muslim nations, and, of course, most of the world, can rejoice that the awful Bush has gone. So, too, Guantanamo. But will Bush's torturers and Rumsfeld's torturers be punished? Or quietly promoted to a job where they don't have to use water and cloths, and listen to men screaming?

Sure, give the man a chance. Maybe George Mitchell will talk to Hamas – he's just the man to try – but what will the old failures such as Denis Ross have to say, and Rahm Emanuel and, indeed, Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton?

More a sermon than an Obama inaugural, even the Palestinians in Damascus spotted the absence of those two words: Palestine and Israel.

So hot to touch they were, and on a freezing Washington day, Obama wasn't even wearing gloves.


FROM ROBERT FISK: Read here for more

Robert Fisk (born 12 July 1946 in Maidstone, Kent) is an English journalist and author. He is the Middle East correspondent of the UK newspaper The Independent, has spent more than 30 years living in and reporting from the region, and won awards for his work. Read here for more on profile of Robert Fisk .

"...Here's reader Jack Hyde tipping me off about a possible (real) reason behind Israel's bloodletting in Gaza.

He encloses a paper by University of Ottawa economist Michel Chossudovsky who says that "the military intervention of the Gaza Strip by Israeli Forces bears a direct relation to the control and ownership of strategic offshore gas reserves".

It's not exactly The Plot. But it's something that Obama and his lads and lasses may need to study in the next few days.

For according to Chossudovsky, British Gas and its partner, the Athens-based Consolidated Contractors International Company – owned, apparently, by two Lebanese families – were granted 25-year oil and exploration rights off the Gaza coast by Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority in 1999. About 60 per cent of reserves along the Gaza-Israel coastline belong to "Palestine" (wherever that is these days).

But since the Hamas election victory in 2006 and its coup in Gaza in 2007, the Hamas government has been by-passed, even though poor old "President" Mahmoud Abbas, marooned in the West Bank, can only glimpse the Mediterranean from a hill near Jenin.

Many negotiations later – and after Israeli "defence" officials claimed that the Palestinians could be paid only in goods and chattels for their gas rather than cash which might go to the dreaded Hamas – there was a proposed agreement under which Palestinian gas from Gaza wells would be channelled via undersea pipelines to the Israeli port of Ashkelon, thus transferring the control of gas sales to Israel.

British Gas withdrew from these talks in December 2007.

But in June of 2008 – when, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz, Israel began its invasion plans for Gaza – Israel suddenly asked British Gas to resume talks. And, so says Chossudovsky, negotiations began again for the purchase of natural gas from the Gaza offshore fields.

Israeli tanks have now driven out of the Gaza Strip, but Israeli naval vessels still control the coast and there's an obvious question: if the Israelis can continue to violate international law by seizing Palestinian land in the West Bank, why cannot they seize the sovereignty of Palestinian gas fields off Gaza?

If Israel can annex Jerusalem, why not annex Gaza's maritime areas?