Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Friday, May 25, 2007
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
As of yesterday 27 soldiers and nearly 20 Palestinian fighters had been killed. At least 57 civilians have been wounded and some have been killed though the exact number remains unknown because of restrictions on who may enter the camp placed by the Lebanese army. Palestinian political leaders and refugee public opinion largely supports the Lebanese army, though growing civilian casualties may hinder this support. All the major Lebanese factions including Hizbu'llah have backed the army as well.
Fatah al-Islam is reportedly one of the Sunni extremist groups which have received funding since last year from the Lebanese government, headed by the dinosaur bureaucrat Fu'ad Siniora and backed by the oily Sa'ad al-Hariri, son of the corrupt former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. Where did these funds come from? Reportedly from an aid package sent to the Lebanese government by the U.S. in the hopes that if they supported Sunni groups they could chip away at the support of the Shi'i Lebanese party Hizbu'llah.
Sending money to Sunni radicals in the hopes that they will further one's political goals only to have it backfire on you...sounds familiar.
I encourage people to leave comments on my blog. However, I would ask that you leave them on the blog (there is a comment option at the bottom of each post) instead of "reply to the group" via e-mail. I would like to maintain a record of such comments and resulting discussions on the blog itself.
Friday, May 18, 2007
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
I am writing on behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) to express our dismay over the harassment and subsequent detention of Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Dr. Esfandiari was in Iran to visit her aging mother in December but was prevented from leaving the country and subsequently threatened, pressured, and repeatedly questioned by security authorities. Most recently, on May 8, 2007, she was arrested without charges and taken to Evin Prison.
The Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has more than 2700 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.
The confiscation of Dr. Esfandiari's travel documents and her subsequent harassment contravenes Iranian laws and Iran's international commitments which guarantee the right of entry and exit to Iranians and other nationals. Further, her detention violates the constitution of Iran, which explicitly protects the rights of individuals to freedom of thought, opinion, and speech (Article 23). The constitution also explicitly prohibits the exercise of punitive measures against individuals for the exercise of these guaranteed rights (Articles 2, 3). Further, your government's actions are in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Articles 18, 19, 21), to which the Islamic Republic of Iran is also a state party.
Harassment and detention of scholars is always cause for grave concern, but in this case it should be noted that the scholar in question is widely respected both for her knowledge and ability to provide clear and dispassionate analysis. Her treatment sends a chilling message to scholars throughout the world.
We feel it is urgent that you take steps immediately to explain the reasons for her sudden detention, grant her access to legal counsel and family members, and allow her to return to her family in the United States as quickly as possible.
cc: H.E. Dr. Mohammad Javad Zarif, Ambassador of Iran to the United Nations Embassy of Pakistan, Interests Section of the Islamic Republic of Iran Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Haleh Esfandiari [RIGHT], a dual Iranian-American national, was arrested in Tehran on May 8 and incarcerated in the Evin Prison. She traveled to Tehran in late December to visit her 93-year-old mother who was/is quite ill. On December 30, on her way to the airport to catch a flight back to Washington, the taxi in which Dr. Esfandiari was riding was stopped by three masked, knife-wielding men. They took away her baggage and handbag, including her Iranian and American passports.
Four days later, when applying for replacement Iranian travel documents at the passport office, Esfandiari was invited to an ‘interview’ by a man who, it turned out, represented Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence. This began a series of interrogations that stretched out over the next six weeks. These interrogations took place at two different locations, sometimes continuing for as many as four days a week, sometimes stretching across seven and eight hours in a single day. Although she went home every evening, the some 50 hours of questioning were unpleasant and not free from intimidation and threat. The questioning focused almost entirely on the activities and programs of the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center.
Esfandiari answered all questions fully; when she understandably could not remember details of programs stretching back five and even eight years, the staff at the Wilson Center provided her all the information requested. As a public organization, all Wilson Center activities are on the public record. In fact, the interrogators could have obtained virtually all the information they sought in a far less cumbersome way—by a few clicks on the Wilson Center website and through Wilson Center publications.
Repeatedly during the interrogation, Esfandiari was pressured to make a false confession or to falsely implicate the Wilson Center in activities in which it had no part. On February 20th, Lee Hamilton, president and director of the Wilson Center, wrote to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about her case, in order to call to his attention the dire situation in which Esfandiari had been placed by elements of the government of which the president may not have been aware. He pointed out the obvious: that the Wilson Center’s mission is to provide a forum for the exchange of views; that the Wilson Center does not take positions on issues; and that it does not try to influence or to determine specific policies or directions of the Iranian government or any government in the Middle East.
Hamilton also pointed out that there is no “agenda” behind Wilson Center programs on the Middle East, including Iran; that he would not allow it; nor would Esfandiari. He asked President Ahmadinejad to use his good offices to help send her home. This letter was transmitted to Tehran by the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations. President Ahmadinejad has yet to acknowledge or reply to it. Attempts to resolve this issue through various channels and without publicity were also not successful.
The lengthy interrogations stopped on February 14. Except for one threatening phone call on February 17, she has heard nothing from her interrogators for ten weeks. A few days ago, she was telephoned again. She was again invited to “cooperate.” In effect, she was being asked to make a confession. She refused to make the false statements apparently required of her.
On Monday, May 7th, she was summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence once again. When she arrived for her appointment on Tuesday morning, she was put into a car and taken to Evin prison. She was allowed only one phone call to her mother. Her family has not heard from her since. This needless harassment and unwarranted action has placed great strain on Esfandiari’s family. Her mother, at 93, is in frail health. She herself needs to see her doctors and has been prevented from doing so by the withholding of her passport and, much worse, incarceration in Evin prison. Despite numerous quiet and diplomatic efforts by many countries, organizations, and individuals ever since she was robbed of her passports December 30, 2006 and prevented from leaving Iran, she has been unable to obtain permission to leave Iran and join her husband Shaul Bakhash [RIGHT] and family in the United States.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
By Uzi Benziman
"If we conquer the Old City, when do we give it back and to whom?" asked Zalman Aran, then minister of education and culture. He posed the question during the cabinet meeting on Monday, June 5, 1967, at about 8 P.M., in the bomb shelter of the Knesset in Jerusalem. Interior minister Moshe Haim Shapira, shared Aran's questions and expressed, like his colleague, concerns about the diplomatic implications of the Israel Defense Forces' entry into the Old City. They thought it would be best for Israel not to hold onto East Jerusalem, but rather that it recommend that it have an international status for it. They were alone in this opinion. Most members of the cabinet were filled with a sense of a historic moment. They held a short deliberation (the Winograd Committee would have strongly chastised them for their decision-making process) and rallied behind the concluding statements of prime minister Levi Eshkol: The government will inform the IDF that it wishes for the Old City to be liberated, in response to the shelling of West Jerusalem by the Jordanian Legion; the decision of what will be done with the liberated territory will be made in the future.
The future arrived six days later: On June 11, the government decided to annex east Jerusalem. Again it was minister Zalman Aran who spoiled the party: He expressed concern that the world would force Israel to undo the unification of the city. "I remember [David] Ben-Gurion very well during Operation Kadesh [during the 1956 Suez Campaign] when he declared that we would not withdraw," Aran told his colleagues.
Police minister Eliyahu Sasson also warned that the Christian world would oppose the official declaration of annexation. Two ministers from Mapam, Israel Barzilai and Mordechai Bentov, joined those expressing reservations. Their arguments differed: They were not concerned about the world's reaction, but rather about the negative impact that the annexation would have on Israel's chances of achieving peace with the Arab states. The four ministers were in the minority.
The government assigned a special ministerial committee to formulate a proposal that would lead to the city's unification. On Tuesday, June 27, at about 7 P.M., the Knesset decided to annex east Jerusalem. The vast majority of MKs supported the bill, including Uri Avnery. Only the MKs of the Communist parties, Rakah and Maki, voted against it. Forty years later, it is appropriate to recall that decision and try to learn some lessons.
There is no doubt that when the Israeli leadership decided to unify Jerusalem it had good cause to believe that it was doing the right thing. The diplomatic and security-related conditions (the defeat of the Arab states and the international recognition that the Six-Day War was justified), the overall atmosphere in Israel (the sense that we had been saved from an existential threat and of sweet revenge for the arbitrary aggression of the Arab states), and the political situation (complete accord) offered the appropriate setting.
There is also no doubt that the country invested a great deal of its resources, physical and intellectual, to bring about the success of this endeavor: It redrew the city map to bolster its hold over it, it confiscated large tracks of land to strengthen Jewish presence there, it allocated human resources and much funding to develop it and to guarantee the security of its residents. It placed Jerusalem at the top of its priorities.
Nonetheless, the results speak for themselves: Jerusalem 2007 is a city whose residents are leaving it, where the number of Arabs living within its city limits has consistently risen and alters the demographic balance in the city to their favor, at a time in which most of the states of the world do not recognize Israel's sovereignty over it.
The process of annexation did not result in genuine unification of the city: Jews avoid entering the eastern part of the city and their access to it mostly revolves around visits to the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter. From an urban and an architectural point of view as well (including the environs of the Western Wall), the annexation is not a success story.
The conclusion: However banal it may be, the facts of reality are more powerful than the excitement of the heart. The justification that the State of Israel had for annexing East Jerusalem in 1967 could overcome the determination of the Arabs of the city to hold on to it. The Jewish claim over all of Jerusalem is unable to destroy the claim of the Muslim world to the city. In the world of 2007 there is no alternative but to recognize this. In June 1967, only a handful of ministers recognized this, and they were considered defeatists.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
A Palestinian youth walks by a burning vehicle during clashes between Fatah and HAMAS gunmen in the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian people deserve a better political leadership.
1. an act or instance of deluding.
2. the state of being deluded.
3. a false belief or opinion: delusions of grandeur.
4. Psychiatry. a fixed false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact: a paranoid delusion.
Monday, May 14, 2007
http://www.librarything.com/...Allows you to design a library-style catalog of your personal library, which can be used in a variety of ways including creating a widget for use on a blog or another type of Internet site...For an example of how the widget looks, go to my blog site directly: http://occident.blogspot.com
Sunday, May 13, 2007
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service
The EU & USA may not realise it but denying the Jewish people`s right to Jerusalem as their eternal capitol is denying the Jewish people`s right to their religion & beliefs & hence dare I say it : pure anti-semitism. [What a jump...Anti-semitism? Having been called an anti-Semite recently, I can say this about this "argument", bollocks mate. As a matter of correcting one of the inaccuracies here, the boycott is not due to a "denial" of the Jewish people's right to Jerusalem. Certainly the Jewish people have a connection to this city, and I have long criticized those who say otherwise. However, if we use the "facts on the ground" analogy, the city has also become central to Muslims and Christians. If radicals on one side or the other want to convince 4 billion people otherwise, feel free and Godspeed.]
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Was planting Al Aqsa on The Holy of Holies a moral deed? NO!
Zvi-Hersch (Los Angeles, California)
From: Ha'aretz comment board to article
Your premise is wrong [about the West Bank being Palestinian.] Therefore, your argument is moot...Worthless.....Except to those who refuse to accept the fact that G-d gave the land, INCLUDING Samaria, to His people, Israel, ETERNALLY! If you refuse to accept or to like this fact, then go argue with G-d!This disgusting mosque was imposed upon the Jewish `Holy of Holies` which was bought and paid in full for, by King Solomon! The self-righteous muslims think that since it exists it is their right to keep it. Their perpetuating the defilement of this Holy place with their unlistened to worship and paganizing idolatry of their Mohammed, their so called prophet, who was a self-serving charlatan that twisted the essence of the Torah, only to deprecate it, and a murderer to boot, and one who made murder & living by the sword `holy`, who raped his sister & had a perverse proclivity for little girls, should be removed!Such is the destiny of the unholy!The Holy of Holies` is the land of the Jews, & their worship IS holy!
Shaykh Ahmad Bahr from HAMAS at a Friday sermon in Sudan:
Oh God, vanquish the Jews and their supporters. Oh God, vanquish...their supporters. Oh God, count their numbers, and kill them all, down to the very last one. Oh God, show them a day of darkness. Oh God, who sent down His Book, the mover of the clouds, who defeated the enemies of the Prophet – defeat the Jews...and bring us victory over them.
Masnavi, Book I, lines 599-607 (Jalal ud-Din Rumi, 13th century Sufi mystic and poet) :
We are as the flute, and the music in us is from thee [God]; we are as the mountain and the echo in us is from thee. We are as pieces of chess engaged in victory and defeat: our victory and defeat is from thee, O thou whose qualities are comely! Who are we, O Thou soul of our souls, that we should remain in being beside thee? We and our existences are really non-existence; thou art the absolute Being which manifests the perishable. We all are lions, but lions on a banner: because of the wind they are rushing onward from moment to moment. Their onward rush is visible, and the wind is unseen: may that which is unseen not fail from us! Our wind whereby we are moved and our being are of thy gift; our whole existence is from thy bringing into being.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Apparently the inept Palestinian political leadership, whom I have criticized numerous times for years both in print and on Occident (and certainly will continue to), aren't the only ones who are not interested in a lasting peace agreement.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
The Islamic Courts Union, which took over most of the country last year, was ousted during the winter of 2006 when the Ethiopian army invaded to aid the former Somalian government with the support and backing of the U.S. An insurgency (possibly in its "last throes" a la Rumsfeld) broke out fairly quickly and appears to involve both the Islamic Courts Union and (separately) the large Somalian Hawiye clan, the largest in and around the country's capital city of Mogadishu, unhappy with the continued Ethiopian occupation. Since the "stabilization" of the situation in Somalia by foreign forces over 1,000 civilians have been killed in battles between paramilitaries and the Ethiopian army and their Somalian allies.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Archaeologists from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem believe that they may have found the burial site of King Herod the Great who ruled Judaea as a Roman client from 74 to 4 B.C.E. Excavations at Herodium, a lavish palace complex Herod built for himself in the present-day Palestinian West Bank.
Saturday, May 05, 2007
I've decided to occasionally publish book reviews that I've written for various journals/publications on "Occident." This serves as the inaugural such post.
Originally Published in: The Muslim World Book Review (Volume 27, Issue 3; Spring 2007)Even after being driven from its open bases in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in late 2001, al-Qa‘ida has remained a potent force in global affairs. The organization headed nominally by exiled Saudi Osama bin Laden and beholden to the ideological outlook of Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahri saw its stock rise after the U.S. and British-led March 2003 toppling of Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein with the rise of an ultra-violent, loosely-connected branch headed by the Jordanian Abu Mus‘ab al-Zarqawi until his death in a June 2006 U.S. air strike. Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor in chief of the influential London-based Arabic language daily al-Quds al-Arabi, joins the ranks of fellow journalists Jason Burke and Peter Bergen in filling in the gaps for Western readers that no serious, book-length scholarly study has addressed.
Atwan, who in 1996 met and interviewed bin Laden and several top al-Qa‘ida leaders including then-military chief Muhammad ‘Atef (killed in 2001), is uniquely placed to offer an glimpse into not only the original organization’s militant and terrorist activities but also its sophisticated multimedia PR and propaganda campaign. His newspaper was long al-Qa‘ida’s primary outlet for releasing its statements and communiqués including the 1998 fatwa signed by bin Laden, al-Zawahri, and several radical Pakistani Sunni religious leaders declaring a global war against “crusaders and Jews.” Although some of his observations, such as the high level of education of many of the organization’s members and supporters, Atwan provides new, valuable analysis of al-Qa‘ida’s media saavy and the strategy and inner workings of its ultra-violent offshoots in Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
As any al-Qa‘ida observer already knows the organization’s operatives make careful use of the Internet to post statements, videos, military instruction manuals, and ideological treatises. Dubbed the “cyber jihad” by some al-Qa‘ida members, this utilization of technology has greatly enhanced the organization’s capabilities to attract new members and deliver political points to foreign, primarily Western European and U.S. audiences. Atwan provides perhaps the most sophisticated, detailed overview of al-Qa‘ida uses the Internet while evading law enforcement and engaging in cyber warfare with its rivals, including independent Western hackers.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
These scholars left behind a rich legacy. Greek philosophical tracts from Aristotle and Plato were translated into Arabic as were ancient Persian and Indian "wisdom literature" texts.
'Abbasid scholars also made significant advances in mathematics, building upon earlier work by Indian, Iranian, and other Asian scholars. Parts of modern algebra, decimal fractions, exponents, and the numeral system are part of this rich legacy of scholarship.
Arab scientists developed a theory that illnesses were caused by small organisms and not by curses or bad omens as was believed in Europe at that time. Mental illness was treated as a disorder and not as possession.
'Abbasid Herbal Pharmaecology Text
'Abbasid Anatomy Texts
Sophocles (left) pictured in an Arabic Translation Text
Aristotle pictured in an Arabic Translation Text
An EXCELLENT source for further readings on the subjects described above: http://www.al-bab.com/arab/science.htm
Islamic Sciences and the Making of the European Renaissance (Georges Saliba)
The Legacy of Islam: 2nd Edition (C.E. Bosworth; Joseph Schacht)
1. an act or instance of deluding.
2. the state of being deluded.
3. a false belief or opinion: delusions of grandeur.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
This summer, courtesy of "The Man," who is better known as the National Security Education Program of the U.S. Department of State, is allowing me to take an all-expenses paid scholarship trip to Yemen in order to continue my Arabic language studies. I have provided some links below for those who are interested in learning about this country, one of the Arab world's (and the world's) most culturally diverse and rich societies.
What the CIA says (of course they were wrong about Iraq): https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ym.html
Al-Bab.com: An Open Portal to the Arab World site: