Monday, March 31, 2008

Powerful Public Service Spot Against Sectarian Violence in Iraq, al-'Arabiyya TV

"Are you Sunni or Shi'i?",

THE QUESTION ASKED BY TERRORISTS BEFORE THEY KILL

A clip denouncing Sunni-Shiite Terrorism in Iraq, aired on Al-'Arabiyya TV(Dubai/Saudi Arabia)

WATCH THIS CLIP: Http://occident.blogspot.com

Friday, March 28, 2008

الصدريون vs. المجلس الا على الاسلامي العراقي: 'Defining' Battle in Basra, Iraq, is Intra-Shi'i Battle

My initial suspicion has been that the current military offensive by the Iraqi government in the southern port city of Basra is not really about reasserting central government control. Rather, the purpose of the current offensive, I would argue, is to forcibly shift the balance of power in the city away from the local branch of the Sadr Movement of young firebrand Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr [above], commonly known as Sadrists (الصدريون), and toward the largest Shi'i Arab party in the country, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (المجلس الا على الاسلامي العراقي) headed by mid-ranking cleric Sayyid 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Hakim (below, right), a key player in the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (below, left).The SIIC's armed paramilitary force, the Badr Corps (or Badr Brigades) [BELOW], which is estimated to include 10-20,000 members, dominates the Iraqi security forces and military. According to some media reports, the security forces which are currently battling al-Sadr's Mahdi Army in the streets of Basra are made up primarily of SIIC militiamen. The SIIC and Sadr Movement, of which the Mahdi Army is its militia, have competed for power in post-Saddam Iraq since March 2003 when Baghdad fell to invading U.S. forces. Presently, the Sadrists' star seems to have been rising as it's popularity grows in the south, even in traditional strongholds of the SIIC and other Shi'i parties, such as the Fadhila (Virtue) Party in Basra. Estimates of the full membership of the Mahdi Army during times of crisis (such as now) run as high as 60,000. The Sadr Movement has 32 representatives in the Iraqi parliament, one of the largest single-party political blocs in the representative body. If a fair and free election was held today, many analysts (including University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole) believe that there is strong evidence that the Sadrists would sweep into power. Prime Minister al-Maliki, a member of the Islamic Call (or Invitation) Party (حزب الدعوة الإسلامية), is closely allied with the SIIC and its leader, al-Hakim.
Iranian-trained Badr Corps fighters

Although he has relied on the Sadrists for political support in the past (he depended on their support to become prime minister in the first place), it seems that al-Maliki is willing to risk their support in the future in order to appease al-Hakim and the Bush administration. The central government's escalation in Basra comes at a strange time since al-Sadr recently renewed a 6-month ceasefire in which he called for his followers to not engage in fighting or violence. These two ceasefires are seen by many informed analysts to be one of the main reasons for the success of the so-called U.S. "surge" heralded by Republican Presidential nominee John McCain. The other main reason was the alienation of large parts of the Iraqi Sunni Arab communities by foreign militant groups.

Al-Sadr supporters rally in the Shi'i holy city of Najaf to protest the government offensive in Basra. Government and SIIC forces are reportedly facing tough resistance from Mahdi Army fighters. SIIC officials in Basra are said to have fled several days ago to avoid reprisals from the al-Sadr's supporters. Al-Maliki maintains that the current offensive is aimed at "militias" in Basra. However, the only paramilitary organization which seems to have come under attack is the Mahdi Army, though the Badr Corps and Fadhila Party militia are also present in the city.

Mosques controlled or loyal to al-Sadr serve as rallying points for his supporters. Muqtada draws a significant base of his support from the Shi'i Arab lower classes and youth throughout the Sadr City area of Baghdad and in cities in southern Iraq such as Basra and Kufa. He comes from an illustrious family which included his father, Grand Ayatullah Sayyid Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, and his uncle, Grand Ayatullah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr. Sadiq al-Sadr and Muqtada's two older brothers were murdered by Ba'thist agents in 1999. Baqir al-Sadr was tortured and executed with his sister, Bint al-Huda, in 1980.

Ironically, the SIIC, formerly the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, has the closest political and economic ties to Iran, despite U.S. rightwing and government nonsense about the Sadrists being Iranian agents. The SIIC was even founded in Iran (by Iraqi Arab exiles) with the support of then Iranian "supreme leader" Ayatullah Sayyid Ruhullah Khumayni. The Badr Corps was trained and for a time led by officers in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, with which the SIIC still probably maintains a close relationship. The Badr Corps fought on the Iranian side during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s and was based in Iraqi Kurdistan. Its fighters also participated, belatedly, in the 1991 uprising called for by U.S. President George Bush I, who then stood idly by as hundreds of thousands of Kurds and Shi'i Arabs were slaughtered by Saddam's security forces.

SIIC chief 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Hakim [right] meets with Iranian supreme leader Sayyid 'Ali Khamenei in Tehran.

The following interview with a Mahdi Army commander in the British newspaper the Guardian seems to confirm my original suspicions.

We're fighting for survival, says Mahdi army commander

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad (March 28, 2008)

A senior commander in the Mahdi army said today the militia was fighting a battle for survival in Basra against a rival Shia faction seeking to obliterate it ahead of September elections. Fighting broke out in Basra on Tuesday when Iraqi government forces launched an offensive against Shia militia in the city. Overnight, US jets carried out air strikes in support of Iraqi forces in at least two locations.

Shiek Ali al-Sauidi, a prominent member of the Moqtada al-Sadr-led movement in Basra, said his men were being targeted not by the Iraqi government but by government militias loyal to the rival Supreme Islamic Council faction.
"They are a executing a very well drawn plan. They are trying to exterminate the Sadrists and cut and isolate the movement before the September local elections," he said in a telephone interview with the Guardian.

"The Sadrists are the only Shia resistance movement against the occupiers and we have wide popularity. We are going through a battle of existence we will fight to the end. We either survive this or we are finished."

The fighting has spread to Baghdad and other cities in Iraq, claiming the lives of at least 200 people since Tuesday. In the capital, a US helicopter fired a missile into the Sadr City district, while rocket and mortar attacks killed two guards outside the Iraqi vice president's office, inside the Green Zone. Reuters reported that in Nassiriya, Mahdi army fighters loyal to Sadr had taken over the city centre.

Sauidi said the Mahdi army was well equipped for the fight ahead. "We have captured lots of their vehicles, machine guns and mortars. We have new RPGs we got from their supply trucks. Our fighters know how to use the side streets as their battle space."
As fighting between the Shia Mahdi army and Shia Iraqi soldiers continued, witnesses described the scenes in Basra.

A resident of the poor neighbourhood of Hayaniya said: "The situation is very difficult in Basra, all the side streets are controlled by the Mahdi army. Even if the army has lots of tanks, the Mahdi fighters are controlling the streets. The fighters are driving in captured Iraqi Humvees and waving new guns."

Said Abu Saleh, 30, said: "Yesterday we were in the street and saw a black car coming. They stopped and two men opened the trunk. They dragged out an Iraqi soldier and threw him in the street and they drove away. He was a young soldier dressed in a military uniform, he had a bullet hole in his head and there was blood on his face. Even his boots were covered with blood. We found his ID card, his name was Ahmad Raad el Helfy. We went through his mobile phone and found a number marked 'mum', we dialed and an old women answered. I told her that her son had died and that she was a mother of martyr she started screaming and wailing."
Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, today extended his deadline for Shia militants to hand over their weapons by more than a week and offered cash to those who complied. "All those who have heavy and intermediate weapons are to deliver them to security sites and they will be rewarded financially. This will start from March 28 to April 8," he said.
Sadr, who helped Maliki to power after an election in 2005 but later broke away from him, has called for talks with the government. Maliki has vowed to battle what he calls criminal gangs in Basra "to the end".
The fighting is a test of Maliki's ability to prove Iraqi forces can stand on their own and allow US and UK forces to withdraw. British combat troops – who last year handed over responsibility for security in Basra province to Iraqis – have remained in their base at Basra airport during the upsurge in violence.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Chief Rabbi of Safed Urges Violent Retaliation against Palestinian Civilians; Says Settler Yeshiva Attacker's Children Should Be 'Hung from a Tree'

Safed chief rabbi calls on state to exact 'revenge' against Arabs
By Nadav Shragai, Jack Khoury, and Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondents
March 26, 2008
The chief rabbi of Safed, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, is calling on the government to carry out "state-sanctioned revenge" against Arabs in order to, in his words, restore Israel's deterrence. The Musawa Center for Arab Rights in Israel said it planned to urge the Attorney General to censure Eliyahu over the comments and punish him "at the fullest severity of the law."
In a piece penned for this upcoming weekend's edition of the newsletter "Eretz Yisrael Shelanu," Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu wrote: "It's time to call the child by its name: Revenge, revenge, revenge. We mustn't forget. We have to take horrible revenge for the terrorist attack at Mercaz Harav yeshiva," referring to the incident in which eight students were killed earlier this month. "I'm not talking about individual people in particular, I'm talking about the state," Eliyahu wrote. "[The state] has to pain them to the point where they scream 'Enough,' to the point where they fall flat on their face and scream 'help.' Not for the sake of satisfying the need for revenge but for the purposes of deterrence." In the newsletter, which was distributed to synagogues around the country, Eliyahu proposes "hanging the children of the terrorist who carried out the attack in the Mercaz Harav yeshiva from a tree."
"Two weeks have passed since the attack and we haven't heard of any retaliatory operations by Israel," the Safed chief rabbi wrote. "Something is amiss among the decision makers at the top. At one time, this was a basic component of Israel's policy. Every operation by the 'fedayeen' - the prior name used to describe terrorists - would bring a painful response. Today, they have forgotten the meaning of 'deterrence force'. The IDF's capacity for deterrence is gone."
The rabbi added that he "already sees all the bleeding hearts clicking their tongues, moving uncomfortably in their chairs, contorting their faces at this display of 'depravity' and beginning to spout their slogans. 'Barbaric.' 'Amoral.' 'Inciter' and the rest of the usual words that are frequently blurted out from their mouths. Don't pay them any mind. With their way of doing things, there won't be a state here in another 30 years. They've already taken the trouble to arrange foreign passports for their children. We'll stay here. We need to live with those who understand very well the language of revenge."
Activists at Musawa pointed to prior statements in which the rabbi made statements which were viewed as problematic by the Arab community."This isn't the first time the rabbi from Safed incites against Arabs," a Musawa spokesperson said. "In 2004, Eliyahu gave a radio interview in which he called on homeowners neither to rent out their homes nor sell their homes to Arabs."
The activist also accused the attorney general of being too selective in enforcing laws against expressions of racism and incitement. "Whenever Mazuz receives a complaint about an instance of incitement and racism, he defends the freedom of expression for the Jewish inciters while, on the other hand, hands down an indictment against [the head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement] Sheikh Ra'ad Salah," the activist said. "Calls to torture and take revenge against Arabs are incitement to racism and violence, and we expect the justice system to act and crack down on the phenomena that lead to violence."
The head of Young Meretz, Uri Zachi, urged Mazuz to investigate the rabbi and to prohibit the disseminating of the newsletter "Eretz Yisrael Shelanu." Officials in the Reform Movement also issued harsh condemnations in response to Eliyahu's statements. "Jewish history is rife with extremists whose fanaticism brought disasters upon the nation while sullying its moral character," Rabbi Gilad Kariv said. "It would be best if the concept of revenge, as opposed to the concept of deterrence, would be a foreign one to the state of Israel as a democratic state of law and as the state of the Jewish people. Rabbi Eliyahu's comments are further proof of the attorney general's serious error in deciding to retract an indictment against Rabbi Eliyahu for incitement to racism in exchange for a shady apology."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Little Iraqi Imitates Religious Ritual (Cute...Yes, I said 'cute.')



A little Iraqi boy imitates what he's probably seen, mat'am, ritual beating of the chest performed by many Twelver Shi'i Muslims as part of the mourning rituals associated with 'Ashura, the commemoration of the martyrdom of their third religious leader or imam, Husayn bin 'Ali, in 680 C.E. This is a very heartwarming, cute video clip which shows that little children will imitate what they see.

Go to http://occident.blogspot.com/ to view the clip.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

In Memoriam: Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, Chaldean Church Leader & Iraqi (1942-2008)

Paulos Faraj Rahho (بولس فرج رحو), the late Chaldean Catholic archbishop of the Iraqi city of Mosul, a longtime insurgent stronghold, was kidnapped on February 29 minutes after he finished leading prayers in the al-Safina Church, popularly known as the Church of the Holy Spirit. Three of his aides were killed in cold blood during the abduction. Church officials say that after being shoved into the trunk of his attackers' car, Rahho called them on his cell phone and instructed them not to pay a ransom for his release because he suspected (probably correctly) that the money would be used to fund more violence. The archbishop's body was found in a shallow grave on March 13. Reports indicate that his body bore no bullet wounds and it is unknown whether he was murdered or died of natural causes. In any case, his abduction was the catalyst for his death and his kidnapper's bear responsibility. They should be found, arrested, and severely punished for their crimes.

There are an estimated 550,000 Chaldean Christians in Iraq whose church is autonomous from the Vatican but recognizes the authority of the Roman Church's pope. Chaldeans make up the largest group of Iraq's estimated 700,000 Christians. The head of the Chaldean Church (patriarch) is Emmanuel III Delly, who is also a cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, much like his Lebanese counterpart, the Patriarch of the Maronite Church, Nasrallah Sfeir. As I have posted previously, Iraqi Christians and other religious minorities (such as the Yazidis and Turcomans) are the country's most persecuted populations as they face pressure and violence from both Sunni and Shi'i Arab militias and paramilitary or militant groups.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Marines Investigate Video Showing Member Throwing a Puppy Onto Rocks in Iraq


A video has swept across the globe via YouTube and other Internet video-sharing sites which appears to show a U.S. Marine (allegedly one David Motari: http://www.mahalo.com/David_Motari) throwing a stray puppy off a steep hill onto the rocks below while in Iraq. Beware: the video is disturbing. It's also interesting (and disturbing but not surprising) to note that the American public's reaction to this video seems to be much stronger and empathetic than to the TENS OF THOUSANDS of Iraqi CIVILIANS who have been killed since the poorly-planned and executed U.S./British/"Coalition" invasion and occupation of Iraq.




Winning the hearts and minds of Iraqi children by U.S. forces (Go to: http://occident.blogspot.com/ to view clips):



"Joking" with a hand grenade





Cultural ambassadors (Soldiers teach kids how to say "fuck Iraq.")





U.S. soldiers ask Iraqi kids if they "fuck donkeys." More winning of hearts and minds.....

Note: There are plenty more videos like this available on the Internet. Although certainly not representative of all U.S. soldiers, they disprove the juvenile/idiot-nationalist claim that all U.S. soldiers are moral, decent individuals. As with all groups of people, some of them are simply pricks. With two grandfathers who served in the U.S. Army and Navy respectively, the individuals in these videos are a shame to the U.S., the U.S. military, and all Americans.
As always, one can rely on our fearless and allegedly biased media to report all aspects of the occupation (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMq-PifqDw8), including the abuses, right? Mmmmmm.....maybe not. U.S. Marine David Motari, (alleged) prick.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Debating Devolution in Iraq (MERIP)

From: The Middle East Research and Information Project (March 10, 2008)

(Reidar Visser is a research fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs and editor of the Iraq website www.historiae.org.)

In early August 2007, Jalal al-Din al-Saghir, a Shi‘i preacher affiliated with the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, made headlines with striking comments to a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor. The cleric revealed in an interview with Sam Dagher that “a massive operation” was underway to secure the establishment of a Shi‘i super-province in Iraq, to be named the “South of Baghdad Region,” and projected to encompass all nine majority-Shi‘i governorates south of the Iraqi capital. Saghir claimed that his party had already drafted detailed plans for how such a super-province would be governed -- plans of such importance to Iraq and the region that there was “no room for misadventures.”[1] While Saghir did not mention a timeline for this remarkable undertaking, other Supreme Council supporters of the idea were less reticent: “The Shiite federal region will be announced in April 2008,” wrote one enthusiastic proponent.[2]

The date was not chosen at random. April 2008 is the month when the law for implementing federalism -- adopted by the Iraqi parliament in October 2006 -- comes into effect. For the first time in Iraqi history, areas of the country that desire a special federal status similar to that already enjoyed by Kurdistan may initiate a procedure for transforming themselves from ordinary governorates into “federal regions,” potentially acquiring such privileges as the right to establish local paramilitary forces and the right to negotiate local deals with foreign oil companies. In order to obtain the rank of federal region, a governorate must hold a referendum in which no less than 50 percent of the electorate votes and a simple majority votes yes. If multiple governorates wish to band together in one federal region, the proposition must pass such a referendum in each province tagged for inclusion. (Only the Baghdad province is prohibited from forming part of a greater federal region.) If one targeted governorate says no, the federal project founders.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

For additional background, see www.historiae.org and Reidar Visser, “Basra: Reluctant Seat of ‘Shiastan,’” in Middle East Report 242 (Spring 2007).

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Yesha Chief Rabbi Issues Halakhic Ruling Forbidding Renting Houses to or Employing Arabs; Supports Retaliation Against Civilians

Top Yesha rabbi says Jewish law forbids renting houses to Arabs
By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz Correspondent (March 20, 2008)

The chairman of the Yesha rabbinical council and chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba, Rabbi Dov Lior, on Wednesday issued a halakhic ruling stating that it is forbidden by Jewish law to employ Arabs or rent homes to them. In an interview published by "Eretz Israel Shelanu" (Our Land of Israel), to be distributed this Saturday in various synagogues, Lior said that "since this is a matter of endangering souls, it is clear that it is completely forbidden to employ them and rent houses to them in Israel. Their employment is forbidden not only at yeshivas, but at factories, hotels and everywhere."

In the interview, Rabbi Lior backed the decision made by the administration of the Mercaz Harav yeshiva [a settler movement institution] in Jerusalem to prevent Prime Minister Ehud Olmert from visiting the school after an Israeli Arab terrorist killed eight students there two weeks ago. "How can you welcome a man who acts against our holy Torah and continues to lead the people of Israel toward great danger?" Lior said. "They were right in refusing to welcome such a personality in the yeshiva's halls," he added.

Rabbi Lior criticized the rabbis who didn't obey Rabbi Abraham Shapira, who instructed Jewish soldiers to refuse orders during the 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. "If the public had ignored the so-called "rabbis" who came out against these instructions, we may very well have spared the great pain [of the disengagement] from the people of Israel," he said. Recently, several rabbis led by Rabbi Lior have issued a precedent setting halakhic ruling that Israel must shoot civilian populations in areas from whence attacks on Jewish communities originate. Attorney Einat Horvitz from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism said in response to the interview that "we view with great concern the wave of calls against Arabs since the terrible terror attack. This is an ever growing phenomenon of racist incitement that distorts Judaism and is also illegal. We call upon the attorney general to shake off his apathy and take action to enforce the laws that prohibit these calls."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Slain PIJ Leader's Son Says Many Palestinians are Becoming Shi'is

Slain Palestinian operative's son: My entire family has turned Hezbollah
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent



Instead of a Britney Spears ring tone, Shehadeh Shehadeh's cell phone emits a recording of a speech by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. "Our entire family has turned Shi'ite," he boasts.Last week, Israeli security forces operating in the West Bank town of Bethlehem killed his father, Mohammed Shehadeh, who was a senior commander in Islamic Jihad. "My father decided to become a Shi'ite after he was deported to Marj Al-Juhur in Lebanon in 1992," the son recounted. "He met there with all sorts of Shi'ite people and he saw that the oppression the Shi'ites have had to endure is very much like the oppression that the Palestinians have suffered."

According to the 19-year-old Shehadeh, his father eventually came to "respect the Shi'ite commentary on the Qur'an." He equates his father's actions with those of Imam Hussein, whom Shi'ites believe to be Prophet Muhammed's true follower. "My father decided not to surrender and chose a martyr's death, just like Imam Hussein, who fought at Karbala," he said, referring to the 680 C.E. clash in what is now Iraq, which proved to be one of the most significant battles in Muslim history. In it, Hussein ibn Ali, Muhammed's grandson and one of the founding fathers of the Shi'ite sect, was slain by Yazid I, the Umayyad caliph.

Sitting in his house in Bethlehem's Wadi Maali neighborhood, the young man entertained a group of friends, all devout Muslims filled with extremist zeal. They were there to mourn his father's loss with him. The son is outspoken about his disdain for Israelis. "The Jews killed the prophets," he reiterated several times in his conversation with Haaretz. "Some Jews are all right and my father valued them, like Neturei Karta," he conceded, referring to a fringe ultra-Orthodox sect that is rabidly anti-Zionist. "But most Jews are the enemy. Even in your soccer matches, you scream that you want war," he added, prompting knowing nods from his friends. [See: "Soccer Fandom and Citizenship in Israel" by Tamir Sorek in Middle East Report 245, Winter 2007, for more on Mizrahi (Arab/Iranian/Berber/Kurdish or "Eastern" Jews) Israeli bigotry as exhibited through soccer rivalries.]

They are all dressed like Israeli youths their age. Yet throughout the eight years of the intifada, they have not seen a single Jewish Israeli. The Jewish neighborhood of Har Homa in East Jerusalem, just a few kilometers away across the separation fence, might as well be on another planet. The son said that his father was not a member of Hezbollah, but did identify with the organization. He did not deny that his family received a telephone call from Nasrallah's office in which Hezbollah offered it financial assistance.
One of Shehadeh's friends said that many Palestinian opinion leaders are now joining the ranks of the Shi'a. He named 'Isa Batat, one of the Islamic Jihad's senior commanders in the Bethlehem area, who is serving a sentence inside an Israeli prison, and Muhammed Kawamleh, a Jihad member who is still wanted by Israel's security services. Turning to the political implications of his father's assassination, Shehadeh Shehadeh said: "What have you achieved by killing my father? You made a mockery, as always, of the Palestinian Authority."


Muhammed Shehadeh, 45, was a former member of Fatah who later became a senior officer in the Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad. He was killed last Wednesday night along with 'Imad al-Kamel, 'Isa Marzouk and Ahmad al-Balboul, also from Bethlehem. They were ambushed in one of the town's suburbs by Israeli troops dressed in civilian clothes and driving a civilian car. The Israeli raid came at a delicate time for the PA and its president, Mahmoud 'Abbas of Fatah. Egyptian mediators were trying to broker a truce that would calm the hostilities between Israel and Hamas in and around Gaza, a truce that Abbas had called for after violence spiraled there earlier this month.


"Our prime minister, Salam Fayyad, went to meet your Defense Minister Ehud Barak. And whom did they send? Amos Gilad [a lower-level official]. Barak won't even see Fayyad," the younger Shehadeh said, referring to last week's meeting of a trilateral monitoring committee on the peace process. "So you killed one Mohammed Shehadeh. But as former Hezbollah leader 'Abbas Mussawi said, each time a drop of blood falls to the ground from the body of a shahid [martyr], God knows how to use that drop. Now all of Bethlehem will become Muhammed Shehadeh."


Outside the Shehadeh household, pessimism, frustration and desperation are everywhere. It seems that the people of this relatively peaceful West Bank city have given up all hope of seeing results from the attempt to revive the peace process that the United States, Israel and the PA began at last year's Annapolis Summit. They view the process as dying rapidly, making way for another round of violence with Israel.


Shehadeh's funeral, which he shared with the other three assassinated militants, was one of the largest the city has seen in recent years. Palestinian security forces estimate that it was attended by no less of 250,000 people. "Me and my friends, we led this current intifada," said Abu Dib, who is serving in one of the PA security forces and says he is wanted by Israel for his role in the violence. "We are tired already. But these boys, they were 10 years old when the clashes began. Now they're 18, and they know nothing but war and violence with Israel." Abu Dib speaks of "a whole new generation that grew up in the territories" and is more violent and radical. "They will be the ones who will lead the next confrontation," he predicted.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Dearborn, MI Wal-Mart Caters to Arab-AMERICAN Customers


Wal-Mart Tweaks Store for Arab-Americans
By JEFF KAROUB, Associated Press

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — Faten Saad knew she wasn't in a typical Wal-Mart when she saw an end-of-the-aisle display featuring Mamool. Boxes of the date-filled, whole wheat cookie from the Middle East welcomed the 21-year-old Lebanon native into the international aisle of the new Wal-Mart store in this Detroit suburb known as the capital of Arab America. Aisle 3, which also features Eastern European and Hispanic food, represents many of the 550 items geared toward Arab-American shoppers in the store that opened last week.

It might be statistically tiny in a store with more than 150,000 items, but it's symbolically huge for the world's largest retailer as it seeks to change from a cost-is-everything monolith to one that customizes its stores to meet neighborhood needs.

Managers say they seek peace with the neighborhood's merchants — and vow not to undercut them on Middle Eastern specialties. But some experts and observers say Wal-Mart's well-planned launch in Dearborn is bound to shake up the buying and selling in a community that has long supported its own. Southeastern Michigan is home to an estimated 300,000 people who trace their roots to the Middle East.

"I have not heard of anything this tailored. It's inspiring to me as a shareholder," said Patricia Edwards, portfolio manager and retail analyst in the Seattle office of San Francisco-based investment manager Wentworth, Hauser & Violich, which has 537,000 shares of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. stock.

The Dearborn store also sells Arabic music and plans to offer Muslim greeting cards. But the modifications go beyond merchandise: It has 35 employees who speak Arabic — noted in Arabic script on their badges. The store also has hired a local Arab-American educator to teach the staff cultural sensitivity.

It's clear as soon as shoppers walk in that this isn't a typical Wal-Mart. Inside the grocery entrance are 22 produce tables filled with squash, beans and cucumbers common in Middle Eastern dishes. The section also features grains and vegetables popular among blacks and Hispanics, two other demographics with sizable populations living nearby.

"It's like a farmers' market," said Bill Bartell, the store manager who developed the international aisle with Tut's International Export & Import Co., the Dearborn-based distributor that handles the sourcing for many of the store's Middle-Eastern items.

"Because we did all this due diligence prior to moving into this area, we came to realize our clients really kind of liked this atmosphere, and they liked the variety that we can give them."
More than a year of studying the market and meeting with community groups was put to the test last fall, when Bartell and a Tut's executive began to work on what would become aisle 3. They set up an 80-foot-long counter in an empty warehouse and hauled out products — date-filled cookies, grape leaves, vacuum-packed olives, chick peas and a 97-ounce jar of olive oil imported from the Middle East. The men spent two weeks working on a way to present a new line of products.

As he recalled their effort, a few women in hijabs — traditional Muslim head scarves — inspected produce. One spoke in Arabic to Mohamad Atwi, the developmental store manager.
Bartell said the store aims to offer convenience — not a comprehensive selection of specialty product "It's very important that we have the variety of the Muslim, Hispanic items, local items, at a comparable price," he said. "If you go over to Warren (Avenue) where there's other ... small retailers, they have a variety that goes on and on and on." [It should be noted that not all of Dearborn's Arab-AMERICAN residents are Muslims. There are plenty of Arab-AMERICAN Christians there as well.]

At the Super Greenland Market, which Wal-Mart studied to come up with its new store, customers can find one whole side of an aisle with more than 20 different varieties of chick peas and fava beans. "We have vendors that extend from here to the end of the planet," said Jamal Koussan, owner of Super Greenland. "We import directly. That puts us at a big advantage."
He said Wal-Mart doesn't concern him, but he is watching it. He tracked his store's sales on Wal-Mart's opening day and saw no dip. "I'm not saying they will have no effect on our business but nothing that will threaten us, that will threaten our existence or threaten our bottom line," he said.

Still, the lure of everything under one roof could prove stronger than product depth for some who frequent Middle Eastern shops. Saad, the college student who emigrated from Lebanon in 1990, marveled while shopping at Wal-Mart and plans to return. "I don't think I would come all the way here just to get those things, but I'd pick them up on the way if I was already here doing my shopping," she said.
Warren David, a public relations and marketing specialist focusing on Arab-American and Islamic markets, called Wal-Mart's arrival bittersweet. He's happy for the steps it's taken, but "at the same time I can't help but think it's going to have some kind of impact on the local business community."
The Dearborn Wal-Mart is part of a two-year-old corporate effort to help sales by tailoring stores to local demographics, said spokeswoman Amy Wyatt-Moore at Wal-Mart's Bentonville, Ark., headquarters. It targeted six groups: Hispanics, blacks, empty-nesters/boomers, affluent, suburban and rural shoppers. Dearborn's store is designed to reflect its neighborhood, not serve as a national template for Arab-American shoppers, she said. "We realize there are more than those six broad demographic groups around the country. In some places the result will be a unique store," Wyatt-Moore said.
Edwards, the analyst, says the Dearborn store is a good move for a company that historically has been better at the science, rather than the art, of retail. "Wal-Mart is a little kinder and gentler than they were 10 years ago. They are fierce competitors ... but I don't think they're trying to do a scorched earth policy," she said. "The trick for these local merchants is ... they're going to have to change how they operate in the face of this changing competition."

AP Business Writer Marcus Kabel in Bentonville, Ark., contributed to this report.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Forthcoming Kazakh Film Highlights the Life of Genghis Khan, History's Greatest Conqueror



English-language trailer



(Better) Russian-language trailer



Battle scene between Genghis Khan & his onetime "blood brother," Jamuka.



Battle scene between Genghis Khan and the Merkits, a rival Mongol tribe.

CLICK THE BLUE HYPERLINK BELOW TO VIEW VIDEO CLIPS OR GO TO: http://occident.blogspot.com/

FILM OUT IN LIMITED RELEASE ON JUNE 6

http://www.mongolmovie.com/

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Internet Trend: YouTube Video Montages

As many readers may already be aware, the number of video montages set to music which are uploaded to YouTube and other video-sharing Internet services is seemingly endless. Scenes from movies, video games, photographs, and live action video are set to music by ambitious (or not so) amateurs who hope to please the general public with their creations. As with any form of art or entertainment, some of these creations work and some fail....dismally.

To honor this new medium, please click the blue hyperlink below or go to http://occident.blogspot.com to view a video montage which I think has been done particularly well. It's a collection of scenes from the late HBO hit show The Sopranos (the "whackings") set to a song by Dire Straits, which sets the mood perfectly for the visuals. Be warned: It's violent.

As some may already know, The Sopranos is a new favorite of mine, not least of all because, growing up in an Italian-American NJ/NY family, I can relate to almost all of the cultural references in the show. My ethnic and racial background would make for a fascinating anthropological study.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

U.S. Soldiers Admit, Convicted for Murdering Iraqi Civilian


Army Sniper Convicted of Killing Iraqi
By BRADLEY BROOKS – Feb 10, 2008

BAGHDAD (AP) — A military jury on Sunday convicted an Army sniper of murder and sentenced him to 10 years in prison for killing an Iraqi civilian who wandered into the hiding place where six soldiers were sleeping.

Sgt. Evan Vela, 24, was found guilty of murder without premeditation, of aiding and abetting in planting an AK-47 on the dead man's body and of lying to military investigators about the shooting. He had faced a possible life sentence. Vela showed no emotion when the verdict was read, but he asked the jury for mercy before it broke to decide his sentence. He apologized to the court, the Army and one of the sons of Genei Nasir al-Janabi, the man he shot with a pistol in May. "When I came to Iraq, I didn't come to do anything wrong," Vela said, reading from a handwritten statement. "I failed my standards, your standards and the standards of the Army. All I can say is I'm sorry and ask for mercy."

Vela has been in confinement in Kuwait since July 1. That time will be credited to his sentence, the judge said. He also was sentenced to forfeit all pay and allowances and will receive a dishonorable discharge. The case was automatically referred to a military appeals court.
Vela's trial was the last of three snipers in the unit accused in a series of shooting deaths south of Baghdad that defense lawyers said happened under command pressure to increase kill counts and, perhaps, employ questionable tactics in doing so.
In September, Gary Myers, then an attorney for Vela, claimed that Army snipers in Iraq were under orders to "bait" their targets with suspicious materials, such as detonation cords, and then kill whoever picked up the items. The Army has declined to confirm that any such program existed, saying it does not discuss tactics used in the field.
While it does not appear the alleged baiting played in this case, James Culp, Vela's attorney, and others have argued the program may have encouraged the soldiers by blurring the legal lines in a complex war zone. Vela and several of his fellow Army snipers testified that they were confused and exhausted after more than two days of trekking in high temperatures through the rough terrain near Iskandariyah, a mostly Sunni Arab city 30 miles south of Baghdad.
On the morning of May 11, the six soldiers had gone to sleep inside their "hide" — where snipers can observe targets without being seen — when al-Janabi stumbled upon them, they recounted.
The snipers detained al-Janabi and the man's 17-year-old son Mustafa. They freed the boy, but minutes after he walked off, the commander ordered Vela to shoot the father. The soldiers said al-Janabi was making noise and they feared he was trying to attract the attention of a group of military-age males they thought they saw nearby.
"It's a simple case," said Capt. Jason Nef, one of two military prosecutors. "The reason is because Vela confessed on the stand that he lied. He confessed he killed an unarmed Iraqi." Culp said the case was anything but simple because of the extreme mental and physical fatigue that affected the snipers' actions. "This was an accident waiting to happen," Culp told the jury of seven men and one woman in his closing argument. "These men were extremely, extremely sleep deprived and nobody was thinking clearly."

After the verdict, Mustafa, who had testified at the court-martial, said he was impressed with the U.S. military court system. "I find the Americans have more fairness than the Arabs," he said. "Their system is so fair that even if the judge were (Vela's) family member, he would have been convicted." [Ten years for a cold-blooded murder? Yes, that's real justice...Heh...It's more like the art of covering up....Thanks to U.S. media for reporting this story prominently....or not.]

Mustafa reminded jurors before they began sentence deliberations of the pain he, his mother and five siblings have endured. "I know this criminal has a family, a wife and children," he said. "Just like they will miss him, we also miss our father. So I hope you will consider that and please not forget about us."

Asked whether the killing of his father might prompt him to join the insurgency, Mustafa shook his head, saying he only wanted to harm "that one person who killed my father — I would cut him to pieces. "But not all Americans. The soldiers like those working in the court and those who have escorted us around here, I would never wish any harm on them," he said.

Two other members of Vela's unit were acquitted of murder charges in al-Janabi's shooting or other killings that occurred around the same time. Jorge G. Sandoval, who was a specialist at the time but had his rank reduced to private as part of his sentencing, was found not guilty in September of killing two unarmed Iraqis in April and May. He was convicted of planting evidence on one of the men.

Sgt. Michael A. Hensley was acquitted of murder in all three deaths, but he was convicted of planting evidence by placing a rifle with al-Janabi's body. Hensley said the unit had been pressured by his commanders to wrack up kills. His unit had been in Iraq for only a few months and had taken up to 25 casualties without inflicting much damage on insurgents, he said. "They were tired of people getting killed and us not getting any kills in return," Hensley said. "There was definitely some pressure. If we came back from a mission and we didn't get kills, we were talked to."

Vela is the latest U.S. service member convicted of killing civilians. In one of the most prominent cases, four soldiers were found guilty in the March 12, 2006, rape and slaying of an Iraqi girl and the killings of her parents and sister in Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad.