February 2013 Archives

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Al-Aqsa Mosque (‘the Farthest Mosque’) is the third holiest site in Islam and is located in the Old City of Jerusalem. Having Jewish settlers, backed by the Israeli Defense Forces, violating this holy sanctuary is an act of brazen aggression that was surely calculated to raise the ire of Palestinian Muslims and the entire Muslim world!

What is Israel playing at? Are they trying to start another open conflagration? How would the State of Israel react if Palestinian Muslims stormed the ‘Wailing Wall’ and tried to defile it?

I expect that we will hear cries of outrage reverberating around the Muslim world. I fear that all we will hear from ‘the West’ is a deafening silence. This is surely the perfect opportunity for the US President to make a strong statement that shows he is genuinely concerned for the people of Palestine and for Muslim religious sensitivities, but what would it take to make this happen?

Father Dave

Al Aqsa Mosque

Al Aqsa Mosque

source: www.foa.org…

Illegal Settlers Storm Al-Aqsa Sanctuary, Attacks Escalate

A group of illegal Israeli settlers trespassed into Al-Aqsa Sanctuary again on Sunday, flanked by Israeli soldiers. The extremist settlers stormed the sanctified area in small groups, some practicing Talmudic rituals in the courtyard of the Al-Aqsa Sanctuary.

This latest incident reflects the escalation of attacks which violate Palestinian legal rights over the holy Sanctuary. Since the beginning of the year, there has been an alarming rise in the number of occasions Israeli forces, settlers and politicians have stormed the Al-Aqsa Sanctuary.

Following the public call by main stream Israeli Politician like Moshe Feiglin and Jeremy Gimpel, for the destruction of al-Aqsa Sanctuary, Israeli trespassers have become bolder and more audacious. A recent parade by over a hundred female Israeli soldiers at the Sanctuary was an unspoken threat to Palestinians. In continuing acts of aggression, scores of settlers accompanied by over a hundred soldiers have entered the Al-Aqsa Sanctuary. The Israeli state appears to be aiding and abetting extreme elements from Israeli society in violating the Palestinian rights over the land.

Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the Islamic movement from the pre-1948 Palestine, warned that Israel is trying to isolate Al-Aqsa Sanctuary from the Palestinians. Other steps have included demolishing the facades of a number of historical buildings in the Buraq Square adjoining the Aqsa Sanctuary. The Palestinians are calling for solidarity from the international community in defending the holy sanctuary.

Friends of Al-Aqsa is deeply concerned about these reports and this latest incident is a reminder of the clear and present danger the Al-Aqsa sanctuary faces. Being mindful of this aggression is the first step to preventing further trespasses and graver dangers posed to Al-Aqsa sanctuary by Israelis intent on its destruction. Now is the time for action – by lobbying your local MP and encouraging him/her to raise the issue of attacks on the Al-Aqsa sanctuary in Parliament.

read the rest of this article here: www.foa.org…

 

 

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It is remarkable that so many of us in ‘the West’ continue to associate Palestinian activism with suicide bombing and acts of ‘terrorism’. Meanwhile peaceful protests continue across Palestine and hunger-strikers continue to suffer in Israeli gaols.

Father Dave

source: www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO1302/S00138/palestine-rally-to-support-hunger-strikers-in-west-bank.htm…

Palestine: Rally to support hunger strikers in West Bank

Tuesday, 12 February 2013, 1:09 pm
Press Release: UFree

Rally to support Palestinian Prisoners and hunger strikers in West Bank

UFree Network to defend the rights of Palestinian prisoners along with a number of human rights’ organisations are organising a rally in West Bank to support Palestinian hunger strikers. The rally on Monday 11th Feb. 2013 from 11am where families or prisoners as well as Human Rights activists will take part.

Monday-action rally is called by families of Palestinian prisoners and organised by UFree Network, Prisoner Club, and the High Committee to support Prisoners and Yousef Al Sideeq organisation. It is expected that families of prisoners from Jerusalem, West Bank, Palestine 1948, and Gaza to take part in these events.

Meanwhile, former prisoners, representatives of Palestinian factions, public figures and members of National Reconciliation Freedom Committee will also participate in the action day. Shireen Al Isawi, sister of Samir Al Isawi who is on hunger strike for more than 200 days will take part. Sheikh Raed Salah as well as representatives of NGOs will deliver speeches.

read the rest of this article here: www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO1302/S00138/palestine-rally-to-support-hunger-strikers-in-west-bank.htm…

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It is extraordinary that while so much talk goes on about ‘recognising Israel’s right to exist’ (whatever that means) there has been very little talk in Israel up till now about ‘recognising Palestine’s right to exist’. Danny Ayalon should be congratulated for introducing some symmetry into the discussion.

Father Dave

source: www.upi.com…

Israeli official: Recognize Palestine

JERUSALEM, Feb. 9 (UPI) — Outgoing Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Saturday Israel should recognize Palestine’s new U.N. status if Palestine renounces terrorism.

Ayalon said Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu should offer to recognize Palestine’s statehood at the United Nations in exchange for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas saying — in Arabic — he recognizes Israel’s right to exist while renouncing terrorism.

The remarks came as Netanyahu seeks to form a new government after his conservative Likud party lost seats in the Knesset.

Netanyahu, if he is to form a new government, will likely have to make concessions to moderates seeking to restart the peace process.

The Jerusalem Post said a three-way summit featuring Netanyahu, Abbas and U.S. President Barack Obama — and possibly including King Abdullah II of Jordan — is possible this year, depending on the outcome of a meeting planned this spring between Obama and Netanyahu.

Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to make his first trip to Israel next week.

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We are indeed at a crucial point in the ongoing drama of world politics.

The US seems to be losing its grip on the Middle East. The sanctions on Iran have not destroyed the country or ousted Ahmedinejad. Backing for the rebels has created a quagmire in Syria that the US cannot feel comfortable with. And the US has all but lost its relevance in the Israel-Palestine conflict as Arabs and Persians start to form new alliances in which Israel and the US are thoroughly excluded.

The rebuttal of Obama by Khamenei is a sure sign of the times. Will the US President still be able to rescue some relevance for himself and his country in his up-coming trip to Israel-Palestine? Time will tell.

Father Dave.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

source: www.info…

Khamenei Plays Hardball With Obama

By M K Bhadrakumar

February 13, 2013 “
Asia Times” — It was an extraordinary week in the politics of the Middle East and it ended appropriately by being rounded off with a reality check lest imaginations ran riot.

Three major happenings within one week would have to be taken as the inevitable confluence of a flow of developments and processes: the offer by the Syrian opposition of a bilateral dialogue with the Bashar al-Assad regime; the historic visit of an Iranian president to Egypt; and the public, unconditional offer by the United States of direct talks with Iran and the latter’s ready acceptance of it.

Yet, they are interconnected. First, the Syrian kaleidoscope is dramatically shifting despite the continuing bloodbath. Unless the European countries drop their arms embargo on Syria (which expires on March 1 anyway) and decide to arm the rebels, the stalemate will continue.

The mood in Western capitals has shifted in the direction of caution and circumspection, given the specter that al-Qaeda affiliates are taking advantage. If anything, the hurricane of militant Islamism blowing through Mali only reinforces that concern and reluctance.

Suffice to say, what prompted the Islamist leader of the Syrian National Coalition, Moaz al-Khatib, last weekend to show willingness to take part in direct talks with representatives of the Syrian regime – and pushed him into meeting with Russian and Iranian foreign ministers – was as much the disarray within the Syrian opposition and his failure to form a credible “government-in-exile” as his acute awareness that the Western mood is now cautious about Syria.

To be sure, Iran played a signal role in the grim battle of nerves over Syria through the recent months. Strangely, it is Iran today, which is on the “right side of history”, by urging dialogue and negotiations and democratic elections as holding the key to reform and change in Syria – or, for that matter, in Bahrain.

The shift in Syria has actually enabled Iran to cross over the Sunni-Shi’ite barriers that were tenaciously put up to isolate it. Thus, President Mahmud Ahmedinejad’s historic visit to Egypt this week has a much bigger regional dimension to it than the restoration of the Iran-Egypt bilateral relationship. The trilateral meeting held between Ahmedinejad and his Egyptian and Turkish counterparts Mohammed Morsi and Abdullah Gul signified Iran’s compelling relevance as an interlocutor rather than as an implacable adversary for the two major Sunni countries.

Interestingly, Morsi added, “Egypt’s revolution is now experiencing conditions similar to those of Iran’s Revolution and because Egypt does not have an opportunity for rapid progress like Iran, we believe that expansion of cooperation and ties with Iran is crucially important and necessary.”

Needless to say, Iranian diplomacy has been optimal with regard to the Muslim Brotherhood-led regime in Cairo – neither fawning nor patronizing, or pushing and pressuring, but leaving things to the Brothers to decide the pace. Basic to this approach is the confidence in Tehran that the surge of Islamism in the Middle East through democratic process, no matter “Sunni Islamism”, will ultimately work in favor of Iran’s interests.

The cordial welcome extended by Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, head of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, to Ahmedinejad and the strong likelihood of his visit to Tehran in a very near future also underscores the common desire to strengthen the affinities.

Simply put, the Syrian crisis has virtually receded from the Iran-Egypt field of play as a serious issue of discord. True, the Turkey-based Syrian National Council (SNC) continues to reject any negotiation with the Syrian regime, and the Muslim Brotherhood dominates the SNC. But this may also provide the window of opportunity for Turkey, Egypt and Iran to knock their heads together.

Besides, the SNC has no real influence over the rebel fighters, and Ankara feels exasperated at the overall drift of the Syrian crisis.

Thus, it was against a complex backdrop that US Vice President Joe Biden said in Munich last weekend that Washington is ready to hold direct talks with Iran over the country’s nuclear energy program. Iran’s immediate response was one of cautious optimism. Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi reacted: “I am optimistic. I feel this new [US] administration is really this time seeking to at least divert from its previous traditional approach vis-a-vis my country.”

However, by the next day, he had begun tempering the enthusiasm: “We looked at it positively. I think this is a good overture… But we will have to wait a little bit longer to see if their gesture is this time a real gesture… so that we will be making our decisions likewise.”

Salehi subsequently explained, “A look at the past shows that whenever we have had talks with the Americans, including efforts to bring stability to Afghanistan, unfortunately the other side has failed to fulfill its obligations. You cannot use a threatening tone and say all options are on the table, on the one hand, [because] this is an apparent contradiction… Exerting pressure and [invitation to] talks are not compatible. If you have honest intentions, we can place serious negotiations on the agenda.”

Obviously, Salehi spoke in two voices, and his retraction finally proved to be the “authentic” voice of Tehran. When the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei broke his silence on Thursday, he rejected the possibility of direct talks with the US. He said, “You [Americans] are pointing the gun at Iran and say either negotiate or we will shoot. The Iranian nation will not be frightened by the threats… Some naive people like the idea of negotiating with America [but] negotiations will not solve the problems. If some people want American rule to be established again in Iran, the nation will rise up to them.”

One way of looking at Khamenei’s harsh statement on Thursday is to put it in the immediate context of the announcement of further sanctions against Iran by Washington the previous day, which the US administration has explained as “a significant turning of the screw” that will “significantly increase the economic pressure on Iran”.

But it does not fully explain the manifest harshness and the comprehensive rejection by Khamenei. Meanwhile, three factors are to be taken into account. First, Iran’s domestic politics is hotting up and the dramatic eruption of public acrimony between Ahmedinejad and the Speaker of the Majlis Ali Larijani last weekend testifies to a rough period when Khamenei will have his hands full as the great helmsman.

Indeed, a lot of jockeying is going on as the presidential election slated for May draws closer. Khamenei could factor in that the talks with the US are best held after the elections. (By the way, this may also be Obama’s preference.) Second, Khamenei has flagged by implication that Tehran expects some serious goodwill gesture on the part of the US before any talks take place. He has recalled that the US did not act in good faith in the past – such as when Iran helped out in the US’s overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

A third factor is that Khamenei genuinely sees that Iran is on the “right side of history” as regards the regional upheaval in the Middle East, whereas the US’s regional strategies are getting nowhere. In sum, whereas the US propaganda is that the Iran sanctions are “biting” and the regime is in Iran feels besieged, it is in actuality a bizarre situation of Washington believing its own propaganda while the ground realities are vastly different.

If the propaganda has us believe that the regime in Tehran is living in fear of a Tahrir-like revolution erupting in Iran, Khamenei’s words show no such traces of fear or timidity. On the other hand, Khamenei would have carefully weighed Obama’s capacity (or the limits to it) to bulldoze the Israeli lobby and to initiate a genuine normalization process with Iran.

When Richard Nixon worked on China in the early 1970s, he had the benefit of a broad consensus of opinion within the US political establishment. On the contrary, when it comes to Iran, pride and prejudice influence still rule the roost for most consequential Americans.

Khamenei’s message to Obama is to get serious and think through what he really wants instead of lobbing a vague offer through Biden with no strings attached and no commitments underlying it. The Iranian leader who has continuously dealt with successive US administrations through the past 22 years simply threw the ball into Obama’s court and will now wait and see how the latter kicks it around when he is in Israel next month.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.

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The following sketch was developed for popular US TV show ‘Saturday Night Live’. It satirizes the interrogation of would-be US Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, over his alleged lack of allegiance to Israel.

The sketch never aired but it was posted on the Internet where it (predictably) attracted the wrath of Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, who said that it “reinforces the pernicious notion of Jewish control over this government”.

In truth, it doesn’t really require sketches like this to reinforce the Foxman’s ‘pernicious notion’. The 29 standing ovations given to Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, by the US Congress in 2011 were more than sufficient.