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OTHER MIDDLE-EAST (incl. ISRAEL/PALESTINE)

11/18/03 <link>
Prominent Israelis speak up against futility of strategy based solely on force
A number of articles have appeared recently that show prominent Israelis starting to speak up against the futile military-force-only policy of Ariel Sharon. Clearly, Israel has a right to defend itself against Palestinian terrorists, but when Israel does not address the issue of settlements, any military action it takes only addresses the symptoms but not the root cause of the problem. 

Snippets from some of the articles are featured here.   

Israeli Army Engaged in Fight Over Its Soul
Doubts, Criticism of Tactics Increasingly Coming From Within
By Molly Moore
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, November 18, 2003; Page A01

JERUSALEM... - The hunt for suspected militants sent Sgt. Lirom Hakkak bashing his way through a wall into a Palestinian family's threadbare living room, his slender frame sweating under nearly 35 pounds of body armor and combat gear, his M-16 rifle ready. 
He noticed the grandmother first, her creased face so blanched with terror that she appeared on the verge of collapse. A middle-aged couple huddled close by, trembling.
"They could be my parents," Hakkak, the 22-year-old son of an Israeli poet, recalled thinking. In that split second of recognition, he said, "you really feel disgusting. You see these people and you know the majority of them are innocent and you're taking away their rights. You also know you must do it."
With the Israel Defense Forces in the fourth year of battle with the Palestinians, the most dominant institution in Israeli society is also embroiled in a struggle over its own character, according to dozens of interviews with soldiers, officers, reservists and some of the nation's preeminent military analysts.
Officers and soldiers have begun publicly criticizing specific tactics that they consider dehumanizing to both their own troops and Palestinians. And while they do not question the need to prevent terrorist acts against Israelis, military officials and soldiers are speaking out with increasing frequency against a strategy that they say has forsaken negotiation and relied almost exclusively on military force to address the conflict.
Nearly 600 members of the armed forces have signed statements refusing to serve in the Palestinian territories. Active-duty and reserve personnel are criticizing the military in public. Parents of soldiers are speaking out as well, complaining that the protection of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is not worth the loss of their sons and daughters.
Such issues are being debated at the highest levels of Israel's political and military leadership. At the end of last month, the military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, told columnists from Israel's three leading newspapers that the road closures, curfews and roadblocks imposed on the Palestinian civilians were creating explosive levels of "hatred and terrorism" among the populace. Last week four former heads of the Shin Bet domestic security service said the government's actions and policies during the Palestinian uprising had gravely damaged Israel and its people.
While such public comments have infuriated Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, a former general who favors stringent measures against the Palestinians, they reflect the anxieties of many active-duty soldiers and reservists over whether the military is provoking more terrorist attacks than it is preventing. In addition, members of the armed forces said they feared that some of the harsher tactics -- especially assassinations of suspected Palestinian militants, which often also cause civilian deaths -- are corrupting Israeli soldiers, and by extension, Israeli society.
"What's happening is terrible," said retired Brig. Gen. Nehemia Dagan, former chief of education for the armed services. "The ethics and morals of Israeli society are more important than killing the heads of Hamas or Islamic Jihad...

Here are two more via Eric Alterman (Altercation):

Ex-Security Chiefs Turn on Sharon
Government Policies 'Create Hatred,' Israeli Newspaper Is Told
By Molly Moore
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, November 15, 2003; Page A01

JERUSALEM... -- Four former chiefs of Israel's powerful domestic security service said in an interview published Friday that the government's actions and policies during the three-year-old Palestinian uprising have gravely damaged the country and its people.
The four, who variously headed the Shin Bet security agency from 1980 to 2000 under governments that spanned the political spectrum, said that Israel must end its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, that the government should recognize that no peace agreement can be reached without the involvement of the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, and that it must stop what one called the immoral treatment of Palestinians.
"We must once and for all admit that there is another side, that it has feelings and that it is suffering, and that we are behaving disgracefully," said Avraham Shalom, who headed the security service from 1980 until 1986. "Yes, there is no other word for it: disgracefully. . . . We have turned into a people of petty fighters using the wrong tools."
The statements to Israel's largest-circulation Hebrew-language daily newspaper, Yedioth Aharonoth, added to recent public criticism of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by Israeli political, military and civic leaders for his failure to stop terrorism or negotiate peace as the uprising enters its fourth year.
The former security chiefs said they agreed to the two-hour interview -- the first time the four have ever sat down together -- out of "serious concern for the condition of the state of Israel," according to Carmi Gillon, who ran Shin Bet in 1995 and 1996.
Maj. Gen. Ami Ayalon, who headed the agency from 1996 until 2000 and is co-author of a peace petition signed by tens of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians, said: "We are taking sure and measured steps to a point where the state of Israel will no longer be a democracy and a home for the Jewish people."
Shin Bet is Israel's dominant domestic security and intelligence service, with primary responsibility for the country's anti-terrorism efforts. It often plans and directs armed forces operations that support its own activities, including raids into Palestinian towns and villages in search of alleged terrorists, assassinations of suspected militants and interrogation of suspects. The current Shin Bet chief, Avi Dichter, is one of Sharon's most trusted and influential advisers, according to administration officials.
...
The four former Shin Bet leaders said they recognized the contradictions between some of their actions as security chiefs and their opinions today.
"Why is it that everyone -- [Shin Bet] directors, chief of staff, former security personnel -- after a long service in security organizations become the advocates of reconciliation with the Palestinians? Because they were there." said Yaakov Perry, whose term as security chief between 1988 and 1995 covered the first Palestinian uprising, or intifada. "We know the material, the people in the field, and surprisingly, both sides."
The security chiefs denounced virtually every major military and political tactic of the Sharon administration, adding their voices to the dissent in Israel against the prime minister's handling of a conflict that has claimed the lives of more than 2,500 Palestinians and nearly 900 Israelis and foreigners.
In recent weeks, the country's top general has criticized Sharon's clampdown on Palestinians in the West Bank; active and reserve Air Force pilots have publicly declared the military's use of missiles and bombs to kill militants in civilian neighborhoods to be "immoral"; activists have initiated independent peace proposals; and opinion polls have indicated that faith in Sharon is plummeting. ..

This next one from the Israeli Policy Forum, shows the hypocrisy inherent in Ariel Sharon's policy and claims that one will not negotiate with terrorists.

IPFFriday

By M.J. Rosenberg, Washington, DC 
November 14, 2003
 wIssue #158

Crime Pays

There is something a bit surreal about the idea that the Israeli government is negotiating with Hezbollah over the return of an Israeli hostage and the remains of three soldiers while continuing to insist that the only Palestinians fit to serve as “partners” for negotiations are those without blood on their hands.  It suggests that Israel will negotiate with anyone, even Hezbollah, for the return of the dead, but has a far more restrictive policy when it comes to achieving peace for the living.
Former Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Arens points out that it would be difficult to find anyone with bloodier hands than Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, with whom Israel has been openly dealing for months. Writing in Ha’aretz, Arens says that “the total of lost innocent lives makes Nasrallah a close second to Osama Bin Laden as a mastermind of mass murder.”
Arens, the long-time Likud Member of Knesset, Cabinet official and diplomat, points out that Hezbollah -- which the Bush administration has at the top of its list of terror organizations -- is responsible for the 1983 killing of 242 United States Marines in Beirut, 63 Americans at our Beirut embassy, the deaths of 115 in the bombings of the Jewish Center and Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, and numerous other terror attacks and kidnappings. 
How then, Arens asks, can Israel deal with Nasrallah?
Arens is not the only Israeli asking that question.  Although most Israelis believe that Israel must do everything in its power to achieve the return of captured nationals, many are wondering if the price in this case is too high.  Some have commented on the odd double standard that the Hezbollah negotiations seem to demonstrate.
Writing in Ma’ariv, Ben Caspit asks how Prime Minister Sharon can refuse to talk to Yasir Arafat  “because he engages in terrorism” while dealing with a far more dangerous character.  “Nasrallah denies our right to exist here, plants bombs on our northern border, kills Israelis, yet continues to talk to Sharon as if nothing had happened.”  As Caspit points out, Nasrallah is not even in the same terrorist league as Arafat.  Arafat, at least formally, supports Israel’s right to exist in peace, and during the Oslo period worked with Israelis to thwart terror and achieve an agreement.  Nasrallah wants Israel eradicated.
Why would any Israeli government want to enhance Nasrallah’s prestige, which is precisely what his success at achieving the release of 400 prisoners in Israeli jails will do?  Veteran journalist Ze’ev Schiff writes in Ha’aretz that “handing over Palestinian prisoners to Hezbollah raises the question of why Israel couldn't have done the same for the Mahmoud Abbas government.”  And that is putting it mildly.  In Israel today, even top IDF officials have criticized the Sharon government for offering Abbas so little during his tenure, and therefore hastening his demise. The contrast with the Hezbollah deal is jarring.
Abbas, who strenuously opposed terrorism, couldn’t achieve a significant release of prisoners.  What does it say if an arch-terrorist like Nasrallah can? 
Caspit has the answer: “Crime pays.” And Nasrallah’ s success will “shoot him up to the top of the pyramid, from which it will be difficult to bring him down.”  Actually, he may already be at the top of the pyramid because of the widespread perception in the Middle East that Nasrallah succeeded in achieving a unilateral and unconditional Israeli pullout from Lebanon in 2000, an interpretation as common as it is inaccurate. 
This isn’t the first time that the Israeli government has dealt with the most extreme anti-Israel terrorists while refusing to negotiate with others whose positions are more nuanced.  In the 1980’s, the Shamir-Peres National Unity Government reportedly funded Islamic elements in the territories, including Hamas’ Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, as alternatives to the PLO.  That mistake helped transform Hamas into the force it is today.
This bit of history helps illustrate that the whole idea of applying purity tests to would-be negotiating partners has become questionable. No standard can possibly exist that legitimizes Hezbollah while proscribing anyone else. There is no group that is more dangerous, no leadership bloodier.
This is not to condemn Israel’s decision to engage with Hezbollah to get its people back.  It is simply to say that once Israel crosses that particular Rubicon, it cannot jump back onto shore and refuse to negotiate with Palestinians because they are tainted by terror.  But maybe Israel is getting beyond that.  Top officials in the Sharon government favor immediate negotiations with the new Prime Minister, Ahmed Queria, despite his close ties to Arafat.  This may suggest an evolving understanding in Jerusalem that it is not in Israel’s interests to apply arbitrary standards to Palestinians who are willing and ready to negotiate with Israel.  As the saying goes, you don’t have to negotiate with your friends; it’s your enemies you must engage with...

2/2/03 <link>
Fundamentalists leave Iran in bad shape since days of revolution
So much for the revolution promised by Khomeini.

1/12/02 <link>
Israeli PM Sharon faces mounting criticism
After being criticized by many in the Israeli Press over his exaggerating the threat of Iraq, Sharon is now facing a bribery / vote-buying scandal.

11/18/02 <link>
Iranian reformists stage mass protests
The Los Angeles Times highlights growing student protests against the egregious death sentence by a fundamentalist court against moderate historian Hashem Aghajari, (who also happens to be a politician allied with reformist President Mohammad Khatami). "...In June, Aghajari delivered a speech in Hamadan, the historic center of Iran, that asserted that interpretations of the Koran by past clerics did not have to be seen as sacred--a direct challenge to the Islamic rulers of Iran who insist on unwavering adherence to medieval Islam. The clerics, who are constantly looking for ways to diminish the elected Khatami, pounced, ruling it blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad. In Iran, that's a hanging offense...." The LA Times editorial goes on to mention that, "...The often-timid Khatami has begun to go on the offensive, introducing legislation last month challenging the broad, secretive powers of the cleric-controlled judiciary...The ruling theocracy can't win. If it executes the courageous professor, Khatami can claim him as a martyr. If the clerics back down, reformists likewise will be strengthened. Either way, the struggle reveals an Iran immensely more complex and hopeful than the label "axis of evil" would imply."
Newsweek has more coverage as well, indicating that a few students are considering violent reprisals. We hope that for the sake of their movement they eschew violence as much as possible (except in self-defense).

We applaud the progressives and their nonviolent struggle for democracy in Iran and wish them God Speed. At the same time, we believe that if the reformists are unable to succeed in getting Aghajari released on their own, the Bush administration MUST put tremendous pressure on the so-called "religious heads" in Iran to have him released.

11/1/02 <link>
Suicide bombers rightly deemed war criminals
Human Rights Watch comes out against Palestinian suicide bombers and the groups supporting them. About time. 

10/17/02 <link>
USA Today article shows how Israelis are finding ways to cope with the suicide attacks
The concluding paragraph says it all, "...'It has become something we live with,' cosmetic surgeon Scheflan says. 'If you had told me two years ago that I could make a good living doing face lifts and liposuction at times like this, I would have said you were crazy. Now, I think it is an index of sanity.'"
Tom Friedman has a very appropriate piece on the Israel/Palestinian situation, titled "Campus Hypocrisy"

His position is that many of the professors and students demanding divestiture from Israeli investments are extremely hypocritical, and we fully agree. To state his case, he says, for instance, "...How is it that Egypt imprisons the leading democracy advocate in the Arab world, after a phony trial, and not a single student group in America calls for divestiture from Egypt? (I'm not calling for it, but the silence is telling.) How is it that Syria occupies Lebanon for 25 years, chokes the life out of its democracy, and not a single student group calls for divestiture from Syria? How is it that Saudi Arabia denies its women the most basic human rights, and bans any other religion from being practiced publicly on its soil, and not a single student group calls for divestiture from Saudi Arabia?...Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic, and saying so is vile. But singling out Israel for opprobrium and international sanction — out of all proportion to any other party in the Middle East — is anti-Semitic, and not saying so is dishonest....." (We have echoed related sentiments - not on students or professors, but the people that they currently support - in an article earlier this year.) 
The point is that the apologists for the suicide bombers have more amnesia about history than the people they criticize. At the same time Mr. Friedman also points out to the pro-Israel lobby that, "...Just because there are anti-Semites who blame Israel for everything that is wrong does not mean that whatever Israel does is right, or in its self-interest, or just. The settlement policy Israel has been pursuing is going to lead to the demise of the Jewish state. No, settlements are not the reason for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but to think they do not exacerbate it, and are not locking Israel into a permanent occupation, is also dishonest...." In the space restriction of an op-ed, we think Mr. Friedman has effectively captured what needs to be said on this conflict.
(UPDATED 12/9/02: Another Tom Friedman piece highlighting the above, followed by this news of increased Israeli settlements. Mr. Sharon is clearly not doing Israelis a favor.)

9/30/02 <link>
Now it's Sharon's turn to eat humble pie
We really don't get Sharon. On the one hand, he and Pres. Bush have sidelined Arafat for a long time to make him irrelevant. But then, after every suicide bombing, why go after Arafat and strengthen him? This approach is clearly not working too well. It looks like a record player stuck in one note (repeating endlessly). 
After seeing Sharon's approach in the West Bank and Gaza, we initially felt early this year that India (our home country) should follow the same approach and simply declare war on Pakistan and take out the terrorist camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. We believe the justification for that is significant; however, other than a high amount of bloodshed, it is unclear what the final result will be. The war strategy needs to be more carefully thought out. More importantly perhaps, the peace strategy needs to be examined.  

9/9/02 <link>
Arafat actually says something sensible once in a while
!

Unfortunately, he's not calling for an end to all suicide bombing, but at least acknowledging that it has gone too far and condemns it.