Tuesday 31 March 2009

Amos Oz: What goes around comes around!

Amos Oz, 70 is Israel's most distinguished novelist, its most passionate defender, and its most notorious "traitor" – a word he uses about himself. His friend David Grossman says "Amos is the offspring of all the contradictory urges and pains within the Israeli psyche." To spend a day in his company – to follow his story from the birth of the state to the suicide of his mother, from Zionist idealism to a broken heart – is to tour the dizzying dissonances of the Jewish state as it staggers into the 21st century.

Oz once dreamed of bombing London. He was once a child of what he calls "the Jewish intifada" – the stone-throwing, death-defying Jewish rebellion against British occupation. He believed the state that would emerge from the rubble would be a model of justice and idealism for all mankind. If you were a child in Gaza now, Mr Oz, would you be dreaming the same dreams against Israel? "I don't even have to imagine the answer to this question – I know it," he says. "Because I was a kid in Jerusalem in '48 when the city was besieged, shelled, starved, [and] the water supply [was] cut off. And I know the horror, and I know the despair, and I know the hopelessness, and I know the anger, and I know the frustration." He says he was "not so much a child as a bundle of self-righteous arguments, a brainwashed little fanatic, a stone-throwing chauvinist. The first words I ever learnt to say in English were 'British, go home!'"

In his novel Panther in the Basement, he writes: "This is how I remember Jerusalem in that last summer of British rule. A stone city sprawling over hilly slopes. Not so much a city as isolated neighbourhoods separated by fields of thistles and rocks. British armoured cars stood at street corners with their slits almost closed, their machine guns sticking out in front like pointing fingers: You there!"

At the age of eight, he built "an awesome rocket" in the backyard of his house. His plan was "to aim it at Buckingham Palace. I typed out on my father's typewriter a letter of ultimatum addressed to His Majesty King George VI of England... Torrents of blood, soil, fire and iron intoxicated me." His favourite song – a Stern Gang anthem – proclaimed: "We must fight until we breathe our last breath!"

So how did this boy, from this place, end up co-founding Peace Now, and fighting for a free Palestinian state alongside Israel? What contortions did he travel along the way, and since? And how did Israel's story come to this?

Read the complete article in The Independent here.

Monday 30 March 2009

'Americans for a Safe Israel' to be renamed 'Americans for Unsafe Palestine'

The Israeli settlers are bold enough to go to USA and call for the death of Palestinean leaders. They have the guts to do this in proper America without the fear of being arrested or charged for calling for deaths of officially elected government ministers of a country. If some Muslims do this, what would be their fate?

A New York City rabbi condemned the call to assassinate Palestinian leaders issued at his synagogue.

Elie Abadie of Congregation Edmond J. Safra in Manhattan said the call last week by the leader of an Israeli pro-settler organization to kill Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other “terrorist leaders” is “odious and repugnant.”

He added the sponsoring organization, Americans for a Safe Israel, is no longer welcome to host events at his synagogue.

“On a personal level, I am horrified at such hateful statements, and I have made this clear to the organization,” Abadie said in a statement Friday. “We did not sponsor or support that event, and neither I nor any member of our congregational staff was present.

“While the use of the premises has always been available on a non-discriminatory basis, the nature of the remarks made disqualifies the AFSI from any further use of the space.”

Nadia Matar, the co-chairwoman of Women in Green, called for Israel to assassinate “all terrorist leaders, starting with Mahmoud Abbas,” last week in the context of a comparison of England’s response to Nazi aggression and Israel’s response to Palestinian terror. Her remarks were greeted with applause.

Sunday 29 March 2009

Archbishop of Canterbury thanks British Muslims

In an unprecedented move by a Western Christian leader, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has praised British Muslims for bringing back religion and ethics into public life.

"I think Islam has made a very significant contribution to getting a debate about religion into public life," Williams, the leader of the Anglican Church, told the Muslim News.

"And I think it's very right that we should have these debates and discussions between Muslims and Christians and others in public."

Britain is home to more than two million Muslims.

This is the first time a Western Christian leader thanks Muslims for bringing back religion to a secular Western society.

Last November, Head of Vatican's Department for Interfaith Contacts Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran praised Muslims for bringing religion back into the public life in Europe.

Williams, the leader of the Anglican Church, lamented the unfriendly atmosphere for faith in British society.

"If we are not allowed as religious people to talk and argue about these issues in public then I think society has become a rather unfriendly place for religious people and that's not helpful change."

Williams, criticized the West's Christian leaders for failing to bring their societies away for the devastating and dominating materialism.

"(They were unable to) turn around our society which was being driven by materialism," he said.

"(I hope) to see leaders listening specifically to the more ethical challenges that faith brings."

Williams called for bolstering Muslim-Christian cooperation to serve the well being of the whole community.

"The idea that what's good for me and what's good for you belongs together," he said.

"Both Muslims and Christians have a very strong sense of God's will being done in community, when we really follow the needs of the community and work for one another on that in the will of God."

The Anglican leader, however, admitted that the Christian Muslim Forum, which he initiated in 2001 for brining UK Muslims and Christians together, had not reached the grassroots so far.

Williams has repeatedly defend faith schools in Britain as contributing to the promotion of religious tolerance.

He asserted that faith schools are already proven in their ability to reach out across faith boundaries and help to build confidence in minority communities.

Saturday 28 March 2009

Live and lets dye

Recently I came across quite a few discussions where people are discussing about colouring their hair, etc. Here is a fatwa from Islam Online.

Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi states the Islamic rulings pertaining to dyeing the hair as follows:

"It was reported that the Jews and Christians refrained from dyeing the hair, regarding such beautification and adornment as contrary to piety and devotion, and not befitting rabbis, priests, and ascetics. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) forbade Muslims from imitating these people or following in their ways, in order that Muslims might develop their own distinctive and independent characteristics in appearance and behavior.

Al-Bukhari, on the authority of Abu Hurayrah, quoted the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) as saying, 'The Jews and Christians do not dye their hair, so be different from them.'

This, however, is not a command but only a recommendation, as is evident from the actions of the Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) such as Abu Bakr and `Umar, who used to dye their hair. Others, such as `Ali, Ubay ibn Ka`b, and Anas, did not.

The question now remains as to what type of dye is to be used. Should it be black or are there any other colors? Or black should be avoided?

If a man is advanced in age with white hair and a beard, it would hardly be appropriate for him to dye his hair black. On the day of the conquest of Makkah, Abu Bakr brought his aged father, Abu Quhafah, carrying him until he had him seated in front of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). On seeing Abu Quhafah's snow-white hair, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, 'Change this, but avoid black.' (Fath Al-Bari)

In contrast, if a man is not of such advanced age or feebleness as that of Abu Quhafah, there is no harm in his using black dye. In this regard, Az-Zuhri said, 'We dyed our hair black when the face looked young, but discarded it when the face became wrinkled and the teeth decayed.' (Reported by Ibn Abu `Asim in the book on 'Dyeing the Hair')

Some of the early Muslims, including some Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) such as Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas, `Uqbah ibn `Amr, Al-Hassan, Al-Hussayn, Jareer, and others permitted the use of black dye. Some scholars do not consider the use of black dye as permissible except during time of war, with possibility of making the enemy thrown off balance by seeing all Muslim soldiers in their blossoming youth.

Abu Dharr (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated, 'The best thing with which to dye gray hair is Henna and Katm.' (Mentioned in Fath Al-Bari) Henna makes the hair red, while Katm, a plant from Yemen, colors it black, tinged with red. Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) says, 'Abu Bakr dyed his hair with Henna and Katm, and `Umar dyed it with Henna only.'"

Friday 27 March 2009

Women should not drink at all

Women who drink a glass of wine a day are more likely to develop a range of cancers than are teetotallers, according to the largest study ever conducted into drinking and cancer.

A daily drink was found to significantly raise the risk of breast, liver and rectal cancer, and is estimated to account for more than 7,000 extra cases of cancer each year in the UK.

Researchers at the University of Oxford said the findings, which are part of the Million Women Study, make clear that even light, regular drinking can be a serious threat to health.

While alcohol seemed to reduce the risk of some very rare cancers, such as kidney, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and thyroid tumours, it raised the risk of others. For every 1,000 women, drinking regularly once a day was linked to 11 extra breast cancers, one more oral cancer and one additional case of rectal cancer each year. Cases of oesophageal, laryngeal and liver cancer all rose by 0.7 extra cases per 1,000 women up to the age of 75. The increase in cancer risk was the same whether women drank wine, beer, spirits or a mixture.

Smoking is still by far the largest single cause of cancer, accounting for around one third of all diagnosed cases. Diet and diet-related factors, such as obesity, are thought to explain a further third, with alcohol accounting for around 5% of cancers.

The recent revelation that even one small glass of wine a day increases the risk of breast cancer was greeted with scorn by many women. But it came from the biggest survey ever conducted into the health and habits of Britain's females, and its findings cannot easily be dismissed.

It is the Million Women Study, run by some very senior scientists at Oxford University. In research, size really does matter - and this is the biggest project of its kind on the planet.

Well over a million women - 1.3 million to be accurate - were recruited across the UK, some as far back as 1996 and the last in 2001. Most were in their 50s, invited with the help of the NHS breast-screening service the first time they went for a mammogram. The information they have shared about their lifestyle, history, health and habits, together with the data that is being gathered over the years about the diseases they get, is a goldmine for researchers.

Once you stop drinking, your increased cancer risk starts to melt away. It's the same with HRT. And even with smoking. "If you give up smoking, within five years your risk of lung cancer has halved," Beral says. "It's about what you are now. You can change it. The only exposure that I'm sure does persist is radiation. It mutates the DNA directly. But most of what we see seems to be reversible."

And to finally finish off with some more interesting news, Just a few sessions of heavy drinking can damage someone's ability to pay attention, remember things and make good judgments, research shows.

Binge drinkers are known to be at increased risk of accidents, violence and engaging in unprotected sex. But the study is the first to identify brain damage as a danger of consuming more alcohol than official safe limits.

The research, to be published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, is significant because binge drinking is so widespread in the UK. Twenty-three per cent of men and 15% of women drink more than twice the government's recommended daily limit. For men this means consuming more than eight units a day and for women more than six, according to the Office for National Statistics.

I hope we all know that Islam forbids drinking and smoking. Please see this for further details.

Australians kill many Afghan children and then make excuses

Very sad video on youtube but embedding has been disabled. You can check it out at:


Thursday 26 March 2009

Middle East in trouble due to low Oil prices

Apparently, Iraq is in trouble because the Oil prices have collapsed dramatically.

Six years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, the collapse in the price of oil is devastating Iraqi hopes of reconstructing an economy shattered by 30 years of war and sanctions. A year ago, as the price of oil approached $150 a barrel, Iraqi leaders were optimistic they would have enough money to rebuild the country.

Since then the price of a barrel of oil has slid to just $50 a barrel, leaving Iraq, on the sixth anniversary of the US-led invasion and the overthrow of Saddam, facing what one official in Baghdad called a "catastrophe".

The oil shock also presents the US President, Barack Obama, with a fresh headache, threatening to complicate his plans to restore stability to the country and withdraw US troops. Not only is there too little money for reconstruction, there is not enough to maintain and expand the oil industry, the government's only source of revenue.

Meanwhile, Gulf states are gearing up for life after fossil fuels

Alongside the development of aviation hubs, financial services and free-trade zones, states in the region are also concentrating on becoming international centres of hi-tech research and development, based on the Western model of the science park. So some of the world's largest transnational corporations including Shell, Microsoft and General Electric (GE) are in Doha today for the formal opening of the science park Qatar hopes will secure its place as a world centre of research.

The purpose-built, $300m (£215m), 45,000 sq m Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) is part of a multi-decade "national strategy" to invest the Gulf state's oil and gas wealth for economic stability, social development and non-carbon revenues.

The futuristic architecture houses laboratories, training facilities and office space for research in fields considered central to the diversification of the tiny state's economy – energy, health, environment and IT. Private sector participants including Total, Chevron, EADS and Rolls-Royce are among the 21 companies that between them have already committed to project funding of $225m over five years, which will be matched by the Qatar Foundation that oversees the QSTP. The park will house the first stem-cell bank for the Middle East.

The research facilities are next door to Qatar's "Education City", a 14 million sq m, newly built campus. The plan is for an education system allied with applied, commercial research.

One has to be careful though about jobs in the Middle East nowadays. With oil prices collapsed the economies are in doldrums.

Lured by the promise of a well-paid investment banking job in the growing markets of the Gulf, Ghassan Darwiche left Lebanon for Qatar in 2005.

He landed a banking job in Qatar and then started working at the Standard Chartered Bank in Manama, Bahrain in 2007.

In 2008, he transferred to the wealth management department.

He believes the move was a logical one because of the Gulf's prospering economy; global oil and gas prices were high and investment in the banking and real estate markets showed continued growth.

However, by January 2009, the department had became a "loss entity" for the bank.

"People were pulling out money because of the global financial crisis," he said.

The bank then downgraded his department to commercial banking – credit card and insurance applications. Darwiche believed that he was being demoted and quit.

"We all want to climb the ladder. The Arab and European staff left, but the Indian banking professionals tended to stay and accept the downgrade. I didn't want to go backward in my career," he said.

However, three months after arriving in Beirut and finding no job opportunities for someone with his skills, Darwiche believes he would have fared better had he stayed.

"I'm one of the many victims of the financial crisis but the question now is what to do next."

According to Lebanon's finance ministry, there are some 350,000 Lebanese people working in the Gulf states, which in the past decade had become popular employment destinations.

However, with world markets in recession and foreign investments dwindling, fortunes have been reversed; the ministry says 15,000 Lebanese expatriate workers have returned in recent weeks.

They can be seen at bars and coffee shops in Beirut, lamenting about their newfound joblessness, finding solace among others in the same situation.

May Allah help all our brothers and sisters in this period of difficulty. Amen.

Wednesday 25 March 2009

Gaza: Killing two birds with one stone (or bullet)

Sporting T-shirts with Palestinian babies, Gazan mothers mourning their slain children, razed mosques, Israeli soldiers are bragging their atrocities in the Gaza Strip.

"You take whoever [in the unit] knows how to draw and then you give it to the commanders before printing," an Israeli soldier who identified himself as Y., told Haaretz on Saturday, March 21.

Y. designed a T-shirt depicting a soldier in a Palestinian city with the slogan "If you believe it can be fixed, then believe it can be destroyed!".

Since the end of the Gaza war, Israeli soldiers, marking the end of training of field duty, wear T-shirts depicting images of atrocities in overcrowded strip.

A T-shirt was designed by infantry snipers with an inscription reading "Better use Durex (trademark for condoms)," next to an image of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him.

A T-shirt designed by the Givati Brigade's Shaked battalion shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull's-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, "1 shot, 2 kills."

A graduation shirt for soldiers who completed a snipers course depicts a Palestinian baby, who grows into a combative boy and then an armed adult, with the inscription, "No matter how it begins, we'll put an end to it."

Israeli troops killed more than 1,350 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and wounded 5,450 others in 22 days of attacks in Gaza, home to 1.6 million Palestinians.

The onslaught wrecked havoc on the infrastructure of the densely-populated enclave, leaving tens of thousands of homes and other buildings in ruins.

Israeli soldiers admitted Thursday killing innocent Palestinians in cold blood and ransacked their properties during the Gaza war.

UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories Richard Falk has accused Israel of committing war crimes of the greatest magnitude in Gaza.

Do you think the world will take some action this time?

Tuesday 24 March 2009

Hassan Butt: Reformed Islamist was a professional liar and hoaxer

Hassan Butt the "reformed ex-Jihadi", media darling, MI5 pin-up...the archetype Muslim sell-out EXPOSED.

The Islamophobes loved him; the Muslims cringed every time he opened his mouth. Now it turns out it was all a farce; Butt, an opportunist, or a vulture more to the point–sought to make a quick buck on the rampant anti-Muslim fervour that's blighting the lives of Muslims and wasted precious police and court time in the process.

Let us not forget, Butt isn't the first and won't be the last of this dangerous breed.
Inayat Bunglawala has already summed up what I would have written:

He was a self-confessed al-Qaida insider who in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks was interviewed by all the major news networks eager to hear his fiery rhetoric.

Following the 7/7 bombings, he told us that he had now recognised the error of his ways and was committed to countering "Islamism". He was going to spill the beans in a keenly anticipated book called Leaving al-Qaida relating how he had gone about recruiting British Muslims to go overseas and fight.

The American CBS network's flagship documentary programme 60 Minutes broadcast an interview with him in March 2007 in which he talked about his "recruiting and fundraising techniques" in his extremist days.

Government ministers such as Tony McNulty sought an audience with him in order to listen to his learned thoughts on how to de-radicalise young Muslims.

Nick Cohen praised him for steering British Muslims:

... away from violence while teaching wider society that radical Islam is not a rational reaction to Western provocation, but a totalitarian ideology with a life of its own.

Ed Husain, an admirer and also an "ex-Islamist" warned:

In Manchester in April [2007], Hassan Butt, a one-time jihadist who is now opposed to extremism, was stabbed and beaten for speaking out against fanaticism. He now lives in hiding.

There was only one problem with all this though – it was complete bullshit.

Hassan Butt's admission in court that he was a "professional liar" who said what "the media wanted to hear" because all he was really interested in was making money will not have come as a surprise to many British Muslims who have long viewed him as a charlatan.

Butt "confessed he had also stabbed himself in the arm to make it appear as if he had been attacked by extremists for speaking out against violence."

The tens of millions of pounds that the government has poured into its preventing violent extremism programme has inevitably attracted a number of self-professed "ex-Islamists" who are prepared to say exactly what the government and sections of the media want to hear ie that the rise of violent extremism in the UK has little to do with our government's warmongering abroad and is mainly the fault of "Islamist ideology".

Such an answer of course perfectly suits the government, which does not favour closer scrutiny of the impact of some of its actions abroad.

It also suits those like Cohen who were enthusiastic propagandists for those misbegotten wars.

With the election of Barack Obama and his warmly received call for there to be a "new partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interest" between the United States and the Muslim world, there at long last exists an opportunity to make amends for some of the disastrous mistakes of the past.

If we in the UK are to also avail ourselves of that opportunity it will require the government to do more than simply offer what are in effect bribes to those who are willing to turn a blind eye to its unjust policies.

Channel 4 News has exposed the deception perpetrated by Hassan Butt, a one-time loudmouth with al-Muhajiroun, who has supposedly turned tail and written a book with Shiv Malik about his "exploits" as a militant Islamist. However, police have now released extracts from the interviews he gave since he was arrested last month while trying to fly to Pakistan. Most significantly, he told police that the stabbing he received in Manchester was in fact arranged by him, so that Shiv Malik would believe him. He also said he had never met anyone from al-Qa'ida or who even claimed to be from al-Qa'ida, and the police believed him and let him go. Amusing for the interview with Shiv himself towards the end.

Monday 23 March 2009

Varun Gandhi wants to be a Muslim basher

The strident communal overtones of the campaign being run by "the other" Gandhi son, Varun, contesting his maiden Lok Sabha election from this constituency, has left even workers of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) shocked.

The 29-year-old son of Maneka and the late Sanjay Gandhi - younger son of former prime minister Indira Gandhi - was Sunday issued a notice by the district authorities in Pilibhit, the constituency so carefully nurtured by his mother who gave up the seat to ensure his easy entry into the Lok Sabha.

That she did so was no surprise for political watchers here. What has come as a shocker is his staunchly pro-Hindu and rabid anti-Muslim vitriolic that his opponents and supporters say could trigger a communal clash.

From taking up issues like the ban on cow slaughter to asking a Sikh leader to leave a Hindu meeting, Varun Gandhi has been ruffling feathers everywhere.

While "Jai Shri Ram" is his battle-cry at all roadside meetings or assemblies, some of the other slogans being used are "Gau hatya rukwana hai, Varun Gandhi ko jitana hai" (Cow slaughter must stop, Varun Gandhi must win) and "Varun nahin yeh aandhi hai, doosra Sanjay Gandhi hai (Varun Gandhi is like a storm, he is another Sanjay Gandhi)".

On March 6, he said at the Dalchand meeting: "Agar kissi galat tatv ke aadmi ne, kisi Hindu pe haath uthaya ya hinduon ke upar yeh samajh key ki yeh kamzor hain, unke peeche koi nahi hai... hinduon ke upar haath uthaya, mein geeta ki kasam khake kehta hoon ki mein uss haath ko kaat daaloonga. (If somebody lifts a hand against Hindus, or thinks they are weak, there is nobody behind them, then I swear on the (Bhagvad) Gita that I will cut off that hand)."

Naresh Verma, a popular BJP leader in Puranpur - within the constituency - told IANS: "I am a BJP activist and a Hindu too. But I am not in favour of launching a communally charged campaign. If Varun Gandhi persists with such style of campaigning, I would be compelled to keep myself away from it."

Added another BJP veteran Gurdial Singh: "Varun is going out of hand. If he is not restrained, this election could end in a bloody communal clash."

The 70-year-old Sikh froom Ramnagar village was even asked to leave one of the Hindu meets being addressed by Varun Gandhi.

"He neither has respect for any other religion nor even for elders. In his arrogance, he has gone to the extent of forgetting that his mother was also a Sikh before her marriage."

If the BJP is alarmed, other parties are determined to ensure that this stops.

"We have audio-recordings of the provocative language used by Varun Gandhi to run down Muslims," claimed Haroon Ahmad, a local Samajwadi Party leader.

Though Gandhi doesn't deny giving the controversial speech, he insisted the video had been "doctored" and that what he said was "mangled".

"I believe very firmly that this is the result of a political conspiracy," he said. "This is not my voice, those are not my words. I've a soft voice, [but in the video] I sound like [Bollywood star] Amitabh Bachchan."

The state election authorities have ordered an investigation, and the local police have registered a criminal case and sent the video for forensic tests. Gandhi is a candidate of the opposition Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), whose leaders often stridently promote Hindu causes.

If the video is genuine, analysts say, it shows the extent to which some politicians would go to divide voters and win an election. "People who know Varun say he's a very intelligent young man," said Phadnis. "But sometimes people who are too sharp can end up cutting themselves."

Muslims want Varun disqualified from contesting the upcoming general election, scheduled to take place in April-May.

"He must be banned from contesting the election," says Shehla Masood.

"I am a Muslim and proud to be one. I thank my ancestors and God that they did not choose Pakistan and chose to stay back in India," she added, referring to the creation of India and Pakistan 60 years ago after the end of the British mandate.

"India is my country more than that of Varun Gandhi."

Sunday 22 March 2009

£60,000 damages for nearly killing an innocent

The Metropolitan police agreed to pay £60,000 damages to a British Muslim after a high court admission that officers had subjected him to "serious, gratuitous and prolonged" attack.

The court was told that Babar Ahmad, who is accused of raising funds for terrorism, had been punched, kicked and throttled during his arrest by officers from the force's territorial support group in December 2003.

The Met had repeatedly denied the claims, saying officers had used reasonable force during the arrest.

However, lawyers for the force's commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, today admitted at the high court that Ahmad had been the victim of gratuitous and sustained violence at his home in Tooting, south-west London.

"The commissioner has today admitted that his officers subjected Babar Ahmad to grave abuse tantamount to torture during his arrest," Ahmad's solicitor, Fiona Murphy, said outside the court.

During the hearing, it emerged that the Met had lost "a number of large mail sacks" containing details of other similar allegations against the officers who assaulted Ahmad.

During his arrest, Ahmad was punched, kicked and throttled, the court heard.

Officers stamped on the 34-year-old's feet and repeatedly punched him in the head before he was forced into the Muslim prayer position and they shouted: "Where is your God now? Pray to him."

After a sustained attack, he was forced into the back of a police van, where he was again beaten and punched before being put in a "life-threatening" neck hold and told: "You will remember this day for the rest of your life."

At one stage, one of the officers grabbed his testicles and he was also deliberately wrenched by his handcuffs – a technique known to cause intense pain.

Ahmad has been in detention since he was rearrested in 2004 after a request from the US government over claims he helped raise money to fund terrorist campaigns.

The court heard that no evidence had been produced against Ahmad, and he had never been charged with any offence.

He is now fighting extradition to the US in the European courts.

Israeli Soldiers confirm their war crimes

An investigation by a group of former Israeli soldiers has uncovered new evidence of the military's conduct during the assault on Gaza two months ago. According to the group Breaking the Silence, the witness statements of the 15 soldiers who have come forward to describe their concerns over Operation Cast Lead appear to corroborate claims of random killings and vandalism carried out during the operation made by a separate group of anonymous servicemen during a seminar at a military college.

Although Breaking the Silence's report is not due to be published for several months, the testimony it has received already suggests widespread abuses stemming from orders originating with the Israeli military chain of command.

The claims appear to add credence to widespread claims of Israeli soldiers firing on civilians, made by Palestinians to journalists and international investigators and lawyers who entered Gaza at the end of the conflict and in its aftermath.

With Israeli newspapers threatening new disclosures, the New York Times has weighed in with an interview with a reservist describing the rules of engagement for the Gaza operation. Amir Marmor, a 33-year-old military reservist, told the newspaper that he was stunned to discover the way civilian casualties were discussed in training talks before his tank unit entered Gaza in January.

"Shoot and don't worry about the consequences" was the message from commanders, said Marmor. Describing the behaviour of a lieutenant-colonel who briefed the troops, Marmor added: "His whole demeanour was extremely gung-ho. This is very, very different from my usual experience. I have been doing reserve duty for 12 years, and it was always an issue how to avoid causing civilian injuries. He said that in this operation, we are not taking any chances. Morality aside, we have to do our job. We will cry about it later."

Haaretz quoted one soldier as saying: "There was a house with a family inside ... We put them in a room. Later we left the house and another platoon entered it, and a few days after that there was an order to release the family. They had set up positions upstairs. There was a sniper position on the roof."

"The platoon commander let the family go and told them to go to the right. One mother and her two children didn't understand and went to the left, but they forgot to tell the sharpshooter on the roof they had let them go and it was OK, and he should hold his fire and he ... he did what he was supposed to, like he was following his orders," it said.

Terming all Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as "terrorists", Israeli army rabbis have told troopers in the recent Gaza war that they were fighting a religious war to expel gentiles from the holy land.
"Their message was very clear: we are the Jewish people, we came to this land by a miracle, God brought us back to this land and now we need to fight to expel the gentiles who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land," Ram, an army commander, said in testimonies cited by the Israeli daily Haaretz on Friday, March 20.

"This was the main message, and the whole sense many soldiers had in this operation was of a religious war."

The accounts of Ram, a pseudonym to shield the officer's identity, was published in the second day of troops' revelations about Gaza war atrocities.

Ram said his impression of the war was "the feeling of an almost religious mission".

"A brigade rabbi was there, who afterward came into Gaza and went around patting us on the shoulder and encouraging us, and praying with people," he said.

"And also when we were inside they sent in those booklets, full of Psalms, a ton of Psalms. I think that at least in the house I was in for a week, we could have filled a room with the Psalms they sent us, and other booklets like that.
The army Cops distributed pamphlets about the history of Israel's fighting in Gaza from 1948 to the present, he said.

"The rabbinate brought in a lot of booklets and articles."

A squad commander from Ram's Givat Brigade, named as Aviv, recounted how they were told to open fire on any Palestinian who has not left his home during the war.

"From above they said it was permissible, because anyone who remained in the sector and inside Gaza City was in effect condemned, a terrorist, because they hadn't fled," he said.

"I didn't really understand: On the one hand they don't really have anywhere to flee to, but on the other hand they're telling us they hadn't fled so it's their fault ... This also scared me a bit."

During the event, the order was amended to include "operating megaphones" so advancing troops could tell people they had five minutes to get out or be killed.

"And then there was a very annoying moment. One of my soldiers came to me and asked, 'Why?' I said, 'What isn't clear? We don't want to kill innocent civilians.' He goes, 'Yeah? Anyone who's in there is a terrorist, that's a known fact.' I said, 'Do you think the people there will really run away? No one will run away," Aviv said.

The solider went on saying "'That's clear,' and then his buddies join in: 'We need to murder any person who's in there. Yeah, any person who's in Gaza is a terrorist,' and all the other things that they stuff our heads with, in the media.

The European Union has been urged to call for an independent inquiry into possible war crimes committed during Israel's 22-day military offensive in Gaza.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) wrote to EU foreign ministers to seek their backing for an inquiry into its "allegations of serious violations of international law [by Israel and Hamas]... which may constitute war crimes". The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights estimates that 1,434 Palestinians, including 960 civilians, were killed in the offensive.

Alleged violations by Israel include using 155mm artillery and white phosphorus in built-up areas.

HRW says it has documented six cases in which troops fired on groups of Palestinians holding white flags. And it claims Israel used an "unjustifiably expansive definition" of military targets to attack civilian facilities connected to Hamas.

The letter accused Hamas and other Palestinian groups of committing war crimes by launching hundreds of rockets into Israel, killing three Israelis since 27 December. It says Hamas's use of civilian homes and areas to monitor or attack Israeli forces violates requirements to protect civilians.

Saturday 21 March 2009

Terai Muslims in Nepal hope to be heard this time

Historical Background: The first Muslims, who were Kashmiri traders, arrived in Kathmandu valley in the 15th century. A second group arrived in the 17th century from Northern India, and they manufactured small armaments for small hill states. The descendants of these early immigrants speak Nepali and are indistinguishable from upper-caste hindus. The largest group is the Terai Muslims, many of whom arrived before unification. Others gradually drifted north from India, especially following the war of independence in 1857. Many of them still have strong ties with the Muslim communities in the Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. A number of Tibetan Muslims arrived in Nepal following the 1959 Chinese takeover of Tibet. Unlike India, where communal tension is a major problem, Nepal's Hindu and Muslim communities coexist peacefully.

The majority of Muslims live in the Terai. The Terai Muslims speak the dominant languages of the area where they live, whilst the Hill Muslims use a variation of Nepali sometimes known as Churaute. This however is not a term they would use themselves; Hill Muslims say that they speak the ‘language of the Muslims’, thus reaffirming a unique group identity.Some Muslims, such as Ali Miya, should be remembered and acknowledged for their contribution to promoting Nepali folksongs.

Source: Nepal By Bradley Mayhew, Lindsay Brown, Wanda Vivequin, Hugh Finlay

Angered by the Maoist government’s failure to form the promised Muslim Commission and the imposition of a controversial quota ordinance, Nepal’s minority Muslim community is on the warpath, announcing a series of bandhs to pressure Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda into heeding their demands.

The newly formed United Muslim National Struggle Committee has called a Kathmandu valley bandh Sunday, to be followed by a strike in the eastern region on March 22, a bandh in the west the day after and two more closures in the central region and midwest on March 25 and 27 respectively.

The protests were announced after a torch rally in the capital Thursday, in which dozens of Muslims took part, demanding the Muslim Commission that Prachanda had promised them last July after his party won the election. In addition, the community is also asking for an amendment in the interim constitution which makes provisions for disadvantaged groups like women, Dalits, and ethnic communities but does not mention Muslims.

Till 2006, Nepal was the world’s only Hindu kingdom where Muslims, though living in harmony, remained among the poorest and least-literate community, mostly eking out a bare livelihood by farming or labour in the Terai plains along the Indo-Nepal border. This year, the Prachanda government’s decision to reserve 45 seats for backward communities in the now secular republic has stirred up a hornets’ nest.

The Muslims, along with ethnic groups from the Terai plains, fear that the reservation policy will favour the Madhesis, people of Indian origin also living in the Terai. They are now demanding an amendment in the constitution so that Muslims are included as a separate group among disadvantaged communities.

Like other protesting groups, Nepal’s Muslims too want proportional representation in all state organs on the basis of population. According to Taj Mohammad Miyan, the convenor of the protesting committee, the last census of 2001, which put the Muslim population at over 4 percent of the 27 million population, is grossly inaccurate With Nepal’ population now exceeding 29.5 million, he estimates Muslims to comprise nearly 10 percent. Muslims are now demanding a new census in order to be better represented.

The announcement of the bandhs comes after a 15-day ultimatum given by them to the Prachanda government. The flexing of muscles occurs at a time the coalition government is already reeling under a 12-day bandh called in the Terai by the Tharus, a people who were the original residents of Terai descended from the Buddha.

The bandh by the Tharus, who too are opposing the quota policy, has raised the spectre of a fuel and food shortage in the capital and hill districts. Gas stations in the capital have been running dry and the remote western districts suffering from acute shortage of food and essential items.

"We expected that our 'New Nepal' would not discriminate against us but we are still being treated as refugees," said Muslim journalist Rahamatulla Miya.

The "New Nepal" concept has been popular since the end of the decade-long armed conflict (1996-2006) which ended with the abolition of the 300-year-old monarchy, but for minority ethnic groups, the situation has barely changed.

"The Muslims want recognition of their identity and proper representation in the constitution and not to be categorised as Madhesi or any other community," said Attahar Hussain, president of Muslim Mukti Morcha, which rallies Nepalese Muslims.

Muslim community on Saturday made public its six-point recommendation on the new statute demanding an 'equal share' in the new set up.

Organizing a discussion programme with Constituent Assembly members and representatives of political parties in Kathmandu, the Nepal Muslim Sangh requested the Constituent Assembly to address Muslim community's concerns for a separate identity, establish a strong Muslim commission, a Madarasa board, and a Hajj committee, and to formulate the Muslim personal law based on the Islamic religion in the new constitution.

Coming down heavily against the political parties, Muslim leaders claimed that their community has been exploited so far as a 'vote bank'.

Lets hope the issue is resolved peacefully.

Get out of Hell Free option back in Christianity

The announcement in church bulletins and on Web sites has been greeted with enthusiasm by some and wariness by others. But mainly, it has gone over the heads of a vast generation of Roman Catholics who have no idea what it means: “Bishop Announces Plenary Indulgences.”

In recent months, dioceses around the world have been offering Catholics a spiritual benefit that fell out of favor decades ago — the indulgence, a sort of amnesty from punishment in the afterlife — and reminding them of the church’s clout in mitigating the wages of sin.

In simple english, Plenary Indulgences are sort-of 'Get Out of Hell Free card' from a priest.

With his traditionalist bent and sympathies for pre-Second Vatican Council mumbo jumbo, it comes as no surprise that Pope Benedict is giving the nod to the return of indulgences in the Catholic Church.

Roman Catholic doctrine is full of implausible theological concepts. Only a very naive person could possibly go along with half of it. Indulgences only add to the impression of a Church out-of-touch and intent on reviving the more Monty Pythonesque aspects of Catholic religiosity.

Indulgences allegedly grant a sort of amnesty from punishment in the afterlife. Of course, they also place power back in the hands of priests - which is what Benedict is all about. The re-emergence of indulgences, saint veneration and other stratagems from the RC box-of-tricks is in part a move to help shore up the fading influence of the Church.

Indulgences were dropped decades ago by Catholics with good sense who realized, much as Luther did in his day, that such beliefs risked making the Church into a sort of spiritual bazaar where 'sins' could be absolved with clerical rigmarole, helped by perhaps a donation to a charity or two.

“Why are we bringing it back?” asked Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Brooklyn, who has embraced the move. “Because there is sin in the world.”

Isn't this a bit like bribing the god via bribing the priests?

Friday 20 March 2009

Palestinians creating bombs out of Pasta and Tomato paste

Members of the highest-ranking American delegation to tour Gaza were shocked to discover that the Israeli blockade against the Hamas-ruled territory included such food staples as lentils, macaroni and tomato paste.

Aid groups complain of Israel's restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian aid, even harmless goods such as soap and toilet papers, into Gaza.

In one case, Israel blocked for weeks a World Food Program (WFP) shipment of chickpeas, used to make the Palestinian food staple hummus.

Western officials also cite Israeli restrictions on imports of certain types of cheeses, toothbrushes and toothpaste.

"When have lentil bombs been going off lately? Is someone going to kill you with a piece of macaroni?" asked Congressman Brian Laird. It was only after Senator John Kerry, the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, raised the issue with Defence Minister Ehud Barak after their trip last month that Israel allowed the pasta in. Macaroni was considered a luxury item, not a humanitarian necessity, they were told. The total number of products blacklisted by Israel remains a mystery for UN officials and the relief agencies which face long delays in bringing in supplies. For security reasons such items as cement and steel rods are banned as they could be used by Hamas to build bunkers or the rockets used to target Israeli civilians. Hearing aids have been banned in case the mercury in their batteries could be used to produce chemical weapons.

Yet since the end of the war in January, according to non-government organisations, five truckloads of school notebooks were turned back at the crossing at Kerem Shalom where goods are subject to a $1,000 (£700) per truck "handling fee".

Paper to print new textbooks for Palestinian schools was stopped, as were freezer appliances, generators and water pumps, cooking gas and chickpeas. And the French government was incensed when an entire water purification system was denied entry. Christopher Gunness, the spokesman for the UN agency UNRWA responsible for Palestinian refugees, said: "One of the big problems is that the 'banned list' is a moving target so we discover things are banned on a 'case by case', 'day by day' basis."

Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth said: "Israel's blockade policy can be summed up in one word and it is punishment, not security."

The humanitarian catastrophe created by the long-running Israeli siege further aggravated after Israel's recent three-week war which killed more than 1,300 people, mostly civilians, and wounded 5,450.

The onslaught, the deadliest ever against Gaza, wrecked havoc on the infrastructure, leaving nearly 20,000 homes and thousands of other buildings damaged.

Thursday 19 March 2009

Israeli Assasin breaks rank, tells his story

A former member of an Israeli assassination squad has broken his silence for the first time.

The Israeli military's policy of targeted killings has been described from the inside for the first time. In an interview with The Independent on Sunday, and in his testimony to an ex-soldiers' organisation, Breaking the Silence, a former member of an assassination squad has told of his role in a botched ambush that killed two Palestinian bystanders, as well as the two militants targeted.

The operation, which took place a little over eight years ago, at the start of the present intifada, or uprising, left the former sharpshooter with psychological scars. To this day he has not told his parents of his participation in what he called "the first face-to-face assassination of the intifada".

As the uprising unfolded, targeted assassinations became a regularly used weapon in the armoury of the Israel military, especially in Gaza, where arrests would later become less easy than in the West Bank. The highest-profile were those of Hamas leaders Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi in 2005, and of Said Siyam in the most recent offensive. But the targeting of lower-level militants, like the one killed in the operation described by the former soldier, became sufficiently common to attract little comment.

The incident described by the ex-soldier appears almost trivial by comparison with so much that has happened since in Gaza, culminating in more than 1,200 Palestinian casualties inflicted by Operation Cast Lead this January. It might have been forgotten by all except those directly affected, if it had not been for the highly unusual account of it he gave to Breaking the Silence, which has collected testimony from hundreds of former troops concerned about what they saw and did – including abuses of Palestinians – during their service in the occupied territories.

That account, expanded on in an interview with the IoS, and broadly corroborated by another soldier's testimony to Breaking the Silence, directly challenges elements of the military's official version at the time, while casting new light on the tactic of targeted assassination by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). So do comments by the father of one of the Palestinians killed, and one who survived, also traced by the IoS.

The former conscript said his special unit had trained for an assassination, but was then told it would be an arrest operation. They would fire only if the targeted man had weapons in his car. "We were pretty bombed it was going to be an arrest. We wanted to kill," he said. The unit then went south to Gaza and took up position. It was 22 November 2000.

The squad's main target was a Palestinian militant called Jamal Abdel Razeq. He was in the passenger seat of a black Hyundai being driven north towards Khan Younis by his comrade, Awni Dhuheir. Both men were wholly unaware of the trap that was waiting for him near the Morag junction. This section of the main Salahadin north-south road in Gaza went straight past a Jewish settlement. Razeq was used to seeing an armoured personnel carrier (APC) beside the road, but he had no idea that its regular crew had been replaced by men from an elite air force special unit, including at least two highly trained sharpshooters.

Since before he even left his home in Rafah that morning, Shin Bet – the Israeli intelligence service – had been monitoring Razeq's every move with uncanny accuracy, thanks to a running commentary from the mobile phones of two Palestinian collaborators, including one of his own uncles. The man who was to kill him says he was "amazed" at the detail relayed to the unit commander from Shin Bet: "How much coffee he had in his glass, when he was leaving. They knew he had a driver [and] ... they said they had weapons in the trunk, not in the car. For 20 minutes we knew it was going to be a simple arrest because they had no weapons in the car."

But then, he says, the orders suddenly changed. "They said he had one minute to arrive, and then we got an order that it was going to be an assassination after all." He thinks it came from a war room set up for the operation and his impression was that "all the big chiefs were there", including a brigadier general.

The two militants would still have suspected nothing as they approached the junction, even when a big Israel Defence Forces (IDF) supply truck lumbered out of a side turning to cut them off. They would have had no way of knowing the truck was full of armed soldiers, waiting for this moment. A 4x4 was deployed by the road, only in case "something really wrong" happened.

But something did go wrong: the truck moved out too soon, and blocked not only the militants in their black Hyundai, but the white Mercedes taxi in front of them. It was carrying Sami Abu Laban, 29, a baker, and Na'el Al Leddawi, 22, a student. They were on their way from Rafah to Khan Younis to try to buy some scarce diesel to fire the bread ovens.

As the critical moment approached, the sharpshooter said he began to shake from the waist down. "What happens now is I'm waiting for the car to come and I am losing control of my legs. I have an M16 with digicom [special sharpshooter sights]. It was one of the strangest things that ever happened to me. I felt completely concentrated. So the seconds are counted down, then we started seeing the cars, and we see that two cars are coming, not one. There was a first car very close to the following one and when the truck came in, it came in a bit early, and both cars were stopped.Everything stopped. They gave us two seconds and they said, 'Shoot. Fire.'" Who gave the order, and to whom? "The unit commander ... to everybody. Everybody heard 'Fire'."

The target, Razeq, was in the passenger seat, closest to the APC. "I have no doubt I see him in the scope. I start shooting. Everyone starts shooting, and I lose control. I shoot for one or two seconds. I counted afterwards – shot 11 bullets in his head. I could have shot one shot and that's it. It was five seconds of firing.

"I look through the scope, see half of his head. I have no reason to shoot 11 bullets. I think maybe from the fear, maybe to cope with all the things that are happening, I just continue shooting."

As far as he can recall, the order to fire was not specific to the sharpshooters in the APC. He cannot know for certain if the troops in the truck thought wrongly that some of the fire was directed at them from the cars. But he says that after he stopped "the firing gets even worse. I think the people in the truck started to panic. They're firing and one of the cars starts driving and the commander says, 'Stop, stop, stop, stop!' It takes a few seconds to completely stop and what I see afterwards is that both cars are full of holes. The first car, too, which was there by coincidence."

Razeq and Dhuheir, the militants, were dead. So were Abu Laban and Al Leddawi. Miraculously, the driver of the taxi, Nahed Fuju, was unscathed. The sharpshooter can remember only one of the four bodies lying on the ground. "I was shocked by that body. It was like a sack. It was full of flies. And they asked who shot the first car [the Mercedes] and nobody answered. I think everybody was confused. It was clear that it had been a screw-up and nobody was admitting [it]." But the commander did not hold a formal debriefing until the unit returned to its main base.

"The commander came in and said, 'Congratulations. We got a phone call from the Prime Minister and from the Minister of Defence and the chief of staff. They all congratulated us. We succeeded perfectly in our mission. Thank you.' And from that point on, I understood that they were very happy." He says the only discussion was over the real risk there had been of soldiers' casualties from friendly fire in the shoot-out, in which at least one of the IDF's own vehicles was hit by ricocheting bullets, and at the end of which at least one soldier even got out of the 4x4 and fired at an inert body on the ground.

Saying his impression was "they wanted the press or the Palestinians to know they were raising a step in our fight", he adds: "The feeling was of a big success and I waited for a debriefing that would ask all these questions, that would show some regret for some failure, but it didn't happen. The only thing that I felt is that the commanders knew that it was a very big political success for them."

The incident immediately caused something of a stir. Mohammed Dahlan, then head of the Fatah-run Preventative Security in Gaza, called it a "barbaric assassination". The account given at the time to the press by Brigadier General Yair Naveh, in charge of IDF forces in Gaza, was that it had been intended as an arrest operation, but that sensing something amiss, Razeq had pulled out a Kalashnikov rifle and attempted to open fire at the Israeli forces, at which point the troops shot at his vehicle. While Razeq was the main target, it was claimed, the two victims in the taxi were were also Fatah activists "with ties to Razeq".

Mr Al Leddawi said last week that his son's presence was a tragic accident of timing and that the family had never heard of the other two men. "It was all by coincidence that they were there," he said. "We have nothing do with the resistance in this family." Beyond saying that he had received "not a shekel" in compensation, the taxi driver, Mr Fuju, did not want to talk to us in Rafah last week. "You want to interview me so the Israelis can bomb my house?"

The Israeli military said in response to detailed queries about the incident and the discrepancies between its account at the time and that of Palestinians, and now the ex-soldier, that it takes "human rights violations very seriously" but "regrets that Breaking the Silence does not provide it with details or testimony of the incidents it alleges in order to allow for a thorough investigation". It added that "these soldiers and commanders did not approach senior commanders ... with their complaints during their service."

Wednesday 18 March 2009

Shin Beth: Forcing Palestinians to kill their own

Founded in 1948, Shin Beth - or Shabak - is Israel's internal security service arm. Its motto is: "Defender that shall not be seen".

Shin Beth has been using a variety of tactics to recruit informers of late. A senior source told IslamOnline "In many instances, the collaborators were recruited while applying for travel permits that would enable them to go to the West Bank, or abroad, for purposes having to do with education and medical care. Sexual blackmail is also heavily used to recruit collaborators."

The source revealed that the Shin Beth began of late employing "novel ways" to recruit collaborators, including asking already recruited agents to gather data on Palestinian youths facing problems, especially financial problems. The Shin Beth officers would then contact these young men and try to induce them to provide information on the resistance in return for sums of money given to them at specific "dead spots".

The new recruits would then find their "wages" inserted inside a pack of cigarette placed in a mutually designated location, not frequented by many people.

Occasionally, a Shin Beth officer would contact some young men from families or clans hostile to Hamas. The officer would seek to convince the men that collaboration with Israel was the only way to get rid of Hamas' rule.

The Shin Beth audacity went so far as trying to recruit high-ranking officials and intellectuals who are not on good terms with Hamas. For example, the former mayor of Khan Younis, Dr. Fayez Abu Shammala, who had been dismissed by Hamas following the ousting of Fateh from Gaza in 2007, told IslamOnline.net, "I was surprised one day when a Shin Beth officer called me and began attacking Hamas for dismissing me. He then asked me to collaborate with Israel."

Abu Shamalla said he got furious and began screaming at the Shin Bet Officer, telling him not to call again.

On January 8, as a special Israeli army unit was storming and destroying a number of homes belonging to some of Hamas' military leaders at the Zaytoun neighborhood south of Gaza, locals were surprised to discover that two local — Palestinian — young men were escorting the soldiers, guiding them to specific homes. The two reportedly were dressed in the Israeli army uniforms.

After the forces demolished the homes using dynamite, the resistance fighters arrested these two persons who confessed that they were guiding the Israelis to the homes of the resistance fighters.

They were executed after having their confessions recorded on video.

It was amply clear that the Israeli army didn't take real precautions to safeguard the lives of its collaborators and informers.

Toward the end of the war, Shin Beth Chief Yuval Diskin sent a strongly-worded letter to Chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, protesting the way the army handled the informers during the war, which he said exposed them and eventually led to their liquidation by Hamas.

However, the army's response to Diskin's letter only underscored how lightly the Israeli security establishment viewed the lives of the informers.

In a letter published in the Israeli Hebrew newspaper Ma'ariv, Ashkenazi argued:

What concerns us first and foremost is the lives of our soldiers, not the lives of the collaborators. We recruit the collaborators in order to preserve the lives of our men. Hence, we won't be awfully concerned if these collaborators are exposed and killed. In the final analysis, it is Arabs killing Arabs…

While the Shin Beth did criticize the army for failing to take sufficient precautionary measures to save the lives of the collaborators, it was clear that the army behavior enabled Hamas to identify and locate a large number of collaborators and informers.

A security source in Gaza intimated to IslamOnline.net that the majority of collaborators were apprehended while phoning their Shin Beth contacts and communicating to them information on the whereabouts of resistance fighters. The same source added that in many cases the informers were arrested after raising suspicions, e.g. by walking suspiciously in sensitive places, such as border areas, without reasonable justifications.

Some other informers were captured inspecting rural areas used for launching rockets. The informers were simply relaying "real time" information to Israeli intelligence officers.

Needless to say, informers played a crucial role in helping the Israeli army during the recent war on Gaza. This was revealed by Hertzl Halevy, the commander of the Parachutists brigade in the Israeli army, who pointed out that had it not been for the information provided by the collaborators, the Israeli army would have sustained a lot of losses.
In an interview with the Israeli TV-Channel Two on February 14, Halevy admitted that thanks to the collaborators and informers, the Israeli army was able to finish the war with relatively few losses.

Halevy said the army possessed a preponderance of sensitive and important information on the Palestinian resistance which, he said, explained that there were no real surprises during the war.

"We received very accurate information and the collaborators informed us on booby-trapped homes and places where explosives hand been planted, near which power pole and under which tree."

He added that the "success" in the war was first and foremost a success the intelligence.

The same TV-Channel Two quoted an unnamed Shin Beth officer as saying that the importance of collaborators to Israeli security increased dramatically after the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

"They are simply our eyes and ears. We lure them with small sums of money or by taking advantage of their bad need for medical treatment or travel permits."

Along with informers we have to remember that Israel is heavily involved in spying of the west. There is no place where you wont find them. We only hear about them when they get caught but most of the time they roam fearlessly. Some years back, Indian engineer was recruited in the USA to pass some of its secrets to Israel. One would think that since USA is the biggest supporter of Israel, it would be exempt from the spying service.

According to Fox news in 2001, before 9/11 tragedy, over 140 Israelis were held in the USA on charges of spying while just after that over 60 were held. There is no indication the Israelis were involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, but investigators suspect that they may have gathered intelligence about the attacks in advance and not shared it.

Even tiny little New Zealand is not exempt. Two men said by New Zealand to be Israeli agents were sentenced in 2004 to six months in prison after pleading guilty to attempting to obtain a New Zealand passport illegally. They were released and deported after serving about two months. New Zealand's prime minister, Helen Clark, demanded a public apology from Israel and a commitment to prevent another such breach of her country's laws. She also imposed diplomatic sanctions on Israel from July 2004, including halting the approval of a new Israeli ambassador.

Even though Israel has been settling lots of former Informers in proper Israel and providing them with a new life, lets hope these Palestinians do not betray their own people.

Tuesday 17 March 2009

More Illicit relationships news rocks Catholic world

A former nun's tell-all story which details illicit relationships, sexual harassment and bullying in the convent where she spent three decades is causing ructions in the Catholic Church in the south Indian state of Kerala.

In Amen – an autobiography of a nun, Sister Jesme says when she became a nun she discovered priests were forcing novices to have sex with them. There were also secret homosexual relationships among the nuns and at one point she was forced into such a relationship by another nun who told her she preferred this kind of arrangement as it ruled out the possibility of pregnancy.

Sister Jesme, who quit last year as the principal of a Catholic college in Thrissur, alleges senior nuns tried to have her committed to a mental institution after she spoke out against them.

In her book, she says that while travelling through Bangalore, she was once directed to stay with a purportedly pious priest who took her to a garden "and showed me several pairs cuddling behind trees. He also gave me a sermon on the necessity of physical love and described the illicit affairs that certain bishops and priests had". The priest took her to his home, stripped off his clothes and ordered her to do the same.

She also alleges that while senior staff turned a blind eye to the actions of more experienced nuns, novices were strongly punished, even for minor transgressions. She was not allowed to go home after she learnt her father had died. "I was able to see [the body of] my father barely 15 minutes before the funeral," she writes. "The [response] of the superiors was that the then senior sisters were not even lucky enough to see the bodies of their parents."

When she resigned as a college principal, she claimed convents had become "houses of torture", saying: "The mental torture was unbearable. When I questioned the church's stand on self-financing colleges and certain other issues, they accused me of having mental problems. They have even sent me to a psychiatrist. There are many nuns undergoing ill-treatment from the order, but they are afraid of challenging it. The church is a formidable fortress."

The allegations are not the only controversy to rock the Catholic Church in Kerala. Last summer, a 23-year-old novice committed suicide and left a note saying she had been harassed by her Mother Superior. Reports suggest there have been a number of similar suicides. And in November, police in Kerala arrested two priests and a nun in connection with the killing of Sister Abhaya in a notorious 1992 murder.

Even though shocking, this might not be big news in the Catholic world. Over the last few years there have been many shocking revelations about the abuse of children by catholic priests and clergy. Just in Ireland by 2006 there were more than 100 priests that were involved in abuse of over 350 children. This is considering the fact that similar things were reported in the past with regards to Ireland. What is more shocking is that the pope has been said to be involved in cover-up of these abuses.

To avoid these kinds of problems, in Islam Marriage is said to be fard or compulsary. A hadith mentions that when a Muslim marries, he completes half of his religion. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is also reported to have said: "Four things bring one joy: a righteous wife, a spacious house, a pious neighbor and a comfortable riding animal." The Glorious Qur’an highlights this universal law in the following two verses: (And all things We have created by pairs, that haply ye may reflect.) (Adh-Dhariyat 51: 49) (Glory be to Him Who created all the sexual pairs, of that which the earth groweth, and of themselves, and of that which they know not.) (Ya-Sin 36: 36)

You can read more about the concept of Marriage in Islam here.

Monday 16 March 2009

Suing Israel and War Crimes Inquiry may not make much difference

A Palestinian family is suing Ehud Olmert, Israel's outgoing prime minister, and other government officials over the deaths of their relatives during the recent assault on Gaza.

The al-Samouni family, which saw 29 of its members killed in the conflict, filed the case in Jerusalem on Tuesday, seeking $200m in damages for "criminal negligence".

The al-Samounis say Israeli soldiers raided their homes in the middle of the conflict, and moved the extended family together into one house.

According to the survivors' accounts, partly corroborated by the International Red Cross and the United Nations, shells and missiles fired by the Israeli military hit the house the following day, leaving 29 people dead.

Two months after the attack, the remaining al-Samounis live in a makeshift tent amid the rubble of their former home.

Its a shame that they are not Americans or British citizens or the Israelis could have been forced to hand out the money as in case of James Miller whose family was paid £1.5m

A Turkish state prosecutor has launched an investigation into claims of Israeli crimes against humanity and genocide during a recent deadly offensive in the Gaza Strip.

The group accuses 19 Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, President Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak of committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Gaza.

The investigation was launched under Article 13 of the Turkish Penal Code, which allows Turkish courts to try those charged with committing genocide and torture, even if the crime was perpetrated in another country.

The Palestinian Authority is pressing the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate accusations of war crimes committed by Israeli commanders during the recent war in Gaza.

The Palestinian minister of justice, Ali Kashan, first raised the issue during a visit to the court’s chief prosecutor late last month, and he and other officials are due back again in The Hague this week, court officials said.

The prosecutor has received more than 200 requests to look into allegations of war crimes during the recent fighting between Israel and Hamas militants. They include accusations from individuals and organizations that Israel violated the rules of war by singling out civilians and nonmilitary buildings, and by using weapons like white phosphorus illegally.

The international criminal court is considering whether the Palestinian Authority is "enough like a state" for it to bring a case alleging that Israeli troops committed war crimes in the recent assault on Gaza.

The deliberations would potentially open the way to putting Israeli military commanders in the dock at The Hague over the campaign, which claimed more than 1,300 lives, and set an important precedent for the court over what cases it can hear.

The latest moves in The Hague come amid mounting international pressure on Israel and a growing recognition in Israeli government circles that it may eventually have to defend itself against war crimes allegations. The Guardian has also learned that a confidential inquiry by the International Committee of the Red Cross into the actions of Israel and Hamas during the recent conflict in Gaza is expected to accuse Israel of using "excessive force" - prohibited under the fourth Geneva convention.

The Red Cross has been collecting information for two parallel inquiries, one into the conduct of Israel and a second into Hamas, both of which will be presented in private to the parties involved.

In the case of Israel, the Red Cross is expected to highlight three areas of concern: the Israeli Defence Forces' "use and choice of weapons in a complex and densely populated environment"; the issue of "proportionality"; and concerns over the IDF's lack of distinction between combatants and non-combatants during Operation Cast Lead. Hamas is likely to be challenged over its use of civilian facilities as cover for its fighters; its summary executions and kneecappings of Palestinians during the campaign; and its indiscriminate firing of rockets into civilian areas.

Meanwhile, sources at the ICC say it is considering two potential tracks that would permit it to investigate what happened in Gaza. As well as determining whether the PA is recognised internationally as a sufficiently state-like entity, the head of jurisdictions in the office of the international criminal court's prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, is looking at whether the court can consider war crimes allegations on the basis of the dual nationality of either victims or alleged perpetrators whose second passport is with a country party to the court.

Al Jazeera's new weekly show, Focus On Gaza, correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin visited the village of Khuza'a where residents and human rights experts believe a possible war crime took place during Israel's offensive on the Gaza Strip.

Testimony from eyewitnesses, friends, neighbours and human rights experts about the incident tell the story of how a woman carrying a baby and white flag was shot in broad daylight by an Israeli soldier.

Nasser al Najar, Rawhiyya's husband, still has the bloodstained white flag he says his wife was carrying when she was killed.

Villagers in Khuza'a are accustomed to living under the guns that man the nearby Israeli watchtowers, but Nasser says there are normally no Palestinian resistance fighters in the area and consequently he felt the village would be spared an Israeli raid.

However, on January 12, the Israelis began an intense shelling of the area and deployed white phosphorous, a move that was considered a precursor to a ground-based attack.

You can read the detailed report on Al Jazeera or watch the video below

Even though we can see that a lot is happening, practically we should be prepared that in the end nothing ever happens against Israel.