Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Now is not the time to offend Turkey

The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee is preparing the death knell for U.S.-Turkey relations. It just approved a resolution recognizing the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians in the last years of the Ottoman Empire (c. 1915) as genocide. The resolution will next move to the House floor for a full vote, and a companion piece is waiting for a vote in a Senate committee.

My argument is NOT that there was no genocide. Many historians believe a genocide occurred, though I do not know enough about the surrounding events to have a definitive opinion. If it did occur, the Armenian genocide should be
roundly condemned, though Congress must stay out of the debate.

Turkey is one of the U.S.'s historic and most important allies. There has been much focus in the media that a good portion of US supplies for the War in Iraq go through Turkey, but that's just the beginning. Turkey has been a member of the NATO military alliance since 1952, serves to moderate and mediate conflicts throughout the Middle East, and has shown the world that a country can be both predominantly Muslim and a modern democracy.

But the people of Turkey feel that they have been repeatedly slighted by the West, especially recently. Turkey applied for full membership into the European Union in 1987, and it believes xenophobia has kept them out while allowing in less developed countries such as Poland and Bulgaria. Further, while ethnic Turks on the island of Cyprus voted for peace with Greek Cypriots and were kept out of the E.U., Greek Cypriots voted against peace and yet were admitted into the E.U. Turkey also contends that the US ignored Turkish concerns when it went into Iraq, and consequently it has been a victim of a spate of terrorist bombings originating from Iraqi Kurdistan.

The events of 1915 are a sensitive subject for the Turks. In recent years Turks have been more open to examine their history, but attempts to force them to confront their past have been met with fierce resistance. If the genocide resolution passes Congress, it could burn our bridge between the West and the Muslim World.

Once again, genocide should always be condemned. If the mass murder was currently being committed, I would demand that Congress denounce the perpetrators. But it is not Congress' place to throw history into a country's face and drive away a vital American ally.

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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ahmadinejad on SNL: A Digital Short

Update 3/2/08- The video now works. Apparently the earlier versions were pirated, while this video was embedded directly from NBC's website.
Here was a video that aired on Saturday Night Live last night. Enjoy!


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Monday, September 24, 2007

Iran's Take on Ahmadinejad's Columbia U. Speech

As many media outlets covered the Iranian President's speech at Columbia University, so did the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). This organization is Iran's official mouthpiece, funded by the Ministry of National Guidance, and had a somewhat different take on Ahmadinejad's visit. Here is the text of the IRNA article:

Despite entire US media objections, negative propagation and hue and cry in recent days over IRI President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's scheduled address at Colombia University, he gave his lecture and answered students questions here on Monday afternoon.

On second day of his entry in New York, and amid standing ovation of the audience that had attended the hall where the Iranian President was to give his lecture as of early hours of the day, Ahmadinejad said that Iran is not going to attack any country in the world.

Before President Ahamadinejad's address, Colombia University Chancellor in a brief address told the audience that they would have the chance to hear Iran's stands as the Iranian President would put them forth.

He said that the Iranians are a peace loving nation, they hate war, and all types of aggression.

Referring to the technological achievements of the Iranian nation in the course of recent years, the president considered them as a sign for the Iranians' resolute will for achieving sustainable development and rapid advancement.

The audience on repeated occasion applauded Ahmadinejad when he touched on international crises.

At the end of his address President Ahmadinejad answered the students' questions on such issues as Israel, Palestine, Iran's nuclear program, the status of women in Iran and a number of other matters.

It seems that the IRNA missed parts of the speech, and lied about other parts. First off, though Ahmadinejad did receive a polite applause when he began his speech, he certainly did not receive a standing ovation. In fact, Columbia U.'s president received much louder applause during his critical intro of the Iranian president. This may seem like a petty point, but it illustrates how skewed IRNA reporting is. It wants to project it's leader as taming the lion that is the American public.

Which brings me to the second point: There is absolutely no mention of the blistering introduction he received from Lee Bollinger. Almost all other media outlets, including a story from al Jazeera, highlighted such instant classics as "Mr President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator." But I guess IRNA wasn't watching C-SPAN during the intro.

Third, IRNA is correct that Ahmadinejad took on many different topics from students. But I find it interesting that the news agency doesn't mention that the President took on homosexuality in Iran. It mentions Israel, Palestine, nuclear programs, and women, but not homosexuality. Maybe the topic wasn't covered because it isn't really that pertinent, as Ahmadinejad clearly stated that "
In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country." More likely the topic isn't mentioned because that statement prompted laughs and boos from the audience.

I think IRNA needs to pay more attention to its leader's speeches. Or at least watch more C-SPAN.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Vlog: 9-11 Unity Walk 2007 Part 3

Here is part 3 of 3 of my Vlog on the 9/11 Unity Walk 2007. Make sure to catch the commentary at the end. Click the play button below to view:


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Vlog: 9-11 Unity Walk 2007 Part 2

Here is part 2 of 3 of my Vlog on the 9/11 Unity Walk 2007. Click the play button below to view:


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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Vlog: 9-11 Unity Walk 2007 Part 1

Well, here it finally is: My vlog on the 9/11 Unity Walk 2007! This event faced the hatred of the ideology of bin Laden with a message of inclusiveness.

The vlog, which includes some commentary, will be uploaded tonight in 3 installments, and the whole video is less than 20 minutes. Click the play button below to view part 1:


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Monday, September 17, 2007

Update: 9/11 Unity Walk Video delayed

I've had the flu for the past several days and have been unable to work on the 9/11 Unity Walk Video without making my computer a casualty of projectile vomit. I'm feeling better, though, and intend to have the vlog up by late Tuesday night.


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Monday, September 10, 2007

Coming Soon: Video Blog of 9/11 Unity Walk

This past Sunday I attended the 9/11 Unity Walk in Washington, DC. The purpose of the event was to commemorate the victims of 9/11, and face the hatred of its perpetrators with a unified message of tolerance. Leaders and believers from many religious communities attended, including Baha'is, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians.

I'm currently editing my video blog of the event, but I hope to have it up by this coming Sunday at the latest. Here are some photos in the meanwhile:

From Left to Right:
Rev. Clark Lobenstine, Exec. Dir., Interfaith Conference of Metro Washington, DC
Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig, Senior Rabbi, Washington Hebrew Congregation
Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, former High Commissioner of Pakistan to Great Britain, currently Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies (and my professor) at American University

Passing the Washington National Cathedral

For more pictures click "Read More."

Virginia E. Hayes Williams, Child Activist and Mother of former DC Mayor Anthony Williams

Hon. Rev. Walter Fauntroy, Civil Rights Leader at the Gandhi Memorial

Rev. Richard Cizik, V.P for Gov't Affairs, National Association of Evangelicals at the Islamic Center

Ambassador Akbar Ahmed at Washington Hebrew Congregation

Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig at Washington Hebrew Congregation

We're Walking, We're Walking

Update 4/28/09
I am now an attorney at Richard J. Mockler, P.A. Visit us on the web at

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Friday, September 7, 2007

Bin Laden Named as New CoverGirl Spokesman

A Cafe Cordover Satire

In the tradition of Christie Brinkley, Tyra Banks, Drew Barrymore, and Queen Latifah, terror mastermind Osama Bin Laden has been tapped as the new CoverGirl Spokesman.

"America is weak because it has no moral foundation. But with CoverGirl's Saladin Radiance Restorative Cream, at least it can have a foundation that reduces wrinkles and fights embarrassing blotchy skin!" pronounced the founder of al-Qaeda in a new ad campaign. "The infidels shall meet the fate of the sword, but my eyelashes shall be clump-free with CoverGirl's Ummah VolumeExacting Mascara. I am easy, I am breazy, I am beautiful. I am, inshallah, CoverGirl."


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Friday, August 10, 2007

Time Travel: Only in Israel

The year was 1985, but not for long. Marty McFly stepped into the DeLorean with Doc and his girlfriend, not exactly sure what to expect in 2015. The DeLorean then hovered in the air and zoomed into the future.

For those of us who were children in the '80's, this scene from Back to the Future Part II stirred our imaginations, just as H.G. Wells' The Time Machine awed generations before us. But such time travel couldn't happen in real life. Or could it?

Professor Amos Ori of the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology believes it could. He claims that he has figured out a method that takes into account the barriers encountered by Albert Einstein and other theoretical physicists.

His theory is way above my level of understanding (it may or may not involve a flux capacitor), but to learn more go to this article on the Israel21c website.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Big Gun Politics: Can Armed Political Parties Fairly Participate in Democratic Processes?

The Latest
PRC Background
Other Political Parties with Armed Wings
Can Armed Political Parties fairly Participate in Democratic Processes?
The Altalena: An Israeli Example

The Latest

The Popular Resistance Committee ("PRC"), a Palestinian terrorist group responsible for the deaths of Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans, has announced that it will form a political party to run in future Palestinian elections. It vowed, however, to keep its militia intact.

"We will be a political movement in every way," said the group's spokesman, "with media advisers, a political leadership and we will maintain the Salah a-Din Brigades which will be our military wing."

That raises the question: Can armed political parties fairly participate in democratic processes?

PRC Background

The PRC was formed in 2000 at the beginning of the second Palestinian intifada (uprising), and is based mainly out of Gaza. It's leadership consists of former Fatah members who are against peace with Israel, as well as members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. It is also suspected of having ties with the Lebanese group Hezbollah.

The PRC has killed Israeli soldiers and civilians in the Gaza Strip and has wounded several Israelis by firing rockets into the Jewish State from Gaza. It claimed responsibility for a 2003 roadside bomb that killed several members of a U.S. diplomatic envoy in Gaza. It also boasted of killing Moussa Arafat, cousin of late PA President Yasser Arafat and former head of security, in 2005. In 2006, the PRC (along with Hamas) kidnapped Israeli Defense Forces ("IDF") Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who is still in captivity.

Other "Political Parties" with Armed Wings

To most in the West, a political party having an armed wing seems seems antithetical to democracy. But in the Middle East, there are plenty of examples of groups that have both political branches and a militia.

Palestinian Authority ("PA") President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party has armed wings (separate from official PA security forces) associated with it, including Tanzim, Force 17, and the al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade. Similarly Hamas, the political party that won PA parliamentary elections in 2006, is best known for suicide bombings committed by its armed wing.

Hezbollah also has political and armed divisions. In the 2005 Lebanese parliamentary election, Hezbollah won 14 seats, and for a while had two members in the cabinet.

In Iraq, it seems as if all political parties have their own militaries.

Even Israeli political parties use to have armed wings, though this is no longer the case. More on Israel's transition in a moment.

Can Armed Political Parties fairly Participate in Democratic Processes?

The answer, exemplified by Hamas, seems to be yes. Hamas won the 2006 PA parliamentary election not because it intimidated voters with its militia, but because the ruling Fatah party was seen as corrupt.

On the other hand, having distinct armed wings creates a highly destabilizing atmosphere. Because Fatah refused to disband its militias, Hamas and other groups such as the PRC maintained theirs. And now the PA is in a state of near-civil war.

The Lebanese government has been in political gridlock for almost a year, partly because Hezbollah has refused to disarm. In addition, other terrorist groups are sprouting up, such as the al-Qaeda inspired Fatah al-Islam. And, as I wrote in a previous article, al-Qaeda sees its primary enemies as not only the West but also Shi'ites, whom they describe as infidels. An armed Shi'a Hezbollah only aggravates the situation.

And then there is Iraq. Enough said.

The Altalena: an Israeli Example

Before the rebirth of the Israel in 1948, militarized political parties were common. One political party that had a militia was known as the Revisionist Party (the forerunner of the modern-day Likud Party), and it advocated the creation of a Jewish State in all of British Mandate Palestine.

The military wing of the Revisionist Party, called the Irgun, was led by Menacham Begin. The Irgun initiated attacks against various British installations, such as the bombing of the King David Hotel that killed British Diplomats.

When the State of Israel declared its independence in May 1948, most militias agreed to disband or incorporate themselves into the IDF. The Irgun, however, still wanted to retain some independence.

In June of that year, over 900 Irgun men and tons of military supplies arrived in Israel aboard the Altalena to help fight the War of Independence. Menacham Begin insisted that at least some of the supplies should be earmarked for separate Irgun activity, though then leader of Israel David Ben Gurion concluded that the IDF should have the sole military authority in the Jewish State.

When Begin refused to give up all of the weapons, Ben Gurion ordered the IDF to take the Altalena by force. The IDF opened fire on the ship, killing 16 Irgun fighters and sinking the Altalena. In addition, 200 Irgun men were arrested.

After the incident, all militias were fully disbanded or incorporated into the IDF. Ben Gurion established rule of law, and cemented the concept that the option of force rested solely with the state.


So yes, an armed political party can fairly participate in democratic processes. The PRC may even be able to accomplish this feat. But it is only attempting to do so at the peril of the Palestinian people.

If the Palestinians, the Lebanese, or the Iraqis want peace and stability, they must first get their house in order. They (including ruling parties) must either get militias to disband by agreement, or they must initiate their own Altalena.

The rule of law demands nothing less.

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Sunday, August 5, 2007

Weekend News Wrapup- 8/5/07

Israel and the Palestinian Territories
ISRAELI Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA President Mahmoud Abbas are scheduled to meet in the West Bank city of Jericho on Monday. The two are set to formulate a Declaration of Principles for a final settlement of the conflict. This, in turn, will be used as a basis for talks in a regional summit that U.S. Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice has planned for November.

There are several issues, beside final boundaries and a Palestinian "right of return," that complicate efforts for a final settlement. The first is that, after Hamas' bloody coup two months ago, Abbas no longer has any control over the Gaza Strip. The second is that Abbas' Fatah party is still seen by Palestinians as weak and corrupt. Its ability to enforce a peace agreement even in the West Bank is questionable. The third is Olmert's poor standing among Israelis. Olmert is less popular in Israel than President George W. Bush is in the United States, and Israelis may not trust him to ensure a fair and comprehensive peace.

OVER 300 members of terrorist groups associated with PA President Mahmoud Abbas have accepted an amnesty deal from Israel. Israel has promised to take these people aligned with Fatah, all located in the West Bank, off of its wanted list in exchange for them turning in their weapons and swearing off attacks on the Jewish State. The amnesty deal is part of a package of gestures that Israel is using to bolster Abbas' standing in the Palestinian territories.

Interestingly, members of Islamic Jihad, an Islamist terrorist group opposed to peace with Israel, have requested to be included in the amnesty. The Islamic Jihad leadership, however, has lambasted the amnesty and reaffirmed its commitment to destroy Israel.

RESIDENTS of the Christian city of Metn have gone to the polls to replace two assassinated Members of Parliament. Amin Gemayal, former president of Lebanon and father of one of the slain MP's, is contesting for his son's seat. His opponent is Kamil Khoury. Both candidates are Christian, though Gemayal is associated with the pro-Western government of Prime Minister Sinora while Khoury is aligned with the pro-Syria, Hezbollah-led opposition. The other seat is only being contested by pro-Western politician Mohammed al-Amin Itani.

MP's Pierre Gemayal and Walid Eido were murdered within the last year. Syria is suspected to be behind the slayings.

IRANIAN President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called on Israel to "go somewhere else." He stated that Israel should leave the region and a Palestinian state should crop up in its place. This comes after he has declared that Israel should be "wiped off the map" and hosted a Holocaust-denial conference.

His statement should also be viewed in the context of Iran's nuclear program. Iran has refused to suspend its nuclear activities, which the Islamic Republic has argued is purely for energy production. Western powers, however, are convinced it is also being used to develop a nuclear weapons program.

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Friday, August 3, 2007

Israelis Decry Gov't's Policy on Darfur Refugees

Israeli politicians from across the political spectrum have rightly united in their disgust at the government's policy toward Darfur refugees.

Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed to send any Darfur refugees that cross into the Jewish State from the Sinai Peninsula back to Egypt. Many of the Sudanese refugees attempt to flee Arab countries for Israel due to persecution and better economic opportunities.

Recently Israel Defense Force ("IDF") soldiers witnessed one such attempt. Several Darfur refugees were being chased by Egyptian soldiers while crossing into Israel. The Egyptians shot three of the refugees, immediately killing two of them. A fourth managed to get to the fence dividing Egypt and Israel, and began climbing it.

IDF soldiers who witnessed the shootings attempted to aid the refugee, getting a hold of his arm to help him over. But the Egyptians arrived and began pulling on the refugee's legs, and flung him back to the Egyptian side.

The IDF soldiers then watched helplessly as the Egyptians literally beat the refugee to death:

"What happened there yesterday was a lynch. These are not men, they're animals. They killed him without even using firearms...We just heard screams of pain and the sounds of beatings. Then the screams stopped."

This incident prompted Israel politicians of all political stripes to denounce the Israeli government's policy of sending refugees from Darfur back to Egypt. Opponents of the policy include Benjamin Nentanyahu of the center-right Likud; Amir Peretz of the center-left Labor; Effie Eitam of the right-wing National Religious Party; and Dov Henin of the communist Hadash Party.

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Thursday, August 2, 2007

Hamas Confronts Islamic Jihad

In an effort to bolster the group's authority in the Gaza Strip, Hamas forces clashed with militants from Palestinian Islamic Jihad. During the incident, gunmen from Hamas shot one member of Islamic Jihad in the head, and several other members in the legs.

The Incident
Hamas recently enacted a ban against gunfire in public in a bid to bring order to the Gaza Strip. Members of Islamic Jihad eschewed that ban, and unleashed rounds into the air during a wedding celebration. Hamas gunmen confronted the militants and ordered them to stop, but those affiliated with Islamic Jihad refused.

The next day, Hamas militants stormed the homes of members of Islamic Jihad, trading fire and confiscating weapons. At one point, a Hamas member fired a rocket at an Islamic Jihad member's home.

The same day, Hamas gunmen chased Islamic Jihad fighters into a mosque, and then dragged them out. They proceeded to shoot one Islamic Jihad militant in the head, and several in the legs. Other Islamic Jihad members were arrested. After the incident a Hamas spokesman wrote, "We implemented the law."

Traditional Allies have Subtle Differences
What's so interesting about these incidents is that Hamas and Islamic Jihad have traditionally been closely allied. They both have an Islamist agenda, they call for the destruction of Israel, they have cooperated in attacks against Israel, they formed as offshoots of Egypt's Islamic Brotherhood, and they receive funds from Iran.

But there are some subtle differences. First, while Hamas has always given equal priority to attacking Israel and providing social services for poor Palestinians, Islamic Jihad has primarily focused on destroying the Jewish State.

Moreover, though both organizations originally refused to participate in the Palestinian Authority (essentially the Palestinian government) because it was created during the 1990's peace process with Israel, Hamas eventually ran candidates for the PA parliament. In addition, while both groups are Sunni and have ties to Shi'a Iran, Islamic Jihad is much more closely aligned with Iranian/Shi'a practices such as rule by clerics.

Politics and Gang Mentality

These differences, however, don't explain the recent violence. What does explain the violence is politics and gang mentality.

When Hamas and Fatah were battling in Gaza two months ago, Islamic Jihad decided to stay out of the fray. It considered such inter-Palestinian fighting an anathema to its cause and, paradoxically, the group thrived in the the chaos that existed during the Fatah-Hamas unity period. When Hamas routed Fatah and became the masters of Gaza, Hamas felt slighted that it had not received the support of its fellow Islamists.

Moreover, with Hamas now enforcing order, Islamic Jihad has become highly territorial in regards to its weapons and zones of influence. But Hamas has become equally if not more territorial, and sees itself as enforcer of the law in all of Gaza. Thus, as the Bloods and the Crips have squared off brutally to protect their interests, so have Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Winners and Losers

If Hamas is willing and able to defeat Islamic Jihad as it did Fatah, there will be winners and losers. The first winner, of course, would be Hamas. Not only would it show once again that it is the dominant force in Gaza, but it would also lessen the likelihood of an attack from Israel. As Islamic Jihad has been responsible for most of the constant rocket attacks from Gaza, it has given Israel a ready excuse to invade and retaliate any time it wishes. But if Hamas crushes Islamic Jihad, Israel will be less agitated and Gazans are more likely to live calm lives.

The other winner would be Israel. As mentioned above, the daily barages of rockets would lessen, if not cease. And when there are attacks from Gaza, the Jewish State would have a clearer picture of who perpetrated the attack. Furthermore, as Hamas would be the sole political force in Gaza, it would have to focus on state-building and day-to-day administration rather than attacking Israel.

One loser, clearly, would be Islamic Jihad. It would be humiliated by defeat and lose one of its major bases of operation.

The primary loser, however, would be Fatah. Hamas will have done what Fatah couldn't or refused to do in over a decade of power: impose order. Though Fatah recently has been more successful in disarming opponents in the West Bank, its security forces do not seem to have the determination or discipline to fully enforce its will. Palestinians would compare the relative calm in Gaza to the corrupt and violent situation in the Fatah-controlled West Bank.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

The Arab League in Israel?

"Wednesday's visit was the first by Arab League representatives to promote their peace plan," remarked an article in al-Jazeera.

The author was referring to a trip by the Egyptian and Jordanian foreign ministers to the Jewish State, where they met with the Israeli Prime Minister, foreign and defense ministers, and president. The purpose of the trip was to promote the Arab League's Saudi Peace Initiative for a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Mark Regev, Israel's foreign ministry spokesman, agreed with al-Jazeera over the nature of the visit: “This is the first time that a delegation is coming here under the auspices of the Arab League.’’

But Amr Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League, vigorously denied that the foreign ministers represented his organization: "They are not acting under the banner of the Arab League. They represent two Arab countries that for certain circumstances entered into peace accords and official diplomatic relations."

So what's the fuss about? Why would Moussa offer such a fervent repudiation of any connection between the ministers' mission and the Arab League?

The answer, it seems to me, is that old animosities die hard. Though the League was created in 1945, in 1944 representatives from Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon gathered to discuss the future institution. The result was the Alexandria Protocol, which spelled out the goals of the Arab League.

One of those goals was to end Jewish immigration into what was then British Mandate Palestine. Later, shortly after the Arab League was finalized, the League passed a resolution that stated, "Jewish products and manufactured goods shall be considered undesirable to the Arab countries" and that all Arab "institutions, organizations, merchants, commission agents and individuals" must "refuse to deal in, distribute, or consume Zionist products or manufactured goods."

Since then--when the leaders of Arab League member states weren't calling for the Jews to be thrown in the sea, or denouncing Israel at the U.N., or supporting groups that kill Israeli civilians--the League has tried to ignore Israel. Pretend it doesn't exist, that it is not part of the region.

But lately there have been forces in the Middle East that can't be ignored: the rise of both al-Qaeda and Iran. Though Saudi Arabia once thought it could contain al-Qaeda, the terrorist organization has perpetrated attacks throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi territory. And Iran--whose Persian, Shi'ite version of Islam is an anathema to most Arab countries--has grown increasingly bellicose.

In order to counter these forces, and ease internal tensions, Saudi Arabia came up with a plan that was approved by the Arab League in 2002 and reaffirmed in 2006. The Saudi Peace Initiative calls for full Arab recognition of Israel in return for 1) Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and east Jerusalem; 2) the creation of a Palestinian State; and 3) a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem in accordance with U.N. Resolution 194 (which the Arab public takes to mean that Palestinians should be allowed to resettle in Israel).

The Arab League expects Israel to carry out its obligations before gaining diplomatic recognition from the Arab states. So even though the League has certified the Initiative and authorized the Jordanian and Egyptian foreign ministers to speak to Israel in order to promote it, the Arab League bristles at any suggestion that it is dealing with the "Zionist regime."

If it truly envisions peace between Israel and its neighbors, the Arab League must end these petty denials. This way, Israel and the international community will know that the League desires a friendly, safe, and prosperous future more than it dwells on past hostilities.

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Fatah General calls Hamas 'Bloodthirsty'

In an article in the Jerusalem Post, a general from Palestinian Authority President Abbas' Fatah party recounted the last days of Hamas' bloody takeover of Gaza. Here are some excerpts:

"We were surrounded by hundreds of Hamas gunmen in our bases and offices in the security zone near the Gaza City beach. I had about 35 men with me and we were planning to fight to the end...

"I knew that I was wanted by Hamas and that's why I decided to fight to the end. I knew that Hamas was going to kill me anyway and that I had nothing to lose. On Thursday night [June 14], hours before Hamas completed its coup, I managed to fire dozens of rocket-propelled grenades at them. I inflicted heavy damages on them. I taught them a lesson that they will never forget.

"But when I finally realized that Hamas's forces were advancing toward our security zone, I decided to leave the area. At around 2 a.m. on Friday morning I ran away toward the Egyptian security delegation's offices on the 10th floor of a tower near my base. I covered my face with a keffiyeh and threw my rifle away.

"Shortly after I entered the Egyptians' office, about 30 Hamas gunmen stormed the area and detained me. They did not care about the fact that this was an office belonging to the Egyptian security forces. They dragged me down to the street, where most buildings and houses were on fire.

"As we stood there, I asked the Hamas people: 'Why don't you execute me and dump my body in the flames?' Actually I begged them to execute me because I knew I was going to be tortured. Before they put me in a jeep, I saw the Hamas gunmen execute several people right in front of me. They were shooting all the detainees. I was sure that one of them was going to shoot me in the head. But they later blindfolded me and took me to a place where I was held for about 12 hours.

"In this place, there were a number of senior security commanders who had also been captured by Hamas. We were all told that we were going to be executed immediately after our interrogation. They asked us many questions and kept us locked in small rooms. We had no idea where we were being held. Some of us were beaten severely."

The general, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was eventually released due to the intervention of a Fatah official close to the Hamas leadership. He was then allowed to escape Gaza and enter the West Bank. Asked if he would return to the Gaza Strip, the general replied:

"If I go back, Hamas will kill me immediately. I'm wanted by them. My wife and children are still there and Hamas has burned my house. I don't know what's going to happen now, but I'm not optimistic. These Hamas people are murderers and bloodthirsty. They are using religion as an excuse to commit crimes even against their own people."

Though the general showed great disdain for Hamas and its bloody coup, he also admitted admiration for their strategy:
"Everything was carefully planned. They were closing in on us from all directions. You could see that they were operating according to a good plan.

"They managed to isolate Khan Yunis from the rest of the Gaza Strip. Then they isolated Rafah and other cities. They even divided Gaza City into separate zones and kept moving ahead."

We will have to see whether Abbas' Fatah forces can similarly execute such strategy against Hamas operatives in the West Bank, while reigning in corruption and random violence perpetrated by militias linked to his own party. So far, things are actually looking promising. More on this later.


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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Turkey Supports Israel

"We see Israel as our number one county that we trust, it plays a very important role in our considerations." These words were spoken not by a U.S. official, but by a representative from a Muslim country: Turkey.

In an interview with an Israeli publication, Turkish Ambassador to Israel Namik Tan spoke glowingly of the relationship between the countries. "We will do our best to help our friends in Israel. We will continue to be a real example of democracy in this troubled region, together with Israel."

His comments come as some in the West, including Israelis, have been concerned that the reelection of a religious-oriented party in the Turkish parliament could move the country away from its Western orientation. The Justice and Development Party (known by its Turkish initials "AKP") promotes the legalization of public displays of religion, such as allowing women to wear head-scarves in Turkish public buildings. That practice is currently outlawed as part of strict secular reforms put in place by modern Turkey's founder, Kemal Ataturk.

But the AKP has also been seen as pro-business, opening up the economy and overseeing annual GDP growth of 7%. Further, the AKP has vigorously enacted reforms that will allow a hoped for accession into the European Union.

Concerning questions that Israelis might not be welcome in Turkey after the recent election, Ambassador Tan responded, "Turkey will continue to be a popular destination for Israeli tourists of course, we are honored to host them in our country."

Concerning Iran, Tan stated that military intervention would not bring desired results, but that Turkey is against Iran getting nuclear weapons, and calls on the country to cooperate with the international community.

Tan also said that his country will continue attempts at facilitating talks between Israel and Syria. At this point, Syria has stated that it only wants to talk with Israel if the U.S. is involved, while Israel has stated that it only wants to talk to Syria one-on-one. Turkey would be an excellent compromise.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Weekend News Wrapup- 7/22/07

Israel and the Palestinian Territories
PALESTINIAN Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has apparently made good on his pledge to crack down on Hamas in the West Bank. On Sunday his security services arrested 22 rival Hamas operatives in a 24-hour campaign against the terrorist group. This comes as members of terrorist groups associated with Abbas' Fatah party have pledged to end their attacks on Israel and turned in their weapons in return for being removed from Israel's wanted list. The question remains as to how many individuals have made that pledge, and whether Abbas is willing and able to enforce an end to attacks on Israel from his own party.

IRANIAN President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met in Damascus this past week with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Assad and Ahmadinejad reportedly struck a deal where Iran would fund for Syria $1 billion worth of advance weapons--including fighter jets, tanks, and missiles--and aid in Syrian nuclear and chemical weapons research. In return, Assad reportedly promised not to seek peace with Israel. Iran has denied the deal.

EXIT Polls in Turkey's parliamentary elections show the religious-oriented Justice and Development Party [which goes by its Turkish initials "AKP"] won in a landslide against strictly secular parties. Preliminary polls give AKP 51.6%, while left-leaning Republican People's Party ["CHP"] won 15.2% and far-right National Action Party ["MHP"] won 13.7%.

The AKP is more accurately compared to the religious right in the U.S. rather than other "Islamist parties" such as Hamas in the Palestinian territories or Hezbollah in Lebanon. It is considered pro-business, and has overseen annual GDP growth of 7%. It also has worked to conform Turkish laws to fit European Union standards. But it wishes to permit more public expressions of religion in Turkey, such as allowing women to wear head-coverings in public universities or allowing politicians to publicly proclaim their faith. Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, imposed a strict separation of Mosque and State.

In recent months there has been tension between the current AKP government and the military, which considers itself the guardian of Turkish secularism. The military has initiated four coups since the 1960's; the latest occurred in 1997 when Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan was pressured to step down due to his militant Islamist views. The AKP has much milder views than Erbakan, but the military has accused the party of undermining Turkey's secular character.

In Turkish elections, voters select parties rather than candidates. The party with the most votes wins the most seats in the 550 member parliament. A party must receive at least 10% of the vote to gain seats. If a party takes more than 50% of the seats, they form the government; if no party receives an absolute majority of the seats, several parties may form a coalition government.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Peres: Its a Hoax. Israel has no Nukes!

A Cafe Cordover Satire

Newly inaugurated Israeli President Shimon Peres had a surprise announcement for the world: Israel has no nuclear weapons. "You know, I was playing a practical joke on Yitzy [Yitzhak Rabin, then Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces]. It was the swinging '60's, and we all were doing crazy stuff, if you know what I mean. I was high on the Purple Haze, and I said to Yitzy, 'Guess what, we have nukes!' And he almost crapped himself. But then I told him I was kidding, and he dared me to play the prank on Levi [then Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol]."

Apparently Eshkol did not find the joke so amusing. He ordered the Shin Bet [Israel's internal security service, akin to the FBI] to perform an "atomic wedgie" on Peres. But Eshkol decided to incorporate Peres' practical joke into Israel's defense policy.

Peres, who in the 1960's was Israel's Deputy Defense Minister and considered the founder of the Jewish State's nuclear program and policy, was candid about Israel's sleight of hand.

"I called it 'nuclear ambiguity,'" explained Peres. "It meant that Israel would neither confirm nor deny that we had nuclear weapons. I never thought that anyone would take that to mean that we actually had nukes, but they did! Boy, does everybody have egg on their face!"

Current Israeli Defense Minister, and former Prime Minister, Ehud Barak was not pleased at Peres' announcement. "Shimon can't keep his big mouth shut! I swear, I told him about a great porno I rented last week, and he blabbed it all over the Knesset [Israeli Parliament]. It was a great one, too, with a horse and a midget. I told him in confidence, but, no! He can't keep a secret. Wait, is this on record?"

Some Arab leaders appreciated the hoax. "Oh, those Jews are so funny!" exclaimed Libyan chief Muammar Gaddafi. "It's amazing that throughout their history they've been persecuted, but the Jews have been able to keep their sense of humor. I've always loved Jerry Seinfeld. And that Jon Stewart! He's so irreverent!"

Other Arab leaders were not amused. "I always knew that the Zionist regime was filled with dirty liars," said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. "First they said that 2,000 years ago there were Jews in Palestine. Then they claimed that Albert Einstein was one of them. I mean, what's next? That the Mossad [Israeli intelligence service, akin to the CIA] was not responsible for 9/11? Come on!"

U.S. President George W. Bush was unavailable for comment, as he was in the middle of a colonoscopy. But Vice President Richard Cheney, who assumed presidential responsibilities during Bush's operation, immediately proclaimed Peres a member of the Axis of Evil. And then he bombed Iran.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Weekend News Wrapup- 7/15/07

A Summary of Interesting Stories throughout the Middle East

Israel and the Palestinian Territories
THE Foreign Ministers of Egypt and Jordan have postponed their trip to Israel until July 25th. The ministers had planned to visit Israel this past week to discuss the Saudi Peace Initiative, which envisions full Arab recognition of Israel in return for Israeli withdrawal from all of Gaza, West Bank, and East Jerusalem; the implementation of a Palestinian Right to Return; and the creation of a Palestinian state. Israel has accepted the Saudi initiative with reservations: 1) it will not grant a Right of Return to Israel itself, as that would lead to the demographic destruction of Israel as a Jewish State (though it supports a Right of Return to a future Palestinian State in the West Bank & Gaza); and 2) all of Jerusalem is Israel's eternal and undivided capital.

The postponement of the trip comes as Israel and the Arab League publicly voice their disagreement over the nature of the delegation. The Arab League had appointed Egypt and Jordan to discuss the Saudi Peace Initiative with Israel. Egypt and Jordan then announced that their Foreign Ministers would visit Israel to discuss the plan. Israel subsequently heralded the ministers' trip as the first time that the Arab League would send an official mission to the Jewish State. But the Secretary General of the Arab League balked at that description, stating that the ministers were only representing the governments of Egypt and Jordan. He further remarked, "The Arab League has no relation with Israel."

PALESTINIAN Authority ("PA") Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has confirmed PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as head of a care-taker government. Fayyad had been serving as leader of an emergency government since Abbas dismissed Hamas ministers following their bloody coup in Gaza. Hamas spokesmen have deemed Fayyad's government "illegal" because, according to the PA constitution, the government must be confirmed by the PA parliament. The parliament, however, has been paralyzed due to Hamas' refusal to stand down in Gaza, Israel's imprisonment of half of Hamas members of parliament, and Abbas' refusal to allow his Fatah party to meet with members of Hamas.

ELDER statesman Shimon Peres has been sworn in as Israel's ninth president. Shimon Peres has been associated with each stage of Israel's history: he has served in almost every ministry since the founding of the state, including as prime minister; he was the architect of Israel's nuclear program and policy; and he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat for his work in attempting to bring peace between Israel and its neighbors. Though the presidency is largely ceremonial (somewhat akin to the monarchy in Britain), Peres is an internationally respected figure and will bring much-needed positive attention to the Jewish State.

REPRESENTATIVES from 14 Lebanese parties have met in France in an attempt to ease political deadlock within the Arab state. Included in the meeting are delegates from Hezbollah, an organization that many Western and Arab countries view as perpetuating terrorism and instability.

Following the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, the Shi'ite organization briefly had a wide following among Lebanese for its perceived victory over Israel. But it has since been widely criticized for starting the conflict when it kidnapped two Israeli soldiers. Hundreds of Lebanese citizens died, and there were millions of dollars worth of damage because Hezbollah based its military operations in civilian areas.

Furthermore, Hezbollah is criticized for attempting to block the international tribunal investigating the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri; for walking out of the Lebanese government and helping to block the convening of sessions of parliament; and for holding the interests of Syria and Iran above those of Lebanon.

AN Iranian article claiming that the Arab Kingdom of Bahrain is Iranian territory has caused fury around the Arab world (Click here for a regional map of Bahrain). Hossein Shariatmadari, a close confidant of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini, wrote that "public demand in Bahrain is the reunification of this province with its motherland, the Islamic Iran." The foreign minister of Iran has since traveled to Bahrain in order to quell tensions.

Historically there has been friction between Iran, a Farsi-speaking majority Shi'ite state, and Bahrain, an Arabic-speaking Sunni-led country. In the 1970's Iran laid claim to Bahrain, but the then British protectorate instead voted for independence. In recent times, Arab states of the Persian Gulf and throughout the Mideast have looked at Iran's growing influence and nuclear program with suspicion.

Citizens of Bahrain have gathered in front of the Iranian embassy in protest. Furthermore Egypt, the most populous Arab state, has railed against Shariatmadari's statements. So has the chief of the Gulf Cooperation Council, of which Bahrain is a member along with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Major Palestinian Terrorist Organizations

Below you will find a short description for the major Palestinian terrorist organizations

al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades

Affiliation: Fatah; Popular Resistance Committee

Ideology: secular/nationalist

Base of Operations/Leadership: West Bank; Gaza

Brief History: First appeared in 2000, at the beginning of the Second (a.k.a. al-Aqsa) Intifada (uprising). Named after the al-Aqsa Mosque (a.k.a. the Dome of the Rock), which stands at an area that Jews call the Temple Mount (where the First and Second Temples existed in ancient Judea). Formed in reaction to then-Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon visiting the Temple Mount. Reportedly received payments from former Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. Is closely connected to Palestinian Authority ("PA") security services, and members likely still receive payments from current PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his government.

Terrorist Incidents:

  • Jan. 2002 suicide bombing by female in Jerusalem that killed 1 and wounded 40
  • Mar. 2002 suicide bombing in Jerusalem cafe that killed 11 and wounded over 50
  • Nov. 2002 shooting at Israeli Kibbutz that killed 2 children, 3 adults, and wounded 7
  • Jan. 2003 suicide bombings in Tel Aviv that killed 23, wounded over 100
  • Jan. 2004 suicide bombing on a bus in Jerusalem that killed 11 and wounded 30
  • Mar. 2004 suicide bombing in Ashdod that killed 11
  • 78 separate rocket attacks between Apr. 2005 and Mar. 2007

Army of Islam

Affiliation: Popular Resistance Committee; influence by al-Qaeda

Ideology: Islamist

Base of Operations/Leadership: Gaza Strip

Brief History: First appeared in 2006. Leadership comes from the Dagmoush clan, a family in the Gaza Strip known for extortion, smuggling, and arms-dealing. Has variously coordinate and clashed with armed groups from Fatah and Hamas. Has demanded the release of leaders of al-Qaeda in return for freeing hostages.

Terrorist Incidents:
  • June 2006 kidnapping of Israeli Defense Forces Cpl. Gilad Shalit, killing 2 others
  • Mar. 2007 kidnapping of BBC Reporter Alan Johnston

Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP)

Ideology: Secular/Marxist-Leninist

Base of Operations/Leadership: West Bank; Gaza Strip; Damascus, Syria

Brief History: The DFLP split from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine ("PFLP") in 1969 over leadership dispute. Emphasizes international Marxism over Palestinian nationalism. Rejected the 1993 Oslo Accords with Israel, though has since accepted them.

Terrorist Incidents:
  • 1974 guerrilla attack of school in Ma'alot killing 27 (mostly children), wounding 134
  • 1977 bombings in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv
  • 1984 grenade attack in Jerusalem, wounding 21
  • 1985 bus attack near Hebron
  • 1988 gasoline bombing of the car of then-Industry and Trade Minister Ariel Sharon
  • Nov. 2006, fired 3 rockets in Israel, no casualties
Iz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades

Affiliation: Hamas; Palestinian Resistance Committee

Ideology: Islamist

Base of Operations/Leadership: West Bank; Gaza Strip

Brief History: Established in 1987 as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and as a major player in the First Intifada (uprising). Is dedicated to the destruction of Israel, and replacing it with an Islamic state. It's political wing, Hamas, initially refused to be part of the Palestinian Authority ("PA") because the PA was created after the 1993 Oslo Accords with Israel. Major player in the Second (Al-Aqsa) Intifada. Decided to participate in 2006 PA parliamentary elections, where it received a majority and formed a new government. Formed unity government with Fatah in early 2007 in attempt to end international boycott of PA. Ousted Fatah from Gaza Strip in June 2007 in violent military coup.

Terrorist Incidents:
  • Since 1993, various suicide bombings, rocket attacks, and small arms fire that have killed over 500.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)

Affiliation: Hezbollah; Iranian Revolutionary Guards

Ideology: Islamist

Base of Operations/Leadership: West Bank; Gaza Strip; Damascus, Syria; Lebanon

Brief History: Formed in late 1970's as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Believed the Brotherhood had become to moderate. Seeks the destruction of Israel and the replacement with a Mideast pan-Islamic empire. Even though it is a Sunni group, receives funding from Iran (a Shi'a country). Frequently coordinates attacks with Hamas.

Terrorist Incidents:
  • Since 1988, various shooting, suicide bombings, firebombings, rocket/missile attacks
  • Between May 2005 and Feb. 2007, responsible for 18 dead and 186 wounded
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)

Ideology: Secular/Nationalist/Marxist-Leninist

Base of Operations/Leadership: West Bank; Gaza Strip; Damascus, Syria

Brief History: Established in 1967 in response to failure of Arab countries to destroy Israel in Six Day War. Seeks to destroy Israel and replace it with Marxist-Leninist Arab state. Rejects the 1993 Oslo Accords and Palestinian Authority. Has received funding from Syria, Iran, and Libya. Pioneered airplane hijacking.

Terrorist Incidents:
  • 1968, hijacked El Al airplane.
  • 1972, shooting at Lod International Airport, killing at least 24
  • 1976, hijacked Air France Airplane, landing it in Entebbe, Uganda. In famous raid, IDF freed 100 hostages, though 3 died
  • 2001, shot dead Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi
  • Between 2004 and 2005, responsible for at least 3 deaths and 30 wounded from rocket attacks and suicide bombings


Affiliation: Fatah

Ideology: Secular/Nationalist

Base of Operations/Leadership: West Bank

Brief History: Founded in 1995 in opposition to Islamist groups such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Also, wanted to ensure that those who had stayed in the West Bank and Gaza after 1967 war maintained a voice in Fatah. Until 1993, Fatah leadership (i.e. Arafat and his associates) was based in Tunisia, and once they came back to the PA had not allowed the younger generation to gain positions of power. Tanzim sought to rectify this. Lead by Marwan Barghouti, who has been in an Israeli prison since 2002 for multiple murder convictions. Barghouti has negotiated several ceasefires between Palestinian factions and Israel, and considered a future contender for Chairman of the PA. There has been speculation that Israel may free Barghouti in order to boost PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement.

Terrorist Incidents:
  • Between 2000 and 2002, various shootings, stabbings, bombings, suicide bombings, and rocket attacks resulting in at least 26 dead and 100 wounded.


1976: Israelis Rescue Entebbe Hostages in (available at

Council on Foreign Relations (available at

Demands issued on Johnston tape
in (May 9, 2007) (available at

Yaakov Katz, Vilna'i: Let DFLP leader visit Ramallah in Jerusalem Post Online (July 13, 2007) (available at

Yaakov Katz, Sneh: Exchange Barghouti for Schalit in Jerusalem Post Online (July 10, 2007) (available at

Elise Labbot, Militants issue Israel hostage demands in (June 26, 2006) (available at

Paul Martin and Martin Fletcher, The moment of greatest danger in Times Online (June 18, 2007) (available at

MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base (available at

Aaron D. Pina, Palestinian Factions, Congressional Research Services Report RS 21235 (June 8, 2005) (available at

Profile: DFLP in (Feb. 4, 2002) (available at

Statement of Indictment: Marwan bin Khatib Barghouti in Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Aug. 14, 2002) (available at

Weapon Survey (available at

World Incidents Tracking System (available at

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Happy Birthday Dad!

Once in each generation there is a man that strives for greatness. Herein lies the story of such a man, though his vision has yet to be realized. This is the tale of Jeffrey Herman Cordover.

In a small village called the Bronx of New York, Jeffrey was born to his parents Bernice and Abraham. Bernice wanted her son to grow big and strong and wise, and tried feeding him everything to help in his development. But Jeffrey was a finnicky eater, and all of Bernice's efforts seem to come in vain.

Bernice attempted to feed Jeffrey fruit, but he refused. Bernice tried vegetables, but Jeffrey would not eat one bite. Next she tried fish. This only enraged Jeffrey, who threw the fish out the window and angrily bellowed, "Fish, fish, tuchas kish!" (roughly translated as "no, I will not eat this fish").

Then an idea came to Bernice. You see, Jeffrey had always loved to learn about farm animals. Whenever Bernice told of her parents' life on the farm in the Old Country, his eyes would grow wide and his mind would fill with wonder. His curiosity was especially piqued when Bernice spoke of chickens and their magnificent creation: the egg.

So Bernice fed Jeffrey eggs, and he eagerly consumed them. He was happy, but Jeffrey was not satisfied. He vowed that one day he would have a farm of his own, and on that farm chickens would roam, and those chickens would lay the most fresh and glorious eggs, and Jeffrey would have fresh and glorious eggs to eat each and everyday.

As time passed by, Jeffrey grew big and strong and wise, just as his mother had wanted. He soon met a beautiful maiden name Judith Zelda Ollinger, and though she thought his dream odd, she grew dearly in love with Jeffrey. And they married.

But Jeffrey could not yet afford to finance his dream, and he now had a wife to think about. So he worked in whatever job he could find in the small village called the Bronx of New York. He endeavored as a bagboy at the local grocerie store. He made wire coat hangers in a factory. He worked as salesman of women's undergarments. But none of these jobs could earn him enough money to care for Judith and save for his dream.

So he and Judith packed their bags and moved to the faraway village of Boston. Jeffrey worked in several jobs, but was not satisfied at any of them. But he was satisfied with two bundles of joy that he and Judith begot: Marc and Marcy.

When Jeffrey got totally fed up with his job prospects, he shouted at his boss: "Gay cackin affin yamin!" (rough translation: I wish not to work here any more). To pursue his dreams and take care of his family, Jeffrey and the Cordover clan moved to the village of Miami.

At first he once again could only find a job selling women's undergarments. But then an opportunity of a lifetime came along. His brother, Howard, started an international goat emporium, and asked Jeffrey to join him. Though there were no chickens or eggs involved, Jeffrey jumped at the opportunity to work with beloved farm animals.

In time, Jeffrey took over the international goat emporium. Soon after, he and Judith produced a third child, and named him Adam. All were content. Well, maybe not all. Jeffrey had yet to realize his vision.

Twenty years passed by, all of the children were out of the house, and Jeffrey and Judith had earned enough savings to retire. Jeffrey intended to live the good life.

He and Judith scoured all over the country to find the best chicken-egg producing conditions. They finally settled on a plot of land in Weaverville, North Carolina. Once their house was built, all that was left was to erect a chicken coup and buy some chickens.

But alas, just as Jeffrey laid the coup cornerstone, he received some bad news: His plot of land was in an N.C.Z. And, as everyone knows, "N.C.Z." stands for "No Chicken Zone."

Though he briefly flirted with the idea of building a pond, getting some ducks, and feeding off their eggs, Judith vetoed that idea. Such a plan would have required the ducks to stay in their bathtub during the winter, and Judith would have none of that.

Jeffrey then did the only thing he could do: lobby the Weaverville Citizen's Council. Unfortunately, the Council has yet to take up the matter.

So you would think with all of these years passed by and still no fresh eggs, Jeffrey would feel dejected. Quite the opposite is true. As Jeffrey will tell you, "Ven der petzel shtait, de sechel gait" (rough translation: "One day, I will have fresh eggs").

To this day, if you enter the town of Weaverville, you will see Jeffrey Cordover. He is the one on the big orange tractor, keeping his land ready for the day he will be allowed to build his chicken coup.

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Monday, July 9, 2007

Al-Qaeda Issues Ultimatum to Iran

According to an article in al-Jazeera, al-Qaeda in Iraq threatened to wage war against Iran if the country continued to support Iraq's Shi'a community.

Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq (which is affiliated with al-Qaeda in Iraq) stated in an audio tape:

We are giving the Persians, and especially the rulers of Iran, a two-month period to end all kinds of support for the Iraqi Shia government and to stop direct and indirect intervention ... otherwise a severe war is waiting for you.
He further warned Arab countries from doing business with Iran.

The audio tape has not been independently verified. Moreover, the U.S. military previously stated that they killed al-Baghdadi in May. But a scenario of al-Qaeda attacking Iran is by no means far-fetched.

Most historians, at least in the U.S., credit the 1979-1989 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan for leading to the creation of al-Qaeda. They claim that Muslims were called to jihad against the "atheist invader," and the U.S. supported these fighters with money and arms.

This may be part of the story of how al-Qaeda was created, but it is not the complete story. The year 1979 also saw the creation of the Islamic Republic of Iran. According to Vali Nasr in his book "The Shia Revival," this event was one of the principal steps in the spread of al-Qaeda ideology. But not in the way most Americans might think.

Iran is a predominantly Shi'ite country. They have beliefs that conflict with Sunni interpretations of Islam. For example, they believe that the successors to their Prophet Muhammed should have been members of Muhammed's family, rather than learned individuals chosen by a group of scholars (as was the case). The Shi'a also believe that one day the Twelfth Imam, a descendant of Muhammed and a messiah-like figure, will bring about the end of times. Most Sunnis do not believe in the Twelfth Imam. In addition, the Shi'a build shrines to revered figures in their history, whereas many Sunnis consider such acts a form of idolatry.

Grand Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of the new Islamic Republic of Iran, promised to spread the ideology and influence of Shi'a Islam. He succeeded in many places including Iraq, countries around the Persian Gulf, and Lebanon (where his crowning success was the development of Hezbollah).

In response, Saudi Arabia greatly increased it funding for madrasahs, or schools. These institutions promoted Wahabism, an extreme form of Islam that has no tolerance for anyone perceived to defame Sunni traditions. Shi'ites from the beginning were a target of Wahabi wrath.

To counter the rise of Iran and its proxies, Saudi Arabia fully supported the spread of Wahabi militarism. And Wahabi ideology forms the backbone of al-Qaeda.

Since the U.S. intervention, many in the Shi'a community in Iraq, led by individuals such as Muqtada al-Sadr and backed by Iran, have fought against Sunni groups including al-Qaeda in Iraq. Iran has further supported the Iraqi government, which some view as anti-Sunni. So it would not be surprising if in the near future we see al-Qaeda declare an all out war against Iran.

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Sunday, July 8, 2007

Weekend News Wrapup- 7/8/07

A Summary of Interesting Stories throughout the Middle East

Israel & the Palestinian Territories
FOR the first time, representatives of the Arab League will make an official visit to Israel this coming Thursday. The foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan--appointed by the Arab League to promote the Saudi Peace Initiative--will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

The Saudi Initiative calls for Israel to withdraw from all lands it captured in the 1967 Six Day War, including East Jerusalem, and implement a Palestinian right to return in exchange for full Arab recognition of Israel. PM Olmert has welcomed the plan, though has reservations on a pull back from East Jerusalem (which is part of Israel's capital) and resettlement of Palestinians in Israel proper.

The Arab League has traditionally been hostile to Israel, so this visit will indeed be a historic occasion. Upon its creation in 1945, the organization resolved to boycott all Jewish products originating from what was then British Mandate Palestine. The Arab League expanded the boycott when Israel gained independence in 1948. To this day, most Arab League member states continue to boycott products and services from Israel, and some states refuse to do business with any company that engages with Israel.

ISLAMIC Jihad and Hamas claimed responsibility for firing several Kassam rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip. The rockets caused no casualties, though a university building sustained damages.

PALESTINIAN lawyers have questioned the constitutionality of Palestinian Authority ("PA") President Mahmoud Abbas' decision to appoint a new government without parliament's approval. Abbas tapped former World Bank official Salam Fayyad to head the government after firing Hamas representatives because of the violent coup staged in Gaza.

The Palestinian lawyers, who helped draft the constitution which was implemented in 2002, claim that Abbas was permitted to fire the Hamas lawmakers from the cabinet, but could not appoint a new government. The lawyers further stated that Abbas could not suspend parts of the constitution. Representative of Abbas responded that the PA is in a state of emergency, and thus Abbas' word is law.

EGYPTIAN authorities seized over a ton of explosives in the Sinai Peninsula, in an area approximately 100 km from the Gaza border. Palestinian militants often use the Gaza border to smuggle in weapons and explosives for internecine fighting and to commit terrorist acts against Israel.

LEBANESE soldiers raided an apartment in Tripoli and seized members and weapons from an al-Qaeda inspired terrorist group. Fatah al-Islam (not to be confused with the mainstream Palestinian group Fatah) has for over a month been in armed battle with Lebanese forces. The group has used Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon as bases, though members from countries throughout the Arab world have been found. Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has vowed to arrest or kill members of Fatah al-Islam, which has claimed responsibility for several bombings around Lebanon. Some suspect that the group is being directed by Syria, and its purpose is to destabilize Siniora's anti-Syrian government.

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Saturday, July 7, 2007

Thank You to the Sudaks

I would like to publicly thank Rabbi Bentzi & Mrs. Rochie Sudak of the American Friends of Lubavitch in Washington, DC, for hosting me at their home for Shabbat [sabbath] dinner. I learned about topics ranging from the origins of the name "Cohen," to the nest-building habits of birds in Africa, to the pros and cons of publicly-financed education, to the theological fallacies of the Neturei Karta (a small Jewish sect known for it's anti-Zionist protests that recently sent representatives to a Holocaust-denial conference in Iran).

It was a wonderful experience: the atmosphere was warm and inviting, the food fantastic, and I met a lot great people.

For more information on the American Friends of Lubavitch, please go to

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Academic Paper- The Status of Women in the Middle East

The Status of Women in the Middle East: A Comparison of Islamic and Pre-Islamic Times

Click the link above to read a paper I wrote last year. This one is short (6 pages including title page and footnotes).

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Thursday, July 5, 2007

Hamas and the Army of Islam

Alan Johnston, the BBC reporter captured by a little known terrorist group called the "Army of Islam" four months ago, was finally freed yesterday. Upon his release, Johnston stated that his captors were "just cruising along" under the Fatah security regime, but there was a palpable fear once Hamas' Gaza military coup. Johnston said, "If Hamas didn't come in and put the heat on, I'm pretty sure I'd still be there."

Here is a summary of the events leading up to his release:

On June 15th, after Hamas conquered the Gaza Strip, its leaders announced that one of its priorities was the release of Johnston.

On June 24th, the Army of Islam (Jaish al-Islam in Arabic) released the following video of Alan Johnston, which shows him in a suicide vest. Johnston pleads for his life, and warns that if Hamas or any other entity attempted to free him by force, the Army of Islam would detonate him.

On July 2nd, Hamas seized several members of the Army of Islam including Khattab al-Maqdisi, the spokesman of the group. Hamas accused al-Maqdisi of opening fire on Hamas security forces.

On July 3rd, hundreds of Hamas gunmen gathered around the area where Johnston was held. Hamas snipers took positions on nearby rooftops and placed vehicles in the road to block off exits.

Early on July 4th, Hamas and the Army of Islam struck a deal and Johnston was released.

The details of the bargain to free Johnston are not clear, but one thing is for certain: the Army of Islam will not be immediately disarmed. A Hamas spokesman stated that the group may keep its weapons if it uses them "to be part of the resistance." In the parlance of Hamas,
that means attacking Israel.

But the main reason that Hamas cited the release of Johnston as a top priority was to gain international legitimacy. As I stated in a previous post, the release of Johnston was one of the steps Hamas must take in order to achieve legitimacy. But it must also maintain order. The Army of Islam is an al-Qaida inspired criminal organization lead by a powerful Gaza clan that has frequently clashed with Hamas, Fatah, and others. Hamas will not be able to preserve the peace if the Army of Islam is allowed to retain arms.

Furthermore, the mere suggestion of a tolerance for al-Qaida will drive off any international good will that Hamas received from securing the release of Johnston. When the Army of Islam kidnapped the BBC reporter, the group demanded that Britain exchange him for detained terror suspect Abu Qatada al-Filistini. The British accuse al-Filistini of mentoring 9/11 co-conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui as well as attempted "shoe-bomber" Richard Reid. In addition, sermons from al-Filistini were found among the possessions of 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta.

But even if the Army of Islam had no connections to al-Qaida and only aimed its weapons at Israel, Israel's responses to terrorist attacks would disrupt Hamas' attempts to establish order. Just as Islamic Jihad's incessant rocket fire into Israeli towns will prevent the residents of Gaza from living in peace, so will Israeli Defense Force reactions to attacks from the Army of Islam.

Hamas is making a deadly mistake in allowing the Army of Islam to retain its arms. Such a decision can only lead to further instability in--and international isolation of--the Gaza Strip.

Update 4/28/09
I am now an attorney at Richard J. Mockler, P.A. Visit us on the web at

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Sunday, July 1, 2007

Academic Paper- Impact of U.S. Policy on the Arab League Boycott of Israel

Impact of U.S. Policy on the Arab League Boycott of Israel

Click the link above to view a paper I wrote on, well, the impact of U.S. policy on the Arab League boycott of Israel. Even if you're not interested in the analysis, it has a detailed history of the boycott.

Update 4/28/09
I am now an attorney at Richard J. Mockler, P.A. Visit us on the web at

Read More......

Weekend News Wrapup- 7/1/07

A Summary of Interesting Stories throughout the Middle East

Israel & the Palestinian Territories
ISRAEL has transferred $118 million to the new Palestinian government. These custom duties have been collected by Israel on behalf the Palestinian Authority ["PA"] under a 1990 agreement. Following the 2006 Palestinian election where Hamas won the majority of parliament seats & formed the government, Israel has refused to transfer the funds for fear that they may be used for terrorist attacks. But now that Hamas is no longer part of the official Palestinian government, Israel has agreed to release the funds in installments.

FORMER Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak--who is currently the defense minister, head of the Labor party, and prospective candidate for the prime ministership--has announced that he will pull Labor out of the government if current Prime Minister Ehud Olmert does not resign by September or October. The Winograd committee, set up to review Israel's performance against Hezbollah in the 2006, is expected to come out with its final report at that time. The preliminary report that was released earlier this year pinned much of the blame on Olmert for poorly planning, executing, and reviewing war strategies. If Barak pulls Labor out of the government, Olmert will either have to find new coalition partners to maintain a majority in the Knesset [parliament], or call new elections, in which case his Kadima party will likely lose many--if not most--of its Knesset seats.

HAMAS stated Saturday that it would attack international peace-keeping forces if they enter the Gaza Strip. Hamas, which defeated PA President Mahmoud Abbas' security & militia forces in a bloody coup three weeks ago, now has effective control over all of the Gaza Strip. The organization's recent statements were in reaction to Abbas' proposal that international forces enter Gaza to ensure a stable environment for elections and reunification with the West Bank.

EGYPT has stated that it will resume efforts to negotiate a deal between Israel and Hamas that would lead to the release of Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit. Hamas and other terrorist groups kidnapped Shalit in a cross-border raid a year ago. Egypt, which has served as a mediator between Hamas and Israel, ended all efforts when Hamas took over Gaza three weeks ago. Hamas has demanded the release of hundred of Palestinians in Israeli jails, many of whom have been convicted of murdering civilians in terrorist attacks.

LEBANESE soldiers killed four Palestinians and wounded 30 during a protest demonstration, in response to Palestinian throwing stones at the soldiers. The Palestinians demanded to return to their homes in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, where many have lived since Israel's 1948-49 War of Independence. The Palestinians had fled the camp when Islamist extremists used the area as a base to carry out terrorist bombings, which led to the Lebanese army laying siege to the camp a month and a half ago. Since there are still terrorists believed to be holed up in Nahr al-Bared, the Lebanese army has refused to let civilians back in.

VENEZUELAN President Hugo Chavez reiterated his support for Iran's nuclear program as he met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday. Iran is widely believed to be working on a nuclear weapons' program, though officials have insisted that the technology is only for peaceful civilian purposes. Fear of what Iran might do with a nuclear weapon was intensified last year when Ahmadinejad promised to wipe Israel off the map. Chavez appeared in Tehran, described Ahmadinejad as his "ideological brother" and promised to help Iran in its fight against international "imperialism."

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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Iran Approves Temporary Gay Marriage

A Cafe Cordover Satire

In a move that sent shockwaves throughout the Muslim world, Iran's Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa that legalized temporary gay marriage. "For the sake of our righteous soldiers who seek to become shahids [martyrs], it is incumbent upon the Islamic Republic to encourage temporary marriage betwixt these brave heroes. Only through such an act of personal bonding can we guarantee that our young ones will fight for one another as well as for the ummah [Islamic community]. Death to America! Death to the Zionist Dogs!"

"This is fantabulous!" shouted Jaffar al-Husayni, a member of the elite Revolutionary Guards, upon hearing the news. "I mean, I would never do it, but I'm so excited for my luscious young comrades! Fighting is so hard, and we--I mean they--need some relief once in awhile. Death to America! Wohooooo! And Death to those fat & ugly Zionist Dogs! I mean, seriously."

Temporary marriage between a man and a woman, known as Mut'a in Arabic, has long been accepted in Shia schools of Islam. A couple agrees to a contract that binds them in marriage for a preset amount of time, with no minimum or maximum marriage time required. Thus, in the Shia view, it allows the couple fulfill their sexual needs without transgressing the rules of the Quran. Most Sunnis, however, condemn the practice of Mut'a as little more than prostitution.

"Those gay Persian bastards!" declared Mohammed Mahdi Akef, head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. "First they whore out their women, and now this?!? What's next? Man-on-camel coitus? Death to the Persians! Death to America! Death to the Zionist dogs!"

Reaction was equally negative in Israel. "This is just a ploy to destroy the Jewish State," commented Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman is also head of the right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party and Minister of Strategic Affairs, a portfolio that focuses on the Iranian threat. "It all makes sense. They use this temporary gay marriage to disguise the contraband that they shove up their rectum. One day, one of those terrorists will anally swallow a nuclear suppository, breach our borders, pass gas and KABOOM! Israel cannot stand for this dirty, dirty bomb."

The Iranian fatwa received mixed reactions in the U.S.

"They're going to hell anyway, so what's the difference? Believe in Jesus, and then we'll talk," stated Christian televangelist Pat Robertson.

"I applaud Grand Ayatollah Khamenei for demonstrating that Islam truly is a religion of tolerance," exclaimed Neil Giuliano, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation [GLAAD]. "My organization is working with Khamenei to promote acceptance of this decree. In fact, as we speak rainbow flags donated by GLAAD are being placed on lightposts throughout the city of Tehran."

Tony Snow, Press Secretary for U.S. President George W. Bush, announced "The President firmly believes that marriage--even if it is only temporary--is between a man and a woman. The U.S. is currently preparing a resolution for the U.N. Security Council to enshrine this principle in international law. If the resolution passes and the Iranians refuse to abide by it, or if the resolution fails, we are prepared to act unilaterally."

When further questioned as to what unilateral action the U.S. might take, Snow replied, "Two words: butt plugs." He would not elaborate.

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