Friday, May 23, 2003


Not again! Al Quds Al Arabi, London, May, 22 2003 -- summary by "Proche Orient":
At a lecture in the United Arab Emirates, Egyptian biologist Wajdi Abdelfattah Swahel, a Cairo university professor, asserted "the Hebrew state not only uses chemical products to torture Palestinians, it uses Palestinian prisoners to test viruses and bacteria genetically engineered exclusively to harm Palestinians. […] Similarly, Israeli researchers are studying common Palestinian stomach illnesses in order to develop viruses capable of destroying a Palestinian's immune system, which resists these specific diseases. This will allow for the killing of as many Palestinians as possible, through "natural" causes. The Israelis are also developing a gas which will lead to the sterilization of Palestinians."
Arabic readers can enjoy the original here.

Update: To those of you fortunate enough to have missed the original show -- it's a subject I've recently developed a specific allergy to. Ths must be the exact reason why I simply have to return to it.
CNN reports on concerns about radiation sickness among Iraqis living in the vicinity of the looted nuclear research site, Tuwaitha (via Phil Carter (check out his related post) via Aziz Poonawalla who both comment on it). As someone who has dealt with victims of various Soviet nuclear fallouts, I am as horrifed as I was when I wrote myself about the looting. On the other hand, the symptoms the CNN describes
Amar Jorda is a boy who said he has fallen ill after drinking water from a plastic barrel from the site.
"My skin itches. I can't breathe well, and my nose bleeds at least four times a day," Amar said.
The boy said he and his father bought the barrel from a man in the street. Amar said he only drank water from it once.
(was he the only one to drink from that barrel?)

One of Amar's friends drank water stored in a different barrel, and she said her vision has faded. "I can't see," Irkhlas Hassam said.
Dr. Jaafar Nasser, a senior physician at the nearest hospital, said he suspects the girl is suffering from radiation sickness. However, until experts conduct a detailed medical study, there's little chance of pinpointing the precise causes or of predicting consequences.
Nasser said he has seen six people within two days with similar symptoms as Amar's -- breathlessness, rashes, frequent nosebleeds and vomiting.
are pretty unspecific. The conclusion the local physician draws
"This is called acute radiation sickness," Nasser said.
appear premature. Such symptoms can be related to other health problems, including chemical poisoning. And, in acute cases, the first measures don't require "detailed medical studies".

The Tree of Sin
By Valerie Pons

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Identity crisis

I do NOT intend to wind up as a Steven Den Beste double (courtesy of Samuel Gillis). See you in the gym.

In the meantime:

You are welcome to sign and not just to

my silent visitors, if you have nothing else to tell me.
I'm dying to learn why would someone choose to read a site like this every day.


(This post has been rewritten on 5/23/2003 5:50:55 PM)

After having read a dozen speculations of why the Voice Of Osama should choose Norway for a target, a short "Norway Post" article (reproduced here in full length since their server is periodically down) has managed to set my inner crazy counterterrorist on the loose:
CIA operations on Norwegian soil?

22. Mai 2003

According to the newspaper VG, the CIA has been given extended authority to operate on Norwegian soil, because of US dissatisfaction with the work of the Norwegian Security Police (PST).

It is USA's opinion that the PST takes too long investigating people in the Muslim religious communities in Oslo, persons that the CIA believes to be connected with the Al Qaida terrorst network, VG writes.

Earlier, only Norwegian agencies were authorized to carry out intelligence work on Norwegian soil, but after the terrorist actions in the US, US and British intelligence services were given extended authority, according to the newspaper.

According to sources quoted by VG, this decision was made by Justice Minister Odd Einar Doerum.

However, the Justice Department demands that any major foreign operation on Norwegian soil must be approved beforehand.

The Justice Minister has denied the story, NRK Radio reports.

Rolleiv Solholm
Could rumours in the respective circles regarding the officially non-existing Norwegian authorization have inspired the latest Osama hit? Aren't both "NRK/Aftenposten" and the Osama tape producers likely to draw their information from the same source(s)?

Maybe we should indulge less in trying to find a profound global political rationale behind terrorist activities? A recent "Why they hate us" discussion on "The Poor Man" makes the same point, only much better than I.

I've allowed myself to place a question regarding the publication date in the original Norwegian source, the "VG" newspaper, on Bjoern Staerk's blog. Update: the reply.

It didn't function, Shai (test link). The culprit kindly provides extended instructions, although I'd put at least an hour between the two republishing actions. (I did it when I started out and decided to change the archiving frequency from monthly to weekly.)

With my site, it works when I simply click the little "republish" button for the respective week on the archive page.

The $15 Blogspot upgrade does exactly one thing: take the banner off the pages. Guilty as I am of trying to make it less visible, I've grown rather fond of mine by now. I'd miss its entertaining presence. (Update: and sometimes a useful one, like Imshin's discovery.) Whoever wrote the algorithm to match the content of the page with the ads must have had a great sense of humour.

Oh, and someone please send the guy with the Uzi to Ribbity Frog next (test link).

The good news is that there is a new version in the making. I've tried it out for a new "annex" blog (under construction) -- it is the purest of delights. I even like the templates. Unfortunately, you can only register new non-"Pro" blogs with it at the moment. The existing ones must wait -- "Heads up".
O horror! I'm becoming a real blogger. A sequence of posts on terrorism, Palestinians and the French-US relations... Be grateful that I'm doing more quoting than writing, otherwise I'd already have qualified for membership in the Steven den Beste club

Are they really worth it, all things considered? IHT, May 16:
Despite the heated anti-French rhetoric emanating from Washington, the anti-terrorist collaboration between France and America has continued unabated. As one official in the French government closely connected with the intelligence community puts it, "On the practical working level, nothing has changed. We've managed to separate that aspect of our relations from the diplomatic problems of the Iraqi crisis."
Since the Sept. 11 attacks the French have been providing key assistance in Afghanistan. And in some ways the French quietly aided the attack on Saddam Hussein. France did not close its airspace to U.S. military aircraft. And while French diplomats were doing their best to block American intervention, the French military was providing information for the buildup of U.S. military and intelligence forces in the former French colony of Djibouti. "Each time they asked us for input we replied," the French government source says.
Or maybe a "keep cool" approach would make more sense, of the type an older article I've seen in the same IHT some time ago reminds us:
In the 1960s, President Charles de Gaulle denounced the American war in Vietnam, withdrew from NATO's integrated command and kicked American troops out of France. None of these moves were welcome in Washington. But President Lyndon B. Johnson, a very different kind of Texan from the one now in the White House, adopted a businesslike response. "When a man asks you to leave his house, you don't argue," Johnson said to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, as told in Richard Barnet's book "The Alliance." "You get your hat and go." There followed nearly three decades of sometimes prickly, but generally constructive partnership between France and the United States, an important element of Western unity and victory in the Cold War.
Plus, some interesting observations on the gap between the attitudes of Jacques Schmoe and these of his rulers:
While some French political figures and business executives are uncomfortable about bad relations with Washington, the public seems superbly indifferent.

A recent poll listed several issues confronting the French government and asked the public which of them should be immediate priorities. Just 3 percent of those polled said that restoring good relations with the United States is the most important thing for the government to do.

At the same time the French public expresses warmth toward Americans. In the latest poll of national attitudes by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations and the German Marshall Fund, the French expressed roughly the same warmth of feeling toward Americans as did the Germans, the Dutch and even the Poles. In other words, there's nothing personal in the French attitude. It's political.
Will the "Transatlantic crisis" nonsense ever stop?
Damage control?

I am far from claiming to understand the driving forces behind the intra-Israeli discourse. Nevertheless, on the background of a recent Palestinian protest against Hamas, the latest opinion piece by Amira Hass is somewhat surprising, all the more so that it is given prominent linkage on the Ha'aretz English website as of this writing:
The Saturday-Sunday attacks are not only testimony to the Hamas ability to ensnare Abbas and Dahlan (with whom the Hamas has a long history of clashes) and to thumb their noses at the Israeli security services, nor merely the technical capability for renewed terror. It also shows Hamas feels its position in the Palestinian public is firm.


The Hamas people know very well how much the Palestinian public hopes for a lengthy lull of the conditions of the the internal siege imposed by Israel.

But Hamas, like every Palestinian, knows the automatic Israeli response to an attack is to tighten the internal siege, or immediate cancelation of abatements that had been implemented or just announced. Hamas, therefore, not only refuses "to give a chance" to the Abbas-Dahlan government, it is signaling to the people that there is no significance to short-term abatements, a slight relaxation of the suffering.

Since the establishment of the PA in 1994, Hamas has swung between its political-military-religious platform, calling for a struggle against "the occupation of all of Palestine," and its ability to pay attention to the mood in the Palestinian public, which wants to see a normal solution in its lifetime and not in some illusory mythological future. When it did hold fire, or avoided escalating the power struggle with the PA, it was not because of steps Yasser Arafat and his security apparatus took against the Hamas activists (mass arrests without trial, firings, intimidation and paying them off with jobs); it was also - and perhaps primarily - out of awareness that Hamas, as a movement that takes pride in its grass-roots support, could not alienate itself from the public.

Despite the immediate harm to Palestinian expectations for relief from the pressures imposed by Israel, Hamas is convinced the public will not harbor resentment against it. The public will continue to blame the Israeli occupation regime for its suffering and not the Hamas actions, which as far as the Palestinians are concerned are legitimate reactions for civilian deaths at the hands of the IDF in its attacks in Gaza particularly, which have not ceased since Abbas was appointed. So strong is Hamas, that it allows itself to damage the short-term expectations of the Palestinian public.
Another thing -- I wish she (and her fellow writers) would quantify such statements a bit. What exactly is the "Palestinian consensus"? Are there differences between certain locations, social groups, political affiliations, etc.? What are such differences in terms of percentages? To me, an outsider, such articles are more confusing than anything else. For example, is the exact status of the Jerusalem neighbourhood where one the latest attacks took place --
The two attacks on Saturday and Sunday morning, in which nine Israelis were killed, are part of the Palestinian consensus about legitimate military activity in the framework of the legitimate campaign against the occupation: Both were in areas Israel occupied in 1967. By Palestinian definition, Pisgat Ze'ev, from which Egged bus No. 6 departed on Sunday morning, is a settlement and not a Jerusalem neighborhood.
-- a priority concern for some Gazans wishing to tend to their orange orchards?
Osamology studies center, dept. of mass promotion

Mick Hume: Organised paranoia of West blows threat posed by al-Qaeda out of all proportion:
The West's fearful response to each new threat or attack is acting as an open invitation to every little terrorist cell. The message is, "We are scared, so why not scare us some more?" All it takes is a few zealots with home-made bombs in Africa or Asia to have the Western world pressing the panic button.

Since the bloody bombings in Casablanca, there has been much talk of a new global crisis. Yet in truth the world cannot be changed by the blowing-up of a Spanish social club and a Jewish community centre in Morocco, any more than by last week's attacks on petrol stations in Pakistan. Only our overblown reactions to these local incidents can create a crisis.

It is worth asking to what extent al-Qaeda now exists more in the West's fevered imagination than in the real world. Only a few weeks ago, American intelligence officials were boasting that al-Qaeda was all but defeated.

Now, after the bomb attacks in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Morocco and alerts in East Africa, top strategists and tabloid headline writers seem to agree that "Bin Laden is back". Yet there is nothing of substance linking these local attacks to any al-Qaeda central command. Not a word has been heard from Osama bin Laden since the audiotape he allegedly authored six months ago. But all it takes are a few scattered bombs in vulnerable outposts, and everybody appears convinced that al-Qaeda's leadership is once more organising a worldwide conspiracy that threatens Western civilisation. Alive or dead, the spectre of bin Laden is haunting the top minds of Europe and America.
Is the West maneuvering itself into the very rat-in-a-behavioural-experiment loop William Saletan of the "Slate" has warned against in September 2001, in its most stupid and lethal form imaginable?
It is hardly surprising that others should see the West as scared of its shadow. Or that a few fanatics should take up that open invitation to terrify us some more.

Via Andrew Northrup.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Salam Pax update

Posting on a site called Electronic Iraq, which, as opposed to his blog, is designed for readability; getting interviewed by his former Viennese fellow students (German original and a translation*); receiving no royalties for "his" mugs and t-shirts...

Via Jim Henley... yes, Jim, you were the first, but the idea is just too obvious to be worth claiming credit for... but maybe you should take the "Where is Raed" link off the "In Memoriam" list -- it looks eerie there...

* scroll down to May 18, 2003 -- the translations Jeff Jarvis is unsure about are correct, the original is in part the Austrian dialect rather than standard German
European diversity

Cheer up, Gil and Allison, you are very welcome to a selected a few among the club members, seriously.

Update: A comprehensive "Head Heeb" post on the subject from last December. I respectfully disagree with some of Imshin's objections: the real Europe is much less "European" than many would like to believe.

Update: A long analysis from UPI.
Questions for my American visitors

Are the security measures prescribed by the "Code Orange" alert level
  1. being implemented, especially by private companies?

  2. likely to be of any use under the known terrorist attacks scenarios?
(No, I am not amusing myself at your expense. The threat around my place is by all accounts no less, but the authorities seem to prefer a "don't panic" approach.)

Why chimps and bananas don't need human rights.
Ain't no blood libel

Remember that Sharon cartoon from "The Independent"? The one that was too much even for one of the blogosphere's most prominent anti-Sharonites? From now on it's officially kosher:
The commission [Britain's Press Complaints Commission] rejected Israel's charge that the cartoon was "prejudicial" and "pejorative," and reflected an anti-Semitic motif of a blood libel.

The commission said that it recognized the illustration offended some readers, but that reactions published in the newspaper following the cartoon's publication showed there were readers and political commentators who did not view it as an expression of a blood libel.

There was no reason for the commission to disbelieve the cartoonist's position that he had taken the view that the attack on Gaza City was a form of 'macabre electioneering' whose equivalent in less fraught situations might be the more traditional stunt of kissing babies," the commission wrote in its decision.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

The enjoyable web

News, unreported, and the international solidarity with the Palestinian people

Sighted on yesterday's Jerusalem Report front page:
Quote · Unquote

"They [the militants] claim they are heroes. Yet they brought us only destruction and made us homeless. They used our farms, our houses and our children... to hide."

Beit Hanoun resident Mohammed Zaaneen, 30, taking part in a rare protest today against Palestinian militant groups firing rockets on Israeli targets from the Gaza Strip. The attacks resulted in Israeli incursions aimed at destroying areas used by militants for cover which ended today.

Remarkable that of the entire army of international media and peace activists the place brims with, none -- to the best of my knowledge [see Update I for corrections] -- have cared to report on this particular protest. If there has ever been a Palestinian contibution to peace, then this was one. No match for the pictoresque hordes of Ku-Klux-Klan lookalikes in terms of profitable sensationalism?

The International Solidarity Movement, or, to put it precisely, its visible Western component, may or may not take part in Palestinian violence. It most certainly endorses it verbally, describing it as the exercise of the "Palestinian right to self-defense". The same theory can be heard from other purportedly pro-Palestinian groups as well.

The late Rachel Corrie has left a delighted breathless account of a demonstration where "the internationals recognized symbols and banners from numerous school and community-groups, Fateh, DFLP, FIDA, PFLP, Hamas". The banners carried at that event were offering less surprising messages, such as "The real terrorists are in the United States and Israel":
One international delivered a speech in English, translated into Arabic by one of the Palestinian coordinators of ISM-Rafah. ... The international thanked the Palestinian people for offering a continuous example to the rest of the world of resistance against all odds. ... As the speech concluded they began to chant, with the crowd immediately surrounding them, "Hurriyah la Falasteen" -- Freedom for Palestine -- repeatedly."
-- but did the ISM take part in the protest against Hamas, I wonder? Or was it not big enough an event for them? Or maybe not approved by the local Palestinian co-ordinators we (prefer to?) know next to nothing about? Did they bother to ask people like Zaaneen whether they regard violence as self-defense?

If not, are such activists, intentionally or not, by their own choice or as a result of their local bosses' guidance, forcing upon their presumable protegés a road some (who really knows how many?) of them don't want to take? Even if one leaves Israeli victims out of the equation for a moment, are they actually helping Palestinians -- on the long run? Or do they ultimately help local terrorist organizations suppress voices like the one quoted at the beginning of this post?


On re-reading this post, I decided that the title "Questions of a political idiot" would have been more appropriate. I also decided not to change it.


Update I: According to Allison, the episode did get a three-paragraph mention in an unrelated Ha'aretz article. According to Barry Meislin, it is front-page news on today's "Globe and Mail" -- an AP report, to be exact. According to Jonathan, it is has created a stir in the blogosphere. (Sorry, I'm not much of an LGF regular.) The question of whose side international pro-Palestinian activist are on, still stands.

Update II: The sad truth is that the fact that the protestors blamed the militants for causing the recent IDF raid in the town, which is aimed at stamping out the missile strikes can also be interpreted as an argument in favour of harsh Israeli action extracting a toll on Palestinian civilians, given the context:
The operation in Beit Hanun was launched in response to the firing of rockets by Palestinians against Israeli towns inside the Green Line. During the early morning hours, the IDF entered the village in the northern Gaza Strip with dozens of armored vehicles and bulldozers.


During the Beit Hanun operation, IDF forces took over four houses belonging to Hamas and Fatah activists and evacuated the residents. In the morning hours, the houses were destroyed with explosives. [AP reports worse damages]

The operation was carried out amid exchanges of gunfire with Palestinian gunmen. Two men were killed in the area known as Zeitun: Nidal Krayem, 24, and Halil Karmut, 33. The three unarmed teens killed during the fighting were Abd al-Qadr Abu Kas, 16; Mohammed Za'anein, 14; and Zuheir Jrab, 13.
Come to think of it, I don't know much about Arabic names, but isn't it strange that one of the dead teenagers carries the same name as the protestor?
Yet another futile call for a campaign to democratize European governance:
Let me suggest that Europe needs its own Parliament First movement, too. No, let's call it Parliaments First - the plural matters. For national parliaments need to be given greater influence over European decision-making, in addition to that exercised by the European Parliament in Brussels itself.


The EU in its early days was a diplomatic club, representatives of the national governments meeting together in secret to take most of the decisions. As time has passed, successive treaties have increased the influence of the directly-elected European Parliament in the decision-making process. Democracy is taking over from diplomacy.

But this process is still not complete. The Council is not yet accountable enough as a decision-making body.

Demands that the Council should meet in public and publish its documents are only half the story. Sometimes there are not proper meetings, sometimes there are not proper documents. I have often been told to wait for the results of a Council meeting while the minutes are written. This is absurd. No-one would be happy if we had to wait several days before it was clear what the outcome of a vote in the European Parliament was.

At other times, the Council meets merely to rubber-stamp decisions already effectively taken elsewhere. The Council acts like a committee: it ought to be more like an assembly.

Monday, May 19, 2003

On the bad news

I have nothing to add at the moment. Read

Update I: Tal, Allison-2
Update II: the JTA
Haloscan has taken another of its naps a short time ago. Note that I have an alternative option, permanently linked to in the sidebar under "Talk" -> "non-disappearing comments".

Update -- it's the war and politics: Often a good idea to take a look at the service provider's site:

High traffic

The site is currently experiencing an unusally high load because of some war and politics related weblogs that use this commenting system that have skyrocketed in popularity because of the war. Therefore during peak hours, the site may respond slower than usual. We appreciate your patience.
They also console users with a link to a partial workaround, plus, the forum offers a full list of currently functioning smileys:

-- forget your :p's and :o's.