January 31, 2006

Bush just keeps getting his way

Today's confirmation of supreme court nominee Samuel Alito is just another episode in the dark soap opera of the Bush administration tenure. I am sure that years from now we will all remember these dark days and wish we had done more to stop the destruction of civil liberties that will forever change the American way of life. Democrats tried helplessly to delay the vote and confirmation, but the only thing they could muster today were some votes against him. The final tally was 58-42, nothing that Alito or Bush should be proud of. Chief Justice John Roberts was confirmed a few months before by a 78-22 vote, with many more Senators on his side.

Alito's record and opinions on civil rights is shameful, and even more worrying considering the situation we are in today with efforts that seek to expand the PATRIOT ACT and Bush's domestic spying policy. It's not far fetched to say that we are probably one terrorist attack away from a police state. Bush succeeded in accomplishing his goal of revamping the Supreme Court which he (and his neo-con buddies) have considered to be dominated by liberals. Alito's opinions on executive powers are also very disturbing. People for the American Way has a great website that summarizes the points against Alito. The facts can't be disputed. We shouldn't be surprised by any future fiascos by this administration.

and the Drama continues in Palestine

I was listening to a local DC area radio news station yesterday discussing the Hamas victory, and I almost ran into the car in front of me. Yes, I heard the infamous "civil war" line. I couldn't believe my ears, what the hell?! The anchor was asking a BBC expert about some "fears that a civil war may erupt" because of differences between Hamas and Fateh (because a few rowdy kids took part in some demonstrations and the like). We're not talking about Iraq here, but I hate how the media hypes up these things. I don't think anyone can argue against the idea that the ethno-sectarian tensions in Iraq have increased exponentially because of the American invasion and the subsequent media frenzy, especially in the US. All you hear about here is civil war. It's ridiculous and completely ignorant of the facts on the ground. Anyways, back to Hamas, which has consistently maintained an opposition to Fateh that did not reach the red lines that would likely lead to a civil war. The leaders have always had problems with Fateh, but they usually try to keep it calm so that Israel and others cannot take advantage of the disunity of Palestinians.
I found
this article on the same subject, and thankfully, someone is putting a stop to these irresponsible exaggerations,
"Representatives of HAMAS, Fatah, and of Christian origin deputies told Zaman that although they might have differing opinions; this will not lead to a civil war."

On another note, Khalid Mishaal's article in the Guardian today is very insightful on the organization's internal views and their future plans. I particularly agree with this statement,
"Those who threaten to impose sanctions on our people are the same powers that initiated our suffering and continue to support our oppressors almost unconditionally. We, the victims, are being penalised while our oppressors are pampered."

I just can't wait to hear Bush's response in tonight's State of the Union.

January 28, 2006

I got tagged

Thanks Khalaf for tagging me :) I guess this is a good time to tell a little more about myself, since I am pretty new to this whole blogging thing. So here it goesss...

5 things about me:

- slightly (friends might say highly) sarcastic & blunt
- a "to-do-list" person (obsessively), and consequently very organized :o)
- friendly & nice to those who get to know me well
- love chocolate, nuts, and mango mousse
- like to think of myself as an activist for justice

3 things I like in others:
- honesty (w/ others & w/ themselves)
- dedication
- sense of humor

3 things I dislike in others:
- fakeness (ugh)
- being judgemental (ughh)
- arrogance (ughhh)

I tag...(and I don't know many people yet, so..)
-Um Kahlil

January 27, 2006

Straight From the Horse's Mouth

Palestinians speak out on election results...

"This was an exercise in Palestinian democracy but Hamas are going to find the difference between governing and not governing very difficult. The writing was on the wall for Fatah for quite a while now. I think a lot of Hamas' support came from protest votes. People were tired of Fatah infighting and corruption." --Akram Baker, business adviser

"We expected Hamas to do well because it won many seats in local polls. After Yasser Arafat's death, Fatah collapsed. It couldn't work cohesively, there were always problems. People became tired. As for Hamas, I'm not worried society will get more conservative. Hamas is focused on resistance against Israel and on fixing the economy." --Felicia Barghouti, journalist

"I support Hamas. They will bring new ideas to government. I like Hamas because they are the real resistance against Israel. Hamas are positive whereas Fatah are negative. Fatah were only interested in positions and money, not in the people. The international community will have to talk to Hamas if it wants to speak to the Palestinians." --Nehad Mahmoud, rights worker

"It doesn't matter what party governs - what matters is they need experience. I'm worried that Hamas don't have any experience in government and they will have to learn very quickly." --Alla Abu Turk, marketing boss

"Hamas are a change for good. Hamas won this election because people wanted a change. They are the group that supports the Palestinian people and they are our best friend. Through their social services Hamas help the people. People asked yesterday who is for the Palestinian people and the answer came today: Hamas." --Barakat Barakat, civil servant

"Hamas winning is a good thing - it is the choice of the people. I think the future will be better under a Hamas government. There won't be any problems in the government as there were under Fatah. Religion is the manual for good government in the world and I think we shall see a good Hamas government." --Khaled Jaber, office manager

January 26, 2006

More on Hamas & the bigger picture

These elections should be a clear message to the US and European Union that Palestinians and the Arab street in general are not easily co-opted. They cannot be fooled by Fateh’s “tree planting ceremonies” (funded by US AID), nor will they accept that any foreign power intervening in their domestic affairs. The money would have been better well spent had it addressed the real needs of Palestinians, rather than trying to delve into the internal politics of another country, further reinforcing the predominant view in the Arab world that the US wants to impose a certain democracy that does not conflict with its greater interests in the Middle East.

The “Arab Street” is not as easy to understand as some academics and journalists have made it seem. Arab populations are not stupid, and they are not weak. Indeed, they are taking a “slowly but surely” approach to uprooting corruption and establishing democracy. There is no denying that there are many obstacles on this path, but the Arabs can and should be allowed to figure this out alone. While we cannot deny Islamic parties the credit they deserve in getting out the vote and producing convincing platforms, it must also be said that the voting for Islamic parties is not due to their religious platform in isolation. The lack of other options has also contributed to this trend. As we saw in Egypt and the Palestinian territories, the Left has not been able to convince the public of their agenda or prove that they are able to govern in a way that can accommodate the needs of the majority of the population. The third (mostly leftist) parties failed miserably in the Palestinian elections as well as Egyptian elections because they are scattered and disunited. The only option left for them is to join in coalition with the Islamic parties to seek a moderate socio-political agenda to govern those countries.

Hamas now has a huge responsibility on its shoulders to govern the Palestinian territories effectively and avoid a policy of Islamization, which I believe they are very aware of and will not attempt to do. However, the most pressing problem will be funding. The US and EU will most likely not agree to send aid to a government ruled by Hamas, even if Abbas remains president. The irony is that these countries have been giving the Palestinian Authority a few million dollars per year, fully cognizant of the administrative and financial corruption that the ruling party, Fateh, has continuously been mired in. So it’s acceptable to pour money down the Fateh pipes, but not ok to give it to a fiscally responsible part that will use the money in favor of the Palestinians. Hamas has proven that it is working first and foremost for the Palestinian people. Its members that have been involved in politics, unlike their counterparts in Fateh, have not been receiving fat paychecks, luxury cars and homes which the average Palestinian cannot even dream of. They are a grassroots organization that has gained the popularity of the Palestinian people because of their social programs and their politically responsible actions. Other parties can learn a lot from them.

Nevertheless, this does not erase the fact that many people do have genuine fears about Hamas’s armed wings, and their Islamic views on various social issues. Naturally, this will be of concern for many, probably more people outside the territories than inside. Hamas should address these concerns, and presumably they will do so by avoiding any such measures that will seek to impose Islamic law on individuals. They will probably focus on maintaining security for the average Palestinian family, and a way for them to put food on the table and decrease the skyrocketing rates of poverty and unemployment.

A New Reality in Palestine and Israel

I believe the shake up in Palestinian and Israeli politics was more than enough to get me back to posting regularly hopefully :-)

Ariel Sharon’s near certain exit from Israeli politics and the sweeping victory of Hamas in the Palestinian legislative elections has ushered in a new era for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that nobody could have predicted. There are so many points to make on this issue, many of which have been pointed out by the media, and others which have been neglected.

First and foremost, the Hamas victory in yesterday’s elections is a clear signal that the Palestinian people cannot and will not be fooled and deceived by a corrupt leadership such as Fateh that has been continuously supported by the US and the rest of the world. Nobody, no president, prime minister, secretary of state, or any other citizen, politician, analyst, or journalist in the world can tell the Palestinians how to vote or who is better for their future. The Palestinians themselves, who are the ones living under occupation, enclosed by an apartheid wall, humiliated at checkpoints, deprived of their most basic human rights, and continuously vilified by Israel and the US are the only ones that can and should decide their future. They know that when a government makes promises and always breaks them, it is time for them to go. The Palestinian people have waited patiently for more than 30 years for the PLO and Fateh to get their act together, only to face more humiliation, destruction, and deprivation. The majority of the Palestinian people did not vote for Hamas because they want an Islamic state on the whole of historic Palestine, but because they are fed up with the existing political, economic, and social conditions in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem that Fateh and Israel have both contributed to.

Second, the Palestinians have expressed their opinion to entrust Hamas with leading their government because they have seen Hamas outside the box that the US and Israel see it. They see that Hamas provides various social and humanitarian services to the public much more efficiently than the Palestinian Authority itself. In addition, Hamas has been active on a smaller scale in various Palestinian cities and municipalities and has shown to be effective in its fiscal management, moving away from the trend of corruption and deception that had plagued many towns in the West Bank and Gaza that were governed by Hamas.

The Palestinians and the rest of the world need to take a few lessons from these events.

The fact that free and fair elections took place in the Palestinian territories, albeit with many obstacles by the Israeli government, should be considered a victory for every Palestinian. The fact that Fateh has accepted the results so far is also another success. However, no other country can claim that this democratic event took place because of their actions. Most importantly, President Bush and the US government cannot and should not claim that their actions have spread democracy to the Palestinian territories. In fact, their actions have hindered democracy with their unrelenting support for Israel which has worked to undermine democracy in Palestine.

January 6, 2006

On Sharon

The recent developments with Ariel Sharon's declining health have given the American media something to talk about. Updates on his health are all over the place, but more troubling is the 'analyses' on his history in Israeli politics. Most media outlets have jumped on the bandwagon, repeating statements that sound more like Israeli government press releases...mainly that the world is losing a great peacemaker. A hawk turned (semi-) dove. The neo-con Sharon defender (his name is not worthy enough for my blog) writes that Sharon represents the balance between the Israeli left and right. That his new Kadima party would've probably started a new era for Israel, but that it's future is now uncertain because of Sharon's expected exit from the political scene.

I think Sharon, in some weird twisted way, is a genius. Really. He found a way (unilateral Gaza withdrawal) to focus the world's attention on his plan rather than the pre-existing peace proposal (the US-sponsored Road Map). Taking such a great step, for the man known as the Bulldozer, the architect of the Israeli settlement movement, should be considered an unprecedented and historic event. We should all support him, appluad him. We should all forget about the apartheid wall that eats away at Palestinian olive groves, prevents students from reaching their schools, and expectant mothers from reaching a hospital.

The Gaza withdrawal was first and foremost in the favor of Israel and not the Palestinians. The 8,000 settlers were living among 1.2 million Palestinians in Gaza, but using 5 times as much water as the average Palestinian and costing Israel millions of dollars to keep them protected. It was the most absurd and illogical settlement policy in Israel's history. It just didn't make sense. Sharon did a simple cost-benefit analysis, and figured he could use the money spent on those settlers' security to keep pounding Palestinians and creating more settlements in the more important West Bank. Even the settlers, who made a big hoopla on in front of the 900 journalists that went to cover the withdrawal, knew they were getting a better deal. They were being moved to safer settlements in the West Bank, AND getting up to $400,000 per family as compensation for their move.

Yes, Sharon the peacemaker. God I wish he could be revived and sent back to his PM position so he can continue to do all the great work he has been doing for the Palestinian people. He simply irreplaceable.

January 3, 2006

and the war on Iraqi civilians continues...

Fourteen members of one family have been killed in a US air strike that destroyed a house in northern Iraq, an Iraqi official has said.

An Iraqi official from the body that liaises between Iraqi and US forces said the attack occurred in Baiji, 200km (125 miles) north of Baghdad.

The US military has made no immediate comment on the report.

US forces frequently use air strikes in their battle against Iraqi insurgents, in an effort to minimise US casualties.

Ghadban Nahd Hassan, 56, told AFP news agency that 14 members of his family had been in the house when it was it bombed.

"I was with some friends in a small shop 100m away from the house when I heard the bombing at around 2130 (1830 GMT)," he said.

"I rushed over to see. My house was destroyed and there was smoke everywhere."

So far, the bodies of a nine-year-old boy, an 11-year-old girl, three women and three men have been found in the rubble.

Story from BBC NEWS