Saturday, September 16, 2006

Tabarq Yasin

Tabarq Yassin being comforted by her father in hospitalTabarq Yasin is 9 nine years old she was injured in cross-fire between American troops and fighters resisting the occupation in Baghdad last Thursday. The man seen comforting her in the photograph is her father.


Friday, September 15, 2006

Aliyah Thoughts Three Months Later - Guest Posting by Alex Stein

"You're doing what?" "What on earth is somebody as hostile to zionism as you doing posting an article by a zionist?" "I want to protest your decison to ask a Zionist to write an article here. I feel betrayed." Just three of the reactions I received when I mentioned that I'd invited Alex Stein to do a guest posting here. Alex is indeed a Zionist and I am indeed hostile to Zionism which I regard as an essentially colonialist ideology. What has that got do with anything? I have always argued that peace can only come about when "men of goodwill" hear, understand, and negotiate with one another in good faith. In the cacophony of voices of hate it is all too easy to ignore the "still small voice" of goodwill. Alex's voice is one such, I encourage you to read him further and to visit his site.


Aliyah Thoughts Three Months Later

I have just made aliyah. Considering the current pessimism surrounding prospects for peace in the Middle East, this move may surprise many. Given the rise of Hamas and the concomitant entrenchment of unilateralism in Israel, not to mention Iran's nuclear ambitions, isn"t making aliyah a strange thing to do? I don"t believe so. In fact, for anyone who shares the same Progressive Zionist ideals as I do, now is a wonderful time to be taking the aliyah plunge, for this is a time of destroying and rebuilding.


Literally 'going up'. The term used to denote the act of a Jew migrating to Israel. - Alex Stein
The Wikipedia entry on Aliyah can be found here. - mfi
A school for the intensive study of Hebrew. It is designed to teach adult immigrants to Israel the basic language skills of conversation, writing and comprehension. - Alex Stein
The Wikipedia entry on Ulpan can be found here. - mfi

We go to the land to build it, and be built by it. This was the mantra of the early Zionists. Never has the appeal of nationalism towards progressives been stated so succinctly. In one pithy phrase, the relationship between political progress and self-development is articulated. It may seem perverse, but what better time can there be for moving to Israel than this? For now is a time when the destruction is in place, when events are transpiring to make all our goals further away than ever.

In the case of Israel/Palestine, it is best not to believe the hype until the maps have been published, and even then not to believe the maps unless the source is beyond repute. And although there has been wild speculation over Ehud Olmert's plans to unilaterally withdraw from the West Bank, the precise parameters of the plan are still unclear. It seems that Olmert is seeking to annex the major settlement blocs - Ariel, Gush Etzion, Ma"aleh Adumim - as well as securing a permanent presence in the Jordan Valley. But this is far from certain. And even if this did constitute the plan, questions remain. Will there be a Jewish presence in Hebron? Will any military bases be left behind? Will Gaza and the West Bank finally be connected? What will happen in Jerusalem? Predictably, though, any suggestion of withdrawal from the West Bank has led to widespread criticism, particularly from the Religious Zionist and Christian Zionist camps. This was inevitable. Giving up one inch is too much for those who value land more life. There can be no satisfying such people.

At the outset, Olmert stated that he wanted to set Israel's borders by 2010. Following the war in Lebanon, however, the plans have been shelved for the foreseeable future. The reasons for this are obvious. The best that Olmert is prepared to offer the Palestinians do not come close to satisfying their minimal demands. As a result, the Americans are trying to encourage Olmert to engage Palestinian President Abbas, an undoubtedly reasonable man. It seems that a meeting between the two will soon take place, although there is little hope for a significant outcome. Israel will surely soon return to unilateralism. But this should not distract from a basic realisation: Israel will not be stable, in the truest sense of the word, until Palestine is. This should be the Progressive Zionist mantra, the response to unilateralism.

My Zionism, however, is primarily personal, not ideological. In other words, I do not aim to impose my Zionism on other Jews in the Diaspora. The decisions we have to take in our lives are terrifying enough without trying to impose them on other people. Furthermore, I do not summarily dismiss anti-Zionism as self-hatred. I believe anti-Zionists to be fundamentally mistaken, but I acknowledge the legitimacy of the position, and welcome the critique. I, however, hold an axiomatic conviction in the right of Jews to self-determination, and the no less deeply held belief that this does not necessitate persecution of the other.

"Progressive Nationalism" is all the rage nowadays, with the increasing realisation that people express their autonomy more freely within a national context. Zionism needs to keep up the pace. National movements exist to promote what Will Kymlicka calls a 'societal culture". For progressive nationalists, this culture is necessarily "thin", given that the state should not intervene in matters of religion, values and lifestyles. But it should not be dismissed as unimportant. The Zionist movement has done a tremendous job in resurrecting the Hebrew language, and a vibrant Israeli national culture. It now has to make sure that the values of pluralism and democracy can spread far deeper into Israeli society.

Thus, in addition to solving the conflict with the Palestinians, Israel has to resolve the contradictions between its commitment to democracy and its commitment to the Jewish people. Despite what some doctrinaire anti-Zionists might say, this remains a viable goal, and many people are working hard at formulating a way forward. Of most importance in this regard is providing Israeli-Arabs with full equality and integration into Israeli society. In addition lays the importance of confronting the religious/secular divide, particularly the status quo which gives the Orthodox establishment such disproportionate influence over the personal lives of Israeli citizens. These tasks may be difficult, but they are certainly feasible.

To dream madly and to imagine all possibilities has always been the Zionist way. As the date of aliyah approaches, one should have delusions of grandeur, which should be replaced by humility on arrival. My five months (I need five years) of ulpan has become a time of observation, of re-acquainting myself with the facts on the ground, and trying to imagine how I can possibly fit in, and what I can do. As soon as this honeymoon is over, I shall know I have arrived.

The above should suffice as an explanation of my ideological commitment to Zionism, and the political context of my aliyah. But I am aware it does not go the heart of why I have made this move. In all honesty, answering the "why" question is an extremely difficult one. It would be great if I could reduce everything down to a neat narrative, but life is more complicated than that. I can"t, for example, name the day I finally decided that Israel was the place for me. Like all the best decisions (I hope), there was a rocky road to a gradual realisation that I wanted to go.

So despite everything: despite Hamas, despite the worship of unilateralism, despite racism (on both sides), despite Ahmadinejad, despite my unerring commitment to universality. We can only really achieve a universal order when we value the particular. I remain cynical as to how sustainable Jewish life is in the Diaspora, at least on a serious level where the decisions we take as Jews have ramifications beyond our tribe. Our little job in achieving the dream of genuine universality is to create an Israel where justice trumps ethnocentrism.

Theodor Herzl famously noted that "if you will it, it is no dream". To refer to this aphorism is to invite the ridicule that is heaped on a bad poet, or someone unwilling to dirty themselves with detail. But it still remains Zionism's most potent catchphrase, and one which has never been bettered as the embodiment of Zionism's revolutionary potential. The time has come for this revolutionary potential to be rediscovered, for Zionism to pave the trail for progressive nationalism everywhere. One of the most tragic aspects of modern history is the constant victory of reactionary nationalisms. Now, at a time of deep-rooted pessimism, is as good a time as ever for this process to be reversed.

Alex Stein


This is an updated version of an article by Alex Stein "A time for rebuilding | Alex Stein takes the plunge into Israeli life " that first appeared in the UK publication "Jewish Quarterly." [ Jewish Quarterly | Summer 2006 - Number 202 ] Alex was the Abba Eban Scholar in International Relations (M.Phil) at Queens' College, Cambridge and following his move to Israel now works as a freelance writer and educator based in Jerusalem. He runs the website "False Dichotomies" which he decribes as "An attempt to understand the world through unravelling its false dichotomies." He can be contacted by email at the following address: or by leaving a comment at "False Dichotomies."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

“If fighting erupts again, and this is very likely, we will have a very bad situation,”

If at first you don't succeed try try again and fail miserably. One has to wonder whether the US occupiers of Iraq and their green zone government are actually trying to turn Al-Qadisiyyah into another Al-Anbar. Al-Qadisiyyah used to be relatively peaceful, then the Americans decided to stir things up a bit. Here's most of Abesada Mujbel's report on the fighting in Diwaniya August 29th:

"Another major Iraqi city is on fire, with scores of civilians killed and hundreds injured in some of the worst fighting since the 2003 U.S. invasion.

The fighting, pitching armed supporters of the radical Shiite Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr against U.S. and Iraqi forces, has been dragging on since Sunday in the southern city of Diwaniya.

Diwaniya is the capital of al-Qadisiya province. Sadr is believed to command a large following in the city home to nearly 500,000 people.

Sadr's fighters are entrenched in residential areas and any bid to dislodge them is bound to result in terrible suffering for the population.

On Tuesday, Sadr's group was said to have reached a ceasefire arrangement with U.S. and Iraqi troops but residents described the deal as "fragile."

The fighting erupted when foreign troops arrested a Sadr militia leader.

Diwaniya, a major Sadr stronghold, was until recently relatively quiet.

It is not clear why the Shiite-dominated government has decided to move against Sadr at a time his deputies are active in parliament and is part of the ruling Shiite collation.

An Iraqi army captain, who did not want to reveal his name for security reasons, said Sadr's militiamen from villages and towns across the province were pouring into the city.

He also said the government was sending "more reinforcements" to the city in a show of force.

"If fighting erupts again, and this is very likely, we will have a very bad situation," he said." he said.……… " (Emphasis mine - mfi)

Al-Hakim and Rumsfeld file photo. Al-Hakim with Rumsfeld (and boots) file photo

I wrote about this aspect of the long-running campaign being undertaken by the American occupation army in Iraq and their green zone government cohorts against Muqdata al-Sadr and the Jaish al Mahdi first on August 28th, and then again on the 29th. As I said at the time:

"Now when a senior general in the Badr Brigade Death Squad Protection and Facilitation Forces American army in Iraq comes right out and says that the battle isn't over yet it behoves us all to listen to him. Particularly when as General Casey did, he makes it clear that vengeance is about to wreaked. So for once I believe General Casey."

The situation in Diwaniya has been simmering ready to boil over despite the peace deal negotiated in Najaf between Muqdata al-Sadr and Khalil Jalil Hamza the SCIRI appointed governor of Al-Qadisiyyah, a deal promptly vitiated by Interior Minister Jawad Al-Bulani and Defense Minister Abdel Qader Jassim Mohammed.

Last night fighting in Diwaniya flared again. A report by Yahia Kareem from Aswataliraq includes the following statement from the thought they were going to be running the place but are now reduced to being the Badr Brigade Death Squad Protection and Facilitation Forces American occupation:

"U.S. and Iraqi forces clashed with fighters of the Mahdi Army militia killing one Iraqi civilian and wounding four others in central Diwaniya," [emphasis mine - keep how, according to the Americans, the civilians were injured firmly in mind - mfi]

The cause of the fighting, which spread rapidly, was a series of raids carried out on Wednesday night and this morning by Badr Brigade Death Squad Protection and Facilitation Forces American occupation troops and their Badr Brigade members in uniform sidekicks troops loyal to the green zone government of al-Sadr's offices in Diwaniya. As you might expect fighting erupted and spread rapidly. According to Yahia Kareem's report, the people of Diwaniyya who must be getting pretty tired of this routine by now, decided to give the fighting a wide berth, "the clashes expanded to include various city districts while shops were closed and people stayed at home."

This report by Reuters' Imad al-Khozaie clarifies:

"Ten people were wounded on Thursday, doctors said, after guards at the provincial governor's office fired on dozens of Sadr followers protesting about the overnight raid. A woman and child were hurt when U.S. troops clashed with stone-throwing Sadr supporters outside their movement's local headquarters.

Among the wounded were two policemen, one of them a colonel in charge of the city's emergency task force.


A local journalist saw soldiers return to the area of the Sadr office, on a crowded, narrow commercial street, later in the morning. People near the office threw rocks at the Americans, and there was some shooting and explosions, he said.

He saw an object thrown from a U.S. patrol vehicle, then heard a blast. A woman and her daughter, aged about 8, were hurt, in the explosion, he said.

After the U.S. force withdrew, several dozen Sadr supporters marched to the office of the governor, where guards there opened fire on them. Gunmen then also appeared among the demonstrators.


Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has promised to disband militias from all communities and to build up the Iraqi security forces. It is not clear, however, how he aims to persuade the likes of the Mehdi Army to lay down its arms. ……… "[emphasis added - mfi]

Well indeed, it's not clear at all, how the green zone government SCIRI and their American overlords sponsors allies of convenience are going to persuade Muqdata al-Sadr and the Jaish al Mahdi to lay down their arms. Why on earth would they? Their efforts to reach out to their Sunni compatriots are (very slowly) bearing fruit, Al-Sadr has successfully forced Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani from politics, they've managed to bolster their presence in the South despite everything that the British and SCIRI threw at them over the last few years, they've survived repeated attacks on Sadr city and elsewhere and forced Maliki to and criticise and apologise for the attacks on Sadr city itself. What we are seeing today in Diwaniya and elsewhere is a policy of trying to rein in one of the most important political forces in Iraq and a force moreover that, unlike SCIRI, is implacably opposed to Iraq being broken up. Will somebody please tell the Americans that sooner or later they're going to have to negotiate with Al-Sadr - and that you don't extinguish a fire by pouring aviation fuel on it.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Baghdad Morgue September 13th 2006

Child crying Baghdad morgue collecting mother's body September 13th 2006He's at Baghdad morgue and he's crying because he and his family have arrived to collect his mother's body. By mid-morning in Baghdad today September 13th 2006:

  • Eight people were killed and 19 wounded in a car bomb explosion in Zayouna.
  • A double car bombing near the al-Shaab stadium, a roadside bombing, and another car bombing killed 14 people and wounded 67 others.
  • Green zone government housing minister Bayan Dezna's motorcade was attacked in al-Allawi district.
  • Several police stations had been mortar bombed.
  • Police had recovered more than five dozen bodies from the streets of Baghdad and from the Tigris at Suwayrah.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Global Catastrophe That Is The Work Of Misguided Zealots

"Take a moment to answer this question, please. When you kill a hundred innocent civilians and one terrorist, have you won or lost the war on terrorism? "Ah," you'd answer, "but this terrorist could have killed two hundred people, or a thousand people, or even more!" So I ask another question: If in killing 100 innocent people, you create five new terrorists and give them a popular base that then vows to give them aid and support, have you guaranteed an advantage to future generations or have you created an enemy you deserve?

On July 12, the Israeli Chief of Staff gratified us with a glimpse into the subtleties of military thinking in that country. The military operations in Lebanon, he says, "are going to push that country back 20 years". Well, I was in Lebanon twenty years ago, and it wasn't pretty. Following the statement, the general kept his word. I am writing this exactly twenty-eight days after Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, such a highly fashionable military practice the Israelis use it themselves. ……… "

Read the rest at Nur's place.


Not Very Newsworthy

Yarmouk morgue - trolleys with the 5 beheaded bodies found in Amiriya Western Baghdad Sept 12th 2006What's in the body bags that he's walking past are the five beheaded bodies found in Amiriya this morning and brought to Yarmouk hospital morgue. It's a measure of the abject failure of the American led operation to "secure" Baghdad that this merits no more than a passing mention in the news reports.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Poodle Pees On Cedar Trees

Blair feels 'at home' in Lebanon | Pictures
Monday, 11 September, 2006 @ 5:05 PM

Beirut, Lebanon - An estimated 2,000 Lebanese protested against Blair's visit, accusing him of backing Israel's 34-day war with the Shi'ite Muslim guerrillas, and several Hezbollah ministers refused to meet him.

Blair's spokesman said he had been willing to talk to the government's two Hizbullah ministers but they chose not to attend a meeting he held with the Lebanese Cabinet.

Full text of article on Ya Libnan

Condoleeza Rice having a birth pangNext thing you know Condi will pop in to have another one of her birth pangs.


In Memoriam

In memory of those killed on that day and of those who have been cynically slaughtered since - in particular the children of Iraq and Lebanon.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Up Against The Wall

I rarely cover what's going on in the occupied territory's. It's not that I'm not interested, and not that I'm not appalled. It's that there are only 24 hours in the day and the primary focus for this blog is the suffering imposed upon Iraqi civilians, in particular her children, by the American occupation of Iraq. Gert whose blog you'll find linked in the blogroll to the left and who comments here has asked me to bring "False Dichotomies" to your attention:

False Dichotomies is run by Alex Stein formerly the Abba Eban Scholar in International Relations (M.Phil) at Queens' College, Cambridge and who now works as an Israeli freelance writer and educator based in Jerusalem. His email address is'. His description of False Dichotomies is that is:

"An attempt to understand the world through unravelling its false dichotomies."

At present he's trying to spread the word about the likely fate of Al Nue'man a village south-east of Jerusalem here's his description:

"In the past week, the falsedichotomies team took a trip to Al Nue'man, south-east of Jerusalem. This village seems set to be forced to make way for Har Homa D, and the Jerusalem ring-road. Below, in 'Rabbit in the Headlights', Seth Freedman describes the trip. Then, in 'Village on the Line', I offer some background to the situation, as well as 'prospects' for the future. I will soon have pictures from the trip - if anyone is interested, be in touch - Please spread the word about Al Nue'man - it's a tragic situation that's unlikely to be widely reported."

As Gert put it in his request these postings are "concrete evidence of the perversion that Israel's "security wall" actually is." Strongly recommended, and as I wouldn't ask you to do anything that I wouldn't do, I'll conclude by saying that I'll definitely be going back to False Dichotomies to read more of Alex Stein's writings.


Update: I have updated Alex Stein's details at his request to include his email address and to reflect that he is now practising as a freelance writer and educator based in Jerusalem. - mfi

It Is As If Saddam Had Never Left

"Grim days for the gravedigger of Baghdad
Hala Jaber
One man's mission grows awesome

The Sunday Times September 10, 2006

FOR 23 years Sheikh Jamal al-Sudani has taken it upon himself to bury the bodies of murdered Iraqis - men, women and children - whose families were too afraid to retrieve them from the mortuary slabs of Baghdad.

Until recently they were the victims of Saddam Hussein's pitiless and paranoid regime, which hunted down critics with ruthless efficiency and often dispatched their sons as well to eliminate the risk of revenge.

When Saddam was overthrown three years ago, Sudani thought his workload would ease. But now he is busier than ever and can barely imagine the suffering of those whose grisly remains are being tipped into new mass graves reminiscent of the old tyranny.

In July, which saw the worst sectarian slaughter so far in Baghdad, Sudani collected up to 500 bodies in a single week. There was one particularly dreadful day when he wondered how he would find the strength to carry on.

Arriving at al-Tub al-Adli morgue in the capital, he was asked to remove a coarse cloth sack of heads that had been left on a filthy floor. Among the heads was that of a boy no more than 12 years old. Sudani could see that it had been cut off.

"I felt something snap inside me," he said last week. "My guts were knotted and I started to cry. It was like looking at my young son. He had such an innocent face."

Yet Sudani, a father of three boys - Khaled, 18, Hassanein, 16, and Jaafar, 7 - recovered his composure, reflected on his duty to the dead and returned to his macabre routine.

The sheikh ensures that each of Baghdad's unclaimed bodies is wrapped in six metres of blue plastic and loaded onto a flat-bed lorry for the journey south.

The route is perilous for the drivers of his truck and three escort vehicles. They are Shi'ites but must pass through the so-called "Triangle of Death", the heartland of Al-Qaeda in Iraq and associated Sunni extremists.

"Every time we do the trip we feel that an invisible hand is guiding us," Sudani said. "It is the divine presence of Allah's angels that sees us safely through."

The Wadi-us-Salaam (Valley of Peace) in Najaf covers 6 square kilometres and contains in the region of 5 million bodies. It is located near the Meshed Ali (Tomb of Ali,) the resting place of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib, nearly all Shi'as in Iraq request that they be buried in this cemetery.

It was the scene of fighting between US occupation soldiers and fighters loyal to Muqdata al-Sadr in August 2004. Below is Abbas Kadhim's description from "Calling It Like It Is" of learning that his mother's grave had been destroyed in the fighting - mfi

"Finally, my family's phone was fixed. I spoke with them directly for the fist time in months. Here is what my father said when I asked him about Kufa and Najaf (from the Arabic):

"Kufa is fine, not much damage. But Najaf has been obliterated. Until now some bodies are under the ruins. No one is allowed in the old city."
Then I asked him about the cemetery: -"when you stand at the 1920-Revolution monument, you can see the sea of Najaf," he said.
-What about my mother's grave, I asked.
- "Do you have a problem with your ears? All are gone," he said in a stoic tone.
So my mother's grave has been bombed to the ground. One of my dreams was to go to Iraq after 13 years and recite the "Fatiha" by her grave, as I always did after she left me at the age of 11 (she was 25)." Abbas Kadhim The convoy's destination is usually the holy city of Najaf and the Wadi al-Salam (valley of peace) cemetery. One of the largest graveyards on earth, it is said to have been designated a gateway to paradise by Imam Ali, one of Shi'ite Islam's most revered figures.

Here, within sight of the gilded Imam Ali mosque, the sheikh and a team of helpers wearing white gloves and masks unload the bodies, remove the plastic wrapping and cut the bonds of any whose hands were tied before they were killed.

They wash and disinfect the bodies, then assign a number to each one. Every tormented face is photographed and any distinguishing features are meticulously recorded on a computer in case a loved one should summon the courage to come looking for them.

The bodies are then shrouded in 10 metres of white cotton, carried to the graveside and lain in line to await burial.


The mass graves of the post-war period in Najaf and the neighbouring holy city of Karbala are filled by Sudani and others with a care that Saddam's henchmen never showed. Yet they signify atrocities as horrifying as almost anything seen in the pre-war Iraq.

"It is as if Saddam had never left," Sudani said. "In his day people were callously murdered and those I have to pick up from the morgue today are no different. I believe the people carrying out these murders learnt from Saddam. He was the master. But the killers have developed new methods more brutal than before."

The victims of Sunni beheading gangs and the Shi'ite death squads' so-called "driller killers" are piling up at an increasingly alarming rate amid claims that Iraq is entering a civil war.


Part of the answer lies in the records he has amassed over the years. The strange personal archive maintained by Sudani and his son Khaled at their modest home in the poor Baghdad suburb of Sadr City chronicles each change in the pattern of violence and its devastating impact.

The files created for each month show how the Sunni beheaders held sway when their stronghold of Falluja was stormed by US forces in 2004; how Shi'ite squads armed with electric drills stepped up their activities after an attack on the al-Askari mosque in Samarra last February; and how little difference the killing in June of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, has made to the level of violence.


Some of those who were burnt were killed in car bombs, he explains, while others were dowsed with petrol and set alight. Of those who died from asphyxiation, some were strangled and others were suffocated with polythene bags.

"Sometimes people can't believe what they see in these pictures," he said. "Many can't stomach them but I have to live with them, be with them and try to make sense out of them.

"I am very tired but this has become my destiny, my mission. I do not do this out of choice but out of religious obligation."

It was while I was working on an investigation to expose Iraq's new mass graves two months ago that I was warned of a plan to kill me. This newspaper's emergency evacuation procedure swung into action and I had no choice but to abandon my inquiries for the time being. But Sudani's haunting images made me determined that the story should be told.

The sensitive and hazardous nature of Sudani's work has attracted unwelcome attention to him, too. A roadside bomb was recently detonated as his convoy drove through the town of Latifiya in the Triangle of Death. Seven of his men were injured in the attack, which he says was aimed at him.


He believes his association with the Mahdi army of Moqtadr al-Sadr, the radical Shi'ite cleric, has helped to make him the target of Sunni extremists.

One factor in his decision to ignore the warnings is the satisfaction he senses when a family traces a missing relative through his archive and discovers that he has provided dignified burial.

Often the families are Sunnis who did not collect a body for fear of being kidnapped or killed by Shi'ite militiamen said to watch the morgue. Those who prefer a Sunni burial ground are allowed to exhume the dead.

Sudani makes no religious distinction between those he helps: "The unclaimed victims have no mothers or fathers to cry for them so my men and I become their loved ones and we mourn them as our own." "

The Sunday Times September 10, 2006