Tuesday, September 30, 2008

President Ahmadinejad accepts Israel’s right to exist

The Iranian president has said he would accept a two-state solution if the Palestinians agree. So where are the headlines?

Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has made a remarkable announcement. He’s admitted that Iran might agree to the existence of the state of Israel.

Ahmadinejad was asked: “If the Palestinian leaders agree to a two-state solution, could Iran live with an Israeli state?”

This was his astonishing reply:

If they [the Palestinians] want to keep the Zionists, they can stay … Whatever the people decide, we will respect it. I mean, it’s very much in correspondence with our proposal to allow Palestinian people to decide through free referendums.

Since most Palestinians are willing to accept a two-state solution, the Iranian president is, in effect, agreeing to Israel’s right to exist and opening the door to a peace deal that Iran will endorse.

Ahmadinejad made this apparently extraordinary shift in policy during an
interview last week when he was in New York to address the UN general assembly.

He was interviewed on September 24 by reporters Juan Gonzalez, writing for the New York Daily News, and Amy Goodman for the current affairs TV programme, Democracy Now.

You can watch the full interview and read the full text on the Democracy Now website.

Surprisingly, Ahmadinejad’s sensational softening of his long-standing, point-blank anti-Israeli stance was not even headlined by the two reporters. Perhaps this was a decision by their editors? Did they not want to admit that Ahmadinejad may have, for once, said something vaguely progressive?

Equally odd, the story wasn’t picked up by the world’s media. For many years, the Iranian president has been vilified, usually justifiably. Now, when he says something positive and helpful, the media ignores it. Is this because of some anti-Iran or pro-Israel agenda?

Why ignore a statement that is, from any political and journalistic perspective, a radical departure from Ahmadinejad’s previous unyielding anti-Israel tirades? Only a week earlier in Tehran he was saying that the Israeli state would not survive.

Confused? Aren’t we all. Will the real Mahmoud Ahmadinejad please stand up?

Is he a deceiver and an unprincipled opportunist who will say anything to further Iran’s political agenda? Or could it be that beneath his often demagogic public rhetoric against Israel he is, in fact, open to options more moderate than his reported remarks about wiping the Israeli state off the map?

I am not defending or endorsing Ahmadinejad in any way, shape or form. Indeed, I am on record as being one of Ahmadinejad’s harshest critics. I’ve protested dozens of times outside the Iranian Embassy in London and written scores of articles exposing his regime’s persecution of trade unionists, students, journalists, human rights defenders, women’s equality campaigners, gay people, Sunni Muslims and ethnic minorities such as the Arabs, Kurds, Azeris and Balochis.

You can watch my Talking with Tatchell online TV programmes on the Iranian regime’s anti-Arab racism here, and on the rising popular resistance to its police state methods here.

But I also hope I am open-minded and fair. Even I can see that Ahmadinejad appears to have moderated his position and is now apparently willing, with Palestinian agreement, to accept the co-existence of two states: Israel and Palestine.

Many Israelis and their allies will no doubt say Ahmadinejad can’t be trusted; that his comments were part of a manipulative charm offensive during his visit to the UN in New York. They may be right. But even if he is being disingenuous, that fact that he’s made this public concession on Israel at all is a softening of sorts.

News of what he said will filter back to Tehran and he’ll have to account for his words to his government, including the hardline anti-Israel ayatollahs and revolutionary guards. I wonder what they think?

Call me naive, but in my view Ahmadinejad’s words were of major significance. He ought be pressed by world leaders, and Israel, to repeat them and to clarify them. His statement might, and I emphasise might, be evidence that Iran is open to some negotiation on the future of the Israeli state.

If Israel’s leaders had any sense, they would ignore past provocations by Iran and seize this moment to have dialogue with the Palestinian and Iranian leaders on a two-state solution. What Ahmadinejad has said could be an opening to diffuse the stand-off between Iran and Israel.

I am not relenting one inch in my condemnation of Ahmadinejad’s regime, with its grisly torture chambers, execution of juvenile offenders and neocolonial subjugation of national minorities. But I do find myself in considerable agreement with the Iranian president’s analysis of why the Middle East peace process has stalled. He told Gonzales and Goodman:

The first reason is that none of the solutions have actually addressed the root cause of the problem. The root cause is the presence of an illegitimate government regime that has usurped and imposed itself on, meaning they have brought people from other parts of the world, replaced them with people who had existed in the territory and then forced the exit of the old people out, the people who lived there, out of the country or the territories. So there have been two simultaneous displacements. The indigenous people were forced out and displaced, and a group of other people scattered around the globe were gathered and placed in a new place … A second reason is that none of those peace plans offered so far have given attention to the right to self-determination of the Palestinians. If a group of people are forced out of their country, that doesn’t mean their rights are gone, even with the passage of 60 years. Can you ignore the rights of those displaced? How is it possible for people to arrive from far-off lands and have the right to self-determination, whereas the indigenous people of the territory are denied that right?

Much as I loathe his regime, Ahmadinejad is basically right. The key to peace in the Middle East is concessions from the occupying power. As the stronger, wealthier and conquering partner, Israel should take the initiative and help kick-start the peace process by withdrawing unilaterally and totally from the territories it has occupied illegally (according to international law) since the 1967 war. This means pulling out from all of the West Bank and dismantling all the illegal Israeli settlements.

The West Bank, plus Gaza, should become the independent, sovereign state of Palestine, backed with international aid and investment to create the infrastructure for economic development and for social provision (new houses, schools, hospitals, transport links and sports facilities).

Jobs and prosperity in Palestine will undercut and isolate the men of violence. They will lose support and become marginalised in a self-governing state where ordinary Palestinians experience the tangible benefits of peace.

This is so damn obvious. When will Israel’s leaders wake up and realise that peace with justice is the only way to give their people lasting security?

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Arab Traitors

By Robert ThompsonAxis of Logic, Sep 29, 2008

Our Arab friends have to suffer many sad things, but perhaps the saddest of all is when their suffering is due to the cowardice and treachery of Arab rulers, whose only interest is in staying on their thrones or presidential armchairs. They are willing to force their weaker brethren to bow down before the military might of the clapped-out former super-power, the USA, and to permit the expansion of the Zionist colonisation of the Holy Land and subjection of adjoining lands to the Zionist ’state’.

It is particularly galling when these traitors are lauded by the Angle-Saxon media as being “moderate”, when we all know that they are among the most repressive régimes in the world. Certain Arab rulers stand out by their refusal to betray those who have every right to expect their help, and we can see the moves made by the presidents of Syria and the Lebanon, despite severe interference by the rulers of the USA, and even by the Emir of Qatar, in contrast with too many other rulers.

The present rulers of the USA continue to pretend that there was a link between the late Saddam Hussein Takriti and al-Qaeda, when they know that this movement was set up, as were the Taliban, by the Mossad/CIA to cause as much damage as possible to the former Soviet empire, without any thought for the future effects on the whole world. The Mossad/CIA, the worst and most powerful terrorist organisation in the world, has as its main aim the total destabilisation of the Arab world. The ordinary taxpayer in the USA is thereby funding those whose aims are certainly not to help said taxpayer.

If the present rulers of the USA really wished to fight terrorism, they would put an immediate end to the Mossad/CIA, and remove the obvious excuses for others to indulge the same bloodthirsty whims by copying this organisation. This is, of course, highly unlikely, since these rulers, like the treacherous Arab rulers, only hold on to power by the use of such means. With such “friends” as the Zionists and their puppets in the USA, these rulers feel safe behind their bodyguards and barriers. But we have to hope that all their respective reigns may end as speedily as possible.

© Copyright 2008 by AxisofLogic.com

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The Rise Of The American Oligarch Class

The Paulson Plan

Robert Wenzel | Information Clearing House, Sep 29, 2008

The word oligarchy dates back at least to the time of Aristotle and comes from the Greek words for “few” (λίγον olígon) and “rule” (ρχω arkho). An oligarchy is generally considered any form of government where a small elite segment of society, be they from royalty, wealth, family or military, rule. The most current day popular meaning associates an oligarch with an extremely wealthy person who acquires his wealth, or increases it significantly, by incorporating the use of government influence. Oligarchs are not the only ones who become rich, but their success and secretive influence over governments put them into a separate class.

A recent example of a major grab of power and wealth in this type of oligarch fashion comes from the period of the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the confusion during the collapse, and the rise of Boris Yeltsin as president of Russia, the oligarchs made their move. With relatives or close associates as government officials, sometimes even government officials themselves, they achieved vast wealth by acquiring state assets very cheaply during the so-called “privatization” process controlled by the Yeltsin government.

The current $700 billion Paulson bailout plan has brought to the forefront a new class of what must be called American Oligarchs and oligarch wannabes. Some may have originally earned their wealth by supplying consumers with desired goods, but at some point they crossed over to the dark side to use government as a vehicle to take from the poor and the middle class to give to themselves. Others, never produced an honest product and have been career long parasites on the working classes.

It is instructive that outside of this small group of oligarchs and wannabe oligarchs, few appear to have been in favor of the Paulson “bailout”. (Note: The use of the word “bailout” to describe the Paulson Plan is a misnomer, see my column: THE BIG LIE: The Supposed Paulson ‘Bailout’ Plan).

A letter circulated and signed by many academic economists was sent to Congressional leaders objecting to the plan. The Austrian economists, who are the only ones who understand the business cycle, as would be expected also objected to the plan (See Rockwell: Stop the Bailout and Murphy: The Government Is Not Promoting Stability ).

Even some bankers have objected:

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s proposed $700 billion bank rescue aims to help “poorly run” companies and the primary beneficiaries would be Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley, said BB&T Corp. Chief Executive Officer John Allison in a critique of the plan.

Treasury “is totally dominated by Wall Street investment bankers” and “cannot be relied on to objectively assess” the impact of government policy on the financial industry, Allison wrote in a Sept. 23 letter to Congress…

Allison, 60, said Congress should “hear from well-run financial institutions” as lawmakers consider the plan, which seeks to ease the credit crunch by buying troubled mortgage- related assets. Under Allison, Winston-Salem, North Carolina- based BB&T avoided the subprime mortgage market, whose collapse led to the credit crisis. BB&T has risen 26 percent this year, the best showing in the 24-company KBW Bank Index.

From the right, Newt Gingrich has called the plan “stupid.” From the left, Paul Krugman opposed the plan, calling it “Cash for trash.”

Most noteworthy is the fact that the notoriously pro-Bush FOX television network carried this AP report:

There is scant public support for President Bush’s $700 billion federal rescue plan for the U.S. financial industry and little expectation it would solve the crisis that has roiled the markets and hobbled some of the country’s largest investment firms, according to a poll released Friday.

Just 30 percent of Americans say they support Bush’s package, according to an Associated Press-Knowledge Networks poll released as White House and congressional leaders struggled to rescue the plan after House Republicans rebelled against it. Despite the president’s pleas that the package is urgently needed to prevent an economic meltdown, 45 percent say they oppose Bush’s proposal while 25 percent said they are undecided.

Yet, despite the extremely limited support for the plan, the Oligarchs prevailed and Paulson’s Plan will become law. Indeed, the Oligarchs were out in full force to support the legislation. As I have pointed out before, Paulson with his Goldman Sachs connections must be considered an oligarch, but there are others.

Billionaire David Rubenstein, co-founder of the politically connected Carlyle Group, has come out in favor of Paulson’s Plan. Rubenstein told CNBC that he hopes Congress will move quickly to approve the rescue of the U.S. financial system.

Carlyle Group almost has too many ways to benifit from Paulson’s Plan to count. They ran a mortgage securities firm that went under. Those securities will be coming up for sale under a reorganization, just in time for purchase by the Treasury.

The Federal Reserve has changed regulations which will allow them to buy larger stakes in bank stocks. And Rubenstein wants to buy some of the paper the Treasury acquires. “Private equity can help by buying these assets,” he told CNBC. “Private equity can be among the most significant buyers of assets.”

Billionaire Warren Buffett is in favor of the plan, and he just bought, through Berkshire Hathaway, a $5 billion stake in Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs just received approval from the Fed to become a bank holding company, so that they can buy up troubled banks (And then sell the troubled mortgages of the banks to the Treasury?). Buffett called Paulson’s plan “absolutely necessary” and said that “I am betting on the Congress doing the right thing for the American public and passing this bill,”

Billionaire Wilbur Ross , through a firm controlled by Ross, bid $435 million last September to buy the service unit of American Home Mortgage, which collects payments from homeowners. He is in favor of Paulson’s Plan and penned a column published at the New York Post to say so, “…we need this passed, and passed quickly…,”wrote Ross.

There are likely other oligarchs who maintain a low profile and keep their names out of the headlines, and there are oligarch wannabes like former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani . Giuliani has put out a press release advising that his firm has formed a “task force” to “guide financial institutions, private investment funds, institutional investors and other market participants through the legislative, regulatory and enforcement challenges posed by the” Paulson Plan.

Clearly, the new oligarchs have arrived in America. It will mean a lower standard of living for the rest of us as it is clear by the Paulson Plan that they are not afraid to think big when grabbing money from the populous at large. Further, they have the political skill and influence to get the legislation passed that will benefit themselves even when there is virtually non-existent popular support. Be scared, very scared. The new American Oligarchs now rule financial America and there is no such thing as enough with them. They will be back for another big bite from our wallets and income streams, all too soon.

Update: Word has reached me (HTrpm) that snuck into Paulson’s plan are changes that will make it easier for the Fed to inflate the money supply. So is the play for the Oligarchs to grab the banks, the assets and the mortgages and then inflate the money supply boosting the value of all these assets by trillions, while the rest of us simply get to deal with the price inflation as higher prices at the grocery store, the gas pump and everywhere else?

Robert Wenzel is an economic consultant and Editor & Publisher of EconomicPolicyJournal.com. He can be reached at rw@economicpolicyjournal.com.

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Michael Moore: The Rich Are Staging a Coup This Morning

by Michael Moore


Let me cut to the chase. The biggest robbery in the history of this country is taking place as you read this. Though no guns are being used, 300 million hostages are being taken. Make no mistake about it: After stealing a half trillion dollars to line the pockets of their war-profiteering backers for the past five years, after lining the pockets of their fellow oilmen to the tune of over a hundred billion dollars in just the last two years, Bush and his cronies — who must soon vacate the White House — are looting the U.S. Treasury of every dollar they can grab. They are swiping as much of the silverware as they can on their way out the door.

No matter what they say, no matter how many scare words they use, they are up to their old tricks of creating fear and confusion in order to make and keep themselves and the upper one percent filthy rich. Just read the first four paragraphs of the lead story in last Monday’s New York Times and you can see what the real deal is:

“Even as policy makers worked on details of a $700 billion bailout of the financial industry, Wall Street began looking for ways to profit from it.”Financial firms were lobbying to have all manner of troubled investments covered, not just those related to mortgages.

“At the same time, investment firms were jockeying to oversee all the assets that Treasury plans to take off the books of financial institutions, a role that could earn them hundreds of millions of dollars a year in fees.

“Nobody wants to be left out of Treasury’s proposal to buy up bad assets of financial institutions.”

Unbelievable. Wall Street and its backers created this mess and now they are going to clean up like bandits. Even Rudy Giuliani is lobbying for his firm to be hired (and paid) to “consult” in the bailout.

The problem is, nobody truly knows what this “collapse” is all about. Even Treasury Secretary Paulson admitted he doesn’t know the exact amount that is needed (he just picked the $700 billion number out of his head!). The head of the congressional budget office said he can’t figure it out nor can he explain it to anyone.

And yet, they are screeching about how the end is near! Panic! Recession! The Great Depression! Y2K! Bird flu! Killer bees! We must pass the bailout bill today!! The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

Falling for whom? NOTHING in this “bailout” package will lower the price of the gas you have to put in your car to get to work. NOTHING in this bill will protect you from losing your home. NOTHING in this bill will give you health insurance.

Health insurance? Mike, why are you bringing this up? What’s this got to do with the Wall Street collapse?

It has everything to do with it. This so-called “collapse” was triggered by the massive defaulting and foreclosures going on with people’s home mortgages. Do you know why so many Americans are losing their homes? To hear the Republicans describe it, it’s because too many working class idiots were given mortgages that they really couldn’t afford. Here’s the truth: The number one cause of people declaring bankruptcy is because of medical bills. Let me state this simply: If we had had universal health coverage, this mortgage “crisis” may never have happened.

This bailout’s mission is to protect the obscene amount of wealth that has been accumulated in the last eight years. It’s to protect the top shareholders who own and control corporate America. It’s to make sure their yachts and mansions and “way of life” go uninterrupted while the rest of America suffers and struggles to pay the bills. Let the rich suffer for once. Let them pay for the bailout. We are spending 400 million dollars a day on the war in Iraq. Let them end the war immediately and save us all another half-trillion dollars!

I have to stop writing this and you have to stop reading it. They are staging a financial coup this morning in our country. They are hoping Congress will act fast before they stop to think, before we have a chance to stop them ourselves. So stop reading this and do something — NOW! Here’s what you can do immediately:

1. Call or e-mail Senator Obama. Tell him he does not need to be sitting there trying to help prop up Bush and Cheney and the mess they’ve made. Tell him we know he has the smarts to slow this thing down and figure out what’s the best route to take. Tell him the rich have to pay for whatever help is offered. Use the leverage we have now to insist on a moratorium on home foreclosures, to insist on a move to universal health coverage, and tell him that we the people need to be in charge of the economic decisions that affect our lives, not the barons of Wall Street.

2. Take to the streets. Participate in one of the hundreds of quickly-called demonstrations that are taking place all over the country (especially those near Wall Street and DC).

3. Call your Representative in Congress and your Senators. (click here to find their phone numbers). Tell them what you told Senator Obama.

When you screw up in life, there is hell to pay. Each and every one of you reading this knows that basic lesson and has paid the consequences of your actions at some point. In this great democracy, we cannot let there be one set of rules for the vast majority of hard-working citizens, and another set of rules for the elite, who, when they screw up, are handed one more gift on a silver platter. No more! Not again!

Michael Moore

P.S. Having read further the details of this bailout bill, you need to know you are being lied to. They talk about how they will prevent golden parachutes. It says NOTHING about what these executives and fat cats will make in SALARY. According to Rep. Brad Sherman of California, these top managers will continue to receive million-dollar-a-month paychecks under this new bill. There is no direct ownership given to the American people for the money being handed over. Foreign banks and investors will be allowed to receive billion-dollar handouts. A large chunk of this $700 billion is going to be given directly to Chinese and Middle Eastern banks. There is NO guarantee of ever seeing that money again.

P.P.S. From talking to people I know in DC, they say the reason so many Dems are behind this is because Wall Street this weekend put a gun to their heads and said either turn over the $700 billion or the first thing we’ll start blowing up are the pension funds and 401(k)s of your middle class constituents. The Dems are scared they may make good on their threat. But this is not the time to back down or act like the typical Democrat we have witnessed for the last eight years. The Dems handed a stolen election over to Bush. The Dems gave Bush the votes he needed to invade a sovereign country. Once they took over Congress in 2007, they refused to pull the plug on the war. And now they have been cowered into being accomplices in the crime of the century. You have to call them now and say “NO!” If we let them do this, just imagine how hard it will be to get anything good done when President Obama is in the White House. THESE DEMOCRATS ARE ONLY AS STRONG AS THE BACKBONE WE GIVE THEM. CALL CONGRESS NOW.

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Olmert advocates Israeli pullouts

Al Jazeera, Sep 29, 2008

Olmert stepped down on September 21 amid corruption allegations [AFP]

Ehud Olmert, Israel’s outgoing prime minister, has said that Israel will have to leave much of east Jerusalem and allow Palestinians to form a state equal in size to the area of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In an interview with the Yediot Ahronot newspaper, published on Monday, Olmert also said that peace with Syria would require withdrawal from the Golan Heights.

“[I am saying] what no previous Israeli leader has ever said: we should withdraw from almost all of the territories, including in East Jerusalem and in the Golan Heights,” he was quoted as saying.

Olmert resigned on September 21 amid corruption allegations and will officially step down once a new government has been formed.

Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, agreed at a meeting in the United States last November to push for a comprehensive peace deal before the end of the year.

Yediot Ahronot noted that the remarks in its “legacy interview” go further than any the prime minister made before he effectively became a lame duck in September.

“I am not trying to justify retroactively what I did for 35 years. For a large portion of these years, I was unwilling to look at reality in all its depth,” Olmert said.

“A decision has to be made. This decision is difficult, terrible, a decision that contradicts our natural instincts, our innermost desires, our collective memories, the prayers of the Jewish people for 2,000 years.”

Stalled talks

Peace talks between the two sides have stalled over the borders of a future Palestinian state, the future status of Jerusalem and the right to return of Palestinian refugees.

The construction of new Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem, which Palestinians see as the capital of a future state, have also proved to be a major obstacle.

“I’d like see if there is one serious person in the State of Israel who believes it is possible to make peace with the Syrians without eventually giving up the Golan Heights”

Ehud Olmert,
Israeli prime minister

According to Western and Palestinian officials, Olmert has previously proposed an Israeli withdrawal from some 93 per cent of the occupied West Bank. Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip in 2005.In exchange for settlement enclaves, Olmert has suggested handing over a desert territory adjacent to the Gaza Strip, as well as land on which to build a transit corridor between Gaza and the West Bank.

“We will leave a percentage of these territories in our hands, but will have to give the Palestinians a similar percentage, because without that there will be no peace,” Olmert said in Tuesday’s interview.

Olmert has previously argued that the issue of Jerusalem be considered at a later date because the difficulties in reaching an agreement.

But on Tuesday he said that giving up parts of the city was critical to securing Israel’s security.

“Whoever wants to hold on to all of the city’s territory will have to bring 270,000 Arabs inside the fences of sovereign Israel. It won’t work,” he said.

Concrete offer

Saeb Erakat, a senior adviser to Abbas, said Israel must “translate these statements into reality” if it is serious about wanting to achieve a peace deal.

“We haven’t seen these statements translated into a piece of paper, into a concrete offer,” he told the AFP news agency, stressing that “the road to peace is through ending the occupation and [Israeli] settlements in the West Bank”.

During his time in office, Olmert reopened indirect negotiations, through Turkey, with Syria after an eight-year freeze.

“I’d like see if there is one serious person in the State of Israel who believes it is possible to make peace with the Syrians without eventually giving up the Golan Heights,” he said in the interview.

Israel annexed the territory in 1981, a move never recognised by the world community.

More than 18,000 Syrians, mostly Druze, are left from the Golan’s original population of 150,000 people. The region now is home to nearly 20,000 Jewish settlers.

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Misusing religion for violence

When faith uses force

Behind a new outbreak of violence against Christians in India lies a long-running campaign for Hindu cultural dominance

Protest in New Delhi against Hindu anti-Christian violence in India

An activist demonstrating in New Delhi against the violence of hardline Hindu groups against Christians in several Indian states, September 29 2008. Photo: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Standing next to France’s President Sarkozy, the Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh today made a heartfelt plea over the spread of anti-Christian violence in India. The sight of Hindu mobs smashing churches and prayer halls while Christians in the country are killed or left cowering under tarpaulin sheets in refugee camps is, as Dr Singh rightly described, a “national shame”. There are calls from within the ruling Congress party, which relies on the votes of Christians and Muslims in India, to ban Hindu extremist organisations such as the Bajrang Dal, which uses force when the force of argument fails.

There has been bloodshed on both sides. One Christian priest was “cut to pieces” in front of his wife. A Hindu priest was shot dead for campaigning against religious conversions. The violence, which has left nearly two dozen dead, has spread across six states. Even after the Pope intervened, the Roman Catholic archbishop of one of the worst affected areas in eastern India said the situation was “out of control”.

What lies behind this violence is nothing less than a struggle for the soul of India. Religion is deeply rooted in this country of one billion. The divine was fundamental in the creation of post-independence India. Unlike Europe, in India the Gods will not disappear in a blaze of rational thinking.

But views of God led to a schism in Indian nationalism. One side is rooted in secular thinking: that beneath the differences among India’s religions there is a common creed, a moral order articulated in the country’s constitution. Opposing this is the Hindu right. Their philosophy aims to unify the country under the banner of the majority religion. It sees the country’s post-independence constitution as an instrument forged by “pseudo-secularists”, which now needs to be updated to reflect the Hindu character of India.

Christians in India long pre-dated the British, who sponsored missionary activity with little success. In 1947, only 3% of the country was Christian. There’s an unmistakable tint to Christianity in India: the priests are mostly upper-caste Brahmin converts and the flock is mostly drawn from the country’s untouchable communities known as Dalits. Contemporary Hindu anger centres on the idea that India’s rise will see an explosion of Christians in the country – a takeover by a foreign ideology like that experienced by South Korea in the 1960s.

The Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata party, says it is against proselytisation through coercion, inducement, or by vilifying any faith. That conversion continues, therefore, and that it remains legal, drives Hindu groups into a bloody frenzy. By decrying the violence but remaining powerless to prevent it, the Indian prime minister exposes his strength and weakness. The Indian federal government could suspend state administrations – for failing to quell violence. This is the nuclear option of unseating a democratically elected local regime. Instead, the Indian prime minister chooses only speak up.

Martha Nussbaum, the noted American philosopher, draws a comparison with 1950s America where only a few groups such as the Ku Klux Klan would openly advocate violence, but “where the whole society was suffused with attitudes that … often condoned violence against African Americans, attitudes that clearly affected the behaviour of the police and other officers of the law”. This remark is telling because, in the southern Indian town of Mangalore, it was Christian churches that were attacked, yet the leaders of Hindu mobs walked free for days, untouched by the police.

The violence is the really about the clash within. Like the United States, India has never had a state-imposed religion. It has always had a tradition of sects and religious minorities, which coexist and compete with each other without suffering state persecution or patronage. Instead of trying to capture state power for the purpose of waging a cultural war, the Hindu right would do the country a service by reforming itself from within – promoting equality and unifying its own denominations and sects.

Religion’s role in India must be one of restraining passions, not inflaming them.

To keep up with Randeep Ramesh’s blog from India, go here.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

‘Adopt realistic approach’: Khan to India

Kashmir Watch

Srinagar, September 28: The All Parties Hurriyet Conference Provincial President & Coordination Committee member Nayeem Ahmad Khan while condemning state terrorism and continued human rights violations by troops, has stressed New Delhi to realise ground reality and adopt a realistic approach towards resolving the Kashmir dispute to ensure peace and security in South Asia.

Nayeem Khan pointed out that India could not press Kashmiris’ voice for their just right to self-determination by resorting to brute force. He called upon the people to participate massively in October 6 Lal Chowk programme and once again made it clear that they would not compromise over their rights.

Nayeem Khan hailed the statement of the OIC Secretary General for expressing concern over use of “brute force on peaceful protesters in the Valley.”

Nayeem Khan appealed to OIC to prevent further bloodshed in the Valley, and convey to “India that violence on peaceful protesters was unacceptable.”

Posted on 28 Sep 2008 by Webmaster

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Remembering Edward Said Five Years On

Edward Said. ‘He stood for everything that is virtuous.’

By Stephen Lendman – Chicago | The Palestine Chronicle, Sep 22, 2008

Said was passionately against Palestine being turned into an isolated prison wherein Israel repeatedly attacked mostly defenseless civilians with tanks and F-16s.Born in West Jerusalem in 1935. Exiled in December 1947. Said was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia in 1991, a malignant cancer of the bone marrow and blood. At 6:45AM on September 25, 2003, he succumbed (at age 67) after a painful courageous 12 year struggle. Tributes followed and resumed a year later. In a testimony to his teacher, Professor Moustafa Bayoumi called him “indefatigable, incorruptible, a humanist and devastatingly charming….leav(ing behind) legions of followers and fans in every corner of the world. I am lost without him….I miss him so.”

Chomsky called his death an “incalculable loss.” A year later, Ilan Pappe said “his absence seems to me still incomprehensible. What would have happened if we still had Edward with us in this last year….another terrible (one) for the values (he) represented and causes he defended.” Tariq Ali referred to his “indomitable spirit as a fighter, his will to live, (my) long-standing friend and comrade,” and described his ordeal:

“Over the last eleven years one had become so used to his illness - the regular hospital stays, the willingness to undergo trials with the latest drugs, the refusal to accept defeat - that (we thought) him indestructible.” Leukemia kills, and in response to Ali’s questions, his doctor said there was “no medical explanation for (his) survival.” No doubt Dr. Kanti Rai made a difference. Said spoke of him reverentially - of his “redoubtable medical expertise and remarkable humanity” that kept him going during his darkest times, and there were many. He later described months in and out of the hospital, “painful treatments, blood transfusions, endless tests, hours and hours of unproductive time spent staring at the ceiling, draining fatigue and infection, inability to do normal work, and thinking, thinking, thinking.”

Yet, as Ali recounted, in the end the “monster (overpowered him), devouring his insides (but when) the cursed cancer finally took him the shock was intense.” Palestinians had lost their “most articulate (and powerful) voice….(he’s) irreplaceable.”

Veteran Palestinian-American journalist Ramzy Baroud agrees. He called 2003 a bad time for Palestinians to lose one their iconic best and described him like many others: He “stood for everything that is virtuous. His moral stance was even more powerful than (his) essays, books and music (as critic, scholar and consummate artist)….He was an extraordinary intellectual, thoughtful….inimitable” and never silent or compromising in his beliefs or virtue. No “wonder he….was adored by (his) people (and) detested by the” forces he opposed.

Phyllis Bennis called him “one of the great internationalist intellectuals of our time….a hero of the Palestinian people (and) the global peace and justice movement as well….(my) great mentor, a challenging collaborator, a remarkable friend….his passion, vision, wit (and fury against injustice) will be terribly missed.”

Daniel Barenboim called him a “fighter and a compassionate defender. A man of logic and passion. An artist and a critic….a visionary (who) fought for Palestinian rights while understanding Jewish suffering.” In 1999, they jointly founded the West-East Divan - an orchestra for young Arabs and Jews who collaboratively “understood that before Beethoven we all stand as equals….Palestinians have lost a formidable defender, the Israelis a no less formidable adversary, and I a soulmate.”

Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia where Said taught for nearly 40 years as a Professor of English and Comparative Literature. He called him “a man of vast erudition and learning, of extraordinary versatility and remarkable (interdisciplinary) expertise.” We’ve lost “one of the most profound, original and influential thinkers of the past half-century (and) a fearless independent voice speaking truth to the entrenched powers that dominate the Middle East.”

On September 30, 2003, Columbia University paid tribute as well. It mourned the passing of its “beloved and esteemed university professor.” Called him one of the world’s most influential scholars, and said “the world has lost a brilliant and beautiful mind, a big heart, and a courageous fighter.”

When he learned of his illness and its seriousness, Said decided to write (from memory) a biographical account of his childhood, upbringing and early years in Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt. Titled “Out of Place, A Memoir,” he called it “a record of an essentially lost or forgotten world….a subjective account of (his life) in the Arab world” of his birth and formative years. Then in America where he attended boarding school, Princeton for his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and Harvard for his doctorate.

He began “Out of Place” in 1994 while recovering from three early rounds of chemotherapy and continued to completion with the help and “unstinting kindness and patience” of the “superb nurses” who spent months caring for him as well as his family and friends whose support helped him finish.

He recounted a young man’s coming of age. Of coming to terms with being displaced. An American. A Christian. A Palestinian. An outsider, and ultimately the genesis of an intellectual giant. An uncompromising opponent of imperialism and oppression, and an advocate for his peoples’ struggle for justice and self-determination. No one made the case more powerfully or with greater clarity than he did - in his books, articles, opinion pieces, and wherever he spoke around the world. He made hundreds of appearances and became a target of pro-Israeli extremists. They threatened him and his family. Once burned his Columbia University office, but never silenced him or ever could. Nor did the FBI in spite of over 30 years of surveillance the way it monitors all prominent outspoken activists and intellectuals and many of lesser stature.

Said’s great writings include Orientalism (1978) in which he explained a pattern of western misinterpretation of the East, particularly the Middle East. In Culture and Imperialism (1993), he broadened Orientalism’s core argument to show the complex relationships between East and West. Colonizers and the colonized, “the familiar (Europe, West, us) and the strange (the Orient, East, them).”

His writings showed the breath of his scholarship, interests and activism - on comparative literature, literary criticism, culture, music and his many works on Israeli-Palestinian history and conflict - combining scholarship, passion and advocacy for his people in contrast to the West’s one-sided view of Arabs and Islam. He championed equity and justice. Denounced imperialism, and believed Israel has a right to exist but not exclusively for Jews at the expense of indigenous Palestinians.

The 1967 war and illegal occupation changed everything for him. It radicalized him. Set the course of his intellectual career and activism, and made him the Palestinians’ leading spokesperson for the next 37 years until his death. He advocated a one-state solution and wrote in 1999: “The beginning is to develop something entirely missing from both Israeli and Palestinian realities today: the idea and practice of citizenship, not of ethnic or racial community, as the main vehicle of coexistence.”

In a lengthy January 1999 New York Times op-ed he elaborated: “Palestinian self-determination in a separate state is unworkable (after years earlier believing otherwise). The question (now isn’t separation) but to see whether it is possible for (Jews and Palestinians) to live together (in the same land) as fairly and peacefully as possible. What exists now is a disheartening…bloody impasse. There is no way for Israel to get rid of Palestinians or for Palestinians to wish Israelis away….I see no other way than to begin now to speak about sharing the land that has thrust us together, sharing it in a truly democratic way, with equal rights for each citizen.”

This diminishes life and aspirations for neither side. It affirms self-determination for them both together in the same land where they once lived peacefully. But it doesn’t mean “special status for one people at the expense of the other.” For millennia, Palestine was the homeland for many peoples, predating the Ottomans and Romans. It’s “multicultural, multiethnic, multireligious.” There’s no “historical justification for homogeneity” or for “notions of national or ethnic and religious purity….The alternatives (today) are unpleasantly simple: either the war continues (with its unacceptable costs)” or an equitable way out is found, obstacles notwithstanding.

Oslo wasn’t the answer, and Said denounced it in its run-up and weeks later in a London Review of Books piece titled “The Morning After.” In stinging language, he referred to “the fashion-show vulgarities of the White House ceremony, the degrading spectacle of Yasser Arafat thanking everyone for the suspension of most of his people’s rights, and the fatuous solemnity of Bill Clinton’s performance, like a 20th century Roman emperor shepherding two vassal kings through rituals of reconciliation and obeisance (and) the truly astonishing proportions of the Palestinian capitulation.”

For him, Oslo was plainly and simply “an instrument of Palestinian surrender, a Palestinian Versailles,” and worst of all is that a better deal could have been had without so many “unilateral concessions to Israel.” The same goes for the 1978 Camp David Accords and every “peace” negotiation to the present except the “permanent status” 2000 Camp David “generous” and “unprecedented” offer that Arafat turned down and was unfairly pilloried for spurning peace for conflict.

Said was on top of everything to the end as reflected in “The Last Interview” - a documentary film less than a year before his death. After a decade of illness, he agreed to a final film interview at a time he was drained, weakened and dying, yet found it “very difficult to turn (himself) off.” It was a casual conversation between himself and journalist Charles Glass reflecting on his childhood, upbringing, writing, scholarship, involvement with Yasser Arafat, and strong opinions and activism on Palestinian issues.

It was in all his writings and outspokenness - so powerful, passionate, virtuous and a testimony to his uncompromising principles. He described “Sharonian evil.” His blind destructiveness. His terrorism in ordering the massacring of children, then congratulating one pilot for his great success. The patently dishonest media. Its one-sided support for Israel. Its suppressing other views. Its turning a blind eye to the grossest crimes against humanity, day after day after day. Of relegating public discourse to repetitive official propaganda. Of subverting truth in support of power and privilege.

Of turning Palestine into an isolated prison. Suffocating an entire people of their existence. Of impoverishing, starving and slaughtering them. Of attacking defenseless civilians with tanks and F-16s. Of blaming victims for their own terror. Of creating a vast wasteland of destruction and human misery. Of sanctioning torture and targeted assassinations as official policy. Of committing every imaginable human indignity and degradation against people whose only crime is their faith, ethnicity, and presence. Whose only defense is their will and redoubtable spirit. Of enlisting world support for the most unspeakable, unrelenting campaign of terror and genocide.

Of pursuing an endless “cycle of violence” and consigning Palestinians to a “slow death” in defense of imperial interests and the national security state. Of pursuing peace as a scheme for “pacification.” Of placing the onus for it “squarely on Palestinian shoulders.” Of “putting an end to the (Palestinian) problem.” Of placing huge demands on Palestinians and making no concessions in return. Of calling resistance “terrorism” while ignoring oppressive occupation as the fundamental problem. Of seeing Palestinians endure and survive in spite of every imaginable assault, affront and indignity. Of piling on even more and seeing an even greater will to survive and prevail.

Said was passionate on all this and more. He was uncompromisingly anti-war and denounced America’s “war on terror.” The country “hijacked by a small cabal of individuals….unelected and unresponsive to public pressure.” The Democrats supporting them “in a gutless display of false patriotism.” The entire power structure characterizing Muslims as enemies. Passing repressive laws. Creating the obscenity of Guantanamo and other prisons like it.

Their self-righteous sophistry of so-called “just wars” and evil of Islam. The near omnipotence of the Zionist Lobby, Christian fascists, and military-industrial complex. Their hostility to Arabs and claim to be “on the side of the angels.” Their inexorable pursuit of war and power. The media in lockstep supporting “hypocritical lies” masquerading as “absolute truth.” The silencing of dissent. Of mocking and betraying democracy. Of making a total sham of decency, humanity and justice. Of letting a few extremists create their own “fantasy world” to run the country for their own corrupted self-interest.

Said said it all, and ended one opinion piece as follows: “Jonathan Swift, thou shouldst be living at this hour.” But even he might have blanched in disbelief considering the current state and potential horror of its consequences. Said understood. He’s sorely missed when we need him most.

-Stephen Lendman contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. (Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com, and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM—1PM US Central time.)

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Christians protest attacks by Hindus in India

The News International, Sep 29, 2008
NEW DELHI: Hundreds of Christians held a rally Sunday in the Indian capital to protest recent attacks by Hindu hard-liners that have left dozens of Christians dead and thousands homeless in several Indian states. About 400 Christians gathered in a New Delhi park to pray and listen to speeches in which community leaders urged the government to do more to protect the country’s religious minorities.

“We are quite disappointed with both the federal government and state governments as violence against Christians has spread to several states in the past month,’’ said Dominic Emmanuel, a spokesman for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India. The clashes between Hindus and Christians started in the Kandhamal district of Orissa state on Aug 24 following the killing of a Hindu religious leader. At the time, police blamed Maoist rebels active in the area, but right-wing Hindu groups blamed local Christians and set fire to a Christian orphanage.

The violence then worsened to include mob attacks on churches, shops and homes. Emmanuel said Hindu hard-liners have killed at least 40 Christians in the state in the past month. Gopal Nanda, the director-general of state police, put the death toll at 27.

Emmanuel said more than 4,200 Christian homes and 150 Christian buildings - including churches, hospitals and orphanages - have been burned in the past month and nearly 50,000 people have been left homeless in Orissa state.

The state government has not given details about the number of homes and buildings attacked.

The attacks on Christians have spread to the southern states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Christians have been responsible for retaliatory attacks on Hindus in Orissa state.

Meanwhile, the archbishop of New Delhi accused Sonia Gandhi, the chief of the governing Congress party and a Christian, of not doing enough to help Christians.

Vincent Concessao told the CNN-IBN television channel on Sunday that Gandhi may be reluctant because “Hindu bodies have been levelling an allegation against her that because she is a Christian she is in favour of Christians.’’

Manish Tiwari, a Congress party spokesman, rejected the claim, saying Gandhi had ordered ministers and party officials to visit all places where people have been attacked.

He also said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government had ordered state governments to take all possible steps to protect people and property.

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Indian Police Accused Of Using Undue Force On Terror Suspects

Muslims Bear Brunt of Zeal to Solve Bombings

By Rama Lakshmi | Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, September 29, 2008; A13

HYDERABAD, India — A week after two bombs rocked an amusement park and a restaurant here in September 2007, plainclothes policemen barged into the home of Abdul Raheem, an auto-rickshaw driver. Throwing a black cloth over his face, they shoved him into their vehicle.

“I kept asking them if I had jumped a red light by mistake or parked my auto-rickshaw at the wrong spot. I had no idea they were picking me up for the bomb blasts,” said Raheem, 27, a bearded man with a thick mop of oiled hair.

For three days, the police questioned him nonstop: Had he driven the bombers to the scene? Had he heard suspicious conversations among passenger? They beat him with straps made from truck tires, he said, and “tied my ankles . . . and gave me electric shocks all over my body.”

In the end, authorities found no evidence to charge him in the bombings but kept him in jail for six months on unrelated allegations of distributing DVDs of the 2002 Hindu-Muslim riots in Gujarat state and possessing “jihadi literature.”

In the past three years, 12 Indian cities have been hit by bombs in crowded places. About 580 people have died. Police have secured no convictions in the attacks, but they have arrested and reportedly roughed up countless people during their investigations, building ill will among many of the country’s 130 million Muslims.

In interviews in three states, investigating officers offered a different view, saying the laws prevent them from going after the perpetrators with full force. At the same time, they said, every new bombing triggers a public outcry that officials are soft or incompetent and demands for tough action and stronger anti-terrorism laws.

“The public pressure on the police is enormous. Everybody wants quick results, and nobody has patience. The TV news channels question the police every day,” said Shailendra Srivastava, inspector general of police in the central Indian city of Bhopal, who has interrogated some alleged members of a banned group called the Students Islamic Movement of India, or SIMI. His city is on a publicly announced hit list of a new group called the Indian Mujahideen, which has asserted responsibility for the recent bombings in Jaipur, Ahmedabad and New Delhi.

“But how can we crack down on the supporters and sympathizers of these groups?” he said. “The various human rights and minority rights groups are watching every step and questioning the way we police, detain, interrogate. It is very difficult.”

In Hyderabad, police have detained about 100 youths in the past year and formally arrested 28. “But we have not charged a single person in the bombings,” said B. Prasad Rao, the city’s police chief. “We examined many men but could not make much headway. We only have some vague leads. Our intelligence network in the Muslim community is weak.” He denied that detainees have been tortured. “Maybe they were examined for a longer time,” he said. “The police were under tremendous pressure.”

Families of the suspects say that, charges or not, their sons’ reputations are permanently scarred from having their faces and names featured in newspapers and on television. About two dozen men have emerged from detention since February, and many are questioning the police in public hearings.

“The police in Hyderabad have been acting with total impunity and no accountability, resorting to illegal detention, torture and intimidation,” said Lateef Mohammad Khan, a human rights lawyer who represents the youths. “There is a lot of anger in the society, which strengthens extremist groups. I am not saying these boys are innocent, but I want the police to stop using extralegal measures. Just follow the law of the land.”

Despite all their work, the police have yet to identify a theme or group that weaves the bombings together.

Until last year, officials said groups based in Bangladesh were training Indian Muslims to carry out attacks. But after the bombings in the northern city of Jaipur in May, the Indian Mujahideen started asserting responsibility for the violence. Police are still largely uncertain about the origin and structure of this group.

Police in Gujarat, the scene of bombings in July, pinned all the blame on SIMI and said that group and the Indian Mujahideen were the same. But the New Delhi police investigating the bombings that killed 21 people in the capital Sept. 13 said the Indian Mujahideen is separate, assembling and planting the bombs with peripheral support from SIMI.

There is similar disagreement among police on who the blasts’ architects were. In August, the Gujarat police said they had found the “mastermind” of the bombings in that state, a SIMI member known as Abu Basher. A week ago, the New Delhi police said a software engineer named Abdul Suban Tauqeer was the chief conspirator in all the blasts. On Sept. 19, police officers in New Delhi broke into a small apartment in a Muslim neighborhood and gunned down two suspects, including Mohammad Atif, whom they declared the real “mastermind.”

“Atif, a 24-year-old graduate student of human rights, coordinated the bombings in at least three Indian cities. He used to go on reconnaissance missions before the blasts,” said Karnail Singh, joint commissioner of police in New Delhi. He said authorities were examining the contents of a laptop computer and a memory stick seized from the apartment and are interrogating 13 people suspected of having worked with Atif. “We have the mobile phone with which they shot the clips of blast sites and attached to their e-mails claiming responsibility.”

Yet, on Wednesday, police in Mumbai arrested five Indian Mujahideen suspects, one of whom they said was Atif’s boss.

The last e-mail from the Indian Mujahideen after the New Delhi blasts ridiculed what it called the “false claims” of police. If officials boast “of arresting masterminds and key terrorists all over India, then which mastermind executed today’s attack?” the message said.

For now, the investigation is focusing on the 13 Indian Mujahideen suspects. Police describe them as middle-class, educated and technically savvy young men who led dual lives.

One of them, Zeeshan Ahmed, was a graduate student of business management. His school said he scored high in subjects such as commercial law and organizational behavior. Another was a graduate student in business and had won a gold medal in his undergraduate degree in economics.

Residents and families protested the arrests last Monday and produced school records to argue that the men could not be terrorists.

In Hyderabad, even after Raheem and others are out of jail and fighting their cases in court, the terror tag follows them. “I lost my auto-rickshaw, my fiancee and my honor. Nobody wants to hire me anymore, although I tell them I was not booked for the bombing. Friends have deserted me, relatives don’t invite us over anymore,” he said. “I carry the stigma all day.”

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PM Olmert warns of ‘evil wind’ of extremism in Israel

  • Toni O’Loughlin in Jerusalem | The Guardian, Monday September 29 2008

A resurgent ultranationalist religious underground movement is threatening Israel’s democracy, the nation’s outgoing prime minister, Ehud Olmert, warned yesterday.

Olmert lashed out at the extreme right for the first time in his two-and-a-half-year premiership after a prominent Israeli critic of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian West Bank was violently attacked last week.

“A bad wind of extremism, hate, evil, violence and contempt for state authorities is blowing through certain sectors of the Israeli public and threatening Israeli democracy,” said Olmert in his opening remarks to the weekly cabinet meeting.

Olmert said the police and the Shin Bet, Israel’s security service, were searching for members of the movement.

Olmert compared the attack on Prof Zeev Sternhell, a political scientist at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, to the 1995 assassination of the then prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, by a Jewish ultranationalist, and to a hand grenade attack that killed a Peace Now activist in 1983.

Sternhell, a vocal opponent of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and a Holocaust survivor, was wounded when assailants planted a small pipe bomb outside his Jerusalem home.

Police also found posters in Sternhell’s neighbourhood offering one million shekels (£159,000) to anyone who killed a member of Israel’s Peace Now movement, which also opposes Jewish settlements.

The attack on Sternhell follows numerous reports from Israeli human rights groups that the settlers’ use of violence against Palestinians and Israeli police and soldiers, who are charged with protecting the illegal colonists, is growing.

Yesterday police were investigating the latest alleged attack by settlers against a Palestinian.

The body of a 19-year-old Palestinian shepherd was found in a ravine, with 20 gunshots to his neck, in a remote area of the West Bank on the weekend.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

US approves India nuclear deal

The Australian, Sep 28, 2008

THE US House of Representatives has passed a civilian nuclear pact with India that lifts a three decade-old ban on civilian nuclear trade.

The agreement, passed by a 298-117 vote, will now head to the Senate for its vote, but it was unclear if it would be passed before Congress adjourns ahead of the November 4 elections.

Signed by President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July 2005, the deal offers India access to Western technology and cheap atomic energy provided it allows UN nuclear inspections of some of its nuclear facilities.

“The passage of this legislation by the House is another major step forward in achieving the transformation of the US-India relationship,” said Mr Bush, urging Senate now to adopt the Bill.

The deal has faced criticism from opponents who argue that India, which first tested an atomic weapon in 1974, is not a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Representative Edward Markey, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, denounced the vote, saying in a statement: “This is a terrible Bill that threatens the future of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.”

He argued during a late night debate yesterday that opposing the Bill did not mean opposing India.

“This is a debate about Iran. This is a debate about North Korea, about Pakistan, about Venezuela, about any other country in the world that harbours the goal of acquiring nuclear weapons,” he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sought to allay any lasting concerns, saying the legislation would boost US oversight on any US civilian nuclear assistance to the South Asian nation.

She welcomed the vote saying in a statement that the accord “furthers our countries’ strategic relationship while balancing nuclear non-proliferation concerns and India’s growing energy needs.

“The legislation recognises India’s past support for non-proliferation initiatives and strengthens congressional oversight of any future US decision to assist India’s civilian nuclear program.”

New Delhi, which is critically short of energy to fuel its booming economy and its burgeoning population of 1.1 billion people, is looking at investments worth billions of dollars in its power sector.

If the Senate endorses the agreement it would finally end a three decades-old ban on nuclear trade with India imposed after it carried out its first nuclear test in 1974 and refused to sign the NPT.


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Pprotest against enforced disappearances in Indian-held Kashmir

Source: Kashmir Watch
Amin Masoodi

SRINAGAR, Sep 27: Seeking the whereabouts of disappeared persons in Kashmir valley, Coalition of Civil Societies (CCS), today staged a sit-in at Sher-i-Kashmir Park here. CCS, is a body pursuing the cases of persons who have gone missing during past 20 years of turmoil in Kashmir.

The relatives of missing persons from different parts of valley were wearing “disappeared” bands on their heads and staged silent a sit-in, demanding the whereabouts of missing persons. They said, their relatives have been subjected to enforced disappearance and the successive governments have maintained a criminal silence on this issue.

This ‘dharna’ by the CCS representing the disappeared persons though was held every month but due to the Amaranth land row and subsequent protest demonstrations, it was held today after more than two months.

The relatives also included children and women, who were carrying the pictures of disappeared persons and banners seeking the whereabouts of these persons. Talking to reporters, spokesman of civil societies, Ghulam Nabi Mir claimed that since the imposition of Governor’s rule in the state, at least six persons have been subjected to enforced disappearance.

He said that police has not even registered the missing report of Khaliq-ul Haq, Shafiq Ahmad of Rajouri, Abdul Khaliq Sheikh of Beerwah, Mukhtar Ahmad Rather Ajas of Bandipora, Zahoor Ahmad Poshwari of Machil, and Tariq Ahmad.

Spokesman of CCS said that the participation of PDP and NC leaders in recently held International conferences on human rights in some countries was shocking as thousands of people have been subjected to enforced disappearance during the reign of these parties.
“NC leader, Abdul Rahim Rather criticized the special powers given to the security forces in the state and also shed crocodile tears on disappearances here. From 1996 to 2002, at least four thousand people disappeared and the party also created SOG and Ikhwan forces only to commit excesses on people,” he said adding that notorious pro-government gunmen, Papa Kishtawari killed many people in Pampore alone and has been charge sheeted now.
He said that during the tenure of PDP and Congress, at least 175 and 111 people went missing. He alleged that after a report on mass graves was made public on March 28, the office bearers of CCS were being harassed and the mainstream politicians, who had claimed to raise the issue in parliament, have maintained criminal silence.

[Kashmir Times]

[KW Note: Jammu and Kashmir is the U.N. recognized disputed state under the illegal occupation of India.

Since 1988, the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir has been hit by confrontation between Kashmiri Freedom Fighters and the Indian Military, which has resulted in more than One hundred thousand of deaths. Unofficial sources put the number of Indian troops deployed in the state to seven hundred thousand.

Local human rights group, the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Societies (JKCCS) has reported that 8 to 10 thousand had disappeared in the U.N. recognised disputed state since the armed resistance against Indian rule.]

Posted on 28 Sep 2008 by Webmaster

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Shia Minority Treated as Second-Class Citizens in Saudi Arabia

Wahhabi Authorities Discriminate Against Ismaili Citizens

Source: Human Rights Watch

(London, September 22, 2008) – The Saudi government should end its systematic discrimination against its Ismaili religious minority, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Human Rights Watch called upon the government to set up a national institution empowered to recommend remedies for discriminatory policies and responding to individual claims.

" The Saudi government preaches religious tolerance abroad, but it has consistently penalized its Ismaili citizens for their religious beliefs. The government should stop treating Ismailis as second-class in employment, the justice system, and education. "
Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch


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The 90-page report, “The Ismailis of Najran: Second-Class Saudi Citizens,” based on more than 150 interviews and reviews of official documents, documents a pattern of discrimination against the Ismailis in the areas of government employment, education, religious freedom, and the justice system.

“The Saudi government preaches religious tolerance abroad, but it has consistently penalized its Ismaili citizens for their religious beliefs,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should stop treating Ismailis as second-class in employment, the justice system, and education.”

At least several hundred thousand, and perhaps as many as 1 million, Ismailis live in Saudi Arabia, part of the Shia minority in the Sunni-dominated country of 28 million. Most Ismailis live in Najran province, on Saudi Arabia’s southwestern border with Yemen, where tensions have been growing in recent years.

Saudi Arabia conquered Najran following a brief war with Yemen in 1934, incorporating into the kingdom the local Sulaimani Ismailis, one strand of Ismaili belief. Najran has been home to the highest Sulaimani Ismaili cleric, the Absolute Guide, since the 17th century.

Despite more than 70 years of shared history, Saudi authorities at the highest levels continue to propagate hate speech against this religious minority. In April 2007, the Council of Senior Religious Scholars, the body tasked with officially interpreting Islamic faith, ritual, and law, termed Ismailis “corrupt infidels, debauched atheists.” In August 2006, Saudi Arabia’s highest judge, Shaikh Salih al-Luhaidan, declared to an audience of hundreds that Ismailis “outwardly appear Islamic, but inwardly, they are infidels.” Other Saudi officials did not rebut or disown those statements.

Growing tension since the mid-1990s between Ismailis and Najran’s governor, Prince Mish’al bin Sa’ud bin Abd al-‘Aziz, led to clashes in April 2000, after the authorities arrested an Ismaili cleric they accused of “sorcery.” Security forces arrested hundreds of Ismailis, and tortured and secretly tried dozens of others. The authorities then purged some 400 Ismailis from the local bureaucracy.

Since then, local officials who have been sent to Najran from other parts of the country and reflecting the country’s dominant conservative Wahhabi Muslim ideology, have continued to discriminate against Ismailis in employment, education and the justice system, and interfered with their ability to practice their religion.

Only one of the 35 department heads of the Najran provincial government is an Ismaili. Almost no Ismailis work as senior security personnel or as religion teachers. Saudi textbooks teach that the Ismaili faith is a sin of “major polytheism,” tantamount to excommunication. Wahhabi teachers in Najran insult Ismaili pupils’ faith and try to convert them to Sunni Islam, even using threats of class failure and flogging.

Ismailis are not free to pass their religious teachings on to new generations. The authorities have at times exiled the Absolute Guide from Najran or placed him under house arrest. Saudi authorities also ban the import or production of Ismaili religious literature. Ismailis face obstacles in obtaining permits to build new mosques or expand existing ones, whereas the state funds and builds Sunni mosques in Najran, even in areas without a Sunni population.

The country’s Sharia judges, following Wahhabi beliefs, routinely discriminate against Ismailis on the basis of their faith. In March 2006, a judge annulled the marriage of an Ismaili man to a Sunni woman, saying that the man lacked religious qualification. In May 2006, another judge barred an Ismaili lawyer from representing his Sunni client.

“State-sponsored and officially tolerated discrimination against the Ismailis of Najran seriously threatens their identity and denies them basic rights,” Stork said. “The authorities are shutting them out from education, government employment, and professions.”

In July 2008, King Abdullah opened a well-publicized interfaith conference in Spain initiated by Saudi Arabia and attended by Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist religious leaders.

“The measure of Saudi religious tolerance will be its practice at home, not only what it preaches abroad,” Stork said.

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