In Jenin, Israel's government decided to pursue a course that placed much greater risks on Israel's soldiers but that greatly reduced the dangers to Palestinian civilians. We announced over loudspeakers our intention to clear out the terrorist infrastructure in the camp and warned everyone to leave. Then, instead of bombing from the air or using tanks or heavy artillery, our soldiers were sent on a harrowing mission. They painstakingly went from house to house, moving through a hornet's nest of booby traps, bombs, and armed terrorists. After thirteen Israeli soldiers were killed during one mission, we still refused to use our air force or heavy artillery. We pressed on, making tactical changes, such as using armored bulldozers to flatten houses that were being used by the terrorists for cover, that decreased the risks to our troops without increasing the dangers to innocent Palestinians.
But in an environment that lacked moral clarity, one of the finest examples in history of a democracy protecting human rights in wartime became infamous as a horrific assault on human rights. Relying on phony information produced by Palestinian sources and claiming that Israel had killed over 500 civilians,(1) leveled a hospital, deliberately shot children, and executed prisoners, almost all the foreign press harshly criticized the Israeli action. The vilification rang out across the world, but the British press was in a class all by itself. The Independent called the Israeli operation "a monstrous war crime."(2) A. N. Wilson, writing for the Evening Standard, called it a "massacre, and a cover-up of genocide."(3) The Guardian, not to be outdone, ran a lead editorial opining that "Jenin was every bit as repellent in its particulars, no less distressing, and every bit as man made, as the attack on New York on September 11."(4)
The truth was very different: At the end of the operation, fifty-two Palestinians lay dead, almost all of whom were armed.(5) On the Israeli side, twenty-three soldiers had been killed by Palestinian terrorists. This extremely high casualty ratio was a function of Israel's willingness to endanger the lives of its own soldiers in order to save the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of Palestinian civilians. Indeed, Israeli soldiers died to save innocent Palestinian lives.
"Rent control appears to be the most efficient technique presently known to destroy a city--except for bombing," Swedish economist Assar Lindbeck observed in a 1972 book. Rent control is a big cause of the city's chronic financial mess, a huge cause of its notorious housing scarcity and a neat illustration of its political unreality. Ending it would be a big step toward unleashing a construction boom and boosting its economy to offset destructive tax increases.It's true for Cairo, too. Check out the extent of the problem in Egypt:Awaiting presidential orders
The unjustifiably low rents of flats in old buildings constitute an issue which has long been shelved by consecutive governments in Egypt. Neither the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) nor any of the opposition parties have had the courage to place this issue on their reform agendas or on plans for achieving social justice. MPs present countless interpellations to the government on so many issues, but not one of them concerns the rents of old flats. Forty full years after the vicious vilification of landlords at the hands of the socialist regime of Egypt’s first president Gamal Abdel-Nasser, and the consequent State-imposed harsh cuts in rent rates, no-one has taken any move towards correcting these wrongs.
This is not the first time I write on this issue. Back in September 2002 I tackled this problem among the “problems on hold", under the title “Frozen rents: Absent justice and eroded wealth". I reviewed the decades-long build-up of the consequences of freezing the rents at deceptively low values since the 1960s. I wrote that this unwise government policy had succeeded in winning the uncontested support of the short-sighted working classes, but that this had come at the expense of short and long-term investment in the entire real estate sector. Investors found ways—such as key money, renting their flats fully-furnished, or selling the flats—to circumvent the sinking return on their investment due to the low rents, but the wider Egyptian community is to this day suffering from the shortage of affordable housing. Had housing been left to the market forces of supply and demand throughout the past forty years, I have no doubt that we would have been spared the present crisis.
I received the following letter from Mr Ageeb Mikhail Boctor, retired lawyer at the Court of Cassation—the highest judicial authority in Egypt.
“The civil law of 1948 stipulates that a contract governs the relation of the contractors. As such, it cannot be modified or nullified except at the will of its signatories, or because of reasons stipulated by the law. Even so, the State unjustifiably interfered with the relation between landlords and tenants through Law 7 of 1965 which reduced then rental values by 35 per cent. In 1977, it passed Law 49 of 1977 which stipulated that rents should be fixed by committees formed through governorial decrees, and that the rents specified by these committees were final and irrevocable.
“As though this were not enough, the State again passed Law 49 of 1979 which stipulated that the rental contract should, after the death of the tenant or his or her leaving the flat for any reason, be extended to the spouse, children or parents who had lived there. So the State’s authority did not stop at reducing and freezing rents, but extended to side with the ‘poor’ tenant against the landlord, by allowing the spouse, children or parents to ‘inherit’ the flat.
“Lately, the State attempted to right matters through Law 4 of 1996 which applied the rules of civil law to all places which had not hitherto been rented or the contracts of which had not been renewed. But this never granted the landlords of old buildings their usurped rights, nor did it recover the four-decade long lost justice.
“It is a phenomenon unique to Egypt. Nowhere in the world have we heard of 40-year-long rulings that freeze rents and confiscate actual ownership rights in favour of the tenants, converting the tenant into the practical owner of the flat. The penury sums which landlords pocket as return on their investment are a national disgrace. As salaries and incomes have risen throughout the past years, the State has allowed tenants with average monthly incomes of LE1000 to pay average monthly rents of LE10. The State has raised the cost of all vital services such as electricity, drinking water, telephone calls, transportation, fuel and suchlike, but has not seen fit to raise the rents of flats in old buildings. It has practically obliged the landlords to pay long-term subsidies they can ill-afford for the rents paid by their not-needy tenants."
My only comment to Mr Boctor’s letter is that, since our MPs are notoriously silent on this issue, it appears that nothing short of an initiative from President Mubarak calling upon Parliament to give the poor landlords their rights will move the issue. And you should not then be surprised my friend if all the legislative councils rush to correct the wrongs with undaunted enthusiasm, the media rushes to applaud the move, and the NDP leaders rush to declare that the issue had been on the party’s reform agenda for years on end.
Hitler not only fattened his adoring "Volk" with jobs and low taxes, he also fed his war machine through robbery and murder, says a German historian in a stunning new book. Far from considering Nazism oppressive, most Germans thought of it as warm-hearted, asserts Goetz Aly. The book is generating significant buzz in Germany and it may mark the beginning of a new level of Holocaust discourse.
When Junior was a young man, he fell in love. And she loved him, and together they made plans to marry, raise a large family, and prosper to the end of their days.Go read the rest at Canis Iratus. The Angel of Death, and What Junior Told Him
But events intervened, and plans were changed beyond recognition, and time took the color out of their dreams. In the end Junior married another, and tolerated fifteen years of unhappy coexistence and financial misery. When this union went asunder, Junior thought he would get a second chance at everything he had hoped for.
But he never got everything he hoped for. He got as much as he could get, but he never recaptured the happiness and ambition of his younger days, and he never reunited with the woman he loved. Yet, he never gave up thinking that he might. But time marched relentlessly on, and life dwindled, and one day the Angel of Death came to get William “Junior" Kay.
Senator Call List(from Mary in LA):
Sen. J.D. Alexander, Majority Whip: 850-487-5044
Sen. Nancy Argenziano: 850-487-5017
Sen. Dave Aronberg: 850-487-5356
Sen. Mike Bennett: 850-487-5078
Sen. Larcenia Bullard: 850-487-5127
Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell: 850-487-5094
Sen. Lisa Carlton: 850-487-5081
Sen. Paula Dockery: 850-487-5040
Sen. Dennis Jones: 850-487-5065
Sen. Jim King: 850-487-5030
Sen. Evelyn J. Lynn: 850-487-5033
Sen. Burt L. Saunders: 850-487-5124
The e-mail messages from Muslims began moments after release of a religious edict condemning al-Qaida. They came from every corner of the world. Soon they were tumbling in too fast to handle.Khaled Abou El Fadl has long been a good guy in this fight, by the way.
"I couldn't even read them all. There's at least 1,000. Maybe more," said Mansur Escudero, secretary-general of the Islamic Commission of Spain. "The tone was nearly all the same: `It's about time someone did it. Bravo!'"
The fatwa, issued on the anniversary of the Madrid train bombings that claimed 191 lives, was believed to be the first cleric-sanctioned condemnation directly against Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. But it highlights a wider, critical dialogue emerging across the Islamic world.
Moderate Muslims are increasingly turning to Islam's sacred core _ the Quran and the laws and traditions it inspires _ to defend their views and discredit radicals as part of a "counter-jihad" for Islamic hearts and minds.
Terrorist attacks by al-Qaida and other militant groups add urgency to the ideological debate, which challenges the long dominance of Saudi Arabia's fundamentalist Wahhabist strain that has used its wealth and influence to mute moderate Islamic voices.
"The long and painful silence of moderate theologians and experts in Islam jurisprudence _ who had been bought off or intimidated into silence _ is finally starting to break apart," said Khaled Abou El Fadl, an authority on Islamic law at the University of California, Los Angeles. "We are seeing signs of a counter-jihad."
The March 11 fatwa by Spain's highest Muslim authority and the deluge of support messages appeared to touch the frustration among mainstream Muslims. But the response was dominated by those outside the Middle East, suggesting the centers of moderate influence reside outside traditional Muslim areas.
From Canada: "Thank you for taking a stand."
From the United States: "I'm glad that someone of authority in Islam is taking a stand and demanding their religion back from the terrorists who have hijacked it."
From Australia: "This is important. This has the possibility for real impact."
From Mexico: "All good Muslims are with you."
"This shows the Muslim world is tired of the harm that radicals and terrorists are doing to Islam," said Escudero, whose declaration carried the support of Muslim leaders in Morocco, Algeria and Libya. "We hope this will inspire others to speak out."
But this, however, risks even more friction with Islam's radical fringe, who have long used their own Quranic interpretations to justify attacks on non-Muslims and others.
A group calling itself Al-Qaida in Iraq _ the name Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi gave his organization after he aligned himself with bin Laden _ mocked the Spanish fatwa and ridiculed a four-day international counterterrorism conference held in Madrid.
"Allah has promised us victory. ... Terrorizing enemies of God is our faith and religion, which is taught to us by our Quran," said a statement purportedly posted by the group on an extremist Islamic Web site March 12.
But the Quran, much like the Bible and many other religious text, is open to interpretations on many levels.
No issue presents more of a conundrum than suicide attacks. Most Islamic scholars categorically denounce taking one's life, citing the clear Quranic dictum: "Do not kill yourself."
But deep divisions occur over what is justified "martyrdom" in Islam's defense. The debate winds through such flashpoints as the Palestinian intefadeh, the insurgency in Iraq and suicide bombings linked to al-Qaida around the world.
Following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, a tape was broadcast showing bin Laden citing the Hadith _ the record of the words and deeds of Islam's founder, the Prophet Muhammad _ and saying the deaths of nearly 3,000 people and the destruction of the World Trade Center were for the glory of Islam. Later proclamations also have been filled with Quranic references.
"There needs to be an awakening that radicals are manipulating the Quran for their own narrow motives," said Omid Safi, professor of philosophy and religion at Colgate University.
In a far corner of a Cairo mosque recently, a scholar read from the 57th sura, or chapter, that urges Muslims to spend freely to defend the faith.
In one verse, martyrs are blessed for achieving "their reward and their light." In another, non-Muslims are called the "owners of hell fire."
"What do you make of this?" the reader, Abdul Abdullah, asked a group of young men in a far corner of the grand al-Azhar mosque.
The students began to bicker. A defense for Palestinian suicide bombers, a few said. Nonsense, argued others, who called it outdated allusions to Islam's early struggles. They cited a line saying "compassion and mercy" rise above all other virtues.
"The message," Abdullah said, "is to be both a lamb and a lion when it is needed. This is the balance."
Less than a month later in New York, Amina Wadud, a female professor of Islamic studies, challenged Muslim traditions of male-led worship by leading Friday prayers to draw attention to her belief that the Quran "puts men and women on equal footing" and needs reinterpretation.
Many Islamic leaders, however, decried the highly publicized service by Wadud, who teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti Abdul-Aziz al-Sheik told followers that "enemies of Islam are using women's issues to corrupt the community." Extremist Web sites have appealed for a fatwa to slay Wadud, but it appears no credible Islamic authority is willing to go that far.
Conflicting interpretations of Muslim duty are nothing new. Factions have quarreled and clashed since the death of Muhammad nearly 1,375 years ago.
In recent decades, however, some moderates felt that publicly opposing radicals would harm Islamic unity, an opening that allowed the vocal militant minority to prevail.
"Radicals learned long ago the power of trying to interpret the Quran in their favor. Moderates are now rushing to do the same," said Azzaz Tamimi, director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought in London. "This battle gets down to the very essence of what it means to be Muslim."
In December 2003, Indonesia's highest Islamic authority, the Ulama Council, declared terrorism and suicide bombings illegal under Muslim law, but left room for "holy war" if the faith is under attack.
The declaration came after bomb blasts blamed on an al-Qaida-linked Southeast Asia terrorist group killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists, on the resort island of Bali in 2002. In August 2003, a suicide bomber attacked the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, killing 12.
In Yemen, where 17 Americans were killed in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, inmates linked to radical factions have held meetings with Supreme Court Judge Hammoud al-Hitar, who is also a senior cleric, who tries to convince them they are violating Quranic teachings. Nearly 250 prisoners have been freed after renouncing violence.
But some scholars believe moderates need to work on even deeper levels. Exchanging fatwas and denunciations with radicals does little to make lasting reforms, said Abdullahi An-Na'im, an expert in Islamic law at Emory University in Atlanta.
He believes Islamic leaders in places with more tolerant traditions, such as Indonesia, need to show more autonomy and confidence to set new priorities in the faith.
"If moderates use the same methods as the radicals it just reinforces an aggressive, authoritarian paradigm," An-Na'im said. "Islam needs a new approach: to get away from the Islam of the Middle East being the only point of reference."
Abou El Fadl of UCLA, however, believes moderate Muslims also need to make a difficult choice: press their views with the same conviction as radicals.
"In other words, they must be willing to fight for the faith and die for the faith," he said. "They must be willing to make that expense. Otherwise, the contest for the soul of Islam will not be between equal forces."
Hatred and intocrination against Jews remains solid in the Middle East: in Dubai a school book featuring Jewish kids stirs uproar. How many Jews have these first-graders met that they react so "sharply"? None of course, I doubt there are any Jews in the UAE. These children are the next generation that will be responsible for peace in the Middle East and this is not an encouraging sign at all.
Education authorities in Dubai have vowed to examine a book taught in an international private school that shows a photo of two Jewish children sporting plaited hair and yarmulke.
Dr. Obaid Butti Al Mohiri, the Director of Curriculums Centre at the Ministry of Education, said he would order the withdrawal of the book for primary Class I of the Dubai International School if the complaints raised were found genuine
Several teachers of the school contacted Khaleej Times, complaining against the picture, captioned ‘We play together; we stick together’, featured in the book entitled "Friends Forever". The teachers said that of all the pictures in the book, the students reacted sharply to only this picture.
When approached, the Educational Zone took the stand that its role was only mediating between private schools and the Curriculum Centre. The zone receives textbooks from the schools and sends them to the centre for scrutiny.
Meanwhile, a source in the school said that these books were imported from outside the country and had not been reviewed.
Ireland and Israel - A Love Story by Barry ShawHeh. Now that's heartwarming.
Israel was awash last weekend by a green invasion. Thousands of smiling Irish soccer fans drank their way to the Bloomfield Stadium in Jaffa to cheer on the boys in green.
This was the first major international soccer game that Israel had hosted since the start of the latest Palestinian terror campaign way back in the year 2000.
The estimated four thousand Irish supporters came despite the futile appeal from the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign for them to boycott their trip to Israel. Part of their argument was to accuse Israel of being a racist state where Arabs have no rights. The campaigners scored an own-goal when they paraded an Israeli soccer shirt with the number ten on the back. The wearer of the number ten shirt on the Israeli national squad is Walid Badir, an Israeli Arab.
The Irish guests were received warmly on their arrival in Israel. At the airport they were handed little gifts bearing the colours of Ireland and Israel. Where ever they went they were greeted warmly. The streets of Tel Aviv were bannered with the green of Ireland and welcome posters were everywhere.
Much is made of drunken football supporters and the damage and violence they cause. The army of Irish supporters really enjoy their drink, but they were always good natured and good humoured,and Israelis joined them in the Irish pubs. The atmosphere was hardly one of rivalry, more like chivalry as both Irish and Israeli supporters shared a drink and a joke.
The Irish team, safely anchored in Herzlia were bemused and amused by the children and mothers in fancy dress when they visited the local mall. They had arrived at the height of Purim, a riotous festival of fun and laughter.
The game began badly for Israel when a double display of poor defending gave the Irish a gift of a goal within the first four minutes. The Israeli team never really came into the game until late into the second half. As the clock ticked to ninety minutes and full time all, literally, looked lost for the thousands of Israeli supporters. Then, in the last minute of the game came the final embarrassment for the Ireland Palestine Soldarity campaigners. Yet another Arab player in Israel's national squad, Abbas Suwan, blasted a low shot that even the great goalkeeper, Shay Given, could not prevent from bulging the back of the net.
Many of the visitors expressed amazement that they found the true fate of Israel to be much different to the one shown to them by their local and national media.
Many of the local Israel's, who had been bracing themselves for an invasion of drunken soccer louts, were surprised to discover thousands of smiling and likeable Irish folk who, like Israelis have a true love of life.
And so, honours shared and mutual respect ended a weekend exhibition of friendship and good sportsmanship between the Irish and the Israelis.