Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Extraordinary Cost of US Wars

'War on Terror' Set to Surpass Cost of Second World War

By Rupert Cornwell in Washington
The Independent
Thursday, 30 June 2011

The total cost to America of its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus the related military operations in Pakistan, is set to exceed $4 trillion – more than three times the sum so far authorised by Congress in the decade since the 9/11 attacks.

This staggering sum emerges from a new study by academics at the Ivy-league Brown University that reveals the $1.3 trillion officially appropriated on Capitol Hill is the tip of a spending iceberg. If other Pentagon outlays, interest payments on money borrowed to finance the wars, and the $400bn estimated to have been spent on the domestic "war on terror", the total cost is already somewhere between $2.3 and $2.7 trillion.

And even though the wars are now winding down, add in future military spending and above all the cost of looking after veterans, disabled and otherwise and the total bill will be somewhere between $3.7 trillion and $4.4 trillion.

The report by Brown's Watson Institute for International Studies is not the first time such astronomical figures have been cited; a 2008 study co-authored by the Harvard economist Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz, a former Nobel economics laureate, reckoned the wars would end up costing over $3 trillion. The difference is that America's financial position has worsened considerably in the meantime, with a brutal recession and a federal budget deficit running at some $1.5 trillion annually, while healthcare and social security spending is set to soar as the population ages and the baby boomer generation enters retirement.

Unlike most of America's previous conflicts moreover, Iraq and Afghanistan have been financed almost entirely by borrowed money that sooner or later must be repaid.

The human misery is commensurate. The report concludes that in all, between 225,000 and 258,000 people have died as a result of the wars. Of that total, US soldiers killed on the battlefield represent a small fraction, some 6,100. The civilian death toll in Iraq is put at 125,000 (rather less than some other estimates) and at up to 14,000 in Afghanistan. For Pakistan, no reliable calculation can be made.

Even these figures however only scratch the surface of the suffering, in terms of people injured and maimed, or those who have died from malnutrition or lack of treatment. "When the fighting stops, the indirect dying continues," Neta Crawford, a co-director of the Brown study, said. Not least, the wars may have created some 7.8 million refugees, roughly equal to the population of Scotland and Wales.

What America achieved by such outlays is also more than questionable. Two brutal regimes, those of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, have been overturned while al-Qa'ida, the terrorist group that carried out 9/11, by all accounts has been largely destroyed - but in neither Iraq nor Afghanistan is democracy exactly flourishing, while the biggest winner from the Iraq war has been America's arch-foe Iran.

Osama bin Laden and his henchmen probably spent the pittance of just $500,000 on organising the September 2001 attacks, which killed 3,000 people and directly cost the US economy an estimated $50bn to $100bn. In 2003, President George W Bush proclaimed that the Iraq war would cost $50bn to $60bn. Governments that go to war invariably underestimate the cost – but rarely on such an epic scale.

If the Brown study is correct, the wars that flowed from 9/11 will not only have been the longest in US history. At $4 trillion and counting, their combined cost is approaching that of the Second World War, put at some $4.1 trillion in today's prices by the Congressional Budget Office.

The de-Escalation of Conflict in Syria?

Syria Pulls Its Armed Forces From Some Contested Cities

By Anthony Shadid
The New York Times
June 29, 2011

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The Syrian military and the government’s security forces have largely withdrawn from one of the country’s largest cities as well as other areas, residents and activists said Wednesday, leaving territory to protesters whose demonstrations have grown larger and whose chants have taunted a leadership that once inspired deep fear.

The military’s move out of Hama, where a government crackdown a generation ago made its name synonymous with the brutality of the ruling Assad family, has surprised even some activists and diplomats. They differ over how to interpret the government’s decision there, asking whether the departure points to a government attempt to avoid casualties and another potentially explosive clash in a restive country, or to an exhausted repressive apparatus stretched too thin.

But residents in Hama, the fourth largest city in Syria, have celebrated the departure as a victory that came after one of the worst bouts of bloodshed there in the nearly four-month uprising.

“Hama is a liberated city,” declared one activist who gave his name as Hainin.

Residents and activists say the military and security forces have also withdrawn from Abu Kamal, near the border with Iraq, and some suburbs of the capital, Damascus. In Dayr az Zawr, a large city in the east, the military has remained on the outskirts, although security forces are said to still be operating inside the city.

The events in Hama and elsewhere around the country underscore the new dynamics in the uprising, as neither the government nor the protesters can resolve the crisis on their terms. An opposition meeting on Monday openly called for an end to President Bashar al-Assad’s hold on power — and parts of the meeting were broadcast on Syrian television, usually an instrument of the government. The committees behind the street protests are becoming better organized, and a weak economy once instrumental to the government’s vision continues to stagger.

“I feel like we’re in a stalemate, and while the stalemate is not pretty — in fact, it’s ugly — it only works in the opposition’s favor,” said an Obama administration official in Washington, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Time is on the opposition’s side.”

Government forces have withdrawn from cities before — namely Baniyas on the Mediterranean coast and Dara’a in the south — only to return even more relentlessly. But the scale of the departure and the size of Hama seem to set apart the experience there.

“I don’t think it’s a tactic,” said Wissam Tarif, executive director of Insan, a Syrian human rights group. “It’s exhaustion, a lack of resources and a lack of finances.”

Hama is a city whose name remains seared in the memory of many Syrians. In the culmination of a battle between the government and an armed Islamic opposition, the military stormed Hama in 1982, killing at least 10,000 people and perhaps far more. Some residents said that Hama’s place in history had made the state more reluctant to crack down this time.

“We learned from our mistakes,” said a teacher in Hama, who gave his name as Abu Omar. Like many interviewed there, he agreed to speak only on the condition of partial anonymity. “To make a revolution halfway,” he added, “is to dig our own tombs.”

On June 3, government forces and protesters clashed in the city, which is along a strategic highway linking Damascus, Homs and Aleppo. By activists’ count, as many as 73 people in Hama were killed, though Syrian officials said their security forces also suffered casualties. Syrian officials said an agreement was reached afterward according to which protests would be permitted, as long as they remained peaceful and no property was damaged. Some residents confirmed that an agreement was indeed concluded this month.

Since then, some said, even the traffic police had withdrawn.

“The security and the army are completely absent,” said a resident who gave his name as Abu Abdo. “They are not harassing us at all, neither before nor during the daily rallies, which have been gathering day and night. There are no patrols. Life is normal.”

In bigger numbers, protesters in Hama have gathered at night in Aasi Square, which they said they had renamed Freedom Square, and promised bigger demonstrations Friday. Activists said the city’s mayor addressed the crowds there Wednesday night. When he asked what their demands were, one activist recalled that protesters replied, “The overthrow of the regime.”

The mayor soon left, they said.

Other protesters there have taunted other cities and the leadership. “Oh youth of Damascus,” went one chant, “we’re in Hama, and we’ve toppled the regime.”

In an echo of the early days of the Egyptian revolution, when a crumbling authoritarian order inspired a new sense of citizenship, some activists say residents have taken to sweeping the streets in front of their homes and shops, volunteers have kept the main squares clean and drivers have adhered to traffic rules in the absence of the police.

Syrian officials played down the idea that the departure of government forces suggested a void in their authority. Since the beginning of the uprising, the government has said that much of the violence has occurred in clashes with armed opponents and, indeed, American officials have corroborated the existence of insurgents in some areas in Syria.

“Our policy has been that if the demonstrators are peaceful, if they do not wreak havoc or destroy public property, no security will harass them,” Imad Moustapha, the Syrian ambassador to the United States, said in an interview. “The universal orders are not to harass demonstrators as long as those demonstrators are peaceful.”

Mr. Moustapha estimated that 9 out of 10 protests began and ended peacefully.

The American official suggested that the violence was a response to government repression. When the government’s forces withdraw, the official said, the situation becomes peaceful again.

“That’s what Hama has demonstrated,” the official said.

The departure could also suggest at least some recognition on the part of the government that a brutal crackdown cannot succeed. In Dayr az Zawr and Abu Kamal, officials removed statues of Mr. Assad’s father, in what seemed an acknowledgment that they were not worth the bloodshed that would be required to save them from protesters.

“Everyone is stuck, at this point,” said Mr. Tarif, the human rights advocate. “The regime is stuck, the protesters are stuck and the opposition is stuck.”

Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Beirut, and an employee of The New York Times from Damascus, Syria.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Egyptian Revolution Continues

Battle Breaks out in Tahrir Square, Once Again

Security forces and demonstrators clash in Cairo after former interior minister's trial is put off without explanation.

By Jack Shenker in Cairo
The Guardian
Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Clashes between protesters and security forces engulfed Cairo once again on Tuesday night, as the fiercest street battles since the fall of Hosni Mubarak left dozens injured.

Fighting began after dark, following earlier protests by relatives of those killed during this spring's uprising.

Armed central security police showered Tahrir Square with tear gas canisters and fired bullets into the air as several thousand demonstrators amassed and called for the resignation of Egypt's de facto head of state, Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.

Some members of the crowd tore up paving stones and threw them towards police lines.

The Guardian witnessed successive volleys of tear gas launched into the square and surrounding streets by government forces, including towards areas where ambulances had congregated to treat the wounded. Injured protesters, mostly with head wounds and gas inhalation, were carried to safety on the shoulders of fellow demonstrators.

"Mubarak was nothing – this is the revolution," said one man caught by tear gas.

The interior ministry blamed a group of "thugs" for the unrest, claiming that they had disrupted an event held earlier in the day to commemorate the martyrs of the revolution and went on to attack the ministry headquarters.

Protesters vociferously denied that suggestion, insisting that the police had attacked unarmed relatives of the martyrs – an account seemingly backed up by unverified videos posted on YouTube.

The violence came after the trial of the former interior minister, Habib al-Adly, on the charge of unlawfully killing pro-change protesters had been delayed by a judge this week, with no reason given to the public. "People are saying that we've replaced one Habib al-Adly with another," said Mostafa Hussein, a 30-year-old activist in Tahrir.

"They believe the interior ministry has returned to its former incarnation under the Mubarak regime."

Also on Tuesday, an administrative court ordered the dissolution of Egypt's 1750 municipal councils, a form of local government that was almost entirely controlled by the old ruling NDP party and was a key tool of control for Mubarak's dictatorship.

Revolutionary activists have long demanded that the councils be disbanded, pointing out that in "elections" held in 2008 over 99% of open seats were awarded to Mubarak allies. However it is not yet clear whether the interim government will implement the judicial ruling.

Almost 1,000 people are believed to have died in the year's 25 January revolution, in which Mubarak's black-suited central security troops were beaten off the streets by a mass uprising. Since the resignation of the former president, Egypt has been run by the armed forces who have promised a swift transition to a democratic civilian government. But many fear that the pace of change has been too slow, accusing generals of hijacking the revolution and failing to hold members of the old regime to account.

"For those that had loved ones killed in January – and indeed all those who lived through that time – just the sight of the Amin al-Markazi [central security forces] on the streets is a provocation in itself," a doctor who had been treating the injured told The Guardian.

"People are shouting 'our revolution is being stolen'. The situation is very tense."

In the early hours of the morning, Tahrir Square remained shrouded in gas with the battle continuing. Activists took to Twitter and other social media sites to call for medical supplies and people to join the gathering.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The US is Trying to Prosecute Dissent

Criminalising Palestinian Solidarity

By Maureen Murphy
Al Jazeera
27 June 2011

The United States government has criminalised the Palestinian people, and now it is increasingly treating US citizens who stand in solidarity with Palestine as criminals as well - including those courageously putting their lives on the line to break the siege on Gaza.

I am a Palestine solidarity activist in the US, and one of 23 US citizens who have been issued with a subpoena to appear before a federal grand jury as part of what the government has said is an investigation into violations of the laws banning material support to foreign "terrorist organisations".

None of us have given money or weapons to any group on the State Department's foreign terrorist organisation list. But what many of us have done is participate in or help organise educational trips to meet with Palestinians and Colombians resisting the US-funded military regimes they live under.

The goal of these trips is to learn about the human rights violations happening in these places and to bring those stories back home to the US, to educate people and to organise to change US foreign policy for the better.

Warranting an investigation

Travel for such purposes should be protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution. But a year ago the US Supreme Court decided in Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project to dramatically expand the government's definition of what constitutes material support for a foreign terrorist organisation.

Now the government considers travel to places like the West Bank and Colombia to be a predicate or justification for opening up an investigation and issuing search warrants to raid activists' homes and seize their belongings. Political speech if made in a "coordinated way" can be construed as material support.

Travel to Colombia was the initial pretext for the investigation into the 23 of us, but it expanded to travel to Palestine. This was confirmed with the recent discovery of files accidentally left behind by the FBI in one of the homes raided last September.

The file includes dozens of questions that the FBI wanted to pose to activists - many of them focused on travel to Palestine and Colombia, two asking activists to name every person they know who has ever travelled to the Middle East or South America.

Civil liberties groups including the Center for Constitutional Rights have decried Holder v. HLP because it imposes guilt on people by association and criminalises "activities like distribution of literature, engaging in political advocacy, participating in peace conferences, training in human rights advocacy, and donating cash and humanitarian assistance, even when this type of support is intended only to promote lawful and non-violent activities".

The investigation into the 23 of us is viewed by many as a test case for Holder vs. HLP. Conviction of a violation of the material support laws means a prison sentence of up to 15 years - and what happens with our case will set a precedent for many social justice movements in the US. But it will particularly - and perhaps more immediately - impact Palestine solidarity activists who campaign to end US aid to Israel and in support of the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions.

Palestine solidarity movement in the US at risk

The Palestine Solidarity Movement has gained significant ground in the US in the past few years. Consciousness of the oppressive nature of the Israeli apartheid regime has been raised in the wake of Israel's 2006 war on Lebanon - when the phrase "Dahiyeh doctrine" was coined to describe Israel's wholesale destruction of civilian infrastructure. The winter 2008-09 invasion and air attacks on the trapped civilian population in the Gaza Strip further exposed Israel's cruelty, and the execution of nine humanitarians aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla last year showed that Israel knows no bounds - and that the impunity it enjoys needs to end before the next massacre is perpetrated.

Activists in the US play a key role in efforts to bring Israel's war crimes and occupation to an end, as the US government bankrolls the Israeli military with our tax dollars, and shields Israel from accountability through diplomatic bullying and the veto at the UN Security Council.

For these reasons, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement in the US, while still young, is especially significant. The movement is rooted in a rights-based approach and aims to compel Israel to respect international law.

Such efforts to hold Israel to account are viewed as enough of a threat that the US State Department this month reiterated its commitment to "counter head-on efforts of de-legitimisation" regarding Israel.

"Our diplomatic engagement with Israel in multilateral affairs is rooted in a core commitment by President Obama," the State Department's Esther Brimmer told Zionist thinktank Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

"President Obama and this administration have worked tirelessly, in both word and deed, across the UN system, to ensure that Israel's legitimacy is beyond dispute and that Israel has the opportunity to contribute fully to all institutions to which it belongs," she added.

Siege-breaking activists may be next

It is US policy to block Palestinians from all avenues to justice at the UN level, by foiling the Goldstone report on war crimes in the Gaza Strip or preventing any censure of Israel for last year's massacre of flotilla activists. But this week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has given Israel the green light to attack the second Gaza Freedom Flotilla.

The State Department also issued a statement on the second flotilla - which will include approximately fifty Americans - in which it warned that "delivering or attempting or conspiring to deliver material support or other resources to, or for the benefit of, a designated foreign terrorist organisation, such as Hamas, could violate US civil and criminal statutes and could lead to fines and incarceration".

Hamas, which is the ruling party in the Gaza Strip and which won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in 2006, is on the US State Department's unilateral foreign terrorist organisation list - along with every other major Palestinian political party besides Fatah (though its armed wing is on the list). This means that the US has essentially criminalised the entire Palestinian people and the parties which represent them - except for those that collude with the Israeli occupation.

The State Department's foreign terrorist organisation list is a politically motivated register, not reviewed by any court, and inclusive of pretty much every liberation movement resisting regimes bankrolled and supported by the United States.

Prosecution for violations of the material support law is also blatantly political. Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey (John Ashcroft's successor), former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and a former homeland security secretary and national security advisor are (as far as I know) not being investigated for material support for foreign terrorist organisations after they spoke in support of an Iranian opposition group on the state department's list at a conference organised by the group last year.

Obama on the wrong side of history

It is also not lost on any of the 23 of us whose freedom is on the line that, had this material support statute been in place when President Obama was an anti-apartheid campus divestment activist, he too would have been vulnerable to prosecution.

At the height of the South Africa anti-apartheid movement, the US State Department designated as a foreign terrorist organisation the African National Congress - the party led by Nelson Mandela (he founded its armed wing) and which guided the solidarity movement in the US. Mandela was only removed from US "terrorism watch list" in 2008, aged 89.

Now that the international movement to bring apartheid in Palestine to an end has claimed more and more victories, Israel finds itself increasingly isolated. Just as the US was amongst the last to support apartheid in South Africa, it will be among the last to support apartheid in Palestine up to the bitter end - and those who oppose it will face an increasing backlash.

While President Obama, who wrote the introduction to Mandela's most recent autobiography, was on the right side of history when it came to apartheid in South Africa, he is on the wrong side of today's anti-apartheid struggle. Furthermore, US citizens who have dedicated their lives to fighting for what is right are being criminalised on his watch.

Maureen Clare Murphy is managing editor of The Electronic Intifada and a Palestine solidarity activist based in Chicago.

Yemeni Crisis Impacts Daily Lives

As Yemen Teeters From Political Unrest, a Humanitarian Crisis May Not Be Far Off

By Laura Kasinof
The New York Times
June 27, 2011

SANA, Yemen — While Yemen’s political crisis stagnates — a popular uprising has stalled and a wounded president has not been seen publicly for weeks — its economic crisis has only grown worse.

The breakdown of public services, shortage of fuel and rising prices for food and water have made life exceedingly difficult for most Yemenis, and threaten to become a humanitarian crisis that could overshadow the political one.

“I sat at home for four days because I couldn’t get gasoline for my car,” said Ahmed al-Dubae, a taxi driver. “Those who have money, they can still get around. But those who don’t have money, their only choice is to go home and sleep.”

Residents of the capital, Sana, say they cannot remember when living conditions have been this bad, and their patience is running thin. Aside from the fuel crisis, Yemenis say that they are rationing water and food because the prices have soared. Darkness shrouds the capital at night because there is limited electricity and no diesel to fuel generators.

Mr. Dubae shook his head in disgust as he drove by a long line of cars in front of a gas station clogging busy Algeria Street in Sana’s upscale Hadda district. Other cars sputtered down the road because they were filled — at four times the normal price — with black-market gasoline, which is frequently mixed with water. Some gas stations here closed after deadly shootouts among those who had waited for more than 10 hours in line.

“If this condition continues in this way, there is going to be an uprising, but it’s not going to be the political uprising we have now,” said Abdel Rahman al-Ashwal, a university student who had to abandon his car at his family’s village and return the 125 miles to Sana by motorcycle because he could not find gasoline. “It’s not going to be organized. It’s going to be chaos.”

President Ali Abdullah Saleh had warned of such chaos after the protest movement started in late January calling for his ouster. Certainly, the political crisis contributed to the economic crisis. The currency has crashed, and many businesses have closed. Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s largest patron, has cut off payments to tribal leaders.

In March, antigovernment tribesmen blew up an oil pipeline and disabled the main oil production facility, forcing the government to import almost all of its fuel. The fuel shortage, in turn, created a water shortage because there has not been enough fuel to run the well pumps that keep this arid nation viable.

Yet there is widespread suspicion that the government is manipulating the crisis precisely to deflect attention from the political chaos.

Hafez al-Bukari, director of the Yemeni Polling Center, an independent political research organization, said many Yemenis believe the government wanted to increase the burden on the average Yemeni.

“Saleh’s family is holding up the transfer of power with the argument of waiting for Saleh to return, but if this situation continues for more weeks Yemen will witness humanitarian and security disaster,” Mr. Bukari said.

Musa Ahmed, a human rights activist, accused “the security apparatus” of fomenting the crisis. “They want to make a humanitarian crisis so that people ignore the political crisis,” he said. He said he no longer buys vegetables for his family because they are too expensive.

A deadly attack on the presidential palace three weeks ago wounded Mr. Saleh and a number of other government leaders, who went to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment. Mr. Saleh has not appeared on television since, and rumors about his health run rampant in the capital.

In this land of conspiracy theories, where even in better times there is little government transparency, some believe Mr. Saleh was killed. Others have said he ran away to one of his residences in Europe. His supporters insist that his return is imminent.

A government press officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the Yemeni leader’s health was “improving” and that “there were serious discussions on Sunday as to whether he should make a media appearance.”

Vice President Abdel Rabbo Mansour Hadi has become the acting president, in accord with the Constitution, although Mr. Saleh’s relatives appear to be running the country. International pressure for Yemen’s leadership to agree to a deal to transfer power continues.

Islamist militants have exploited the security vacuum to gain ground in the south, and even in the capital there are new signs of a breakdown in security.

One of the few laws that the government enforced before the political uprising, that in major cities weapons must be concealed, is now often ignored. Men are frequently seen on the street or riding in the back of pickup trucks carrying guns. At a popular pizza shop last weekend, a man in civilian clothes walked in with an AK-47 on his back.

“There is no feeling of security now inside Yemenis,” said Mr. Ahmed, the rights activist. The thinking is that “when there is one person with his weapon on the street. I’ll take my weapon too because I don’t feel security.”

The American Embassy in Sana said in a statement that “the U.S. is deeply concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen,” and is “committed to assisting the Yemeni people.” The United States is Yemen’s largest donor of humanitarian aid, and has provided $45 million in relief assistance so far in 2011. *Blogger's note: Last year, the United States Central Command proposed supplying President Saleh's government in Yemen with $1.2 billion in military equipment and training over the next six years. So while better than nothing, in perspective the humanitarian assistance is quite negligible.

Still, international aid organizations here say that funding must be dramatically increased to deal with the current situation. Nearly half of Yemen’s 23 million people live in poverty and, according to the international aid organization Oxfam, 7 million do not have the money for three meals a day. That number, the group says, is bound to increase.

“We are worried that people are busy with the political situation and the poor people will be forgotten,” said Aziz al-Athwari, Oxfam’s acting country director. “This is the time for action.”

Abdo Abdullah, who sells the jasmine necklaces that some Yemenis hang on their cars’ rear view mirrors, says he does not care who is behind the crisis. He is just desperate.

Now he has to bring diesel from Sana to run the irrigation pump back at his farm in the western coastal city of Hodeidah, before returning to the capital once again to sell his wares.

“What existed before is definitely better than what’s to come,” he said.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Start to Political Dialogue in Syria?

Syria Allows Opposition to Meet in Damascus

By Anthony Shadid
The New York Times
June 27, 2011

BEIRUT — Scores of opposition figures met publicly for the first time in Damascus on Monday in a government-sanctioned gathering that underlined both the changes a three-month uprising has wrought in Syria and the challenges ahead in breaking a brutal cycle of protests and crackdowns that has left hundreds dead.

The meeting was in the works for weeks, and though government officials had signaled that they would not oppose it, those attending spent days trying to find a locale in the capital that would set aside fears of government retaliation and host them.

The meeting began with the national anthem and a moment of silence to honor Syrians killed in the revolt, which has amounted to one of the greatest and most sustained challenges to more than four decades of rule by the Assad family and the ruling Baath Party.

Some activists abroad have criticized the meeting as suggesting that the government was willing to engage in dialogue and tolerate dissent, even as its army and security forces press on with a relentless crackdown that has seen them deployed from one end of Syria to the other. Members of the Local Coordination Committees, which has sought to speak on behalf of youthful protesters, did not attend, and the group had yet to make a public statement on the meeting, though it has refused to engage in dialogue as the violence continues.

Still, the meeting drew some of the most prominent opposition figures in Damascus, men like Louay Hussein, Anwar al-Bunni and Michel Kilo, who have served time in prison for their outspokenness against one of the region’s most authoritarian governments. Mr. Hussein has said that no government representatives would be invited.

“It is important to have people meeting in Damascus for the opposition at this stage, but the question is whether they call for dialogue and, if they do, how do they carry out dialogue when the army and the security forces are still in the streets and are still carrying out with the crackdown?” asked Wissam Tarif, a human rights advocate.

So far, Mr. Hussein and others have said they will not enter into dialogue with the government as long as its forces persist in firing on peaceful protesters. But even they acknowledge that the crisis seems to be taking a dangerous turn, as the government grows more isolated, elements of an armed insurgency emerge and the economy staggers.

In a speech last week, President Bashar al-Assad offered what he described as a national dialogue that could ostensibly lead to changes in a constitution that enshrines power in the Baath Party, the Assad family’s instrument of rule for 41 years.

Protesters took to the streets the same day and, on Friday, denounced both the call for a dialogue and Mr. Assad’s comparison of conspiracies against the country to germs.

Mr. Assad suggested that the government would choose 100 or so people with whom it would negotiate. But some diplomats have looked to Monday’s meeting as offering at least the potential for a more unified opposition that could deal with the government.

“Every step that helps bring together an opposition is a positive step,” said Burhan Ghalioun, a Syrian scholar and director of the Center for Contemporary Oriental Studies at the Sorbonne in Paris. “We need a unified opposition that can be engaged in a political battle with the regime to force to transfer the country into a democratic civil state.”

English Translation of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's Speech 24 June 2011

In His Name

The speech delivered by Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah via Al Manar TV screen, on Friday 24 June 2011.

I take refuge in Allah from the stoned devil. Praise be to Allah the Lord of the world. Peace be on our Master and Prophet Abi Al Qassem Mohammad and on his chaste Household, chosen companions and on all prophets and messengers.

Peace be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings.

Tonight, I have several topics which I think it's important to tackle as they influence our status quo whether on the local or regional levels.

As usual, I will set a table of content for those who are following us:

The first topic I will talk about is the governmental issue especially with respect to those who evoke that it is the government of Hezbollah.

The second issue is that of the spying nets which was evoked lately and talking about this within Hezbollah and precisely within the organizational structure within Hezbollah.

Third, I will talk about the enemy's drill - Turning Point Five.

Fourth, I will talk about the Arab situation especially the situation in Syria.

We start with the government: In fact, I want to present a description of the current government, what took place, our viewpoint towards it and consequently, how we will deal with it during the upcoming stage and how the others are dealing with it.

Under the title of the government, there are several points:

The first point: As those who talked before us asserted and pursuant to our responsibility, I also want to assert that the government of PM Mikati which was formed is 100 percent made in Lebanon. There wasn't any foreign assisting intervention in the formation of the government.

Yes, there was foreign obstruction and foreign pressures to prevent the formation of the government; however, the government was formed with an internal will. Perhaps it's the first time or one of the rare times – to be precautious – in which the government is 100 percent a Lebanese fabrication as I said.

The delay which took place for several months was caused by internal complications. When these complications were addressed, the government was formed. Among the other reasons were the foreign pressures which might be transcended by anyone who has a will and when internal wills integrate and unite.

As for Syria, some Lebanese sides in Lebanon when the government is not formed say Syria prevents the formation of the government or Iran prevents that. They accuse Syria and Iran of the delay, the postponement and the crippling. Indeed we have our share in this accusation. When it is formed, they say a decision for formation was issued. These act with grudge. They do not act pursuant to an actual political reading. In all cases, this is oppression and false accusation. Since the very beginning, I know that the interest of the brethrens in Syria is for sure in the formation of the government since the first day. This is first a national Lebanese interest before it being a Syrian or Arab interest. They did not push towards any crippling or delay. They did not interfere. They did not have any demands. They were very happy when the government was formed. The same applies to the brethrens in Iran.

The government was formed – praise be to Allah. Here another bargain of March 14 Bloc failed as I said in one of the speeches and counted that they were wrong here and there and are still doing wrong and betting on wrong bargains. One of their wrong bargains is that the new majority will not be able to form the government and consequently they promised people that the formation will not take place before months, that this majority is unable to form the government, that PM Mikati will not be able to form the government and finally he will apologize and consequently their pal whom they are waiting for will return.

The second point that is related to the government is the incessant rhetoric of March 14 Bloc and what is issued abroad and then almost adopted by foreign countries because they are one axis. They once say that this is the government of Hezbollah, the government of the Syrian regime or the government of President Bashar Assad or the like.

I will first talk about Hezbollah: As for us, I would like to tell you: We are not harmed by that. If you believe that we are disturbed by that, we are not. On the contrary, this is a source of pride that we have such a government with the men it comprises, with the true representation of the influential political forces including the major political parties and currents in the country what really expresses the popular majority. If they wanted to call it the government of Hezbollah, we will not be disturbed. That is rather a cause of pride and esteem to us. However, in fact it is not as such. At times we say the truth you know very much and at others if you say that is the government of Hezbollah to disturb Hezbollah we say not at all. We are not bothered. You would be by that giving us a bonus. You always talk about an access in military power. You give us an access in political power when you depict to the whole world that Hezbollah is ruling Lebanon, the government of Lebanon and taking grip of the state. This is political inflation for the party in which we do not believe. However we are grateful. A reputation of wealth is better than a reputation of poverty as the saying goes. However, in fact, we are before a government where there are two ministers for Hezbollah: a minister with a portfolio and a state minister. All of the other ministers are friends. We respect them and cooperate with them. This is not a one-color-government. It is a broad national coalition government which is formed from a group of influential and diversified political forces. I do not wish to talk about numbers; it is inappropriate to talk about numbers. We care that we work together as one team despite our diversity. I would also like to highlight that it is not true that the current government is internally divided into a definite majority and a definite minority. In the current government we are not a majority and a minority. We are one team. We meet on the broad political, economical, social, administrative and security lines which will be expressed by the governmental statement. However, as to details, every side has its viewpoints which might meet with other sides here and differ from other sides there while on other issue it might meet here and differ there. This is the truth. Thus insisting on calling it the government of Hezbollah is untrue and it has other targets:

One of its targets is attempting to use this slogan for internal provocation especially sectarian and factional provocation as saying – let's be frank – Shiite Hezbollah is controlling the government and the state. O people of the other sects: Where are you?

The aim of this slogan is only provoking the other sects and it comes in the framework of factional and sectarian provocation which the other group is accustomed to, lives on and bargains on and this is an unsuccessful bargain Inshallah.

There is also provoking what is called international community or the foreign countries: the countries abroad, America, the west and some Arab countries. Through internal provocation they are not reaching anywhere because the people know the construction of the government, what is the formation, who the ministers of every side are, who favors who, who listens to whom… So things are not like what this group depicts. This is not the government of one party or one color. This is not a comprehensive government or anything of this sort. If it was as such it would have been formed during the first days and within hours printed its governmental policy statement and thus given the vote of confidence. All of that would have taken place within one week at most.

As for international provocation, I also tell this group. You are mistaken. You are acting in a wrong way when you provoke the world against Lebanon under the title of this government as being the government of Hezbollah. As such, you are afflicting harm on Lebanon, the people of Lebanon, the economy of Lebanon and not Hezbollah as a definite side. It's summer now and it's the season of tourism. You have always argued us over the season of tourism. Postpone the political tension which is taking place for two or three months to give the government a chance and to relieve the country.

I frankly tell you: Provoking the foreign sides against Lebanon harms Lebanon and the people of Lebanon. It does not harm Hezbollah particularly because you know that we do not have economic interests abroad at all. We do not have money abroad. We do not have any possessions abroad at all. Even in Lebanon, we do not have banks. None of the banks are ours, and we aren't partners in any bank not only for financial reasons but also for religious reasons which you know. We do not have money in banks. Even in Lebanon we do not have investing projects. By the way and between parentheses, this is an opportunity to tell all the people: Hezbollah does not have investing projects in Lebanon or abroad. In Lebanon there are wealthy people from among our brethrens and friends. They are dealers who make projects like other dealers who make projects. So should anyone tell you that this project is for Hezbollah that is absolutely not true. We are outside this issue.

Anyway, when you provoke the other sides against us to take measures against Lebanon that will pressure on the banks in Lebanon, on the economy in Lebanon, on the aids in Lebanon… Who will be harmed then? The state as a state; the people as a people; and the country as a country. As for this party in particular, this Resistance in particular it might be the side to be the least harmed. Consequently, you are not undertaking a democratic political operation and being a constructive Opposition as you claim because the means which you want to use are dishonorable means and illegitimate means. In any place around the world, when a government is formed, it is given a chance. We gave the government of PM Saad Hariri one-year-grace-period. You are not ready to give one week for PM Najeeb Mikati. Give him six months or a year or three months. However, before the government was formed, you started attacking it. There is no problem in that. It is your right to object on the parliament or in the street.

There is no problem in that. It is your natural right to object in the Parliament and wherever you want. I always advise – as we used to advise ourselves and our allies – by the necessity of avoiding sectarian and factional provocation because it is a double-edged sword. Also keep in mind that bargaining on foreign sides will flop as it flopped several times in the past. You have always bargained on foreign sides. You bargained on the US attack on the region. You used to call on it to spread all over the region and to reach Damascus. You also bargained on the Israeli War on the Resistance in 2006 as you bargained and still bargain on international developments. Now what do you talk about in your councils, speeches and internal political circulations as a result of your internal failure? You talk about bargaining on the collapse of the regime in Syria. You live on foreign bargains whether they are positive or negative. Here I am telling you all your bargains will fail as they failed in the past.

The third point under the topic of the government is the ministerial statement. There was not a special problem. Discussing the ministerial statement will not naturally take more than a week or ten days. Usually governmental statements take time; but due to mutual trust between the components of the government and also with PM Najeeb Mikati and due to positive dialogue, I believe there won't be any problem. Inshallah the governmental statement will be made and the government will win the required confidence and all imposed impediments before it will be removed.

There are two more points under the title of the government because among their bargains is waiting for the STL. Also among the points of the government I would like to assert that the priority is working hard as the slogan of the government goes. Thus I call on everyone and on all the components of the government to cooperate, join hands and exert effort to make use of time to serve our country and our people and address the existing causes. There are many things which we can do. We must not be dragged into arguments in which they want to exhaust us day and night. They are very good in arguments. Anyway, that is the first topic. I wrap up the first topic saying praise be to Allah after waiting, we came to have a government in which all sides cooperated so that it be formed. Indeed the qualitative final step which was taken by Speaker Nabih Berri was a much appreciated step on the national level and also on the Shiite level. I believe it gave the absolute chance for forming the government. Consequently, we came to have a government in the country. We will work and cooperate seriously and wholeheartedly with His Excellence the President, the Premier and all the components of the government to have a successful, beneficiary government which serves the people and the nation Inshallah.

I move to the second topic. It goes without saying that the second topic is a bit sensitive. It might also be unfamiliar. Naturally in organizations, parties and even states, such issues are not addressed in the way I will address them. But since we care very much about our authenticity, transparency and starting from our respect to our minds, feelings and emotions and worries of the masses, audience and supporters of the Resistance and all of those who link their aspirations to it in Lebanon, the Arab world, the Islamic world and in any place around the world, we find ourselves obliged to respect these minds, feelings and emotions. As usual we will provide them with the facts and we will not leave them an object of endless rumors that want to harm their will and morals especially before the great amount of rumors, falsehood and detective stories which are woven from time to time pertaining to this story in particular. Thus I will tackle this topic indeed with the appropriate and right extent within which I might talk. However, I will be clear and I believe that I will provide the people with the extent they look forward to know and be acquainted with Inshallah. I would like to remind you that in the past year and in more than one occasion, I said that we are fortified against Israeli penetration and there are no Israeli collaborators among our lines. Before what was written and what was mentioned, there are many who showed up and said in the media if that was not true, why Hezbollah did not deny that, and if that is true what the Sayyed will say, and if that is true, they are not sad, they want to know what the Sayyed will say. You might understand that one way or another. Now you will hear what I will say. I said that we have a very effective and strong anti spying body. When three of our brethrens were accused last year of collaboration, we carried out a very strong and accurate investigation and were sure of the invalidity of this accusation. Thus the cases that I will talk about in a while are not about these three brethrens who were addressed last year. Those are absolutely innocent. They are still in their posts, and we are sure of their innocence. If we had the least doubt, we would have acted in another way. The new case we are before now can be expressed as follows. I will talk about facts first, and then I will comment on these facts. When the Israelis failed to infiltrate the body of Hezbollah - and I still insist on that – they sought for help from the CIA. We are now before cases of collaboration not for Israel as it was spread by media outlets and in councils. Based on the investigations and given, we have three cases which I will talk about now.

Two cases are related to the CIA – recruited by the CIA - and we are still studying the third case whether it is related to CIA or a European intelligence body or the Mossad. When the Israelis failed, they sought the most powerful intelligence body in the world for help to infiltrate the structure of Hezbollah. That's how we must view the issue – regarding those who want to make a security evaluation of the issue or read the event from a security perspective. Months ago and within the responsible follow up of the anti-spying apparatus in Hezbollah; it was revealed that there are two separate cases that are in contact with officers in the US intelligence who work as diplomats in the US Embassy in Awkar. As an outcome of this event, there is a proof in our hand that this embassy is a spying den and that some American diplomats are in fact officers who recruit and infiltrate the Lebanese community and Lebanese political forces. I say that they are two separate cases. So there is not any net and they do not work together. So one case has to do with one officer and another case has to do with another officer. I did not mention yet that these two cases were indeed followed up and we reached a conclusion which I will tackle in a while. I will not mention the names as a show of respect to their honorable and dignified families which I personally know. I will go back to this point in a while. I will only mention the initials to refute rumors concerning other persons because they are talking and writing about many names and this is great oppression to those persons. I will say the initials only to refute doubt of the oppressed against names in this perspective…

A.B. - had been recruited recently. We will return to that while making the security evaluation. Only five months a CIA officer recruited this person. Through the follow up from the anti-spying body, he was detected and he confessed of having links with the CIA through the investigation.

The second case: M.H. was also recruited by the CIA before the first case. He also confessed of his ties with the CIA.

We have a third case - M.A. we were sure of his security ties with a foreign side. He confessed to his security links with a foreign body, but we are still investigating the side he is related to whether the CIA, the intelligence service of a European country or the Mossad.

Based on what was mentioned afore, there are three cases. Indeed these three cases and during investigation they admitted and the evidences against them are decisive. Unfortunately, they failed in the exam.

Based on what was mentioned afore, there are things which must be denied or mentioned. I will mention it as a result of the buzz which was created:

First: The number is three. Should the number have been more than that, we would have the full courage to admit it. Indeed I tell you there is no party in the world which acts as we do. In fact, many people when they discover spies, they say let's spare ourselves this scandal. They address the issue in the way you know. They might kill the spies and make funerals for them as martyrs and hang posters for them as well.

Now because we have our religious, moral, fraternal and jihadi controls, we are responsible towards our members and our families. Thus we act in a different way. So with respect to this issue as in other issues, be confident we have the courage to tell the truth and to confront it even if it was bitter.

So the number is three. It is not more. It is not as some media outlets said: more the fingers of both hands i.e. more than ten. No. Some Arab media outlets unfortunately talk about 100 cases and 100 spies. We are very thankful.

Second: None of the three cases is of the first-rank leadership, contrary to the circulated rumors.

Third: None among them is a cleric contrary to the circulated rumors. Some were confused because there is a cleric arrested in the Intelligence Directorate in the Lebanese Army. Everybody knows he has nothing to do with Hezbollah. He also expresses his enmity to Hezbollah. He used to issue daily statements in which he targets Hezbollah, Iran and Syria.

Fourth: None of the cases belongs to the persons close to the Secretary General whether on the security or on the practical level. Here some people started weaving detective stories on the issue.

Fifth: None of these case has to do with the front or the sensitive military units – such as the rocket unit - about which the US and Israel are seeking to collect information as Hezbollah takes pain to remain silent on them.

Sixth: To reassure the Resistance supporters and our dear brethrens, none of the cases has sensitive data which could harm the structure of the Resistance as a result of the way we deal in with the internal issue or as a result of the responsible posts they occupy. They do not occupy responsible posts which might harm the security and military structure of the Resistance, as well as its confrontation ability in any upcoming war.

Seventh: None of the three accused have anything to do with the assassination of the martyr leader Hajj Imad Moghniyeh. That's because some wrote that in papers. So they have no relation in that.

Eighth: None of the accused has anything to do with the STL. Some people made use of their detective mind and started talking about these three persons saying that now the party announced about them so that in the future the party find a way out in the STL issue.

We are through with the STL issue since a long time. The three cases hadn't been mentioned whether in Der Spiegel or the scandalous means linked to the STL or the Canadian TV or the names circulated by some Lebanese Security bodies or the International Investigation Committee when they summoned some persons for investigation. These names have nothing to do with this case. None of these names were mentioned in this file so that this event has nothing to do with the STL. We are through with the issue of the STL since a long time. We are not concerned with any scenario concerning the STL.

We come to a security evaluation which I will make in a couple of words:

First: It is clear that Israeli impotence still exists what led Israel to seek help from the most powerful intelligence body in the world. That indeed has its reasons. That's because the Israeli security body was subject to tough hits during the past three years on the Lebanese level. They were perplexed and then they had lack in spies and shortage in information. Thus they resorted to the CIA. There is a great difference in that. The CIA officer is fortified and protected as a US diplomat in Lebanon. Who is able to beat him?

Second: The United States is a friendly country. Third, a US diplomat is protected and he is present in the embassy and travels around in diplomatic cars. He goes to restaurants and houses and knocks on doors. So the CIA is a case that differs from the Israeli officer or an Israeli operator. Consequently, they resorted to the CIA which has very great human, technical and security capabilities and sought help from it. The information which the CIA officers demanded from these men are information that do not interest the US administration in as much as they are security military details that concern Israel in any war, confrontation, or military or security conspiracy against the Resistance or the leaderships or cadres of the Resistance in Lebanon.

The second point is that the CIA is in Lebanon to serve the Israeli security bodies and it gathers information for Israel and not for the American administration.

Third: True these CIA officers could recruit persons but what is more important is that the concerned security body in Hezbollah discovered these persons despite all measures and procedures. Since the CIA considers itself a first rank body in recruiting and guarding its spies and in its conduct and performance, it is of great importance that these cases were discovered. Some of these cases were discovered in no time. The date of recruiting is no more and no less than five months. Perhaps it is one of the first times in which the CIA confronts such blow by a party, organization or popular side as we are not talking about a state or governmental or official institutions. Thus in fact, we are before a true security achievement made by the Resistance. This achievement makes us more confident of our ability to confront security violations even if by the most powerful security body in the world.

The security evaluation also sheds light on the spying den in Awkar as it was decisively verified that the US Embassy in Awkar is a spying center and a recruiting center for Israel. Consequently on the national level, the official level and the popular level how must the spying den which carries these mission be dealt with?

There is a last part under this topic which concerns our masses:

First: I call on them to deal with mercy and fraternity with the families of the accused because – as I said – they are honorable families. The father, the mother, the wife, the children, the relatives and the family are guiltless. They are afflicted more than we are. This is a kind of moral loss. I know these families. If one of their children was martyred, they would have been proud of his martyrdom. Indeed according to them this is a true affliction as regarding their mentality, culture and affiliation. Thus they might be dealt with fraternity, mercy and solace.

The second point: I call for avoiding tackling names randomly. People must fear Allah. After all in this world, no one holds anyone accountable; but on Doom's Day, all of us will stand before Allah Almighty and He will ask us: You evoked a rumor against so and so; you accused so and so. We will be held accountable on Doom's Day. Thus precision must be adopted as far as names are concerned especially when the names of sacrificing resistance fighters are tackled.

The third point: I call for not falling in the trap of psychological war through which our enemies aim to harm the morals of the Resistance, the Resistance fighters and the Resistance masses. We must be very careful and precise. We must know that we entered into a new stage. We supposed that we are in a security confrontation with Israel and that the US intelligence searches for another kind of information no more. However to become a direct target for the US intelligence in such a way puts us no doubt before a new stage of security struggle and the struggle of brains. Consequently, this makes it necessary that our cadres, members and masses be cautious, alert, mobilized and not to under estimate making transient relations or relations which might appear innocent for the first glance. That means that this degree of caution which our society and milieu have towards the Israelis might not be available towards screens through which the US intelligence bodies move. We must be aware that the Resistance in Lebanon is targeted by the US intelligence, western intelligence as well as the Arab intelligence as it is targeted by the Israeli intelligence. Guarding this Resistance, maintaining it and fortifying it are our responsibility because the Resistance is our point of strength.

I assert for you with all determination and resolution that we benefited from this confrontation which we stepped out from. I tell you that we stepped out victorious. We were afflicted with wounds but we could overcome these wounds and transcend the risk. We will strengthen our fortification more than anytime in the past. We will frustrate all the US security efforts and any other effort. Our Resistance and yours will remain firm, invulnerable and able to make the looked forward victory in all fields and in face of all challenges and threats.

The third topic: For the fifth consecutive year following July war in 2006, the Israeli enemy carries a drill in the internal front every year. They called it "Turning Point". In fact, it is a turning point in the security dogma, a turning point in the fighting dogma and a turning point in strategies. It's a great turning point and not an ordinary turning point. It's a strategic, historic and structural turning point according to the Zionist entity and the Israeli enemy. These days they were staging a drill called "Turning Point 5" which comprised all the Israeli entity – all of Occupied Palestine. Turning Point 5 comprised residents, cities, towns, settlements, public utilities, ports, airports and sensitive strategic facilities in addition to the army barracks within the entity, leadership bases, logistic bases and fighting bases as well as the leading political institutions such as the cabinet, the Knesset.... This was the broadest among all the previous drills in quality, quantity, space and comprehension. Indeed there is not enough time to give an evaluation for "Turning Point 5" Drill and say where it worked and where it flopped. I will rather tackle briefly some important indications in a very swift manner:

First: I will remind that Turning Point 1,2,3,4 and 5 and all the drills carried by the enemy on the military and security levels and in the internal front are an outcome of Israel's flagrant defeat and the victory of the Resistance in July War in 2006. That's because prior to 2006 and all through the history of the Israeli entity we did not witness at all drills on the internal front with such magnitude. We did not witness this number and quality of Israeli military maneuvers. Thus they are the result of Israel's defeat and Israel's acknowledgment in its defeat in July War.

Second: Among the indications, "Turning Point 5" – if added to all the "Turning Points" in the previous years - is also a decisive Israeli admission that the Home Front has become a part of any future war and here something strategic and primary in the security dogma has changed. Before July War and Gaza War that followed that was not the case. The Israelis always had the theory of making wars on the lands of others. They used to dispatch their troops, air force and army to fight on the lands of others so that their internal front remains guarded and preserved by various and diversified means.

However, today, there is an Israeli admission that in any future war whether against Lebanon or Gaza or Syria or Iran or with all of them or with some of them, the Home Front will be the core of such a battle. This is also a structural and strategic turning point in the Israeli security and fighting dogma. Furthermore, there is an important point. We always say guard this Resistance. This makes the Israelis think a thousand times before taking any war decision. Prior to 2006, the Israelis used always to make war and the outcome of this war used to be that they invade and occupy while their Home Front would be safeguarded. They do not care where millions might go, how they will provide them with shelters, where they will hide them, what to do with the military bases, the army barracks, the airports, the ports, the cabinet, the Knesset, the strategic facilities… That was never among the concern of the enemy when they used to take a decision for a new war. Today the case is different. The Home Front has become an essential part and a primary component for taking such a decision and this forms a state of deterrence.

Third: Israel admitted that its depth with all its human, military, economic and geographic components has become threatened now. That is first, and second it cannot be protected. Rockets will fall. Operations will take place. Confrontations on the land of the enemy might take place. Consequently, they have therefore perceived very well that they lost the ability to militarily protect the Home Font. Thus they are obliged to set a Home Front Ministry. So it's the first time in history of Israel in which it becomes concerned with the internal front and it becomes occupied in setting plans and scenarios to evacuate residences, guard communication in case they were cut, provide alternatives for public utilities, the airport and the port, and how to provide alternative for the seats of the cabinet, Knesset and the Israeli military leadership and how to provide alternatives for the air bases and ports for the air force. So they are taking it for granted that they are not able to guard their Home Front. Thus he is obliged to set plans and scenarios to confront what is called threat of Home Front.

Fourth: Turning Point 5" is another Israeli admission that Israelis have no capability for swift decisiveness, which signals an important strategic modification in the security and fighting dogma of the Israeli Army. A part of the Israeli dogma has always been swift decisiveness. Thus they head to swift and decisive battles. They are battles of days and at most of weeks. Now the Israeli enemy acknowledges that it is not able anymore to settle the battle. Thus when they drill on the Home Front, they talk about measures and scenarios to guard the Home Front in a war that would last for several months. Imagine the state of the Israeli entity and the people of this entity who came to the land of Occupied Palestine promised with milk and honey how would they tolerate a war for several months in which rockets would fall and how would they bear that these rockets fall on every square of Occupied Palestine?

Fifth: These maneuvers and noticeably "Turning Point 5" definitely determined – and this will form a prelude to the Arab situation – which sides Israel consider as a threat for it in the region, the Arab world, the Islamic world and the whole world. Who is Israel's true enemy? There are enemies in newspapers, on the internet and in speeches in which they say they are enemies for Israel. However, Israel does not take them into consideration. It does not even take their existence, armies, rockets, warplanes and enormous and huge military and human capabilities into consideration. They are not taken into consideration at all. There are Arab and Islamic countries and other countries in the world that are not taken into consideration by Israel. When Israel stages a comprehensive drill such as Turning Point 5 on all fronts it is frankly saying – and I am not drawing conclusions; they have said so – that it has four sides which it views as threat: Iran, Syria, and the Resistance in Lebanon and the Resistance in Gaza. They say in Gaza. Unfortunately they are greatly reassured with respect to the West Bank.

When the Israelis who are the enemies of this nation – the enemy of a billion and 400 million Muslims and the enemy of the peoples of all this region whether Muslims or Christians, the usurper of the sanctities of Muslims and Christians act as if this area is not a hostile area and it does not pose a threat – indeed I am talking on the level of the government, armies and regimes and not on the level of peoples – and rather consider that there are four sides which pose a threat and thus they must maneuver and get ready internally and militarily to face this threat, we must pose lengthily on this point. Hereof I will usher into the Arab situation.

The last point is that these maneuvers show that the aim of the enemy is to defend and protect and that depict themselves as if they are threatened and the like. This is only part of the truth. That's because today there are serious forces that are present in the region and there is a serious struggle. There is a serious resistance. There are not mere episodes, scenarios and speeches. There are rather the field, deterrence equations and confrontations in which historic achievements were made. However the point that we must never neglect even for one moment is that Israel always plots to wage wars in the region. Historically, it was Israel who used to start wars. It started most of the wars in fact. Consequently, when the Israelis reach a point in which they want to change equations in the region or to impose conditions on the region, it might wage a war and it must be ready in its Home Front. Thus we must not succumb and look at each other cheerfully saying that the aim of this drill is defensive and Israel is worried and afraid. Well that is true, but also Israel has a project which is having control over the region as it has an aggressive nature. When it gets ready on its Home Front to this extent, we must keep our eyes, ears and minds open, and we must be cautious, mobilized and alert because this is the nature of Israel since this entity was established.

As for the Arab issue, Israel has staged five great drills one every year under the title of "Turning Point". They are enormous military drills that include new military equipment, weapons, new planes, new capabilities… What is our Arab and Islamic world in general doling? Indeed many of the peoples are sympathetic and consolidated. At times they feel that they don't own except this degree of sympathy. However what is taking place at times in our Arab and Islamic world is bad and passive. In our Arab world, there are those who conspire on the Resistance in Gaza. There are governments, regimes and sides which conspire against the Resistance, besiege it financially and politically, distort its image in their Arab media satellite outlets and follow any gap, shame or default to exaggerate it to harm the morals of the Resistance and our people in Gaza instead of viewing Gaza as one of the fortified cities, one of the points of strength in the nation and one of posts of dignity of this nation and thus provide it with help and offer it aid. The same applies to the Resistance movement in Lebanon. What is taking place and what took place on this Resistance is something well known and does not need any details. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent to distort the image of the Resistance. They know that they fall short from harming this Resistance militarily in the internal front and on the regional front. However they try to harm it, distort its image, and touch on its capabilities and its authenticity. Thus we face this great degree of fabrications and rumors which harm its authenticity and for which hundreds of millions of dollars are spent and this is acknowledged by those who spent them personally.

Iran poses to the Israeli enemy a real threat and a source of fear for existence in the Arab and Islamic world. Still some are working day and night to change Iran to a devil and an enemy for the Arabs and Muslims to serve Israel and guard the very existence of Israel and to guard the interests of Israel.

As for Syria, I say what I say and what we say in Hezbollah based on a viewpoint and on a clear conviction. The others have the right to criticize our viewpoint and stance, and it's our right to differ with them or advise them. It's our duty to advise them especially some Islamite friends in the region and in the neighboring countries. There is only one Arab resistant and opposing regime which is the Syrian regime. It's the only regime. Perhaps it is the only resistant and opposing regime in the Arab world. There are Arab regimes which have a good political position however first they are far and second they are afflicted with the conspiracies of division and international pressure and the like. However, in the region there is only one resistant and opposing regime since the very beginning and until this very first day. This regime and through its alliance with the Islamic Republic and the resistance movements in the region (Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq) and through its harmony with the nature of the peoples of this nation could within this axis flop the latest US-Israeli project which was aiming at and is still aiming at liquidating the Palestinian cause and absolutely dominating our countries, capabilities and the wealth of our peoples and nation.

This is the truth. Then the head of this regime – President Assad – comes to say I am ready to make reform, to introduce reform steps, to set a mechanism for these reform steps such as a law for parties, a law for the media and the like and to issue two amnesties even on people who held arms and committed crimes except one kind of crimes.

For example, in Bahrain people stepped out in a peaceful demonstration. They were killed and wounded. Hundreds of martyrs fell as martyrs and wounded. Hundreds were arrested though they did not hold a rifle or a gun or a hand grenade. They did not make a front or occupied cities or villages. They did not even use a knife. Still they are being dragged to prisons. The leaders of the peaceful political Opposition are being tried. The government makes a call for dialogue and on the following day it issues life-jail sentences. This is great oppression. In Syria, the president is issuing a general amnesty and is calling for dialogue. He has started serious steps for reform. Still that is not accepted from him. Here I am telling you: No matter what would President Assad do and no matter what would the brethrens in Syria do, that will not be accepted from them internationally or even on the level of some Arab stances or so called Syrian Opposition. Some sides in the Syrian Opposition might accept; but other sides might not accept no matter what those steps which will be taken in Syria might be. Thus before these new steps, the latest speech by President Assad, the latest popular movements in Syria and as a comment on the latest criticism which has afflicted us from some sides concerning Hezbollah's stance from the Syrian issue, we say that this is our stance. Yes we start from a very clear strategic, national viewpoint. We see that this connivance or seeking to topple this resisting opposing regime in Syria which is ready for reform constitutes a great service to Israel, a great service to America and a great service for the US-Israel project to dominate over the region. That is to be very clear. When we believe in a point we announce it and declare it with utmost boldness and bravery. Thus I renew my call to the noble, faithful, truthful, resisting, opposing, national patriotic Syrian people to read what is taking place in the region and take into consideration the magnitude of the target against Syria as a homeland, as a national post, as a people, as a regime, as an army and as a leadership and to act accordingly.

As for Bahrain and the oppression afflicting Bahrain, I say that we unfortunately see an impasse because the authority in Bahrain is responding to calls for dialogue with exclusion, life sentences and incessant daily killing of those who are peacefully demonstrating and those who haven't resorted to violence under international silence. However and anyway, things can't carry on as such forever. Any people, any leadership, any side or any regime when being faithful and believe in what they are doing and industriously carry on in their peaceful or reform movement, the consequences will not be but good Inshallah.

I liked to tackle these points to say where we are today in Lebanon, where we are now in the region especially regarding Turning Point 5. I call on the political, security, military and strategic experts to read and evaluate these drills and to discuss and interpret their indications in various occasions.

As for the government, Inshallah we will work seriously so that it be a beneficiary, productive and harmonious government.

As for security fortification, I tell you do not to be worried. Things are not as serious as rumors say. This is the party of the sacrificing, fighting and pious Resistance which has offered you victories so far, and Inshallah it will not offer but more victories to you, to its nation and to its people.

Peace be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Terrorist Camp in Iraq to Close

Iran, Iraq to Shut Down Camp Ashraf

By Siavosh Ghazi
Agence France Presse
25 June 2011

TEHRAN — Iran and Iraq have formed a joint committee with the Red Cross to shut down Camp Ashraf in Iraq which houses thousands of outlawed Iranian opponents, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said on Saturday.

"The camp will be shut down by the end of this year," Talabani said on the sidelines of a counter-terrorism summit in Tehran, the official IRNA news agency reported.

"For this, a tripartite committee has been set up by Iraq, Iran and the International Red Cross to make decisions and follow up on necessary measures to shut down the camp of this terrorist group," IRNA quoted him as saying.

The People's Mujahedeen established Camp Ashraf in the 1980s—when now-executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime was at war with Iran—as a base from which to launch military action against the Islamic republic.

Camp Ashraf is now home to around 3,400 people.

The People's Mujahedeen, which describes itself as both left-wing and Islamic, opposed the shah of Iran and now seeks to oust the clerical regime that took power in Tehran in the 1979 revolution.

Iranian intelligence minister Heydar Moslehi said the Mujahedeen was on the verge of "collapse," and added that his agencies were taking "measures" to speed up the process, the Mehr news agency reported.

"On this issue, (the intelligence apparatus) have had discussions with officials in Iraq to resolve the future of the camp Ashraf as soon as possible," Moslehi said, also speaking on the sidelines of the summit.

But he also extended an olive branch to Mujahedeen members who part ways with the group.

"Islamic leniency awaits those members of this terrorist group who leave it or escape Camp Ashraf and return to the arms of the Islamic republic of Iran's regime," Moslehi said.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari had proposed during a Tuesday visit to Tehran the formation of a tripartite committee to "resolve the issues of Camp Ashraf."

"We have asked international organisations and European parliaments to encourage the (group's) members to leave Iraq, and to facilitate (the movement of) those members who seek to go to those countries," Zebari said.

The announcement was met with a "vigorous" condemnation by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the broad grouping that includes the People's Mujahedeen.

The NCRI said allowing Iran to "interfere in the issue of Ashraf is a red line that should not be crossed," and urged the International Committee of the Red Cross "not to lose credibility by participating in this plan of repression."

"The UN and the US government must take responsibility to protect the unarmed and defenceless people at Ashraf, and they will be held responsible for any attack that will target them," the NCRI warned in a statement.

Camp Ashraf has become a mounting problem for the Iraqi authorities since US forces transferred security for the camp in January 2009, and amid pressure from Tehran to hand over the members of the militant group.

On April 8, Iraqi security forces carried out a deadly raid on the camp, killing 34 members of the group.

Defections in Libya Belie Stalemate

Libyan Football Stars Defect to the Mountains Join anti-Gaddafi Rebels

Four members of Libya's national football team and 13 other leading figures in the sport have defected to the rebels.

By Nick Meo in Tripoli
The Telegraph
25 June 2011

For 40 years Libya’s footballers have been the pride of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s repressive regime, hailed as heroes of the nation for every victory against a foreign team.

From the moment Libya first qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations in 1982, surprising the continent by making it to the final before losing a penalty shoot-out, to its recent Fifa listing as 58th in the world, its highest ever ranking, every triumph on the pitch has been celebrated across the country.

So enthusiastic was the Libyan leader about the prowess of his country’s players that he installed his son, Saadi, as president of the Libyan Football Federation after a spell as captain of the national football team.

So there must have been cold fury at the top of Gaddafi government on Saturday when 17 footballing figures, including four who said they were members of the national team, turned up unexpectedly in a rebel-held town and declared themselves opponents of the regime.

“I am telling Colonel Gaddafi to leave us alone and allow us to create a free Libya,” said Juma Gtat, 33, who has played as goalkeeper in the national team. “In fact I wish he would leave this life altogether.”

He was speaking in Jadu in Libya’s western mountains, 50 miles south of Tripoli, where rebels have seized a swathe of territory that stretches to the Tunisian border after driving Gaddafi’s forces back towards the capital.

Adding insult to injury he was flanked by Adel bin Issa, the coach of Tripoli’s top club al-Ahly where Saadi Gaddafi used to play, who said he had come to the town “to send a message that Libya should be unified and free”, adding: “I hope to wake up one morning to find that Gaddafi is no longer there.”

Others were afraid to be named, in case of reprisals against their families.

A Libyan official in Tripoli poured cold water on the claims, saying: “This is not true. It is just a goalkeeper who has appeared for al-Ahly and a coach, who is from Bayda and has been with the revolution from the beginning. No players from the national team have defected.”

But The Sunday Telegraph has confirmed that, although not listed on the most recent national squad, Mr Gtat has played for Libya on several occasions and was celebrated as the saviour of the team after saving a penalty shot by Tunisia during a qualifying match for the 2009 African Championship of Nations.

Gaddafi had “done nothing for Libya since he took over; there’s no proper infrastructure, no good education, no health care,” he told the BBC.

“The young people are not well educated. This is because of the last 42 years.”

The western mountains are now almost wholly in the hands of lightly-armed ethnic Berber rebels who have driven out government forces and fought off counter-attacks.

They lack the weaponry to march on Tripoli — less than an hour’s drive from their positions — but claim to have cut one of the regime’s last oil pipelines and say they are assisting guerrilla fighters in the capital. Rebels claim to be launching more night-time attacks against Gaddafi’s security forces in preparation for a new uprising.

The rebels’ mountain enclave also makes defections much easier.

Saddoun al Misrati, of Misurata council, said: “Just like in England, footballers here are big celebrities. For these men to willingly make the move shows how bad the situation must be in Tripoli, about how much they want to bring change.”

Gaddafi’s son Saadi played one game for the Italian club Perugia before he was suspended for failing a drugs test. He also signed with a Maltese club, but never showed up to play, and was for a while president of the Libyan Football Federation.

Fans in Benghazi once dressed a donkey in the kit of al-Ahly to mock Saadi, a notoriously poor player, provoking a vicious crackdown. Fans believe it was Saadi who ordered their stadium bulldozed and dozens of supporters jailed.

In February he directed the brutal security crackdown in Benghazi at the beginning of the uprising, where he was accused of ordering soldiers to shoot unarmed protesters.

The defection of players from his club comes as 100 days of Nato bombing are reached today. Muammar Gaddafi looked doomed four months ago when the uprising broke out; yet he has survived the initial shock of rebellion, and then the worst that the world’s strongest military alliance could throw at him.

“It has been a glorious victory just to withstand for so long,” Gaddafi declared on state television last week, as a loop of pictures showed burning buildings, gigantic explosions, and dead and wounded children and civilians in Libya’s hospitals.

His voice quivered with emotion as the camera lingered on the dead face of the four-year-old grandchild of one of his oldest comrades. Khoweildi al-Hamidi was a fellow army officer who helped Gaddafi launch his revolution in 1969, then served him loyally for years before taking command of the brutal operation to crush rebels in the town of Zawiyah in February.

Eight Nato bombs released from aircraft three miles high in the sky smashed precisely into Hamidi’s luxurious home 40 miles west of Tripoli, turning it into a field of rubble in which servants and family members were buried as they slept. Miraculously, the man who Nato said used his home as a command and control centre escaped without a scratch.

The attack seemed to mark a new willingness by Nato to target key regime figures, even if that meant a risk of some civilian casualties.

Fifteen more civilians died yesterday when an airstrike hit a bakery and restaurant in the frontline oil town of Brega in eastern Libya, the government claimed — the third reported loss of civilian lives in an airstrike in the past week.

Pictures of civilian casualties have handed a potent propaganda weapon to the hardliners and old revolutionaries who now run things.

“The people still around him have genuine loyalty, and there is an element of wanting to avoid punishment for the crimes they have committed,” said Oliver Miles, a former British ambassador to Libya.

“Muammar Gaddafi himself is very tough and can take a lot of punishment.”

What has heartened the remaining members of the regime is the sense that there are growing fractures within Nato. The US and Italy look less than fully committed and in Britain, military chiefs have publicly expressed doubts about their ability to sustain the fight.

It would threaten the RAF’s ability to carry out future missions if Britain’s intervention in Libya continued beyond the summer, Air Chief Marshal Sir Simon Bryant, the head of combat operations, said last week.

Gaddafi loyalists are clinging to the hope that, if they can only hold on in the current stalemate for a few more weeks, Nato will lose heart - or interest - and some kind of negotiated deal will become possible.

“They are fighting for time now, not land or victory,” said Noman Benotman, a Libyan analyst based in London.

“Their strategy is either to reach a political settlement which includes leaving the Gaddafi family in power, or to split the country.”

The loyalist line in Tripoli, repeatedly endlessly, is that Gaddafi will never go.

“If you think Muammar Gaddafi will step down, you don’t know Muammar Gaddafi,” said Abdul Najid al-Dorsi, a former foreign ministry official, over a cup of mint tea in the seven-star Rixos Hotel, which is now home to foreign journalists, government minders, and gentlemen who sit in chairs in the foyer all day pretending to read newspapers but staring intently at every new arrival.

According to this theory Gaddafi is an Arab hero and a leader who would never let down his tribal supporters by backing away from a fight with foreigners.

Libyan officials, who raise the spectre of civil war if he goes, point out that already 400 of the Warfala tribe have died fighting for Gaddafi, as have 200 of the much smaller Gaddafa tribe to which he himself belongs - making it impossible for him to step down now without betraying the memory of these martyrs.

It is partly for that reason that the rebels mistrust the feelers put out to them by the regime in recent days.

Last week Bashir Hamed, Gaddafi’s personal secretary and adviser for 35 years, quietly travelled to Paris to deliver a message to the French government that the regime was ready to talk about Gaddafi stepping down.

Yet when pressed Mr Hamed could not say when Gaddafi would actually go - making it look like another attempt at stalling by the Libyan leader.

Some in both Benghazi and Tripoli whisper quietly that perhaps Gaddafi might accept internal exile, perhaps in the remote south of the country deep in the Sahara where his greatest popular support lies.

Such an outcome could remove him from political life but leave him beyond the reach of the International Criminal Court, where he would face trial for war crimes if he tried to flee Libya.

The regime’s battle for survival is now based around his sons and a few trusted old comrades like Hamidi, the lieutenant who was targeted in last week’s airstrike. Nearly all the modernisers and reformists have defected from the regime, or are lying low.

As well as the footballer Saadi, three of Gaddafi’s sons have taken prominent battlefield roles fighting against rebels. Moatessem, an army officer, has been reported in the loyalist city Sirte directing operations.

Hannibal, a playboy formerly best known from his troubles with police in various European capitals, has also taken a combat role, but the most prominent of the warrior sons has been Khamis, formerly the obscure youngest son. He is in command of the crack 32 Brigade, one of Gaddafi’s most effective forces, around Misurata and elsewhere in the east.

As Khamis’s star has risen during the course of the crisis, Saif-al Islam’s has waned.

Saif was the English-educated reformist who had been positioned as his father’s likely successor.

His interventions early in the crisis, threatening brutal treatment to rebels, were disastrous miscalculations which ruined his carefully-crafted nice guy image. The regime has however tried again to portray him as the peacemaker; a fortnight ago he surfaced to make an unconvincing offer to hold elections, an offer which was contemptuously rejected by the rebels.

“Saif is finished,” said one regime supporter last week in Tripoli. “He got us into this mess by trying to reform too quickly.” Many of the rebel leaders in Benghazi are former protégés of Saif.

A sixth son, Saif al-Arab, was killed in a bombing attack in May along with three of Gaddafi’s grandchildren, the regime says.

Gaddafi’s pregnant daughter Ayesha was reported to have fled to Tunisia early in the bombing campaign with her husband, a soldier who had been injured, accompanied by her mother Safiya, Gaddafi’s second wife.

But there have been no sightings of them for weeks and so they are believed to have returned home.

The flow of high-level defectors, including men like the former foreign secretary Moussa Kusa, has slowed to a trickle.

Remaining officials, the hard-core of loyalists, remain convinced that somehow they are going to stay in power. They even have an answer for their biggest problem — Nato’s insistence that Gaddafi must step down.

“Gaddafi could accept elections,” one said. “Elections would be regime change, after all. That’s Nato’s exit strategy.”

Additional reporting Ruth Sherlock in Misurata.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Another Friday of Protests in Syria

Eight Killed as Syrians Dismiss President Assad's Belated Reform Offers

Teargas and live bullets fired at demonstrators leaving prayers in Damascus, with more protests in Homs and Aleppo.

By Nidaa Hassan in Damascus and Ian Black, Middle East editor
The Guardian
Friday 24 June 2011

At least eight people were killed as Damascus its biggest day of anti-regime protests when Syrians turned out en masse to dismiss reforms offered by President Bashar al-Assad as too little and too late.

Teargas and live bullets were fired at demonstrators leaving Friday prayers in several areas of the capital and elsewhere, but Syrian state TV blamed unidentified gunmen for some deaths.

Activists reported a total of 12 people killed, including three civilians and a policeman in Barzeh, in north Damascus, and four in the south.

There were also protests in the central city of Homs and, more unusually, in Aleppo, Syria's second city, which has been largely peaceful so far.

State media also reported a large shipment of weapons had been seized in Latakia, allegedly destined for "armed groups" in northern Syria.

The government announced it was calling off its military operation in the villages around Jisr al-Shughour and the Turkish border – possibly in response to mounting pressure from Ankara.

Turkey's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said he had conveyed Turkey's "concerns and thoughts" about the operation to his Syrian counterpart. The US and Britain had both warned of the risk of escalation if Syria did not halt its deployment.

The scale and geographical spread of the latest protests – dubbed "the Friday of the end of legitimacy" – appeared to underline Assad's failure to dampen opposition fervour. In an address on Monday he spoke of dialogue and reform, but democracy activists dismissed his offers as cosmetic or insufficient.

Opposition leaders in Damascus were reported to be planning a public meeting next week to discuss future strategy.

It was the 15th Friday on which Syrians have taken to the streets, and many are looking for the trigger for what they see as the inevitable downfall of the regime — either the economy collapsing or heavier outside pressure led by Turkey. Opposition figures and independent analysts see Ramadan – which starts on 1 August – as the deadline, as daily mosque attendance will make mass protests more likely.

In a belated attempt to regain the initiative and win some credibility, the regime has allowed a number of foreign journalists to enter Damascus, although they are escorted by official minders and unable to move freely. The government says 500 members of the security forces have died since protests erupted in mid-March. Activists say more than 1,400 civilians have been killed and about 10,000 detained.

Nidaa Hassan is the pseudonym of a journalist in Damascus.

Alice Walker: Why Go to Gaza?

Why I'm joining the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza

Pulitzer prize-winning American writer Alice Walker is on board an international flotilla of boats sailing to Gaza to challenge the Israeli blockade. Here she tells why.

By Alice Walker
The Guardian
Saturday 25 June 2011

Why am I going on the Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza? I ask myself this, even though the answer is: what else would I do? I am in my 67th year, having lived already a long and fruitful life, one with which I am content. It seems to me that during this period of eldering it is good to reap the harvest of one's understanding of what is important, and to share this, especially with the young. How are they to learn, otherwise?

Our boat, The Audacity of Hope, will be carrying letters to the people of Gaza. Letters expressing solidarity and love. That is all its cargo will consist of. If the Israeli military attacks us, it will be as if they attacked the mailman. This should go down hilariously in the annals of history. But if they insist on attacking us, wounding us, even murdering us, as they did some of the activists in the last flotilla, Freedom Flotilla I, what is to be done?

There is a scene in the movie Gandhi that is very moving to me: it is when the unarmed Indian protesters line up to confront the armed forces of the British Empire. The soldiers beat them unmercifully, but the Indians, their broken and dead lifted tenderly out of the fray, keep coming.

Alongside this image of brave followers of Gandhi there is, for me, an awareness of paying off a debt to the Jewish civil rights activists who faced death to come to the side of black people in the American south in our time of need. I am especially indebted to Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman who heard our calls for help – our government then as now glacially slow in providing protection to non-violent protesters – and came to stand with us.

They got as far as the truncheons and bullets of a few "good ol' boys'" of Neshoba County, Mississippi and were beaten and shot to death along with James Chaney, a young black man of formidable courage who died with them. So, even though our boat will be called The Audacity of Hope, it will fly the Goodman, Chaney, Schwerner flag in my own heart.

And what of the children of Palestine, who were ignored in our president's latest speech on Israel and Palestine, and whose impoverished, terrorised, segregated existence was mocked by the standing ovations recently given in the US Congress to the prime minister of Israel?

I see children, all children, as humanity's most precious resource, because it will be to them that the care of the planet will always be left. One child must never be set above another, even in casual conversation, not to mention in speeches that circle the globe.

As adults, we must affirm, constantly, that the Arab child, the Muslim child, the Palestinian child, the African child, the Jewish child, the Christian child, the American child, the Chinese child, the Israeli child, the Native American child, etc, is equal to all others on the planet. We must do everything in our power to cease the behaviour that makes children everywhere feel afraid.

I once asked my best friend and husband during the era of segregation, who was as staunch a defender of black people's human rights as anyone I'd ever met: how did you find your way to us, to black people, who so needed you? What force shaped your response to the great injustice facing people of colour of that time?

I thought he might say it was the speeches, the marches, the example of Martin Luther King Jr, or of others in the movement who exhibited impactful courage and grace. But no. Thinking back, he recounted an episode from his childhood that had led him, inevitably, to our struggle.

He was a little boy on his way home from yeshiva, the Jewish school he attended after regular school let out. His mother, a bookkeeper, was still at work; he was alone. He was frequently harassed by older boys from regular school, and one day two of these boys snatched his yarmulke (skull cap), and, taunting him, ran off with it, eventually throwing it over a fence.

Two black boys appeared, saw his tears, assessed the situation, and took off after the boys who had taken his yarmulke. Chasing the boys down and catching them, they made them climb the fence, retrieve and dust off the yarmulke, and place it respectfully back on his head.

It is justice and respect that I want the world to dust off and put – without delay, and with tenderness – back on the head of the Palestinian child. It will be imperfect justice and respect because the injustice and disrespect have been so severe. But I believe we are right to try.

That is why I sail.

The Chicken Chronicles: A Memoir by Alice Walker is published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson. A longer version of this article appears on Alice Walker's blog: