Bulletin N° 253


10 August 2006
Grenoble, France

Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,

Professor Bertell Ollman's remarkably accessible analysis of the method of dialectical materialism which is presented in his most recent book, Dance of the Dialectic, Steps in Marx's Method, represents a lucid account of a method free from ideological constraints. Outlining seven levels of generality into which Marx subdivided the world, Ollman proceeds to demonstrate how bourgeois ideology restricts its selective observations to only two or three of these levels. The seven  plains of comprehension in Marx's epistemology, are seven different foci used to abstract different aspects of reality. They include, starting from the most specific, : 1) whatever is unique about a person or situation, 2) activities and functions within modern capitalist society (over the past 20 to 50 years); 3) people and events in the capitalist era (over the past 400 or 500 years). Then, still moving from the specific to the general, he abstracts at four additional levels: 4) human history at the level of class society (over the past 5-to-10,000 years ); 5) homo sapiens in all of history (over the past 300,000 years). The last two levels of abstraction include: 6) the animal world (that which all animal species share); and, at the most general level, 7) the material world (with all the characteristics common to mater, such as weight, extension, color, etc....).

These seven levels of abstraction, according to Professor Ollman, require a the selection of a vantage point from which to examine phenomena, and Marx also abstracted extensions in time and space to grasp the direction and pace of the developments he was looking at. This scientific commitment to obtaining as complete an understanding as possible is contrasted with ideological pursuits. The bourgeois press, for example, can be relied upon to represent usually a fairly accurate account at two levels of abstraction, but they leave out of focus other important aspects of what they are trying to describe. At level 1, the unique individual is often celebrated as the object of understanding, but with a minimum of social context. This impoverished view of the individual is supplemented with abstractions taken from level 5, "the human condition," which abstracts universal aspects that we all share in common. The lack of information is supplemented very often by a dogmatic insistence, which is intended to secure general acceptance in place of a common understanding.

"Science for the people" was a call for democracy in the 1960s, when it was believed that we could all become strategists, planning our lives according to our individual and collective needs. By demystifying this scientific method, Dr. Ollman has rendered a service to those people who wish to see the world as so much raw material from which to fashion a life worth living, and not simply follow a line of propaganda, the origins and destinies of which are necessarily obscured, due to the limited access to abstractions.

We start this approach by recognizing the existence of a "reality that makes science possible", an ontology which includes structure, differentiation, and change. By starting with these observable qualities in everyday life, Ollman suggests, we can abstract meanings and understandings which are essential for developing our own strategies, and consequently freeing ourselves from the dominant ideology for which we are often no more that a means to an end.

The 6 items below provide information that should help readers understand the dynamic changes which are occurring today, and enable them to better locate themselves in this historic context.

Item A. is the list of rules sent by Edward Herman (in English and French) for those "in-bedded" journalists wishing to cover the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Item B. is an effort by art critic John Berger and other intellectuals to set the record straight on the origins of Israel's attact on the Lebanese people.

Item C. is a copy of notes from the Siege in Lebanon., forwarded to us by Dr. Cahterine Shamas.

Item D. is a theory explaining Israel's new aggression, by Professor John Gerassi of Queens College, New York City.

Item E. is a report on the corporate takeover of American universities, from Michael Albert at ZNet in Boston.

Item F. is an interview with Noam Chomsky in which he warns of the danger of Israeli nuclear weapons.

Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Université Stendhal-Grenoble 3

from Edward Herman :
Subject: The rules of covering the Israeli-Arab conflict
Date: Thu, 3 Aug 2006

Could be the instruction list on the basis of which the US media work.


English version

The rules of covering the Israeli-Arab conflict :

 Rule # 1: In the Middle East, it is always the Arabs that attack first, and it's always Israel who defends itself. This is called "retaliation".
Rule # 2: The Arabs, whether Palestinians or Lebanese, are not allowed to kill Israelis. This is called "terrorism"
Rule # 3: Israel has the right to kill Arab civilians; this is called "self-defense", or these days "collateral damage".
Rule # 4: When Israel kills too many civilians. The Western world calls for restraint. This is called the "reaction of the international community".

Rule # 5: Palestinians and Lebanese do not have the right to capture Israeli military, not even a limited number, not even 1 or 2.
Rule # 6: Israel has the right to capture as many Palestinians as they want (Palestinians: around 10000 to date, 300 of which are children,
Lebanese: 1000s to date, being held without trial). There is no limit; there is no need for proof of guilt or trial. All that is needed is the magic
word: "terrorism" .
Rule # 7: When you say "Hezbollah", always be sure to add "supported by Syria and Iran".
Rule # 8: When you say "Israel", never say "supported by the USA, the UK and other European countries", for people (God forbid) might believe this is not an equal conflict.      

Rule # 9: When it comes to Israel, don't mention the words "occupied territories", "UN resolutions", "Geneva conventions". This could distress
the audience of Fox.
Rule # 10: Israelis speak better English than Arabs. This is why we let them speak out as much as possible, so that they can explain rules 1 through 9. This is called "neutral journalism".
Rule # 11: If you don't agree with these rules or if you favor the Arab side over the Israeli side, you must be a very dangerous anti-Semite. You
may even have to make a public apology if you express your honest opinion (isn't democracy wonderful?)


version française

Voici, en exclusivité, ces règles que tout le monde doit avoir à l'esprit lorsqu'il regarde le JT (journal télévisé) le soir, ou quand il lit son journal le matin. Tout deviendra simple.

Règle numéro 1: Au Proche Orient, ce sont toujours les arabes qui attaquent les premiers et c'est toujours Israël qui se défend. Cela s'appelle des représailles.

Règle numéro 2: Les arabes, Palestiniens ou Libanais n'ont pas le droit de tuer des civils de l'autre camp. Cela s'appelle du terrorisme.

Règle numéro 3: Israël a le droit de tuer les civils arabes. Cela s'appelle de la légitime défense.

Règle numéro 4: Quand Israël tue trop de civils, les puissances occidentales l'appellent à la retenue. Cela s'appelle la réaction de la communauté internationale.

Règle numéro 5: Les Palestiniens et les libanais n'ont pas le droit de capturer des militaires israéliens, même si leur nombre est très limité et ne dépasse pas trois soldats.

Règle numéro 6: Les israéliens ont le droit d'enlever autant de palestiniens qu'ils le souhaitent (environ 10,000 prisonniers à ce jour dont près de 300 enfants). Il n'y a aucune limite et n'ont besoin d'apporter aucune preuve de la culpabilité des personnes enlevées. Il suffit juste de dire le mot magique "terroriste".

Règle numéro 7: Quand vous dites "Hezbollah", il faut toujours rajouter l’expression «soutenu par la Syrie et l'Iran».

Règle numéro 8: Quand vous dites "Israël", Il ne faut surtout pas rajouter après: «soutenu par les Etats-Unis, France et l'Europe», car on pourrait croire qu'il s'agit d'un conflit déséquilibré.

Règle numéro 9 : Ne jamais parler de "Territoires occupés ", ni de résolutions de l'ONU, ni de violations du droit international, ni des conventions de Genève. Cela risque de perturber le téléspectateur et l'auditeur de France Info.

Règle numéro 10 : Les israéliens parlent mieux le français que les arabes. C'est ce qui explique qu'on leur donne, ainsi qu'à leurs partisans, aussi souvent que possible la parole. Ainsi, ils peuvent nous expliquer les règles précédentes (de 1 à 9). Cela s'appelle de la neutralité journalistique.

Règle numéro 11 : Si vous n'êtes pas d'accord avec ses règles ou si vous trouvez qu'elles favorisent une partie dans le conflit contre une autre, c'est que vous êtes un dangereux antisémite.

Soyez  humain et soutenez les libanais  !!!!!!        

from Elisabeth Chamorand :
28 July 2006

A Letter From Chomsky and Others on the Recent Events in the Middle East

Wednesday 19 July 2006

    The latest chapter of the conflict between Israel and Palestine began when Israeli forces abducted two civilians, a doctor and his brother, from Gaza. An incident scarcely reported anywhere, except in the Turkish press. The following day the Palestinians took an Israeli soldier prisoner - and proposed a negotiated exchange against prisoners taken by the Israelis - there are approximately 10,000 in Israeli jails.

    That this "kidnapping" was considered an outrage, whereas the illegal military occupation of the West Bank and the systematic appropriation of its natural resources - most particularly that of water - by the Israeli Defence (!) Forces is considered a regrettable but realistic fact of life, is typical of the double standards repeatedly employed by the West in face of what has befallen the Palestinians, on the land alloted to them by international agreements, during the last seventy years.

    Today outrage follows outrage; makeshift missiles cross sophisticated ones. The latter usually find their target situated where the disinherited and crowded poor live, waiting for what was once called Justice. Both categories of missile rip bodies apart horribly - who but field commanders can forget this for a moment?

    Each provocation and counter-provocation is contested and preached over. But the subsequent arguments, accusations and vows, all serve as a distraction in order to divert world attention from a long-term military, economic and geographic practice whose political aim is nothing less than the liquidation of the Palestinian nation.

    This has to be said loud and clear for the practice, only half declared and often covert, is advancing fast these days, and, in our opinion, it must be unceasingly and eternally recognised for what it is and resisted.

    Tariq Ali
    John Berger
    Noam Chomsky
    Eduardo Galeano
    Naomi Klein
    Harold Pinter
    Arundhati Roy
    Jose Saramago
    Giuliana Sgrena
    Howard Zinn


from Catherine Shamas :
6 August 2006
Subject: Notes from the Siege -13 (Saida)

The Bougainvilliers Are in Full, Glorious Bloom
 This siege note is dedicated to Akram. Akram is from Saida (in English it should be Sidon, but I don't have the patience to accomodate the white man
or his burden in this siege note, won't you humor me?). Akram was my first friend from Saida. I had visited Saida before I met him, but it became a
whole other story after I went there with him, and after I became familiar with his work. Akram is also one of the constitutional elements of my life
in Beirut. Our friendship is peculiar because it has carved a world specific to it, a language of its own, replete with metaphors, a stock of memories,
and piles and piles of images and stories. I like to think of it as a space, a retreat, like a small interior garden where a deeply anchored quietude

Since I have been back here, Akram has been stuck outside the country. Until this war, I had grown used to missing him, but from the moment the airport
was shelled and the siege began, missing him has become a whole other story. I miss the "retreat", the quietude of our friendship. Conversations that
expand over hours not because much is spoken, rather because whatever is, takes all the time it needs to be said. The sentences I have not been able
to finish since this war began would have fallen right into place in our friendship/retreat.

If you can still remember the first days of this war, Israel's strategy was first and foremost to dismember this country. The network of roads and
bridges in the south was practically all destroyed. Communication between the south's three main areas (or sections) was rendered very impracticable,
but the roads linking the south to the capital Beirut were entirely severed. Saida and Beirut were usually a 20 to 30 minute drive apart, linked by a
highway along the coast. Now the safe passage to Saida goes through the mountains that oversee that coast line. It's a 3 hour and the half long
drive. Since the war began, people in the south have been forced out of their homes, home by home, hunted down by F-16 planes, car by car, family by
family, to each a shell, sometimes two. As such Saida has transformed into a hub for southerners fleeing death and devastation.

If Akram's absence has been palpable, he certainly has been present in how I magined he would have witnessed the transformation of Beirut and, surely,
Saida. Everytime I took note of the small, discreet changes that have taken place in Beirut, in my mind, I have reported them to Akram. I was lonesome
for sharing our shared obsession for archiving the mundane, for compiling empirical and anthropological notes of the quotidian around us.
I admit that a few days ago, in a fit of selfishness, I wrote to him and suggested he should come back. (I am everyday more and more aware of how
fragile I become under siege.) My arguments were pompous, they did not mask well my purely selfish longing for him.

Throughout the war, shelling , siege, grief and sorrow, the bougainvilliers have been in full, glorious bloom. Their colors are dizzying in their
intensity: purplish red, boastfull fuschia, glaring white, and sometimes canari yellow. Most of the time, their bloom, which is the objective outcome
of "natural" factors, namely, access to water, sun, heat, and even perhaps wind, has irritated me. Everything has changed in this time of war, except
the full glorious bloom of the bougainvilliers. Other flowering trees have wilted, or shyed, as their franchised gardners or patrons no longer operate
on the same schedule or have evacuated on the ships of the bi-nationals. On the road to Saida, I was struck, irked and even upset at the bougainvilliers
full bloom. From between their abundant leaves and flowers, vignettes of the ravages appeared. Bridges torn in their midst framed by the purple and
fuschia bloom of the bougainvilliers.

The Road to Saida: Trekking the Coast Maher went to Saida and came back and told me I ought to go. I thought I would go to find Akram, the world where a lot of things that are very
meaningful to Akram dwell. I wrote to him and confessed I was planning to visit Saida because I missed him so much. I described it, in my cruel
selfishness, as an "act of love". Instead of sending me instructions as to guide my act of love, he gave me a phone number for Ziad, a photographer,
video artist and filmmaker. Ziad too is from Saida. He now lives in Paris where he is pursuing some sort of a degree, but is very much the son of
Saida's privilges and the son of Saida's streets. Ziad happened to be in Saida on a visit when the war broke out.

Israel had given us two days, forty eight hours of no airstrikes on the south to allow inhabitants in the "zones of combat" to flee from sure death
(as per Qana). Yesterday was the second half of these 24 hours. I thought it would be the least unsafe opportunity. And after making a set of phone
calls, I set forth on my journey. Maher wanted Ziad to film my trek through the city for his website.

It was difficult to hitch a ride and I ended up calling Ahmad, a very enterprising young man whom I had met when I hung around journalists, a week
or so ago (time unravels at a different pace now). He found a 4-wheel drive and a driver, and decided to accompany me. There are two routes to Saida. A
coastal road (the old and straightforward route) is deemed dangerous because it is unprotected from the ire of Israeli warships lounging in our seas.
There is another route, long and circuitous that drives up through the mountain overlooking the coastal road and then back down to Saida. I climbed
into the 4-wheel drive and Ahmad announced he preferred us to take the coastal road, but that the passage near Damour had just been shelled. I
asked to stop at a shop for us to buy water. The driver stopped at one of the main intersections a few blocks from the apartment. When I climbed back, the driver was gone. Ahmad sat in his place.
He said the guy got scared and decided to go and see about getting a new passport but let us use his car. Ahmad smiled to comfort me. I decided I was
not going to worry about that glitch, that the driver's fright was merely a glitch.

As we drove out of Beirut, the road was increasingly empty, there were a few trucks carrying boxes of supplies labelled "Medecins sans Frontieres" and
"Hammoud Hospital". The last available bit of Hariri's proud highway from Beirut to the south was the tunnel. I noted the graffitti: "W R = Love forever" and smiled.
There was something comforting about that marking. Or the absence of other markings.

We drove along the old road. It had not survived unscathed. There were small holes in its middle, and pieces of rocks, cement and debris. From within the
winding inner roads, the new highway was visible and the big craters from the shelling. Ahmad decided we ought to take a chance and go through the
Damour passageway, the bridge had been bombed almost entirely, except for its extreme most edge, the width of a 4-wheel drive. An impromptu army post
guided traffic. It was iffy, but we made it. The moment we crossed Damour, the thick charcoal smoke bellowing from the Jiyeh power plant filled the air, the fire in the fuel reservoirs had not
extinguished. The tanks were charred, the plant was deserted. And so was the small port next to it.

The coastal road would have been bustling at this time in the summer. Expats, bi-nationals, students on summer vacation, and tourists. This is the
stretch of the south's most visited beaches. They range from the very fancy to the modest. At this time in the summer, the roads would have been busy
with the town's handsome beach boys, tanned, strutting in swim trunks and a claim to some local fame. Everything was eerily deserted. Even army
soldiers, posted in spots with seemingly no rhyme or reason, walked cautiously, expecting to duck for cover at any moment. Life all around had
folded and packed. What remained was suspended in terror from the Israeli barges lounging with arrogance and too far from eyesight in the sea. The eye
could not see them, but every muscle in your body was stretched stiff with anxiety under their watch. Life was at the mercy of the IDF's whims, they
had shelled the entire coast repeatedly, as only to satiate their cruelty, to assert their might.

We drove on the small roads inside Jiyeh and inside Rmeyleh and the small towns in between. We drove by closed homes, doors locked, windows shut,
shutters sealed. The last gaze of their dwellers still lingering on the front porches, the gaze of a hesitant farewell that quickly ran a checklist to make sure all was safely tucked and hoped for the best, maybe even
whispered a prayer or invoked God or Christ's clemency and then hurried into the car and sped away for a temporary safer haven. Under the cruel watch of
the Israeli warships, lounging with arrogance and too far from eyesight in the sea.

The bay of Saida appeared and the coastal highway leading to its seaside corniche was entirely deserted. The bridge that unloads traffic from the
highway onto the corniche had been pounded. Carcasses of cars lined its sides, some buried under blocks of concrete. We drove around and turned and
entered Saida from roads tucked behind, lined with orange groves and bougainvilliers in full bloom.

Ahmad sitting behind the wheel said nothing, and now Akram's voice was speaking to me, bits and pieces of conversations from our trips to Saida and
further south. The orange groves were dizzyingly fragrant. I forgave their charms for Akram's sake and focused my irritation with the bougainvilliers.
Car traffic inside the city was heavy. Pedestrian traffic was heavy. Saida had received more than 100,000 displaced until two days ago. The numbers increase by the day. People were guided first to the municipality
where they were processed and instructed to go elsewhere, to a school, a public edifice. I was told people were renting entrances of buildings to sleep at night, or the garages of cars. So far more than 85 schools were
housing all these displaced, in addition to an old prison and the building of the court of justice.

Saida was delivered a serious pounding in the first week of the war, but was relatively spared in comparison with other places in the south. During that
first week things went quiet, the city wound down a little. Those who could afford to leave did, and the bi-nationals evacuated. After it was cut off from Beirut, and seemed relatively safe, a semblance of a normal pace of
life returned. The streams of displaced added an intense bustle to that place, but the city still sleeps earlier than its usual.

I called Ziad. He had left his house leaving his cell phone behind. His mother instructed me to drive near the old fort and look for his red Polo car. She also instructed me to ask "The King" about him and he would dig him
up for me. I did not know who "The King" was. "You don't know the King?", she asked surprised. That was Saida. A provincial capital. Everyone is one
and the half degrees of separation removed. Ahmad and I drove by the old fort looking for a red Polo. No red Polo, but hordes of families lounging
about, in the open-air, obviously out for air. I called Abdel-Karim, following Maher's instructions.
Where Love Dwells, Dalal and Abdel-Karim
Maher's instructions were delivered during our abbreviated phone conversations when he was in Tyre. They were brief because he could not really say much, and I did not feel I could pressure him to say much either.
I call them instructions for kicks, to pretend I was on some sort of a mission. Maher wanted me to collect stories and footage or images for his project. Abdel-Karim and Dalal, his wife are his life-long comrades, he runs
a center in Saida that provides training for people with disabilities to be able to integrate fully in the social economy of everyday life. They receive local funding as well as funding from Europe.
With the outbreak of the war, the center's life and role has been turned wholly upside down. Abdel-Karim and Dalal have themselves become displaced
and Dalal who has another job has now become involved in the center's relief work. They now reside in Saida, in a house shared by several other families.
Abdel-Karim and Dalal don't have any disabilities, but the vice-president, wheel-chair bound, who resides in Zreiriyeh a village further south, had to
be evacuated and relocated to Saida, with his family. In the space of a mere few days, the center's administration realized they had to set-up an emergency plan. The center opened their fully equipped
bathroom to all the women and children who needed to take a shower. The center's kitchen, also fully operational offered meals to all those who need
it. Two large pots with stuffed eggplant and squash were cooking in tomato sauce when I visited. A ceaseless clothes collection drive was provisioning
people with clean garb. One of their ateliers was transformed to storing diapers, food rations and medicines. The computer class room was transformed
to a sleep area, so was their exercize and recreation room. Teams of volunteers were called and assigned tasks, by the time I visited they counted more than 15 teams comprising four or five people, some had
disabilities, others not. Their emergency plan began with tending to their "own" people, namely the community of people with disabilities they knew.

They visited them in their homes and made sure they had everything they needed. As streams of displaced were guided to the municipality, volunteers
from the center contacted the teams who were receiving families to inform them they had the know-how and expertise to handle people with all forms of
disabilities and special needs and could be entrusted with their care. Two weeks into the war and the "census" according to the municipality's paperwork showed there were only 20 persons with disabilities with special
care. Abdel-Karim and Dalal were very skeptical. So Dalal assigned a team of volunteers that toured every single site where the displaced were resettled:
schools, hospitals, public buildings. Wherever they went, they spread word that they would be able to answer the needs of the disabled. They found 250.

They noted down the needs of each and everyone and have now assigned volunteers to visit them everyday and meet their needs. A simple example:
bathrooms. Public and private schools are not outfitted for people with disabilities, so the center ordered for special devices from a local carpentry shop to facilitate bathroom use (more than 20 of these devices
were purchased from the center's budget). People with physical and mental disabilities are severely marginalized in everyday life in Lebanon under normal conditions of life. During war their
marginalization becomes heart-wrenching. As people were evacuating under duress, in haste and panic, families were separated, the disabled were
sometimes entrusted to the care of others (more able) or left behind. Their special needs were disregarded (wheelchairs, crutches were left behind,
long-term supply of medication, etc.). There are horrific stories. A man with grave mental and physical disabilities was packed in the trunk of car
and driven for 80 kms until he was placed in a bed. An elderly woman who cannot walk was left alone (she could not fit in the taxi her family hired
to flee) and was evacuated by the village mayor. He dropped her at the center and left. Abdel-Karim was relaying onto me these stories, and his
voice became hoarse. He choked and repressed his tears as he told me the fatal ones: a woman had died because her vital doses of insulin were not
administered and one of their volunteers died as he drove under shelling to rescue and evacuate three disabled persons left behind in the village of
Qasmiyeh just above of Tyre. The three were eventually brought into safety and they did not know died on his way to their rescue.

I sat in the main office across from Abdel-Karim's small desk cluttered with paperwork and a large computer monitor, Dalal was buzzing around us with
missives and missions. The office was bustling with activity. It felt like the HQ of a major operation. People walked in and out, reporting on their "missions", delivering things, taking things, the phone did not stop
ringing, and yet there was not a hint of tension, anywhere. It was the first time since the outbreak of this war that I found myself in a place where love was palpable. Love as in the spontaneous convivial filiation that binds
a community overpowered by a dark circumstance. bdel-Karim ended every transaction or exchange with a joke or a very affectionate note. I was mesmerized by his ability to smile as often as he
did. He is a tall, thin man, dark-skinned, handsome, features chiseled finely. He exhuded so much tenderness and amiability that the fine angular chisel of his features melted to roundness. Dalal, on the other hand, is of
short stature, but she exhudes so much energy, you cannot fit her being in the size she actually occupies. She is fair-skinned, with colored eyes and a killer laugh. She is straight to the point, no bull-shit gal, who cannot sit
down for more than fifteen minutes. Theirs is a great love story, but that's a whole other story.
They are both former fighters from the Communist party who have retired from the front decades ago. In the political landscape of power-wrangling in Saida, they are caught in the stampede of competition between the
two"ruling" poles of Saida: the Hariri family and the Saad family. Sadly, actually the right epithet ought to be "sinisterly" but I don't know if that's exists in the Queen's English, relief for the displaced (in all its
aspects) has been severely politicized. Abdel-Karim's gentle disposition turned to unforgiving rancor when he assured me that once the war is over, he will not let anyone get away with the corruption, the thievery and the
banditry he has witnessed. To the best of his abilities he was compiling a daily log (too brief to become a journal) precisely to make sure he did not forget the crimes he was seeing. "This is our political class", he said,
"when it's time to do politics, they do emergency relief, and when it's time to do emergency relief, they do politics." Dalal had not shyed from fighting in public with officials who withheld medicines for people she knew needed
them badly. She has resorted to every imaginable stratagem: she has faked her voice and affiliation to secure beds for badly injured people in private hospitals that only open their doors to the wealthy and the well-connected
(8 cases that I went to visit). They found her out after the 8th case. She caused a minor uproar in the press during an interview on al-Jazeera and revealed a corruption scheme regarding one of the medicines needed for
people with mental disabilities. They both exploded in laughter as they recounted Dalal's exploits. (A couple of days prior to my visit, the Ministry of Health caught one of their employees stealing medicines and
selling them to pharmacies in Beirut. The Minister of Health had made a big brouhaha about the "scandal" to show he was in control of the situation.) 

A young woman stepped into the office, shyly. She needed to use the phone. She asked Abdel-Karim for permission. She called her family who had
relocated to some other town. She reminded me of the people I see lining at public phones in Beirut. In their gait you can read the list of questions they are burning to ask. She spoke hurriedly, so as not to distract the
center's phone line for too long. Her conversation was like a telegraphic ledger of who's where and how they were doing. She reported her information and information was reported back to her. She hung up, smiled from within a
veil of anxiety and thanked Abdel-Karim, shyly. He gave her a compliment about her dress. She giggled a little but walked out hunched from the weight of the information freshly delivered to her, her mind processing facts,
recalling each one, nailing each one so none would slip her memory. The center was now also helping people find their kin. They gave shelter to people who were sleeping on the street, totally stranded. Amongst those, a
Sri Lanki woman who worked as a housemaid and whom the household that employed her had left behind. 

A Red Polo and Killer Smile
I was ready to receive instructions from Abdel-Karim and mostly Dalal (she had more of a bent for instructions) as to where to go. Ziad called. He was ready to meet me. I gave him directions to the center and went down to the
street to fetch him. Ziad is in his twenties, he walks with a slight enough strutt that you know his street smarts still run deeper than his engagement with video art. Ziad is tall, charming, ties his hair in a pony tail, wears
a goatie-beard, and has an unforgettable, fatal, killer smile. And smiles almost as often as Abdel-Karim. He came accompanied by a friend of his, Hussein. A Pentax dangled from Ziad's neck and Hussein carried the video
camera. I asked Ziad what he'd been doing. The first week, like most people, he had squatted at home, but as soon as the shelling let a little, he started going
out and thinking about his life, the life of the city as it adjusted to this war. He was filming, but he was not a "voyeur" he told me, and did not chase after the gore and misery. "When your work is not about capturing the
moment, you take your time to think and decide what to film," he said to me. The previous week he had put together something on the increasing shortage
of water in Saida. And this week he was working on the fuel shortage. He had been going to gas stations that were selling gas and filmed the long lines, the tedious negotiations, the angry outbursts.
I led him and Hussein up to the center. They filmed. Dalal recommended I visit Dar es-Salam, a care center for the senior and the elderly. Since the outbreak of this war it started receiving patients with special needs,
namely physical and mental disabilities that need monitoring on the longer-term. I wanted Ziad to take me to his Saida, or Akram's Saida.

Ahmad appeared suddenly as we paused on the street, he seemed nervous. We agreed on a time to leave and he insisted, the sooner the better. Had he heard something? "No," he said. He was just cautious. First the driver takes
off, then Ahmad wants to leave barely an hour after we set foot, I commended myself on my skills for organizing adventures. I negotiated for two 
additional hours. He smiled. He had a kind heart and a kind face, Ahmad. Ziad, Hussein and I climbed in the red Polo. "Where do you want to go?", he
asked. (Killer smile.) I answered, wherever he wanted to take me, whatever he wanted me to witness, I had no plans really. He was now the navigator. So
he said we should go to the Hammoud Hospital. He went looking for a physician who was a friend of his family and who told him about some sort of a case in her care. Ziad just presented us as "press". We parked, we walked
up to the front desk. Ziad presented us as the press again. A few days earlier I had appeared on al-Jazeera (I was interviewed about these damned siege notes) and the front desk staff thought I was a newscaster. "You're on
TV, right?", was the question. "Yes," was the self-assured reply. The lobby of the hospital was busy with activity, but the movement of limbs, bodies, the pace of conversations, the weight of gazes, all was encumbered with an
additional gravity. The physician was not available. We left. "Where to now?", Ziad asked. I reluctantly took the lead, and replied Dar es-Salam. As we winded through
the streets of Saida. Ziad teased Hussein about his supposed affinity for the Saad family. Hussein played along. But it was clear the city was quite polarized and that competition had pervaded to the small rituals and habits
of everyday life. Oussama Saad (the heir) is rumored to be distributing food rations with a clear label that reads "Made in Syria", to underscore the Hariri family's feud with the Syrian regime as a pro-American, anti-Arab
stance. Oussama Saad had apparently made statements that he had dispatched a commando of fighters to the front to participate with Hezbollah in the
battle. Hussein retorted something regarding the Hariri family. I stopped listening as we drove by the municipal building and was dumb-struck by the
sight of incoming displaced.
Dar es-Salam
The building stood on a hill overlooking old Saida and the fort. There was a soft gentle breeze and all was quieter up on that hill. We went through the charade of introductions, and finally, it was Ziad's family name (his father) and my own (my father) that allowed us entry. We requested to visit only those new patients who had come as a result of the war, those with
"special needs". We were guided by one of the administrators in charge of the institution. The floor was innundated with natural light. Even the corridor was well-lit. The rooms were spacious and fit with four beds. The floor was not at full capacity.
In the first room, Amal and her two brothers. The brothers are not able to walk, she has only slight physical disability but stayed with them. A round soft face, amiable, gorgeous black eyes. When we walked in she was adjusting her coiffe. One of her brothers leaned by the window that gave onto thegarden, and the other lay on the bed, not engaged with us. Their family was
relocated to a school, they came to visit them. They had been at the hospital for 11 days. In the next room, lay a man on a bed with severe mental and physical disabilities. "He was packed in the trunk of a car", the administrator said, " and driven from Aytaroun (now practically destroyed) to Saida. His brother drove him here, left Mahmoud, his son to take care of his uncle, and drove
with the rest of the family somewhere else." Mahmoud was a fifteen year old boy that seemed a little too short for fifteen in my opinion. He had a bright, bright, radiant, gorgeous face. Wide hazel eyes. Mahmoud struck
Ziad's heart. He walked up close to him. "I wanted to take care of my uncle", replied Mahmoud to someone's question. That implied changing diapers, feeding and bathing, explained the administrator. My heart dropped
to my knees with sorrow. Mahmoud and his uncle had been there for 11 days. When his father dropped him off with his uncle, Mahmoud had no idea where  his family would end up. He was without news for days. Mahmoud thought they would stay in one of the schools in Saida. Somebody reported seeing them in one of the schools, but it turned out to be false news. His father called
one day from Syria. Unfortunately, Mahmoud had gone to the mosque to pray. One of the patients in the neighboring room answered the phone call and took down the information. Mahmoud was deeply saddened to have missed the call.
The administrator praised him a lot and the extent to which his spirits were positive, but reported catching the boy standing by the window looking sorrowful and mournful into the horizon. In the next room, there were two men, both had sustained serious injuries
and were recovering at Dar es-Salam to alleviate pressure on the hospitals. The first man did not speak. At least not when we were there, he is from Aynata (the village received a pretty dramatic pounding). He had two
injuries in his legs. He asked the administrator for crutches. In the second bed lay an elderly man with an injury to his leg as well. He had been rescued by the Red Cross, from the same village (Aynata) and driven to Tyre,
from there he was transferred to Labib Hospital in Saida, and from there to Dar es-Salam. He was in good spirits. His family was relocated to a school next door.

In the next room, lay two women. One was of an advanced age. Her son sat next to her and was caring for her. Across from her was an elderly woman that had physical disabilities and could not walk. She was from Abbassiyeh.
She had been left behind. The mayor of that village had dropped her off and left. She did not speak. No one knew anything about her. She carried no identity papers. She lay in bed and stared into the garden. Her gaze was not
unfocused. In fact it was intent. I have rarely seen such sharp, pure and focused sorrow. We moved around her room and she did not budge. The hospital administrator greeted her, to no reply.
In the next room four elderly women were lodged. One was from Zreiriyeh, a diabetic whose legs were amputated, and was on dialysis. She had piercing green eyes. Ziad (Killer smile) got the old ladies to talk. He walked in and
asked each one where they were from. To the old lady from Zreiriyeh he asked if she knew the Kojok family. She said she was born a Kojok, "I recognized the green eyes", he replied knowingly. Her neighbor was from Adloun, she
needed cataract surgery and had been there for 20 days. One of the women nudged me to ask her, and I asked her, and she said that she was from Srifa.
"You will hear about the massacre of Srifa, you will hear," she said to me. She had driven with her family to Tyre, then to Saida, but her mother, who shared the room with the other eldelry ladies, had walked a week later from
Srifa, "walked for three days, without respite," she kept repeating. "An old lady like me, walking for three days. We saw death and we could do nothing
but walk." 

The Bougainvilliers will be Forgiven
I know Ziad will return to see Mahmoud. We drove away and decided to get coffee. On the way Ziad was struck to see a gas station was operational and
was selling gas. The line of cars was huge. People were tense. I said I did not mind him filming. We zigzagged through the cars, off course he honed in
on the pretty girls and pretty women. Off course he negotiated filming them in some sort of a sequence after flashing that killer smile. I did not follow him. I stood watching the rhythm of stillness and anxiety.
As they drove me back to meet Ahmad, Ziad was playful again: "The crucial question in this war is, where are the women of Saida? How could they have
disappeared?" Hussein replied that they all moved to Broumana (the mountains) or evacuated with the foreigners. "Damn our luck, all the women of Saida are bi-nationals!". "They're all gone? There must be some left, we
must find them." Hussein chuckled. Ahmad and I drove back the same way. I looked forward to the fragrance of orange blossoms and was now forgiving to the full glorious bloom of the
bougainvilliers. My heart had never felt as heavy. There was a lot to hang on to, I mean for hope or strength or whatever it is that keeps people going, but there was so much wretchedness.

... The sorrows I have seen.

from John Gerassi :
5 August 2006

A Theory

Hi all. I gather from the comments (or lack thereof) I have received from my report on Europe, which was mostly about Israel's attack on defenseless Lebanon, that some you you will side with Israel no matter how many children it butchers. But think of the following: Sharon has always been in favoir of prisoner exchange. The NYTimes yesterday finally said on its front page that the slaughter was really about prisoner exchange. Looking at the history of this hawk, there is no doubt that Sharon would have done such an exchange, both with Hmas and with Hezbollah whose three commenders are still in Israeli jails even though a contract for exchange was signed in 2004.   Further: Sharon obviously realized that there can be no preace, no secure future for Israel as long as it defends settlements in the Occupied Territory. That's why Sharan began unilateral destruction of some of the settlements. It was the first -- absolutely necessary -- step towards some kind of peace.

But the US was and is opposed to that. Look at Bush's history. Go back to the 1992 letter to Clinton by the neocon crowd ("The New Amertican Century"). They want permanent war. That's why they don't care about the loses in Iraq. And they want Iran and Syria to get involved in a war against Israel so the US can at least bomb those two countries to smithereens. And then

Venezuela? Why not. The policy of the neocons is not to win but to war, endless war.

But Sharon, as a nationalist hawk, wanted peace. As did Macmillan with Russia in 1950 when Atlee did not. As did de Gaulle and Adenaour, two extreme rightwingers but nationalists who understood that it was not Russia they should fear and prepare their countries againts, but the US. When I was at Newsweek and interviewed General le Gallois, then head of France's nuclear Force de Frappe, and I asked him which way were his missiles pointing, he gestured with his hands, off record, both ways, meaning Russia and the US. Sharoin was of the same ilk. The US wanted him out. How to get him to stop closing down the settlements? Kill him. An assassination? Too crude. Give him a "stroke" so bad he cannot talk or see anyone. The CIA knew Olmert was their pawn. All they had to do was tell them that "Greater Israel" was not a dead dream. Start by putting a stooge government in Lebanon, get rid of Hezbollah. But what the CIA really wanted was to get at Syria and Iran. That's why they down't want a cease-fire. That's why they have given Israel in the last week some of the most modern weapons, missiles and intelligence (deliberately faulty so as to cause massacres of civilians).

So go ahead and cheer for Israel, those of you who want Olmert to continue his massacres and, as he said, make sure no Lebanese children can sleep at night. But at least acknowledge -- to yourself if no one else -- that you are cheering for Bush, the neocons, and permanent war.

From Michelle Matison and Seth Sandronsky :
9 August 2006

Corporatization Of The University

by Michelle Matison and Seth Sandronsky

Michelle Renee Matisons is an assistant professor in the Women's Studies Program at California State University, Sacramento, part of the 405,000-student CSU system.  Her scholarly interests include critical theory, political economy and social movements, including resistance to the corporatization of higher education.  She is co-author of a textbook titled Institutions, Ideologies and Individuals: Feminist Perspectives on Gender, Race and Class.  In 2004-05, the Associated Students of CSUS named Matisons the Outstanding Professor of the Year.

Seth Sandronsky: What is your main grievance with the policy of the school administration?

Michelle Renee Matisons: My main grievance is the complete backwardness of the administration's priorities.  They aren't even trying to hide a pro-corporate, pro-business/development agenda.  They call it "Destination 2010", we call it "Devastation 2010" or my new one: "Devastation, Money Spent".  Student fees and professor workloads are increasing, course sections are being cut, and classrooms are overcrowded.  It's changed noticeably since I started working here a few years ago.  CSUS President Alexander Gonzalez and his minions are selling off chunks of campus-like the bookstore-to private interests, practicing nepotism, and enjoying hefty pay raises.  It's blatant piracy of a public educational institution.  For example, the university president, who just enjoyed a $61,000 pay increase this year, wants to build a recreation center with a bowling alley and all kinds of entertainment facilities, and they just sold off a chunk of library study space to convert it to a Java City. We need more classes and professors, not more coffee and distractions.   Don't get me wrong, I like to drink coffee and bowl when I get the chance.  But let's deal with the nuts and bolts issues of education first, please!

SS: How are faculty and students resisting the corporatization of the university?

MRM: People are starting to link this "Devastation, Money Spent" agenda to the national move to privatize education. In fall 2005 an excellent website was launched by a graduate student, James Banyai, www.csusresistance.org, in the hopes that we can unify the various disgruntled contingents on campus and introduce the language of "privatization" and "corporatization" into people's rhetoric about the administration.  The Web site also has a user's forum that we encourage people to use in order to post rants or information about events.  (I really think this Web site serves as a model of what people can do on other campuses.)  But this is a slow process, because student militancy, here at Sac State and throughout the country, is not at a peak.  Students are really the foundation of any successful campus-based resistance.  Also, there's a palatable fear about the administration's power, so we have to work on emboldening students, staff and faculty.  In many ways Sac State mirrors our national situation.  We have an unelected president who, when entering office, appointed his lapdogs (in Gonzalez's case he gave his son a 70K position when he only had a bachelor's degree), and began to unilaterally make fatally flawed decisions that should be made by an entire campus.  But we are seeing progress; more and more people are losing faith.

The new campus administration and recent system-wide decisions about increased student fees and administrative raises, has also pushed our faculty union into a more pro-active stance.  Also, the junior faculty have organized a separate, very vocal contingent that links our relative "paltry pittances" to this corporatization process.  I am centrally involved in this aspect of resistance efforts, and it has been quite a ride.

SS: Which faculty union do you belong to, and what is the extent of its work with other labor unions on and off campus?

MRM: I belong to the California Faculty Association and am active in the junior faculty caucus which now meets regularly.  The union works with many diverse groups on and off-campus-almost too may to count.  But I can provide a few examples of recent collaborations.  The CFA worked closely with the entire coalition of unions (nurses, teachers, etc.) to defeat California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's agenda during the November 2005 special election. We were all phonebanking and precinct walking together citywide. 
As a member of the junior faculty contingent we recognize that young professors need to be more active in shaping the union's campus and statewide agenda.  As junior faculty we are dealing with salary compression issues, outlandish housing costs, and equally outlandish expectations (huge teaching load with service and publication requirements) going up for tenure.

SS: Where does compression of salaries for junior faculty fit in with the hours they teach?

MRM: The university has projected FTEs (full time enrollments) which is the symbolic currency of the university system.  This is how they measure the money coming in from student fees.  If we are under projected FTE goals our deans will notify us that we should add students.  This results in oversized courses and crowded classrooms.  Really-I am not joking when I say that if they all show up I have students sitting on the floors.  So, we put in more hours teaching and communicating outside the classroom with more students, yet we don't get compensated for this extra work.  Also, there are two issues that have galvanized our junior faculty group at CSUS that makes all this extra work especially frustrating: the experience penalty and no SSIs (raises) for the cohorts entering 2002-2005.

1) The "Experience Penalty":

One of our group's major grievances, this term addresses the simple fact that we have junior faculty entering with a higher salary than experienced faculty who have been there for several years ahead of them.  For example, faculty entering in the College of Social Sciences will start at 55K this fall but those who entered 2002-2004 make around 47K.  It is true that universities are usually unable to recruit new faculty at salaries equivalent to previous year's hires, yet this dynamic creates serious morale problems. We argue that current experience penalties can be addressed by our administration immediately and a salary structure that boosts everyone in the event of a new hire can avoid this fundamentally unfair aspect of the CSUS salary structure.

2) No SSIs (Supplemental Step Increases):

For the incoming cohorts of 2002-2005, no SSI (service step increases) has been forthcoming which essentially means-no raises except the current general 3percent boost for faculty system-wide announced last semester! This was a choice the CFA made to bargain away these raises, and this poses a serious problem as many junior faculty have seen our workload increase while our paycheck stays the same.  The CFA has committed to representing us (junior faculty) better system-wide so we'll see what happens in this round of bargaining.

SS: What is your union doing to increase hiring and decrease the working day for junior faculty?

MRM: Our campus CFA chapter has been very supportive of our junior faculty organizing.  They have demanded that the SSI issue be included in statewide negotiations with the CSU system.  Statewide, the union has also been supportive. "Funded and guaranteed Service Step Increases," and "Deal with compression and inversion problems" are on the list of demands for this round of bargaining.  If these issues are addressed that will have a huge impact on junior faculty morale.  Also, we maintain that the CSUS president Alexander Gonzalez can fix the "experience penalty"(otherwise known as salary inversion) on our campus if he wants.  He does not need to wait for the union or the chancellor to fix it!


Seth Sandronsky is a member of Sacramento Area Peace Action and a co-editor of Because People Matter, Sacramento's progressive paper. He can be reached at ssandron@hotmail.com

from Noam Chomsky :
9 August 2006
Information Clearing House

Apocalypse Near
by Merav Yudilovitch

[Following intellectuals' letter, Prof. Noam Chomsky explains his doctrine, discusses danger of Israel's nukes compared to 'Iranian threat,' global media's role in escalating Mideast conflict and US's place in picture.]

08/09/06 "Ynet" -- -- Last week, a group of renowned intellectuals published an open letter blaming Israel for escalating the conflict in the Middle East. The letter, which mainly referred to the alignment of forces between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, caused a lot of anger among Ynet and Ynetnews readers, particularly due to its claim that the Israeli policy's political aim is to eliminate the Palestinian nation.

The letter was formulated by art critic and author John Berger and among its signatories were Nobel Prize winner, playwright Harold Pinter, linguist and theoretician Noam Chomsly, Nobel Prize laureate Jos é Saramago, Booker Prize laureate Arundhati Roy, American author Russell Banks, author and playwright Gore Vidal, and historian Howard Zinn.

Prof. Chomsky, you claimed that the provocation and counter-provocation all serve as a distraction from the real issue. What does it mean?

"I assume you are referring to John Berger’s letter (which I signed, among others). The “real issue” that is being ignored is the systematic destruction of any prospects for a viable Palestinian existence as Israel annexes valuable land and major resources, leaving the shrinking territories assigned to Palestinians as unviable cantons, largely separated from one another and from whatever little bit of Jerusalem is to be left to Palestinians, and completely imprisoned as Israel takes over the Jordan valley.

"This program of realignment cynically disguised as “withdrawal,” is of course completely illegal, in violation of Security Council resolutions and the unanimous decision of the World Court (including the dissenting statement of US Justice Buergenthal). If it is implemented as planned, it spells the end of the very broad international consensus on a two-state settlement that the US and Israel have unilaterally blocked for 30 years – matters that are so well documented that I do not have to review them here.

"To turn to your specific question, even a casual look at the Western press reveals that the crucial developments in the occupied territories are marginalized even more by the war in Lebanon. The ongoing destruction in Gaza – which was rarely seriously reported in the first place - has largely faded into the background, and the systematic takeover of the West Bank has virtually disappeared.

"However, I would not go as far as the implication in your question that this was a purpose of the war, though it clearly is the effect. We should recall that Gaza and the West Bank are recognized to be a unit, so that if resistance to Israel’s destructive and illegal programs is legitimate within the West Bank (and it would be interesting to see a rational argument to the contrary), then it is legitimate in Gaza as well."

You claim that the world media refuses to link between what's going on in the occupied territories and in Lebanon?

"Yes, but that is the least of the charges that should be leveled against the world media, and the intellectual communities generally. One of many far more severe charges is brought up in the opening paragraph of the Berger letter.

"Recall the facts. On June 25, Cpl. Gilad Shalit was captured, eliciting huge cries of outrage worldwide, continuing daily at a high pitch, and a sharp escalation in Israeli attacks in Gaza, supported on the grounds that capture of a soldier is a grave crime for which the population must be punished.

"One day before, on June 24, Israeli forces kidnapped two Gaza civilians, Osama and Mustafa Muamar, by any standards a far more severe crime than capture of a soldier. The Muamar kidnappings were certainly known to the major world media. They were reported at once in the English-language Israeli press, basically IDF handouts. And there were a few brief, scattered and dismissive reports in several newspapers around the US.

"Very revealingly, there was no comment, no follow-up, and no call for military or terrorist attacks against Israel. A Google search will quickly reveal the relative significance in the West of the kidnapping of civilians by the IDF and the capture of an Israeli soldier a day later.

"The paired events, a day apart, demonstrate with harsh clarity that the show of outrage over the Shalit kidnapping was cynical fraud. They reveal that by Western moral standards, kidnapping of civilians is just fine if it is done by “our side,” but capture of a soldier on “our side” a day later is a despicable crime that requires severe punishment of the population.

"As Gideon Levy accurately wrote in Ha’aretz, the IDF kidnapping of civilians the day before the capture of Cpl. Shalit strips away any “legitimate basis for the IDF's operation,” and, we may add, any legitimate basis for support for these operations.

"The same elementary moral principles carry over to the July 12 kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers near the Lebanon border, heightened, in this case, by the regular Israeli practice for many years of abducting Lebanese and holding many as hostages for long periods.  

Truly disgraceful

"Over the many years in which Israel carried out these practices regularly, even kidnapping on the high seas, no one ever argued that these crimes justified bombing and shelling of Israel, invasion and destruction of much of the country, or terrorist actions within it. The conclusions are stark, clear, and entirely unambiguous – hence suppressed.

"All of this is, obviously, of extraordinary importance in the present case, particularly given the dramatic timing. That is, I suppose, why the major media chose to avoid the crucial facts, apart from a very few scattered and dismissive phrases, revealing that they consider kidnapping a matter of no significance when carried by US-supported Israeli forces.

"Apologists for state crimes claim that the kidnapping of the Gaza civilians is justified by IDF claims that they are 'Hamas militants' or were planning crimes. By their logic, they should therefore be lauding the capture of Gilad Shalit, a soldier in an army that was shelling and bombing Gaza. These performances are truly disgraceful."

You are talking first and foremost about acknowledging the Palestinian nation, but will it solve the "Iranian threat"? Will it push Hizbullah from the Israeli border?

"Virtually all informed observers agree that a fair and equitable resolution of the plight of the Palestinians would considerably weaken the anger and hatred of Israel and the US in the Arab and Muslim worlds – and far beyond, as international polls reveal. Such an agreement is surely within reach, if the US and Israel depart from their long-standing rejectionism.

"On Iran and Hizbullah, there is, of course, much more to say, and I can only mention a few central points here.

"Let us begin with Iran. In 2003, Iran offered to negotiate all outstanding issues with the US, including nuclear issues and a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. The offer was made by the moderate Khatami government, with the support of the hard-line “supreme leader” Ayatollah Khamenei. The Bush administration response was to censure the Swiss diplomat who brought the offer.

"In June 2006, Ayatollah Khamenei issued an official declaration stating that Iran agrees with the Arab countries on the issue of Palestine, meaning that it accepts the 2002 Arab League call for full normalization of relations with Israel in a two-state settlement in accord with the international consensus. The timing suggests that this might have been a reprimand to his subordinate Ahmadenijad, whose inflammatory statements are given wide publicity in the West, unlike the far more important declaration by his superior Khamenei.

"Of course, the PLO has officially backed a two-state solution for many years, and backed the 2002 Arab League proposal. Hamas has also indicated its willingness to negotiate a two-state settlement, as is surely well-known in Israel. Kharazzi is reported to be the author of the 2003 proposal of Khatami and Khamanei.

"The US and Israel do not want to hear any of this. They also do not want to hear that Iran appears to be the only country to have accepted the proposal by IAEA director Mohammed ElBaradei that all weapons-usable fissile materials be placed under international control, a step towards a verifiable Fissile Materials Cutoff Treaty.

"ElBaradei’s proposal, if implemented, would not only end the Iranian nuclear crisis but would also deal with a vastly more serious crisis: The growing threat of nuclear war, which leads prominent strategic analysts to warn of 'apocalypse soon' (Robert McNamara) if policies continue on their current course.

"The US strongly opposes a verifiable FMCT, but over US objections, the treaty came to a vote at the United Nations, where it passed 147-1, with two abstentions: Israel, which cannot oppose its patron, and more interestingly, Blair’s Britain, which retains a degree of sovereignty. The British ambassador stated that Britain supports the treaty, but it “divides the international community”. These again are matters that are virtually suppressed outside of specialist circles, and are matters of literal survival of the species, extending far beyond Iran.

"It is commonly said that the 'international community' has called on Iran to abandon its legal right to enrich uranium. That is true, if we define the “international community” as Washington and whoever happens to go along with it. It is surely not true of the world. The non-aligned countries have forcefully endorsed Iran’s “inalienable right” to enrich uranium. And, rather remarkably, in Turkey, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, a majority of the population favor accepting a nuclear-armed Iran over any American military action, international polls reveal.

"The non-aligned countries also called for a nuclear-free Middle East, a longstanding demand of the authentic international community, again blocked by the US and Israel. It should be recognized that the threat of Israeli nuclear weapons is taken very seriously in the world.

"As explained by the former Commander-in-Chief of the US Strategic Command, General Lee Butler, “it is dangerous in the extreme that in the cauldron of animosities that we call the Middle East, one nation has armed itself, ostensibly, with stockpiles of nuclear weapons, perhaps numbering in the hundreds, and that inspires other nations to do so.” Israel is doing itself no favors if it ignores these concerns.

"It is also of some interest that when Iran was ruled by the tyrant installed by a US-UK military coup, the United States – including Rumsfeld, Cheney, Kissinger, Wolfowitz and others - strongly supported the Iranian nuclear programs they now condemn and helped provide Iran with the means to pursue them. These facts are surely not lost on the Iranians, just as they have not forgotten the very strong support of the US and its allies for Saddam Hussein during his murderous aggression, including help in developing the chemical weapons that killed hundreds of thousands of Iranians.

Peaceful means

"There is a great deal more to say, but it appears that the “Iranian threat” to which you refer can be approached by peaceful means, if the US and Israel would agree. We cannot know whether the Iranian proposals are serious, unless they are explored. The US-Israel refusal to explore them, and the silence of the US (and, to my knowledge, European) media, suggests that the governments fear that they may be serious.

"I should add that to the outside world, it sounds a bit odd, to put it mildly, for the US and Israel to be warning of the “Iranian threat” when they and they alone are issuing threats to launch an attack, threats that are immediate and credible, and in serious violation of international law, and are preparing very openly for such an attack. Whatever one thinks of Iran, no such charge can be made in their case. It is also apparent to the world, if not to the US and Israel, that Iran has not invaded any other countries, something that the US and Israel do regularly.

"On Hizbullah too, there are hard and serious questions. As well-known, Hizbullah was formed in reaction to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and its harsh and brutal occupation in violation of Security Council orders. It won considerable prestige by playing the leading role in driving out the aggressors.

"The 1982 invasion was carried out after a year in which Israel regularly bombed Lebanon, trying desperately to elicit some PLO violation of the 1981 truce, and when it failed, attacked anyway, on the ludicrous pretext that Ambassador Argov had been wounded (by Abu Nidal, who was at war with the PLO). The invasion was clearly intended, as virtually conceded, to end the embarrassing PLO initiatives for negotiation, a “veritable catastrophe” for Israel as Yehoshua Porat pointed out.

Shameful pretexts 

"It was, as described at the time, a “war for the West Bank.” The later invasions also had shameful pretexts. In 1993, Hizbullah had violated “the rules of the game,” Yitzhak Rabin announced: these Israeli rules permitted Israel to carry out terrorist attacks north of its illegally-held “security zone,” but did not permit retaliation within Israel. Peres’s 1996 invasion had similar pretexts. It is convenient to forget all of this, or to concoct tales about shelling of the Galilee in 1981, but it is not an attractive practice, nor a wise one.

The problem of Hezbollah’s arms is quite serious, no doubt. Resolution 1559 calls for disarming of all Lebanese militias, but Lebanon has not enacted that provision. Sunni Prime Minister Fuad Siniora describes Hizbullah’s military wing as “resistance rather than as a militia, and thus exempt from” Resolution 1559.

"A National Dialogue in June 2006 failed to resolve the problem. Its main purpose was to formulate a “national defense strategy” (vis-à-vis Israel), but it remained deadlocked over Hizbullah’s call for “a defense strategy that allowed the Islamic Resistance to keep its weapons as a deterrent to possible Israeli aggression,” in the absence of any credible alternative. The US could, if it chose, provide a credible guarantee against an invasion by its client state, but that would require a sharp change in long-standing policy.

"In the background are crucial facts emphasized by several veteran Middle East correspondents. Rami Khouri, now an editor of Lebanon’s Daily Star, writes that “the Lebanese and Palestinians have responded to Israel’s persistent and increasingly savage attacks against entire civilian populations by creating parallel or alternative leaderships that can protect them and deliver essential services.”

Apocalypse near (Part two)

You are not referring in your letter to the Israeli casualties. Is there differentiation in your opinion between Israeli civic casualties of war and Lebanese or Palestinian casualties?

"That is not accurate. John Berger’s letter is very explicit about making no distinction between Israeli and other casualties. As his letter states: “Both categories of missile rip bodies apart horribly - who but field commanders can forget this for a moment.”

"You claimed that the world is cooperating with the Israeli invasion to Lebanon and is not interfering in the events Gaza and Jenin. What purpose does this silence serve?

"The great majority of the world can do nothing but protest, though it is fully expected that the intense anger and resentment caused by US-Israeli violence will – as in the past – prove to be a gift for the most extremist and violent elements, mobilizing new recruits to their cause.

"The US-backed Arab tyrannies did condemn Hizbullah, but are being forced to back down out of fear of their own populations. Even King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Washington’s most loyal (and most important) ally, was compelled to say that "If the peace option is rejected due to the Israeli arrogance, then only the war option remains, and no one knows the repercussions befalling the region, including wars and conflict that will spare no one, including those whose military power is now tempting them to play with fire."

"As for Europe, it is unwilling to take a stand against the US administration, which has made it clear that it supports the destruction of Palestine and Israeli violence. With regard to Palestine, while Bush’s stand is extreme, it has its roots in earlier policies. The week in Taba in January 2001 is the only real break in US rejectionism in 30 years.

"The US also strongly supported earlier Israeli invasions of Lebanon, though in 1982 and 1996, it compelled Israel to terminate its aggression when atrocities were reaching a point that harmed US interests.

"Unfortunately, one can generalize a comment of Uri Avnery’s about Dan Halutz, who “views the world below through a bombsight.” Much the same is true of Rumsfeld-Cheney-Rice, and other top Bush administration planners, despite occasional soothing rhetoric. As history reveals, that view of the world is not uncommon among those who hold a virtual monopoly of the means of violence, with consequences that we need not review."

What is the next chapter in this middle-eastern conflict as you see it?

"I do not know of anyone foolhardy enough to predict. The US and Israel are stirring up popular forces that are very ominous, and which will only gain in power and become more extremist if the US and Israel persist in demolishing any hope of realization of Palestinian national rights, and destroying Lebanon. It should also be recognized that Washington’s primary concern, as in the past, is not Israel and Lebanon, but the vast energy resources of the Middle East, recognized 60 years ago to be a “stupendous source of strategic power” and “one of the greatest material prizes in world history.”

"We can expect with confidence that the US will continue to do what it can to control this unparalleled source of strategic power. That may not be easy. The remarkable incompetence of Bush planners has created a catastrophe in Iraq, for their own interests as well. They are even facing the possibility of the ultimate nightmare: a loose Shi’a alliance controlling the world’s major energy supplies, and independent of Washington – or even worse, establishing closer links with the China-based Asian Energy Security Grid and Shanghai Cooperation Council.

"The results could be truly apocalyptic. And even in tiny Lebanon, the leading Lebanese academic scholar of Hizbullah, and a harsh critic of the organization, describes the current conflict in “apocalyptic terms,” warning that possibly “All hell would be let loose” if the outcome of the US-Israel campaign leaves a situation in which “the Shiite community is seething with resentment at Israel, the United States and the government that it perceives as its betrayer.

"It is no secret that in past years, Israel has helped to destroy secular Arab nationalism and to create Hizbullah and Hamas, just as US violence has expedited the rise of extremist Islamic fundamentalism and jihad terror. The reasons are understood. There are constant warnings about it by Western intelligence agencies, and by the leading specialists on these topics.

"One can bury one’s head in the sand and take comfort in a “wall-to-wall consensus” that what we do is “just and moral” (Maoz), ignoring the lessons of recent history, or simple rationality. Or one can face the facts, and approach dilemmas which are very serious by peaceful means. They are available. Their success can never be guaranteed. But we can be reasonably confident that viewing the world through a bombsight will bring further misery and suffering, perhaps even 'apocalypse soon.'"