May 3/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 12,44-50. Jesus cried out and said, "Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me, and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me. I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness. And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I do not condemn him, for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world. Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words has something to judge him: the word that I spoke, it will condemn him on the last day, because I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. So what I say, I say as the Father told me."

Free Opinion
The wall Street Journal May 2/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for May 3/07
Brammertz Commission Questions Koleilat in Brazil-Naharnet
March 14 'Forced' to Ask U.N. to Approve Tribunal-Naharnet
Aoun Warns 'Conspirators' Against Return to 'Cartridge Boxes'-Naharnet
UN Questions Rana Koleilat in Brazil over Lebanon Bank fraud-Ya Libnan
The 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah war.Los Angeles Times
Olmert won't resign over damning report on Hezbollah war.International Herald Tribune
Key quotes on Israeli report on failure in Lebanon war.Ya Libnan
Shiite Mufti praises Jumblatt and asks for help in south Lebanon.Ya Libnan
UNHCR, Syria Agree to Help Iraqi Refugees.Voice of America
Bush sees 'test' for Iran, Syria.France24
US lists Iran, Syria, Hezbollah in global survey of terrorism.Ya Libnan
Stampede at Tunisia open air concert kills seven.Alarab online
Excerpts from the Wingrad report translated by McClatchy Newspapers.McClatchy Washington Bureau
Peretz to Resign Over Lebanon War Failures.Naharnet
LEBANON: New electoral law designed to weaken patronage, sectarianism.Reuters
Pressure Mounts on Olmert Over Lebanon War Report-Naharnet
Peretz to Resign Over Lebanon War Failures--Naharnet
Hizbullah Ridicules Israel's Leaders-Naharnet
Iran's Former Nuclear Negotiator Arrested-Naharnet
Iran's Bitter options: Compliance or Isolation-Naharnet

Mad TV
May 1, 2007; Page A21-The wall Street Journal

Testifying under oath recently, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice misled Congress in her strong defense of Al-Hurra, the taxpayer financed Arab TV network. It was unwitting, though. She herself was misled.
During the March 21 House Foreign Operations Appropriations subcommittee hearing, Rep. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) pressed Ms. Rice on the wisdom of providing a platform to Islamic terrorists, citing Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah's Dec. 7 speech, which Al-Hurra aired live. The broadcast speech "went on for 30 minutes," she responded, "followed by commentary, much of which was critical of Nasrallah."
In fact, Mr. Nasrallah's speech was carried in its entirety, roughly an hour and eight minutes. The commentary that followed -- a 13-minute phone interview with Wael Abou Faour, a member of Lebanon's governing coalition -- was indeed critical of Mr. Nasrallah. He accused the Hezbollah leader of not being anti-U.S. and anti-Israel enough. While Mr. Nasrallah had claimed Lebanon's governing coalition was aligned with the U.S. and had backed Israel during the war last summer, Mr. Abou Faour said that Hezbollah was actually closer to the U.S and added that any Lebanese faction that assisted "the Israeli enemy" should not be allowed to engage in political discussion because "the only place they should be [is] in prison."
The secretary of state's testimony was without doubt delivered in good faith. But the same cannot be said of the information about the broadcast Al-Hurra provided to the State Department.
Unfortunately, there is no practicable way that Foggy Bottom, or anyone else for that matter, can effectively monitor Al-Hurra, which has come under fire since the publication of my story about it on this page on March 12. The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the congressionally created independent panel charged with oversight, lacks the ability to conduct even basic auditing, as English transcripts are only provided on request -- which rarely happens. Worse, there is no good channel for whistleblowers to communicate with the board without fear of retribution.
With an annual budget now over $70 million, Al-Hurra has for three years served as the centerpiece of America's aggressive post-9/11 courtship of the Arab world. Insiders maintain that the network was fulfilling its mission until it hired former CNN producer Larry Register last November. Mr. Register has not, to his credit, changed Al-Hurra's dedication to showcasing the full range of U.S. politics. The other side of the network, however, has been "gutted," in the words of one staffer. Even though Mr. Register has made some improvements since the March 12 column, Al-Hurra still produces far fewer stories about Arab government corruption and human-rights abuses. (Mr. Register did not respond to repeated requests for an interview.)
Al-Hurra was intended to cut through the anti-West and anti-U.S. propaganda that permeates even mainstream Arab media. Stories in that vein no longer see significant airtime, and nowhere is this more apparent than Al-Hurra's new approach to the Holocaust -- the treatment of which in Arab society embodies so much that is wrong in that critical region of the Muslim world.
It is precisely because of Arab society's persistent refusal to accept the existence of such a defining -- and indisputable -- event in modern history that Al-Hurra dared to do things Al-Jazeera would never fathom, such as interviewing Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and airing the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. But that was under Mr. Register's predecessor, a Lebanese-born Muslim named Mouafac Harb.
Under Mr. Register, Al-Hurra covered the Holocaust denial conference in Tehran last December. But in a stark break from Mr. Harb's era, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the attendees at his conference were treated with unmistakable deference.
Al-Hurra's Dec. 12 report on the gathering included David Duke's praise for Mr. Ahmadinejad, and it took at face value the organizers' demand for Israel "to provide proof and evidence that certifies the occurrence" of the Holocaust. An official running the event was afforded the opportunity to show the open-mindedness of Holocaust deniers: "If we actually conclude with our experts through this meeting that the Holocaust is a real incident we will at that time admit its presence." (Transcript provided by a fluent Arabic-speaking U.S. government employee.)
Also broadcast unchallenged were the remarks of the infamous French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson, who informed Arab viewers: "Gas chambers and mass killings of the Jews, in the way that it is pretended (by the Jews), is completely untrue, and an historical lie."
The Al-Hurra reporter stationed in Tehran referred to those who believe Hitler killed six million Jews as "Holocaust supporters." He took a swipe at the handful of conference attendees who didn't deny the Holocaust, by noting that they "didn't enforce their statements with scientific evidence." In closing the piece, he referred to Israel as "the Jewish state on Palestinian lands."
Almost six weeks later, on Jan. 20, Al-Hurra aired a follow-up story on the Neturei Karta, the fringe group of ultra-orthodox, anti-Zionist Jews who met with Mr. Ahmadinejad. There was obviously world-wide media fascination with the Jews who ventured to a Holocaust denial forum hosted by the man who wants to wipe Israel off the map. Responsible journalists, though, were careful to provide the necessary context, the most important of which is that the Neturei Karta is a marginal group with world-wide membership, according to its Web site, of "several thousand."
Responsible Al-Hurra was not.
The Neturei Karta were presented as mainstream Orthodox Jews, and Al-Hurra claimed that they number more than one million. The story's angle is clear from the anchor's introduction: "They always put Israeli officials in a bind, who can't seem to understand how Jews can oppose Zionism, or how a Jew can encourage Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in his opposition to Israel." Various Neturei Karta members uttered outrageous falsehoods about supposed "Zionist" cruelty, including "torture, detention, [and the] burning of their synagogues." None of these libels were challenged, let alone debunked.
"There is no purpose in doing a soft feature of the Neturei Karta, except to pander to or bolster vicious Arab and Muslim propaganda about Jews, Israel, and the Holocaust," notes Mark Broxmeyer, chairman of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.
In fairness, there's no reason to suppose Mr. Register understood exactly what was being broadcast: He doesn't speak Arabic. Then again, there's no evidence that he bothered, or cared, to learn about the contents. Either way, Mr. Register clearly doesn't grasp Al-Hurra's mission.
Holocaust denial is rampant in the Arab world, even among the educated; there's a widespread embrace of conspiratorial explanations for world events, such as theories about Jews perpetrating 9/11, and notorious forgeries such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which is widely sold and read throughout the region. Arab media do not challenge this mindset, but usually indulge it.
Combating this nonsense should be ground zero in our quest to inject truth and information into the Arab world. If we can't do this, how will we ever be able counteract the jihadists who preach to the masses that America is waging war on Islam?
The person tasked with counteracting those jihadists, Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes, is a stalwart supporter of Mr. Register. At an April 19 House Foreign Operations Appropriations subcommittee hearing, after two congressmen gave Ms. Hughes a bipartisan earful about Mr. Register, she responded that she has heard nothing but "high praise" and "rave reviews." Just last Friday, Ms. Hughes went to Al-Hurra's D.C.-area headquarters, signaling that she still backs Mr. Register. Meanwhile, five of the six BBG members -- outgoing chairman Ken Tomlinson was the lone dissenter -- are ardent Register partisans, voting 5-1 against investigating Mr. Register's questionable editorial decisions.
Key lawmakers don't share such exuberance. Reps. Dan Burton (R., Ind.) and Robert Wexler (D., Fla.) are circulating to fellow House Foreign Affairs Committee members a letter which asks Ms. Rice for an investigation into Al-Hurra. And Rep. Steve Rothman (D., N.J.), who sits on the panel responsible for funding Al-Hurra, has proposed live Internet streaming of the network, full online digital archives, and English transcripts for all programs.
Lack of active oversight and transparency has obviously contributed to the current mess at Al-Hurra. If someone outside Al-Hurra had been able to view the Nasrallah speech merely by going online, for example, Ms. Rice almost certainly would not have been fed false information.
But that's not enough. The people who already monitor the network -- its employees -- need to be empowered to report dubious decisions without fear of reprisal. Transparency will allow concerns to be investigated swiftly. Employees simply won't come forward, though, if they believe no one in power cares. For that reason, a clear signal must be sent by firing Mr. Register.
After all, if you can't get fired for using U.S. taxpayer dollars to provide a platform for Islamic terrorists and help further Holocaust denial, then wouldn't Congress and the Bush administration be communicating that pretty much anything goes?
Mr. Mowbray is an investigative writer based in New York City.

Brammertz Commission Questions Koleilat in Brazil
The U.N. commission investigating ex-Premier Rafik Hariri's assassination has questioned fugitive Lebanese banker Rana Koleilat arrested in Brazil over a year ago, authorities said. Koleilat, who is also under investigation for a multimillion-dollar fraud at Al-Madina bank where she once worked, was arrested in Sao Paulo on March 12, 2006 for allegedly trying to bribe police officers who located her for Interpol. The bank scandal's heroine was interrogated for about five hours at the federal police headquarters in Sao Paulo Monday, but police would not immediately release any information about the questioning, federal police officer Leopoldo de Alencar said. The U.N. panel, which is headed by Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz, is probing whether money that disappeared from Al-Madina Bank was used to finance the February 2005 bombing on the Beirut seafront that killed Hariri and 22 others.
Koleilat has said she knows nothing about the missing money or the assassination of Hariri. Brazil's government has turned down Koleilat's request for political asylum and is processing Lebanon's extradition request.(AP-Naharnet) Beirut, 02 May 07, 10:26

Hizbullah's Nasrallah Respects Israel
Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said Wednesday he respects Israel for issuing a damning report on last year's war against his Shiite fighters in Lebanon. "It is worth every respect when an inquiry commission ... is appointed by (Israeli Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert ... and it condemns Olmert," Nasrallah said at a book fair in Beirut's southern suburbs, a Hizbullah stronghold. "I will not stand here to rejoice at the misfortunes of Olmert, (Defense Minister Amir) Peretz and (former army chief Dan) Halutz," he said. "One can only respect the butchers' enemy leaders ... when they work day and night for their prisoners," he added. On Monday, the inquiry accused Olmert, Peretz, Halutz and Israel's top brass of "serious failure" in handling the 34-day war sparked by Hizbullah's capture of two Israeli soldiers. "They study their defeat in order to learn from it," said Nasrallah. On Monday, just hours after the report was released, Hizbullah's chief for southern Lebanon, Nabil Qaouk, hailed what he called "an admission of Israel's historic defeat in the face of the fighters of Hizbullah."(AFP) Beirut, 02 May 07, 18:06

Israel Preparing Treason Charge for Bishara
Israel suspects former Arab MP Azmi Bishara committed treason and claims he advised Hizbullah and directed its rocket fire during last summer's war in Lebanon, police said on Wednesday. Bishara, who resigned his seat in parliament while abroad on April 22, is suspected of coming into "direct contact" with Hizbullah members during the war and advising them "on how to cause damage in Israel," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Agence France Presse. Bishara also is suspected of advising the Shiite militant group on the impact of the rocket strikes and how Israel was likely to react, Rosenfeld said after a gag order on details of the investigation was completely lifted.
Hizbullah fired nearly 4,000 rockets on communities across northern Israel during the July-August war, killing more than 40 civilians and sending another million fleeing. Police also suspect Bishara received "hundreds of thousands of dollars" from Hizbullah in return. They believe the money was transferred to him through Jordan and three east Jerusalem money changers who have been arrested and interrogated by police.
Rosenfeld said that if convicted on the treason charge, Bishara could face the death sentence. Last week, after the gag order was partially lifted, police confirmed that the 50-year-old ex-MP was being investigated on suspicion of aiding an enemy at a time of war, handing over information to the enemy, being in contact with a foreign agent and violating money laundering laws. Bishara has denied the charges in a statement released through his National Democratic Assembly party, better known by its Hebrew acronym Balad. He accused the Israeli authorities of conducting a witch hunt against him because of his virulent criticism of the Jewish state's policies. Several weeks after Israel and Hizbullah ended their war in Lebanon last August, Bishara and two other MPs from his Balad party paid controversial visits to Syria and Lebanon in defiance of an Israeli ban.
Israel is officially in a state of war with both countries. Its citizens are not allowed to visit "enemy states" without permission from the authorities.
A distinguished debater with a doctorate in philosophy who speaks Arabic, English, German and Hebrew, Bishara was in 1999 the first Arab Israeli to run for prime minister. He has been a tireless defender of the concept of a State of Israel for all its citizens, and has campaigned relentlessly for the rights of the 1.2 million-strong Arab minority which accounts for 20 percent of the population.(AFP) Beirut, 02 May 07, 17:13

Peretz to Resign Over Lebanon War Failures
Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz is to resign in the wake of a damning inquiry that said he failed in his post during the Lebanon war, the Israeli media reported Wednesday. "Mr. Peretz is to announce his resignation in the coming hours," army and public radio reported.
"Mr. Peretz took this decision as he is ratifying the report's conclusions and is aiming to conform to norms of behavior required of those who exercise public office," the daily Maariv quoted an aide to Peretz as saying. The office of Peretz, the leader of Olmert's main coalition partner Labor, declined to comment on the reports. Should Peretz resign, he will become the most senior casualty of the Winograd Commission interim report on last year's war against Hizbullah that was issued on Monday. The report roasted Peretz, a former trade unionist whose military experience was limited to national army service before he assumed his post, saying he "failed in fulfilling his functions."
The resignation of the 55-year-old Peretz would pile the pressure on Olmert to follow suit amid an open mutiny within his party to force him step down.
The Winograd report blasted Olmert for serious failure during the 34-day war that killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers, according to government figures. The war failed to achieve the Jewish state's main goals of freeing two soldiers seized by Hizbullah in a deadly cross-border raid on July 12 that sparked the hostilities and stopping the Shiite militia's rocket fire into northern Israel that killed dozens of civilians.(AFP) Beirut, 02 May 07, 14:54

Aoun Warns 'Conspirators' Against Return to 'Cartridge Boxes'
Free Patriotic Movement leader Gen. Michel Aoun has accused those who are against holding elections of being "conspirators" and warned that they would lead Lebanon to war. "Those who refuse to return to the ballot boxes are conspirators, whether they are in power or not, because they would be leading the country to cartridge boxes," Aoun told a crowd of FPM supporters on Tuesday. Aoun also urged that the next Lebanese president be elected directly by the people if chances for holding early parliamentary elections failed.
He described calls for unity among Christians as undemocratic."The call for Christian unity is a provocation," he said. "There are always a majority and minority in the logic of democracy. Unanimity is manifested by dictatorship," he added. Aoun accused those in charge of the country as behaving on the grounds that they "possess" the state without referring to any authority.He stressed that a solution to the ongoing political crisis was "simple" if there were a "will.""We do not want external interference. We have a democratic system that we ought to respect," Aoun emphasized. He warned that in case of any conspiracy on Lebanon "we will then have the upper hand, and we are not powerless, we are resisters."Aoun finally expressed hope that the new Lebanese president would be the key to breaking the impasse. Beirut, 02 May 07, 08:08

Pressure Mounts on Olmert Over Lebanon War Report
Senior party officials joined calls for the resignation of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert over a negative report of his administration during the Lebanon war.Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni -- a top Kadima official considered one of the frontrunners to take over party leadership -- was due to ask Olmert to quit during a meeting later on Wednesday, an official of her office told AFP. "She is expected to ask him to resign," he said on condition of anonymity.
Should she issue the call, Livni would become the most senior member in Olmert's ruling coalition and within his party to join those clamoring for the premier to step down in the wake of the critical war report. Speaking at the opening of an extraordinary cabinet meeting Wednesday, Olmert warned: "To all those who are in haste in order to take advantage of the report for political profit, I tell them not to be hasty.
"There is no doubt that the report points at some extremely serious failures in the government's conduct and naturally first and foremost of me," he admitted. Hours before the cabinet meeting, the head of Kadima's parliamentary bloc also called on Olmert to step down, saying it would be "suicidal" for the centrist party if the premier remained. "He must take the decision to resign so that Kadima can continue with his mandate," Avigdor Itzchaky, the chairman of Kadima's parliamentary bloc, told public radio. Two of Kadima's 29 deputies in the 120-seat parliament on Tuesday openly called on him to resign and a senior party official told AFP that a majority of Kadima MPs wanted Olmert to quit. Meanwhile, Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz of Kadima said he would call during Wednesday's cabinet meeting to "for the creation of a broad unity government with a deep sense of responsibility."
Polls published on Wednesday showed that between 65 and 68 percent of Israelis want Olmert to quit, and only six percent think he is capable of carrying out the functions of his office. With the opposition and the press howling for Olmert's head, the mutiny within his party further upped the enormous public pressure for the 61-year-old premier to stand down less than a year after officially assuming office.
That pressure is likely to increase further on Thursday, when parliament holds an extraordinary session to discuss the report and a mass rally is due to take place in Tel Aviv to call on Olmert to resign. So far Olmert has refused to bow down and pundits warn that with an aversion for early elections among his 78-strong coalition -- which polls show the right-wing opposition Likud party as winning -- Israel's master politician may yet ride out the storm.
Speaking hours after the report was made public on Monday, Olmert told the nation that it would be "incorrect" for him to step down, but vowed that his government, already reeling from a string of sex and graft scandals, would focus quickly on correcting mistakes exposed by the inquiry.
Monday's partial report accused Olmert of "serious failure in exercising judgement, responsibility and prudence," of acting "hastily" and personally contributing to "over-ambitious" and unfeasible war aims during the 34-day conflict against Hizbullah last summer.
Israel launched its war after Hizbullah seized two soldiers during a deadly cross-border raid on July 12.
But the Jewish state failed to achieve its two main objectives of liberating the two captured servicemen and of stopping Hizbullah from firing rockets into the Jewish state.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 02 May 07, 10:14