March 15/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 5,17-19. Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Free Opinions
Ahmadinejad's confrontational style plays into Cheney's hands -Daily Star March 15/07

Latest News Reports From miscellaneous sources For March 15/07
Hariri sees Lebanon crisis breakthrough-United Press International
Syria denies link to group accused of Lebanon bombs-Washington Post
Gates: Foreign Fighters Passing Through Syria to Target Iraqis-Voice of America
Lebanon War Inquiry Could Topple Israeli PM-Voice of America

EU envoy urges Syria to help on Lebanon, Iraq-Reuters
Solana Backs Saudi Efforts to Broker Settlement
Lebanon Blames Syria for Ain Alaq Bus Bombings
Lebanon links Islamists to bus attacks-Los Angeles Times
EU supports Saudi efforts for Lebanon-PRESS TV
Europe leads bid to lure Syria-Guardian Unlimited
A US detour via Syria to Iran-Asia Times Online
Lebanon Blames Syria For Bombing-All Headline News
NZer jailed in Lebanon makes way

Latest News Reports From miscellaneous sources For March 14/07
Solana lends support for Saudi effort to end impasse in Beirut
Solution to Lebanese crisis needs a few days 'to mature'
Norway to end patrols along Lebanese coast
The 'boxing match' with Syria's Assad
Cabinet gives PM green light to form delegation for summit
Shiite fringe group rejects foreign 'hegemony'
Top Druze cleric meets Qatari reconstruction boss
Joint panel tries to placate border-area farmers
Catholic religious leaders call for 'culture of peace'
Peretz tasks two generals, professor with finding right name for 2006 war
Bar Association stresses importance of independent judiciary
Sayyed makes new demand for release
Geagea laments deadlock's impact on national identity
UN chief to submit latest report on Resolution 1701 to Security Council
Police announce arrests, confessions in Ain Alaq bus bombings
AUB students erect mock wall to highlight Palestinian plight
London presents Beirut with new fire truck
Families of jailed Lebanese feel Israeli woman's pain

Lebanon Blames Syria for Ain Alaq Bus Bombings
Lebanon blamed Syria for the twin bus bombings in Ain Alaq north of Beirut last month, and Interior Minister Hassan Sabaa said all four Syrians in Lebanese custody have confessed carrying out the blasts that killed three people and wounded 23 others.
Sabaa told a news conference late Tuesday that four of the five Syrian suspects have been detained, including one of the two culprits in the Ain Alaq attack Feb. 13 on the eve of the second anniversary of the assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri. He said the fifth suspect remains at large.
Sabaa refused to disclose the names of the culprits, but stressed that they are all Syrian nationals operating under the banner of Fatah-Islam, a radical Palestinian group which is controlled by "the Syrian security (intelligence) system."But Fatah-Islam swiftly denied any involvement and accused the government of trying to pave the way for an offensive against the dozen or so camps in Lebanon, which house more than half of the country's nearly 400,000 Palestinian refugees. A statement released by Fatah-Islam in the group's Nahr al-Bared refugee camp stronghold in north Lebanon, described the accusations as "completely fabricated." "Efforts are underway to implicate our movement in what is happening in Lebanon in order to pave the way for hostile operations against the refugee camps and the Palestinian presence in Lebanon," the statement said. Earlier reliable sources told Naharnet that the arrested suspects were provided with forged identity cards identifying them as Palestinians and Saudis in addition to Syrians. They said two are on the run and are believed to be hiding at Nahr el-Bared. The daily An Nahar said Wednesday that Lebanese army troops reinforced their positions around the camp's three entrances, where permanent checkpoints had been recently set up.
In addition to the arrests, police officers confiscated a "large quantity of explosives" that were hidden in the Beirut apartment of Syrian suspect identified as Mustapha Siyor. Members of the network, according to the source, infiltrated into Lebanon from Syria last November under the cover of the so-called "Fatah-Islam" group, which was set up by Syrian intelligence with the objective of carrying out terrorist attacks to destabilize Lebanon and block the ratification of the international tribunal which would try suspects in the 2005 Hariri murder and related crimes.
The Ain Alaq bombing had been included in the list of attacks being investigated by a U.N. commission into Hariri's assassination. Siyor's cell had been operating under cover from an apartment in Beirut's Christian neighborhood of Karm el-Zaytoun, which is part of the capital's Ashrafiyeh district, the source said. However, Sabaa said the suspect had also rented apartments in Dora and Kornet Shehwan. Sabaa said police confiscated an explosive charge similar to the two used in the twin bus bombings at Ain Alaq. He said the suspects were also "ordered" to carry out a motorcycle bomb attack targeting the Phalange party office in the mountain resort of Bikfaya close to Ain Alaq. Beirut, 14 Mar 07, 07:40

Hariri sees Lebanon crisis breakthrough
CAIRO, March 14 (UPI) -- Lebanese lawmaker Saad Hariri, son of slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, expects a breakthrough in the Lebanese crisis before the Arab summit. The legislator, who heads the pro-government majority bloc in Parliament, said Wednesday there was enough time to find a solution to the internal political crisis before the Arab summit in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, convenes on March 28-29. He said in Cairo after meeting President Hosni Mubarak there were "indications for a solutions and there are a number of proposals made to the other side that have received (positive) response." Lebanon has been caught in a crisis since the Hezbollah-led opposition began an indefinite protest on Dec. 1, seeking greater participation in the government to give it veto power. But the government, backed by the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority, accuses the opposition of trying to stall the formation of the international tribunal in the Rafik Hariri assassination, which many Lebanese blame on the Syrian regime. "There is optimism that there will be progress in Lebanon; and compared to the situation a month ago, matters are much better now as things are moving forward, mainly the efforts of Egypt and Saudi Arabia," Saad Hariri said. Saudi Arabia has been talking to Iran, as the backers of the Shiite Hezbollah organization, to contain the political tensions that many Lebanese fear could turn sectarian and erupt into another civil strife similar to the 1975-1990 civil war.

Syria denies link to group accused of Lebanon bombs
Reuters-Wednesday, March 14, 2007
DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Syria denied on Wednesday Lebanese allegations that it had links to a group accused of bombing two buses near Beirut last month and said it was hunting the group down for ties to al Qaeda. Lebanon's Interior Minister Hassan al-Sabaa said on Tuesday that four Syrians who confessed to the bombing that killed three people, belonged to the Fateh al-Islam group, which he described as "part of the Syrian intelligence-security apparatus."A fifth man, also Syrian, was on the run, Sabaa had said. Fateh al-Islam broke away last year from Fateh al-Intifada, another Palestinian group.
"These allegations are completely false. They're part of the campaign of lies against Syria," Syrian Interior Minister Bassam Abdel Majeed told the official Syrian news agency. "Fateh al-Islam is an organization of al Qaeda that plans to conduct terrorism operation in Syria. It was discovered in August 2002," Abdel Majeed said. He said several members of the group were arrested over the last few years and an arrest warrant was issued in January for Shaker al-Absi, a Jordanian of Palestinian origin, who used to be in contact with the late al Qaeda leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Absi already served a three-year jail term in Syria for belonging to Fatah al-Islam, Abdel Majeed said. Fateh al-Islam denied any link to the bus bombings in the Lebanese Christian village of Ain Alaq, which occurred a day before the second anniversary of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. A United Nations investigation implicated Lebanese and Syrian security officials in Hariri's February 14, 2005 killing. Damascus denies any involvement. Hariri's killing triggered international pressure that forced Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon in 2005, ending a 29-year presence.

Solana Backs Saudi Efforts to Broker Settlement
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana backed Saudi efforts to resolve Lebanon's political crisis during a visit to Riyadh on Tuesday.
"We support all the efforts that Saudi Arabia is making in this field," Solana told reporters after talks with Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal on the second leg of a Middle East tour aimed at easing the stalemate in Lebanon. Solana, who arrived in Riyadh from Beirut late on Monday, added that he would consult again with the Saudi leadership after visiting Damascus on Wednesday and meeting Syrian President Bashar Assad. Solana later discussed with King Abdullah regional developments, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.
Saudi Arabia has spearheaded efforts to resolve the crisis between pro and anti-government factions in Lebanon. Solana said in Beirut that he would hold "frank discussions" in Syria on its ties with Lebanon, where many people blame Damascus for a series of deadly bomb attacks. He said he will also address the issue of a proposed international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 murder of former premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes. Arab diplomatic sources in Riyadh told Agence France Presse on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia was working on hosting a reconciliation meeting next week between Lebanon's anti-Syrian parliamentary majority and the Hizbullah-led opposition. The Saudi foreign minister told reporters at the news conference with Solana that while Riyadh had not made an official announcement concerning such a meeting, it would welcome one if it would help resolve the crisis. "If their (Lebanese leaders') presence here will lead to finding a solution that guarantees the interests of all as well as calm, stability and development in Lebanon, we would naturally welcome it," Prince Saud said. He said he discussed Lebanon "in depth" with Solana. Saud also said he hoped Iran would use its influence in Lebanon to promote stability in the country.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 14 Mar 07, 07:16

EU envoy urges Syria to help on Lebanon, Iraq
Wed Mar 14, 2007
DAMASCUS (Reuters) - The European Union's foreign policy chief urged Syria on Wednesday to do more to help stabilize Lebanon and Iraq during a visit that ended a two-year freeze on high-level EU contacts with Damascus. Javier Solana said he had called on Syria to crack down on alleged smuggling of arms across the border into Lebanon and exert "maximum effort" to help implement a U.N. resolution requiring the disarmament of its Lebanese ally Hezbollah. "This is fundamental to reach peace, stability and independence of Lebanon," Solana said after meeting President Bashar al-Assad.
Syria says Hezbollah is a resistance movement and is entitled to keep its arms as long as Israel holds what Damascus and Beirut regard as occupied Lebanese land. Solana met Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem and Vice President Farouq al-Shara before seeing Assad.
Solana's tour of Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Syria comes after France dropped its objections to EU contacts with Damascus, which a U.N. inquiry has implicated in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri. The European Union wants Syria to back the creation of a tribunal to try suspects in the killing. Moualem said: "We haven't said that we are against the tribunal. There are (Lebanese) differences about its statutes."
Syria -- which denies involvement in the assassination -- is seen as key to unlocking the four-month political deadlock between the anti-Syrian majority in Lebanon and rival factions including its Hezbollah allies.
Damascus has also links with players in Iraq. It took part along with the United States at this weekend's Baghdad conference aimed at finding ways out of the chaos, despite U.S. allegations that Syria and Iran are helping insurgents there. Damascus has set a price for cooperation, including seeking the support of Washington for its campaign to regain the Golan Heights occupied by Israel in 1967. Solana said the European Union supports Syria's peaceful campaign to regain the Golan, a mountainous plateau overlooking Damascus that has been the focal point of Syrian foreign policy. "We would like to work as much as possible to see your country Syria recuperate the territory taken in 1967," Solana told a joint news conference with Moualem.

Solana Backs Saudi Efforts to Broker Settlement
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana backed Saudi efforts to resolve Lebanon's political crisis during a visit to Riyadh on Tuesday. "We support all the efforts that Saudi Arabia is making in this field," Solana told reporters after talks with Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal on the second leg of a Middle East tour aimed at easing the stalemate in Lebanon. Solana, who arrived in Riyadh from Beirut late on Monday, added that he would consult again with the Saudi leadership after visiting Damascus on Wednesday and meeting Syrian President Bashar Assad. Solana later discussed with King Abdullah regional developments, the official Saudi Press Agency reported. Saudi Arabia has spearheaded efforts to resolve the crisis between pro and anti-government factions in Lebanon.
Solana said in Beirut that he would hold "frank discussions" in Syria on its ties with Lebanon, where many people blame Damascus for a series of deadly bomb attacks. He said he will also address the issue of a proposed international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 murder of former premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes. Arab diplomatic sources in Riyadh told Agence France Presse on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia was working on hosting a reconciliation meeting next week between Lebanon's anti-Syrian parliamentary majority and the Hizbullah-led opposition. The Saudi foreign minister told reporters at the news conference with Solana that while Riyadh had not made an official announcement concerning such a meeting, it would welcome one if it would help resolve the crisis. "If their (Lebanese leaders') presence here will lead to finding a solution that guarantees the interests of all as well as calm, stability and development in Lebanon, we would naturally welcome it," Prince Saud said. He said he discussed Lebanon "in depth" with Solana. Saud also said he hoped Iran would use its influence in Lebanon to promote stability in the country.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 14 Mar 07, 07:16

Ahmadinejad's confrontational style plays into Cheney's hands
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Editorial-Daily Star
US Vice President Dick Cheney is once again leading his country down the path of unnecessary war. On Tuesday, Cheney delivered a speech to a pro-Israel lobby group in Washington, outlining his view of the "war on terror" by arguing that "the only option for our security and survival is to go on the offensive, facing the threat directly, patiently and systematically until the enemy is destroyed."Cheney's words ought to serve as a warning, both to Americans and to the people of this region, that the despite all the failures in Iraq, the neoconservative logic of "preventive war" is not dead. On the contrary, a number of powerful American politicians and their highly influential supporters are now clamoring for a military attack on Iran.
Attacking Iran would obviously be a bad idea. America has manifestly bitten off more than it can chew in Iraq, and the Islamic Republic is a much more formidable foe. But if the Americans ultimately prove foolish enough to tread down this path again, the Iranians, particularly their outspoken president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will share the blame.
The Iranian people know that they are justified - both morally and legally - in having a peaceful nuclear program. But they have not had a leader who has made their case plain to the international community. They have not made sufficient effort to explain previous lapses of transparency, or the secrecy under which they have conducted their nuclear activities. Instead of seeking consistently to calm the fears of the international community about Iran's real intentions, too many of the country's leaders have maintained a posture of belligerence. The Iranian people also realize that their president's mercurial style does not play well abroad. On Monday, several editorials in the Iranian press urged the president to call off his plans for a "costly trip to New York" - where he hopes to address the United Nations Security Council about Iran's nuclear program - no doubt fearing that he will create an even bigger mess.
Directly or indirectly, everyone from Iran's hard-line supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to reformist former President Mohammad Khatami has urged Ahmadinejad to change course. But they have not done enough to rein him in. If Cheney succeeds in starting a new and even more disastrous war, many Iranians will know who else is to blame.

Two Days Among Heroes
By: Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Recently, as I stood on the inevitable winding line at Kennedy Airport, shoes in hand, forced to yield up my bottle of water to airport security, I could not help but think: "Humiliation at the checkpoints indeed!" Courtesy of jihadi terror, civilians at just about every airport in just about every country are forced to wait on long lines and submit both their bags and their bodies to physical and x-ray examinations. Of course, most of us understand that such surveillance ensures our survival. While countless propagandists have demonized Israel for the "humiliation" of Palestinians (including would-be bombers, who are also forced to wait at checkpoints), I have never once heard any Western liberal academic or activist blame Al Qaeda or Richard Reid (the "shoe bomber") for our considerable collective discomfort.
I always do.
This time, however, I would have waited on line for hours if necessary. I was on my way to a landmark conference of Muslim and ex-Muslim dissidents in St. Petersburg, Florida. The quietly efficient Austin Dacey, of the Center for Inquiry/Transnational, the eminent scholar Ibn Warraq, and the tireless Iranian activist Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi co-organized this event, which took place on March 4 and 5. Most speaker-delegates were staunch secularists; some were ardently or moderately religious; all believed in a separation of mosque and state; all were pro-Israel and pro-human and women’s rights.
Ironically, my views about Islamic gender and religious apartheid, Israel, and jihad, which have been excoriated by so many politically correct academics, found favor with these heroic and noble souls who honored me by having me chair the opening panel. Delegates from Bangladesh, Egypt/Gaza, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Pakistan, Syria, and Uganda, most of them living in exile in the West, attended. One of the delegates was human rights activist Shariar Kabir, a gentle man with a beatific countenance who still lives in Bangladesh where he has been imprisoned many times. "It is my country and I will not desert her" is how he put it.
The major speakers included Egyptian-born author Nonie Darwish (They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror), now an American citizen and the founder of Arabs for Israel; Egyptian-born Dr. Tawfik Hamid, author of The Roots of Jihad, now living in hiding but once a colleague of bin Laden’s number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri; Jordanian-born Dr. Shaker al-Nabulsi, who challenged the mullahs to issue a fatwa against bin Laden; Lebanese-American Dr. Walid Phares, author of Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies Against the West; Pakistani-American Dr. Tashbih Sayyed, editor of Muslim World Today and Pakistan Today, who’s been at the forefront of the fight against Islamism and jihad; Wafa Sultan, the Syrian-American psychiatrist who recently rose to prominence when MEMRI translated her fiery and extraordinary debate in Arabic on Al Jazeera; and the soul of the conference, Pakistani-born Ibn Warraq (a nom de guerre), author of many books including Leaving Islam and What the Quran Really Says.
Two speakers were Arab Christians; thirteen had been born and raised as Muslims. Perhaps I was there to represent the Jews – and to speak as an American women’s rights activist who has written extensively about and condemned Islamic religious and gender apartheid.
These dissidents are truth-tellers, endangered in their homelands, living in exile, strangers in a strange land, so to speak. They have been empowered by their sojourns in the West.
In what way are they important to Israel and America? They certainly have no mass following or powerful constituency among other Muslims – at least not yet. But if the silent, hopefully moderate Muslims are ever going to listen to anyone other than the master propagandists who now brainwash and terrorize them, these brave, rational, tolerant, and awe-inspiring dissidents are their most likely role models and teachers.
The conference produced and signed a Declaration (it can be viewed at that brands "Islamophobia" a false allegation; sees a "noble future for Islam as a personal faith, not a political doctrine"; and calls on governments of the world to "reject Sharia law…[and] oppose all penalties for blasphemy and apostasy, in accordance with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [and] eliminate practices such as female [genital mutilation], honor killing, forced veiling and forced marriage…[and] to reform sectarian education that teaches intolerance and bigotry towards non-Muslims…"
Among the initial 16 signatories was Mithal Al-Alusi, the Iraqi hero who, upon being elected to Parliament, chose to visit Israel – a crime for which jihadists killed his two sons and a bodyguard.
Not all Nazi-era Germans were Nazis themselves; some were peace-loving individuals who wanted to live safe lives and avoid death at Nazi hands. Ultimately, however, their failure to resist radical evil rendered them morally culpable as collaborators with that evil. In my view, the silent majority of Muslims are now on notice: they have a choice, there is another path to follow.
But make no mistake: Those Muslims who resist Islamist tyranny at home and fight for human and women’s rights are imprisoned, tortured, and executed. Dissidents are lucky if they can escape to the West. Those who do are to be commended for continuing the fight against Islamism while in their new countries.
It is important for the readers of The Jewish Press to know that nearly every speaker at the conference praised Israel and condemned the lethal propaganda against Jews, Israel, and America that is so pandemic in the Islamic world.
• Iranian exile and activist Manda Zand-Ervin had this to say: "I now believe in this statement by Golda Meir: ‘We will have peace only when the Arabs’ love for their children is stronger than their hate for the Jews.’ There is nothing worse than a society that kills its young."
• In his book about jihad, Dr. Tawfik Hamid, the former Jammaa Islameia terrorist, systematically denounces the brainwashing into Jew- and Israel-hatred that characterizes the Islamic world. In The Roots of Jihad, Dr. Hamid contends that the "the more religious a person becomes in Islam, the more aggressive he/she becomes toward others.…Islamic groups who have studied their religion very deeply commit the highest percentage of terror acts in the world."
• Irshad Manji, in her book The Trouble with Islam, describes Islam as "imperialist" and challenges both the Muslim and Western concept of Israel as "imperialist." She also acknowledges that "hundreds of thousands of Jews found themselves kicked out of Arab lands by the 1950’s." Unlike the Palestinians, they "did not languish in refugee holding tanks because Israel absorbed and integrated them…[and] 98,000 Palestinians. What have Arab governments done by and large for Palestinians?"
• Nonie Darwish, the daughter of a Palestinian shahid, reveals how she was taught to hate Israel and Jews in both Egypt and Gaza. In Infidel, she remembers how President Nasser "was obsessed with the elimination of Israel" and displaced his rage against European colonialists onto Israel. She recalls how the Arab media "twisted and repackaged their devastating defeat" in 1967 and how Israel was viewed as having "cheated" for daring to defend itself.
Darwish describes how every foreigner she met and befriended in Egypt or Gaza was viewed as "Zionist" or "CIA" or "Mossad." When Israeli doctors took care of her relatives – all of whom hated Israel – she underwent a sea change. In her words: "I discovered the decency, beauty, and grace in Jewish culture."
• Dr. Tashbish Sayeed visited Israel to try and understand Israelis’ "reluctance to do something about the bad press that continues to paint them as villains." He found that "despite daily provocation" Israelis have not "descended to the level of depravity [of] their Arab enemies." He states, "It is vital that Israel is supported, defended, and protected by all those who want the Muslims to progress as civilized people. I consider the rebirth of the Jewish state to be a blessing for Muslims."
Dr. Sayeed concludes: "If the American civic faith has given the world a hope to be able to live with dignity, self respect and honor in peace, the Jewish traditions and culture of pluralism, debate, acceptance of dissension and difference of opinion have manifested themselves in the shape of the state of Israel to present the oppressed Muslim world with a paradigm to emulate. And if we want this world to be free of any kind of terror, we will have to defend this state of mind, whether it is seen in the shape of Israel or in the form of the United States of America."
• On February 21, 2006, on Al Jazeera, Syrian-American psychiatrist Wafa Sultan had this to say: "The Jews have come from the tragedy (of the Holocaust) and forced the world to respect them, with their knowledge, not with their terror, with their work, not their crying and yelling. We have not seen a single Jew blow himself up in a German restaurant. We have not seen a single Jew destroy a church….We have not seen a single Jew protest by killing people. Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people, and destroying embassies. This path will not yield any results. The Muslims must ask what they can do for humankind before they demand that humankind respect them."
• Finally, in his many books, the Renaissance scholar and chair of the Islamic Dissident Conference, Ibn Warraq, defends Jews, Israel, and the West. He describes the long history of the Muslim persecution of Jews, Christians, and other religious minorities, and challenges the so-called Golden Era as a myth. He writes: "Apologists of Islam…minimize, or even excuse the persecution, the discrimination, the forced conversions, the massacres, and the destruction of the churches, synagogues, fire temples, and other places of worship.…[They ignore or excuse] the appalling behavior of the Prophet toward the Jews; and [ignore] the intolerant, hostile, anti-Jewish and anti-Christian sentiments expressed in the Quran, which were the source of much intolerant, fanatical, and violent behavior toward all non-Muslims throughout the history of Islam."
One of many examples of Jew-hatred he offers: "According to the Quran, Jews have an intense hatred of all true Muslims, and as a punishment for their sins, some of the Jews had, in the past, been changed into apes and swine…and others will have their hands tied to their necks and be cast into the fire on Judgment Day."
Ibn Warraq predicts that "without critical examination of Islam, it will remain dogmatic, fanatical, and intolerant and will continue to stifle thoughts, human rights, individuality, originality, and truth." At the conference he "demanded the rewriting of anti-American and anti-Jewish texts, particularly in Saudi Arabia and Egypt," saying it was "scandalous that this has not been done."
Though these brave dissidents may not yet have a movement behind them, their gathering was considered important (or dangerous) enough for Al Jazeera and Al-Arabiya to cover it. CNN’s Glenn Beck devoted a one-hour special to the conference, which was also covered by the Wall Street Journal, US News and World Report, The Weekly Standard and FrontPage
Investor’s Business Daily noted that the Saudi- and Dubai-funded Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) sent "henchmen" to Florida to shout down the reformers. CAIR also posted at least four stories about the dissidents whom they condemned as playing into the hands of "Islamophobes" and as not being the "right messengers."
Does CAIR think its representatives are more appropriate? CAIR spokesman Ahmed Bedier could not hold his own against Dr. Hamid, who challenged him to "denounce Saudi sharia law for "killing apostates, beating (and stoning) women." Bedier feebly responded: "This is not about Saudi Arabia. We condemn any nation that misuses Islam, but we’re not going to condemn an entire nation."
Investor’s Business Daily viewed the conference as a "ray of hope." So do I. These dissidents are Israel’s and America’s natural allies. Now is the time for Western intellectuals who claim to be anti-racist and committed to human rights to stand with these dissidents.
The abject refusal by too many academics to judge between civilization and barbarism, and between enlightened rationalism and fanatic Islamic fundamentalism, endangers and condemns the victims of Islamic tyranny – people of diverse skin colors and ethnicities, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists.
The conference did not seem to be a "ray of hope" to left-wing activist Rabbi Arthur Waskow, who in a mass e-mailing actually suggested it was funded by the CIA. This is complete fabrication, of course. Waskow’s problem is this: Since none of the speakers blamed America or Israel for the considerable suffering in the Muslim and Arab world, that must prove the conference was a CIA conspiracy. This is insane.
Actually, left-wing groups like Rabbis for Human Rights should have been at this conference. They were absent in droves. Here were true heroes speaking out, not people who saw themselves as victims of American and Zionist foreign policy. But then, that’s exactly why the Left shunned the gathering.
Ibn Warraq has written a devastating and masterful work, to be published this summer, titled Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said’s ‘Orientalism. Will Western intellectuals also dare defend the West? I call upon my colleagues to divest from an ideology of Islamic gender and religious apartheid that has hijacked, Palestinianized, and colonized the Western moral imagination with dreadful and dangerous consequences.
Dr. Phyllis Chesler, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is the author of many works including the bestseller "Women and Madness" (1972), "The New Anti-Semitism" (2003) and "The Death of Feminism: What’s Next in the Struggle for Women’s Freedom" (2005). Her forthcoming book is titled "The Islamization of America."
An Emerita professor of psychology and women’s studies and the co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology and the National Women’s Health Network, she is on the board of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and may be contacted through her website,

Syrians, Palestinians deny links to Ain Alaq blasts
By Rym Ghazal - Daily Star staff - Thursday, March 15, 2007
BEIRUT: Syrian and Palestinians officials on Wednesday denied any connection to twin-bus bombings in February in Ain Alaq after Lebanese security forces announced the arrest of four Syrians from Fatah al-Islam as the culprits behind the attack on Tuesday. The denials followed what is being viewed as the first breakthrough in the case of a string of bombings that have rocked Lebanon for the past two years.
"I would like to confirm that Syria condemns any terrorist act," Foreign Minister Walid Moallem told reporters during a news conference in Damascus with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. Moallem was responding to Lebanese Interior Minister Hassan Sabaa, who said on Tuesday after a Cabinet session that the Internal Security Forces had arrested four Syrian members of Fatah al-Islam, an alleged offshoot of the Damascus-based Fatah Intifada, who confessed to the February 13 attack that killed three people and wounded 24 others.
"We are a secular country that has no links to terrorist operations," Moallem said.
Syrian Interior Minister Bassam Abdul-Majid also rejected the charges, saying they were part of "a campaign of allegations and fabrications against Syria that has been going on for some time to serve a foreign plan aimed at destabilizing Lebanon and damaging its relations with Syria and its Arab environment." "Fatah al-Islam is an organization of Al-Qaeda that plans to conduct terrorism operations in Syria. It was discovered in August 2002," Abdul-Majid said. He said several members of the group had been arrested in recent years and that an arrest warrant was issued in January for Shaker al-Absi, a Jordanian of Palestinian origin who used to be in contact with the late Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Absi already served a three-year sentence in Syria for belonging to Fatah al-Islam, he added.
Palestinian officials also denied any connection to those arrested, with the Fatah representative in Lebanon, Abbas Zaki, visiting Premier Fouad Siniora on Wednesday to assure Palestinian solidarity with Lebanon. "The group is not an official Palestinian movement ... and not related to Fatah, which was launched as a resistance against Israel," Zaki told reporters after his meeting with Siniora. "Those who confessed to the crime were not Palestinian to begin with," said Zaki. "We hope this event doesn't hurt Palestinian-Lebanese relations." Security sources sent The Daily Star a detailed list of four apartments raided by the ISF in connection with the arrests.
The first apartment is located in Qornet Shehwan, near the 'Breakfast to Breakfast' restaurant; the second in Bourj Hammoud on the first floor of the Botrous Bassil building; the third one in Karm al-Zaytoum in Achrafieh on the first floor of the Daher building; and the fourth in Ghadeer on the second floor of the Michel Shamoun building. The Daily Star visited the Achrafieh apartment, in which explosives were confiscated by the ISF, and found the door sealed with red wax and an official cordon, a pair of jeans and socks hanging on the balcony and a working class neighborhood shaken by the news. Um Raymond, owner of the apartment, told The Daily Star that she rented the unfurnished flat for $250 a month to three "Syrian workers that didn't look like terrorists."
A pink slip posted on the door dated the arrest as March 8, five days prior to its official announcement.
"We didn't notice them coming or leaving," said neighbor George Khoury. "But we saw them getting arrested on their scooters." Eyewitness accounts of the arrest varied as to whether two of three men had been arrested outside the building, where the suspects had stayed for only three days before being captured. Security measures were stepped up in the area after the arrests, along with Syria reportedly beefing up its troops along its border with North Lebanon and the Lebanese Army deploying additional troops around the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp.
A masked and armed spokesperson for Fatah al-Islam identifying himself as Abu Salim in Nahr al-Bared said the accusations were "completely fabricated" and denied his group's involvement for the second day in a row. "We are not involved and we are not working for the Syrian Mukhabarat," Abu Salim told the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation on Wednesday. Abu Salim said the group was not Syrian, but had "sympathizers" in Syria and other Arab countries. Fatah al-Islam reportedly split from Fatah Intifada, itself a 1980s splinter group of the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's mainstream Fatah party.
Fatah Intifada on Wednesday said it was not connected with Fatah Islam, according to a statement issued in Damascus. The group also condemned all "crimes that target civilians" and underscored its support for Lebanon's security and safety.
"The Lebanese interior minister's comment is regretful and carries a lot of slander and incorrect information," it added. Fatah spokesman in Lebanon Khaled Arif said Wednesday that Fatah al-Islam was not made up of only Palestinians. "The members are from different nationalities, including Syrian and Jordanian, and Palestinian constitutes only 5 percent of the group," Arif said. "There are 150 members in Fatah al-Islam and they are only in the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared," he added. These developments coincided with the UN Chief Investigator Serge Brammertz submission of his third report on the probe into the killing of Hariri and others to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The Ain Alaq bombing had been included in the list of attacks being probed.

Dar al-Fatwa urges Muslims to reject violence
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Dar al-Fatwa urged all Muslims in Lebanon Wednesday to reject all forms of violence and extremism, which it said only "harm the Islamic religion." In a statement issued ahead of the Prophet Mohammad's birthday on March 31, Dar al-Fatwa said it hoped Lebanon would be granted security, prosperity and stability. Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani is expected to make a speech on March 30 to celebrate the occasion.

Aoun warns ruling coalition against 'messing' with Constitution.
FPM leader vows his party will never agree to 'alienate' Hizbullah

Daily Star staff - Thursday, March 15, 2007
BEIRUT: The head of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) once more slammed the "stubborn" government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora on Wednesday and called on the Cabinet to "put an end to its unconstitutional status." MP Michel Aoun said that the Constitution contained "many stupidities" regarding the powers allotted to the Cabinet and the Constitutional Council and accused the ruling majority of "playing around and twisting the connotations of constitutional texts" to suit their own interests.
Speaking to senior members and youth organizations of the FPM at the Rabieh Guest House on the occasion of the second anniversary of the March 14, 2005, Aoun said that the "true heroes" of the Independence Intifada were "those who had fought for years and years against Syrian hegemony over Lebanon, not those who participated in a four-hour demonstration."
"Temporary stands do not entitle them to monopolize national decisions or the choices of the Lebanese," he added. Aoun warned that any "messing" with constitutional texts could lead to "deadly conflicts."
Aoun repeated his criticism that the same politicians that were formally "Syria's servants" in Lebanon were now "ruling over the Lebanese and preaching the principles of freedom and democracy, which they know absolutely nothing about." The FPM leader further accused the ruling majority of "marginalizing" the role of Christians in Lebanon. "But Christian determination will never be weakened," he said.
Aoun said he would never go along with attempts to "alienate" Hizbullah, adding that a "radical" solution to the current political deadlock requires the building of "bridges of trust" between Lebanese parties. The drafting of a "comprehensive" and "reasonable" defense strategy could pave the way for the disarmament of Hizbullah, he added. "Civil war and sectarian strife will never be revived again," Aoun said, "and anyone working on instigating any sort of conflict among the Lebanese should find himself a better job."
The senior member of the anti-government bloc said that the opposition had succeeded in containing the political crisis and hindering "potential strife." The FPM leader added that a solution to the crisis would be reached as soon as the ruling majority abandoned its "authoritative dispositions." "Nevertheless," he said, "whether they do that or not we are keen on having things settled in the country." Aoun said the solution to the deadlock was "simple, clear and local," and that there was no need to "resort to far away countries seeking solutions."
Commenting on the arrest on Tuesday of four suspects in twin bus bombings in Ain Alaq last month, Aoun said that "the government should have taken pre-emptive measures, knowing that the disarming of Palestinian factions and Lebanon's relationship with Syria has been thoroughly discussed during dialogue sessions three months ago." The FPM leader stressed that determining the "nature of the relationship" with Syria was a "pressing necessity.
"Outlining a healthy relationship is likely to put an end to Syrian interference in Lebanese domestic affairs, as well as to Lebanese manipulative stands," the leader of the FPM added.

Judge finds Sudan responsible for terrorist bombing of Cole
By TIM MCGLONE, The Virginian-Pilot
© March 14, 2007
NORFOLK — A federal judge found today that Sudan should be held accountable for the Oct. 12, 2000, bombing of the Norfolk-based USS Cole and will determine how much the families of the 17 sailors who died in the attack should be paid. “I don’t think there’s any question that there is substantial evidence in this case, presented by the expert testimony, that the government of Sudan induced the particular bombing of the Cole,” U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar said from the bench Wednesday at the conclusion of a two-day civil trial.
The families of 17 victims of the attack on the Cole sued Sudan, claiming it helped provide training and logistics to the al-Qaida terrorists who pulled up next to the destroyer at Aden Harbor, Yemen, and detonated a small boat of explosives. The judge will decide at a later date how much the families should receive. Money would come from Sudanese assets seized by the U.S. government.
Outside court after the ruling, emotions were mixed among the families who attended the trial.
“It’s a great deal of relief,” said John Clodfelter of Mechanicsville, Va., who’s son Kenneth perished in the attack. “But I’d much rather have Kenneth back than to have to go through this.”
Others remain frustrated. “This will not give us closure,” said Jacqueline Saunders of Danville, Va., whose husband Timothy died in the attack. “I want everyone to understand that my children suffer daily.” Parent Joe Gunn of Virginia Beach said he remains angry at the U.S. government for not treating the Cole families the same as the families of those lost in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Those families received payments from a fund set up by Congress.
“We have been overlooked for nearly seven years,” Gunn said. The families would be paid from Sudanese assets previously frozen by the U.S. government because of the African nation’s links to terrorism. The U.S. Treasury Department said that $68.2 million of Sudanese assets in this country have been frozen, according to a 2005 department report, the most recent available. Those assets include six real estate holdings owned by Sudan, including its embassy in Washington.
Sudan embassy officials have not returned phone calls from The Virginian-Pilot on Wednesday and in recent weeks. Carl Gray, a local attorney who represented the country, declined to comment on Doumar’s ruling and has declined to say much of anything during the trial. The country chose not to challenge the merits of the case. Terrorism experts testified that Sudan provided Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida associates with logistical and material support necessary to carry out the attack. Among the experts was former CIA Director James Woolsey, who served in the mid-1990s when al-Qaida was active in Sudan.
Six family members also took the stand during the two-day trial, giving powerful testimonials of how life turned upside-down upon hearing the news that their loved ones were gone.
On Wednesday, Jaime Owens described how difficult it was to tell her 4-year-old daughter that her father would not be coming home. Ronald “Scott” Owens, her high-school sweetheart, was a petty officer second class aboard the Cole. She recalled how a Navy chaplain and an officer arrived at her parents’ home, in Florida, where she was visiting the day of the bombing to inform her that her husband was “presumed missing.” Her daughter, overhearing the news, said “ `My daddy isn’t missing. He’s just hiding in a really good spot.’ ” About five days later, the Navy officials arrived at her Virginia Beach home with the news that her husband’s remains had been found. “ `Is daddy coming home?’ ” her daughter asked. “I had to tell her, 'No,’ ” said Owens, who now lives in Tennessee. “I had to explain to her that she would never see her father again.”
The families have not asked for a specific amount, though earlier in the case they listed damages of more than $100 million. Doumar said he would review detailed financial records from the 59 family members. He’ll then decide an amount for each person he finds eligible. He said he would decide an amount based on actual losses, such as lost income, and would likely not include increased damages for emotional distress. Doumar said he would present an official, written opinion at a later date. The judge expressed his own frustrations at a world struggling to combat terrorism. “We’re facing some really horrible problems,” he said during a closing colloquy.
“I don’t know the answer to them and,” he continued, “I dare say the government doesn’t know the answers.”