Tuesday, June 30, 2009

UN, Why The Silence?

From the United Nations nothing is heard in condemnation of the Islamic Republic of Iran's brutality toward its protesting public that believes, on the clear evidence, that the recent presidential election constituted a fraud on the populace. Let alone even the gentlest of chiding that the Republic of Iran that celebrates its gentle theocracy as one blessed and steered by God Almighty would indulge in such underhanded and gratuitously insulting manoeuvres, assuring Iranians that Ayatollah Khamenei speaks for Allah and through Him the Guardian Council has validated the vote outcome.

Amnesty International contends that next to China Iran has executed more people than any other country, with 346 people having met their death by official diktat last year alone. Now that Iranians have dared challenge the power of their Supreme Leader and his chosen candidate to continue the presidency, and now that ominous public warnings have been pronounced about restoring law and order against "hooligans" and "terrorists" intent on upsetting the Islamic Republic of Iran, the death penalty is required.

Many countries of the world have stated their disgust, repudiating any residual support they may have had for Iran. Atrocities committed by the administration of countries against their own people under international law, and as recognized by the United Nations constitute crimes against humanity. Under the "responsibility to protect" clause of the United Nations it is abundantly clear that action should and must be taken to avert a larger tragedy in that fanatically Islamist country.

Nothing is heard from Ban Ki-Moon, deploring the situation there, although President Barack Obama has tentatively voiced his careful displeasure.

How then to explain that the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, Russia and sadly Canada too, claim to support the ousted president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, when the country's Supreme Court and its parliamentary Council, along with most of the general population of the country consider him to have acted criminally and against the best interests of the country in attempting to tamper with the country's constitution to ensure he can emulate his great good friend, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez?

No one wants to criticize left-wing Latin America, and in concert swiftly come to the defence of the new dictators of the left. Is there any comparison between the activities of the two countries? Iran, a brutal dictatorship whose human rights abuses are famously feared and criticized, and which defies international condemnation in searching for nuclear weaponization, and which, unopposed, threatens the security and well-being of other countries, one of which it insists it will destroy.

And Honduras, a democratic country of peaceful and modest means, which has duly elected a replacement for its current president who has now outlived his four-year mandate, and who insists on his right, against the wishes of the people, the governing council, and the country's Supreme Court which deems it illegal, to alter the constitution. In the interests of remaining on as president, and to expand his presidential powers. The representatives of the world communities are in an instant lather over this internal governing matter.

And Iran is left free to challenge its own people, threatening to end the lives of the leaders of the opposing parties and the protest leaders to ensure the longevity of the ruling Ayatollahs. Who may then continue their agenda of threatening world peace and further subjecting their people to intolerant fanatacism. Fascism rearing its ugly head on the left is acclaimed, on the right deplored.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Iran's Proxy Terror

Raising the ire of powerful bullies capable of sending out minions whose business it is to terrorize, to wreak havoc, to ravage communities' sense of well being by exacting the revenge of bloody carnage is a risky undertaking. On the other hand, the alternative is a lack of response when outrageous human rights abuses occur as though without notice by communities of nations for whom human rights are seen as universal rights.

They are not, needless to say, given that most nations of the world are controlled by tyrannical rulers. Iran being an outstanding example.

The Iranian Revolution that brought the rigid theocracy of the Ayatollahs to power in their exercise of Twelve-Imam Shi'ite devotion, brought a ruthless tyranny down on the people of Iran. The Ayatollahs were not and are not satisfied to rule only the ancient country of Persia, to bring it back to its original Safavid glory. Their ambition is to instill a greater Shia constancy within the Muslim world, starting with the immediate geography of Arab Islam.

The Middle East is majority Sunni, not at all impressed with Iran's motivations and aspirations for ascendancy. The Arab nations are sitting back, watching with a mixture of hope and trepidation as the drama of the green revolution unfolds. Whether it can maintain its heretical momentum against the anger of the reigning Ayatollahs and the Guardian Council, threatening the reformers' ring-leaders with execution, is of great interest beyond the Middle East.

But in the Middle East there is uneasiness that a revolt against the repressions and human rights-abusive theocratic administration may inspire their own downtrodden populations to agitate against the various monarchies, sheikdoms, republics, dictatorships, military-dominated quasi-democracies that dominate. While on the other hand, their concerns about Iran's obvious determination to achieve nuclear militarization could be ameliorated.

As for the Islamic Republic of Iran itself, it has other deadly arrows in its quiver of potential assaults against its detractors. It has nourished its terrorist operatives representing Hezbollah, creating an international expansion of its deadly network, into Europe and North America. Long rumoured to be fact, intelligence experts now state that Hezbollah has an estimated 900 operatives in Germany.

"Hezbollah is capable of striking in Germany or, more likely, planning an incident like the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg that planned the attack on New York", according to a fellow at the European Centre for Democracy. "Hezbollah operatives can be activated from Beirut or Tehran. Iran is using Hezbollah figures for its foreign policy purposes and killing the regime's opponents."

Moreover, the Basij, Hezbollah militants, working their way through dissenters in Tehran by beating and maiming demonstrators are said to be comprised of Iran's proxy militias, brought from Lebanon into Iran, less likely to sympathize with the protesters than Iranian militias. They're not the least bit averse to killing Iranian protesters, why would they be?

Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert at Sweden's National Defence University posits that "Hezbollah has stretched, facilitated by Iran, across the Middle East, Central Asia, Europe and Latin America. It grants Iran global power and Hezbollah has become more susceptible to Iran's efforts to project its influence."

Egypt, Azerbaijan, Belgium and the U.S. have been the beneficiaries of weapons smuggling, assassination attempts and other illicit smuggling schemes through the energetic auspices of Hezbollah, despite its insistence that its arsenal of weapons represent 'resistance' against its proclaimed mortal enemy, Israel.

According to the new head of U.S. Southern Command, "The real concern is not a nation-to-nation interaction; it is the connection that Iran has with extremist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah and the potential risk that that could bring to this region."

An angry Iran, infuriated over the international condemnation of their corrupted presidential election has the capacity and certainly the will, to exact revenge on its international critics. Whom, in any event, it accuses of fomenting rebellion among its population.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Empire Of The Son

The family who made little effort to rescue their famous son from the throes of drug dependency are now foaming at the mouth with rage ostensibly seeking blame for his early demise. The heart doctor who had been his personal physician, who prescribed and administered painkillers appears the most likely target of their burning ire, despite that police have dismissed his presence and practise as constituting a criminal offence. Michael Jackson, after all, arranged for cardiologist Conrad Murray to look to his needs.

And the simple fact is this is not an unusual arrangement with the moneyed, the famous, the celebrity class. Demerol injections were Michael Jackson's preference, and he lived with and for his preferences. Just as he became addicted to fame, and to transforming himself from a black man of singular personal appeal to a ghoulish white transsexual. Corrupting his body, then his mind. A tragedy, that someone with his wide acclaim as an accomplished artist should have succumbed to such utter meaningless.

His nascent talents were recognized by his musician-father who then transported his son as the signal performer within the family enclave of musical talent toward an early life of slavery to the father's ambitions. It is a question whether love and emotional support was ever manifested toward this artistically gifted child. It is clear he was manipulated and heartlessly exploited. And then learned to love it, elaborating on its excesses.

Michael Jackson, entertainer extraordinaire, pathetic human being incapable of making decisions that would enhance his life, seeking instead destructive paths leading to denial and infamy, desiring nonetheless to replicate himself by whatever means he used to pass on his genes. If he could not achieve eternal life in his very own body, he would achieve it through the lives of his children.

All three, two boys, one girl, named after him. Exalted hubris; everything about this man was out of the ordinary, outrageously flamboyant, unambiguously self-adoring. Prince Michael Joseph, Paris Michael Katherine and Prince Michael II, all are in the loving care of a family, a father whose rapacious treatment of his son resulted in this psyche-stilted musical phenomenon whom fate itself kicked around.

And did Michael himself, the father of three impressionable, perhaps bright and expectant children actually love his children? Or did he envision owning them, his very own private possessions, just as he aspired to own all manner of excruciatingly odd and manifestly peculiar objects, animate and inanimate. If he loved his children, how is it he could give them to the tender loving care of those who tormented him?

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Unabashed, Crude Cupidity

The father whom Michael Jackson described as "...very strict, very hard and stern. Just a look would terrify me. There were times when he would come to see me and I would feel sick. And I would say, 'Please don't get mad, Joseph. I am sorry, Joseph.'", busied himself feverishly as soon as his son was pronounced dead, on sending out a moving van to take possession of his son's belongings. As though the $100,000-a-month-rental mansion would be stormed by fans ready to pillage and deprive father Joseph of his just due.

Joseph Jackson, the Jackson family paterfamilias made a statement to his son's fans: "We miss Michael endlessly, our pain cannot be described in words. ... But please do not despair, because Michael will continue to live on in each and every one of you." He will do that by fans' undying devotion to their pop star's family taking steps to release previously unknown Michael Jackson songs, which those emotional and horribly distraught fans will have the opportunity to purchase, further enriching the estate.

As it is Michael Jackson songs have already tipped the download charts in fully thirteen countries. The Internet has become burdened by disconsolate lovers of Michael Jackson's music seeking any new clues or information about their King of Pop, sharing their misery with others for whom his death has become a personal calamity. The Jackson family to the rescue; their famous son and sibling not yet buried, but business talks are ongoing to make of the tragedy a stupendous money-making opportunity.

A travelling exhibit of Michael Jackson memorabilia; the transformation of his Neverland fantasy park into a money-making destination for adoring fans. The money to be made off his memory and the treasury of his music will represent a time-healing salve for the grief of his family. Already an auction that took place one day after death brought in hundreds of thousands far in excess of expectations. That is the tip of the iceberg.

People are well advised to hang onto all the trash they can now collect immediately commemorating his death, for the value it may represent in the near future. Leave no opportunity unturned.

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"Don't worry if some security breach occurs here or there", Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki assured in a speech just recently. "They are trying to destabilize the situation, but we will confront them." Speaking of al-Qaeda in Iraq's attempts to wreak sectarian violence in the country, and to encourage participation by the Sunni Iraqi population, in attacking the Shia who just happen to hold the balance of power in the new Iraqi administration.

The Sunni minority, under former dictator Saddam Hussein's Baath party were in the ascendancy, with the majority Shia population kept in thrall to the will of the country's tyrant. Civil war was barely averted in 2006 when sectarian bloodshed roiled the country, from Baghdad streets to Samarra's Al-Askari shrine. And although the administration has not yet dealt with issues on power sharing and oil revenues between Sunni, Shia and Kurds, they believe they are ready to rule without U.S. assistance.

A truck bomb exploded outside Kirkuk, claiming 75 victims, just hours after the Prime Minister made his confident announcement. Al-Qaeda was to blame, of course, intent on their malevolent course, "a plan that aims to awaken sectarianism, create chaos, abort the political process and prevent Iraqi people from standing on their own feet." It was, of course, the American troop surge that claimed to have beaten al-Qaeda's influence in Iraq.

Al-Qaeda's vicious brutality affronted the Sunni Iraqis they hoped to bring over to their side, and instead Sunni tribal leaders, with the encouragement of the U.S. formed their own militias, the Sunni Arab Awakening Council, that coordinated with U.S. troops to successfully battle al-Qaeda and beat back their advances. A year ago the U.S. delivered the Awakening Council militias that they helped train and supply with weapons, to the Iraqi government.

The Shia-led government promised that they would give due respect to and incorporate the Awakening Council militias into the country's regular army. Insisting that first they must surrender their arms, and that their leaders would have to stand back, and that they would invest trust only in the younger members of the Sunni Awakening Council. A year later, all those conditions met, yet the government has taken no positive steps to integrate the Sunnis into the army.

This is a mostly Shia-led administration in Iraq deliberately excluding the minority Sunnis, and this does not bode well for the future. Yet the Prime Minister identifies the July 1 withdrawal of American troops from his unsettled country a triumph, a "great victory", against 'foreign occupiers'. As American troops prepare to leave, the country is assailed time and again by suicide bombers. Those terror attacks have brought the death toll to almost 200 since June 10.

And another seven bombings in one day alone, later in June, with 70 people killed, 158 injured, in a crowded market in northeastern Baghdad. Some triumph, some cause for celebration.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Punishment By Death

There are solutions to everything, including evidently unsolvable problems relating to ingrates throwing in their lot with foreign governments and their sinister agents, rather than appreciating the blessedness of life in a society and proud nation such as the Islamic Republic of Iran. Thousands of years of civilization, of artistic and literary and architectural excellence are not to be spurned after all by recent events in history.

Proud traditions are to be upheld, a heritage of ascendant hierarchy, and of religious perfection honoured.

Death is prescribed for those whose evil intent is obviously the overthrow of all that has meaning and is relevant and valuable to honourable religious adherents of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The perfidious upheaval of society through the illegal, uncivil and malicious work of social misfits, malingerers, those who find common cause with the enemies of the Republic is not to be countenanced, will not be permitted, and will, indeed, be dealt with expeditiously.

So say the Ayatollahs, and so says in particular Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami. The judiciary have little option, in performing their duty to country and God but to "punish leading rioters firmly and without showing any mercy to teach everyone a lesson". Everyone, in this instance, clearly identifying those members of the restive Iranian public foolish enough to permit themselves to be moved by the blandishments and encouragements of Western inciters.

Whose agenda is obviously to belittle the administration, insult their blessed religion, bankrupt the nation's economy, corrupt its scholars and students, and be enabled through social and national collapse which they hope to bring to reality, to take ownership of the nation's natural resources, granted them by God Almighty.

The Guardian Council has announced with no room for manoeuvring otherwise, that the regime's detractors are in default of opinion and of legal options.

"Anybody who fights against the Islamic system of the leaders of Islamic society, fight him until complete destruction." Could that be stated in a clearer manner?

Ayatollah Khatami further enlightened the Iranian people and the world at large by identifying who killed Neda Agha-Soltan as a fellow protester, encouraged to do so by his Western taskmasters. For "government forces do not shoot at a lady standing in a side street". Those who bandy about the opinion that foreign militias swell the ranks of the Basij are mistaken.

The gauntlet is thrown. Who will raise it to a banner of freedom?

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Wha! What Crisis?!

The Islamic Republic of Iran is a benevolent state, invested in the well-being of its people. Its president, Mahmoud Amhadinejad cannot be claimed to have no interest in the welfare of the disadvantaged in Iranian society, the poor, the religious, the rural dwellers. What other president would embark on a good will tour of the countryside for the purpose of extending good will, good wishes, and a harvest of potatoes?

As for those who protest the outcome, the legal and democratic outcome of the June election, who are they? Consider: in a country that speaks Farsi, the protesters all are English-speaking, technologically savvy, possessing electronic devices enabling them to maintain contact with the outside world. A world outside the world of Islam that seeks to wreak havoc in Iran simply because of Western fear and disdain for the Republic.

Not to mention mean-spirited spite and jealousy. They, the countries of the West, most notably England, the United States, France, (and their Zionist masters) would dearly love to get their dirty hands on Iran's immense and valuable oil and gas reserves. But they cannot; the Islamic Republic stands firm and protective of its assets, its precious geographic endowments, by Allah.

And right about now, Mr. Ahmadinejad is fed up, he is appalled and outraged by the gross interference of Western interests led by the world's evil Zionists, in the legal and theocratically sanctioned outcome of an election he has won fairly, squarely and in good faith. The people of Iran do not flood the streets with protest marches. The puppets of the West do.

These cravenly miserable excuses for human beings who have surrendered their Iranian souls for crass approval by the truculent West will not succeed in driving asunder what God has decreed. The Islamic Republic of Iran knows how to deal with such types as these; it has a well defined and extremely workable solution: the death penalty. The leaders of this revolting defiance will pay the penalty, not as blessed martyrs to the common cause, but as defilers of the faith.

How dare the new American president, Mr. Obama, make critical reference to the election that has unanimously re-elected Mr. Ahmadinejad to once again make Iran proud of his outstanding performance on the world stage? Mr. Obama has erred, criminally, in his assessment; he has unerringly demonstrated that he is the twin of the accursed Bush.

President Ahmadinejad has been kind in merely scolding Mr. Obama, for it is clear he knew not what he did. But it is also abundantly clear that he must now make amends, humble himself before the glorious Republic and its people. An abject apology, nothing less, may be considered before any high-ranking official from Iran would stoop to confer with the American administration.

As for seeking Iran's assistance in stabilizing Afghanistan and Iraq; we thought you'd never ask. It is indeed in our power to do as you request. And, just for the sake of argument, were we to do as is requested, what is the benefit to Iran? Precisely. You may ask for our assistance; indeed, we urge you to do so, as an indication of your own failure. But you must wallow in your failure; Iran will not rescue you.

Know you this: Mr. Ahmadinejad does not suffer fools gladly. Listen carefully, this is no crisis; merely a tempest in Iran's tin pot, which we are more than capable of handling expeditiously. You have heard, no doubt, of the hundreds of dissenters whom we dispatch yearly? We know what to do. Now listen carefully.

We are prepared to say this once, and once only. Redeem your sorry self through a self-abnegating exercise and we will consider restoring your share of our exquisite pistachio nuts. Remain defiant, and we plan to dispatch one of our very best and brightest representatives, a Mr. B. Asiji, to teach you international manners.

We have many B. Asijis among our friends in Hamas and Hezbollah. Have you heard of those sterling organizations whose search for meaning in life resides in Allah's will?

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Iran's State Prosecutor

His name is infamous in Canada, as the official behind the murder of Canadian-Iranian photographer Zahra Kazemi. She was arrested in 2003, while on a trip to her native Iran from her adopted country of residence, Canada. She was in the process of compiling a photo-documentary about human rights abuses in Iran, and her activity there, for that purpose, did not receive great applause from the country's authoritarian administration.

Who left it up to their police and their prosecutors and their interrogators to make quick work of her and her aspirations to demonstrate to the world what had become of her beloved country of birth. She was tortured, beaten and raped while incarcerated in the infamous Evin prison, in Tehran. The prison is well known and feared by political prisoners, journalists, bloggers who have suffered harsh interrogation tactics, solitary confinement and torture there.

Iranian protesters who have marched in the streets in defiance of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's orders to cease and desist and obey the laws of the land and the outcome of the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have been met with water cannons, tear gas, and riot police wielding batons to beat them back and into submission.

Outside Tehran's parliament building the crowds were forced back by armoured vehicles. The Basiji militia, plain-clothed thugs on motorcycles appearing suddenly as though out of nowhere, beat the protesters relentlessly. Security forces with one thing only in mind; to bring the protesting crowds to their knees and completely out of commission.

Protesters blogging their impressions of the event they were involved in write of their surprise at the attacks, somehow still naively believing that their demands for consideration will be heeded. That reason will prevail, that the elderly fanatics that comprise the theocracy that governs them all care for their wish for a democratic process in a country whose administration is fascist in temperament and outlook.

"It was like they were beating up dolls. The security forces were out for blood. Hundreds of them charged out of nowhere. The next thing we saw was fire, blood, and clouds of tear gas." The next thing many of them will see will be solitary confinement. And they will be mercilessly interrogated. They have been identified as willing tools of western imperialists, of the BBC, Britain and evil Zionists.

Now Saaed Mortazavi, the notorious prosecutor involved in the death of Zahra Kazemi has been tasked with the interrogation of arrested reformists. They were informed, after all, days ago, that their continued dissent would not be tolerated. That they must submit to the will of the Ayatollahs, for that is the will of God.

Those whom prosecutor Mortazavi's henchmen will be interrogating will inevitably, under torture, under fear for their lives or those of their relatives, be coerced into signing confessions. Confessions that will be released to the world through media propaganda, to validate Iran's claims of Western interference in the affairs of their state, agitating to overthrow their legally constituted government.

Those who confess will languish in prison, in solitary confinement, a living torture out of which they may eventually emerge. Or not.

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Recreation - and Drugs

The use of recreational drugs has always been a problem in society. Most societies deal with the problem in the best way they can, usually by attempting to control and manage the problem. We don't do a very good job of it, however. Some drugs are so pervasive in society that governments accept that their use is almost universal, and simply accept that prohibition does not work. People will always find a way to counteract the prohibited items they desire.

Take alcohol and tobacco use. They're endemic to societal use as recreational drugs. We don't tend to think of them as being drugs, but they alter the chemical balance of the human body and they are injurious to the human body, mostly because people don't use them lightly, but also because they are biologically inimical to good health and destructive of human organs. Despite which, when we talk recreational drugs we mostly understand that to be opiate-type drugs.

Millions of people in all countries of the world use recreational drugs. Such drugs do have a medicinal use as pain-killers; when they're utilized for that purpose they can be useful and helpful to humankind. Their chemical interaction is useful for interacting with body processes to still the effect of physical pain. They also alter the mind-process, and that is part of their allure.

It's estimated that apart from the nuisance problem of governments legislating against the casual, unlicensed and unlawful use of recreational drugs, enforced by their law-enforcement agencies, there are 20 to 24-million serious drug users worldwide. Which doesn't sound like a whole lot of people, given a world-wide population of close to 7-billion.

For some mysterious reason, governments tend to select chemical drugs as the bugbear of society, overlooking the chemical-physical effects of tobacco and alcohol use. Overuse of all of these drugs leads to failing health and inevitably death. Loss of mental acuity, of physical integrity through addictive use of mind-altering and reason-impairing drugs.

The costs of acquiring those drugs are sometimes prohibitive to those whose impairment is so severe they are unable to function, with or without them. Leading to the commission of crimes for the wherewithal to acquire the needed drugs. Society's tab in policing, health provision, social welfare, incarceration is enormous.

It seems to make sense that if society legally permits people to smoke tobacco, drink alcohol, invoking heavy taxes on both partially to recover remediation costs, partially to make it more expensive for people to indulge, it could do likewise with light recreational drugs. When you look at the mortality figures for drug ingestion and use, it seems to make little sense to outlaw some recreational drugs, and permit others.
Statistics on drug use and mortality around the world:
Global Amphetamine use: 16- 51 million
Global Ecstasy use: 12 - 23 million
Global Cocaine use: 16 - 21 million
Global Heroin use: 15 - 21 million
Global yearly deaths from drugs: 200,000
Global yearly deaths from tobacco: 5 million
Global yearly deaths from alcohol: 2 million

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Equality, Liberty, Fraternity

With fully ten percent of France's population now Muslim, and with the current climate of extremism among some elements of Muslim society everywhere, it's little wonder that the government of France has developed a facial tic in encountering a very real problem of native-born young French people becoming socially and religiously radicalized. Minorities breed resentment among themselves when they feel - and often there are very good reasons for them to feel this way - that they have been marginalized as inferior to the majority.

It isn't supposed to be this way in a pluralist society dedicated to egalitarianism. And in spirit it isn't that way. But in reality, when education is being pursued, and jobs are being sought, and entitlements found lacking, minorities do tend to get the short end of the stick. Human beings are fallible and much as most people would deny they practise discriminatory attitudes toward those not of their social standing, education level, ethnic preference, religious adherence, we do.

The very visible and distracting vision of a woman self-selecting for an appearance of subservience to men serves as a social shock to those dedicated to equality between the genders. Patriarchal societies tend to impose humiliating and human-rights-abusing conditions on the women who are dependent on men for their well-being and that of their offspring, to keep them in line. It's all very well for many to claim that Islamic precepts don't demand the separation of the sexes, but tribal society does.

It is a miserable manner to present oneself in society, fully wrapped, completely encumbered by a shroud that moves along with the woman, shielding her for intimate appraisal, but not from the glare of resentful eyes. Simply put, it is degrading to women to insist that they cover themselves to protect them from the lustful glare of men's imaginations. Men insisting on ownership of their women as a rightful possession degrade women.

Yet women are complicit in this condition which requires them to be fully garbed in oppressive Islamic dress following a code that is social and tribal in nature, but claiming to be religiously-required. Muslim women who see themselves as religious yet proudly independently feminist decry those women who imprison themselves willingly in burkas and the niqab, subservient to the demands of the men in their lives. In upsetting French social convention they feel they liberate themselves psychically.

It is women who are held to blame for sexual attacks in some societies, not the men who attack them. Under the anonymity of a full-garb body covering women are held not to elicit the attention of lustful men. Who are incapable of controlling their urges, who are held to be reliant on women to cover themselves by convention to ensure their safety. These societies don't caution men that they are responsible for their actions. And France has its work cut out to turn back the tide of Islamist backwardness.

In Uttar Pradesh, India's largest state, college principals are now insisting that women refrain from dressing in "vulgar Western" clothing to prevent "eve-teasing", an Indian term for sexual harassment. Jeans are banned, as are sleeveless blouses, tight tops, miniskirts and high heels, as being provocative. Women are enjoined to wear traditional saris or pyjamas; long baggy shirts and pants.

Those societies incapable of passing laws and enforcing them, to hold men to account for their unwillingness to bridle their urges do a disservice to themselves, as much as to the women within their society. France is perfectly right to, in the words of Nicholas Sarkozy, declare the burka to be "not welcome", an assault on women's human rights, and intolerable in a society dedicated to equality.

Turkey, an Islamic country, has long had a prohibition against head coverings on women in institutes of higher learning and in government buildings. Turkish women are banned from covering their hair for religious reasons. Secularist females resist the growing trend among women in Turkey to wear head scarfs, claiming it hinders modernization and reverses the momentum gained by Turkish women over the years.

The country is divided in viewing the head scarf as 'religious', a sign of 'freedom', and one of 'oppression'. Many women in Turkey struggle to convince their detractors that their choice of wearing a head scarf is an indication of their freedom, while those who criticize them insist they are willing participants in a repressive gesture of male domination over women.

In Saudi Arabia women conventionally wear long black chadors, covering even their faces. In Iran hair and body remains covered, the face free. The conservative AK Party now in the ascendancy in Turkey proposed a constitutional amendment to lift the head scarf ban in universities. Their Islamist agenda is obvious; the high court threw out their proposed amendment.

The founding father of the Turkish republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, believing religion to be a hindrance to modernization and social progress, invoked a secular Turkey. His view and his work is stealthily being undone by the reigning Islamist party in the country. But Turkey is an Islamic country, France is not.

And France, like any other European country with an increasing Muslim presence, finds it offensive to women to have them imprisoned in an all-enveloping garment proclaiming their
social fragility and provocative offensiveness to male sexual intemperance.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Highly Infectious, Deadly Malady

Pakistan feels confident that its army has finally regained control of Swat, with clashes with the Taliban concluding in a cleansed area, permitting villagers and townspeople to return to their homes. The military is finalizing, they say, the campaign to crush the militants, and they are focusing attention on the Taliban's Baitullah Mehsud in his strongholds in the tribal regions. They are also intent on opening up a front where al-Qaeda is reputed to be ensconced, along the border with Afghanistan.

Villagers have heeded the encouragement to return, to discover a critically broken infrastructure. No electricity, nor running potable water. Their crops, wheat and tobacco have rotted in the fields. Those who have returned face intolerable hardship. Which they have chosen rather than continue to endure the misery of the refugee camps, squalid and inadequately provisioned. They await compensation from the government, and well may they wait until their plight is finally recognized.

For the country has more than enough problems trying to restore some semblance of normalcy, in Swat attempting to revive a formerly vibrant tourism economy, everything destroyed by the Taliban swooping down to take possession of greater swaths of geography once the accommodating administration of the former - let alone the current - governments acceded control to them of the tribal lands. Hoping such a conciliatory gesture would keep them in their place.

The fears of the Western world that the Taliban and their great good friends, al-Qaeda were moving closer to the country's nuclear installations near Buner district are for the moment, allayed, but terror does not rest on its laurels of mere attempts. What has been attempted before and failed, will be tried again, the prize elusive but provoking greater determination. From Afghanistan al-Qaeda has pledged it will take possession of Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

"God willing, the nuclear weapons will not fall into the hands of the Americans. We will take control of them and fight the Americans with them", pledged the Afghan Taliban's leader, Abu al-Yazid. Crowing at the same time that U.S. troops were withdrawing from Iraq because they have been defeated; the jihadists having succeeded in their holy war.

While this is the usual full-blown rhetoric of the Islamists having little basis in reality, it is undeniable that al-Qaeda affiliates have opened their assaults on a number of fronts.

Not necessarily new, but with renewed ferocity and intent. In Somalia, Yemen, and in the Philippines, for example. Somalia presents as the ultimate failed state, with clashes becoming more frequent between government forces and the forces of jihad.
Al Qaeda mastermind Osama Bin Laden
Somali extremists have been joined by an al-Qaeda force battling the transitional government. Fighters who have earned their battle scars in Pakistan. Afghanistan, and Iraq, now fighting in Somalia.

To accomplish the vision of a consolidated al-Qaeda-run state from Mozambique onward.
East Africa now sees itself inheriting the military prowess of some of the most dedicated and dangerous terrorists in the world. Kenya has reason to be nervous in its geographic proximity.

And in the Philippines al-Qaeda affiliated Abu Sayyaf group has been clashing with government forces, along with terrorists from the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The army of the Philippines claims to have killed hundreds of jihadist and separatist terrorists in their battles with security forces over the past few months in Sulu and Mindanao.

Al-Qaeda in the Magreb is doing its part to claim the ascendancy, doing honour to its jihadist heritage, and its place in the hierarchy of world terror brought to this Globe by the fanatical insistence of its tutor, Osama bin Laden.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Millions, Thousands ... Hundreds

They came in their enraged millions, to protest the theatrical absurdity of an election purporting to be legal and democratic, but which, on the evidence and the clumsiness of its conclusion, was obviously corrupted to influence an insulting and unwanted outcome. They protested in defiance of danger, despite the assurances of their theocratic government that it was incapable of creating falsehoods because it was vested with the word of the Almighty.

They marched in anger and rebellious denial of the Ayatollah, their divinely-inspired-and-selected Supreme Leader who has denied their resentful allegations of wrong-doing and reiterated his firm support of the reviled and detestable President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They were beaten with batons, sprayed with water cannon, teargas, and shot with lethal weapons. The Revolutionary Guard, the special police, the Basij militia out to do the bidding of Ayatollah Khamanei.

Protesters march along a street in Tehran in this undated photo uploaded onto Twitter June 21, 2009. Foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on their ability to report, film or take pictures in Tehran.

The 85% voter turnout that the Islamic Republic insisted validated its democratic credentials seemed also to encourage them to the belief that the voting public would be readily manipulated into accepting that the election went, virtually uncontested, to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Generously handing him 13-million more votes than his closest competitor for the office of president. Improbable, and enraging to the sensibilities of those huge segments of the population who insisted that this man, the choice of the hardline Islamists, must go, and be replaced with that candidate whom they insist is a 'reformer'.

The millions of protesters in Tehran and throughout the country met a sullen resistance from the administration that quickly turned into bitter condemnation that they were willing tools of the imperialist West, puppets of the Americans, the British, the French, above all the evil Zionist entity that controlled their media and their governments. The protesters summarily dismissed as terrorists and illegal rioters. And to make certain that the message came across, not only were students beaten and arrested, but also family members of a former president.

Nineteen protesters are officially said to have been martyred for their cause in protesting the illegality of the election results. Canada has come out clearly in condemnation against the brutal violence unleashed on the protesters. Germany's Angela Merkel, Italy, France have condemned the crack-down on dissent. And finally American President Barack Obama has broken with his reluctance to commit, to comment unequivocally against the "violent and unjust actions".

The protest began with millions going out onto the streets. The real and raw threats evidenced by actions of the Revolutionary Guard, the special police units, the militias, instilled fear and circumspection in angry Iranians. The succeeding demonstrations saw the courageous coming out in their thousands. At night anonymous protests of "Allahu Akhbar!" were heard on rooftops, and later protests brought out hundreds, as fear settled deep in the heart of the protest.

The Islamic Republic, its Guardian Council, its Supreme Leader, its president, fulminate against the evil machinations of outside sources seeking to instill dissent and unseat the lawful government of the Iranian people. The world waits to see whether these tactics and the vicious suppression of the peoples' will may result in a tormented and resolute dictatorship resuming where it left off.

Or whether the country rises to meet its destiny. Whatever course that happens to take.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Hideously Devious

The social, political, religious contortions of a state intent on conveying its dedication to religious devotion above all other matters, subjugating its people in a system of crude and backward legislation to ensure they are kept as thralls to the governing body of devoutly fanatical clerics knows no parallels. Other than, perhaps the deep convictions of ideologies which owe their raison d'etre to brutal control of every facet of human life, depriving their populations of the most basic of human rights and freedoms.

The Iranian Islamic Republic presents as a fundamentally fascist state led by theological belief in the divinity of the single true manifestation of God, whose 12th Imam, the Mahdi, will deliver the country and the entire world into the end of days. Because of the imminence in the minds of the Ayatollahs of the Apocalypse, they have no fear of bringing self-destruction down upon themselves with the unleashing of a nuclearized bomb dropped on another state capable of responding in kind.

Iran has no reform movement. All those who claim to be reformists are merely a soupcon less fanatical than the rigidly fundamentalist hard-liners modelled after the deceased Ayatollah Khomeini. The revolutionary Iran of today is as dedicated to establishing itself as the primary fount of Islamist wisdom as is possible, usurping Saudi Arabia from its throne of first among the Islamist nations of the righteous.

And where Saudi Arabia funded al-Qaeda and its affiliates through its Wahhabist madrassas, Iran is funding and training Shia-inspired terror as a counterpoint to the Sunni jihadists. When the nuclear genie was unleashed by Pakistan as the first Islamic country to achieve nuclear fusion, similar ownership became the goal for Iran, all thanks to the enterprise of a nuclear-sharing North Korea.

Should the country's Supreme Leader ultimately face the possibility that the country's population rejects totalitarian Islamism, the population will also have to face the prospect of surrendering its ambitions to attain the nuclearization of weaponry which has had such a deleterious impact on the international community, let alone its Middle East neighbours.

For a country whose people struggles because of poverty, while billions in oil revenues are poured into nuclear plants is it too much to hope that reason may yet prevail, if the existential hells of the Islamic Republic are overcome? The hurdles of the powerful theocracy against the emerging secular power struggle, the power of the Revolutionary Guard, the military police, the Basiji, all standing ready and prepared to beat back the assault on Islamism gone amok.

Ayatollah Khamanei veers between conciliation and threats, pacification of his powerful enemies in the theocracy, and criticism of his chosen political candidate, desperately attempting to reach a balance that eludes him as his ill-chosen and ill-bred designs to retain and consolidate his power simply further enrages the population that recognizes how horribly manipulated they are.

If a bloodbath ensues the rigidity of the theocracy will be supported by fear. If a compromise is reached the population will succumb to acceptance, with a lessening of the human-rights-abusing noose. Either way, not very much will have changed.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Heads Will Roll

Whose heads is yet to be determined. For the time being an estimated 500 dissenters have been placed on ice, incarcerated in Iran's unwholesome prison system. How many of them may be sacrificed as martyrs to their vision of justice is another matter altogether. And although to date it is estimated that eight Iranians have died in brutal assaults on peaceful demonstrators, it is also being bandied about that this is the mere tip of the deadly iceberg.

But there has been some back-peddling on the part of the Islamic Republic. For one thing, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad now soothingly says that all Iranians - despite some of whom having denied the legitimacy of the vote that has re-installed him as president and whom he threatened darkly with his own measure of official vengeance - have value to the regime.

And the demonstration-alarmed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei who had attempted to soothe anger, has now firmly denounced those who illegally and irresponsibly advocate for nullification of the God-inspired vote. Clearly he must be correct in informing his adoring public that it is the evil work of Zionists fulminating, agitating and scheming against his sacred reign.

Ayatollah Khamenei, elevated to his exalted position through the auspices of the influential Hashemi Rafsanjani who discovered too late that he would not be able to control the Ayatollah as he had planned, is irate at the very thought of the Iranian people turning against his theocracy. So he has stood foursquare and righteously against popular opinion of vote-rigging.

Nothing could possibly be further from the truth. The Iranian Republic would not indulge in such skulduggery, and people should banish such unworthy thoughts from their minds. It is the fault of the foreign press, Western interests all of whom are manipulated by evil Zionist manipulators. All the more reason for Iranians to detest Israel in particular and Jews in general.

Yet here is a former president, a senior cleric who heads the Assembly of Experts, Hashemi Rafsanjani, supporting and standing with the failed presidential candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi whose supporters have flooded the streets of Tehran in protest. Along with another senior cleric and former reformist president Mohammad Khatami, allying himself with the protest.

And Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri who has proclaimed that "A legitimate state must respect all points of view. It may not oppress all critical views." Denouncing his government for fixing the election, and for persecuting its opponents. Will Ayatollah Khamenei invoke the Basij and the Revolutionary Guard to apprehend and torture and murder these adversaries?

The Supreme Leader seems to believe he can continue to elevate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as his henchman above the general protests of the country's youth and its intellectuals, its academics and its women. In the process leading those signal segments of the population to disdain him where initially they would have been prepared to respect and retain his authority, replacing Ahmadinejad with Moussavi.

So what now? All out bloodshed, civil war? The end of the Iranian Islamist Revolution?

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Unambiguously Pragmatic

How else to describe Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's considered and well-spoken response to American President Barack Obama's demands that Israel formally accept a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

In that sense, nothing has changed. From 1947 when the United Nations discussed and approved the tenets of the Balfour Declaration, dividing the territory left after TransJordan was formed, Israel was prepared to take its portion of the divided land, leaving the Palestinians to their approved portion.

It was then, as it remains to the present day, the Palestinian Arabs who refused to settle for the two-state solution. There is nothing ambiguous in the state of the Palestinian mind that continues to linger in the belief that all of the geography, inclusive of Israel, is theirs, meant for their nascent state. A state that would never have been granted them while the geography was under the mandate of other Arab government control, most notably Egypt, then Jordan.

Israel's most urgent requirement is peace and stability, above all else, including territorial integrity. Israel is prepared to bargain away certain portions of its territory in exchange for other portions of territory claimed by the Palestinians as their right of property. But the underlying, hidden agenda of the Palestinians is to refuse all offers of compromise, while insisting on even greater sacrifices of Israel to attain the peace it so urgently requires.

That the Palestinian population is itself in dire need of stability to enable it to realize its potential is a foregone conclusion, but one that continues to elude its leadership. Which, consumed with undying rage over the apportionment of the land compromising Jewish inheritance no less than Arab-Palestinian, prefers to ignore pragmatism in settling the conflict, while continuing to inflame the passions of the Palestinians.

So yes, when Prime Minister Netanyahu insists on "The right to establish our sovereign state here, in the land of Israel" being a right that "arises from one simple fact: Eretz Israel is the birthplace of the Jewish people", his argument is unassailable. "When Palestinians are ready to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, we will be ready for a true final settlement", and that is most certainly reality.

The Palestinians must be prepared to reconcile themselves to the reality that Israel is and will always remain a Jewish state. One which is prepared to absorb a certain level of non-Jewish residents, but a Jewish state withal. A Jewish state which, under the circumstances, and with the caution required given its recent historical past, also requires a demilitarized Palestinian state living side by side with its own.

A Jewish state which has every right to claim Jerusalem as its capital. The United Nations-mandated 'international' control of Jerusalem of the past was an absolute and utter sham. Under Israeli protection and rule all holy places of all three 'Abrahamic' religions are given free access.

There is no place in a Jewish state for a mass return of descendants of former Palestinian residents. Their place, logically, is to be absorbed into the borders of a nascent Palestinian state. To believe otherwise is to cater to an underhanded plan to neutralize the Jewishness of Israel. And that is the plan.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Kill Or Be Killed: Nature's Wild Creatures?

Speakers at a recent conference sponsored by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies emphasized, one after another, the various stratum of devotion to military jihad of fanatical Islam existing among the Taliban, marking the hard-core jihadis completely dedicated to blood-letting on a mass scale reflecting a group whom no amount of reason could ever dissuade from their path of scourging the world of infidels.

They are called the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan where they have surfaced as the righteous warriors of Islam, but exist elsewhere in the world wherever Muslims live in majority numbers, and where Arab Muslims fulminate against the lesser strains of Islamic piety. Their bitter cause is the submission of the ummah to Western infiltration of Muslim values, rather than utter submission to the will of Allah.

Their overweening intent is the eradication in all Muslim lands of Western influence, and at the same time, wreaking bloody revenge on symbols and governments and citizens of the West whose blighted influence has impaired Muslim purity. To wage holy war is their only purpose in life. To martyr themselves to the cause of Islamist jihad inspires them.

These are people whose purpose, values and aspirations are primitively devoted to tribalism. Despite the passage of millennia, they are Bedouin at heart, a people accustomed to waging war to achieve possession of scarce resources in a sere desert environment. A people who forged allegiances not of brotherly compassion, but through existential need.

When Muhammad - whom the Angel Gabriel, sent by Allah to inform and guide as a mentor to the chosen Prophet - died, the succession fell into disarray. Muhammad was a charismatic leader who fulminated against those who failed to accept Islam, and who managed through sheer force of arms and determined skill to spread Islam among disparate Arab tribes.

On the Prophet's death, one tribe after another, seeing no need to continue paying tithes, left Islam, breaking with the ummah. They were seen as apostates in renouncing Islam, but they saw it as their treaty having lost meaning and withheld tribute funds to Medina. The first Caliph to succeed Muhammad, Abu-Bakr, understood that the lack of financing and lost unity would destroy Islam.

He did as Muhammad before him had done, sending armies out under his great generals to force the tribes back into the ummah and the tribes capitulated one after another, to be forgiven their transgression. But Abu-Bakr looked for a greater cause that would restore solid unity between Arab tribes and he found it in the Bedouins' inherited genetic energies of combat.

He turned their attention to the lands and territories of the Byzantine and Persian empires. Enlisting them in an expansive jihad to increase immeasurably the lands of the ummah. One after another, in speedy succession Rome's Middle Eastern presence (Palestine, Syria, Egypt and Cyrenaica) fell to the Islamic hordes. Then came North Africa, and eventually part of Europe, most notably Spain.

That ancient ritual of conquering other lands, other peoples, to enrich the Islamic collective has never faded into the obscurity it deserves in a modern world of disparate religions, politics, national borders. Those same experts speaking at the conference, people well schooled in the matters of social-political-religious affairs of the North-West Frontier Province in Pakistan have one answer for effectively dealing with the Taliban.

In the case of the dedicated jihadis, there is one solution and one only, to destroy them. Destruction translates as meting out death to them, in equal response to their dedication to mass slaughter in the pursuit of their deadly and death-dealing cause.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Evolution of a Revolution

Iranians voted for change. Civil change, not religious. They are, by and large, satisfied with their theistic government; it is the totalitarian nature of that theistic republic they chafe under and would like some changes to be effected. Power to the people. And that is not so far-fetched. Grand Ayatollah Khamenei is paying attention; he is none too pleased.

Iranians generally have been manipulated by their country's Supreme Leader and his presidential henchman to believe that their country and its heritage is under siege by the West. The people of Iran believe that malign forces exemplified by Israel and the U.S. are attempting to unseat the authority of their sovereignty.

The people of Iran are incensed that the West agitates against their right to acquire and use nuclear installations for domestic, peaceful purposes. They have been schooled to believe that Israel's possession of nuclear weapons poses a real threat to their existence. And as such, it makes perfectly good sense to them that they too be in possession of weapons of mass destruction.

It has somehow eluded them that Israel has never expressed an intent to attack Iran - until Iran's leaders felt compelled to utter, on the world stage, their intent to destroy Israel. What Iran's less intransigently religious population, the educated, the 70% of Iranians under 30 years of age, and its women resent is the lack of human rights imposed on them by a rigid authoritarian government.

Their vote for Mir Hossein Mousavi, the main competitor against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a vote to lift the repressive restrictions on daily life of Iranians, particularly student dissidents and women. Whether they're quite as concerned with the well-being of the Baha'i, or Iranian homosexuals is open for discussion.

But the resolve of a majority of the population to change the presidency has been met with an obscene resistance.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is fond of presenting his country as one, although fundamentally religious, still respectful enough of its population to adopt and to enshrine 'democracy' in the form of free and fair elections. This is what most Iranians truly want, democratic elections, to install politicians who will reflect their more relaxed, civilized values and priorities.

The carnival atmosphere of anticipation of change that permeated the country prior to the presidential vote was an exercise in naivety. How democratic could a vote be when the candidates were previously vetted, and had to gain acceptance by the Guardians Council before running for office to begin with? Only those deemed to be sufficiently in tune with the regime's rigid theocratic values were approved.

In point of fact, none of the four candidates could be termed 'reformist' in direction. It was only the wife of the second-leading candidate that could be remotely deemed to be reformist. Insisting on freedom for women from increasing religious repression. And since 49% of the voting public are women, that would garner quite a few votes. The vote was, in any event, a foregone conclusion.

Well before voting day Ayatollah Khamenei expressed his will that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad be returned to office. He is, after all, the president's puppet-master. He represented the inanely absurd vote-count as "a divine assessment", urging voters to support God's will by electing Mr. Ahmadinejad. A president who has since darkly warned those rebelling against the illicit election outcome that there will no longer be a place for them in Iran.

Votes to be hand-counted, ballot by ballot. Miraculously a mere six hours after the election had concluded it was declared that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had gained well over 60% of the votes, even in areas where it was logical that he would have no support; in the home towns of his adversaries he carried the day there too. Where all those votes came from is unclear.

There were raids on university campuses, students taken to prison, and nothing has since been heard of them. Hundreds of thousands of irate Iranians have taken to the streets in protest. Unauthorized protests, where police and guardsmen have been beating people, and where many have been severely injured, and seven protesters to date, have been killed.

Mr. Mousavi's campaign newspaper, in which he published documented evidence of election fraud, where he claims over ten million votes in the election were missing national identification numbers, making the ballots "untraceable", has been censored by the government, and cannot be distributed. His Web site complaining about security forces' interference has been blocked.

Were Mr. Mousavi to have replaced Mr. Ahmadinejad not much would have changed in Iran other than a lightening of the repressive measures taken against society, mostly female society. The hard-line Islamist Republic of Iran would continue its provocations, its insistence that it is entitled to acquiring domestic nuclear proficiency.

While at the same time it calls for the destruction of Israel and imaginatively highlights that position with artwork of nuclear detonations. That, however, is not an issue in the Iranian mass mind.

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Monday, June 08, 2009

More 'Not Quite'

"As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam. It was Islam - at places like Al-Azhar University - that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment." So said the learned scholar, President Barack Obama, attempting to ingratiate himself with the Muslim public, not only by quoting passages of the Koran, and by invoking the symbol of peaceful greeting, Salaam Aleichem (peace be with you), but by praising Islam as the keeper of humankind's learning.

But was it so? It was, in fact, early Christianity in the Middle East, much pre-dating Islam that was ultimately responsible for Irish monasteries taking it upon themselves to act as repositories of the learning of the ages, the transcriptions of great scholarly work, the busy scriptoriums salvaging, protecting and holding dear the 'light of learning ... paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment'. For it was the earliest of monasteries originating in Egypt from whence wandering hermits ('monks') spread. Early monasteries originated in Egypt as places where wandering hermits gathered.

To branch out by the fifth Century to spread the monastic movement to Ireland and where St.Patrick, the son of a Roman official, embarked on the conversion of the pagan Irish to Christianity. These early "monks" lived alone, but met in a common chapel. The contemplatives who founded those Celtic monasteries, built often on isolated islands, were responsible for safeguarding humankind's collected learning in the sciences, the humanities, and religion.

Over the space of a thousand years a variety of orders of monks and nuns became established in various communes throughout the British Isles. They represented the Benedictines, Cistercians, Cluniacs, Augustinians, Premonstratians and Carthusians, and all had their disparate monastic settlements, isolated and dedicated to their versions of Christian heritage, thought and prayer.

Fountains Abbey
Fountains Abbey crypt

And it was throughout the long period of the Dark Ages and the Medieval period that these monasteries became the repository of scholarship and learning, preserving them for future generations. It was the monks who represented the educated members of society, and the monasteries housed ancient manuscripts and where sacred texts were copied in exacting manuscripts and illuminated texts.

And then there is the additional statement: "Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition." President Obama was speaking to a huge audience whose knowledge of history from the perspective of Islam might not equate precisely with that as seen from a Western perspective. The Inquisition was a Spanish affair, long after the reconquest of Spain from from Islamic rule. The duo of Ferdinand and Isabella (Aragon and Castile) brought the Inquisition to bear on Conversos (Jews converted under duress to Christianity) and Moriscos (Granadian Muslims).

Moriscos had the choice of voluntarily exiling themselves from now-Christian Spain or to convert to Christianity. Spain was determined that it would prevent Moriscos from ever again becoming a vital force in Spain. The Inquisition was launched to ensure religious conformity in the country, its work to seek out crypto-Jews, enforced by none other than a descendant of Conversos, Tomas de Torquemada. When Andalusian Moriscos rebelled and appealed for aid to the Ottoman Empire mass expulsions of Spanish Muslims occurred.

Although it was mostly Conversos suspected of still practising their forbidden religion as Jews that suffered torture, burning at the stake and auto da fe.

Representation of an Auto de fe, as depicted by Pedro Berruguete1495.

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Well, Not Quite

U.S. President Barack Obama, a very special individual at a very special time in history, representing a special opportunity has presented himself as one with a partial heritage and a particular sympathy for the Islamic religion, so dreadfully misunderstood and under attack by the West. If there is any misunderstanding, in fact, it is among the 'moderate' and misinformed Muslims who still cannot seem to understand that in brutally attacking other religions, societies and their countries, the response will not result in empathy and forgiveness over an unfortunate lapse in civility.

Attacks by fanatical Islamo-fascists claiming to be fulfilling the obligations of the righteously pious Muslims by indulging in suicide missions to challenge one another to greater atrocities and bloody annihilation are not designed to bring the West to a greater appreciation of Islam. Why this simple and explicable fact seems to elude Muslims is incomprehensible. Yet America which suffered a dreadful assault by fundamentalist Islamists is now offering mea culpas and an outstretched hand of understanding. Very civil, to be sure, but useful?

Only to the targets of the outstretched hand, who have taken great pleasure in interpreting the new direction of the United States as a certain sign of weakness, of partial surrender to the might of the jihadist terror on the psyches of the West. If their agenda and their purpose is to strike dread in the hearts of their enemies, to wreak havoc on institutions, to destroy as many lives as possible, why would a few kind words of readiness to talk as equals to achieve peace make any impression upon them?

To be sure, the immense numbers of moderate Muslims may appreciate the fact that the man sharing some of their heritage attributes recognizes their legitimacy as adherents to a religion that has seen social and political stagnation, understands their human needs. Some of the claims made in an attempt to engender a sense of appreciation have gone a tad beyond history in claiming that medieval Islam saved the great treasuries of human knowledge and traditions from disappearing. Wasn't it Irish monasteries that maintained and saved for posterity the vast realms of knowledge?

And to signal that the ancient biblical city of Jerusalem should be shared, its sacred sites of three religions held in trust by the United Nations as a way to keep it from being divided once again and kept off bounds for others than Muslims is to ignore the reality that under Israeli rule those sites in the Old City are open to all where previously Jews and Christians were forbidden entry to their holy sites. In claiming that "Islam is part of America", he overlooks the fact that American Muslims have raised millions in charitable funds for militant Islam.

When he stated that "Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered", he was directly implying that Palestinians have been their own worst enemies, making it necessary for Israel to build that detested wall that has succeeded in protecting Jews, while at the same time he makes mention of Israeli checkpoints and border closings violating the human rights of Palestinians.

In equating the misery of the Palestinians in their severely straitened circumstances, he pushes up against the PA's Mahmoud Abbas who has declared that the West Bank Palestinians are in fine shape, he's prepared to sit back and wait until the U.S. has finally shoved Israel into submitting to the plan brokered by Saudi Arabia, which offers the normalcy of recognition (sans recognition as a Jewish state) at the price of accepting millions of Palestinian 'returnees', surrender of Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and banishment of settlements. Sacrifices on one side, none on the other. Compelling?

What precisely does Israel gain? The International Atomic Energy Agency has just released a report indicating that Iran has stepped up its nuclear program, and that it suspects Syria of clandestinely operating its own nuclear program. Reuters has reported that Iran's uranium enrichment has resulted in its stockpile being boosted to 1,339 kilograms in the last 6 months from 500 kilograms. "There is now a forest of 7,000 machines. That's quite a lot, it's a very impressive pace, and they will be installing more which could mean 9,000 (soon)" according to a senior UN official.

"That makes it increasingly difficult to do the surveillance (to ensure no deviations for weaponry purposes). We are reviewing [the angles of the cameras, walking rules (for workers handling equipment), where things are being kept", the anonymous official stated. So President Obama's blandishments to these states, to the declared enemies of Israel's existence whose intent is to continue funding terror groups whose single purpose is the destruction of the Jewish state is for nil.

What now? An ongoing waiting game? How long? If Israel is struck, how long before other countries in the crosshairs of the jihadists? The European countries present as a fairly consistent goal, particularly given the European Union elections which have seen many European countries rejecting the socialist governments that have relaxed relations with Islamists, and bringing their 'far right' politicians into majority positions. We're to be patient and to stay tuned.

We're waiting, America, and so should you be, with bated breath and an alert intelligence.

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

Possession Is Nine-Tenths Of The Law

No, actually not. The West Bank settlements, awkward as they appear on the geography that must be allotted and borders defined to the satisfaction of both parties, are merely the realities of possession being nine points of the law. The original plan before 1948 was for the existence of two side-by-side states; one for the Jews, the other for the Arabs. The Jewish presence became the State of Israel; the Arab presence eschewed a Palestinian state. And they've been doing that ever since.

With one attack of the combined Arab forces representing the surrounding Arab nations after another, culminating finally in Israel capturing an expanded geography the nation simply did what all other nations before them have done. Including those in the Middle East. It had acquired the additional land through conquest, through conquering the designs of their enemies, routing them, and accessing the land. All other countries almost without exception have been assumed to have taken possession of land through those circumstances which are later never disputed as legal possessions.

Some of the land which Israel acquired through the protection of its existence from a mortal enemy has since been returned, simply because the country from which it had been taken agreed to signing a peace treaty and the return of the land was a mutually agreeable exchange. With the land called the West Bank accessible, the state permitted settlements to spring up. The Palestinian leaders over the years, while chafing at the patent unfairness of Jews moving onto what was claimed for the Palestinians, still never agreed to peace.

When conciliatory talks were undertaken and Israel committed itself to surrendering land for peace on one occasion after another the leaders of the Palestinians unfailingly at the last moment, turned their backs on peace that would lead to Palestinian autonomy, independence and nationhood. They simply saw no need to assert their independence, since the United Nations was complicit in maintaining the Palestinians as refugees.

The Palestinian leaders, and the now-Palestinian Authority had never exerted themselves to form the infrastructure for a state. Why should they, when UNWRA provides them with everything they need, from medical services, to schools, to civic infrastructures of all kinds. The world's perpetual yet highly regarded beggars, refusing to mature toward independence to challenge the perception that, on the record, they are incapable of caring for themselves.

Content to portray themselves as underdogs, a people maltreated and disdained by a neighbour whose existence is an affront to their needs. That one missed opportunity after another is the actual fount of their misery is handily overlooked. That their 'resistance' to the 'occupation' takes the form of brute violence which results in the state clamping down on freedom of movement is a misery of their own devising is never addressed.

That the Palestinian Authority has encouraged violence, and celebrates the vicious atrocities that result from their encouragement, while pleading with the world to rescue them from the depths of the chasm they have built for themselves, is absurd. The Palestinian Authority feels so entitled by the unending status of the Palestinians as official 'refugees' that it complacently urges sacrifices of Israel, refusing to commit to any of its own.

After over a half-century of absorbing untold billions of dollars for the upkeep of the Arab population calling themselves Palestinians, secreting away in private bank accounts unaccounted-for portions, and never gaining one iota of responsible independence, the PA and the Palestinians feel entitled to being handed a state of their own that will cost Israel sacrifices that they themselves refuse to meet part of the way.

In previous discussions and semi-agreements it was established that an exchange would be feasible to come to an amicable conclusion. That some of the long-settled Jewish settlements in the West Bank, comprising almost three-hundred-thousand people, would be exchanged for a carving out from Israel's borders of those places with majority Arab populations, towns and villages that could be incorporated into the nascent Palestinian state.

The big problem with discussions, exchanges of opinion, declarations of need and intent between the Palestinians and the Israelis, is that both sides do not equally bargain in good faith. It is only human nature that each side will bargain to obtain an outcome that reflects their needs, hoping to accomplish that with a minimum of pain. But it is always the Palestinians who, although initially agreeing, will shut the door on a final settlement.

And it is the Palestinians who speak to the international community as wounded victims requiring the intervention of supporters of the underdog - portraying themselves as helpless against the might of a repressively human-rights-abusive state - who in reality covertly groom their people to resist, to hate, to violate agreements in the hope that eventually they will outlast the patience of Israel and themselves acquire the entire geography.

So when President Barack Obama points to the Israeli West Bank settlements as the major sticking point in a potential Israel-Palestinian agreement toward a two-state solution, he is taking the lazy man's route of accepting the loudest accusatory voice, regardless of integrity to truth and reason. The West Bank settlements are not responsible for Arab and Muslim violence against and between themselves, or the violence visited on the non-Islamic world.

The settlements, like Israel, are merely a little blister of irritation, a handy scapegoat by which Arabs and Muslims can blame the rest of the world of their own failings, as societies, as states, as educational, scientific, business-enterprising institutions. If and when, finally Israel assists the Palestinians toward statehood by sacrificing more than it should, the sectarian, tribal and ideological problems of the Muslim world will not be solved.

There is little point in President Obama lecturing Israel that the Palestinians are no less deserving of statehood and a country of their own than are the Jews. They know this. They have been attempting for more years than he has existed to find a solution to the seemingly unsolvable problem of attitudinal discrimination against a Jewish presence in Islamic geography.

That is the core of the problem.

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Friday, June 05, 2009

Polar Opposites

Humanity is immensely diverse. In its character types, personalities. People hold different values among themselves and between societies with various traditions. Generally speaking, though, most share fundamental human values. The predictability of human behaviour is often quite comforting. That is in the majority, since most people seek to submerge themselves into the general stream of their society. Wanting to be a part of society, share the social contract, to be good citizens. And they are also those who aspire to add something of value to society.

They seek education, an appealing future and hope that life will offer them opportunities. They know that people, all people, are invested with free will. The ability to make choices. To be responsible for themselves. To prioritize, and to set a course of action for themselves, to take advantage of opportunities, to promote their futures, to acquire the wherewithal to do so. And in being responsive and responsible members of society, make friends and acquaintances, meet others with similar values and perspectives.

And then there are the social misfits, those who cannot seem to find a place for themselves in the general stream of society. Who, in fact, reject social mores, think of themselves as outcasts, loners, social anarchists. Often from among this group comes society's sociopaths and psychopathic individuals who reject society because they have no use for convention or for respecting the guidelines set down to ensure that mutual respect results in an aggregate that accepts a certain level of diversity with grace and equanimity.

It's when those polar opposites meet in haphazard circumstances that tragedy so often occurs. Those without conscience, without the human emotive ability to sympathize with others, to empathize with the pain that others may feel, become predators. Feeling they owe nothing to anyone, they experience no episodes of stricken conscience that what they do causes pain and suffering. Their randomized experiences give them opportunity to inflict wounds on society, and if their criminal actions excite the attention of authorities they're confined as a threat to society for a length of time.

In Britain two young "talented, decent young men", university students, second-year students from Clermont-Ferrand in central France, nearing the end of a 3-month research placement studying DNA at London's Imperial College shared a flat. They lived together in friendship and for convenience, and they died together in agony and for no reason other than that two drug-addicted men could exercise their will to inflict on others a sadistic episode of horrendous slaughter.

One of the murderers had been released from jail several months prior to the double killing for stabbing a teenager. While out on bail he re-offended, but was not returned to prison. He was left free to torture two 23-year-old biochemistry students to obtain their cash card PIN codes. He and his partner in double atrocity stabbed the victims 244 times, then burned their bodies in an orgy of inhumane insanity. The two were convicted and jailed for 40 and 35 years.

In Canada, two 14-year-old Edmonton youths, wards of the Alberta Children and Youth Services, housed in an unsecure group home for young offenders, brutally murdered a 68-year-old man and a 50-year-old woman in a remote rural area in what RCMP have named a "random" act. Both young boys were being held at the Bosco Homes Agency in provincial care. They left the facility unauthorized, to indulge in vandalism of a school. Were arrested and returned to the group home.

And then, while in the care of an adult supervisor along with other boys housed in the group home, quietly made their exit once again. They were soon pulled over on a highway by Edmonton police for careless driving within city limits, of a stolen truck. RCMP arrived at the rural address of the registered owner of the vehicle where a relative informed them that the man hadn't returned from doing yard work close by, the day previous. When they arrived at the rural address it was to discover two dead people.

The man lying in the yard where he had been working, the woman in the trailer that stood on the property. Normal people, going about their business, harming no one. Living out their lives as circumstances permitted them to, before being set upon by other human beings whom genetics, upbringing and happenstance conspired to breed as vicious predators, killing machines, the scourge of normative society.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Flight Into The Unknown

Will it ever be known what happened to Air France 447? Perhaps not. It may remain forever a mystery in the annals of flight mishaps. Another notch in Nature's blind and bland interventions in the puny affairs of humankind. That is, if the source of the accident was one that did not involve malign human intervention.

Since no mayday message was sent it would appear that there was a fairly instant loss of electrical capability. Due to a catastrophic loss of pressure, it is assumed. The experts in forensic air flight science claim that depressurization might have caused that airbus jet to explode in midair. At a high altitude, sending pieces of its wreckage over a wide swath of ocean.

Professor Philippe Juvin of Beaujon hospital, Paris, reassures grieving relatives of the flight's lost souls that their loved ones aboard the plane would likely have been unaware of anything amiss, falling unconscious instantly. "It would have been as quick as the moment when one falls asleep." Small comfort, yet perhaps so in a minuscule way. Easing the imagination.

Structural failure; a cracked window, an open door - or a hole caused by a bomb could cause depressurization, itself caused by a failure of the pressure control system because of impaired system integrity. G-forces during an uncontrolled dive has the potential to cause the structure to disintegrate, if those forces are beyond the plane's ability to cope with.

Debris covering more than 90 kilometres of ocean was noted by search crews. Debris spread across a five-km area, along with a 20-km oil slick. No sign of bodies, let alone survivors. Crash investigators claim not to be 'optimistic' about retrieving the plane's black boxes. "We cannot rule out that we will not find the flight recorders", according to the head of France's air accident investigation agency.

There is a 30-day window beyond which the recorders will no longer send homing signals. If they survived the impact when they hit the vast ocean waters. And just incidentally there had been a bomb threat made against a flight coincidentally, from Buenos Aires to Paris just four days before flight 447 disappeared.

Flight 447 was meticulously searched after the anonymous warning, and nothing was discovered that might indicate a bomb was aboard. The flight left late, about an hour and a half later than scheduled. No reason to panic, that kind of false alert is not unusual, nor is the accompanying, obligatory search to ensure that all is well.

All was not well. If terrorism was involved, it will become less of a mystery, though no less of a horrendous catastrophe. Those wishing to inflict atrocities, hoping to sow terror are not shy about their part in ensuring that such catastrophes occur. They will reveal themselves since there will no longer be any reason to remain silent, the covert operation successfully concluded.

They will do so for the greater glory of having been successful in their determination to strike against those whom they wish to destroy. If the black boxes are not retrieved, as is feared, and no terror group steps forward to proudly claim responsibility, then aviation history will claim another inexplicable accident of grave proportions.

In the meantime, we can await a suspension of apprehension. Or not.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Familial Vengeance

A Canadian doctor and his wife, living and working for a decade in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.
Not particularly newsworthy, other than the fact that many medical practitioners who gained their education and professional expertise in Canada have opted to move out to greener fields where government does not seek to intervene in the avails of the practise of private medicine.

Dr. Steven Hall, operating a family medicine practise in Harrodsburg is a respected and highly regarded physician in that community. Town residents and patients of Dr. Hall speak of him as a mild-mannered, kindly man, a trusted doctor, a quiet Canadian. His lawyer informed the Lexington Herald-Leader "what happened in this case was a horrific and very tragic accident, which the family will continue to struggle with emotionally for a long time."

Moreover, he added, Dr. Hall "will continue to maintain his innocence at all stages of these proceedings". The proceedings being a preliminary hearing on a charge of first-degree murder. Mrs. Isabel Hall's two sons with her husband may be the only family members to attend a memorial service for their late mother, at the Harrodsburg church that their family regularly attended. While their father remains incarcerated at the Boyle County Detention Center.

A family disagreement. Admittedly a heated one. Mrs. Hall was a Sydney, Nova Scotia native. He a graduate of Halifax-based Dalhousie University medical school. For both taking a pontoon boat out on Herrington Lake for an invigorating day's boating would have been a natural extension of their maritime experience, growing up in Nova Scotia. They had a disagreement of opinion, and tempers wore thin.

He of the healing arts suffered a severe lapse of moral judgement, forfeiting years of matrimonial dualism in the art of compromise and forgiveness. Their disagreement became heated and he "admitted that he and his wife were in a physical altercation and he threw her off the boat". Steering the vessel purposefully in her direction for the purpose of establishing the correct marriage hierarchy: "to scare her".

Alas, he did more than that, striking her with the boat propeller on the left side of her head according to Boyle Country Coroner Dr. James Ramey. "It also hit her in the left forearm and upper arm, pretty deep cuts that caused instant death." There are no fewer than five witnesses to the unfortunate lapse of temper and the resulting sundering of a marriage. In his defence he did attempt to secure her body before it floated away.

Meeting the police as they arrived post-911 call, at the water's edge, with the late Mrs. Hall in tow.

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Engage The Women, Induct The Children

Special Dispatch - No. 2372
May 27, 2009 No. 2372
Women and Children in the Service of Resistance

Recently, photos of armed women and children have been circulated by terrorist organizations in Gaza - Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Resistance Committees. Some of these organizations have also been training women to produce and handle weapons. On March 16, 2009, the Egyptian daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm reported on women joining the Palestinian armed resistance.

Following are excerpts from the report:

"Palestinian women are joining armed resistance and Islamic organizations in Gaza. This is evident from special photos given to the [Egyptian daily] Al-Masri Al-Yawm, featuring a group of women belonging to the military arm of the Islamic Jihad, the Saraya Al-Quds women's unit. Jihad women have been producing weapons, mixing nitrogen to prepare simple bombs and assembling parts for Palestinian missiles.

"Iman Muhammad, a photographer for the Palestinian press, accompanied [these women] as they carried Kalashnikov [rifles] and handguns, filled magazines, and practiced shooting. She reported that following the Gaza war, some Palestinian factions had begun training women to produce and handle weapons, and were preparing to establish a women's military unit.

"Iman said that men are training their mothers, wives, and daughters, and added: 'Adhering to strict safety measures all along, I set out with two friends to take those photos, where women are seen for the first time loading their guns and practicing disassembling and assembling their weapons.'

"There Iman met Umm Muhammad and her daughter-in-law, who explained to her what they were doing and said that Islamic Jihad was not the only faction that engaged women in armed resistance.

"The barrage of Israeli attacks during the first days of the December 2008 [Gaza war] killed hundreds of policemen and fighters. The enemy invaded cities and residential areas and murdered civilians in their homes. As a result, several factions decided to train female family members - there being at least seven or eight women in every family - to teach them defensive fighting, in case the enemy once more invaded residential areas."

"Iman does not believe that women will join the front line in the fighting: 'I cannot imagine women near the border, clad in Islamic uniform and launching missiles; however, training [women] to handle weapons is a qualitative change in the attitude towards women on the part of Islamic resistance.'

"Umm Muhammad told Iman: 'We will sacrifice our blood, our souls, and our sons for the sake of Palestine. We will create a military unit in our own special way.'

"'Women are strong, as has been proven by our actions.' [Umm Muhammad's] daughter-in-law, who was veiled, said: 'Training to make bombs and handle weapons is not hard. My husband and his mother are expert in this, and I am happy to do something for my homeland.'

"Iman: 'The camera did not bother them, but the presence of a woman photographer did.' Umm Muhammad: 'What is better - a Muslim woman fighter or a Muslim woman photographer?'"

"In a room is a pile of rifles and RPGs ready for launching. Umm Muhammad reassured the journalist: 'Nothing will explode, but if something does, you will die as a martyr.'

"Muhammad, who was training his mother and his wife, said that 'women fighters are a new phenomenon in Gaza, which is still surrounded by an aura of secrecy, for security reasons.' But, he said, 'it is important that the world know that women and children are working for the [Palestinian] cause.'"

"In a small room in an empty Gaza building stood Iman Muhammad, 23, holding a camera; before her, Umm Muhammad and her daughter-in-law made and handled weapons. Iman says that she wanted to take these photos a month previously, but that it took two weeks to organize this meeting, due to 'security requirements.'

"[In reality,] however, everything is much more complicated: Iman is the only woman photographer in Gaza, and obtaining this post was a difficult task. Gaza universities don't have photography departments, and Iman had to get her professional training with [news] agencies. She received advice from her male colleagues, but suffered greatly from attempts to restrict her movements and from lack of acceptance [as a woman photographer].

"In a telephone conversation with the daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm, Iman said: 'At first, I told them that photography was my hobby, in order to mislead them; otherwise, no one would have taught me a thing. I started taking pictures in 2005, at the age of 18. [In the beginning,] a news agency loaned me the equipment, but in 2006 I purchased my own equipment - a camera and some lenses. When I walk in the streets of Gaza today, I am no different from any other woman, except for the camera. I come from a conservative family and wear a veil, like all other women…'

"Iman studies journalism and communication at Gaza Islamic University, and works as a journalist and photographer. She says: 'In Gaza, ordinary people are more accepting than the educated, who occasionally taunt me with sarcastic remarks.'"

Women of the Palestinian resistance prepare explosives. [1]

On the Hamas Forum Website [2]: Photos of Children with Weapons

The infant above wears the headband of the Al-Nasser brigades, an armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees. [3]

The child above wears the Hamas headband. [4]

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