Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I don't play Slave City

Just a few short comments as I haven’t had a great deal of free time in the last few days to read or blog much but this piece in the Jerusalem Post caught my eye. I gather anti-semitism is more than a little entrenched in all levels of government in UAE, and according to this US State Department’s Annual Trafficking in Persons Report (dated June 2005) slavery seems to be alive and well in the UAE as well. Furthermore, the US State Department has listed the UAE as a Tier 3 offender country, and I quote from the 2005 annual report on The Trafficking in Persons, page 219.
The government of the U.A.E. does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. Despite sustained engagement from the U.S. government, NGOs, and international organizations over the last two years, the U.A.E. Government has failed to take significant action to address its trafficking problems and to protect victims. The U.A.E. Government needs to enact and enforce a comprehensive trafficking law that criminializes all forms of trafficking and provides for protection of trafficking victims. The government should also institute systematic screening measures to identify trafficking victims among the thousands of foreign women arrested and deported each year for involvement in prostitution. The government should take immediate steps to rescue and care for the many foreign children trafficked to the U.A.E. as camel jockeys, repatriating them through responsible channels if appropriate. The government should also take much stronger steps to investigage, prosecute, and convict those responsible for trafficking these children to the U.A.E.

During the reporting period, the U.A.E. made minimal efforts to prosecute traffickers. Despite the ongoing trafficking and exploitation of thousands of children as camel jockeys and women in sexual servitude, the government made insufficient efforts in 2004 to criminally prosecute and punish anyone behind these forms of trafficking.

All of which should make all of us a tad suspicious on how exactly Dubai Ports World manages to keep its operating and administrative costs in order and cost efficient.

Monday, February 27, 2006

What is the world coming to when even the Amish have an inner geek?

I have to admit that I wasn’t really reading Joey the Accordian Guy until I met him briefly at last month’s Toronto Blog-a-whatever-you-call-it-meet-up. Now I check in regularly and today’s top story is why.

POT Meet KETTLE: Dubai Ministry of Education Recalls Book for Racism

LGF brings attention to this recent Khaleej Times article about an education kafuffle in Dubai, UAE:
Close on the heels of the cartoon controversy raging across the Muslim world, it is the turn of an upscale American school in Abu Dhabi to ruffle Muslim sentiments by teaching lessons that allegedly ''smell of racism.''

Over 100 copies of the social studies text book, 'World Cultures' taught to the sixth grade children were confiscated by the Ministry of Education yesterday, for allegedly presenting Islam and the Muslim countries including Gulf states in a negative light while glorifying Israel on the other hand, Khaleej Times has learnt.
It has been accused that chapter 25 of the book running from page 599 to 614 contains a deluge of derogatory remarks against Islam and the Muslim world, for example, dubbing Middle East as one of the most dangerously explosive areas in the world and the Muslim conquest of India as the most bloodiest in the world history, to mention a few.

The sub chapters clubbed under the title 'North Africa and the Middle East' also elaborate on the religion and life-style of Israel with pictures. "Israel is one of a few democracies in North Africa and the Middle East today. Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Morocco are all kingdoms; the country of Syria has sponsored terrorism by giving aid to radicals in the Palestine Liberation Organisation, known as the PLO," read excerpts from page 610 of the book, copies of which Khaleej Times possess.

Juma Salami, Assistant Undersecretary to Foreign Private Education said that the book published by Silver Burdett Ginn has a racist tone and is insulting to the country's religion and culture. "It is not a community school and a good number of Muslim and Arab children are studying there. By incorporating the book in the syllabus, the schools have failed to show respect to the religious sentiments of the host country."

Accusing the book of promoting a hate culture, the Asst. Under Secretary said the "World Cultures' is least objective and balanced in its political and social content and hence is unfit to be taught in schools. "While there are clamour for change in the Middle East, one has to understand that these are the books coming from the so called 'free world'. This is a typical example of how textbooks are used to manipulate the thoughts of young minds," affirmed Juma.

This is not the first time the Ministry of Education launched an investigation into the textbooks used in the private schools. Last April a textbook called “We play together; we stick together” caused an uproar in Dubai reported the Khaleej Times:
DUBAI — Education authorities here have promised to review a book taught in an international private school that features a photograph of two Jewish children sporting plaited hair and yarmulke. Dr Obaid Butti Al Mohiri, the Director of Curriculums Centre at the Ministry of Education, said he would order the withdrawal of the book for primary Class I of the Dubai International School if the complaints raised were found genuine.

Several teachers of the school telephoned Khaleej Times, complaining against the picture, captioned ‘We play together; we stick together’, featured in the book Friends Forever. The teachers said that of all the pictures in the book, the students reacted sharply to only this picture.

I understand that the UAE are alleged to be our allies in the fight against Islamic terrorism but I just can’t shake this nagging feeling that UAE values are so very far apart from our own they might as well play for the other team. If they really are committed to freedom let them stock Heather Has Two Mommies in the libraries of schools in Dubai and can the Anti-Zionist rhetoric from all levels of the public discourse.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Clear and present danger

Now that the Iranians have reached a somewhat mysterious much ado about nothing deal with the Russians; which appears to be only an agreement on principle to reach an agreement if this Toronto Star article is accurate. Of course, the agreement to reach an agreement is off if Iran is referred to the UN Security Council on March 6, 2006 by the IAEA. What I want to know is Arafat negotiating from beyond the grave for the Iranians? I swear as each day goes by it’s like Arafat has a legacy that just keeps on giving.

Furthermore, I am hardly comforted by the fact that so much rides on the ability of the Russians to police Iran’s nuclear enrichment cycle. For give me for my bias but the country that did more than any other country to set the Iranians on the nuclear Armageddon is hardly the state I would place any trust in.

I found this latest pearl of warning in Ha’aretz:
If the United States launches an attack on Iran, the Islamic republic will retaliate with a military strike on Israel's main nuclear facility, an advisor to Iran's Revolutionary Guard said. The advisor, Dr. Abasi, said Tehran would respond to an American attack with strikes on the Dimona nuclear reactor and other strategic Israeli sites such as the port city of Haifa and the Zakhariya area. Haifa is also home to a large concentration of chemical factories and oil refineries.

So Washington farts and the Jews get it.

Lebanon has earned another condemnation from the UN reports Ha'aretz;
The Lebanese government publicly admitted recently, for the first time, that it had permitted the delivery of a convoy of arms from Syria to Hezbollah. The United Nations responded by issuing a condemnation.

According to Lebanese sources, Lebanese soldiers halted a convoy of arms-laden trucks from Syria at an army checkpoint in the Lebanon Valley on January 31. However, the Lebanese Defense Ministry ordered the soldiers to allow the convoy to proceed. A report on this incident then reached the UN's special envoy to the Middle East, Terje Larsen, in New York, and Larsen instructed his staff to investigate. Eventually, the Lebanese government admitted both that it had allowed the convoy to pass, and that the arms had been destined for Hezbollah.

The UN then published a statement condemning the Lebanese government for having blatantly violated UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which, inter alia, calls for disarming the country's militias. The arms in the convoy originated apparently from Iran. It is not known how many trucks were in the convoy or what arms they carried. Arms smuggling from Syria into Lebanon has been going on for years, seemingly with the knowledge of the Lebanese government. In this fashion, huge quantities of arms from Iran and Syria have reached Hezbollah in recent years, including massive quantities of Katyushas and other rockets that are stationed in batteries in southern Lebanon and are aimed at Israel.

However, this is the first time that the Lebanese have publicly admitted the existence of these convoys, much less that it has been authorizing arms deliveries to Hezbollah. The convoy's passage was apparently approved by the office of Defense Minister Elias Murr, in coordination with the office of Lebanon's pro-Syrian president, Emile Lahoud. According to a statement published by the UN on February 13, the UN forces in Lebanon were initially unaware of the convoy's passage, though reports of the incident reached them later. When the news reached Larsen, he demanded clarifications from Beirut, adding that if the reports were true, the action constituted a gross violation of Resolution 1559. Larsen's office is responsible, inter alia, for overseeing implemention of this resolution, which was passed in September 2004.

In response, Prime Minister Fuad Siniora's office confirmed the convoy's arrival, but did not specify for whom the arms were destined. At the same time, the UN contacted the Lebanese Defense Ministry, which informed it that the arms were destined for Hezbollah. The ministry added that the army permitted the transfer of weapons to the "resistance" forces - i.e. Hezbollah - in accordance with a decision made by the Lebanese government.

Following receipt of this information, the UN published a second statement, in which it condemned the incident as a grave violation of Resolution 1559, expressed concern and demanded that Beirut take steps to prevent a repetition. Hezbollah claims that it is not a "militia," and therefore, the resolution's demand that all Lebanese militias be disarmed does not apply to the organization. This interpretation has also been adopted by the Syrian government, Lahoud and several Lebanese cabinet ministers. As a result, Hezbollah has enjoyed preferential treatment compared to other Lebanese militias.

If Hezbollah is not a militia then I am the mother of all. The Cedar revolution will be still born until Hezbollah’s potential to threaten and bully all the neighbors ends once and for all.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Mark this down on your calendars - March 15, 2006 - Eat Meat!

The Fourth International Eat An Animal For PETA Day is officially set for March 15, 2006. Last year, I had big plans but emergency dental work put a damper in the festivities (almost sounds like nothing ever changes in my life) and so only the tribe was able to fully participate. This year I have high hopes and am thinking BBQ.

The Shape of the Cross to Come

Not only is all not well in Gaza for secular Arab Palestinians in the Gaza Strip but the area’s 1,500 Christians are currently going through a bad patch as well according to this CNS report:
Extremists are threatening to blow up the Palestinian Bible Society in the Gaza Strip if the people who work there do not close up shop and abandon their ministry by the end of February, a Christian source told Cybercast News Service. The threat appears to be the work of Islamic extremists who are determined to drive Christians out of the area. Arab Christians are taking the threat very seriously, said a Palestinian Bible Society information officer who asked not to be named. There are only about 1,500 Christians living among an estimated 1.2 million Palestinian Muslims in the Gaza Strip.The Palestinian Bible society has been in operation there since 1999.

Eleven local Palestinians staff the center, which includes a Christian bookstore that sells Bibles. Scriptures are displayed on large billboards, and at the front of the store is a sign that says: "God's Word is Life for All." Above the shop are computer rooms, multi-purpose halls and a library that is open to the entire community.

The trouble started three weeks ago, the source said, when a pipe bomb exploded around 11:00 one night outside the Bible Society, which is located in Gaza's city center. There were no injuries. Two weeks later, an unknown group left threatening pamphlets at the front door of the Bible Society warning that the building would be blown up if the premises were not vacated by February 28.The pamphlets threatened the landlord for dealing with "infidels."

According to the request of Palestinian Authority security officials, when the situation worsened several days ago, forcing the Bible Society staff locked the doors while they continued working inside. But then came a threatening phone call, warning them that locking the doors wasn't enough - that they should take the threat seriously or risk harm to themselves and their children. "We are waiting for a miracle," said the Palestinian Bible Society information officer. "The Bible Society is committed to the continuation of its ministry and service to the Palestinian people, and God will see us through this crisis."

The article does mentioned an unnamed source from Hamas who has offered to protect the Christians, but suggests that Hamas hand’s are currently tied as Hamas has yet to “officially” take control of the Palestinian Authority…Ahem, well Hamas has been in charge of the Gaza Strip municipality for some time……

Actually this reminds me of an editorial cartoon that ran in the National Post a few years ago that I cut out and put on my fridge. The first box showed Arafat issuing instructions to the Palestinian Authority to arrest all the terrorists. The second showed Arafat’s men all turning their guns on each other.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Who Knew?

I found the Muppet Personality Quiz at Daimnation! I really thought I would score Miss Piggy. Instead I rated this:

You Are Animal

A complete lunatic, you're operating on 100% animal instincts.
You thrive on uncontrolled energy, and you're downright scary.
But you sure can beat a good drum.
"Kill! Kill!"

It has been so long since I watched Sesame Street that I cannot even remember Animal but isn’t the Annual Eat an Animal for PETA Day coming soon?

Hamas covers all the traditional bases

Raise your hand if you really didn’t see that this was coming and then slap your face really, really hard. Taken from the Jerusalem Post:
A Hamas legislator announced that his movement was planning to introduce the Islamic sharia into the law in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The proposed law means that all women would be required to cover their heads in public places and those who commit adultery may be stoned to death. It also means that some convicted murderers may be beheaded in public squares.

Azzam al-Ahmed, chairman of Fatah's parliamentary list, was speaking to reporters during a joint press conference in Gaza City with Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar. The two met at Zahar's home in the context of Hamas's efforts to form a broad coalition that would bring together as many factions as possible.

The meeting was the first of its kind since Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas formally entrusted Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh with forming the new cabinet. Fatah has agreed in principle to join a Hamas-led cabinet, Ahmed announced. "Fatah is seriously considering joining a Hamas cabinet," Ahmed said. "We haven't rejected the idea, but neither have we accepted it. We are seriously studying it." He said, however, that Fatah was inclined to join the new cabinet only after agreeing on a joint working program with Hamas. He added that the two sides had agreed on most of the political and economic issues concerning the Palestinians, including the need to implement major reforms in the Palestinian Authority.

Salah Bardawil, a Hamas legislator who participated in the talks with Ahmed and other Fatah representatives, said that while the two parties agreed on internal issues, there was still a need to reach an agreement on the future of the peace process with Israel. "The main problem is with the agreements that were signed by the PLO and Israel," he said. "Hamas has its own stance regarding whether we should abide by these agreements."

Bardawil said Hamas was eager to include Fatah in the new cabinet. "We want to form a broad coalition with as many factions as possible," he said. "For us, Fatah's participation in the cabinet is very important." Ahmed Abu Halbiyeh, a newly elected Hamas legislator, said and he and many of his colleagues had plans to replace the existing law with the sharia teachings. "The Palestinian Authority's Basic Law is anyway based on the sharia," he noted. "We must reactivate this phrase when passing new laws."

Ah, yes that old tyme religion – absolutely nothing like it, though I am not sure that the public beheadings will be such a shock as public lynchings have remained quite common in the Palestinian Authority controlled areas. But so much for all those who were betting on Hamas mellowing its religious fanaticism once the burdens of municipal garbage collections and other such-like governance responsibilities was placed squarely on Hamas’ shoulders.

Put yourself in Israeli shoes for a minute

Imagine the outcry if Mexico was firing rockets into the United States daily. How realistic would it be for the American government to sit back and just watch as rockets reined down on Texas. Five Kassam rockets are shot into the Western Negev in Israel yesterday and 14 would be suicide bombers have been apprehended in the last three weeks by the Shin Bet (Israeli security forces) according to this Jerusalem Post report:
Thursday morning, five Kassam rockets were fired into the Western Negev from the former Gaza Strip settlement of Dugit. The rockets landed in open territory, and no one was wounded and no damage reported.

On Wednesday, Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky revealed that 14 potential suicide bombers have been arrested by the IDF and Shin Bet throughout West Bank. According to Kaplinsky, the majority were arrested in northern Samaria.
In recent weeks, the IDF has stepped up its activities against terrorists operating in the West Bank and currently continues widespread operations in the Nablus area, where three Palestinian fugitives including an expert bomb maker have been killed, a bomb factory has been blown up and senior terror commanders have been nabbed.

In Kabatiya south of Jenin, troops uncovered an empty Kassam rocket, a 40-kilogram bomb and fertilizer used to manufacture explosives hidden in a cave near the town. The findings only served to strengthen existing security assessments that, after the disengagement from Gaza, terror groups would shift their efforts from Gaza to the West Bank in an attempt to improve their capability and manufacture Kassam rockets there, placing major cities and towns in Israel under a direct threat.

I cannot help wondering why the Israeli government tolerates these daily rocket barrages. Thank the heavens for small mercies as relatively few Israelis have been harmed by them to date but the government seems to utterly impotent to coordinate any kind of an effective response to these attacks originating from the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip. It seems quite likely that suicide bombers are still being sent out in significant numbers and it is only a matter of time before either a successful suicide attack is launched or Kassams start reining down on Jerusalem as well. Of course, the acting Prime Minister of Israel does not consider Hamas a strategic threat to Israel either.

Just what exactly cannot be blamed on the Zionists?

Just in case you missed who was responsible for the bombing attack on a Shia Mosque the President of Iran spells out who the perpetrators were in this report from the Jerusalem Post:
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blamed the United States and Israel on Thursday for the blowing up of a Shi'ite shrine's golden dome in Iraq, saying it was the work of "defeated Zionists and occupiers."

Speaking to a crowd of thousands on tour of southwestern Iran, the president referred to the destruction of the Askariya mosque dome in Samarra on Wednesday, which the Iraqi government has blamed on insurgents. "They invade the shrine and bomb there because they oppose God and justice," Ahmadinejad said, referring to the US-led multinational force in Iraq.

The interesting thing about the Iranian president is how he manages to blame absolutely everything on Zionists and/or the “occupiers” but what I want to know is how far is Ahmadinejad willing to go to keep this up? Are there any appreciable limits on what can be blamed on the Jews?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

How long can Israeli Prime Minister go without taking off his rose coloured glasses?

If ever there was a reason why acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should not be acting, let alone deserve to be Prime Minister of Israel - Ynetnews Online has captured the rationale in full in Olmert’s own brief words:
Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he disagrees with a recent Shin Bet assessment that a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority constitutes a strategic threat on Israel. "I highly respect the Shin Bet director, but I do not agree with his assessment," Olmert said, referring to Yuval Diskin's remarks two days ago.

Shin Bet is the Israeli internal intelligence and security force – the equivalent of the RCMP in Canada or the FBI in the United States. Quibbling over the meaning of intelligence reports with your Security Director is nothing new, but to suggest that a Hamas run Palestinian Authority does not constitute a strategic threat to Israel is not only just willful blindness but national suicide.

Feeding my monkey

As a political junkie there is nothing like Israeli politics to feed the monkey on my back. This exchanged taken from the Jerusalem Post:
Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert faced off with Likud Leader Binyamin Netanyahu Wednesday, in what Knesset members called "the most fierce" Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting this session.

Even as the Knesset convened for a special session to vote on launching an investigation into the Amona evacuation, Olmert told the committee that the day after elections he could rule against such a committee, and was likely to do so. "I will not allow such a committee to be established against our security forces," Olmert declared.

MK Arye Eldad (National Union) promised Olmert that the Knesset would vote against the committee, if the prime minister's office took it upon themselves to launch an investigation. "No such investigation will be launched," Olmert said. "You are sitting here blaming me for telling the police officers to use zero tolerance against settlers throwing rocks. But I will not be blamed."

"How is it that you came here today without cavalry?" asked MK Effi Eitam, whose injury during the Amona evacuation aroused controversy after the source of his injury, which he claimed was from a horse-mounted policeman, was disputed by security officials. "I was told that you were coming unarmed," answered Olmert. "Do not interrupt me as you interrupt horses." Eitam responded by asking the acting prime minister if he intended to raze unauthorized Beduin buildings as well. Olmert replied that he has acted more in this regard than all the other "blabbermouths."

Meanwhile, MK Taleb a-Sanaa called Eitam a racist and an inciter of hatred against Beduins in the Negev. A-Sanaa accused Eitam of running his election campaign at the expense of the Arabs, Israel Radio reported. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert defended the government's decision to give the Palestinian $50 million in taxes owed to them by Israel on February 3, saying that the Palestinians used the money to repay debts to Israeli companies and to pay salaries, but not for terrorism. Olmert and Netanyahu exchanged barbs over the transfer of these funds, with Netanyahu lambasting Olmert for his decision to continue transferring money. "The entire Palestinian Authority has turned into Hamas in the wake of the new parliament's swearing-in ceremony," Olmert said, promising that he would not, "distinguish between shades."

The acting prime minister said that 50 percent of the money transferred to the PA from Israel had been distributed among Israeli companies who were providing the PA with services, and the remainder was used for salaries. "This means that the chances are low that the money would be used for terror," said Olmert.

When Netanyahu argued that he, as Finance Minister, had not been given the choice to transfer funds to the PA, Olmert quipped that in his term in the Finance Ministry he had experienced, "free will" to make decisions regarding money transfers.
Netanyahu also attacked Olmert for allowing the Palestinian elections to take place in an environment generated a Hamas victory. Referencing Former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon, Netanyahu accused the government of responsibility for Hamas's victory in the Palestinian elections by disengaging from the Gaza Strip this past summer. "Sharon would not have allowed the elections in east Jerusalem to take place," burst Netanyahu.

Say what you will but you haven't lived as a PJ until you see watch the video clips of the Knesset sessions. Nothing in Canadian politics compares and it sure beats Paul Martin with his guitar or Harper in a cowboy hat.

If Iran calls for the cheque, for Frack’s sake; let them pick up the bill

In a show of good guest etiquette which proves that Iran never goes anywhere uninvited nor arrives empty handed - Iran will be taking on fiscal responsibilities for the world largest welfare defacto state if the west decides it no longer wants to fund the world’s first official terrorist welfare state reports the Jerusalem Post.
Iran offered Wednesday to help finance a Palestinian Authority run by Hamas, state radio reported. The secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Larijani, announced the offer after a meeting with Khaled Mashaal, exiled leader of the Hamas, in Tehran, the radio said.

Larijani said the decision was taken after the United States said it would not provide aid to an authority governed by Hamas until the group renounced violence, recognized Israel and agreed to abide by existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. "The United States proved that it would not support democracy after it cut its aid to the Palestinian government after Hamas won the elections. We will certainly help the Palestinians," Larijani said, according to the radio.

Mashaal said Tuesday that Iran will have a "major role" in Palestinian affairs. But Hamas leaders in the territories told The Jerusalem Post that they were "not rushing" to embrace that role. "The ayatollah's regime will have a major role in Palestine," Mashaal said during a meeting in Teheran with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. "We trust Iran to help us deal with the challenges facing us today."

Mashaal is visiting Iran as part of a tour of Arab and Muslim countries aimed at gaining political and financial support for the soon-to-be Hamas-led government. The Palestinian Authority faces a serious financial crunch and possible collapse following the landslide Hamas victory in the recent Palestinian legislative elections.

While I don’t mean to be cavalier with Israeli lives, I would like to see Iran pick up the whole fiscal shooting match and watch as Iran sinks under its herculean weight. If Iran wants to take on fully funding the Palestinian Authority that just means there is less for everyone else to go around. Even Hezbollah would feel that pinch which makes it all good in my eyes.

The Palestinian Authority is a cesspool of a never-ending welfare state that would be an endless drain and millstone around the neck of the Iranian economy. I say, better them than us. Some would object that it would give the Iranians too much influence with the Palestinians Arabs, but if this poll is to believed - the Palestinian people are already psychologically prepared to be surgically attached to some mullah butt. After all, it was the Palestinians who developed and refined the whole idea of using school children as guidance systems for the delivery of incomings. Besides hitting two birds with one stone if a far more effective use of the west’s resources than attempting to feed two crocodiles at once.

Who Let Jimmy Carter Set Quartet Policy?

The Jerusalem Post reports that the Quartet will continue to fund the Palestinian Authority and will maintain current funding levels.

Financial support for the Palestinian Authority should continue while there is an interim government, Quartet principals decided during a conference call Monday, a day before US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice set out for a trip to the region.
The Quartet's decision to continue funding the interim PA government came a day after Israel decided to stop further transfers of customs and tax revenue to the PA, a sum that amounts to between $50 million and $60 million a month.

Rice arrived in Cairo Tuesday on the first leg of a trip that will focus on building Arab opposition to Hamas and to Iran's nuclear ambitions. "The international community expects that any Palestinian government will have to meet certain requirements of governing, which means a dedication to peace, a dedication to the agreements that the Palestinians have signed on to before," Rice said during a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit. "Obviously you can't have peace if you don't recognize the other partner," Rice said, adding that Hamas needed to recognize Israel's right to exist and needed to renounce terrorism.

Before departing for Cairo, Rice spoke via conference call with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, EU External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. According to a Western diplomatic official familiar with the conversation, the Quartet agreed on the following points:

· Financial support to the interim PA government should continue.
· Humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians would continue.
· The Quartet principals should increase their cooperation and talk each week.
· Ways to support PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas needed to be determined
· Quartet envoy James Wolfensohn is to provide a summary of the PA's financial requirements, potential sources of funding and the gap between what money is needed and what is available.

Wolfensohn's report, due Wednesday, is designed to give the Quartet an accurate picture of how much money the PA needs to keep it from financial collapse
I wasn’t going to mention it but the irony in this situation just cracks me right up. Who would have thought that the Quartet is looking for ways to support and prop up a man who received a Ph’D in Holocaust denial from a Moscow university while David Irving is sentenced to jail this week in Europe for saying what Mahmoud Abbas wrote in his dissertation and received academic accreditation for? Not even Monty Phython could have been this bold or outrageous.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

So, at least, I am in good company

When Hamas swept to electoral victory in the Palestinian Authority elections I took issue that Palestinian Arabs voted overwhelming for Hamas because it was perceived by the Palestinian electorate that Hamas would do a better job of trash collection without the graft. I contended that both Fatah and Hamas were at heart terrorist organizations but the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip gave Hamas a decided edge in the public relations war between Hamas and Fatah. Hamas was effectively able to capitalize on the fact that the first unilateral and non-negotiated withdrawal from the Disputed Territories by the Israelis was in the Hamas stronghold of the Gaza Strip. Apparently, I am not the only one who believes the disengagement granted creditability to the Hamas agenda.

Cutting off your nose to spite your face

Last week I was all for extending NATO membership to Israel when I commented briefly on a WSJ article calling for exactly that. This item caught my eye in the Jerusalem Post:
Israel stepped up its relationship with NATO on Monday and received a delegation of multinational military officers who accompanied an AWAC early warning surveillance plane which they brought to show to the Israel Air Force. Head of the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force, Gen. Axel Tuttelman, said the AWAC plane, which contained unique surveillance capabilities, was brought to Israel as part of a larger effort to enhance security cooperation between NATO and Israel in the war on global terrorism.

Tuttelman said his unit was frequently called into action and was currently involved in running surveillance over the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. While the United States and Israel have yet to decide if they would launch a military offensive against Iran, Tuttelman told The Jerusalem Post that if NATO was involved his forces would be the first to be called up.
Israel is a member of NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue - a 10-year-old forum for political consultations and practical cooperation between countries of the Mediterranean area, including Morocco, Algeria, Egypt and Jordan. "We hope the visit will strengthen links and intensify cooperation with Israel," Tuttelman said, adding that NATO's interests in Israel were political and not military, and were meant to enhance the joint effort in combating terrorism. “We hope the visit will strengthen links and intensify cooperation with Israel," Tuttelman said, adding that NATO's interests in Israel were political and not military, and were meant to enhance the joint effort in combating terrorism.

Two weeks ago, Italian Defense Minister Antonio Martino was quoted as calling for Israel to be given NATO membership. The recommendation was quickly dismissed, however, by NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who said that "the issue of Israeli membership is not on the table."

Like the Italian Defense Minister, I believe the Israelis have much to bring to bring to the table in terms of resources, men and intelligence, but alas, the current mindset among long time NATO members is much like Publius suggested, ergo, it is just not going to happen as long as the Euro-wennies are at the helm.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Most days I am perfectly happy with the concept of growing older.

My mother says that only the lucky grow old and overall I see her point. If there is one thing about being in my forties that really sucks - it is that this is the decade that I have run into serious dental problems at an alarming rate.

For most of last week I was eating painkillers like M&M’s until the Butcher from Prague could fit me in late Saturday afternoon. He was able to do a few things to alleviated most of the pain but consequently this tooth issue is leading to a new round of treatment.

Blogging in the next week will be taking the back seat while I tend to the dental issues and will only occur when my brain no longer is busy registering pain and my thinking can clear enough from the subsequent codeine induced fog.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

How does one say Tag Team in Arabic?

I found this link at Iris and my first thought Tag Team and I don’t even like wrestling:
JERUSALEM – Now that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' long-ruling Fatah Party has been forced into the opposition by Hamas' rise to power, Fatah and its "military offshoot," the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, will become the most active Palestinian terror group, a senior Brigades leader said in an exclusive interview.
The leader said Abbas' party supports the Brigades' terror attacks against Israeli civilians and approves of a massive violent offensive he warned will soon be launched against the Jewish state, in part to revolt against Hamas.

"Like in the previous days [when] Hamas was not in the government but it carried out [resistance] operations, now Fatah will follow this kind of policy," said Abu Nasser, a Brigades leader in the West Bank during an exclusive interview with WND's Aaron Klein and ABC Radio's John Batchelor broadcast on Batchelor's national program for which Klein serves as a co-host. (Listen to part 1 of the radio interview.) Abu Nasser warned of a "third intifada" the Brigades will perpetrate against Israel, and said Abbas' Fatah Party approves of the upcoming terror campaign.

I really think the only appreciable difference between the PLO/Fatah is the colour of their flags.

Be Afraid People, Very Afraid - As the World Could Still Be My Bitch

The Toronto Star carries an article about the pitfalls of public transportation while pregnant and the National Post is writing about the declining population and fertility rates in Canada but the Globe and Mail goes for the gold with this article:

Blood tests, laboratory experiments with animals and humans, and magnetic-resonance images of working brains reveal that from pregnancy on, female mammals are brighter, bolder and better able to cope with life than their childless counterparts.

These brain improvements are permanent, lasting from the childbearing years into senescence. Nature automatically turbo-charges the brains of mothers. As all kids know, there's a shorthand name for superhuman: mom.

Mothers don't necessarily outshine non-mothers in every possible way, says Craig Kinsley, a professor of neuroscience at Virginia's University of Richmond, and one of Dr. Lambert's senior collaborators. All the same, the behaviours that do improve are so central that they give a new mom an immense advantage over her childless sister. From curiosity to self-confidence to sensory acuteness, the maternal brain shines in a host of ways.

The triggers for maternal brain enhancement involve the same signalling apparatus that governs the whole cascade of life. Puberty, mating, conception, pregnancy and birth are all controlled by chemical messengers called hormones. Hormones perform a bewildering variety of functions in all mammals, but particularly in females. Estrogens, including a powerful variety called estradiol, are produced in a pregnant woman's ovaries and placenta.

When they travel to the brain, they change it -- a process that until recently was thought to be impossible. Under hormonal direction, brain cells are enlarged in the hypothalamus, a region that strongly affects maternal behaviour. Hormones increase neuronal branches in a nearby brain area called the hippocampus. The hippocampus isn't directly involved in how mothers behave, but it does play a key role in their general learning and memory. From conception onward, both of these key functions are intensified in moms.

Pregnancy hormones also beef up the brain's amygdala and prefrontal cortices. The amygdala, part of an ancient core brain called the limbic system, regulates intense emotions, including maternal love. The prefrontal areas process sensory input, empathy and conscience.

The upshot of pregnancy, Dr. Kinsley says, is a maternal brain changed forever in critical ways -- not just different, but vastly improved. In his group's animal experiments, mother rats proved two times better than virgin rats at finding food in mazes, and up to three times bolder in exploring unknown situations.

And in competitions involving multitasking, mother rats beat the tails off their virgin cousins. In every aspect of evolutionary success -- cognition, exploration, adventurousness, general intelligence -- the moms were tops. Some critics say rats are rats and humans are humans, and never the twain shall meet. Not so, Dr. Kinsley says. All mammals seem to share a common machinery for hormonal brain enhancement. "Mapping the brain circuitry of rats onto that of humans provides strong support for animal models," he says.

Now I have to contemplate if world domination could have been possible if I had had the six children that I wanted instead of the three I had to settle for? I suppose if I got my act together and went in full-tilt boggie I could still manage to push out a few more babies before menopause finally kicks in - menapause comes very late to the women in my family. But then again, one of the most manipulative and difficult personalities I have ever had to deal with was my father’s maternal grandmother. She had 13 pregnancies and only 5 that lived to adulthood. Bring up her name to my mother, and 30 years after my great grandmother's death, my mother still spites bile.

How I have scarred a young man for life.

I read this article in the Toronto Star about I suppose a general decline in chivalry. The reporter poses as a pregnant woman and tests how often she will be offered a seat.
How did this happen? How did a city where once drivers would stop to let pedestrians cross any street, any time (remember those days?) become a city where pregnant women can't even find a seat on the bus? The pregnancy pillow made me look ready to pop. I pulled my coat back to enhance the effect. I made eye contact. Riding the Bloor line at Victoria Park at 8:15 a.m. on Wednesday, Grant Bouchard, 33, practically leaped out of his seat for me. "I've had three hip replacements and three kidney transplants and I'm testing for a fourth kidney transplant," he said, by way of explaining his keen desire to help. "I know what it's like when someone doesn't offer a seat."

The reaction was similar on all lines on different days at different times. Young men, middle-aged women, people of all races and cultures leapt up so I could sit. Sometimes women would nudge the men they were with to step up. There were notable exceptions. It's hard to get a seat on the Yonge line headed north at rush hour. On Tuesday evening, two men and three women played the "I can't see you game," though I stood directly in front of them. On Thursday evening, a Sir Galahad remained seated though my belly was inches from his face for several stops. He did make sure I got his place when he exited the subway. I suppose one should be grateful for small favours.

On the 88 bus from St. Clair station during Thursday evening rush hour, a silver-haired woman offered me her seat the moment I boarded, unleashing a domino effect. A man in his 30s gave her his seat. The man next to me remained seated. The woman to my left tapped me on the shoulder. She looked incredulous, like she had just seen a magic trick. "Are you pregnant?" she asked. "Did she give you her seat because you're pregnant?" She couldn't quite believe what had happened.

I turned to the man sitting next to me, who did not offer me a seat. "I didn't notice until after you sat down," said Kerry Williams, 52. "I would have given you the seat." I believed him. It's true that men seem less observant than women, but they may also be more reluctant to ask. Ritchie at Mount Sinai chastised me for declining to take a seat when men offer one up, even though I was only pretending to be pregnant. When a woman offers her seat to someone who declines, she doesn't think twice about it, he said. When a man offers up his seat and it's declined, he feels like an idiot, and may not offer again. "Women don't understand how it affects men to be turned down," he said. "It's a kind of public rebuff. People are listening and they're watching. I think men are more sensitive about that kind of stuff."

Not everyone is so gentle on men who won't give up their seats. Driver Colin Abernethy has seen a steep decline in chivalry among men in the past 28 years. Not only do they not give up their seats to women, they push to get to the front of the line while waiting for the bus. Amy Mullin, a mom of three, a philosophy professor at the University of Toronto and author of Reconceiving Pregnancy and Child Care, says a deeper change might be in order. "I would like to see in general more attunement to others around us and more willingness to make small sacrifices for each other."

I have had three pregnancies in this city and I suppose that times have changed but those are things that are often the price to be paid for living in a large city. The only advice I have for pregnant women and women who are nursing is; go to Jamaica post haste. Two months after the Last Amazon was born I traveled to Jamaica and stayed in the hills outside of Negril as known by the locals as SIN CITY. I could not go anywhere with my newborn in my arms that strangers did not stop me on the road and offer me a ride anywhere I wanted to go.

On the beach, I was adopted by the various people who hawked different things to the tourists. Just before the daily rains came at 2pm on the beach I would be offered shelter and a meal until the rains ended. I never ate so well. In fact, I was so spoiled that I can no longer stand the taste of oranges or grapefruits that are offered in the markets of this city. I was never so well nurtured by the kindness of strangers as when I was a woman with child in Jamaica. It’s no wonder I never wanted to come home. When the time finally arrived and I could not put off leaving for Toronto any longer I cried the whole ride from Negril to Montego Bay – yes, the whole two hour trip.

But my favourite bus story happened on the city street car as I was rushing to get home to feed my baby. One of the things I discovered that wasn’t in any of the books I read on pregnancy and childcare concerned breastfeeding. Every time I was in hearing range of a child crying, any child, my milk would come in and I leaked like a public fountain. I was standing in a crowded street car with a child crying within range while I was rushing to get home to my own child. The pins and needles reflex kicked in and the milk was following. The best I could do was to keep my coat wrapped around me as my bra filled with milk and started to drip down my body. After five minutes of this a young man leaned over me and says, “You smell absolutely wonderful. I have never smelt a woman who smells so good. What are you wearing? I have to get it for my girlfriend.” I squeezed around so that I could look him in the eye when I said “Breast milk.” Once he picked his jaw off the ground he could not get away from me fast enough and started to shove his way far, far, far away from me.

Friday, February 17, 2006

And I never liked Donny & Marie Either

I admit I know absolutely very little about Mormonism and I am not quite sure that Mormons even refer to themselves as “Christians” or can even be realistically perceived to be part of the ongoing saga that is Christianity in the 21st century.

Generally, I find them a pretty inoffensive lot. Personally, I have through the years received more than a few pointed looks of disapproval from well-suited ernest young men who are busy doing their missionary work in the neighborhood as the Tribe and I are going out and about, but overal they meet the neighbor sniff test. In other words, I have had no ongoing disputes with any Mormons that I know of - but this could change on a moment’s notice.I found this LA Times article on DNA evidence conflicting with some core Mormon teachings that really astounding me:
From the time he was a child in Peru, the Mormon Church instilled in Jose A. Loayza the conviction that he and millions of other Native Americans were descended from a lost tribe of Israel that reached the New World more than 2,000 years ago. "We were taught all the blessings of that Hebrew lineage belonged to us and that we were special people," said Loayza, now a Salt Lake City attorney. "It not only made me feel special, but it gave me a sense of transcendental identity, an identity with God."

A few years ago, Loayza said, his faith was shaken and his identity stripped away by DNA evidence showing that the ancestors of American natives came from Asia, not the Middle East. "I've gone through stages," he said. "Absolutely denial. Utter amazement and surprise. Anger and bitterness."

For Mormons, the lack of discernible Hebrew blood in Native Americans is no minor collision between faith and science. It burrows into the historical foundations of the Book of Mormon, a 175-year-old transcription that the church regards as literal and without error. For those outside the faith, the depth of the church's dilemma can be explained this way: Imagine if DNA evidence revealed that the Pilgrims didn't sail from Europe to escape religious persecution but rather were part of a migration from Iceland — and that U.S. history books were wrong.

Critics want the church to admit its mistake and apologize to millions of Native Americans it converted. Church leaders have shown no inclination to do so. Indeed, they have dismissed as heresy any suggestion that Native American genetics undermine the Mormon creed. Yet at the same time, the church has subtly promoted a fresh interpretation of the Book of Mormon intended to reconcile the DNA findings with the scriptures. This analysis is radically at odds with long-standing Mormon teachings. Some longtime observers believe that ultimately, the vast majority of Mormons will disregard the genetic research as an unworthy distraction from their faith.

"This may look like the crushing blow to Mormonism from the outside," said Jan Shipps, a professor emeritus of religious studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, who has studied the church for 40 years. "But religion ultimately does not rest on scientific evidence, but on mystical experiences. There are different ways of looking at truth."

According to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an angel named Moroni led Joseph Smith in 1827 to a divine set of golden plates buried in a hillside near his New York home. God provided the 22-year-old Smith with a pair of glasses and seer stones that allowed him to translate the "Reformed Egyptian" writings on the golden plates into the "Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ." Mormons believe these scriptures restored the church to God's original vision and left the rest of Christianity in a state of apostasy. The book's narrative focuses on a tribe of Jews who sailed from Jerusalem to the New World in 600 BC and split into two main warring factions.

The God-fearing Nephites were "pure" (the word was officially changed from "white" in 1981) and "delightsome." The idol-worshiping Lamanites received the "curse of blackness," turning their skin dark. According to the Book of Mormon, by 385 AD the dark-skinned Lamanites had wiped out other Hebrews. The Mormon church called the victors "the principal ancestors of the American Indians." If the Lamanites returned to the church, their skin could once again become white.

All of which makes me conclude that untreated mental illness combined with long periods of fasting is a truly devastating disaster of biblical proportions. Oh, and Big Nana, you can put the kibosh on your hopes of trying to marry off the Dreadie to the baker's daughter.

(tipped off by The Corner)

The Rain of Kassam falls mainly on the Negev

While most of the international mid-east chatter is about Hamas 24/7 one thing that is largely overlooked (unless you happen to be an Israeli in the Negev region)has been the rain of kassam rockets originating from the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip. While the direct causalities have been small in number (last week an sleeping infant was injured when a rocket hit the baby’s home) the potential for harm is significant. The Jerusalem Postcarries this report:
On Tuesday, eight Kassams were fired at the Western Negev, with one exploding close to a strategic installation in the Ashkelon industrial zone. The attack was not the first time that Kassams landed in the industrial zone - home to a number of factories and strategic installations, including the Ashkelon power station, a desalination plant and sections of the Ashkelon-Eilat oil pipeline.

The IDF censor has prevented the publication of the exact targets hit by the rockets so as not to "help" the Palestinians improve their accuracy. National Infrastructure Ministry officials told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that while the Kassam was a small and relatively primitive rocket, if fired accurately it had the ability to shut down the Ashkelon power plant, which provides electricity to half of the country.

The police and the IDF's Home Front Command have drawn up plans to deal with a disaster caused by a Kassam strike in the industrial zone and have planned a massive exercise for next week to drill forces in preparation for an emergency. "If fired accurately, a Kassam could cause a huge disaster in the industrial zone," a senior police officer who specializes in emergency situations told the Post.

"It obviously depends where it falls, but there are places that, if hit, would cause severe damage to infrastructure and human lives." The officer specifically referred to tanks of ammonia and other highly flammable chemicals in one of the factories as a sensitive target that needed to be protected. "If a Kassam hits the power plant, we are probably just looking at a temporary shutdown," he explained. "The bigger problem is what happens if the Kassam falls on chemical tanks there. If that happens, we could be facing a large-scale disaster."

While the IDF said it was working to reinforce the roofs of the factories and to protect the industrial zone, senior officers admitted that the military did not have a 100-percent solution to what they called the "Kassam problem." In recent weeks the army has stepped up its targeted assassinations of terrorists involved in the production and firing of Kassams. "We are working around the clock trying to prevent the firing of Kassams," one officer said. "We are aware of our limitations and that we don't have a perfect solution, but we are doing everything we can to minimize the phenomenon, whether by targeting the people who are behind the Kassams or creating no-movement zones in the northern Gaza Strip." But while the officer said the army viewed the Kassam as one of the "most serious threats" to southern Israel, he admitted that the Home Front Command had yet to fully implement its protection plan for the Ashkelon industrial zone.

Just to clarify a little Israel geography, the area under attack is not in the disputed territories but is in Israel proper and while the caretaking government of Ehud Olmert is busy politicking the threat to Israel grows. I would suggest that the drop in the polls for Kadima had more to do with the Olmert’s government’s failure to respond decisively to these attacks from Hamas controlled Gaza than the sentencing of Omri Sharon on corruption charges.

Where's the cheese at?

So what’s up with France? A few weeks ago we had French president Jacques Chirac issuing a statement that France would not hesitate to retaliate with its nuclear arsenal against any country if state sponsored terrorism harmed French interests. Today we have the French Foreign Minister accusing Iran of covertly using its nuclear program to make weapons according to this Globe and Mail report:
Paris — France accused Iran on Thursday of secretly making nuclear weapons, ditching Europe's traditional diplomatic caution for bluntness that echoed the tough U.S. stance and reflected growing exasperation with Tehran.

Iran quickly denied the allegation by French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, who hardened the line that European negotiators had previously taken in their efforts to persuade Iran to suspend nuclear activities.

“No civilian nuclear program can explain the Iranian nuclear program. It is a clandestine military nuclear program,” Mr. Douste-Blazy said on France-2 television.
“The international community has sent a very firm message in telling the Iranians to return to reason and suspend all nuclear activity and the enrichment and conversion of uranium, but they aren't listening to us.”

Did the Iranians stiff the French on a bill because this is sounding definitely uncheesy.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Innate Failures of Using Tooth Fairy Dust As a Catalyst for Change:

The Globe and Mail is reporting that US Congressmen had representatives from Yahoo, Microsoft, Google & Cisco “squirming in their seats” yesterday – as they well should be:
WASHINGTON — Internet giants Yahoo, Microsoft, Google and Cisco were accused yesterday at congressional hearings of greedily collaborating with China's efforts to control Internet access and to track down dissidents.

"Your abhorrent actions in China are a disgrace," said Tom Lantos, a Democrat from California. As senior executives from the four Internet companies visibly squirmed, Mr. Lantos -- the only Holocaust survivor in the House of Representatives -- reminded them that International Business Machines had helped count Jews for the Nazis.
Yahoo, in particular has been singled out for co-operating with Chinese police, handing over information that led to the identification and imprisonment of at least two dissidents. Michael Callahan, general counsel for the company, said, "We were legally obligated to comply." Yahoo provided electronic records to Chinese authorities that led to an eight-year prison sentence for writer Li Zhi in 2003.

Yahoo was also accused of helping Chinese authorities finger Shi Tao, who was accused of leaking state secrets and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Mr. Callahan said Yahoo didn't realize people would go to jail. But like top executives from the other companies, Mr. Callahan insisted that staying engaged in China is better for human rights than pulling out.
The companies' representatives said shunning China over its human-rights record would be even worse. "It's better for Microsoft and other Internet companies to be engaged," said Jack Krumholtz, that company's general counsel. "The benefits outweigh the downside."

Most committee members seemed unconvinced, as did other witnesses who testified yesterday. In his prepared testimony, Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet Project at Berkeley, said: "It has become painfully clear to the American public in recent months that some of this country's leading information technology companies, including Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Cisco, who are here today, have, to differing degrees, aided or complied with China's Internet-censorship policies, in order to gain a presence in the lucrative China market." China's cyberpoliceapparently monitor the Internet in near-real time.

"A friend of mine recently tried to access some politically sensitive websites while at an Internet café in a remote, small city in Xinjiang province," said Harry Wu, a former political prisoner. "The police quickly showed up to arrest him. I don't know who supplied the technology enabling the police to track my friend's Internet surfing, but I am pretty sure that U.S. technology was involved."

Shame, and a pox on all their houses. I am all for free trade among free men and women, but “free” is the operative word. I am always suspicious of the soft diplomacy stance whereby the justification for trading with brutal regimes that routinely violate human rights is that we will somehow influence the regimes to mend their ways and they so rarely do. If anything, all to often it allows regimes access to new tools to cause harm. Cuba hasn’t become a human rights haven and they are still jailing musicians, gays, internet users and librarians, despite almost decades long periods of uninterrupted trade with Canada. Iran has been shopping and buying Canadian since 1990 but I have yet to see the kinder, gentler face or side of Iran emerge. Just exactly how long does it take?

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

And I meant to blog but yesterday was payday and I bought a new game. I got up early just to blog but the game was calling my name…..Maybe later.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Extend NATO Membership to Israel

If I had a nickel for every time I am the last to see or know anything, I would have been able to retire at least five years ago. Thanks to Everyman Chronicles for bringing to my attention this opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.
Israel's NATO membership has been mooted before, but the suggestion is especially compelling as a response to the Iranian nuclear threat. Iran's apocalyptic President Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map," and influential former President Hashemi Rafsanjani has said an Islamic bomb "would not leave anything in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world."

Those are unprecedented threats, which are all the more likely to be carried out if the mullahs think that the only retaliation would come from Israel itself. It may be that the mad mullahs aren't deterrable, since they claim to welcome mass martyrdom. But if Israel were part of NATO, the saner elements in Tehran would at least have to worry about the collective response of the West. Only last week President Bush promised that the U.S. would come to Israel's defense against Iran, but the NATO proposal has the additional virtue of forcing Europe to take a firmer stand against an Iranian bomb.

Many Europeans will object that NATO is a geographic defense pact, but it has already expanded its field of operation beyond Europe into Afghanistan. If NATO is going to continue to be relevant, it has to adapt to confront new threats to global stability, and a nuclear Iran certainly qualifies. It's fanciful for Europe to think it could stay aloof from an Iranian strike against Israel or the U.S., since the latter would surely retaliate and wider regional war would ensue. Iran is also developing ballistic missiles that will eventually have the capitals of Europe within range.

Even apart from the Iranian threat, a strong case can be made for Israeli membership. Israel is a liberal democracy, which is why nobody seriously worries about Israel's bomb. The Jewish state has also taken unprecedented steps for peace with its Palestinian neighbors over the past decade, relinquishing territory even as it became clear that there was little good faith on the other side. Ariel Sharon's Gaza withdrawal and the subsequent victory of Hamas in Palestinian legislative elections are more than enough reason for the rest of the world to now reciprocate with a gesture of solidarity regarding Israel's defense.

I really like the idea of extending NATO membership to Israel. If that can’t put a serious mull into the hearts, minds and trigger fingers of a few Mullah’s - then nothing will short of death will. No doubt the Saudis, a few other Arab league nations and Old Europe will balk large about it, but so what? Besides having a pipeline straight into Israeli intelligence, the tactical expertise would be worth more than the aggravation factor from a few professional diplomatic whiners.

Here we go again, and again, and again…..

Speaking of tinfoil hats, Warren Kinsella, number #1 Blogger with Thin Skin, is suing blogger Mark Bourrie of Ottawa Watch for libel. You can contribute to Mark Bourrie’s defense fund here.


US Vice-President Dick Cheney involved in a hunting accident makes for a comedic moment but this no Watergate. Let us all adjust the reception on our tin foil hats and move on to something more substantial like the ongoing attacks against journalists in Yemen or the ongoing Cedar Revolution in Lebanon.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine Voltaire

In honour of Valentine’s Day (a holiday that I associate with the death of my beloved grandfather) I offer this Voltairian insight for Valentine's Day:

It is an infantile superstition of the human spirit that virginity would be thought a virtue and not the barrier that separates ignorance from knowledge.

Hactivism: U of T Students Scale the Great Firewall of China

I meant to post this yesterday but I got sidetracked. University of Toronto Student put "hactivism" into action and are attempting to scale the great firewall of China:
TORONTO — More than fifteen years after the Berlin Wall was shattered with hammers and bulldozers, a Canadian-designed computer program is preparing to break through what activists call the great firewall of China.

The program, in the late stages of development in a University of Toronto office, is designed to help those trapped behind the blocking and filtering systems set up by restrictive governments. If successful, it will equip volunteers in more open countries to help those on the other side of digital barriers, allowing a free flow of information and news into and out of even the most closed societies.

The program is part of a quiet war over freedom of information. Even as countries considered repressive, such as China, North Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia, pour money into stopping the free exchange of data, small groups of activists keep looking for ways around the technological barriers.
Read the rest here.

Hamas: Satanic US Money

There are times when I believe that you should take people at their word and concede to their stated desire. YnetNews Online carries this report.
A leader of the Palestinian terror group Hamas vowed Monday not to bow to American threats to cut aid, saying the movement did not need “satanic” U.S. money.

Mahmoud al-Zahar also addressed Hamas’ much-anticipated social and economic agenda, saying the group intended to fight corruption, eliminate the “tourism of nudity” and use education to promote a culture of resistance. But, aware of the political realities in the Palestinian territories, al-Zahar said Hamas had no intention to force Islam on Palestinians or to settle scores with its rivals.

“Those who built their structure on the basis of the Quran...Cannot budge because of promises from America or a dollar from Europe,” al-Zahar told a Cairo conference. “I wish America would cut off its aid. We do not need this satanic money,” he said.
All right then. Give the people what they want. Taxpayers all over the the West will thank you.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Talk about adding insult to injury

The Toronto Star is carrying a report of a five year old boy who was sexually assaulted at a downtown clothing store:
Police are looking for a male suspect after a five-year-old boy was sexually assaulted in the toy department of a downtown Winners store Saturday. The boy was shopping with his family when he was lured into the toy section of the Winners at College and Yonge Sts. around 12:15 p.m. and sexually assaulted, police said.

For those unfamiliar with Toronto geography, the Winners store is located just one floor below the under the College Park Provincial Criminal and Civil Courts offices and directly across the street from the head quarters of the Toronto Police.

The Decapitation of La Passionata

I have been a fan of La Passionata from the first time I read her prose way back in the early eighties. I have not always been a fan of her politics but the passion of her prose literally scorches its’ way across the page. No fuddle-duddle or pantywaisting for Oriana. She has stood more times than not on the side of freedom and has yet to be found wanting. So it is with a heavy heart that I read this article and discover how deeply she is now being reviled in her native Italy.

Who would believe that the champions of freedom are now figures for scorn? I will not be picketing the Italian Consulate or boycotting all things Italian because I am offended, and if I was to be deliberately obtuse, I could argue in a ‘do unto others as you would like others to do unto you” way and demand the Italian government allow only “responsible or mature” use of free speech or expression but that negates the whole concept of ‘free” anything. Instead, I think I will say the prayer Voltaire claimed to have prayed to the Lord - for La Passionate and myself:

"O Lord make my enemies ridiculous." - Voltaire

Here we go again.

Never let it be said that Iranian President Ahmadinjad is not consistent. The Bangkok Post is reporting this:
Tehran (dpa) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Saturday that the Palestinians and "other nations" will eventually remove Israel from the region.

Addressing a mass demonstration in Tehran - one of many organized throughout Iran to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the Islamic revolution - he once again questioned the Holocaust "fairy tale".

"We ask the West to remove what they created sixty years ago and if they do not listen to our recommendations, then the Palestinian nation and other nations will eventually do this for them," Ahmadinejad said in a ceremony marking the 27th anniversary of the Islamic revolution.

"Do the removal of Israel before it is too late and save yourself from the fury of regional nations," the ultra-conservative president said. He once again called the Holocaust a "fairy tale" and said Europeans have become hostages of "Zionists" in Israel.

He also accused Europeans for not allowing "neutral scholars" to investigate in Europe and make a scientific report on "the truth about the fairy tale of Holocaust."

"How comes that insulting the prophet of Muslims worldwide is justified within the framework of press freedom, but investigating about the fairy tale Holocaust is not?" Ahmadinejad said.

"The real Holocaust is what is happening in Palestine where the Zionists avail themselves of the fairy tale of Holocaust as blackmail and justification for killing children and women and making innocent people homeless," Ahmadinejad said.

The president said that the results of the parliamentary elections in Palestine and the victory of the Hamas group "clearly showed what the people really want."

Since this is the Iranian President’s sentiments; it really is not surprising to learn that the Globe and Mail is reporting that the Iranian government has broken off talks with the Russians:
Tehran — Iran's negotiations with Russia over its plan to enrich Iranium uranium on its soil have been indefinitely postponed, the country's presidential spokesman Gholamhossein Elham said Monday.

The talks, which were to have resumed Thursday, have been postponed and will reconvene at a time of “mutual agreement,” Mr. Elham told reporters. Mr. Elham said the negotiations had been postponed because of the “new situation,” a reference to the International Atomic Energy Agency's decision earlier this month to report Iran's nuclear file to the United Nations Security Council.

I have to hand it to the Iranian government as they certainly know just how to play the game to tie the world into knots.

(tipped off via Iris Blog)

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Is the essence of Voltaire dead in the west?

Neale News led me to this gem of Christian outrage:
Poland's Roman Catholics expressed outrage on Thursday after a magazine published a picture of the much-revered icon of the Black Madonna with pop icon Madonna's face transposed on to it.

"We are shocked to see, yet again, the miraculous icon of the mother of God used in a [profane] way for advertising and business purposes," said Paulinian monks at Jasna Gora monastery in the southern city of Czestochowa, who are custodians of the icon that Poles believe was painted by St Luke the Evangelist.

Pop magazine Machina published a photograph of the sacred icon, with pop idol Madonna's face transposed over the face of the Virgin and one of the singer's children in the place of the baby Jesus, on the cover of the issue that hit the newsstands on Thursday after a three-year publishing hiatus.
"Current events have shown us where abuse of religious images and symbols can lead," the statement said, referring indirectly to the wave of protests that have hit the Muslim world since the publication of caricatures of the prophet Muhammad in several European newspapers.

Ultra-Catholic daily newspaper Nasz Dziennik slammed Machina's cover photo as "another act of profanation of sacred symbols", and Poland's Tolerancja.pl website has received scores of messages of protest.

Catholic nuns will be burning flags and imploding at the offices of Machina at 11:00 am past not going to happen. Stop and think for a moment why that is, even if there are those who secretly harbour a longing for the simplicity of the old days when blasphemers would be put to death. Certainly, there was a time in Christendom that any lampooning, mocking or the profaning the use of religious symbolism would have resulted in severe penalties or even death under the law.

Voltaire is still called the Father of Liberty and for good reason. If the average student in the West does not study Voltaire’s work in any great depth today it has more to do with the fact that the theological battles he fought are largely irrelevant to every day modern life in the West because he won. Voltaire’s victory over ecclesiasticism and superstition in the public domain made them relatively dead issues for us. The philosophical premises and religious superstitions that he rallied against in Candide no longer dominate governance or the public discourse in our society. But where would we be today if Voltaire did pen his famous creed, “I disagree with what you say but I defend to the death your right to say it?”

And where would we be if he was not unjustly forced early in his career to seek sanctuary on a small Isle at the very edge of Europe where men like Bolingbroke, Pope, Addison, Newton and Swift said, wrote and published what they thought?

Voltaire had no experience with the English prior to crossing the channel and he was profoundly influenced by the religious tolerance he witnessed. Men of science and reason who were allowed to publish their theories and thoughts without the prior approval or the need to seek sanction by either the Church or King. A King who shared rule with a parliament and ordinary citizens who could not be deprived of their liberty without due process of law rather than the infamous lettres de cachet issued at the whim of the either the aristocracy or religious authorities.

Voltaire was philosophically and intellectually nurtured by his time among the English. When his exile among the English ended he took these ideas back to his native land and not only spread the word but expanded on it. He tilled the soil so that the French Age of Enlightenment could blossom. And with his pen he decisively satirized, mocked, and lampooned all who would stifle the free exchange of ideas or inhibit the intellectual or philosophical discourse of his day. He was merciless with his use of reason and wit to trivialize or demean those who would silent all detractors and wrap chains around men’s minds and limbs. Dwelling among us in exile may now very well be a Voltaire for the Islamic world but who will nurture him or her? Not a press that meets any criticism of radical Islamism with silence under the guise of not flaming the flames of prejudice or racism.

Those innocuous and on the whole badly drawn political cartoons make a political point however you wish it were not so. By not publishing the cartoons you allow others with a different agenda to hijack and stifle even the mere suggestion of rational dialogue. Mark MacKinnon on Muslim outrage over the cartoons (in The Globe and Mail) interviews the man on the street in Beirut and this point becomes even clearer:
BEIRUT -- Hussain Saad has never seen the controversial cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed that were published in Europe, but he's furious anyway. What he's been told is enough to get his blood boiling.

One picture, he's heard, shows the Prophet wearing a turban with a bomb tucked inside it. That one appeared last September in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, and has since been published by some other newspapers in Europe and elsewhere, sparking an angry reaction from Muslims worldwide. Mr. Saad believes the picture is insulting, since it implies an association between Islam and terrorism.

But it's the second image he's heard was published that makes him really irate, featuring, he's been told, a bent-over Prophet having sex with another man.
"They are showing the Prophet in a sexual position with another man. We don't have this here. We don't have men sleeping with men, or women sleeping with women," the bearded 20-year-old Shia Muslim said, as other young men listened and nodded their heads in angry agreement.
The cartoon Mr. Saad and the others have heard about in such graphic detail has never appeared in any Western newspaper, nor is Sweden holding an insult-the-Prophet competition. But such myths are popular in the slums of Beirut and the adjoining Palestinian refugee camps, and are helping to fuel the anger boiling across the Muslim world.

Many who have taken part in the violent anti-cartoon protests that have hit places as far-flung as Lebanon, Afghanistan and Indonesia are poor and illiterate, with no access to the Western media or the Internet. They got their information about the drawings largely from word-of-mouth accounts, allowing preachers and politicians who have a stake in feeding the outrage to spread a distorted version of what the offending images contain.
Perhaps Voltaire said it best when he wrote, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Backward Horde is Unleashed

I stole that line from Daimnation and I, read Russell Smith’s column in Globe and Mail. It was really a banner day yesterday as I found two things that I liked in the G&M. Someone needs to send a memo to the managing editors as they are obviously power napping on the job. In the meantime, I should check the skies for flying pigs but here’s an excerpt from the The Easy Slide from Sensitive to Silent.

The extremist leaders who have stirred up their mobs did so because they are fighting a battle of their own, in the Muslim world, against moderates, and these cartoons were a useful catalyst for enraging more Muslims and converting them into a hateful mob. The cartoons were an excuse. The battle is not over "sensitivity" to a religion -- you think these people are sensitive to your religion? You think the masked guys storming embassies with firebombs, the wild-eyed guys firing their AK-47s in the air and chanting, "There is no God but Allah," you think these guys believe in mutual tolerance and respect? You think they're merely in favour of creating slightly stricter press restrictions on religious offence, maybe a broader definition of hate speech?

They are saying: Your religion is wrong and ours is right. You are an unbeliever and you are going to hell. This is not about argument; this is about simple power. They are saying: If you insult us, we will kill you. They are not trying to convince you of anything, they are trying to frighten you.

And boy, have they been effective. Our media has completely muzzled itself. They say they do not want to be needlessly offensive. But I say it's a question of courage. If we had printed all the cartoons, in all their goofiness, on the front page of every newspaper in North America, we would have provided far too many targets to firebomb (at least all at once). More importantly, we would have expressed solidarity for a fundamental principle. As it is, we have been cowardly and ceded a point, which is now going to stand as a precedent.

And what a terrible precedent it is: that religion is out of bounds for criticism. All the fundamentalists of every religion are going to be delighted by this one. The Christians, believe me, are going to be right behind the Muslims on this one. Remember how they started arguing during the gay-marriage debate? Hey, they said, that's not fair. By disagreeing with me you're disrespecting my religion, and religion is sacred; that's offensive. It's anti-Christianism! It's Christophobia! Your support for human rights is actually hate speech!

Religious fundamentalists can now quote several figures of authority -- the British Foreign Secretary, the U.S. State Department -- whose appeasing statements about "sensitivity" can be used from now on as ammunition in the next protests. (It's offensive to my religion to have my daughter in the same classroom as boys; offensive to my religion to have girls who wear tight pants in the classroom . . .)

Were the cartoons insensitive? Yes, two of them at least could have been predicted to cause offence. Maybe three. The newspaper that ran them is a conservative one, and it did so as a provocation (they have since apologized).

The offensive drawings tarred an entire religion with extremism and that's not accurate. But it's legal in every civilized democracy. Editorial cartoons are very often dumb generalizations, very often a place for the expression of emotion and stereotype rather than of reasoned argument. (It's the job of the editorial cartoonist, for example, to point out the obvious and depressing fact that the recent behaviour of the mobs corresponds exactly to the stereotype of the hell-bent Muslim portrayed in the supposedly vile cartoons.)These particular caricatures were not nearly as crassly racist as the average anti-Semitic cartoon or TV show run regularly in Arabic media. What can we do in this new world war? Should we try to reason with the people who are explicitly anti-reason? Should we try to make concessions, to change the oldest traditions of democratic society so as not to anger them more?

Appeasement of religious fascism is naive. A society that attempts to be conciliatory in the face of naked bullying is a society in which, in Yeats's prophetic words, "The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity

I have excerpted far more than I normally would but it was almost impossible not too. Now that is what I call a media critic.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Israeli happenings

For a change, I have been merely reading of events unfolding in Israel rather than blogging the highlights of the day so I thought it was time that I did a kind of round up of what’s the haps. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Kadima is facing a number of crises on several fronts. Internationally, Vladimir Putin stuns Israel by announcing that not only will Russia extend an invitation for the Hamas leadership to visit Russia and resume discussions but Putin does not recognize Hamas as a terrorist organization reports the Jerusalem Post:
Israeli-Russian relations stood at the precipice of its most serious crisis in years Thursday night after Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would invite Hamas for talks.

"You can't say you are a friend of Israel, that you are in favor of peace in the Middle East, and at the same time give Hamas a clean bill of health," one senior government official said, reflecting clear anger at the Russian position. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was expected to pass on Israel's position to the Russians at a meeting scheduled for Thursday night in New York with the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - Russia, the US, Great Britain, France and China.

Putin, in a joint press conference in Madrid with Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, said Thursday that Russia did not consider Hamas a terrorist organization, and urged the global community to work with a Hamas-led Palestinian government. "Hamas has arrived at the doors of power through legitimate elections," Putin said. "We must respect the Palestinian people and we have to look for solutions for the Palestinian people, for the international community, and also for Israel. Contacts with Hamas must continue."

Putin said Russia would invite Hamas representatives to participate in talks in the future. Putin's remarks come less than two weeks after Russia signed off on a Quartet statement conditioning international support to the PA on the new government's "commitment to the principles of non-violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap."

But then again, what else would you expect from a former head of the KGB?

On the home front, Kadima lost a vote in the Israeli Knesset reports Arutz Sheva:
The commission was established despite the objection of Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s Kadima Party, as well as the Labor Party. Labor dropped its initial call for an investigation after advisors said it would harm the party in the polls.

Defense Minister Sha’ul Mofaz, speaking prior to the vote, said he sees no reason to establish a committee of investigation into the events at Amona, and lends his full support to the demolition forces.

MK Zevulun Orlev (NRP), whose colleague MK Sha’ul Yahalom put forth the proposal for the inquiry, said that the investigation was required in order to ascertain who gave the order to police to use “excessive force, including beating protestors in the head with batons and releasing horses into crowds, wounding those who were employing passive resistance as well as those who were not.”“Whoever is interested in investigating the behavior of the settlers, should feel free to do so as well,” Orlev added.

The precise mandate of the commission will be determined by the Knesset House Committee. Following the 37-32 vote, Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin warned that the decision is valid only for the current, outgoing Knesset. If the commission is not completed before the end of the Knesset's current term, the next Knesset will not be bound to carry it out.

The Zionist Organization of America supported the call for an official inquiry into "how the police and protesters conducted themselves. ZOA President Morton Klein said, “The ZOA is appalled and distressed at the violent scenes in Amona, and at the Israeli government decision to demolish Jewish homes there, especially at this time, just days after Hamas’ election victory, and in this excessively violent and confrontational way."

“The responsibility lies with Ehud Olmert,” Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar said. “They [the Amona supporters] announced that they were ready for a compromise – did anyone speak with them? Did anyone listen to the military officials who asked why the place was not closed off earlier?” Sa’ar then turned to Olmert, demanding, “What are you afraid of? Why are you against allowing the Knesset to do its job and inspect the actions of the government? If everything was done legitimately – you shouldn’t be afraid of an investigation!”

MK Effie Eitam (National Union), who suffered a head injury from a mounted policeman in Amona, said that only by the grace of Heaven were there no deaths as a result of the violence carried out by security forces. “The question of whether the events at Amona were the first chapter in a civil war or the brink of such events can only be answered through the establishment of an investigatory committee
Olmert and Kadima practice the art of hear no evil, see no evil despite video footage to the contrary. Watch for Kadima to stall the commission at every avenue and turn so that the investigation cannot be concluded until after the Israeli elections are held.

Debkafile is reporting:
Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen suddenly throws open Jericho lock-up and frees 56 convicted terrorists. Among the men freed without prior notice are 26 Islamic Jihad members from northern and central Samaria, who plotted and masterminded suicide bombings in Hadera, Netanya, and Kfar Saba in 2005. Also released were 13 members of the PA General Intelligence Service, loyal to Col. Tewfik Tirawri, and 17 members of the PA Military Police – all of whom participated in terrorist attacks. Abu Mazen thus renews Yasser Arafat`s revolving-door policy for terrorists.

Odd, who would have thought there was a militant manpower shortage in the Palestinian Authority? But then again, what will Olmert do – order the IDF to beat up a few more Israeli 15 year olds in protest?

YnetNews Online reports that Kadima is covered in political teflon and continues to lead in the polls:
In a week of Qassam and terror attacks, during which Ehud Olmert gave his first television interview as acting prime minister, a Dahaf Institute poll, published Thursday in Israel’s leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, shows Kadima is increasing its lead over Labor and Likud ahead of the March 28 elections.

The poll reveals Kadima is set to gain 43 Knesset seats in the elections, a rise of one seat from the previous poll; Labor loses one seat and is set to gain 20 seats in the elections, while the Benjamin Netanyahu-led Likud remains at 15 Knesset seats. The religious party Shas gains 11 Knesset seats in the poll, followed by the ultra-orthodox party United Torah Judaism and the right-wing party Israel Our Home, which are each set to receive six Knesset seats.

According to the poll, the left-wing Meretz-Yahad party is set to gain five seats. The right-wing National Union stands to have four representatives in Knesset, while the National Religious Party is set to gain two seats (parties will apparently run as one consolidated list). The Arab parties are expected to gain a total of eight seats. The central Shinui party is expected to vanish from the Knesset

The sample size is only 500 maximum sampling errors of 4.4%. I don’t put much stock in the power of polls but I do hope for Israel’s sake that this is the same polling group that predicted the Fatah win over Hamas.

In light of all the diplomatic and home front set backs for Ehud Olmert is it no wonder that he refuses to participate in any national debates with Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu reports YnetNews Online:
Kadima rejected a request by Likud party officials to hold a public election debate ahead of the upcoming general elections, prompting the Likud to charge Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is "scared." Earlier Wednesday, Likud Knesset Member Gideon Sa'ar turned to Kadima Minister Tzipi Livni and demanded that a debate be held pitting Olmert against Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

"A debate is needed in order to sharpen the differences between Kadima's plans for an additional withdrawal in Judea and Samaria and the Likud's plan for secure borders," Sa'ar said. As it turns out, Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz is also interested in a debate featuring both Olmert and Netanyahu. Peretz associates said Wednesday such debate would allow Peretz to express himself and present his socioeconomic platform, which differs from that of both Likud and Kadima.

However, Kadima officials rejected the proposal out of hand. "Kadima would not be a party to Knesset Member Sa'ar's attempts to boost the worst political campaign in the State of Israel's history," the party said in a statement. "Kadima only deals with serious issues and its heads are busy running the affairs of the State. The party has no intention to be part of Peretz's and Bibi's traveling circus
No guff, Sherlock, Netanyahu would wipe the floor with Olmert no matter how you try rationalizing. Actually, I feel like volunteering to debate Olmert myself - in Hebrew. I only know about 50 words but I think I could probably make him break down and cry before I reached the limits of my vocabulary. Any man who would seriously propose instituting a state importation tax of 28% on charitable donations of used clothes and toys raised by American Jewish groups deserves the full handbag treatment.

In news from Gaza an Egyptian Military Envoy is kidnapped in board daylight by unknown Palestinian gunmen reports the Jerusalem Post.

Masked gunmen kidnapped an Egyptian diplomat in a brazen daylight attack Thursday that underscored the spiraling lawlessness in the Gaza Strip, and showed that no one - not even an official from one of the Palestinians' most important allies - is immune from the violence.

The Egyptian was the first diplomat nabbed amid a recent spate of kidnappings, and the abduction marks the most serious attack on diplomats since three American security guards were killed when a US diplomatic convoy was hit by a bomb in October 2003.

The kidnapping of Hussam Almousaly occurred at about 11 a.m., when two masked militants shot out the tires of his diplomatic vehicle, just 200 meters from the heavily-guarded Egyptian diplomatic mission in Gaza City. The gunmen sped off with Almousaly, witnesses said. The identity of the gunmen was not known even hours after the attack, and Palestinian security officials said they had not been contacted with demands.

Palestinian police set up roadblocks throughout Gaza to try to find the kidnappers, and officers questioned possible witnesses. "We totally condemn such acts," Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei said, identifying Almousaly as an Egyptian military attache. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it was working to "expedite the release of the kidnapped diplomat." Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri condemned the abduction, saying it "harmed the Palestinians' strong relations with Egypt

An attack launched against the most important ally of Fatah and Hamas is an acute humiliation for both groups though it is indicative of the total collapse of the rule of law and order in the Palestinian Authority. But then again, maybe some over zealous Palestinian ‘militants’ just released from the Jericho Jail mistook the Egyptian envoy for a Dane and all will be cleared up shortly - maybe?