Hamas will have to pray for a miracle — the one of the fishes and loaves would do, for a start …

After its military coup on Thursday “which was described as an attempt to restore law and order“ Hamas denounced Abbas’ “efforts to form a new government on Saturday as being equivalent to a political coup”.

Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas-affiliated Prime Minister who was fired by Abbas on Thursday evening after Hamas took over all government and security installations in Gaza, made a significant declaration from Gaza on Saturday, a statement that had been demanded for the last six months by Israel and frustrated members of the Quartet: “We undertake to respect all the accords passed, signed by the Palestinian Authority.”

But, this is not good enough …?

The U.S. State Department spokesman said Friday that Hamas; “actions in recent days were those of a ‘terrorist organization’ which showed its ‘true colors’ by dragging people out of their home and executing them in front of their families, according to news reports”. And, he said,”given what we have seen over the past few days, the actions of Hamas only validate the principled stand that the international system took over the past year”.

The spokesman also said that “as a consequence of Hamas’ attack on ‘legitimate Palestinian institutions’, Hamas would now be ‘responsible for feeding, providing for, 1.3 million Palestinians’.”

And, that bastion of international legitimacy, the Quartet, issued a statement on Saturday in which expressed “understanding and support for President Abbas’ decisions to dissolve the Cabinet and declare an emergency, given the grave circumstances. The Quartet recognized the necessity and legitimacy of these decisions, taken under Palestinian law, and welcomed President Abbas’ stated intention to consult the Palestinian people at the appropriate time.  The Quartet noted its continuing support for other legitimate Palestinian institutions”.

North Korean funds at last released – at least partly …

Where have we heard this before?

The Associated Press is reporting that “North Korea on Saturday sent a letter to the U.N. nuclear watchdog, inviting inspectors to the country to discuss procedures for shutting down its main nuclear reactor, state media reported. The letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency noted “that a working-level delegation of the IAEA has been invited to visit (North Korea) as it is confirmed that the process of de-freezing the funds of (North Korea) at the Banco Delta Asia in Macau has reached its final phase,” the North’s Korean Central News Agency reported. The inspectors were invited for “discussions of the procedures of the IAEA’s verification and monitoring of” shutting down its Yongbyon reactor, the report said. North Korea had refused to act on its February pledge to disarm until it got access to $25 million once frozen in a U.S.-blacklisted Macau bank. The U.S. accused Banco Delta Asia of helping North Korea’s government pass fake $100 bills and launder money…”
Read news story here.

Earlier Saturday, AP had reported that “North Korean funds that have held up a nuclear disarmament pact were in Russia on Saturday but technical problems were delaying final transfer to the country’s accounts there, U.S. nuclear envoy Christopher Hill said…’I heard that the money was transferred, it’s in Russia, and they’re having some technical problems in getting it to the bank where the actual North Korean accounts are’, said Hill, who added that the next round of six-party nuclear disarmament talks could be held in early July. The envoy did not provide details of the technical problem, which he said the U.S. side first learned about from the North Koreans. North Korea has refused to act on its February pledge to shut down its nuclear reactor until it gets access to $25 million once frozen in a U.S.-blacklisted Macau bank. On Thursday, Macau’s chief finance official said the money had been transferred from the bank, but it remained unclear if the entire amount had moved or whether it reached its destination. Officials knowledgeable about the transfer have said more than $23 million was involved but that the transaction was not complete …
After the North Koreans receive the funds, the next round of talks are expected to convene in China in early July.
Read this news dispatch here.

China Matters says that the plan was to remit the North Korean funds out of Banco Delta Asia through a Russian bank and the Federal Reserve…”there are a lot of allegations of North Korean criminal behavior but as far as I know nobodyÂ’s gotten around to convicting a North Korean entity or individual for an underlying crime that would establish the legal basis for classifying the handling of the BDA funds as “money laundering””.

The U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said at the U.S. State Dept briefing on Friday that: “Certainly, we’re going to be looking for the North Koreans to implement the February 13th agreement. The other five parties will look to hold up their end of the bargain. And I think if we can get some momentum going here, we will have another round of the six-party talks. We may even use another meeting to try to generate that momentum … But the important thing here is that the North Koreans, as well as the five, get working on the February 13th agreement and we’ll be looking to the North Koreans to see what actions they take once this financial transaction has been completed”…

Former UNSG Waldheim, a former perfunctory Nazi, dies — is he now roasting in hell?

Here is a comment from an article published in the Israeli newspaper, entitled “Mostly a liar” by Tom Segev:

“Years after most of his countrymen had forgotten the affair – and perhaps forgotten him, too – Waldheim still carried the burden of the accusations that he had tried to hide his war crimes. He still had the urge to explain everything again from the beginning. His service as an intelligence officer in the Nazi Wehrmacht in the Balkans and in Thessaloniki in Greece was clearly still haunting him. He repeatedly stated, as he had countless times before, that he had murdered no one and knew nothing about the murder of the Jews. Without being asked, he said he was sorry for having refused to wear a skullcap when he visited Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority), truly, that was a mistake, he had already apologized for it in the past, he wishes to apologize again to the Jewish people, to Israel, to me.

It occurred to me that he would have given a great deal to have his picture taken somewhere wearing a skullcap.
Continue reading “Former UNSG Waldheim, a former perfunctory Nazi, dies — is he now roasting in hell?”

Is this corruption?

The U.S. Department of State announced Friday that the winner of the World Food Prize will be announced at a ceremony at the State Department on 18 June.

“Also participating in the ceremony will be World Food Program Executive Director Josette Sheeran …”

Josette Sheeran formerly worked at the U.S. Department of State, before being appointed head of the World Food Program (WFP).

If she hadn’t been named to the WFP post, would this ceremony be held at the State Department?

The U.S. State Department announcement continues:   “The World Food Prize is the foremost international award recognizing — without regard to race, religion, nationality, or political beliefs — the achievements of individuals advancing human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world”…

So, the U.S. State Department is doing free publicity for the WFP

For further information, please go to www.worldfoodprize.org.

Palestine, Oh Palestine

Here are the questions I am looking at today —

(1) What about the possibility, as some in Israel are urging, of re-entering Gaza? (I note that one of the Israeli English-language papers yesterday said that wouldn’t happen, even if Hamas did take control in Gaza, if Hamas does not shoot at — or allow shooting of rockets at — Israel. I also note the Israeli statements that they have no interest in going into Gaza now — I understand that it would not only be costly for them on several counts, and that their soldiers would be directly at risk, etc. But, I ask myself, why should they bother, as this does not seem to be in their interest?)

(2) What about the calls in Israel to cut off electricity to Gaza, if not water — especially if the only reason is that Hamas has taken over, without waiting to see if Hamas might or might not actually be able to exercise some effective governmental-type authority in Gaza, and restore order and some modicum of security there?

(2a) What will happen if Mahmoud Abbas asks Israel to cut off electricity to Gaza? Or, what if he tells Israel that he no longer authorizes the release of frozen Palestinian funds — now being held by the Israeli Ministry of Finance — to pay Gaza’s current electricity bills?

(3) The Palestinians I have spoken to in recent weeks say that both Fatah and Hamas are to blame for this situation, which they all regard as a deeply embarassing shame, and that the big losers are the Palestinian people.However, these Palestinians also say that the blame goes first of all to Fatah, and they believe that Fatah should have made efforts right away, starting in January 2006, to establish cooperation with Hamas, instead of undermining them in every way possible, out of chagrin at having lost the vote. They also regard with great unhappiness and great distrust the US proposition to support and arm Fatah.

(4) Confirmation is coming in that Israel did, indeed, permit a number of Fatah officers and officials to evacuate Gaza by se to Egypt — and Gaza’s maritime space is completely secured by Israel. This is really disgraceful all around. And it’s a reminder of September 1982, when the late Yasser Arafat had to evacuate Beirut by sea, under the UN flag…

Haaretz ponders Israeli re-occupation of Gaza

Last update – 08:50 13/06/2007
ANALYSIS: Re-occupation of Gaza – is it the only way out?
By Danny Rubinstein, Haaretz Correspondent

The general collapse of government functions in the Gaza Strip Tuesday urged several senior Palestinian figures to seriously contemplate Professor Ali Jarbawi’s advice to disband the Palestinian Authority.

Even before the civil war which Hamas and Fatah are starting in the Strip, Professor Jarbawi of Bir Zeit University maintained that the Palestinian Authority was a mere illusion of power: occupation under the guise of self government, and therefore useless.

On Tuesday, a Palestinian journalist likened the Palestinian Authority to a smoke-belching car wreck, adding that it was time to toss the keys to the Israelis. His view is shared by many Palestinian civilians in Gaza, who in recent days have told the media that they are fed up. “We’ve had enough, we should be so lucky as to see the return of the Israeli occupation.”

The recent events we have been witnessing in Gaza are actually the disbanding of Palestinian rule. The primary reason for the break-up is the fact that Fatah, headed by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, has refused to fully share the PA’s mechanism of power with its rival Hamas – in spite of Hamas’ decisive victory in the January 2006 general elections.

Fatah was forced to overrule the Palestinian voters because the entire world demanded it do so. The United States, the European nations, most of the Arab leaders and, of course, the State of Israel, warned Fatah not to share power with Hamas.

And so, after the Israeli pullout, instead of becoming a model for Palestinian self-rule, Gaza turned into the exact opposite. Matters have come to the point where Hamas operatives attempted all through Monday and Tuesday to take by force what they believe they rightfully deserve”…
Continue reading “Haaretz ponders Israeli re-occupation of Gaza”

Fatah is the big loser

The fighting in the miserable and awful Gaza Strip has taken a horrid turn for the worse.

Hamas has reportedly given Fatah until 7 pm on Friday — that’s about 24 hours from now — to hand over its weapons, or else.

Hamas has reportedly exploded a one-ton bomb under “Preventive Security” headquarters in Gaza Strip, after calling on all those inside to surrender and come out. At least one person was killed — think The Battle of Algiers.

Meanwhile, several dozen Fatah fighters have crossed across the border to escape — and they have been taken into custody by Egyptian security

Two days ago, Fatah fighters took a captured Hamas fighter up to the top of an 18-story (some reports say 15-story) building, and threw him off. Within hours, Hamas fighters took a captured Fatah fighter to the top of a 12-story building, and threw him off — think General Augusto Pinochet — or was it the miserable Argentinian generals? –  whose minions took accused leftists up in helicopters, drugged and bound, and tossed them from high up in the air, into the ocean.

__________________________________________________________

Meanwhile, this is a small part of what is going on in the West Bank:

Charles Shammas, a member of the conference steering committee from Ramallah – and head of Mattin, a human rights based policy research organization – recounted the following at a conference in Jerusalem just a few days ago:

“Last week I was stuck in my office, when an Israeli unit arrived, firing spectacularly. At least 200 people witnessed this. We watched as a suspect, who had been seated in a restaurant across the street from where I was, got up and left. He was first shot in the legs, [and] then finished off in the head. It is the fourth case of willful killing I have personally witnessed, over 20 years.”

The Palestinian minister of information, Marwan Barghouti, also witnessed the attack, attending a meeting in the same building – albeit in another office – as Shammas at the time of the killing. Barghouti’s office reports that 24 shots were fired into the unarmed victim – a 22-year-old man, Omar Abu Daher, who was a member of the Palestinian Presidential Security Guard – and that Barghouti’s car was also fired at by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as the minister tried to follow the ambulance taking Daher to hospital.

A third witness to the killing was Sam Bahour, who posted on Electronic Intifada (a non-profit independent Web site focusing on the occupied territory) that seven other persons were wounded in the same IDF attack.

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You who are in the outside world may not realize yet that Fatah is the big loser in all this.

Palestinian friends who are not politicos have all told me in recent weeks how angry they are with Fatah, and blame them for all the problems that have happened since Fatah began acting out following their trouncing at the polls in January 2006. These friends are not fundamentalists — several of them are, in fact, Christian — and all of them are educated and modern.

Instead of sulking, and trying to teach Hamas a lesson about how hard it is to rule in the occupied territory and deal with the Israelis and all, these Palestinian friends believe that Fatah should have moved for reconciliation right away.

No, it took a year, and Saudi mediation at Mecca, to get Fatah to agree to join a “national unity” government with Hamas. Meanwhile, by the way, Fatah was doing what it could to help the international boycott against the Hamas government and the Palestinian people livining in the West Bank and Gaza.

For a brief period, about ten days ago, I thought I detected a new trend — I thought Fatah was about to organize a campaign to urge the Palestinian people (the very ones who voted, at least 60% of them, in favor of Hamas candidates a year and a half ago) to reconcile with Hamas, so that they could work together, and present a united face to the world.

When I ran this by my Palestinian friends the reactions — all polled separately — were unanimous: “This is what they should have done from the beginning”, they all said, one after the other, over a period of days. Their eyes flashed with real anger, and their jaws set.

Then, last Friday, I read in an English-language Israeli newspaper that Fatah had asked Israel for permission to bring in from Egypt arms to fight HAMAS. I realized then, in great disappointment, how badly deluded I had briefly been.

Now, there are only worse-case scenarios: If Hamas takes over Gaza, then there will really be a long-term political separation between the West Bank and Gaza, and there will be no Palestinian tate. What a real pity.

The other scenario is an Israeli re-invasion of Gaza — interestingly, it is mostly the moral do-gooders who are advocating this, in anguish, to stop the bloodshed and the terror felt by all Palestinians in Gaza. But I do not think the Israeli leadership is interested in this.

It will cost them a lot, their soldiers may die — and what’s really in it for them, after all?

They would just be acting to preserve this pre-statal failed state entity which hasn’t been able to come to terms with very much of anything at all, including the interests of its own people.

Shashi Tharoor recovers from UN setback and hits the lecture trail

There’s still time, for those of you who are die-hard Shashi Tharoor fans, to catch his come-back as he hits the lecture trail:

McCloskey Speaker Series with Shashi Tharoor – July 10, 2007

“Globalization, Terrorism and the Human Imagination,” with Shashi Tharoor, award-winning author, former United Nations undersecretary-general for Communications and Public Information, and official candidate of India for the succession to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2006

The McCloskey Speaker Series will take place at Paepcke Auditorium each Tuesday night starting June 26 through August 14th. The McCloskey Speaker Series made possible by a generous donation from the McCloskey Family Charitable Foundation.

For more information visit http://www.aspeninstitute.org/community or call (970) 544-7914″.

IAEA ElBaradei: the glass is half full and half empty — confrontation with Iran must be defused

IAEA Director General Mohammad ElBaradei has submitted his most recent report, which includes discussion of concerns about Iran, to the Atomic Agency’s Board of Governors meeting in Vienna.

ElBaradei is sitting on both sides of the fence.

His report says: “Iran continues to provide the Agency access to its nuclear material and facilities, including the enrichment facility at Natanz, in accordance with its safeguards agreement. The Agency has been able to verify that no declared nuclear material in Iran has been diverted.

However, as the report also makes clear, Iran has not taken the steps called for by the Board nor responded to the demands of the [UN] Security Council…
Continue reading “IAEA ElBaradei: the glass is half full and half empty — confrontation with Iran must be defused”

UN SG launches functioning of Special Tribunal for Lebanon

UN SG BAN Ki-Moon has begun taking steps to set up a Special Tribunal for Lebanon, whose aim is to prosecute the murder by a car bombing on 14 February 2005 of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The UN Security Council authorized this action in resolution 1757 of 30 May — in which it decided that the SG should act if, by 10 June, the Lebanese Government had not notified the UN that it had taken the “legal” requirements to ensure the Special Tribunal’s entry into force.

The UN SC acted after Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora wrote to the UNSG asking the UN to act as a matter of urgency, because the political stand-off in Lebanon had meant that “all domestic options for ratification had been exhausted”

An Annex to this UN SC Resolution 1757 contains the statute of agreement for the Special Tribunal. It says that “This Agreement shall remain in force for a period of three years from the date of the commencement of the functioning of the Special Tribunal”.

It also says that “The Special Tribunal shall have its seat outside Lebanon. The location of the seat shall be determined having due regard to considerations of justice and fairness as well as security and administrative efficiency, including the rights of victims and access to witnesses”…

Once established, the tribunal has the power to determine whether other political killings in Lebanon since October 2004 were connected to Mr. Hariri’s assassination — and if so, these other killings will also be dealt with by the tribunal.

UN SG BAN issued a statement saying he believed the establishment of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon will help end “impunity” for such crimes.

It is now expected to take at least a year for the Special Tribunal to actually start work. The UN says that “funds have to be generated, a seat for the court must be found, judges and other officials appointed and security arrangements for staff, victims and witnesses determined”.