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On second thought

I know there are a lot of issues in the world to discuss, but damn, I'm so not in the mood today. And my best friend's a Presybterian, too. Nah. I'll talk about it tomorrow. Or the next day. (Of course, Heidi and I talked about it, and then got into an argument over Israel's policies on the pals. Oh, well.)

So last night, I dreamed about Michael Moore. Yes, Michael Moore. He cut me off when I didn't answer his questions the way he wanted me to (and made the audience laugh with me and at him). And his people stole two hundred bucks of mine. And when I called him fat, a woman, who was also fat, got all PC on me and told me I shouldn't say that. "Why not"? I asked. "It's true."

So, like, could I make a request of my fellow bloggers? Stop writing about Michael Moore, because damn, I don't ever want to dream about him again. I dreamed he was [gag] shirtless. You don't want to ever have that image in your mind. Trust me on that.

There used to be a shampoo commercial that touted its product as being as good for hair as rainwater. I don't remember the product. But I'm starting to think they weren't exaggerating the values of rainwater. When Tig comes in from the rain, after I dry him off, his coat feels cleaner and fluffier than ever.

Gracie's coat feels exactly the same, because when it's raining, Gracie goes to the patio door, sees that it's raining, and yowls at me to make it stop. That's one of the reasons one of her names is Princess Gracie. You should see her dash outside to see if she can outrun the rain, then zoom right back inside when she realizes she can't. And then she yowls again, asking me to make the rain stop. Sorry, Gracie. I have no such power.

Okay, maybe a little bit of news. Israeli security services stopped yet another suicide bomb attempt. And Yasser Arafat says "there is no crisis" in the PA. Suuure, Fishface. The only reason the chaos in Gaza isn't front-page news is because you put out death threats on reporters who write about it again. (By the way, guys, congratulations on your Detroit News and Investors Daily gigs. Keep us up to date on the hatemail your cartoons engender from that area, 'cause I'm betting you're in for a bunch of doozies.)

I have to eat a late lunch/early dinner. I have no desire to eat any food that currently exists. I hate when that happens. There ought to be a place called Pot Luck that invents totally new foods for people who are hungry but can't think of what to eat.

Maybe I'll just bring that last container of chicken soup to work with me, and have that when I get hungry. | |



Spinning terrorism

Palestinian "freedom fighters," whose job it is to free their people from the Israeli occupation, shot and killed a 15-year-old boy in Beit Hanun yesterday—because he tried to stop them from setting up a Kassam rocket launcher near his home.

Palestinian health and security officials said that a group of Fatah Al Aksa Martyr's Brigades terrorists killed a 15-year-old Palestinian boy Friday morning in the town of Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip after the youth tried to stop them from setting up a Kassam rocket launcher near his family's home, Army Radio reported.

Members of the Arafat-linked terrorist group were trying to plant Kassam rocket launchers next to the Zanin family residence in northern Beit Hanun, when the family, concerned over IDF retaliation, argued and ultimately struggled with the terrorists.

In the ensuing scuffle, the terrorists opened fire on the Zanin family, killing Jamil Zanin, 15, and injuring 5 others. The Kassam crew gathered their launchers and missiles and left the scene.

Look how this story is spun in the Arab news media.

Palestinian teen shot dead in Gaza Strip as Israeli soldier wounded in West Bank
A Palestinian teenager was killed Friday morning in Beit Hanun, in the northern Gaza Strip, as he and other residents were protesting against activists attempting to plant a roadside bomb to blow up Israeli armor.

Witnesses told AFP Hassan al-Zaanin has been killed by Palestinian fire. They said residents feared that an anti-Israeli attack would lead to harsh and collective Israeli reprisals.

But Palestinian security sources said the teen had been killed by Israeli troops that indiscriminately opened fire on civilians in Beit Hanun.

And Al-Jazeera, our favorite Arab "fair and balanced" media outlet, which Canada is allowing to broadcast while Fox News cannot, has this objective piece:

Three Palestinians, including two resistance leaders, have been killed by Israeli fire in the occupied Gaza Strip.

Palestinian teenager Hasan al-Zaanin was killed on Friday morning in the besieged northern Gaza town of Bait Hanun.

Security sources said he was shot dead by Israeli occupation troops that indiscriminately opened fire at Palestinian resistance fighters who were allegedly planting a roadside bomb.

Some witnesses said that al-Zaanin was killed when he tried to stop the fighters from planting the bomb. However, there are no independent reports to confirm this.

And my favorite news service, Reuters, buried this information in the last two paragraphs of a story titled "EU Vows to Play Peace Role Despite Israeli Rebuke."

In the northern Gaza Strip, an 18-year-old Palestinian was shot dead Friday, medics said. One witness said the youth was killed by gunmen near his home as he tried to prevent them from planting explosives against Israeli forces.

But Palestinian security sources blamed Israeli troops, though an army official denied any Israeli involvement. (Additional reporting by Allyn Fisher-Ilan and Corinne Heller in Jerusalem and Wafa Amr in Ramallah)

Reverse the situation: Make it the IDF accidentally killing the teenager, and you know there'd be six hundred stories titled "Israeli soldiers kill 15-year-old boy."

No, there's no bias against Israel in the media. None whatsoever. | |



Israel's ambassador on the UN decision

Presented without comment: The speech of Israel's ambassador to the UN regarding the vote on the separation fence. Hat tip to Daniel S.

Allow me to start with a word of thanks. Thank God that the fate of Israel, and of the Jewish people, is not decided in this hall.

Let there be no mistake - Israel has respect for the Assembly and for the noble principles for which it stands. It is precisely because of this respect that we cannot but be dismayed that harmful and politicized interests too often seek to gain control of its mandate and activities. It was that principled position that led many States to join Israel in objecting to the abuse of the ICJ last December, and it is that same position that should have led States to object to the resolution voted on today. In this context, we would like to express our sincere appreciation to those States that have decided not to support today's one-sided and counter-productive resolution.

Sadly, the Assembly has missed yet another opportunity to make a relevant contribution to the cause of peace. By pandering to an agenda that seeks to focus on the response to terrorism but to marginalize the gravity of the terrorism itself - and the responsibility of the Palestinians to end that terror - this resolution cannot but embolden those who are the true enemies of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.

We recognize the efforts of certain states that have sought to introduce some semblance of balance into the text of the resolution. But in our view that was not the issue here. It is not about grudging references to terrorism or carefully crafted, often "constructively" ambiguous, phrases. It is about whether States will grant legitimacy to initiatives that at their heart are at odds with the very spirit and letter of the Road Map. It is about whether States will entertain, with polite diplomacy, efforts that are so transparently designed to ensure than no genuine pressure is ever brought to bear against the terrorism that made the security fence necessary and that at this moment, and at every moment, sabotage the prospects for peace. And it is about whether, in addressing an issue of direct relevance to a country's national security - of direct relevance to the life and death of its citizens - the Assembly can afford to show such little regard for Israel's right and duty to protect its people.

There is a broader context, and a wider goal, that this resolution belittles if not ignores. A central part of that context is the continuing threat to peace and to lives posed by deadly violence that just today claimed the lives of two Israeli soldiers, killed by yet another Hizbollah violation of the Blue Line. Without a comprehensive approach to the obligations of all parties, an approach that is so lacking in this myopic resolution, we cannot move towards peace.

Those States that recognized the harmful and perverse nature of the Advisory Opinion request, especially those that are members of the Quartet, are, in our view, duty bound to demand an end to the Palestinian abuse of UN organs, not to engage them. This ill-conceived draft resolution and the ones that will no doubt follow only complicate the mutual implementation of the Road Map and erode its central status.

To return to the path to peace, passing references to the Road Map and the mutual obligations of both sides cannot be treated as bargaining chips for which concessions are demanded and given. To return to the path of peace, a total disregard for Israel's bold an courageous initiative to disengage from Gaza, and parts of the West Bank, can only be interpreted as a decision by those countries who supported this resolution to disengage themselves from the reality in the region. It does not bode well and casts serious doubt on the ability of those states to contribute to the peace process. To return to the path of peace, we should not allow the misuse of the ICJ to take center stage, while pushing the imperative of mutual recognition and mutual compromise to the sidelines. And to return to the path of peace, we should not be so detached from reality as to treat an Advisory Opinion as though it is binding, and binding Palestinian obligations as though they were virtually non-existent. This is not a recipe for progress, it is a recipe for failure.

Regardless of actual events on the ground, we can all rest assured that a new set of virtual reality resolutions will be presented in September, when the Palestinian representative hopes more public attention can be drawn to the matter. After all, as long as these self-serving Palestinian drafts are viewed as the basis for negotiations rather than the basis for failure, we should not expect anything different.

Mr. President,

We will not repeat any of our comments regarding the advisory opinion and the tainted process that created it. We believe our statement on Friday speaks for itself. Israel is not above the law. Israel will ensure that the route of the security fence complies fully with the requirements of international law, as detailed by its Supreme Court. We will continue our thorough review of the entire route of the fence, subject to judicial scrutiny. And we will ensure that the correct and legal balance is struck between the quality of life of individuals living along the fence and the right to life of the civilians protected by it.

But we reject absolutely the attempts to use the law as a political weapon, as if the law applies to Israel but does not apply to anyone else. When all is said and done, it is simply outrageous to respond with such vigor to a measure that saves lives, and respond with such casual indifference to the ongoing campaign of Palestinian terrorism that takes lives. This is not justice, but a perversion of justice and people of conscience around the world see it as such.

The price of the international community's indifference towards Palestinian lawlessness has been painfully evident in the last few days. That lawlessness and violence bred by Arafat's corrupt and repressive rule has received none of this Assembly's attention but it is at the heart of the problem. No doubt, the Palestinian representative will blame the recent chaos in Gaza on Israel too. But this view is clearly not shared by many ordinary Palestinians who actually live in the region. Anyone familiar with the reality on the ground knows that Arafat and his henchmen, having sponsored and tolerated terrorism for so long, and having refused to allow security reform as required by the Road Map, have proved that they are neither willing to be partners in peace nor ready to meet the responsibilities of democratic leadership for their own people. Sadly, this Assembly, by buying into a mock narrative that fails to genuinely demand anything from the Palestinian leadership, as reinforced this sense of impunity and done nothing to compel them to rethink their catastrophic strategy.

Mr. President,

Last December a disservice was done by the Assembly not just to the International Court of Justice, but to the balanced and non-selective application of the rule of law. Today we believe that those that supported this resolution have compounded that error. The reputation and credibility of international judicial institutions are the worse for it, the claim of this Assembly to legitimacy in dealing with this conflict is the worse for it, and the Israeli and Palestinian peoples are the worse for it.

| |



News bias roundup

So the UN, in a move that surprised no one, voted 150-6 in favor of the ICJ's ruling on the separation fence. In a move that surprises no one, Israel intends to finish the fence. For the best article I've read on the ICJ ruling, read Anne Bayefsky's article in the National Review.

But there are several interesting headlines in AP. The early morning article headline: "Israel vows to Continue Building Barrier." The latest article: Defiant Israel Continues Building Barrier.

It's not like the AP has changed its content, though. The lead to the first article contains the word "defiant."

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - A defiant Israel has vowed to continue construction of its West Bank barrier despite the overwhelming approval of a U.N. General Assembly resolution demanding that the structure be demolished as the world court ordered.

The 150-6 vote late Tuesday, with 10 abstentions, reflected the widespread international opposition to the 425-mile-long barrier which Israel says is needed to protect its citizens from suicide bombings but the Palestinians contend is a land grab ahead of peace negotiations.

The assembly's vote, like the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, is not legally binding, but both have symbolic value as international statements of support for the barrier's destruction.

I guess they decided they needed to make the headline more reflective of their anti-Israel bias—I mean, their lead. At least they mentioned in the third paragraph that both the ruling and the vote are non-binding. It's buried in the seventh graf of the latest story. It's well-known in the industry that few people read past about the third paragraph.

Now take a look at the headline and lead to this article: Three Killed As Hezbollah, Israelis Clash.

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) - Israeli soldiers clashed with Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas along the border Tuesday, leaving two soldiers and one guerrilla dead and prompting an Israeli general to threaten Hezbollah and its sponsors - Syria and Iran.

The renewed fighting, the most serious in months, followed a Beirut bombing Monday that killed a veteran Hezbollah commander. Hezbollah blamed Israel for the assassination, but the Israeli army denied involvement.

Israel and Hezbollah traded blame Tuesday over who precipitated the most serious fighting in months. Lebanon's government, meanwhile, complained to the U.N. Security Council about the attacks, saying Israel violated Lebanese airspace, killed a Lebanese guerrilla fighter and caused material damage, a Foreign Ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

Unlike most of the previous clashes, Tuesday's incidents were far from the disputed Chebaa Farms, where Israel and Hezbollah frequently exchange gunfire.

The Israeli army said two soldiers died Tuesday and helicopter gunships attacked Hezbollah positions. Hezbollah confirmed one guerrilla was killed.

Witnesses in southern Lebanon said two Israeli helicopters fired two rockets at guerrillas near the border village of Aita Shaab, about nine miles southeast of coastal Tyre. Later, an Israeli helicopter staged a raid in the same area, security officials said.

The Lebanese security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said an Israeli tank fired on a Hezbollah position near Aita Shaab, killing one guerrilla.

Hezbollah returned fire across the border. Israeli helicopter gunships later fired back, the officials said.

When you read the boldface phrases, look at the difference between the words used to describe Israel actions and the words used to describe Hezbollah actions. Two Israeli soldiers "died." But the guerrilla was "killed." Israeli forces "attacked." Hezbollah forces "returned fire."

This is why the world votes 150-6 to stop Israel from defending herself. Because there is an anti-Israel bias throughout almost every major media outlet. The public cannot be well-informed if those who are supposed to inform them don't do their job properly.

Buried deep in the article is this vapid description of Hezbollah, but AP is not content to stop with the usual bias. They quote an ominous threat by an Israeli general:

In Israel, Maj. Jacob Dallal of the military spokesman's office said Hezbollah shot first at an Israeli border post and Israeli military action responded to the "provocation."

Later, Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz, the Israeli area commander, said the day was not "far away" when Israel would "act widely, severely."

"I don't believe Hezbollah will be the only address at that time. I think this is a matter of state responsibility, and these two countries (Syria and Iran) that host and direct financing and training Hezbollah organization will end up paying its price," Gantz said.

Syria and Iran support, sponsor and help arm Hezbollah, which is on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations and was largely responsible for pushing Israel to end its 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000.

Notice the belittlement of the Israeli position, and the scare quotes around the word provocation—as if being shot at isn't a good enough reason to shoot back.

Now let's take a look at the same story in Ha'aretz, the Israeli leftist publication that does not hesitate to blame the IDF if the IDF is at fault.

An initial investigation into the killing Tuesday of two Israel Defense Forces soldiers by Hezbollah snipers on the Israel-Lebanon border has revealed serious failures in the functioning of soldiers at the outpost where the attack took place.

The two soldiers were shot dead while repairing a rooftop antenna at an outpost manned by soldiers from an elite reserve unit.

Early stages of the probe also revealed what may be negligence on the part of IDF commanders in the northern border region.

The attack came as the army was high alert following the death of a top Hezbollah official is a car bombing in Beirut on Monday.

The two soldiers, both communications technicians, were sent to make the repairs on the roof of the Nurit outpost, near Moshav Zarit, without ceramic flak jackets. Sergeant Itai Iluz, 21, of Afula, and First Sergeant Avishai Kuriski, 24, of Upper Nazareth, were shot while trying to repair one of the antenna on the roof.

According to AP, though, the Israelis and Hezbollah are "trading blame" over who started things. Two unarmed repairmen were shot while trying to fix an antenna, yet Israel "clashed" with Hezbollah guerrillas.

Perhaps AP should try to "report" the "news" instead of twisting itself into knots to blame Israel, yet again. | |



On second thought

First, the links: Michele has a pledge drive going. Fork over a few bucks to her if you can; she's worked hard enough for other people's charities. Hey, fork over a few bucks to me, too, or visit my wishlist, what the hey. And she's trying to help a fellow blogger find his son's killers. Go read.

I keep seeing this guy in my referrers, but do I go over and read his blog? Nooo. So I finally go over there, and I can't stop laughing. Don't tell AS I told you so, but read the comments on this post, and don't be drinking anything while you do. Damn, Ace, you are a cold one. (I had bronchitis. The coughing sucks, and I was a smoker at the time [quit for the ten days I had bronchitis and went right back, stupid me], but nope, I didn't need a hospital. Just a doctor's visit and antibiotics. Oh, and a new set of lungs after I coughed up the one I had.)

Here's another blogger I should have linked to long before: Yael's blog is excellent. I particularly like the picture of fences around the world that the UN have not condemned.

Harrison, say what you will about cats, but at least they're smart enough not to think that petrified poop is food. This, on the heels of hearing that Sarah G.'s prize dachshund refuses to believe, even after many examples, that toads taste really bad. Hehehehe. Kneel before Tig!

Now the thoughts.

Conversations with stupid people: My cellphone rang earlier this evening. It was a number I didn't recognize, which was my first clue it was going to be a wrong number. The following conversation occurred.

"Hello, this is Meryl."
"This is Meryl."
"Isn't this Jeannie?"
"No, this is Meryl."
"Oh, I thought this was Jeannie. I'm sorry, I must have the wrong number."
"No problem."

I know, I could have said something really snarky, but I tend to be pleasant to people on the phone unless they're unpleasant to me. But one does have to wonder at the stupidity of someone who can't understand the phrase, "This is Meryl."

It's good to be a cat: So I'm taking stock of the easy life my cats lead, and I start thinking: What if all the religions have it wrong? What if God isn't judging us by how we treat each other, but by how we treat our pets?

I mean, if that's the case, I have it made. I should be so lucky to be treated as well as I treat my cats.

More conversations with stupid people: Speaking of stupid, I never shared this anecdote from my latest trip to NJ. We discovered, to my delight, that my old town was having its fireworks on July 5th. So my mother and I drove to Montclair and met up with my former neighbor and her son. She brought along a friend of hers I'd never met, one R. When R. saw my digital camera, she exclaimed on how she and I have the same camera, and proceeded to ask me many photo-taking questions. Her biggest problem, she said, was taking pictures at dusk. They all came out blue, she said.

I explained to her that our particular model wasn't very good with low light, and that you needed to get a better model for that. This is a rough transcription of the part of our conversation that I will probably never forget.

"Do you use the flash at dusk?"
"Of course. But you still only have a flash radius of six to ten feet. See that guy there, for instance? He's too far away."
"But I use the zoom!"

That last phrase may well become my benchmark for stupidity. "But I use the zoom!" Yes, but you're not three, so the concept of the camera making the image appear closer, not actually bringing the person closer to you, should register.

"But I use the zoom!"

Say it with me, folks: Duh.

Stupid movie sequel. I rented Matrix Revolutions. It was stupid. Well, except for the really cool fight scene between Neo and Agent Smith at the end of the movie. I think they should have put the scripts to 2 & 3 together, and then cut it down to a single, two-hour film. It would have been a lot better. I also have Pirates of the Caribbean on the to-watch list. Tomorrow, probably. I keep on not wanting to put aside a block of 149 minutes. One hundred forty-nine minutes for a pirate movie based on a Disneyland attraction? The mind reels.

Speaking of movies, I've been calling the new Will Smith film "Not My Robot," as it veers so widely from the Asimov book. I'll still go see it, but I'm not going to be too upset. I figure I'll just pretend it has almost nothing to do with the novel, and enjoy it for the fun SF action movie it looks to be. Hey, even Sorena wants to see it, and we can't get her to see too many films like that.

By the way, yes, I know about the UN vote, and yes, I'm ignoring it for now. There are more important stupid things to write about. | |

Kneel before Zod Tig!

Today's moment of Kitty Zen: Lord Tig the First.

Tig looking lordly

Yes, it's a big jpeg, but Lord Tig demanded it.

You may leave your messages of adorations in the comments. No tunafish, please. He's on a diet. | |

Abu Merang stays on as Prime Minister, and other Israel notes

In a move that surprises only political naifs, Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei has said he will go another round with Yasser Arafat. The AP says he's staying on "only temporarily, in a caretaker capacity."

Only political naifs believe he was anything but a caretaker prior to this statement. Arafat has never truly given up any real power, which is why two thousand of his people marched against corruption in the PA a few days ago.

Credit to Lair Simon, who's back from vacation, for Qurei's nickname.

Gerard Vanderleun fills us in on the status of Israel's plans for taking out the Iranian nuclear reactors. The article he quotes states that Israel has completed rehearsals to take out the Iranian plant before it goes online. Of course, my biggest question about this: Is the world going to realize that if Israel does successfully bomb the reactor, it will only be with close American aid? There is no way the IAF can fly over this area without alerting the U.S. military.

That's why I don't believe we're doing nothing about Iran's reach for nuclear weapons. I believe that the Israeli plans have been coordinated with the U.S. Not that I expect verification of that. And I'm sure the conspiracy theorists will have a field day if the reactor is taken out successfully.

But don't think that this will be another Osirak. Iran has an air force and anti-aircraft weapons, and is expecting Israel to make a move on the reactor. Odds are Israeli pilots will die on this mission.

Meanwhile, a group of concerned citizens known as the Council on Foreign Relations, which includes Zbigniew Brzezinski, says we should "engage" Iran and urge them to stop trying to produce nuclear weapons. Hey, it's worked so far, right?


I think we should engage Russia and tell them that they'd better not ship the fuel rods to Tehran, instead.

The UN General Assembly has postponed their anti-Israel—sorry, their vote on the separation fence. Apparently, European Union states want to add something about Israel having the right to defend themselves from terrorism. Color me surprised if this makes it to the final version. And color me even more surprised at this AP article which actually tells the truth about the ICJ ruling:

Like the opinion of the International Court of Justice, an assembly vote is not legally binding, but both have symbolic value as international statements of support.

Stop it, AP, you'll make me think you're actually objective again.

Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorists, firing from Syrian-occupied Lebanon, killed two Israeli soldiers in a sniper attack. They say it's in response for the killing of a high-level Hezbollah terrorist, who died in a car bomb yesterday that may well have been the work of the Mossad.

News agencies reported that Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, in an impassioned eulogy for Awali in south Beirut on Monday afternoon, declared that the attack was perpetrated "either by Israelis who entered Lebanon using American, European or other foreign passports or by local Lebanese agents. In any case, the Zionist enemy bears full responsibility for the martyrdom of Ghaleb Awali. We know those agents and we will cut off their hands," the reports quoted Nasrallah as saying.

Dude, I think Israel just cut off one of your hands. (Murray, perhaps it was a New Zealand passport that was used.)

According to the reports, the Hizbullah chief revealed that Awali had been assisting the Palestinians in their struggle against the "Zionist enemy" and he threatened that Israel would pay the price for the assassination. "He's a martyr of the road to Palestine, a martyr of Jerusalem, the Aksa mosque, in confronting the Zionist project," said Nasrallah.

Awali was apparently the main link man between Hizbullah and Palestinians that the organization, which is armed, financed and ideologically motivated by Iran, has been supporting since the outbreak of Palestinian violence nearly four years ago.

Iran has been waging war on many nations since they dumped the Shah. Check out the latest news from Iraq on how Iran is interfering in Iraqi internal affairs. This, of course, comes after the news that some of the 19 passed through Iran on their way to killing 3,000 Americans. Sure. Let's enage them. It's working so well so far. | |

Iraqi body count: Civilians killed by terrorists

We're constantly getting an updated number for U.S. and coalition soldiers killed in Iraq since the war began, usually with the non-objective addition "xxx have been killed since President Bush declared major operations over." We get estimates of civilian deaths due to coalition actions. But we never get a total of, say, the number of Iraqis killed by terrorists in that same time period.

Until now. Interestingly, the wire services have sent out a body count of "a year of attacks," but they didn't total the fatalities.

By my count, there have been 996* Iraqis killed by (mostly suicide) bomb attacks. I tried to count only the suicide bomb attacks. Nine more Iraqis were killed yesterday. The bombers have struck Iraqi police stations, but most of the victims were Iraqi civilians. Many were women and children. Few were Americans or soldiers.

Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi keeps taking credit for the bombings. Foreign terrorists (including Saudis, Egyptians, Iranians, Yemeni, Syrians, palestinians, and North Africans) have been captured and killed in Iraq. But the media insist upon attributing the attacks to "insurgents." The Iraqis themselves call the perpetrators "Arabs" or "foreigners."

Zarqawi only needs to get eleven seven more Iraqis to equal the fatality list of the combined coalition forces. I expect that total to be reached or surpassed within a week.

This is the boilerplate that AP uses:

Since May 1, 2003, when President Bush declared that major combat operations in Iraq had ended, 752 U.S. soldiers have died - 549 as a result of hostile action and 203 of non-hostile causes.

I'd add this line to it.

Terrorist bombs have killed at least 992 Iraqi civilians since June of 2003, more than the number of U.S. soldiers killed since the war in Iraq began.

Somehow, I don't expect we're going to see this count in any of the news services' boilerplates.

*Update: Terrorists killed four more civilians today. | |



Arafat caves, seemingly

For the first time since Arafat bowed to pressure to name a prime minister, he has caved to pressure and fired his cousin/nephew (they can't make up their minds which he is), Musa Arafat.

The Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat, bowed to pressure on Monday and fired his relative, Musa Arafat, as head of security in the Gaza Strip. His appointment Saturday sparked two days of violent protests. The dismissal came as the Palestinian cabinet held an emergency meeting to discuss the political unrest.

But there's a catch: He rehired the same man he fired last week, who is still part of the corruption that was the cause of the protest in the first place.

Palestinian officials said Mr. Arafat has dismissed his cousin Musa only two days after appointing him the new chief of security in Gaza. The embattled Palestinian leader phoned Brigadier General Abdel Razek Majaide and asked him to return the post he left last week at Mr. Arafat's request.

I don't think the pals are dumb enough to fall for this. But I think they will step back before full civil war breaks out.

As for Abu Merang, he's now saying that his resignation stands because he hasn't received a response in writing. Watch for him to un-resign soon.

Qureia also said he stood by his resignation, which he gave Friday to Arafat after a breakdown of security in Gaza and a wave of kidnappings.

"I have not received a written response," Qureia said, indicating that he did not accept Arafat's verbal rejection of his resignation as final.

Translation: I'll be back as soon as the latest charade is over. Meantime, Herb Keinon of the Jerusalem Post has another article on why Arafat won't be going anywhere soon.

Ahmed Ghaneim, a Fatah Central Committee member and a staunch critic of the Palestinian president, put it this way, "If you give me a choice between the model of [US President George W.] Bush and President Arafat, I will choose Arafat." And as various Fatah committees – which included Ghaneim and fellow members of Fatah's reform-minded "Young Guard" – scrambled to push for political, military and administrative reforms, only Arafat's primacy remained unquestioned. For the majority of Palestinians, and especially those living in the West Bank, it is simple arithmetic: corruption is bad, but the total anarchy resulting from a coup d'etat is worse.

"Reform cannot be implemented by taking hostages," said Ghaneim, referring to Friday's kidnapping of Gaza security chief Ghazi Jibali and his subsequent sacking. "No, we need to fight for reform, but in a democratic way." Yet even after these reforms, "President Arafat will continue being our No. 1 national symbol."

We'll see no real change in his lifetime. And Israel dare not assassinate him. Stalemate. | |



Crisis in Gaza

All snideness of yesterday aside, there is a true crisis ongoing in the Gaza Strip that is probably Arafat's most difficult time since he was exiled to Tunis.

Palestinians will not accept the nomination, and unrest in Gaza will only grow, Abu Zaida told Army Radio.

"This is infuriating," Abu Zaida said. "This shows disregard for people and their opinions. This is intolerable disregard, and in Gaza, thousands will rise up against this decision."

Juma Ghali, commander of the Palestinian navy, submitted his resignation to protest the appointment as well as the recent instability in Gaza, described Saturday by Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia as "unprecendented chaos."

Capping a weekend of crisis in the PA, dozens of Palestinian gunmen stormed an office of the Palestinian intelligence service early Sunday, opening fire on security guards inside, smashing furniture and burning down the one-story building, witnesses said.

Apparently, the Gazans agree with Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, who said that, as always, Arafat's reforms are in name only.

Arafat is attempting to create an illusion of reforms, but he has no intention of implementing them”, said Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz during this morning’s weekly cabinet meeting. He was referring to the wave of resignations, protests and kidnappings in the Gaza Strip over the weekend.

Referring to the latest events in the Palestinian Authority, Mofaz said: “It’s a game of musical chairs with the same old familiar tune. The kidnappers view the kidnapping as an opportunity to pressure Arafat, who continues to retain all authority”.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, whom Lair Simon has named Abu Merang for the number of times he has quit and returned, has resigned. Israeli radio is reporting that although Arafat refuses to accept the resignation, Qurei will not rescind it. Egypt is sending in advisers hoping to calm the situation. I don't think they're going to get very far. There is a deep mistrust of the Egyptian motives right now, fed by Arafat's unwillingness to share power with anyone.

There's also an analysis in Ha'aretz about how deeply involved Mohammed Dahlan, former security chief who was fired when Mahmoud Abbas resigned as the first palestinian PM.

Last week, in an interview to the New York Times, Dahlan said, "The Gaza Strip is at a crucial juncture; we will either gain independence or become Somalia."

The military wing of the Fatah in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip issued an announcement Saturday against the appointment of Musa Arafat and accused him of corruption.

The weekend events and the show of force by various groups of Fatah gunmen, including vocal criticism of Arafat, suggest the rift between Dahlan supporters and those close to Arafat is intensifying.

Saturday's demonstrations were particularly violent in their tone: One banner claimed "One dog, Jabali, is gone, and now is the time for another dog, Musa Arafat."

Musa Arafat has been targeted by protesters in the past, and has had a grenade fired at his offices by men affiliated with Dahlan.

Those close to Dahlan said they will not accept the appointment of Musa Arafat and are willing to undertake a "frontal confrontation" to remove him.

But sources close to Dahlan also said the confrontations will not deteriorate into civil war in the streets but will continue to take the form of kidnappings and possible assassinations.

Here's the thing: You may have the intention to stop the violence before it erupts into civil war. But you can't control mobs. Group violence has a tendency to get out of hand. If this is the case, Dahlan is playing with fire. This is a people weaned on violence, being inflamed to act against corrupt PA officials. There was a riot in the West Bank last week between Christian and Muslim Arabs over a Muslim peeping tom caught taking pictures of a Christian woman changing clothes. The territories are a tinderbox, and Dahlan is throwing in a lit match.

Herb Keinon of the Jerusalem Post says this could be very bad for Israel.

One opinion that has held sway in Jerusalem is that Arafat never reined in the terror because he was actually interested in a harsh Israeli response that would compel the international community to step in.

He wanted a chaos born of an Israeli military response so that the international community would move in and "protect" the Palestinians.

Israel didn't play into his hands, and hasn't responded to the Palestinian terrorism in a way that would enable the introduction of international forces. Arafat wanted chaos; Israel didn't give it to him.

Now Jerusalem is concerned about a chaos the Palestinians will generate from within. If there is major blood-letting in Gaza – a miniature Sabra and Shatila – it is not difficult to imagine the Palestinians appealing to the United Nations to send in peacekeepers to take control of the situation since Israel, which has not yet disengaged and is still the occupying power, is doing nothing to step in and stop it.

Arafat will probably weather this storm, as he has weathered every other—but it is a real crisis, and it could devolve into a civil war. In which case, outside forces will have to intervene.

Will he implement real reforms? He may be forced to implement some token reforms. But Arafat will maintain his power base until the day he dies. He's proven that many times in the past. | |


Last week's blogs are archived. Looking for the Buffy Blogburst Index? Here's Israel vs. the world. Here's the Blogathon. The Superhero Dating Ratings are here. If you're looking for something funny, try the Hulk's solution to the Middle East conflict, or Yasser Arafat Secret Phone Transcripts. Iseema bin Laden's diary is also a good bet if you've never been here before.