Thursday, December 28, 2006

Op-Ed: Why Israel favors cease fire with Palestinians, By Mohammed Mar'i, Ramallah

Why Israel favors Cease fire with Palestinians
By Mohammed Mar'i

(Permission granted to republish with full attribution to the author. You are also encouraged to pay a fee to the author.)

(Arab American Media Services/Ramallah, Palestine) -- The cease-fire (Hudna) between Israel and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip went into effect on November 26, 2006. The Palestinian factions agreed to halt all rocket fire from the Caza Strip against Israel while Israel agreed to halt military operations and withdraw from Palestinian territories. It is the first time that Israel agrees bilaterally to stop all military operations against the Palestinians since the April Understandings between Lebanon and Israel in 1996 after the Operation Grapes of Wrath which led to Qana Massacre leaving 118 dead Lebanese civilians.

The Hudna came after months of Israeli military operations in Gaza Strip following the kidnapping of Corporal Gilad Shalit by Palestinian military wings. The Israeli "Operation Summer Rains" lift more than 400 Palestinian deaths.

Last week, according to the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) the Palestinians fired 40 rockets. The rocket attacks were carried out by members of Islamic Jihad, an organization which opposes participation in the cease-fire, in response to the killing of two Islamic Jihad militants near Jenin. The renewal of homemade rocket attacks from Gaza Strip against Israel raised the question to what extent the Hudna is in favor of Israel.

Speaking at a joint press conference with the visiting Prime Minister of Norway Jens Stoltenberg, Olmert said that "for a number of weeks now I have used my authority in order to prevent a response to the continued Qassam rocket attacks, but it is clear that it is impossible to ignore this for long, so long as the Palestinians continue to shoot."

Notwithstanding the continuous Palestinian violations in the form of Qassam rocket attacks, "the cease-fire provides more calm than without it," a senior Israel political source said. Olmert is keen to stress that Israel should not be the one that announces an end to the cease-fire and that the cease-fire is also important for Israel diplomatically, the source added.

It would seem that so long as the homemade rocket attacks result in no injuries, Israel will continue its policy of relative restraint.

This is a particularly relevant point in view of the infighting that has prevailed in the Gaza Strip during the past week. Israel may choose to adhere to its commitment to the cease-fire precisely because it wants to avoid being blamed for intervening in an internal Palestinian conflict.

But Israel has other real reasons behind the recent restraint in the face of ongoing rocket attacks by Palestinian factions rather than Israel's interest in securing international backing in case the government decides a large-scale operation in Gaza following a multi-casualty attack by Palestinian factions on Israeli southern residents so the (IOF) can act under massive pressure from the public, or a recognition of the fact that the (IOF) has no effective solution to stop the rockets fire.

It turns out that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is practicing restraint primarily because he wants to give Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a chance to undertake the decisive and dangerous process that he kick-started last week. The process intended to remove control of the territories from Hamas hands and hand it over to Fatah by calling for early elections.

It's reasonable to assume that this is a strategic move, coordinated in advance with Abbas and his supporters, and thus, this is most likely why Olmert was so quick to approve a ceasefire a few weeks back.

Besides Israel has an estimation that renewed (IOF) operations in Gaza would cause the warring Palestinian factions to unite against Israel, and Abbas, who in such a situation, would have to postpone the disbandment of the government, refrain from setting a new date for the early elections and, thus, lose an opportunity of getting rid of, or at least weakening, the Hamas government.

Moreover Olmert doesn't want to give Abbas an excuse to get down from the high ladder he climbed on when he decided to go head-to-head with Hamas. The prime minister decided to bet on the Palestinian president and risk the potentially high price of restraint.

Another reason for Israeli restraint is an estimation that renewing army operations in the Gaza Strip will lead to a 100 percent increase in rocket attacks leaving the Israeli government no choice but to order the (IOF) to launch a large-scale operation in Gaza. The (IOF) however is split over operating in Gaza which is a high densely populated area and is not convinced that a large-scale operation would hamper the capability of Palestinian military wings to fire rockets at Israel. Although large-scale operation should give a fundamental and long-term answer to arms smuggling into Gaza, the problem is Gilad Shalit. By all judgments, Shalit is being held in the southern Gaza Strip where the (IOF) would have to operate. A large-scale operation will almost certainly stymie his release and even put his life in danger. In this case the Hudna with Palestinians is a solution despite the issue of weapons smuggling from Egypt.

It should be noted that Israel can bring about an almost complete cessation of rocket fire in Gaza if it agrees to Hamas and Islamic Jihad demands to stop assassinations of their activists and to stop its operations, not only in Gaza Strip but also in the West Bank, since most rocket fire is a response to such assassinations. Searching pretext to pressure the Palestinians, perhaps this is the reason why Israel didn't agree to implement the Hudna in the West Bank: once it assassinate an activist in the West Bank the response comes from Gaza strip

Israel didn't accept this condition fearing that not operating against Palestinian activists in the West Bank will lead to "terror" attacks within Israeli territory – attacks that will cause many casualties as was the case in the beginning of the intifada.

(Mohammed Mar'i is a Palestinian journalist based in Ramallah.)

Op-Ed: Is Abbas-Olmert meeting more than PR? By Mohammed Mar'i, Ramallah

Is Abbas-Olmert meeting more than public relations?
By Mohammed Mar'i

(Permission granted to republish in full. You may also donate a writing fee to the author.)

(Arab AMerican Media Services/Ramllah, Palestine) -- After many months of preparation between senior Israeli and Palestinian aids, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minster Ehud Olmert finally held a meeting.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert insisted on leaving his official residence to welcome President Mahmoud Abbas and his convoy with kisses on cheeks. "It is my pleasure to welcome you, Mr. President," said Olmert to Abbas.

Olmert introduced his wife Aliza, who is an artist known for her dovish views, to Abbas and the Palestinian officials.

The Palestinians were surprised to find the Palestinian flag and the Israeli flag standing side by side in the PM's driveway. The two flags were found together on the table inside the house as well. This is the first time that Palestinian flags were waved inside any official Israeli institution, not to mention the prime minister's residence.

Olmert's men explained that the warm welcome and the Palestinian flags being raised alongside the Israeli flags were meant to prove that there is no patronization on the Israelis' part, and that they were negotiating with Abbas because they truly believe he wants peace and they hope to make him a real partner. In the past, Olmert described Abbas as a weak leader, and Israeli minister Tzipi Livni considered him irrelevant to the peace process.

"Abu Mazen," said Olmert's men, "was welcomed at the prime minister's residence just as any other head of state would be". But apart from the hosting generosity the Israelis show towards their Palestinian guests, with what results the Palestinians went back to Ramallh? Did Olmert agree to a series of concessions to help bolster the PA chairman? Did President Abbas receive dramatic concessions from Olmert or promises to reactivate some committees? Did Olmert reject the key Palestinian demands announced by Abbas?

Olmert has agreed to unfreeze $100 million from the Palestinian National Authority tax revenues to be used for humanitarian purposes and after the establishment of a mechanism to ensure the money is used for the purposes intended by Abbas, and does not end up in the hands of the ruling Islamic militant group Hamas, Olmert also agreed to remove several West Bank checkpoints, and reexamine security procedures at the Karni commercial crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, in order to facilitate to movement of goods into Gaza, Olmert promised to meet a quota of 400 trucks moving through the main cargo crossing between Gaza and Israel.

Israel has also agreed in principle to allow Egypt to provide Abbas' security forces with weapons as well as allow the PLO's Badr Brigade to enter the territories. The brigade is currently stationed in Jordan.

But the two leaders failed to reach agreement on key issues - a prisoner swap and to extend the cease fire to the West Bank. Regarding the issue of prisoners which is a high superiority to the Palestinian society, the two sides reactivate a committee to decide the criteria for those who will be released and when. It known for the Palestinians that Olmert can't agree on genuine prisoners deal including those with "blood on their hands" without the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit taking into consideration that Israel launched its military operation "summer Rain" to get him back. The extension of cease fire to the West Bank will achieved before Abbas secures calm in Gaza; to stop the home-made rockets "Qassams".

Accordingly it's hard to understand what Abbas expected to gain by the summit with Olmert since he can't deliver the two things that Israel wants most: a serious undertaking to stop firing "Qassam" rockets and the release of Shalit. Abbas knows also that Olmert might want to bolster him by a few concessions especially a release of Palestinian prisoners, but he knows that the Israeli public will not tolerate this generosity after a summer of costly operations in Lebanon and Gaza. Abbas knows that there will not be a revival of Olmert's "convergence" plan for further withdrawals in the West Bank. Abbas knows that his photo being kissed twice on each cheek by Olmert will not easily replace the photos of Prime Minister Ismail Honeyed with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and with President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. Abbas Knows that the preconditioned unfreeze of $ 100 million will not be welcomed by the Palestinians as the $ 120 million donated by Iran to Hamas led government. Abbas knows that the absence of concrete achievements from the meeting will embarrass him in his internal crisis. He knows that Hamas, which holds Shalit, will not agree to any concessions in the Shalit deal especially the criteria and names of the Palestinian prisoners to be released. He knows that a cease fire in Gaza will not be achieved without full cooperation of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. He knows that ending of the deportees and wanted fighters files can't be solved without calm in the West Bank.

Many Palestinians questioned the reason behind Abbas acceptance to participate in the meeting.

Taking into consideration that Olmert has no interest in advancing the peace process, and that Abbas can't deliver a unified Palestinian understanding regarding the cease fire and Shalit deal, it seems that the meeting is no more than a public relations one. Under the pressure of US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minster Tony Blair, Abbas participated in the meeting to show moderate leaders in the region and to distance himself from Hamas. Bush and Blair want optimistic pictures rather than those of Iraq and Iran and they got it from the meeting.

(Mohammed Mar'i is a Palestinian journalist based in Ramallah)

Op-Ed: Soccer for Peace by Mohammed Mar'i -- Ramallah, Palestine

The Match of Peace
By Mohammed Mar'i

(Permission granted to republish this column in full with attribution to the author. You are also encouraged to make a donation as a fee to the author for publishing rights.)

(Arab American Media Services/Ramallah, Palestine) -- With an attractive slogan "It's Possible" the "Match for Peace" took place on Wednesday December 27th 2006 at 9 PM at the Olympic Stadium of Seville, the Andalusian capital in Spain. The Peace Team from renowned Palestinian and Israeli soccer players came together to play a magnificent soccer match with a team of Andalucian soccer stars from the Spanish Premier League.

The Peace Team is sponsored by the Israeli elder statesman Shimon Peres and his center (Peres Center for Peace). The "Match for Peace" was hosted by the Junta de Andalucia to send the international community a positive message of Palestinian-Israeli cooperation, highlighting the importance of continued efforts to build peace between the sides.

A long side Shimon Peres, Jibril Rajjoub, Palestinian National Security Advisor, Michel Platini, French soccer star, and a number of dignitaries, royal representatives and political leaders will come to show their support for peace.

The Palestinian players from the West Bank and Gaza Strip arrived to Seville through Jordan and Egypt since they are not allowed to travel through the Ben Gurion Airport due to security measures exercised against the Palestinians. The Peres Center for Peace which organizes and participates in the "Match for Peace" to foster a strong alliance for peace was not able to organize this very important symbolic move which is to depart from the same place.

The uniform of the "peace Team" was red. It was an important symbol also. The red color in Palestinian- Israeli daily life is connoted with blood and death that we hated to see in TV screens every day. There, in Seville, the red has another connotation. It is a symbol for peace of peace that we hope to achieve between the two Peoples.

Ninety amazing minuets passed in the Olympic Stadium, the Palestinian players replace their Israeli colleagues. Imad Nasser El Deen replaces David Ravivo. The Israel national coach Dror Kashtan and Palestinian coach Jamal Hadeideh of the West Bank Tulkarm club worked together in harmony, the matter which is absent all the time. The two coaches left just one Palestinian player in the second half, but they remembered to add four Palestinian players later. They remembered that no side can be eliminated from the scene.

Politics for the Palestinians and Israelis is fate. Peres, even he was sponsor of the event, was updated of the Israeli government decision to renew targeted killing of Palestinian activists. He hoped that" the Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas will resolve their differences so that they can both work together with Israel for peace in the Middle East", and that" he was aware of the "profound differences" between Fatah leader and Palestine National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, of the Islamic movement Hamas, but that it was necessary for the two to cooperate", and that " he believed Hamas was an important force in the peace process and must play a role in it, and the group's importance in the religious sphere and in the economy of Gaza", Spanish national news agency Efe reported.

But Peres knows that a "Palestina Libre" as written in Spanish behind the goal keeper, needs a renewal of the peace process to bolster the moderates in the two sides, to give the two Peoples hope in place of daily depression.

The Israeli sports commentator Shlomo Scharf said that if he given the authority to replace players, he will replace the defense with General Rajjoub, who has a long experience in defense. It is known that Rajjoub is a peace warrior but the Israelis damaged his security headquarters in Ramallah. Do they really want moderates in the Palestinian People?

Scharf was astonished that he found supporters for "Bitar Yorshalaim" soccer team, but once the Israeli player Klemi Saban scored his goal, Palestinian flags were waving to salute him. The Israeli player Haim Ravivo played thirty five minutes though he didn't play since two and a half year, whereas the Israeli decision to remove checkpoints and other good-will steps evaporated like dreams.

"It is Possible". All the Palestinian People know that it is possible to reach a lasting peace if Israel has the intention. As it is possible for the kids Mohammed of Abu Tour and Elian of Sderot to play football together, it is possible to put their dream to invite each other to his home into reality. It is possible to replace the Palestinian home made rockets and the Israeli artillery bombs with soccer goals between Palestinian and Israeli teams. It is possible to replace the slogan "Born to Kill", used to be written on the helmets of Israeli occupation soldiers, with "Yaboo Shalom Alaino O'al Kol H'olam", the song of Israeli singer Noa hoping that peace comes on us and the world.

It is possible to achieve peace if Peres kicks the peace process forward as he made the honorary kickoff at the start of the match, not to let this move for his successor as he did when he was the Israeli premier after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabbin. At that time, Peres was authorized to handle the West Bank City of Hebron with the late President Yasser Arafat according to Oslo agreement, Peres lifted this merit to his successor Benyamin Netanyahu.

We wasted months of negotiations between Arafat and Olmert to reach Wye River agreement just to handle Hebron.

* Mohammed Mar'i is a Palestinian journalist based in Ramallah.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Archbishop of Canterbury denounces Israel's Wall around Bethlehem

Press Release 22/12/2006


The Israeli-built wall is “a sign of all that is wrong in the human heart”, the Archbishop of Canterbury said today in Bethlehem.

Speaking to the town’s civic representatives shortly after walking through the wall, Dr Williams said the wall symbolised “the terrible fear of the other, of the stranger, which keeps us all in one kind of prison or another”, from which God 2,000 years ago came to release people.

Dr Williams was speaking on behalf of a delegation of UK church leaders to the town of Christ’s birth, which included the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the moderator of the Free Churches, David Coffey, and the Armenian patriarch of Great Britain, Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian.

Accompanied by Christian church leaders from Jerusalem, the delegation made its way through the notorious checkpoint at the entrance to the town, which prevents all but a few Bethlehemites – who need special permits - from traveling and trading with neighbouring Jerusalem.

The church leaders had planned to walk through the pedestrian checkpoint – an elaborate steel construction involving turnstiles, CCTV cameras, and gun-wielding soldiers.

But at the last moment, the Israeli security forces diverted them through the less humiliating vehicle entrance point, causing camera crews waiting on the other side to rush to get pictures.
The delegation walked from the checkpoint down Star St to Manger Square, following the route said to have been made 2,000 years ago by Mary and Joseph.

They were greeted in the square by civic leaders at the International Peace Centre, close to the Basilica of the Nativity.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s remarks were in response to a speech by Bethlehem’s Mayor, Dr Victor Batarsheh, which described how Bethlehem was now cut off from the outside world by the wall, causing economic hardship and the emigration of families. Bethlehem, he said, had been “transformed into an open prison” by the wall.

He told the church leaders that future peace depended on “dialogue, not separation.”“Your presence is challenging this ugly wall,” Mayor Batarseh told them.

The Archbishop of Canterbury said they were “here to say to the people of Bethlehem that they are not forgotten. We are here to say: what affects you affects us. We are here to say, your suffering is our suffering too, in prayers and in thought and in hope.”

He continued:

“We are here to say, in this so troubled and complex land, that justice and security are never something which one person claims and the expense of another, or which one community claims at the expense of another. We are here to say that security for one is security for all. And for one to live under the threat of occupation or of terror is a problem for all.”

Citing an Advent hymn which sings of “Jesus Christ, the one who comes the prison bars to break”, Dr Williams said it was the church leaders’ “prayer and our hope for all of you that the prison of poverty and disadvantage, the prison of fear and anxiety, will alike be broken.”

He added that the church leaders had come because the Incarnation “assures us that these prisons could be broken, broken by the act of God in whose sight all are equally precious – Palestinian, Israeli, Jewish, Christian and Muslim; and for whom all lives are so equally precious that the death of one is affront to all.”

Following the speeches, the Mayor of Bethlehem declared the delegates honorary citizens of Bethlehem.

The delegates then made their way to the Basilica of the Nativity, where they prayed at the spot in a cave said to be where Jesus was born. As well as the Greek Orthodox-controlled Basilica itself, they visited the Catholic church alongside, from where the delegates made their way down to the cave where St Joseph is said to have received the angel’s warning to flee Bethlehem. Alongside it is another cave where St Jerome made the first translation of the Bible.

The delegates return Saturday, after a day of prayers and visits in the town of Christ’s birth.
The visit by church leaders coincides with the release of surveys in the US and in Bethlehem commissioned by Open Bethlehem.

The surveys show widespread ignorance in the US of Bethlehem and its plight. But the poll, which was carried out by Zogby, also revealed that if Americans knew that the wall had severed Bethlehem and Jerusalem and had led to the large-scale Israeli annexation of (mainly Christian-owned) land, they would oppose the wall.


Your Beatitudes, Your Eminences, Your Graces

We are overwhelmed by the welcome we have received and although we are used – we who have been visitors before – to being welcomed with generosity, today has been exceptional.
We are indeed here to say to the people of Bethlehem that they are not forgotten. We are here to say: what affects you affects us. We are here to say, your suffering is our suffering too, in prayers and in thought and in hope.

We are here to say, in this so troubled and complex land, that justice and security are never something which one person claims and the expense of another, or which one community claims at the expense of another. We are here to say that security for one is security for all. And for one to live under the threat of occupation or of terror is a problem for all.

The wall, which we walked through a little while ago, is a sign not simply of the passing problem in the politics of one region; it is a sign of the things which are deeply wrong in the human heart itself. That terrible fear of the other, of the stranger, which keeps us all in one kind or another of prison. In one of the hymns we sing in English during the Advent season, we sing about Jesus Christ, the one who comes the prison bars to break. And it’s our prayer and our hope for all of you that the prison of poverty and disadvantage, the prison of fear and anxiety, will alike be broken.

We are here on pilgrimage because we trust that 2,000 years ago an event took place here which assures us that these prisons could be broken, broken by the act of God in whose sight all are equally precious; Palestinian, Israeli, Jewish, Christian and Muslim. And for whom all lives are so equally precious that the death of one is affront to all. That is why we are here. We are here not to visit an ancient and interesting site; we are not here to visit a theme park. We are here to visit a place and a people which speak of the freedom of God to set human beings free.

That is the truth which remains the same day after day, year after day, and millennium after millennium. It is that Good News which has driven us here. It is that Good News which teaches us the response to despair, and the response to the terrible conditions in which so many of you now live. Thank you, once again, for what you have done to make us feel at home here, we who are now fellow citizens with you here in this place.

Pray for us in the western world, for us in England, that our faith may be strengthened by yours. Because you are a gift for us. Unlike the wise men who came from the east 2,000 years ago, we, the not very wise men from the west, have not come to pour out our gifts; we have come to receive the witness of your faith, your endurance and your hope; to receive the gifts of God. So pray for us, pray that we may be strong, and loyal friends to you, and to all the peoples of this land. And we shall pray for you also.

For more information please contact:

Open Bethlehem. Bethlehem. Palestine+97222 777993Austen Ivereigh:

Monday, December 18, 2006

CAIR denounces racist bigot Dennis Prager, calls for his dismissal from government agency

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

CAIR urges members of Congress to help 'expedite' Dennis Prager's removal(WASHINGTON, D.C., 12/18/06) - A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today called on elected officials who are members of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council to repudiate "bigoted remarks" by Dennis Prager, a fellow council member.

(Ten members of Congress serve on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, which is meeting today.)

Prager has written that Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, should be prevented from taking his oath of office using the Quran, Islam's revealed text. He also wrote that swearing an oath on the Quran "undermines American civilization."

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) had previously called on President Bush to rescind Prager's appointment to the council, the governing board of the Holocaust Memorial Museum, because of his intolerant views toward Islam in American society.

CAIR had also called on the museum's council to remove Prager from his post because his views are incompatible with the mission of that taxpayer-funded institution.Since coming out against Prager's appointment to the council, CAIR has received hundreds of hate-filled e-mails from Prager's supporters.Two members of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Council have already spoken out against Prager's intolerant remarks.Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) said Prager's comments were "inappropriate, incorrect and reflect a lack of the qualities of tolerance and civility, and respect for other people's religion."

Former New York City Mayor and current council member Edward Koch said, "There is no question that Dennis Prager is a bigot who ought to be repudiated even by his closest supporters."

In a letter to council members Reps. Christopher Cannon (R-UT), Eric Cantor (R-VA), Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Steven LaTourette (R-OH), and Sens. Norm Coleman (R-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Russell Feingold (D-WI), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), CAIR National Legislative Director Corey Saylor wrote:

"I am writing you in your role as a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council to respectfully ask that you join those who are condemning the bigoted remarks of council member Dennis Prager. I also ask that you take action to expedite his removal from the council. . .The United States Holocaust Memorial is an important reminder of where indifference to intolerant and misinformed comments can lead."

Saylor's letter included published comments from groups such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the American Jewish Committee condemning Prager's remarks. The letter also supported Prager's right to free speech, but said a presidential appointee to a taxpayer-funded institution must be held to a higher standard.

CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 32 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

- END -

CONTACT: CAIR National Legislative Director Corey Saylor, 571-278-4658, E-Mail:; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail:


CAIRCouncil on American-Islamic Relations453 New Jersey Avenue, S.E.Washington, D.C. 20003Tel: 202-488-8787, 202-744-7726Fax: 202-488-0833E-mail: info@cair.comURL:

Thursday, December 14, 2006

CAIR denounces Iranian Holocaust Conference

CAIR Condemns Iranian Holocaust Denial Conference

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today condemned a conference in Iran that seeks to deny the Holocaust, the systematic destruction of the Jewish community in Europe by the Nazis during World War II.

In a statement, CAIR said:"No legitimate cause or agenda can ever be advanced by denying or belittling the immense human suffering caused by the murder of millions of Jews and other minority groups by the Nazi regime and its allies during World War II. Cynical attempts to use Holocaust denial as a political tool in the Middle East conflict will only serve to deepen the level of mistrust and hostility already present in that troubled region."CAIR also expressed concern that individuals who have promoted racist views, like former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, were invited to speak at the conference. "Islam, through the example of the Prophet Muhammad, has always rejected racism in any form," said CAIR's statement.

In his final sermon, the Prophet stated: "All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab. Also, a white (person) has no superiority over a black (person), nor does a black have any superiority over a white -- except by piety and good action."

SEE: Washington-based council has in the past condemned an Iranian contest soliciting political cartoons mocking the Holocaust and supported calls for an apology from an Arab-American newspaper that published excerpts from an anti- Semitic tract.

In its past statement supporting an apology from the newspaper, CAIR said "we must challenge those who would fan the flames of anti-Semitism." CAIR's statement condemning the Iranian cartoon contest called the Holocaust "one of the lowest moments in human history."

CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 32 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail:; CAIR Communications Coordinator Rabiah Ahmed, 202-488-8787 or 202-439-1441, E-Mail:; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, E-Mail: arubin@cair.comSource: Council on American-Islamic Relations CONTACT: Ibrahim Hooper, National Communications Director,+1-202-488-8787 or +1-202-744-7726,, or Rabiah Ahmed,Communications Coordinator, +1-202-488-8787 or +1-202-439-1441,, or Amina Rubin, Communications Coordinator, +1-202-488-8787,, all of CAIRWeb site:

Monday, November 27, 2006

New Christian Arab Web site launched

Middle East Christians Gather Online –
By Marianne Albina

In August 2006, a new initiative was launched in the Middle East to enable Arab and Middle East Christians to meet and gather online. or "reaching out", the new portal aims to provide a new means of communications that brings together Middle East Christians. The goal is to form the one and only available database for Arab and Middle East Christians.

There were several driving forces behind the creation of but at core it is a project that challenges all myths that deny Arab Christians their Arab identity. The site emphasizes the aspiration of many to stay connected despite all obstacles, including the restriction on movement and emigration. founders found a way to rise above geographical boundaries, if only by cyberspace.

They are highlighting the Arab Christian identity and seeking to stave off the wave of Arab Christian emigration from the Middle East.

"Some people are not even aware that Arab Christians exist," said Yacoub Elias Tahhan, General Manager of "Even when the Arab Christian identity is mentioned, it is sometimes politically abused and misinterpreted," said a colleague of his on Wusul’s Board of Directors.

The political conditions in the Middle East and their impact on the economy as well as the psyche of families has led many to seek better opportunities overseas; a fact that has made the phenomenon of Christian emigration a concern to all churches and individuals such as the founders of Wusul. Amidst this reality, this new initiative preserves diversity in the Middle East and keeps a Christian witness in the area. offers a glimpse of hope to people wishing to underline their existence by coming together despite all odds. has created a meeting place for individuals, institutions, churches, and any association related to Christian entities. It is a place to create personal, social and professional networks with people who one would hardly have the chance to meet otherwise.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Relevence of Palestinian-Israeli coexistence

For immediate release
November 13, 2006
Contact: Deanna Armbruster (818) 325-8884,

"The Relevance of Israeli-Palestinian Coexistence Work in the Middle East in the Wake of Recent Violence and Heightened Tensions"

Washington, D.C. - Recently, a distinguished group of regional and diplomatic experts assembled for a discussion: "Israel-Palestine: Long Term Prospects for Peaceful Coexistence." The roundtable event and luncheon was presented by the American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam in recognition of 35 years of coexistence at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, the "Oasis of Peace," the only community in Israel where Jewish and Palestinian citizens of the state live, work and raise their children together in a mutual commitment to peace and equality.Featured panelists and speakers included: Sara Ehrman, Senior Advisor for the Center for Middle East Peace and Cooperation and Policy Advisor for AIPAC; Khalil Jahshan, Lecturer in International Studies and Languages at Pepperdine University and former Vice President of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee; Aaron David Miller, Public Policy Scholar the Woodrow Wilson Center and Department of State adviser to six Secretaries of State involving him in key peace negotiation processes; the Honorable Richard Murphy, who served as ambassador in numerous countries included Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, among others; Robert Satloff, Executive Director of the Washington Institute; General Brent Scowcroft, National Security Advisor to Presidents Geral Ford and George H.W. Bush; and Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland and a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute. The Honorable Samuel Lewis, former Ambassador to Israel, moderated the event.Speakers were frank and candid as they discussed the many challenges facing the region and the grim prospects for peace at this difficult time. Many stressed the urgency of the situation, calling for renewed internationally engagement of leadership in the region. While the general sentiment was focused on recent events and the bleak reality at present for a renewed peace process, many of the speakers also expressed their appreciation for the continued work of Israelis and Palestinians who continue to engage in dialogue and other coexistence programs, including the residents of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, the "Oasis of Peace" and its Jewish-Arab education, dialogue and interfaith institutions.Currently, 27 Palestinian and 27 Jewish families live in the community sharing a commitment to equality, mutual respect and peace. The community reaches beyond its borders through its bilingual, binational Primary School, which was the first bilingual school in Israel when it was founded over 20 years ago, the pioneering conflict management institute the School for Peace, which has reached nearly 40,000 Jewish and Arab, Israeli and Palestinian participants to date, and the Father Bruno Hussar Pluralistic Spiritual Center, which focuses its work on interfaith workshops and seminars. Residents continued to demonstrate the power of dialogue, education, mutual respect and cooperation even during the height of violence this summer through Jewish-Arab training programs, a camp for Palestinian children and other activities.Many of the panelists, aware of the community's perseverance and sustained commitment to peace and coexistence, highlighted the "Oasis of Peace" as a source of hope and possibility. "It [NSWAS] really is a little light of hope in this moving tide," said Sara Ehrman. "I've always thought that the solution was that one by one, individual by individual, people would learn to live with each other and this program, which is Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam exemplifies that better than any other group that I know of." Samuel Lewis referred to the "unique role" that the community plays in Israel as it brings Jewish and Palestinian children and adults together for a variety of programs.Khalil Jahshan noted the particular need for the programs of NSWAS given the current reality. ".In this context, definitely, definitely, Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam has a role to play," said Jahshan. "Things are dismal on the political and diplomatic levels, but things are brewing at the human level. Nobody in Israel or in Palestine is doing the type of work that the 50 families that live at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam are doing.We need more groups like this to put an end or shatter that type of ignorance and mutual denial that continues in that part of the world."General Brent Scowcroft addressed the question of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam's relevance at this time. "Neve Shalom is a long-term solution.The only way you can live long-term in the region is to come to reconciliation to the region and that's what this organization is preaching and doing," explained General Scowcroft. "You learn to live together.We're all people, but we're surrounded by these months and beliefs that put us at odds.It won't work, whatever peace you have, unless you have this sense of reconciliation."

##American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat Al-Salam12925 Riverside Drive, 3rd Floor Sherman Oaks, CA 91423Tel. 818-325-8884 Fax 856-325-8983


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Human Rights Watch activists to be honored in Chicago Nov. 9, 2006

Annual “Voices For Justice” Dinner Highlights
Three International Defenders of Social Justice
Human Rights Watch Collaborates with Activists to Share Message of Global Equality


Katheryn Hayes/Wick Swanton – MK Communications
(312) 822-0505;,
Liba Beyer – Human Rights Watch
(212) 216-1805,

CHICAGO (October 26, 2006) – For years those who defend human rights against violations of freedom of speech, obstructions to the democratic process or things much worse – have risked their own lives for the fair treatment of others and brought about social change on all sides of the globe. Honoring the work of three defenders, the international non-profit Human Rights Watch will hold their “Voices for Justice” dinner on Thursday, November 9th at 5:30pm at the Chicago Cultural Center, Sidney Yates Gallery, 78 E. Washington.

Exemplifying the goals of Human Rights Watch, this year’s defenders, Verónica Cruz, Arnold Tsunga and Mandira Sharma, have stood up to corrupt governments, violent rebels and years of oppression to bring about social change.

Verónica Cruz is the founder and head of Las Libres, the only organization in the conservative Mexican state of Guanajuato to tackle the issue of access to abortion after rape. Verónica leads the fight against this injustice by connecting rape victims with medical and legal aid, training youth to hold health workshops for peers, and challenging policy makers to ensure real access to abortion as allowed under the law. Human Rights Watch honors Verónica for her unwavering dedication to protecting the physical integrity and autonomy of women all over Mexico

Mandira Sharma is a Nepali lawyer and human rights activist who co-founded Advocacy Forum, one of Asia’s most respected and effective human rights organizations. Mandira works to publicize human rights abuses and provide legal support to Nepali activists, many of whom have been targeted by the government. Human Rights Watch honors Mandira for representing and defending the Nepali people in the midst of serious political oppression and bloody civil war.

As the executive director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Arnold Tsunga offers free legal advice and representation to human rights activists all over the Zimbabwe, where the government has recently intensified attacks on civil society in an effort to stifle criticism of its growing abuses. Though he has been beaten, arrested, and threatened at gunpoint, Arnold is fearless and always in the fray. Human Rights Watch honors Arnold for his steadfast commitment to those who fight for human rights in Zimbabwe.

The “Voices For Justice” dinner also has stops in New York, Toronto, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. All proceeds from the dinners benefit Human Rights Watch and their efforts to provide a better world for all to inhabit.

“The activists we honor have shown dedication to the cause of human rights,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “They have worked courageously, often in life-threatening environments, to expose rights abuses in their countries.”

The preeminent Human Rights advocacy organization in the United States, Human Rights Watch is dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world, investigating and exposing human rights violations and working to bring about accountability for abusers and justice to victims. The Human Rights Watch/Chicago presence was established in the spring of 2004 and is chaired by long-time Chicago activists Jerry Newton and Judy Gaynor.

For more information on Human Rights Watch, please visit

NOTE: The Defenders are available for interviews on Thursday November 9th and Friday November 10th.
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Monday, October 30, 2006

New book released by Zaid Shakir on Muslims views

Zaytuna Institute Is Proud to Announce the Release of 'Scattered Pictures: Reflections of an American Muslim' by Acclaimed Scholar and Writer Zaid Shakir

What Do American Muslims Really Think About 9/11 and Jihad? How Does Islam Grapple With the Questions of Race and Nationalism?

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- These are some of the hard hitting and often-times controversial topics addressed in Scattered Pictures. Described by the New York Times as a "leading intellectual light for a new generation of American Muslims who can help them learn how to live their faith without succumbing to American materialism or Islamic extremism," Zaid Shakir is leading the dialogue on issues that affect our world today.Scattered Pictures, Reflections of an American Muslim is a collection of fourteen essays powerful in their essence and eloquence. This book by the former university professor and member of the United States Air Force, analyzes and reconciles the convergence of Islam and the West and is of lasting relevance to the betterment of the Muslim and human community. Reminiscent of Zaid Shakir's direct, honest and riveting style of speech, each page delivers vivid, absorbing detail and effective information.Scattered Pictures is undoubtedly a book that will be difficult for readers to disregard. Though written through the lenses of an American, Western Muslim, its messages are relevant to anyone interested in the conscious culmination of a healthy and harmonious understanding of humanity within and across all global borders.

"Imam Zaid Shakir is one of the towering principle voices not only in contemporary Islam, but in American society." -- Dr Cornel West, author of Best Seller, Democracy Matters,

"This collection of Zaid Shakir's essays is long overdue. For some years now he has brought a clarity of mind and feeling to substantive issues challenging Muslims today. It is good to see some of his fire-fly, lightning bolt thinking captured in words and put between covers." -- Michael Wolfe, author of The Hadj: An American's Pilgrimage to Mecca ISBN: 0-9702843-5-7

For book orders, please contact: Zaytuna Institute 510-614-8317
For interviews and book signings with the author please contact Monteil Harper at info@zaidshakir.comSource: Zaytuna Institute CONTACT: Zaytuna Institute, +1-510-614-8317, or info@zaytuna.orgWeb site:

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Borders to open store in World's Largest Shopping Mall in Dubai, UAE

Borders(R) to Open in Dubai's Mall of the Emirates

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Oct. 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Al Maya Group, a diversified corporation headquartered in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) country, will open the first Borders store in the region at the end of this month in Dubai's Mall of the Emirates.

This leisure, entertainment and shopping complex is recognized as the largest mall outside of North America and includes more than 400 luxury retailers including Harvey Nichols, Dolce and Gabana, and Gucci, as well as entertainment features highlighted by Ski Dubai, the region's first indoor ski destination, and Magic Planet, a two-story family entertainment experience.

Al Maya Group is opening this Borders store and others in the GCC planned for the future under a franchise agreement with Borders, Inc., a subsidiary of global book, music and movie retailer Borders Group, Inc. (NYSE:BGP).


Like the other retailers at the Mall of the Emirates, Borders will offer shoppers something special. The 16,000-square-foot Borders store, located on the first level, is one of the largest outside of the major department stores and will engage customers with a rich shopping experience that celebrates the universal human desire to explore and find personal enrichment and knowledge through books.

The store will carry a comprehensive range of over 65,000 book titles in English and Arabic languages in categories such as literary fiction, history, business, poetry, travel, cooking and many others. The children's section -- with its colorful decor and vast selection of books -- is expected to be particularly popular as the scene of many special children's events such as weekly story time.In addition to books, the new Borders store will also carry hundreds of magazines and newspapers, a wide selection of stationery items, and a Starbucks Coffee store that will serve its trademark beverages and food items.

The shopping environment, like all Borders stores in the United States, will be warm and inviting with plenty of comfortable chairs throughout, encouraging customers to relax and spend time exploring in the store. The Borders experience is like nothing available in the GCC for book lovers and is expected to attract thousands of customers each day as the mall boasts over 450,000 visitors per week.

Like all Borders stores around the world, the Dubai Borders store will serve as a community gathering place for residents and visitors, offering shoppers plenty of free in-store events including appearances by authors who will appeal to all ages and interests.

"It is our mission to be the preferred place for knowledge and entertainment throughout the world," said Borders Group Chief Executive Officer George Jones.

"Franchise agreements with strong and experienced retailers such as Al Maya Group offer our company an effective way to expand in new global markets. The Mall of the Emirates is a spectacular retail development and there is no other site like it in the world. We are proud, through our association with Al Maya, to be a part of this luxury shopping destination and we are confident that Al Maya will represent the Borders brand well throughout the GCC."

Al Maya Group Director Vivek Bahirwani said, "We are delighted to align with Borders because the brand is known worldwide for its vast selection, unique shopping experience and strong ties to communities. We are pleased to be the company that will bring Borders to the GCC and have ambitious plans for this brand."About Borders GroupBorders Group, Inc. is a $4 billion retailer of books, music, movies and stationery items that trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol BGP. Headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Borders Group, through its subsidiaries, operates more than 1,300 stores and employs more than 34,000 people worldwide who serve more than 30 million customers each year. More information on the company is available at .

About Al Maya GroupAl Maya Group, a household name within the U.A.E., owns a leading supermarket chain & other businesses such as franchising of BHS (U.A.E. & Poland), Steven Madden & Champion. In addition the group also owns one of the largest Food Wholesale Distribution Divisions within the U.A.E. and other GCC countries. The group employs approximately 2,000 people globally.
For more information please visit our website on
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Source: Borders, Inc.
CONTACT: Louise Jones, Marketing Manager of Al Maya Group, 09714821555;
or Holley Stein, Public Relations Specialist of Borders Group, Inc.,+1-734-477-1224
Web site:
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Monday, October 23, 2006

Jerash Festival in LA Nov. 5

Palestinian Conductor Seizes UCLA's Schoenberg Hall
Jerash Festival Comes to Los Angeles With Power house Event and Concert

Led by MESTO Orchestra at UCLA

Her Majesty Queen Noor and Dr. Raymond Jallow Co-chair the Concert Sure to Ignite the Stage on November 5th at UCLA's Schoenberg Hall at 5:00 p.m.

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- MESTO's conductor and founder, Nabil S. Azzam, Ph.D., has announced a dynamic lineup of talent for the "Jerash in Hollywood" concert performing at UCLA's Schoenberg Hall on Sunday, November 5th at 5:00 p.m.

The lineup includes the 40-piece MESTO orchestra, a special musical premiere by Zahra, lyrics by renowned Lebanese poet Henri Zoghaib, and music by Azzam.

The sensational multi-ethnic orchestra has generated considerable attention worldwide with a unique approach to performing the world's music in symphonic form.

The concert takes on an added flair with the class and elegance brought by co-chairs Her Majesty Queen Noor and international businessman Dr. Raymond Jallow.

Concertgoers were disappointed recently as the prestigious annual Jerash Festival, scheduled for July 31st in Amman, Jordan was cancelled due to the war in the region.

Typically, the ancient city of Jerash is transformed into the Middle East's liveliest and most impressive cultural event, hosting thousands of visitors during the festival each year. Azzam was due to perform with his orchestra at the Jordanian event.Now, after dealing with the disappointment of the cancellation, he has put together one of the most anticipated concerts of the year.

"It is so unbelievably thrilling to bring the essence of Jerash here to Los Angeles," said Azzam. "This concert is long overdue.""Jerash in Hollywood is a concert formed by the passion of concerned leaders of the world and in the music industry with the desire to deliver culture to the people," said Azzam. "We cannot live in a world without culture and to date we have helped so many people learn the beauty of multi-ethnic music and our goal is to continue to help many more. The music of the world can once again be heard and capture the essence of the countries richest traditions."

Tickets are $100; $50 and $30 (limited student tickets for $15).

To purchase tickets call UCLA ticket office at 310/825-2101 or the MESTO at 310/795-4280.

Source: Unique Image, Inc. CONTACT: Media, Jack Reed of Unique Image, Inc., +1-818-727-7785,
Web site:

Milwaukee, Wisconsin Folk Fair planned

October 19, 2006
Dave Amoroso * Ron Sonntag Public Relations
(414) 354-0200 ext. 108 *

MILWAUKEE, WI – The 63rd annual Holiday Folk Fair International, America's premiere multi-cultural festival, will be held Fri., Nov. 17 – Sun., Nov. 19, 2006, at the Wisconsin Exposition Center at State Fair Park in West Allis, Wis. Produced by the International Institute of Wisconsin, the event will provide attendees with an opportunity to "Celebrate the Carriers of Culture," this year's show theme. The three-day event features an assortment of ethnic foods, music and dance performances, historical displays on ethnic cultures, arts and crafts displays, and educational demonstrations. Holiday Folk Fair International will host a United States Citizenship Naturalization Ceremony on Sat., Nov. 18, at 10:30 a.m. and the fifth annual Around The World 5K Run/Walk on Sun., Nov. 19, at 9 a.m. New in 2006 will be performers from the Native Alaskan Heritage Center, and exhibits of Icelandic textiles, World Heritage Sites of Japan, Portraits of Hmong Women, and historic folk art. Featured local artists in the Music Pavilion include Johnny Hoffman and the Herzbuben, Steve Meisner Band, Izvor, and the Melkmeisters. Hours on Fri., Nov. 17, are 3 p.m.-10 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 18, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; and Sun., Nov. 19, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Admission is $8 in advance, and $10 at the door. Children 5 and younger are admitted at no charge, with tickets for children ages 6-12 $8 at the gate. A "Family Fun 4-Pack" of tickets for $28 is available through the International Institute of Wisconsin office. For more information on the 2006 Holiday Folk Fair International, call the International Institute of Wisconsin at 414-225-6225 or visit

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Editors Note: This release can be e-mailed upon request.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

PR: Conference on Arab Israeli peace

For Immediate Release Contact: Deanna Armbruster 856-235-6200October 17, 2006

Israel-Palestine: Long Term Prospects for Peaceful

Coexistence Washington, D.C. - In recognition of 35 years of Israel's only intentionally integrated Jewish-Arab village, the American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat Al-Salam hosts discussion.Roundtable Discussion and Luncheon"Israel-Palestine: Long Term Prospects for Peaceful Coexistence"Friday, October 20th, 2006, 10:00 AM - 1:30 PM

Katzen Art Center, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue, Washington, D.C.

Speakers include: Sara Ehrman, First Policy Advisor for AIPAC; Hon. Samuel Lewis, Former Ambassador to Israel; Aaron David Miller, Former U.S. Middle East Negotiator; Robert Satloff, Executive Director, Washington Institute for Near East Policy; Kalil Jashn, Pepperdine University and Former vice president, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee; Shibley Telhami, Professor for Peace and Development, University of Maryland and General Brent Scowcroft, Former National Security Advisor to the President. Musical Guest: Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary.

General Brent Scowcroft says, "Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam is an inspiration. It is a reminder that peace in the Middle East can be achieved by people of goodwill and vision. The spirit of tolerance and habit of cooperation that it helps to foster are key ingredients to a lasting peace."Ambassador Richard Murphy says, "Neve Shalom/Wahat Al-Salam has persevered when so many others have faltered in maintaining its vision of peace and instilling it where it counts most, among the young."

Special Guests: Ahmad Hijazi & Ohad Bar Shalom, of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam."I wanted my children to grow up not knowing there is a difference between Jews and Arabs," said Ahmad Hijazi, who came to the village as a teenage participate of School for Peace workshops."Neve Shalom/Wahat Al-Salam represents something very different for Israel. It is a place based on true equality for both sides. It is what Israel should look like," said Ohad Bar Shalom.

Neve Shalom, in Hebrew or Wahat al-Salam, in Arabic, the "Oasis of Peace"

The only community in Israel where Jews and Arabs have chosen to live, work, and educate their children together since 1972. It has been nominated five times for the Nobel Peace Prize. It is home to Israel's first integrated bilingual, binational Primary School and an internationally renowned conflict management program at the School for Peace.American Friends of Neve Shalom/ Wahat al-SalamThe American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam is a U.S. not-for-profit organization dedicated to dialogue, cooperation and a genuine and durable peace between Arabs and Jews, Palestinians and Israelis by encouraging, supporting and publicizing the projects of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, the "Oasis of Peace." (

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

OP-ED: Tyranny is winning, By Neal AbuNab

Tyranny is winning
By Neal AbuNab

You are authorized to republish this article free of charge.Contributions are welcome Please email: Contact Neal AbuNab (313) 506-4409, for all other inquiries. Length of article can be edited according to requirement of editors.Aramedia, P.O.Box 7596, Dearborn, MI 48121, USA All Rights reserved 2006

After the 1967 war in the Middle East the dark ghost of defeatism descended upon the heart of Arabs. Their governments declared a state of emergency. They suspended the constitutional rights of individuals and spent their money stockpiling weapons. The threat of Israel was the overriding concern in every country and people gave up their human rights and freedom because of national security. They never recovered from that loss. The Egyptian government today, like many other Arab governments, is still operating under a state of emergency. People gave up their freedom to the government thereby creating all these entrenched dictatorships. Guess what happened to all the weapons they bought and the great armies they built. They used them against their own people. Anyone who opposed the government became a traitor and a collaborator.

The same dark ghost is descending upon the heart of America. The Patriot Act pales in comparison with the Military Commissions Act of 2006. The new law which was passed by both houses of Congress on September 29th gives the Bush administration absolute power over the lives of its enemies. The law was opposed by most Democrats except for a few like Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan who is running for re-election this year and does not want to appear soft on national security.

The law authorizes the government to hold suspected enemies in detention indefinitely. It also allows the government to torture the detainee and then try him in a military court. The government continues to spy on its own people under the sanitized term of “warrantless wiretaps” program.

The suspected terrorist which is the intended target of this law is most likely a non-US citizen but the law will apply equally to a US citizen. Most of us are not concerned for the welfare of a person who is trying to kill us. This is the argument that made such a law sail so fast through the congress. The problem is that we are dealing with a huge bureaucracy called the government which is known for committing mistakes all the time.

A five-year old boy was featured on national news this week as a suspected terrorist. His name has been on the No-fly list for 4 years. Every time his parents went to the airport they ended up missing their flight because of hours of interrogation. The government promised to correct the mistake years ago.

Let’s say you are a poor soul whose name is similar to a wanted person some where. They will tap your phone and if you speak a foreign language and make phone calls overseas then you will become a suspect. Somebody may decide to pick you up for interrogation. On a dark night they will break through your front door and arrest you while you sleep in your comfortable home with your wife and children. Your family is not allowed to visit you or to ask about you. You are not allowed to ask why you’d been arrested and you can not inquire as to the nature of the charges against you.

While you rot in a secret detention center the interrogators will wake you up at night and play loud music for 24 hours. They will deprive you from sleep and drown you in a bucket of water. If that is not enough to extract a confession they can put you in a freezer and throw water at you till you shiver and turn blue.

Eventually, you will confess and sign a statement to whatever they say. Then, you will be taken to a court where your tormentors can present your confession to a military tribunal and you will not be able to see or rebut the evidence against you. It is called secret evidence and the government will not allow you to see it because it compromises national security. Then, you will be sentenced to life in prison or execution based on the evidence that you will never see. This can happen to any American as a matter of law.

Does this scenario sound familiar? It is the typical operation of any despotic regime including most of the regimes in the Arab world. This is what Americans have surrendered to their government. So, in my opinion the terrorists are winning. We started out this war to spread freedom and to eradicate violence and tyranny. We have escalated the level of senseless violence in this world by invading Iraq and now we are importing tyranny from the Middle East.

America is supposed to be exporting its democratic values to the Middle East but instead we are importing dictatorship from there. The Military Commissions Act is a victory for dictatorship in the world and Arabs can take the credit for it. It is easy to wage war against a people whom you disagree with. It is very easy to drop bombs that destroy life but try building the life of one human being. That is the real jihad.

The Bush administration also shares in the credit for advancing the cause of dictatorship and tyranny. Its love for secrecy and intolerance was finally realized by this new law. In the name of national security it has a blank check to torture all it wants and to detain as many people as its heart’s content.

If the Patriot Act assaulted civil rights the Military Commissions Act strangled the spirit of the US constitution. If terrorists hated our freedom, as Bush always claims, and they attacked this freedom on 9/11, then this new law accomplishes what the terrorists had always targeted. Our congress is handing victory to the terrorists on a silver platter.

Americans have lost so many lives and Arabs have lost more lives and they are all dying for freedom. Arabs want to be free from colonial powers, occupations and propped up puppet regimes. Americans want to be free to pursue a dignified livelihood without insecurity or fear. It is easy to let freedom thrive in this world because it is the air that every human being breathes. It just requires people who do not need to kill other people whom they disagree with.

Some day in the near future when we’d all become slaves of our own fears we will have a great shrine in Washington for Freedom. It will say: US Freedom, Born 1789 Died 2006.

Neal AbuNab is a Michigan-based author of “The War on Terror and Democracy”- available at He is a commentator on Arab and Muslim affairs and his weekly column appears in the Arab American News. He can be reached at:


Friday, October 13, 2006

PR: Leading Muslim scholars accept Pope's apology

Leading Muslim scholars accept apology

challenge Pope’s ‘mistakes’

In an unprecedented move, an Open Letter signed by 38 leading Muslim religious scholars and leaders around the world will be sent to Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 15, 2006.

The letter, which is the first of its kind in several centuries, is signed by such prominent figures as the Grand Muftis of Egypt, Russia, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, Istanbul, Uzbekistan and Oman, as well as leading figures from the Shia community such as Ayatollah Muhammad Ali Taskhiri of Iran. The letter was also signed by HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal, the Personal Envoy and Special Advisor to King Abdullah II of Jordan. Western scholars have signed the document, including California scholar, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr of George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Professor Tim Winter of the University of Cambridge.

The letter is being sent, in the spirit of goodwill, to address some of the controversial remarks made by Pope Benedict XVI during his lecture at the University of Regensburg in Germany on Sept. 12, 2006. The letter tackles the main issues raised by the Pope in his discussion of a debate between the medieval Emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an “educated Persian” such as compulsion in religion, reason and faith, forced conversion, the understanding of “Jihad” or “Holy War,” and the relationship between Christianity and Islam.

The Muslim signatories accept the Pope’s personal expression of sorrow and assurance that the controversial quote did not reflect his personal opinion. At the same time, the letter represents an attempt to engage with the Papacy on theological grounds in order to tackle wide ranging misconceptions about Islam in the Western world. Christianity and Islam make up more than half of humankind in a rapidly interconnected world, the letter states, and it is imperative that both sides share a responsibility for peace to move the debate away from the anger of the streets toward a frank and sincere dialogue of hearts and minds that furthers mutual understanding and respect between the two religious traditions.

The official and full English version of the text along with the complete list of signatories will be available on the Islamica Magazine website ( on Oct. 15, 2006. The official Arabic version will be available from leading Arab presses in the Muslim world.

Islamica Magazine (
Jordan: Sohail Nakhooda +962 777 608 449
United Kingdom: Mohammed Samiullah Khan +44 (0) 20 7993 2966
United States: Firas Ahmad +1 213 291 7191
Islamica Magazine office: +1 213 291 7191

Thursday, October 12, 2006

PR: Diplomatic Reception in Michigan for Lebanese leaders Oct. 16

For Immediate Release / Contact: John Akouri
T – 248.320.7300 / E –

The Lebanese American Chamber of Commerce (LACC) will be holding a Diplomatic Reception entitled Foreign Affair ’06, an International Event Honoring Detroit’s Diplomats & the 2006 Consular Corps on Monday, October 16, 2006 at 6:00 pm in the evening. The event will take place at:

LACC National Headquarters
The Ural Design Building
25820 Orchard Lake Road
Farmington Hills, MI 48336

Click for Map

Confirmed to attend as of this date include Diplomats from: Germany, Italy, Mexico, Lebanon, Barbados, Grenada, Liberia, Macedonia, Norway, Turkey, Lithuania, and the State Department’s International Visitors Council Global Diplomats. Sponsored by the LACC, the event is presented by Barrister Gardens Banquet Centers of St. Clair Shores. For more information, please contact John Akouri, Chairman & CEO of the Lebanese American Chamber of Commerce.


The Lebanese American Chamber of Commerce is a national business organization with offices in Detroit, New York, Houston, Seattle, Chicago & Washington, DC. The Chamber serves to actively develop, promote and advance Lebanese American business and to enhance the economic, social, educational, trade and cultural interests by providing leadership, legislative advocacy, and the exchange of business and information. It also seeks to promote economic growth and development, expand business opportunities and heighten awareness between the Lebanese and American communities throughout the United States and Lebanon operating as an American, Michigan-based not-for-profit corporation linking business professionals locally, nationally, and globally.
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Saturday, October 07, 2006

PR: ADC Names new national executive director

ADC Press Release

Oakar Announces New ADC National Executive Director

Washington, DC October, 3, 2006 Today, Hon. Mary Rose Oakar, President of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), announced the appointment of Kareem Shora as National Executive Director of ADC. Shora, who joined ADC in 2000 as legal advisor has served most recently as Legal and Policy Director for ADC.

In his new capacity as National Executive Director, Shora will work directly with, and report to ADC President Mary Rose Oakar.ADC President Oakar said, "We are looking forward to working with Kareem in his role as National Executive Director. For the past six years he has demonstrated his unwavering commitment to ADC and to protecting the civil and human rights of all Americans. His ability to represent our community using a balanced, professional, yet passionate voice of reason has been recognized globally, nationally, and by other leading organizations and agencies." She added, "In creating this new position and making this appointment, we will continue to build upon ADC successes of the past 26 years. Today, ADC is needed more than ever, and with this new structure we continue to move forward."

Working with President Oakar and ADC's talented and award-winning staff, Shora will manage ADC's daily operations. Shora will also continue strengthening alliances with partner organizations, work toward fostering the development of a national strategic policy agenda to organize and mobilize ADC's chapters into a stronger grassroots base, and leading efforts to advance that agenda.


NOTE TO EDITORS: The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which is non- sectarian and non-partisan, is the largest Arab American civil rights organization in the United States. It was founded in 1980, by former Senator James Abourezk to combat racial stereotyping and to protect the civil rights of people of Arab descent in the United States. ADC has 38 chapters nationwide, including chapters in every major city in the country, and members in all 50 states.

PR: ADC Names new national executive director

ADC Press Release

Oakar Announces New ADC National Executive Director

Washington, DC October, 3, 2006 Today, Hon. Mary Rose Oakar, President of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), announced the appointment of Kareem Shora as National Executive Director of ADC. Shora, who joined ADC in 2000 as legal advisor has served most recently as Legal and Policy Director for ADC.

In his new capacity as National Executive Director, Shora will work directly with, and report to ADC President Mary Rose Oakar.ADC President Oakar said, "We are looking forward to working with Kareem in his role as National Executive Director. For the past six years he has demonstrated his unwavering commitment to ADC and to protecting the civil and human rights of all Americans. His ability to represent our community using a balanced, professional, yet passionate voice of reason has been recognized globally, nationally, and by other leading organizations and agencies." She added, "In creating this new position and making this appointment, we will continue to build upon ADC successes of the past 26 years. Today, ADC is needed more than ever, and with this new structure we continue to move forward."

Working with President Oakar and ADC's talented and award-winning staff, Shora will manage ADC's daily operations. Shora will also continue strengthening alliances with partner organizations, work toward fostering the development of a national strategic policy agenda to organize and mobilize ADC's chapters into a stronger grassroots base, and leading efforts to advance that agenda.


NOTE TO EDITORS: The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which is non- sectarian and non-partisan, is the largest Arab American civil rights organization in the United States. It was founded in 1980, by former Senator James Abourezk to combat racial stereotyping and to protect the civil rights of people of Arab descent in the United States. ADC has 38 chapters nationwide, including chapters in every major city in the country, and members in all 50 states.

Friday, October 06, 2006

CPJ: In Iraq, driver for state-owned TV gunned down

In Iraq, driver for state-owned TV gunned down
New York, October 6, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the murder of Jassem Hamad Ibrahim, a driver for the Iraqi state television channel Al-Iraqiya who was shot by unidentified gunmen in Mosul on Wednesday. The assailants ambushed Ibrahim at about 2 p.m. as he was running errands for the station, according to a source at Nineveh TV, the local affiliate of Al-Iraqiya. His body was found riddled with bullets, according to the source and news reports.

Earlier that day, the source said, Ibrahim had driven several camera operators around Mosul to film footage. The slaying occurred about 30 minutes after Ibrahim dropped off the camera operators at the station. They later reported that they believed they had been followed during the assignment, the source said.

“We deplore the senseless murder of Jassem Hamad Ibrahim,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “The killing of journalists and media workers is making it impossible for the Iraqi people to tell their story.”

Insurgents have frequently targeted Al-Iraqiya and other state-run media because of their ties to the U.S.-supported Iraqi government. Insurgents have killed at least 19 state media employees since 2004.

On September 9, Abdel Karim al-Rubai, 40, a design editor for Iraq’s state-run daily Al-Sabah, was shot while traveling to work in the eastern Baghdad neighborhood known as Camp Sara by several gunmen. In late August, a deadly car bomb attack on the daily, killed two people, injured 20 others, and caused severe damage to the newspaper building in Baghdad’s northern Waziriya district.

In all, 80 journalists and 29 media support workers, including Jassem Hamad Ibrahim, have been killed in Iraq since the war began on March 20, 2003, making it the deadliest conflict in CPJ’s 25-year history.

See a statistical breakdown of journalists killed:

See a breakdown on media support workers killed:

CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit

Committee to Protect Journalists330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA Phone: (212) 465­1004 Fax: (212) 465­9568 Web: E-Mail: media@cpj.org Contact: Abi Wright e-mail: Telephone: (212) 465-1004 x-105

OP-ED: Paralysis in the Middle East by Neal AbuNab

Paralysis in the Middle East
By Neal AbuNab

You are authorized to republish this article free of charge.Contributions are welcome Please email: Contact Neal AbuNab (313) 506-4409, for all other inquiries. Length of article can be edited according to requirement of editors.Aramedia, P.O.Box 7596, Dearborn, MI 48121, USA All Rights reserved 2006

Muhammad Odeh, a local Palestinian Hamas leader in Ramallah was assassinated by masked gunmen the same day US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, was there visiting with President Mahmoud Abbas. It was probably a small token of affection offered to please the visiting dignitary; a sacrifice at the altar of peace. Clashes between Hamas and Fatah left a dozen people dead and over a 100 wounded in the past week. It is a clear indication of how deeply divided Palestinians have grown over the past few months.

Fatah’s patience had run out. Abbas declared that he had reached a dead end in negotiations with Hamas over a national unity government. He threatened to use his constitutional powers to dissolve the parliament and the current government. But the current constitution does not give him such powers. No problem. This is the Middle East and if he can get the US to consent to it he’ll do it any way. I think the Bush administration has had enough of negotiations in the Middle East to form “unity” governments whether it is in Iraq, Lebanon or Palestine. The same story is happening in all of these newborn democracies; they’re all engaged in violent ways to resolve their power struggles and political differences.

This is a clear manifestation of Bush’s policy in the Middle East. His famous words last month declared clearly that “for decades we pursued policies of stability in the Middle East and like a mirage they did not lead to peace.”

Dictatorships like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan are more stable and peaceful in nature. But if Bush is determined to go on with his democracy project then instability is bound to reach these countries also.

The idea that democracies in the Middle East are peaceful in nature is a fallacy; Lebanon and Israel are two democracies that dueled to death over the summer. If people knew the nature of Arabs they will realize that each one wants to be a leader of his own people. A capitalist democracy modeled after the US will only inflame power struggles and sectarian passions in the Middle East. A genuine social democracy that offers free healthcare and education to its people, like most European nations do, has a chance of flourishing in the Middle East.

The Bush administration has dug itself a black hole in that part of the world. If “denial” describes its mindset, as journalist Bob Woodward wrote in his latest book, then Paralysis has become the state of politics in that region. Such paralysis is most evident in Palestinian politics. Hamas won the elections, formed a government and then sat under siege for the past 7 months. The Palestinian economy has been virtually wiped out and one has to admire Hamas’s endurance but feel so much pity for the victimized general population of the occupied territories.

Hamas agreed to a unity government with Fatah, based on the “prisoners’ document”, which calls for recognizing Israel and a Palestinian state according to the 1967 borders. Abbas met with Bush a couple of weeks ago in New York and it seems like Bush vetoed the agreement. Everything fell apart when Abbas got home and like he said negotiations were back to “square one.” The US wants Hamas to renounce violence and recognize the legitimacy of all previous accords between the PLO and Israel.

Such accords were nullified by successive Israeli governments starting with Netanyahu in 1996 and ending with Sharon and Olmert. How could the US ask Hamas to recognize accords renounced and nullified by Israel? It is a trap that leaves Hamas no choice but to go into conflict with Fatah and Abbas.

Most Palestinians will trust Hamas to negotiate with Israel as Fatah had proven its willingness to give the store away for the personal benefit of its rich leaders. That’s why the US and Israel prefer to negotiate with Fatah, and will continue their financial stranglehold over the Hamas government till it collapses under the weight of the starving man in the street. Hamas and Fatah are locked into a waltz of death and there is no way out.

But such gridlock, confined to Washington in the past, has traveled to the Middle East and has become the hallmark of politics there. Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, and his Kadima Party have a 22% approval rating and the government has lost its disengagement mandate. Olmert is in no position to even appear as if he is giving anything to the Palestinians. Cracks in his coalition may widen and then his government would suddenly collapse.

The Taliban is staging a comeback in Afghanistan and wherever you look in the Muslim world there are grievances and injustices. Most are committed by Muslims against Muslims such as deprivation of basic human rights and wholesale robberies of the wealth of nations. Nothing is moving forward.

The problem is that the average American voter has very little knowledge or interest in the region. Polls have shown that almost 75% of Americans don’t know where Israel is and so most of them can not connect the direct relationship between the misery of Palestinians and the threat to their national security. They will argue forever that Arabs and Israelis want to fight with each other all the time, as if America had nothing to do with it.

In the large political landscape of America, the Palestinian “problem” is like a pimple on the ass of an elephant. Everyone in the world tries to tell the elephant (Bush and the Republicans) that this pimple has to be squeezed before it turns into a tumor, which can kill the elephant. However, the Bush administration is only concerned in chasing the flies off that pimple. Bin Laden used the Palestinian pimple as one of the reasons for attacking America and Al-Qaida continues using it to attract more recruits.

The US is the only power that can squeeze this pimple and break the stalemate. It can do that through direct negotiations with Iran and Syria. But Bush is pursuing a path of “victory” and he still hangs on to the idea that decisive win-lose military solutions are possible, even after the failed experience with Hizbullah.

Secretary Rice’s visit to the Middle East was in response to domestic political pressures ahead of the elections to combat charges of incompetence from the Democrats. It has little to do with pursuing peace in the Middle East. The world is in dire need of courageous leaders in Washington to break this vicious paralysis.

Neal AbuNab is a Michigan-based author of “The War on Terror and Democracy”- available at He is a commentator on Arab and Muslim affairs and his weekly column appears in the Arab American News. He can be reached at:


Monday, October 02, 2006

Power of Compassion Conference Oct. 26-29

International Conference on"ENGAGING THE OTHER" The Power of Compassion

An international, multi-cultural, multi-disciplinary conferenceexamining concepts of "The OTHER" from a universal, cross-cultural perspective to promote wider public dialogue about images of "Us and Them"October 26-29, 2006 Kalamazoo, Michigan USASponsored by Common Bond InstituteCo-sponsored by HARMONY Institute, the International Humanistic Psychology Association,the Fetzer Institute, and Western Michigan UniversitySupported by a growing international list of over 75 cooperating universities and organizations
for full details

~ Registration is Open To The Public ~
JOIN an extraordinary pool of leading experts from around the world to address the roots of negative stereotyping and prejudice, and how to move past artificial barriers of misunderstanding and distrust to cultivate our capacity for appreciation of diversity, reconciliation, and peace.

BE PART OF AN IMPORTANT, TIMELY DIALOGUE:-- Examining dimensions and dynamics of "The OTHER" on individual and group levels, and considering how enemy identity is formed, perpetuated, and manipulated, including fear-based belief systems, negative stereotypes, projection, prejudice, and scapegoating. Concepts are explored through psychological, sociological, cultural, anthropological, historical, philosophical, and spiritual perspectives. -- Identifying and compiling fundamental questions, dilemmas, and implications for further deep inquiry and examination in an expanding public dialogue.-- Tapping our shared wisdom and compassion as a community - from the local to the global - in developing practical applications.-- Formulating findings to make available to all for personal empowerment - through publications, media, training programs, Internet networks, dialogue groups, etc

DURING 3 1/2 DAYS EXPERIENCE:- 5 Keynote Speakers. - 5 Plenary Panels. - 26 Sessions of lectures, workshops, and panels. - 3 Daily Conference-wide Facilitated Dialogue Groups. - Evening Performances, Social-Cultural programs, and Community activities. - In-Process Expressive Arts Interpretation of the conference as it evolves. - E-conference links to universities and institutes in the US and various countries to expand an inclusive global dialogue. - E-dialogues and E-working groups, created during the conference as themes emerge, to continue the dialogue process beyond the conference and lead into future events. - Media Exhibits and Displays. - Rich Networking opportunities. - Crosscultural Intentional Community. - A web-based Archive of event content.


Huston Smith, Sam Keen, Marianne Williamson, Archbishop Elias Chacour, Maureen O'Hara, James O'Dea, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Imam Hassan Qazwini, Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, Abdul Aziz Said, Eyad El Sarraj, Ruchama Marton, Sen. John Vasconcellos, Jamal Dajani, David Michaelis, Lee Mun Wah, Geshe Gendun Gyatso, Don Edward Beck, Mohammed Abu-Nimer, Joseph Montville, Dan Bar On, Aftab Omer, Aisha Gray Henry, Jeffrey Mishlove, Stanley Krippner, Paul VonWard, Sharif Abdullah, Gorka Espiau, Ihsan Alkhatib, Satsuki Ina, Ahmad Hijazi, Ohad Bar Shalom, Steve Olweean, Alexander Badkhen, Mark Pevzner, Gay Barfield, Marvalene Hughes, Deborah Koff-Chapin, Mukti Khanna, Marilyn Youngbird, Josh White Jr., Steve Fabick, Bruce Gibb, Elza Maalouf, David Schoem, A T Miller, Robert Oppenheimer, James Macsay, Lewis Gover, Anna Rodina, Hana Hasan, Alvaro Cedeno, Diane Perlman, Wendy Woods, Charles Behling, LaRon Williams, Elizabeth Barton, Ilham Al-Sarraf, Anna Badkhen, Sandy Heierbacher, Brenda Rosenberg, Kate Runyon, Sharon Lowe, Jane Dutton, Margaret Warner, Silvia Dubovoy, Gemma Bulos, Shadia Kanaan, Laurie White. Mushtaq Luqmani, Paul Clements, David Juarez, Robert Small.

GLOBAL REPRESENTATION AND COMMUNITY:This conference is an international, multicultural event bringing together key presenters and participants from various cultures, including developing societies, regions of conflict, and communities seen by each as the "Other." It is intended to co-create a diverse, intentional learning community to explore conference themes and build a common ground of reference essential to engaging and integrating formal learning.

Registration is Also Open To The Public

Dates: October 26-29, 2006 (Thursday evening to Sunday afternoon)Location: Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA - Radisson Plaza Hotel
Program: Posted on-line, and also available by Email on request. Registration: On-line, or contact CBI directly CEU: Continuing Education Units available

FOR FULL INFORMATION on Fees, Program, Registration, Accommodations, or Exhibiting CONTACT:Common Bond InstituteSteve Olweean, Director, Conference Coordinator12170 S. Pine Ayr Drive, Climax, Michigan 49034 USA
Ph/Fax: 269-665-9393
Full Details at Website:
A Color Flyer to post and share is available at:

The complete Program for the International ETO Conference is posted at:

You can view the Presenter Biographicals and photos at:

Thursday, September 28, 2006

CPJ PR: Gun men kill Iraqi journalist

Committee to Protect Journalists
330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA Phone: (212) 465­1004 Fax: (212) 465­9568 Web: E-Mail: Contact: Abi Wright e-mail: Telephone: (212) 465-1004 x-105

IRAQ: Design editor of state-run paper murdered

New York, September 11, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the murder of an editor of Iraq’s state-run daily Al-Sabah. Abdel Karim al-Rubai, 40, a design editor for the newspaper, was shot Saturday morning while traveling to work in the eastern Baghdad neighborhood known as Camp Sara by several gunmen. The driver of the car was seriously wounded, media sources told CPJ.

“We deplore the brutal killing of Abdel Karim al-Rubai,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “Al-Sabah and its staff have become repeated targets for insurgents. We urge the authorities to bring those responsible for this murder to justice.”

Al-Sabah reported two weeks ago that it had received a death threat via e-mail against al-Rubai and his family signed by the military wing of the Mujahedeen Council, an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Iraq. According to the e-mail, the group was angered by the editor’s accusation that they were behind a car bomb attack on Al-Sabah on August 27, which killed a guard and an unidentified man.

Insurgents have frequently targeted Al-Sabah and other state-run media because of their ties to the U.S.-supported Iraqi government. Insurgents have killed at least 18 state media employees since 2004.

In all, 78 journalists including al-Rubai, and 28 media support workers have been killed in Iraq since the war began in March 2003, making it the deadliest conflict in CPJ’s 25-year history. The majority of victims have been Iraqis.

CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit

OP-ED: Mel Gibson's Rat Race, ByNeal AbuNab

Mel Gibson’s rat race
By Neal AbuNab

You are authorized to republish this article free of charge.Contributions are welcome Please email: Contact Neal AbuNab (313) 506-4409, for all other inquiries. Length of article can be edited according to requirement of editors.Aramedia, P.O.Box 7596, Dearborn, MI 48121, USA All Rights reserved 2006

Some times it feels like we’re always in a race with time. We’re always in a hurry to get things done or racing to get some where fast or just trying to meet some body else’s deadline. Being in a hurry is part of our nature. Impatience to fulfill our most basic needs is imbued in our creation. A baby cries forcefully demanding its milk while a fully-grown corporate executive pounds his fist on the table demanding work to be done.

We’re always racing but we never seem to catch up. Superstar Mel Gibson is telling us to relax and enjoy the ride before it all ends in 2012. Whenever this man speaks some body makes him apologize. The other day he took his new movie, Apocalypto, to a film festival to promote it and made some remarks critical of the Iraq war and the decline of our civilization.

Mel Gibson’s work in movies like Braveheart and the Patriot demonstrate that he is a “for God and for country” type of man. God weighed heavily on his heart when he made “The Passion of the Christ” which infuriated the Jewish institution in America. Then he made his famous anti-Jewish remarks on July 28th when he was arrested for drinking and driving. He cursed at the officers and told them: “the Jews are responsible for all the wars in this world.” Obviously, he was disturbed by the Israel-Lebanon war.

The following day he ate his words and groveled in one apology after the other to the Jewish community. They let the storm die down but they never forgave him and he lost some film contracts in the end. Then, he pleaded no contest to the drinking and driving offense on August 18. The Judge ordered him to get treatment for alcoholism and to do some public service work. On August 20, the Los Angeles Times wrote an editorial calling for disqualifying Mel Gibson from doing public service announcements because he was not a good role model. The paper said: “Gibson should be declared celebrity non grata, left to wrestle with his own demons in private, as most other bigoted people get to do. Obscurity would be the most fitting punishment for the man.”

What do they want from the man besides the whole hearted apology that he made? Maybe he has to check himself into an “Anti-Semitism Rehabilitation Center” to cleanse himself of any critical thoughts of Jews. After completing such a program he will be singing their praise and preaching that they are God’s chosen people. Otherwise, he should re-consider his entire existence as a public figure. I am sure that Mel has millions and millions of dollars that he can afford to speak his mind freely. That’s why his apology is sincere and Jews must accept it and move on. The Pope made anti-Muslim remarks and then he apologized. No one called for his resignation or told him to cancel his existence as a public figure. We have to foster an atmosphere of dialogue that can accept the honest truths of all points of view.

In the latest remarks, Mel Gibson drew a parallel between the United States and the doomed Mayan civilization; the subject of his latest movie. He said: “the precursors to a civilization that’s going under are the same, time and time again.” To illustrate his point he asked: “what’s human sacrifice? If not sending guys off to Iraq for no reason.”

Everyone is critical of the Iraq war but why did such benign remarks draw any attention at all? It is because of the Jewish connection and the implication that Jews are bringing this civilization down. Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, made the linkage for us by stating that "if Jews are responsible for all the world's wars, then by that logic, they are responsible for the war in Iraq.” He wants the 50-year old Oscar winning director to “put matters like that to rest. Until he does, it just hangs over him.”

But the following day Mel offered an apology to the doomed Mayans and not to the Jews. He said: “"Yesterday, when I compared the United States to the doomed Mayan civilization, I had no idea that there were any doomed Mayans still around. I was basically going on the assumption that since they were doomed a long time ago, I was pretty much in the clear."

We learned that even doomed Mayans can protest and their voice does not come from the grave. The National Coalition of Doomed Mayans issued an angry statement saying: “we Mayans may be doomed, but we have feelings.” The group is urging all doomed Mayans to boycott Gibson’s latest film. That should teach him a valuable lesson!

Gibson is a devout Christian and his politics is mostly conservative. He may have offered such scathing criticism of the Iraq war to appease the mostly anti-war Hollywood crowd. It seems like he needs to hire a political consultant these days, somebody like Dick Morris who advised Clinton. His anti-war remarks now probably alienated his core group of conservative supporters. His anti-Jewish remarks alienated the Hollywood crowd and Democrats; and his anti-Mayan remarks alienated the dead people of all bygone civilizations. Will all this affect his popularity or potential sales at the box office? Probably not, and I predict that the opposite will happen.

More people will see his movies than ever before. His remarks represent strong undercurrents in the political discourse. The Rapture Theory and the prophecy of the End Times are current topics discussed by most evangelists and media talk shows. Gibson seems to believe in these ideas and predicting the end of this world is a fulfillment of his convictions. He said: "I don't mean to be a doomsday guy, but the Mayan calendar does end in 2012, boys and girls." He seems to be giving us a hint about the end of our world as the United States falls to its doom like the Mayans did.

The concept of the End Times has been in the subconscious of man since the beginning of time, when he invented the idea the he was created in an instant by a Supreme Being we call God. Any race that has a starting point must also reach a Finish Line. If God created Adam about 10,000 years ago and started this human race then at some point we are going to get tired of running in this marathon. There will be an end to this race.

We will inevitably reach our doom because of the deeds of our own hands. That doesn’t mean the end of human existence. It is simply the end of the rat race that we have created with our own hands, where we turned ourselves into mere robots in a huge industrial machine.

It may also be the end of our racist thinking when we begin to see all humans as equals regardless of their “race, color, religion, or ethnicity.” There is always a silver lining in every cloud and the end of our current way of life might also be the starting point of the God-given promise of a spiritual way of life. Mel Gibson might be right after all when he said “I don't mean to be a doomsday guy.”

Neal AbuNab is a Michigan-based author of “The War on Terror and Democracy”- available at He is a commentator on Arab and Muslim affairs and his weekly column appears in the Arab American News. He can be reached at: