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A Frog's-eye view

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Saturday, August 31, 2002
 
Today's sites are reporting "US, Britain threaten to withdraw Jericho wardens", i.e. the wardens guarding the Fuad Shubaki and Ahmed Sa'adaat under the terms of the agreement that ended the seige on Arafat's Ramallah compound. Apparently, the wardens have been subject to harrassement by the Palestinians.

Is anyone surprised? Did anyone really think that the arangement would last long? How can you take a bunch of Americans and Brits, dump them in the Middle East amongst some of the most ruthless terrorists, and expect them to carry out their duties in any normal manner? It was obvious that this was another short-term game to save Arafat's hide.

Friday, August 30, 2002
 
Today's Jerusalem Post is filled with angry responses to British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sach's comments about the corrupting nature of Israel's war against the Palestinians, a summary of which is available at The Patroniser's website.

I agree entirely with Tal G. who tells us: "Jacky Levy on Army Radio's "Last Word" said cynically that he's sure that in a few hours some spokesman will announce that Rabbi Saks' words were taken out of context. Reading the Guardian's summary of the interview it's easy to imagine how they might have done that." Little that the Chief Rabbi said could be construed as terribly contentious, were it addressed to the right audience, namely, an audience that is genuinely concerned about the nature of Israeli society and of Jewish values. However, Sachs addressed these comments to perhaps the most anti-Israel newspaper in Britain, a newspaper that just happens to be publishing his book, "The Dignity of Difference".

The best piece of writing that I have seen on Sach's comments - and I cannot claim to have carried out a wide survey - comes from Douglas Davis, a London correspondent to the Jerusalem Post. The fact that Davis comes from London and understands well the slighter nuances of British society as a whole and Anglo-Jewry in particular makes this article especially worthwhile. Although Davis's article concludes "that the chief rabbinate has become little more than a platform of self-promotion and a stepping stone to greater glory - whatever and wherever that may be" , I feel that Davis has been a little too sparing in his criticisms of Sachs. He describes Sachs as a "muscular intellectual, one of the most brilliant men of his generation, with a breadth of knowledge and a clarity of vision that are harnessed to an eloquent tongue".

An eloquet tongue, certainly, and it was this tongue that charmed the powers that be into getting him the Chief Rabbinate in the first place. He was seen as the Great White Hope who could save Modern Orthodoxy from decline both the perils of Reform and the intransigence of the Ultra Orthodox. But it wasn't too long before Sachs was knifing his constituency in the back, sending nasty little messages about the Reform to Haredi Rabbis. Moreover, I am not convinced that he is one of the most brilliant men of his generation. A characteristic story may suffice. When asked some years back by British TV presenter and journalist Melvin Bragg whether he literally believed in Revelation at Sinai, Sachs replied that he didn't really know what happened at Sinai, and that he thinks that he would not really understand it even had he been present. However, at that time all sorts of new ideas came into the world. Perhaps it had something to do with the invention of writing. (I am citing all this from memory of course.) One doesn't have to be the most brilliant men of the generation to know that writing goes back at least a couple of thousand years before the supposed date of the Exodus.

If Sachs is expert at anything, it is at avoiding difficult theological issues (such as "What is the meaning of covenant if one doesn't believe in divine revelation?", a question that he almost addresses in many of his works but manages to just miss each time). I shall be honest: I have found little in Sach's writings that is worth reading. The historical background of the rise of Modern Orthodoxy seems to be based very heavily on the work the late Jacob Katz, a scholar of statue whose ideas, while not universally accepted, were always worth reading. To the best of my knowledge, he has written nothing of a truly scholarly nature on Judaism, and by all reports cannot hold his own with serious Talmudists. In fact, Sachs has given his time and energies as Chief Rabbi away from the Ango-Jewish community and towards upper circles of British society. He is, essentially, the apostle to the gentiles, of little relevance to the Jewish community itself.

The accusation that Sachs has no time for the Jewish community is primarily interested in himself is reflected in Davis's article, but more poignantly in a letter to the Jerusalem Post from Yona Baumel. The letter is mostly self-explanatory:

Sir - I remember visiting Jonathan Sacks several years ago on behalf of the IDF [Israeli Defense Force] soldiers missing in action. At the time the MIAs included not only my son Zecharia but Manchester-born Yossi Fink. During the five minutes the chief rabbi was able to spare us he looked at his watch continuously, despite the fact that the meeting had been pre-scheduled by the Jewish Board of Deputies. He did nothing for the MIAs. A better title for Sach's new book would be The Indignity of Indifference.


Sachs chose to make his comments in the British newspaper that is the least sympathetic to Israel, a fact that is well known to him. In doing so, he was essentially saying, "I'm not like them; I'm one of the good Jews", even though he must have known that making such a statement in such an arena would be very damaging to Israel in the propaganda war, a war that is as real as the fighting that is costing so many lives.

While considering Sach's prudence in opening his mouth, I recalled the lines of Henry V:

In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility.
But when the blast of war blows in our ears
Then imitate the actions of a tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard favoured rage.

However, on reflection, these verses seemed totally inappropriate. It may be the time to "diguise fair nature with hard favoured rage", but I hardly think that "modest stillness and humility" can be applied to the current Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth. Moreover, the real blast of war blows not in his ears; it blows in mine.


 
The attempted hijacking story has finally appeared on Al-Jazeera's site, hidden down in the "Europe and Israel" section. (Israel is a part of Europe, not of the Middle East.)

 
Nothing on Al-Jazeera's front page about the apparent attempt to hijack a plane by a man going to an Islamic conference in England. Apparently, airline hijackings are just daily events not worthy of coverage.

 
You have to love the BBC. One of my favourite spots on their website is the Talking Point section. Today, there they ask the question, "Should Saddam Hussein be set an arms deadline?" By far the best answer comes from an anonymous reader:

"I think no action should be taken unless the UN agrees. That is why we have the UN and we have no right to act with such arrogance and set our own terms and agenda on what is a global problem. We cannot allow our government to take us into a war without consulting the nation - they are OUR servants and should do what we, the electorate, elect them to do and not impose on us their own agendas. I am very very worried about the current situation and do not want to be dragged into a war I do not support. I am also worried about the situation with Saudi Arabia. Having lived in Saudi for four years I have nothing but the highest respect for their culture and think that the current US stance is causing nothing but trouble and any repercussions lie firmly at the feet of the Bush and Blair administration."
SCB, UK

Well, we have all seen how effective the UN has been in solving the world's problems. But what really fascinates me is the statement "Having lived in Saudi for four years I have nothing but the highest respect for their culture". Nothing but the highest respect? What, not even in iota of criticism? Presumably, SCB has nothing but the highest respect for totalitarian rule; for the huge social differentials, whereby some of the richest people in the world fail rule over a poor and illiterate society for their own benefit; for the subjugation of women; for the sponsorship of terrorism; for terrible racism (if SCB is not a Muslim then many sites would have been closed before him/her) etc. I am sure that there are many impressive elements of Saudi culture (during my brief visit to Abu Dhabi in 1986 I was certainly impressed at the architecture); however, to blind oneself completely to the nature of that totalitarian regime is ridiculous. It is also no reason not to go to war against Iraq. That decision must be taken on a ration basis, and since I have no spy satelites or secret intelligence sources I am certainly not qualified to make that decision. Apparently, BBC readers have access to sources unavailable to me.

Incidentally, I was going to put on something from the Arabic press, but Al-Ayyam have not updated their web-site this morning, and Al-Jazeera are mainly reporting the same stories that appear in the West. Given the large number of Arabic-reading countries and people, it's incredible that virtually all of the stories on their site refer to the Arab-Israel conflict.

Thursday, August 29, 2002
 
I received the interesting news today that the Jewish Encylopaedia is now available on-line. This 12-volume work, originally published between 1901-1906, presents a fascinating view of the Jewish world through the eyes of American Jewish academics at the start of the 20th century: a world in which the majority of Jews lived in Eastern Europe, a world in which little was known about many of the outlying Jewish communities, and a world in which a State of Israel was merely a dream. Of course, many of the articles are terribly out of date. The Cairo Geniza was discovered in 1896 and few of its incredible treasures had yet been published. The Dead Sea Scrolls were only discovered in 1947. Thousands of Jewish manuscripts lay in European libraries, many of them miscatalogued. And yet, in spite of all this, the Jewish Encyclopaedia has great charm. It was written by top-rate scholars, and its entries on Talmud and Jewish law (as well as lore) or still worth a look, even though they pre-date the Epstein-Lieberman era. Of course, the pieces on contemporary East European communities make for depressing reading now. As an historical document, it is well worth a glance, if only to see just how much things have changed.

A personal favourite of mine is the entry on Jewish Types (Anthropological), which concludes was a gestalt composite picture of what the average Jew looks like. Funnily enough, it looks like nobody I know.

 
Expect a Palestinian execution quite soon. Al-Jazeera has published that a Palestinian agent has confessed his role in the murder of Salah Shehade, the leader of the Izz ad-Din alQasaam brigades. Apparently, the suspect, 27 year old Akram ez-Zatme from Rafah, admitted at a press conference held in the security services' headquarters yesterday that he had passed over information that led to Israel's attack on Gaza that killed Shehade and several civilians. He said that the Israeli officer who recruited him called him several hours before the attack on Shehade and asked for information about Shehade's car when he arrived at his rented flat. Twenty minutes later the attack came. But Zatme focussed on the fact that there were other agents involved in the affair, and said that Israel had penetrated the circle of people who surround Shehade, and that those people would have to be brought to justice because the Secret Service officer [only] asked him to confirm things he already knew. Ez-Zatme then told the details of his recruitment to the security services, and confessed that this happened in August 2000, and that he received around 1000 shekels a month in return to the things demanded from him. He claimed that the agent lived in a settlement in Rafah. Ez-Zatme studies English as one of the Gazan universities, and has been under arrest by the Palestinian Security Services since 28th July.

No mention of this story on Al-Ayyam, the official Palestinian Daily.

"Dans ce pays-ci il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres." Voltaire, Candide, ch. 23.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002
 
I would like to thank all those people who have encouraged me in the Blogging over the last few days.

Some people expressed concern that this was going to turn out to be another of those Arab-Israel conflict Blogs, and wanted to see some more personal stuff. OK, we'll try. I discovered today that my teddy has a hernia and is in immediate need of an operation. Yesterday I dropped a bottle of frozen water on my Animal (the muppets) mug that I've had for over twenty years and broke the handle. It has now been repaired with Araldite. I have been listening tonight on the Frog Box to a recording by Paul Robeson called "Songs of Free Men" which includes a track entitled "Chassidic Chant" in which Robeson sings part of the Aramaic Kaddish (more on Aramaic another time). I think that will have to suffice for the personal gooey stuff. As we say, Different Blogs for Different Frogs (or as the humans put it: one man's meat is another man's poisson). If you don't like it, you can just Blog Off.

Incidentally, since I have still not been able to arrange Comments I would be happy to receive reactions through my froggy e-mail account, and I shall post those that most interest me. That is, if I can get through to my account. For some time today, every time I entered www.netscape.net into my navigator I was redirected to website that seems to specialize in human anatomy and reproduction. Most fascinating for a frog like me.

 
The leading story of the PNA's official newspaper Al-Ayyam today is the Temple Mount controversy. According to their version, the Israeli claims are incitement coming merely days after the commemoration of the burning of Al-Aqsa under the ears and eyes of the Israeli occupation. (It may be recalled that the mosque was set alight in 1969 by an Australian Protestant who suffered from mental illness. However, true to its character, Al-Ayyam links these things into the great conspiracy; see yesterday's summary.) The Muslim authorities responsible for the Temple Mount have declared that this is a new link in the Israeli occupiers' scheme to intervene in the affairs of Al-Aqsa under the guise of repairs and preservatin works which are carried out by the Islamic authorities, "the only body authorized to carry out repairs and preservation and all is connected with the Jerusalem holy compound from its foundations up to its walls on the four sides and all that goes with it, and its halls and its spaces", confirming that the rebuilding in 'al-Masla al-Marwani' ('Solomon's stables') has absolutely no connection with the cracking that has occurred in the Southern Wall.

The article contains the usual bold statements about how the only authority, representing all Muslims, is the Waqf. What is more interesting is the following: while, according to their claim, they are the sole authority and are the only ones empowered to carry out repairs, the article states "The [Muslim] Organizations placed on the occupying Israeli authorities full responsibility for any damage or harm or misfortune [Arabic 'mass' like Hebrew negi`a or pegi`a, means touching, but also misfortune, attack, or violation of the sacred] that befall the Blessed Al-Aqsa mosque and the holy sites.]"

The Waqf's engineer, Adnan al-Husseini, denies the Israeli claims that the Southern Wall, that adjoins the Western Wall, is in danger of falling. He says that the problem has been undergoing treatment since the 1970s, and that the Waqf supervises this as part of its duties, stating that they began the repairs work seven months ago. He is cited say "On no account will we allow any Israeli party to intervene in the affairs of the Holy Jerusalem compound". He states that the Israelis are entirely responsible for the dangers that threaten the mosque, particularly because of the excavation works that they are carrying out underneath it.

He also says in the article "We began repair the Western Wall, and there is a need to repair the Southern wall which is the subject investigation". He complains that for two years the Al-Aqsa mosque has been under siege, during which the Israeli forces have prevented the bringing in of building materials for the repairs and preservation works in the Mosque. He confirmed that the Muslim Authorities had completed about 20% of the repairs, but the Israeli police had stopped them claiming that the building was dangerous, and demanded the carrying out of expert studies and investigations to establish the dangers to the wall, indicating that the purpose was "no more and no less that to stop the work". He added "If things had been allowed to go on as they were, the work would almost be in its final stages".

He clarified that the wall is in need of repairs to maintain its role as the most important wall of the Blessed Al-Aqsa mosque, and expressed his hope that the prevention of bringing in building materials would be stopped. He confirmed that the Waqf was not carrying out any excavations, and that its activities are focused on the body of the wall that was built in a number of stages, indicating that part of the wall was in need of preservation and that he preferred that this would be carried out immediately so that no complications set in.

He said that there was bulging in the wall, and that the Waqf has been aware of it since the 1970s, but that it has not changed for a long time and that there is no danger.

The article ends by quoting Israeli figures, without comment. Interesting is the reference to Eli Yishai as a member of the “extremist religious party Shas”. The last word is of course given to a nameless Palestinian archeologist who confirms that the Waqf have undertaken the necessary steps to support the wall and that there is no danger that it will fall.

The article is typical in structure of an article in the Palestinian press. First, the "anonymous voice" of the journalist describes the story: The Islamic authorities condemn the Israeli incitement, that comes just days after ... etc. Then they state, using the voice of the journalist, the Palestinian position. That position is then repeated by direct citations from the interviewees. These interviewees here make various accusations: it's all Israel's fault. They will be held responsible if the wall does come tumbling down. They had better be careful not to defile the sanctuary. It's all a great conspiracy. Then we get citations from the Israeli side that are reasonably accurate. Finally, we get the confirmation from the un-named Palestinian expert that really the Waqf are 100% OK. The message is repeated again and again by both the journalistic voice and the interviewees.

It is articles like this that represent a large degree of the Palestinian incitement against Israel. Although the article does discuss a current issue and presents the Israeli claims, they are dismissed off-hand and the story is turned on its head: Israel is inciting and preventing the Waqf from carrying out its duties, thus endangering the Al-Aqsa mosque; the wicked Israelis want to close the Marwan prayer-hall. The Israeli claim (which incidentally is supported by aerial photographs and eye-witness accounts, including some by Israeli archaeologists who dressed up as Muslims to check out the place) that the excavations of the Marwan prayer hall (= Solomon's Stables) have exacerbated the structural weaknesses of the Southern Wall are dismissed by the counter-claim of "we didn't excavate". If I were a Muslim reading this article, I would say "Al-Aqsa is in danger".


Tuesday, August 27, 2002
 
Well, I spent some time today translating a fascinating article from Al-Quds al-Arabi, an Arabic news service from London, about the machinations behind the negotiations with the Hamas and the Gaza-Bethlehem deal. Only when I got to the end did I discover that in fact it is a translation of a Hebrew article by Danny Rubinstein published in Haaretz yesterday, and available on the web in English! Well, I guess even Ribbity Frogs fall in to the Toad Trap sometimes. Comparing my English translation to the original Hebrew I can only say that they're quite close. Moreover, it was quite a surprise to discover that Al-Quds al-Arabi runs articles like that about Arafat.

The concordance is nearly read, so blogging should pick up again some time.

 
Well known America- and Israel-lover David Clark (see him in action here) discusses in London's The Patroniser the planned American attack on Iraq. While course he cannot resist a dig at Israel ("Nor will it do to argue that Iraq should be invaded because it has a nuclear weapons programme and stands in systematic violation of international law - not at a time when Israel, also guilty on both counts, continues to enjoy American patronage. One doesn't need to accept moral equivalence to see the double standards"), he correctly points out the Britain's left has let its anti-Americanism run away with itself. As long as Saddam was regarded as an American stooge (during the Iran-Iraq war) the British left did not cease to criticise him; now suddenly he's a proud "ethnic" fighting off American imperialistic aggression.

Some of Clark's arguments are misleading; he likes to think of himself as something of an expert in military matters and since September 11th has been desperately trying to convince people that he's an expert on the Middle East. For example he writes:

"Suggestions that Iraq sponsored September 11 or that it poses a direct threat to the US lack credibility. Saddam Hussein is an old-fashioned practitioner of state power. The nihilism of Osama bin Laden is almost as alien to his strategic outlook as it is to ours. Saddam is undoubtedly seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction, but he will be dead of old age before Iraq acquires ballistic missiles capable of reaching the American homeland."

This assumes that Osama bin Laden is a nihilist rather than a deeply devout Muslim who takes seriously the Qur'an's commandent for Muslims to fight non-believers, particularly those who have encroached upon Islamic lands; that Saddam does not sponsor terrorist movements such as Bin Laden's (in fact, he openly does, not regarding them as "terrorists"); and that Saddam would not need long range ballistic missiles to launch a nuclear offensive against America, which, as we have seen, is not necessarily the case.

All these niggling little details aside (they would be less significant were Clark not to present himself as an expert on the Middle East and military affairs; in fact, he has an MA in military history from the University of London), it's nice that somebody who is identified with "the Left" in Europe (and more "left" than Lionel Blair's New Labour) can still recognise a genocidal tyrant. I am reminded of the former communist Michael Foot, then leader of Britain's Labour Party, who supported Thatcher's strong stance against Argentina's Galtieri following the Falklands invasion, arguing that fascist dictators must be fought, not appeased. Foot belonged to the generation that grew up on the Spanish Civil War and the fight against Hitler. Some of his younger contemporaries in the Labour Party thought that appeasement was by far the better policy, and that in order to atone for its colonial past, Britain should allow modern dictators a free reign, provided they came from third world countries.

However, Clark concludes:

"There is no shortage of strong arguments for doubting the advisability of a military adventure to change the government of Iraq, but denying that there is a problem that needs to be dealt with is not among them. The anti-war movement would be altogether more effective if it acknowledged some of these uncomfortable dilemmas and dropped the easy sloganising of the past."

From this I take it that he identifies himself as part of the anti-war movement, though he is an enlightened member of that movement who knows that Saddam is a vicious bastard. Like all good-hearted folk, Clark is opposed to war and opposed to oppression. Unfortunately, he does not provide an alternative answer. It would be nice if the master strategist Clark would inform us simple folk just how he would deal with the militaristic dictator Saddam Hussein when the people in charge are interested in hearing his advice again. Let us not forget: Clark is a FORMER foreign office special adviser, to none other than the much loved Robin "out at the cabinet reshuffle" Cook.



 
I don't think I made it clear enough in my last entry that the point of the article in Al-Ayyam is to claim that the Al-Aqsa mosque is in danger from Jewish fanatics (the article employed the Arabic term 'mutatarrifiin', which means "extremists"). Ironically, the Jerusalem Post is reporting today that the Al-Aqsa mosque really is in danger, but the danger is that the Temple Mount is going to collapse due to poor care.

 
Al-Ayyam, the official Palestinian newspaper published in Ramallah, is carrying an article on Ateret Cohanim's establishing a military academy next to Al-Aqsa (actually, next to the "little Western Wall"). Al-Ayyam present this as story as based upon documents intended for Jewish funders that they managed to obtain. However, they need not have gone creeping round the rubbish bins of wealthy American Jews. The same information is freely available at Ateret Cohanim's website. The specific project to which they seem to be referring is the rebuilding of Beit Danon, which is also mentioned on the site. The article contains no new information, but is classic Al-Ayyam reporting: accurate information, which lends credence to the article, is mixed in with irrelevant information such as supposed links between Ateret Cohanim and the Mossad and General Security Services.

Monday, August 26, 2002
 
I promised the interesting article on the current state of the PNA, but then this afternoon somebody called me and reminded me that I'd promised to proof-read for him 1500 pages of a concordance by the 1st September. Ooops, sort of slipped my mind. Anyhow, I shall return to that detailed summary I am preparing. In the meantime, here's a little foretaste:

Al-Jazeera has a long article on the state of the Palestine National Authority, with some interesting comments about Arafat. It states that Arafat tried to ‘maneuver’ his way out of the reforms using the methods that he has employed throughout his political life, and that he was ‘gambling’ on local political changes that would somewhat alter the balance of powers and allow him to escape the pressures being applied to him. However, Bush’s speech brought him to sense the strength of the American determination to be rid of him and the end of cooperation with him. This pushed Arafat into immediately trying to contain the decision to remove him and to maintain for himself a political role. This he did by playing his last card, namely the security services, in a gamble whose outcome is not guaranteed.

Through Arafat could survive the change of some of the security services’ leaders without any consequences, such as Hahmud abu Marzuk, the head of National Security, and Razi Jibali, leader of the Palestinian Police, his survival by encroaching upon the Preventative Security Service was like sticking a hand into a hornets’ nest: no sooner had the changes begun to take effect than it flared up, indicating the weakness of Arafat’s performance and the fact that opposition to his decisions had become a regular matter as the Authority’s powerful men made it clear to him who they are over the smallest of matters.

The article describes the relationship between Arafat and Rajoub as “like the relationship between a father and the petulant son”. The relationship was characterized as difficult and estranged throughout the last eight years, i.e. the period of the PNA, since Rajoub cooperated with Arafat in a conflicting manner throughout those years, during which his star was in the ascendant, showing loyalty on the one hand while not following Arafat’s directives on the other.

Arafat had already tried to get rid of Rajoub twice, most recently three years ago, and to appoint Hassin a-Sheik in his place, one of the Fatah leaders in the West Bank, but Arafat’s attempts failed, and Rajoub both won the struggle for survival and emerged stronger than he had ever been before, remaining at the head of the security forces.

Rajoub retained his strength by depending upon the support of the Tanzim-Fatah in the Palestinian Territories led by the members of the Tanzim from abroad, something that many of the Authority men lacked, in addition to fact that the Preventative Security represented the greatest portal for organizing Fatah elements. It also has greater resources at its disposal than any other security force or ministry in the PNA, which allowed Rajoub to enjoy unique power amongst the members of his organization.

All this pushed the members of his force into rebelling against Arafat’s decision to appoint Zuheir Munasira as the head of Preventative Security in place of Rajoub, since those changes might eliminate the material benefits that the members of the Preventative Security monopolized, and this may explain the demonstrations that were held in several Palestinian cities in support of Rajoub.

Al-Jazeera notes style of Rajoub’s dismissal from office. It says that the decision was not taken lightly, since it was already known that Arafat had tried to remove Rajoub in the past and failed. Arafat therefore sought refuge in the method of ‘weather balloons’, which he applied after his attaining the leadership of the PLO. After the media had discussed Rajoub’s removal from his position, Rajoub announced that he had not heard of his dismissal from office and instructed his men that they must not carry out anyone’s orders other than his own. Meanwhile, Arafat send Jamil e-Tarifi, the Authority’s Minister for Civil Affairs, to inform Rajoub of the decision to dismiss him, while Arafat himself informed Zuheir Munasara that he had been appointed the head of Preventative Security instead of Rajoub. Arafat had hoped by this to leave all the options open, and if it became clear that the changes would face strong opposition, he could reverse the decision by stating that he had not approved this step and that these were merely rumours intended to harm the PNA. However, Rajoub’s demand for a Presidential Order [i.e. in writing] coming from Arafat personally left Arafat no choice but to inform Rajoub of the decision personally at a meeting he held with him.

On the face of things, it would seem that the exchange of Rajoub by Munasara is real change of direction and role for Preventative Security, since one leader was dismissed and another appointed, while the force remained as it was and there was no reduction in the number of its members or the stature of its security role. But in practice, these changes remove Rajoub from the important center of power and make the head of Preventative Security subject to the Minister for the Interior. Accordingly, Arafat has accomplished two things: first, he has removed Rajoub, whom Israel and the United States regarded as a partner or at least as a secondary partner in the Authority’s new leadership, and in this way Arafat can appear to have carried out the demanded reforms while at the same time stopping the emergence of a an alternative leadership for the moment.

The Waxing of Dahlan and the Waning of Rajoub

The announcement of Muhammed Dahlan’s appointment as Palestinian National Security advisor (a position recently created in the Authority) came to indicate that the axis of Muhammed Dahlan, the former head of Preventative Security in the Gaza strip, and Muhammed Rashid, economic advisor to Arafat, is will enjoy preferential treatment in any changes that take place in the leadership of the PNA.

Muhammed Dahlan’s emergence was an essential part in any change in the leadership of the PNA, and coincided with the wave of structural changes the PNA required. The rise of Dahlan co-incided with the fall of Rajoub, indicating the continuing struggle in the authority’s Security Services over power bases.

The disagreement between Dahlan and Rajoub began to emerge after the attack of the Israeli occupation forces on the Preventative Security headquarters in Beitunia in the West Bank, and the arrest of several members of the forces and Hamas activites, and the outburst by Dahlan and his ally Muhammed Rashid accusing Rajoub of failing to inform Arafat of the release of those arrested by Rajoub, and that Rajoub had acted in collusion with Israel. At the same time, Rajoub protested in defense that it was Dahlan who received information that the Americans would not permit the Israeli army to attack Rajoub’s headquarters. Similarly, Rajoub indicated that Dahlan and his ally Rashid were behind the two deals regarding the Church of the Nativity and the lifting of the siege on Arafat, and that these were the deals that encountered great criticism amongst the Palestinian people.


More to follow when I've finished reading the 1500 pages.

Thanks to the Bloggers who gave me advice on pictures. Unfortunately, the picture I have is not currently on-line.

Top story on Al-Jazeera at the moment: The Gult State Qatar has announced that it opposes any attack on Iraq.

 
The Jerusalem Post is reporting that Ahmad Sa'adat, the former head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, has gone on hunger strike. I personally feel very threatened by that. Does anyone out there remember Bobby Sands?

 
Al-Jazeera has an interesting article on the current state of the PNA, including the story of Rajub's removal from office and Dahlan's rise to power. I am preparing a summary and hope to post it later. I checked Al-Ayyam, the Palestinian daily that comes out in Ramallah, for notice of the Tulkarm execution. As expected, nothing.

 
The top story on Al-Jazeera at the moment is that American war-planes bombed Iraq on Sunday morning (the Basra region some 549 km south of Bagdad, according to the report), killing 8 people and wounding another 9. The report comes from the official Iraqi newsagency. Still no news on the Tulkarm execution, though.

Sunday, August 25, 2002
 
Thanks to the anonymous blogger who helped me get this blog on line. I'm still working on "comments" and pictures. Which is a pity, because I have a great picture of Arafat that I'd love to post.

The press (e.g. Ha'aretz) are now reporting the public execution of a mother of seven. The Boob unforunately forgot to mention this fact, only reporting that she was 35 years old. Al-Jazeera, the leading news-carrier of the Arabic-reading public, doesn't mention it at all. It does, however, carry the good news that Iran will not remain neutral if Iraq is attacked. We shall have to wait till tomorrow morning to see if the Palestinian press will mention the execution of the woman.

 
More news coming in on Abu Nidal's mysterious death. Al-Jazeera led me to London's Sunday Telegraph (lengthy registration required, I'm afraid), which suggests that Abu Nidal was shot at Saddam's orders after refusing to train Al-Qa'ida forces. The suggestion that Abu Nidal was killed at Saddam's behest sounds very likely, and was already circulating last week in the Arabic press, but would the argument really be over his refusal to train Al-Qa'ida? It seems a little suspicious. It's as though somebody is jumping on the Abu Nidal story to link Baghdad with Al-Qa'ida, just when the Americans are having problems raising their anti-Baghdad coalition. And the source of this revelation? "Western diplomats" and a "US official".



Saturday, August 24, 2002
 
Ribbit

RibbityFrogBlog is now on-line, keeping a uniquely frog's eye view on the world. All contributions and hints welcome.