jazzoLOG: Who Are You Supporting In The Iraqi Election Tomorrow?    
 Who Are You Supporting In The Iraqi Election Tomorrow?5 comments
picture15 Dec 2005 @ 10:54, by Richard Carlson

Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.

---Lao Tzu

To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common---this is my symphony.

---William Henry Channing

Our reason has driven all away. Alone at last, we end up by ruling over a desert.

---Albert Camus

The picture is from a Fox News PhotoEssay entitled Iraq Vote.

I understand President Bush is blaming faulty intelligence for the White House Christmas card this year. It greets his supporters with "Best wishes for a holiday season of hope and happiness." The CIA hadn't told him the War on Christmas has escalated to the incendiary point shots would be fired over his use of "holiday." John Breneman says Rove quickly reworded the inscription to read, "Merry Birth Anniversary of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior who died on the cross for our sins so that we may ascend to the Kingdom of Heaven." [link] The President has planned an address to cadets at West Point later today to wish everyone a "Merry Christmas, especially all our friends in the Muslim world," and of course to credit the CIA with doing a heck of a job.

So they're voting in Iraq. Congress is poised to contribute another $50 billion dollars for the war over there, as the Pentagon is requesting $100 billion beyond that right away. [link] With that kind of cash on the ---er--- barrelhead, it occurs to me you probably are watching the Iraqi election pretty closely. After all, the freely elected democracy in Iraq is the real reason we're over there. Or is it the latest reason?

I would never accuse anyone of Bush's stature to be a flip-flopper, but is there a logical consistency to all this? Didn't he say the other day that even if he'd known the intelligence was faulty (and whatever happened to the Downing Street Memo?) we'd have staged Shock and Awe? I think he did. Saddam was a bad man and had to go. And yesterday he said, "Given Saddam's history and the lessons of September the 11th, my decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision." [link] Everyone knows Saddam and 9/11 are linked.

Since September 2nd, and Katrina, Bush has been on the campaign trail (paid for by whose tax-cut dollars?) to recover the polls. And it's working like a charm. James Ridgeway has chronicled the whole trip with a timeline that Rove must have planned out on his computer. [link] Step by step Bush has escalated his rhetoric until we're right back where we started. The only thing he hasn't repeated is Saddam was buying yellowcake in Niger. Hello Patrick Fitzgerald, are you still out there?

So what will the election in Iraq accomplish for the Bush team? William Rivers Pitt has organized the factions and issues for us, and set forth the possibilities. Here's the whole essay~~~

Meet the New Boss
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Wednesday 14 December 2005

There is an election taking place in Iraq on Friday. According to those who still maintain some kind of hope that the wretched situation over there can be salvaged at the ballot box, this election will be a turning point. "If the result is seen to be fair and the government elected for the next four years is accepted as broadly representative of the interests of most Iraqis," writes Liz Sly in the Chicago Tribune, "there is a real chance that the insurgent violence and the sectarian rivalries that are pushing the country close to civil war will abate."

This vote, the third since the occupation began, is meant to elect a 275-person parliamentary body called the Council of Representatives. All 18 Iraqi provinces will be participating in the election. The Sunnis, who mostly boycotted the elections last January, are expected to participate in far larger numbers this time around. Leading Sunni clerics have issued a fatwa which decrees that Sunni participation in this election is a religious duty.

This election will be no panacea, despite what the hopefuls think. Every electoral model has the Shia and Kurds assuming dominant positions in the Iraqi government. Even if every Sunni in Iraq goes to the polls, they make up only 20% of the overall population. Electoral formulas meant to enhance Sunni power within an Iraqi government will still leave them deeply in the minority.

A collection of leading Sunni parties called the Iraqi Consensus Front has been pushing a straightforward slogan: "Our goal is to get the invaders out and rebuild the country." If their minority status prevents the Sunnis from achieving their first goal according to their wishes, they may well return to violence to achieve their second goal. A leaflet was broadly distributed in the Azamiyah neighborhood of Baghdad last Monday. Sunni Arabs may have a chance to advance their cause politically in the upcoming elections, read the leaflet, but "the fighting will continue with the infidels and their followers."

The campaigning itself, which ended on Tuesday, has been a half-baked farce all too reminiscent of America's watered-down and money-driven electioneering. Thanks to the assassinations and attempted assassinations of several candidates, and thanks to the ever-present threat of violence, almost all campaigning has been done via television. Because television time is prohibitively expensive, only the campaigns with significant financial resources will ever become known to the Iraqi people. Hundreds of viable candidates, a number of them secular, don't stand a chance next to well-funded religious campaigns whose cash comes from unknown and potentially dangerous outside sources.

Juan Cole, professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History at the University of Michigan, does not see how this election can possibly be seen as credible. "As with the Jan. 30 elections," writes Cole, "the Dec. 15 elections are not being held in accordance with international standards of fairness, and cannot be. Proper elections would require that security be provided to voters and candidates. But there is no security. In many parts of the center-north, voters will have no guarantee of coming home alive. The only way the vote will happen at all is that the US military has forbidden all vehicular traffic, so everyone has to walk for the next few days. This tactic prevents car bombings from disrupting the elections, but it is a desperate measure and not a sign of an election that could be certified as free and fair."

In one sense, however, one can appreciate how difficult it must be to mount an effective political campaign in Iraq. Beyond the real possibility of getting shot, a candidate must face a divided populace that does not, according to a recent ABC News/Time poll taken in Iraq, seem to know what it wants. Make sense of these numbers: 90% believe Iraq needs democracy, but 91% believe Iraq needs a single strong leader; 48% want the mullahs to rule, but only 13% want an Islamic state; 48% think religious leaders should rule, while 49% think military leaders should rule.

The most gifted and adept American politician would struggle to develop a coherent message in this situation. Half the populace wants religious leadership, half the populace wants military leadership, and simultaneously the vast majority believes either of these is amenable to democracy. The only issue the Iraqi people have a clear consensus on is the occupation itself; by large majorities, they want the Americans out.

Imagine, for a moment, that the Iraqi elections on Friday come off without a hitch. No one is killed, maimed or intimidated into voting for a particular candidate by having a gun barrel put to his head. There are no hanging chads, no mayhem or madness. What will the Iraqi and American people get out of the incredible blood and treasure we have poured into this conflict?

We will get an Iraqi government dominated by known and notorious terrorists. We will get an Iraqi government dominated by Iran.

The Shia will walk away from Friday with the lion's share of control over the Iraqi government. The two most powerful Shia political parties, the ones that will come out of this with the big wins, are the Dawa Party and the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is known by the initials SCIRI. Both were founded and funded by Iran in the 1980s. Both have a history of spectacular violence against the United States and other nations. "These guys are murderers," says former CIA agent Bob Baer, who dealt with Dawa during the 1980s. "They were the core element that blew up our embassy in Beirut in 1983."

Paul Mulshine, writing last week for the New Jersey Star-Ledger, encapsulates this amazing turn of events. "What would you call someone who wants to hand over control of Iraq to a group of terrorists that first made its reputation by blowing up a couple of American embassies?" wrote Mulshine. "I'd call him President Bush. The group is called the Dawa party. In the early 1980s, Dawa terrorists bombed our embassies in Kuwait and in Lebanon. They were universally recognized as vicious America-hating, Iranian-supported terrorists. Now they're part of the coalition that is expected to win control of the new Iraqi parliament in Thursday's elections."

"The other coalition partners aren't much better," continued Mulshine. "The sanest group on the Shi'a side is the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. A 1984 Washington Post story portrayed the group, known by its initials SCIRI, as 'a kind of parent organization for four operational terrorist groups.' SCIRI was founded in Iran a couple of years earlier by the Ayatollah Khomeini with the goal of taking control of Iraq. Now, they're about to do so, courtesy of George W. Bush."

A walk through history serves to remind those afflicted with short attention spans of who exactly is about to take control of Iraq.

A story from US News and World Report dated December 26, 1983, titled "The New Face of Mideast Terrorism" describes the bombing of the American embassy in Kuwait: "The terrorist who detonated the truckload of explosives at the US Embassy in Kuwait was identified as a 25-year-old Iraqi belonging to an outlawed Moslem unit, the Iranian Dawa Group."

A story from the Associated Press dated February 11, 1984, titled "Trial of Bomb Blast Defendants Opens" describes the trial of 21 people charged with bombing American and French embassies: "Of the other defendants, 17 are Iraqis; two, Lebanese, three, Kuwaitis and two are stateless. Most of them said they belonged to Al-Dawa (Islamic Call) Party, an Iraqi movement of Shiite Moslem fanatics who are pro-Iranian."

A story from the Associated Press dated December 27, 1986, titled "Five Groups Claim Responsibility, Iraq Accuses Iran" describes the attempted hijacking of an Iraqi jetliner that resulted in the deaths of over 60 people: "The hijackers acted in cooperation with the Dawa party of pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiites."


A sharp indictment of SCIRI and its ties to Iran and terrorism can be found, of all places, within the pages of the report put forth by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. This commission, put together to investigate the events of and leading up to September 11, heard expert testimony from Mark Gasiorowski, professor of Political Science and Director of International Studies at Louisiana State University.

In his testimony, Gasiorowski stated, "From the early 1980s until about 1996, Iran was directly involved in a wide variety of terrorist activities. It provided extensive support to Islamist terrorist groups such as Hezbollah (in Lebanon), Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the Afghan Northern Alliance and its precursors." Gasiorowski goes on to state that Iran continues to support several terrorist groups, and includes SCIRI among them. "They are most strongly committed to Hezbollah and SCIRI," said Gasiorowski, "with which they have worked closely for over 20 years."

Excellent. It seems the best path to electoral victory in Iraq, besides kissing babies and avoiding assassins, involves a long history of terrorism and extreme violence against the United States. Former CIA agent Bob Baer stated in Mulshine's article, "So now we have a Shia terrorist state. Was this worth $6 billion a month?"

Almost certainly, we will hear apologists for both the Bush administration and the invasion downplay the incredible terrorist histories of the groups about to take over the Iraqi government. "Sure they were terrorists," we will hear, "but they're OK now." In other words, they are terrorists, but they are our terrorists.

Saddam Hussein was our terrorist in Iraq for years, so long as he directed his terrorism primarily at Iran. Osama bin Laden was our terrorist in Afghanistan for years, so long as he directed his terrorism at the Soviet Union. Anyone seeing a pattern developing here?

Just how interested is Iran in Friday's elections? The New York Times reported on Wednesday that, "Less than two days before nationwide elections, the Iraqi border police seized a tanker on Tuesday that had just crossed from Iran filled with thousands of forged ballots, an official at the Interior Ministry said. The Iranian truck driver told the police under interrogation that at least three other trucks filled with ballots had crossed from Iran at different spots along the border." American democracy at its finest, it seems.

It is amazing to consider that Americans, who have almost completely lost faith in the vote as an effective means of political participation at home, are somehow expected to believe that this vote will solve Iraq's incredible problems. One wonders how long it will be before the Vanishing Voter Project opens an office in Baghdad. In Iraq, of course, vanishing voters carry an entirely different meaning.

Don't get your hopes up come Friday. The worst possible outcome will involve horrific bloodshed and unrest. The best possible outcome will place two notoriously deadly terrorist organizations in charge of Iraq. Was this trip really necessary?

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.

© : t r u t h o u t 2005

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15 Dec 2005 @ 20:19 by vaxen : Shia pets:
Oh, sorry, that should be 'Chia pets,' yes? The whole thing is farcicle except for the butchered collaterals. And the Bush blames it all on ''faulty intelligence.'' And the Neo Cons are all --- can you say: ''Jewish?''

"Old mother Hubbard went to the cupboard to get her poor daughter a dress...

"Because television time is prohibitively expensive, only the campaigns with significant financial resources will ever become known to the Iraqi people."

Duh, as is also the case here in Fascist Amerika. Of course anyone who knows the real meaning of ''Democracy'' will know just why this is always the 'case.'

It came upon a midnight clear...
Out of Beit Lechem it roared...
It comes this way, now...

Happy Holly days, jazzo...
to you and yours.

21 Dec 2005 @ 21:45 by Quinty @ : Toward a theocracy?

Today's Robert Scheer column: December 21, 2005


December 21, 2005 -- For the Bush White House, the good news from Iraq just
never stops. But the joy that President Bush has expressed over the country's
latest election, though more restrained than his infamous "Mission
Accomplished" speech, will similarly come back to haunt him.

Soon after Bush spoke of the Iraqi election as "a landmark day in the history
of liberty," early returns representing 90 percent of the ballots cast in the
Iraq election established that the clear winners were Shiite and Sunni
religious parties not the least bit interested in Western-style democracy or
individual freedom -- including such extremists as Muqtada al-Sadr, whose
fanatical followers have fought pitched battles with U.S. troops.

The silver lining, of course, is that the election did see broad participation,
if not particularly clean execution. And because all of the leading parties say
they want the United States to leave on a clear and public time line, this
should provide adequate cover for a staged but complete withdrawal from a
sovereign country that we had no right to invade in the first place.

What we will leave behind, after hundreds of billions of dollars and tens of
thousands of lost lives, will be a long ways from the neoconservative fantasy
of creating a compliant democracy in the heart of the Middle East. It is absurd
for Bush to assert that the election "means that America has an ally of growing
strength in the fight against terror," ignoring how he has "lost" Iraq to the
influence and model of "Axis of Evil" Iran.

Tehran's rogue regime, which has bedeviled every U.S. president since Jimmy
Carter, now looms larger than ever over the region and most definitely over its
oil. "Iran wins big in Iraq's election," reads an Asia Times headline, speaking
a truth that American policy makers and much of the media is bent on ignoring:
"The Shiite religious coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), not only held
together, but also can be expected to dominate the new 275-member National
Assembly for the next four years," the paper predicts based on the returns to
date. "Former premier Ayad Allawi's prospects of leading the new government
seem virtually nil. And Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Accord suffered a
shattering defeat."

Allawi and Chalabi are the Iraqi exiles and U.S. intelligence "assets" who
played such a huge role in getting the United States into this war. Chalabi, in
particular, will go down in history as one of the great con artists of all
time, managing to feed phony intelligence to the White House, the New York
Times and countless other power players who found his lies convenient for one
reason or another. Now, despite -- or, more likely, because of -- their long
stints on the U.S. payroll, both of these wannabe George Washingtons have been
overwhelmingly rejected by their countrymen.

Chalabi, long the darling of the Pentagon, seems headed to obtaining less than
1 percent of the vote nationwide and will fail to win his own seat. Allawi's
slate, favored more by the CIA, will end up in the low teens.

As much as one should despise the role played by those two men in getting us
into this mess, their abject failure is not a good thing for they carried the
banner of a more modern and secular Iraq, which is essential to peace and human
rights progress. But the Iraqi people will have to come to that truth on their
own and not as a result of foreign intervention that only fuels the most
irrational political and religious forces.

Unfortunately, it is hardly an advertisement for our democratic way of life
that the American people were so easily deceived as to the reasons for this
war. Or that our president resists the condemnation of torture, renders
captured prisoners to be interrogated in the savage prisons of Uzbekistan and
Syria, and claims an unrestrained right to spy on U.S. citizens.

Nor does it help that this president is so publicly bent on intruding
government-imposed religious values into American civil life, while urging
secular tolerance upon the Islamic world. Or that he remains so blind to the
reality of life in that world that he still does not grasp that Saddam Hussein
and Osama bin Laden were on opposite sides of the enormous struggle over the
primacy of religion in the Arab world.

Iraq, for all of its massive deficiencies, was not a center of religious
fanaticism before the U.S. invasion, and the Islamic fanatics that are the
president's sworn enemy in the so-called "war on terror" did not have a
foothold in the country. Now, primitive religious fundamentalism forms the
dominant political culture in Iraq and the best outcome for U.S. policy is the
hope that Shiite and Sunni fanatics can check each other long enough for the
United States to beat a credible retreat and call it a victory, albeit a
pyrrhic one.

E-mail Robert Scheer at rscheer@truthdig.com

Copyright 2005 Robert Scheer  

1 Jan 2006 @ 12:14 by jazzolog : Auld Lang Syne—Eng: “old long since”
or something like that. Hello Scotland!

Anyway, lest we forget...let's think back to a year ago, and the journey of 2005. O come on, it's not really going to be a Year in Review---just sort of~~~

Heckuva job, Bushie
--Or, A Year Ago...

Paul Krugman, The New York Times, December 30, 2005

A year ago, everyone expected President Bush to get his way on Social Security. Pundits warned Democrats that they were making a big political mistake by opposing plans to divert payroll taxes into private accounts.

A year ago, everyone thought Congress would make Mr. Bush's tax cuts permanent, in spite of projections showing that doing so would lead to budget deficits as far as the eye can see. But Congress hasn't acted, and most of the cuts are still scheduled to expire by the end of 2010.

A year ago, Mr. Bush made many Americans feel safe, because they believed that he would be decisive and effective in an emergency. But Mr. Bush was apparently oblivious to the first major domestic emergency since 9/11. According to Newsweek, aides to Mr. Bush finally decided, days after Hurricane Katrina struck, that they had to show him a DVD of TV newscasts to get him to appreciate the seriousness of the situation.

A year ago, before "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" became a national punch line, the rising tide of cronyism in government agencies and the rapid replacement of competent professionals with unqualified political appointees attracted hardly any national attention.

A year ago, hardly anyone outside Washington had heard of Jack Abramoff, and Tom DeLay's position as House majority leader seemed unassailable.

A year ago, Dick Cheney, who repeatedly cited discredited evidence linking Saddam to 9/11, and promised that invading Americans would be welcomed as liberators - although he hadn't yet declared that the Iraq insurgency was in its "last throes" - was widely admired for his "gravitas."

A year ago, Howard Dean - who was among the very few prominent figures to question Colin Powell's prewar presentation to the United Nations, and who warned, while hawks were still celebrating the fall of Baghdad, that the occupation of Iraq would be much more difficult than the initial invasion - was considered flaky and unsound.

A year ago, it was clear that before the Iraq war, the administration suppressed information suggesting that Iraq was not, in fact, trying to build nuclear weapons. Yet few people in Washington or in the news media were willing to say that the nation was deliberately misled into war until polls showed that most Americans already believed it.

A year ago, the Washington establishment treated Ayad Allawi as if he were Nelson Mandela. Mr. Allawi's triumphant tour of Washington, back in September 2004, provided a crucial boost to the Bush-Cheney campaign. So did his claim that the insurgents were "desperate." But Mr. Allawi turned out to be another Ahmad Chalabi, a hero of Washington conference rooms and cocktail parties who had few supporters where it mattered, in Iraq.

A year ago, when everyone respectable agreed that we must "stay the course," only a handful of war critics suggested that the U.S. presence in Iraq might be making the violence worse, not better. It would have been hard to imagine the top U.S. commander in Iraq saying, as Gen. George Casey recently did, that a smaller foreign force is better "because it doesn't feed the notion of occupation."

A year ago, Mr. Bush hadn't yet openly reneged on Scott McClellan's 2003 pledge that "if anyone in this administration was involved" in the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity, that person "would no longer be in this administration." Of course, some suspect that Mr. Bush has always known who was involved.

A year ago, we didn't know that Mr. Bush was lying, or at least being deceptive, when he said at an April 2004 event promoting the Patriot Act that "a wiretap requires a court order. ...When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution."

A year ago, most Americans thought Mr. Bush was honest.

A year ago, we didn't know for sure that almost all the politicians and pundits who thundered, during the Lewinsky affair, that even the president isn't above the law have changed their minds. But now we know when it comes to presidents who break the law, it's O.K. if you're a Republican.


1 Jan 2006 @ 23:40 by quinty : A few "hopeful" 2006 predictions

What do we have to look forward to next year?

Well, let me bring out my crystal ball....

George W. Bush will be found guilty of various felonies - the most serious having been an indiscriminate and moronic mouthpiece for his cabal of felons: all manipulative felons on the grand scale - and, along with his tightly knit group of coconspirators, will spend the next twenty years in a federal jail.

The American voter, in all his grand majesty, will vote out all the scoundrels, hustlers, and ruthlessly ambitious demagogues in Congress. A clean slate of progressive, honest, and pro-American, Constitution abiding, peace loving representatives will take their place. They will not, mirabile dictu, be spurred on by greed or personal advancement. Nor will they be consumed in their hearts and minds by a religious mania. And they will remember the principles of the Constitution.

A magic solution for global warming will be found. First of all, our central government will recognize that it exists. Second, and even more miraculous, they will put the welfare of the globe above profit. And third, they will come forward in an honest and straightforward manner to repair as much damage as they can. Thus, once again, as Thorton Wilder once so nicely put it, by "the skin of our teeth" we will avert an enormous global disaster.

The national news media will discover that such a thing as news exists out there. They, too, like our national leaders, will realize that some things are more important than profit. Or ratings. Or even ambition. And that covering the news is actually a part of their calling, professions, and jobs. That is, if they can ignore advancing their own careers long enough to be distracted in such a manner. Which is highly unlikely. But: if the first prediction comes true, then even they will see it is to their own advantage that they actually cover the news. For the downfall of this worst political cabal in American history will certainly be news. And even the media will not be able to ignore it.

The “fairness doctrine” will return. That way, O’Reily will have to share time with Katrina Vanden Heuvel. Miracles exist!

Happy news, er, new year on this first day of the year.... Dare we venture boldly forward into it?  

25 Jan 2006 @ 23:45 by quinty : Hamas
So now Hamas has officially entered into mainstream Palestinian politics, and came close to beating the corrupt and fairly defunct Arafat political establishment. Will it make a real difference or provide cover for the Israeli right when they choose to increase their violence?

Here's a nice analysis of the current mess over there. It emerged about a week ago. Yes, we should perhaps try to remember Arabs are people too, just like us. Try, for example, imagining an Arabic occupation of the United States? With Arabs redrawing borders, establishing dictators, foisting coups, exploiting our resources, while simultaneously sneering at our religion, culture, values, and everything American?

We would be insulted, wouldn't we?

And the spiral of violence which could emerge from we, the homegrown, the locals, the American natives, could indeed take many forms. No? Or would we be mesmerized while all this is going on by watching TV? (Sorry for the bitter note. But for those of us who believe in the ideals this country was founded upon, the notion of an America which Lincoln refined, followed up by those progressive forces which often prevailed over the past century, making us somehow special, different, even superior and above the horrors taking place in Europe, and elsewhere, things are looking grim indeed. Did you, by the way, catch this wonderful piece by Gore Vidal? It's here, if you wish to see it:
http://www.truthdig.com/dig/item/20060124_president_jonah/ )

On to the analysis of what's occuring in the Mideast. One which I at least find convincing...


Pity the Orphan: Avnery on Hamas
Monday, 23 January 2006, 10:45 am
Column: Uri Avnery

Pity the Orphan: Avnery on Hamas & Gush statement about Hebron settlers
By Uri Avnery

IT WAS a colorful day in Bil'in. Political flags of many colors were fluttering in the brisk breeze, the vivid election posters and the colorful graffiti on the walls adding their bit. It was the biggest demonstration in the beleaguered village for a long time. This week, the protest against the Fence was interwoven with Palestinian electioneering.

I was happily marching along in the wintry sunshine, holding high the Gush Shalom emblem of the flags of Israel and Palestine side by side. We were approaching the line of armed soldiers that was waiting for us, when I suddenly realized that I was surrounded by the green flags of Hamas.

Ordinary Israelis would have been flabbergasted. What, the murderous terrorists marching in line with Israeli peace activists? Israelis marching, talking and joking with the potential suicide bombers? Impossible!

But it was quite natural. All the Palestinian parties took part in the demonstration, together with the Israeli and international activists. Together they ran away from the clouds of tear gas, broke together through the lines of soldiers, were beaten up together. The green flags of Hamas, the yellow of Fatah, the red of the Democratic Front and the blue-and-white of the Israeli flag on our emblems harmonized, as did the people who carried them.

In the end, many of us improvised a kind of protest concert. Standing along the iron security railing, Israelis and Palestinians together, we beat on it rhythmically with stones, producing something like an African tom-tom that could be heard for miles around. The Orthodox settlers in nearby Modiin-Illit must have wondered what it meant.

THE PARTICIPATION of all Palestinian parties was in itself an important phenomenon. It was no doubt encouraged by the Palestinian elections, due to take place this coming Wednesday. It was curious to see the same faces on the posters along our route and right next to us in the crowd.

But it also showed the importance the Fence has assumed in Palestinian eyes.

Years ago, when the construction of the Wall-cum-Fence was just beginning, I went to see Yasser Arafat to suggest a joint struggle against it. I got the impression that the idea that the Wall was a serious danger was quite new to him - the Palestinian establishment had not yet grasped the significance of it. Now it is near the top of the national agenda.

This week, on the eve of the elections in which Hamas is expected to gain a significant share of the vote, the picture of Hamas activists marching side by side with Israeli peace activists, was important. Because soon Hamas will enter the Palestinian Parliament and, perhaps, the government, too.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE sharply criticized the elections because of the participation of "terrorists", echoing the statement of her new Israeli colleague, Tsipi Livni, who declared that they are not "democratic elections" because of Hamas.

What is emerging now is a new pretext for our government to avoid negotiating with the elected Palestinian leadership. The pretext changes frequently, but the purpose remains the same.

First there was the assertion that Israel would not negotiate until the new Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, dismantles the "terrorist infrastructure". That was, indeed, an obligation under the Road Map - but so was the obligation, completely ignored by Ariel Sharon, simultaneously to remove the hundred settlements or so that were set up after his coming to power.

Then came the claim that the Palestinian Authority was in a state of anarchy. How can one negotiate with anarchy?

Now there comes the contention that Israel cannot possibly be expected to negotiate with a Palestinian leadership that includes Hamas, an organization that has carried out many suicide bombings and, at least officially, does not accept the existence of Israel..

The pretexts are manifold, and more can be produced if necessary. (Reminding me of my late friend, Natan Yellin-Mor, former leader of the "Stern Gang" terrorist underground and later peace activist, who said: "I wish God would put in my way as many temptations as I have pretexts for succumbing.")

Hamas' presence in the next Palestinian government is not a reason to reject peace negotiations. On the contrary, it is a compelling reason for starting them at long last. It would mean that we negotiate with the entire Palestinian spectrum (excluding only the small Islamic Jihad organization). If Hamas joins the government on the basis of Mahmoud Abbas' peace policy, it is manifestly ripe for negotiations, with or without arms, based on a hudnah (truce).

Thirty years ago, when I started secret contacts with the PLO leadership, I was almost the only person in Israel in favor of negotiating with the organization that was at the time officially designated as "terrorist". It took almost 20 years for the Israeli government to come round to my point of view. Now we are starting again from the same point.

Why do the Palestinian organizations refuse to give up their arms? Let's not deceive ourselves: for most Palestinians, these arms are a kind of strategic reserve. If negotiations with Israel lead nowhere, the armed struggle will probably be resumed. That by itself is not unheard of. (See: Ireland.)

EVEN IF Mahmoud Abbas wanted to disarm Hamas, he would be unable to. His weak position, combined with the weakness of his Fatah movement makes such a measure impossible.

This weakness, which also finds its expression in the Fawda ("anarchy"), derives mainly from one source: the sly efforts of Sharon to undermine his position.

I have pointed this out more than once: for Sharon, the rise of Abbas constituted a serious danger. Being favored by President Bush as an example of his success in bringing democracy and peace to the Middle East, he threatened the exclusive relationship between the US and Israel, perhaps even opening the way for American pressure on Israel.

To prevent this, Sharon denied Abbas even the slightest political concession, such as releasing prisoners (Marwan Barghouti springs to mind), changing the path of the Wall, freezing settlement, coordinating the withdrawal from Gaza with Abbas, etc. This campaign was successful. The authority of Abbas has been significantly weakened.

Now Sharon's successors are using this very weakness as a pretext to reject serious negotiations with him and the next Palestinian government, calling to mind the story of the boy who, having killed both his parents, threw himself upon the mercy of the court: "Have pity on a poor orphan!"


Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom.
He is one of the writers featured in The Other Israel: Voices of
Dissent and Refusal. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch's
hot new book The Politics of Anti-Semitism. He can be reached at:

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8 Feb 2008 @ 10:55: Take A Tip From Me
18 Dec 2007 @ 08:48: Catastrophe Is Coming
1 Sep 2007 @ 12:48: Exactly How Bush Spends Your Money
5 Jun 2007 @ 10:03: The US: One Big Drug Store
11 Mar 2007 @ 09:16: Pardoning Libby
26 Dec 2006 @ 11:29: How's Your Computer?
29 Oct 2006 @ 12:00: Tortured Over The Election?

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