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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Besieged By Baad Smells

Besieged by bad smells

Mohammed Omer

Published 28 August 2008

The breakdown of Gaza's overworked sewage system threatens to spill over into an international ecological disaster

In Gaza, flies swarm by day and mosquitoes bite by night as an ever-present putrid smell thickens the air. The smell of sewage fermenting in the summer heat permeates everything. Gaza reeks.

Umm Hamada, 39, is unable to treat her water and can do nothing to eradicate the smell or stop insects from entering her house through the open sewage system. "When night falls and there is no electricity, it smells worse," she said. The miasma has made several of her seven children ill. Her neighbour, carrying a pyjama-clad six-year-old, pipes up: "We can't sleep, not only because of the smell, but because of the mosquitoes."

Sewage management first became a problem for Gaza in 1967, when Israel invaded and occupied the Gaza Strip. The occupation forces constructed three new sewage treatment facilities to serve the population of 380,000 people: one in Beit Lahiya, one near Gaza City, and a third near Rafah, which consists primarily of a treatment lagoon and is incapable of processing the bulk of sewage it receives. In nearby Khan Younis, septic tanks remain the primary waste treatment method, but they are prone to flooding and failure.

During the 1980s, Israel added a handful of treatment lagoons and small sewage processing stations. Established at a fraction of the capacity needed for the rapidly growing and increasingly dense population, they were quickly rendered obsolete. In 2008, these ageing facilities remain, overburdened by a 400 per cent increase in population.

Israel's frequent attacks on Gaza, and its moratorium on imports since the election of Hamas in January 2006, have further debilitated the overworked system. Parts fail and cannot be replaced. Ponds overflow, pipes burst and machines break down - and sewage overflows into streets and homes and on to Gaza's beaches. In several areas, the sea is opaque with the black deposits of untreated sewage.

Many in Gaza fear the beaches, where sewage pours on to the Mediterranean coast at a rate of between 30,000 and 50,000 cubic metres of partially treated waste water and 20,000 cubic metres of raw sewage a day.

"What ends up in the sea is the water normally reclaimed for agricultural purposes upon proper treatment," says Monther Shoblak, an engineer and director of Gaza's Coastal Municipalities Water Utility. "Gaza's power woes have exacerbated the situation. After Israel destroyed the main electricity station in 2006, when we are able to generate electricity, it is pumping sewage away from homes that takes priority. This leaves little for treatment."

Today, tide pools and aquatic life continue to deteriorate. As the raw waste settles on the ocean floor it seeps into Gaza's aquifer, contaminating further the area's already overtaxed source of drinking water. "Ninety per cent of Gaza's drinking water is considered polluted under the international standards specified by the World Health Organisation," says Shoblak.

Given time, the contamination will leak over into both Israel and Egypt. This will become an international, rather than a local, ecological, human and economic problem. It's a man-made disaster, unnecessary and wholly solvable.

Umm Hamada does not know how long she will have to wait for the stench of sewage to clear. It may be her grandchildren who live to enjoy the smell of fresh air. (source)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Fresco In Gaza

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A Fresco in Gaza

BY ALBANA DWONCH | August 22, 2008

Country: West Bank/Gaza

Topic: Peaceful Change

It came to no surprise to those who know him that the evening after he joined a young couple in Holy Matrimony in Seattle, Father Bruno Segatta traded in his priestly vestments with a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, shoved a ticket into a half-empty backpack and set off toward a much different destination: the embattled Gaza Strip.

In between absolving and anointing, baptizing and marrying, this 66-year-old priest is above all committed to celebrating the most important emotion of all: unconditional love for his fellow human beings.

"Padre Bruno" is an Italian native who has practiced painting and art since earning his degree from Northridge University in 1982, mostly at Gonzaga University's campus in Florence. He has traveled the world around with his young students, teaching them not only about art but also about compassion and caring. Revenue from paintings sold on his website,, is donated to the Niambani House for Kids orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya.

Even on this trip, the use of art as a therapeutic tool is at the core of his mission: to teach Palestinian youth to use art as a tool for change. "I was offered an opportunity to help other human beings that are in dire need for hope and compassion in their life," explains Bruno. "I said yes to it."

Part of the "inclusivity fresco" painted by Palestinian students in Gaza under the direction of Italian painter and humanitarian Bruno Segatta. Photo: Albana Dwonch/Mercy Corps

Bruno came as a guest of Mercy Corps' Middle East youth exchange program, "Why Not?", or "Laysh la" in Arabic. The project connects 500 Palestinian youth in Gaza and the West Bank with their U.S. peers at high schools in the American Northwest. It's a way to build bridges between two often-misunderstood cultures and to give the Palestinian youth an outlet to creatively express the hardships of living amid daily violence and oppression.

His first stop: Jerusalem, where he bought canvasses, brushes, paints. Second stop: Eretz Terminal, the often-dangerous crossing that connects Gaza with Israel. He walked through the same long, windy, impersonal tunnel that connects the two checkpoints, and emerged on the other side of the tall cement wall. After introducing himself to the taxi driver with a quick "Ciao, I am Bruno," he rode to Mercy Corps' Gaza City office, gazing out at a surreal environment: destroyed buildings, old cars sputtering along on cooking oil and a worn-down look of a place under near-constant siege.

In addition to this athlete, Gaza students drew a fishermen fishing the sun out of the sea, a column of Palestinian houses topped with a beach umbrella, and an olive tree sprouting from ruins. Photo: Albana Dwonch/Mercy Corps

Bruno arrived with two concrete objectives: to give painting lessons to eight groups of Palestinian students (130 in all) and to help 100 students paint a wall 50 meters long and 2.5 meters high at Al Aqsa University on the theme of inclusivity.

He climbed up on a ladder and divided the wall on 100 squares. Than he instructed to his Palestinian students: think, paint and enjoy. There were few rules; one was that no black color be used. Each of the squares, Bruno explained, should be seen as windows that together would show "Gaza in colors."

At first, the scale of the painting seemed impossible. "But Bruno told them, 'We can do it together' — and they did it," said Nour Al Bassy, a project coordinator with Mercy Corps.

"I wanted all of them to be part of something that they themselves would create," he explained later. Slowly, under a sweltering sun, pictures, images and colors started to emerge.

Most of the images, unsurprisingly, were centered on the separation wall. A horse jumping over the wall was the mural's most obvious window. But other drawings included a fishermen fishing the sun out of the sea, a column of Palestinian houses topped with a beach umbrella, and an olive tree sprouting from ruins.

They were simple images, but also "creative, hopeful and original," said Father Bruno.

I've rarely seen teenagers so full of energy and mirth as these were during their 10 days with Father Bruno. Their respect for the man was obvious in their smiles and their words. "'Use your mind. Think before you paint.' I will never forget that from Bruno," said 17-year-old Mohammed.

While students carried away a picture of a hardworking and always-smiling Bruno, all covered in paint, Bruno put his mental picture of the students to paper. He gave each student a copy. At the bottom of each, he wrote: "I will never forget your beautiful faces."

Beautiful to him, of course, because they are all human.

For more information the Why Not? project, visit the GloPAL Lounge on the Global Citizen Corps website.


Arab Americans at the DNC, Majid Al Bahadli is Giving it His All

Below is an article written by Dr. James Zogby about Arab American participation at the DNC since 1984.

What he doesn't mention in the article he wrote, nor does the caption under the picture give, is the name of the WONDERFUL Obama delegate from the state of Washington who won more delegate votes than any other delegate who ran. He is Majid Al-Bahadli, born and raised in Iraq, now a proud HARD-WORKING Iraqi American delegate, the ONLY Iraqi-born delegate at either convention this year.

There happens to be another picture of Majid also which was one of the top emailed photos today.

Be SURE to read about Majid on his delegate page and look for him at the convention. His story is BEYOND inspiring.

Majid, this one's for you DEAR friend, I am so blessed to have gotten to know you, I am sure you are working HARD at the convention after working SO hard for so long.

If anyone reading here wants one of Majid's pins, Arab Americans for Obama (in English or a different one in Arabic) or one of his peace pins, in Hebrew and Arabic, contact him at A friend of mine and I were able to pass out over two hundred of them and they even went with us on our trip to Manzanar with CAIR.

Hang in there Majid!! You're right where you belong!!!

We got our start in San Francisco

James Zogby, Correspondent

  • Last Updated: August 26. 2008 10:26PM UAE / August 26. 2008 6:26PM GMT

More than 40 Arab-Americans are participating in this year's Democratic National Convention in Denver. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images / AFP

This week, more than 40 Arab-Americans are participating as delegates and members of standing committees to the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Here is a look back at past conventions that helps trace their progress in US politics.

1984, San Francisco

It was the first time that Arab-Americans, as an organised community, participated in a national political campaign. Prior to 1984, there had been Syrian and Lebanese committees, but never before had there been an Arab-American committee.

The Rev Jesse Jackson, recognising the potential voting strength of Arab-Americans, reached out to the community and Arab-Americans responded, raising money, working as volunteers and voting. But the process was still new to many, and so by convention time, only four Arab-Americans were there as delegates.

At the convention, Mr Jackson asked me to deliver one of the speeches placing his name in nomination for the office of president. Having grown up in a political home, and having watched every convention on television since 1956, I was overwhelmed by the experience of mounting the podium and addressing the delegates. Since I was to be the first Arab-American to speak at a convention, I began my remarks, “I am an Arab-American …”

1988, Atlanta

After four years of mobilisation, Arab-Americans went to Atlanta with more than 50 delegates and convention committee members. During the primaries, Arab-Americans made their mark as a voting bloc, helping Mr Jackson win a surprise victory in the Michigan primary.

At the same time, working together with progressive Jewish-Americans and other Jackson delegates, Arab-Americans succeeded in passing resolutions in 10 states calling for Palestinian rights, and had, through the efforts of the Jackson campaign, won the right to introduce a “minority plank” at the convention calling for “mutual recognition, territorial compromise and self determination for both Israelis and Palestinians”.

Once again, I had the opportunity to address the convention, while the 1,200 Jackson delegates demonstrated on the floor, carrying signs that read “Palestinian Statehood Now” and “Israeli Security, Palestinian Justice”.

One delegate was Mary Lahaj, of Massachusetts, who was the first Arab-American Muslim woman delegate to any convention.

1992, New York

Arab-Americans were represented by more than 40 delegates and committee members. We initially had some frustration getting into the Clinton campaign. At the convention, I ran into an American Israel Public Affairs Committee official, who said to me: “I know you’re trying to get in. We won’t let you in, and why should we?”

I was furious, but remembered Mr Jackson’s words of wisdom: “The biggest threat you pose is not to get angry and leave, but to stick around and fight.” And so we did. With the help of Ron Brown, the then-chairman of the party, and Joseph Lieberman, a senator, the doors of the campaign were opened.

That year, a resolution passed by one of the convention’s standing committees, called for inclusion and representation of Arab-Americans at all levels in the party.

1996, Chicago

Arab-Americans were represented, once again by more than 40 delegates.

The Arab-American Democratic Leadership Council was formally recognised by the Democratic Party, and Arab-Americans had become founding members of the Democrats’ Ethnic Council.

2000, Los Angeles

By now, Arab-Americans had become a fixture in the party. Once again 40-plus delegates had been elected from across the country. The Arab-American Tribute Reception was attended by more than 1,000 delegates and guests. The partisan debate within the community was intense, but it was fascinating, because this was the first time that both Republican and Democratic candidates actively courted the community’s support.

2004, Boston

With almost 50 Arab-American delegates and committee members, it was the largest delegation since 1988.

The response from party officials and elected officials at the Convention Gala was significant, with more than 50 senators and representatives confirming their attendance at both that event and the issues forum, Civil Liberties and Global Responsibility.

2008, Denver

Once again there are more than 40 Arab-American participants at every level. I am convening the Party’s Ethnic Council and chairing its two caucus meetings, and Mary Rose Oakar is the chairman of the convention rules committee.

Marking new firsts for Arab-Americans, the Barack Obama campaign has hired an Arab-American outreach staff person in all-important Michigan, and the campaign has launched the first Arab-Americans page on its official website. A formal launch of Arab Americans for Obama, chaired by Nick Rahall, a congressman from West Virginia, is to take place next month.

What was remarkable in 1984, has now become commonplace in 2008.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Going out of Town

Will be back in a week, August 25th.

"The Carnival is Over"
Dead Can Dance

The storm clouds gathering,
Moved silently along the dusty boulevard.
Where flowers turning crane their fragile necks
So they can in turn
Reach up and kiss the sky.

They are driven by a strange desire
Unseen by the human eye
Someone is calling.

I remember when you held my hand
In the park we would play when the circus came to town.
Look! over here.

The circus gathering
Moved silently along the rainswept boulevard.
The procession moved on the shouting is over
The fabulous freaks are leaving town.

They are driven by a strange desire
Unseen by the human eye.
The carinval is over.

We sat and watched
As the moon rose again
For the very first time.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Celebrate Mahmoud Darwish in Glendale, August 30, 2008

Palestine Aid Society

Invites you to a

Celebration of the Life and Works


Palestinian Poet and Hero

Mahmoud Darwish

1941 – 2008

Saturday, August 30, 2:00 p.m.

Glendale Public Library Auditorium

222 E. Harvard St., Glendale 2nd Floor

Dr. Nabil Azzam will premier his new composition
"Elegy for Mahmoud Darwish"

Comments by:
Historian Dr. Mahmood Ibrahim, Cal Poly Pomona
Professor Gabriel Piterberg, UCLA
Professor Hamoud Salhi, CSUD
Professor Bice Harris, Occidental College
Rev. Darrel Meyers
Donald Bustany of KPFK's "Middle East In Focus"
and many more
Poetry Readings by:
Egyptian-American actor/activist Nasser Faris
Hip-Hop stars Nizar ("Ragtop") Wattad
and Omar ("Offendum") Chakaki
Program in English
Admission Free

Fortune Cookies and Other Hasbara Brain Farts

Every once in while you come across an article that makes you fall off the chair laughing. Such is the case with an article published in JPost, "Pro-Israel fortune cookies, other hasbara ideas touted by student fellowship". BTW: I'm laughing because of a run in I had with these folks last year when they so OBNOXIOUSLY tried to disrupt an event at which Hedy Epstein spoke. Reading that they are trying to come up with hasbara ideas like pro-Israeli fortune cookies makes me CRACK UP when they behave in such a manner! (Not to mention the manner in which Israel behaves which I REALLY don't think fortune cookies are going to do the trick to change people's poor impression of) It begins:

Think out of the box, was the message former consul general to New York, Alon Pinkas, had last week for a group of 150 international university students who were graduating from a hasbara fellowship program.

The student activists, who spent the summer learning about Israel advocacy from the StandWithUs organization based in Los Angeles and Jerusalem, presented Pinkas with six potential projects chosen out of 140 proposals. They included putting pro-Israeli messages inside fortune cookies and making a YouTube video promoting Israel, but Pinkas, who praised their energy and initiative, was intentionally blunt with the groups, preparing them for the harsher world of diplomacy.

While he said the students had done "a brilliant job," he added that all of their ideas had been tried before by the Foreign Ministry and failed.

So is Pinkas saying Israel has baked up fortune cookies before and they didn't work? Not only fortune cookies, but be stated that all these ideas are OLD ideas, and none of them worked!

LOLOLOL, (sometimes one has to supplement horror with humor), I WONDER WHY?

Could it possibly be that the world is waking up, that fortune cookies and nearly nude female Israeli soldiers aren't doing the trick?

MAYBE if they put all the IOF soldiers to work in bakeries making fortune cookies and took them OUT of the occupied territories where they commit daily crimes against the Palestinian people, THAT might work.

Yes "Stand With Us", fortune cookies just might work after all!!!

MySpace Comments

Fortune Cookie Generator at

Marching in the 68th Annual Nisei Parade!

Yesterday I had the honor and the FUN of marching in the 68th annual Nisei Parade in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles. I marched with my dear friends from NCRR (Nikkei Civil Rights and Redress who successfully won reparations from our government to all those of Japanese decent who were interred in concentration camps in WWII)

We first assembled at Centenary Methodist Church at 3:30 to prepare for the parade to begin.
As it turned out, NCRR was marching almost at the end of the parade so we had to wait til six to begin marching, but that was actually fine because we could get to the corner where the participants merged in to start marching to see them as they began. We had munched on beautiful trays of fruits and drank cool lemonade at Centenary which refreshed us before marching.

The sidewalks of Little Tokyo were lined with people who cheered and clapped giving peace signs as we marched by with Kathy, Richard and Lillian riding in a convertable in front of us. Parade rules stated no political banners so we weren't able to carry our banner for Ehren Watada but he was right there with us in all our thoughts. (NCRR handles his core campaign for the LA area), NCRR had some other really nice banners made which NCRR members carried, colorful and tall stating what NCRR stands for, REDRESS, PEACE and JUSTICE. There were about 20-25 of us who marched, waving and giving peace signs back to the onlookers.

It was so much fun! There were some floats carrying the "courts" this year's and last's as well as other's carrying taiko drummers. A traditional Japanese sailboat carried the band Hiroshima (remember THIS song?). There were dancers who danced the route in beautiful traditional costumes. Banning High School sent their marching band and drill team (who gave us all inspiration to walk in straight rows!) as well as the Long Beach Junior Concert Band(picture above-of their-what would you call it?)-sign on wheels-which the band has been pushing in parades for 40 years!)

At the end of the parade we all went back to Centenary Church for a meal they had prepared for all the "dignitary" participants who were gathered there. Noodles, tempura, sushi, traditional desserts as well as mochi ice cream, YUM!) Mike Murase made some fantastic tee-shirts for Obama, black with Obama written in Japanese lettering, then "change" below, YES we all need some change).

This whole week Little Tokyo is hosting the Nisei week festival. Check out their website to see all the educational and fun things to do!

Blogdowntown has an article with some beautiful pictures too!

Little Tokyo's Nisei Week Marches On

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Monday, August 18, 2008, at 09:21AM
catching light Ed Fuentes

Color and tradition highlight Little Tokyo's Nisei Week Japanese Festival.

Even with without a Tofu Festival being held this year, and no Nebuta float, the annual Nisei Week went forward as it has for 68 years. Saturday's events included a relocated car show held where the Nikkei Center––better known as the Mangrove site––is slated to be built at First and Alameda.

Late Sunday afternoon, the Grand Parade had traditional dancers, floats, bands and civic dignitaries marched on Second street (from Central) to Los Angeles St, then turning on to First before circling back on to Central. The Nisei Week Japanese Festival continues this week, ending Sunday, August 24, with the Ondo Community Dance Celebration and Closing Ceremony at 4pm.

end of route Ed Fuentes

At the end of the parade route, these drummers screamed in unison to mark the end of their trip around Little Tokyo.

greet Ed Fuentes Nisei Week was begun by Little Tokyo residents to celebrate a cultural heritage. Through the years, it's also become a community reunio

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Where Have All the Poems Gone?


With the death a week ago of beloved Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, it comes of little surprise (but a smile across my face) that while we here in America are more concerned with texting on our Blackberries, the Arab world has been immersed in watching a program on television in the same vein as American Idol only this program is a contest between poets.

It always utterly amazes me that Americans have NO clue about the depth of intellectuality in the Arab world, no clue whatsoever, probably because this is a lost endeavor for the masses in America, content with sound-bite biased news programming while in schools the social sciences and the emphasis on writing skills have been placed on the back burner in the pursuit of raising math and science scores due to the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Just now I stopped at the local Albertsons (super market) to pick up some cinnamon rolls. Just like at Fresh and Easy they now have a fast do-it-yourself check out lane where you scan your purchases and the touch computer screen tells you what to do next. I wasn't quite sure how this one worked so an employee, a middle aged very attractive female employee came over to help me. I said to her, "This is so Orwellian" to which she responded, "What's that?"

I said, "You know, it refers to George Orwell who wrote "1984" and how in the future so many human touches will be lost and other things too".

She responded, "I don't know about that, who's that?"

I looked at her and said, "You've never heard of George Orwell?"

"No" she responded.

I was so taken back I almost didn't know what to say, but just said, "Well, if you have a computer at home, you should look him up to learn a little bit about him"

There you go, I told her to use her computer.

Everything is becoming "quick". Not that long ago I would have told her she should go to the local library and check out one of his books, but do people even read any more?

I don't know, but on the other side of the world, people are writing and reciting poetry, and the people there are glued to their televisions watching and listening.

Just something to think about.

All are princes, says winning poet

Tala al Ramahi

  • Last Updated: August 16. 2008 9:48PM UAE / August 16. 2008 5:48PM GMT

“In the end, I believe it is the poet’s manners – how he deals with people on a daily basis – that makes him a real prince”: Mr Weld Bamba upon winning the title and its Dh1 million prize. Galen Clarke / The National

ABU DHABI // Four months ago there were 7,000 hopefuls. They were whittled down to 35 and, after 10 weeks of intense competition, to just six until, on Thursday night, when the “Emirate of Poets” finally crowned its prince, there was just one.

In the final upset of a series that has held viewers spellbound, the Mauritanian poet, Seedi Mohammed Weld Bamba, emerged as the unexpected victor in the last episode of one of the largest televised cultural competitions in the world. His success was witnessed by a television audience of more than two million.

The finale of the second season of Prince of Poets, the hit television project of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, was filled with unexpected twists and surprises – just as the Egyptian Ahmed Bekheit, the favourite among the finalists, had suggested it would be.

And not least among those surprises was the last-minute upset for Bekheit, who found himself relegated to third place.

The most prolific of the finalists, Bekheit, 42, already had 14 published collections of poetry to his name, including four for children, and was consistently the panel’s favourite, receiving rave reviews from the five judges throughout the competition.

The Algerian Khalidiyah Gaballah, 28, the only remaining female finalist, was voted off at the beginning of the show and the surviving five had to recite a poem they had written recounting their experiences during the competition.

For his final poem, dedicated to the memory of the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, who died on Aug 9 following bypass surgery, Bekheit received a loud and long round of applause and one of only two standing ovations of the night.

Bekheit’s name had barely been announced in third place when the crowd at the Al Raha Beach Theatre – mostly Mauritanians – exploded with joy, waving their green and white national flags and cheering and screaming at the realisation that the most likely candidate for the title had been eliminated – and that their man Bamba was now in with a good chance of winning.

And win he did.

As his name was announced at 2am on Friday morning, the crowd showed a great deal more emotion than Bamba. The Al Jazeera producer, who is also working on his master’s degree in international journalism through a distance-learning programme at Goldsmiths University, London, remained a picture of composure.

“In the end, I believe it is the poet’s manners – how he deals with people on a daily basis – that makes him a real prince,” he said. “And therefore, the title bears the poet with the responsibility to represent all the other poets of the Arab world, in a positive way, I hope.

“The prince of poets needs to be a poet with his words, but also a poet through his deeds.”

Despite the harsh critiques he had received from the panelists throughout the past nine weeks, Bamba was clearly the audience’s favourite and won 68 per cent of the viewers’ votes – and, in the end, the Dh1 million (US$272,000) first prize.

Running a close second and third were Mohammed Ibrahim Yacoub from Saudi Arabia and Bekheit, who received Dh500,000 and Dh300,000 respectively. Prizes of Dh200,000 and Dh100,000 went to Jordanian Mohannad Sari and Adi Weld Adab, the second Mauritanian finalist, in fourth and fifth place.

The show’s organisers said that more than three million people from the Arab world, as well as Europe and America, had taken part in the voting.

The victory celebrations were in contrast to the sombre mood throughout most of the three-and-a-half-hour show, conducted in a muted tone as judges, poets and audience alike honoured the memory of Darwish.

A moment of silence was observed and a poem written by one of the judges, Dr Ali bin Tamim, was recited before the start of the programme. “We would like to console the Arab world and those who fought for human rights for their loss of a great poet,” said Dr Tamim.

Darwish, said competitor Sari, was “the real Prince of Poets of our generation”, before reciting a poem in memory of the Palestinian, in addition to the one he had written for the competition.

Bamba also dedicated his poem to the memory of Darwish and a final poem was recited collectively by the 35 contestants who had qualified for the show nine weeks before.

At the end, the newly crowned Prince of Poets lived up to his own expectations of a poet as a prince in word and deed, and had some gracious words for his fellow competitors, who had joined him on stage, carrying the Mauritanian flag, for his moment of triumph.

“I really believe that the other five finalists are all princes,” he said, “not only in their poetry, but also in their demeanour and in their contributions to our culture and our craft.” (source)

Friday, August 15, 2008

IOF Looks the Other Way in the Occupied Territorories

SOURCE: The zionist occupation of Hebron, Palestine has made life a living hell for the Palestinians who are the rightful owners of this land.

The crazy jewish women in this video is Yifat Alkobi, who continually harassed the Abu 'Ayesha family and other families in this area.

Please see:

For more information on this video, and documentation of other human rights violations in occupied Palestine.

B'TSELEM is the Israeli Information Center For Human Rights In the Occupied Territories.

Another incident involving Yifat Alkobi:

Alkobi is well known to Hebron police for her alleged attack of a 10-year-old Palestinian child in March 2005, for which she is to go on trial February 1. The boy, Yusuf Aza, told investigators from the human rights organization Yesh Din that he was walking on the path between his home and Alkobi's with two friends, when she began pelting him with stones. Aza added that Alkobi "grabbed me by the shirt and pushed me up against the wall. A soldier tried to help, but she pushed him away, and he fell down. She held me with one hand and with the other pushed a rock into my mouth and forced my mouth closed. I felt my teeth breaking." Aza said the soldier got up and called for help on his radio.

(To my knowledge, this woman has never been punished for her crimes.)

Israel 'worry' at settler attacks

Screen grab of Israeli settler about to beat Palestinian civilian
One recent incident was captured on film as part of a human rights project

Israeli security officials are reported to have raised concerns about an increase in violence by Jewish settlers in the West Bank.

The Israeli Haaretz newspaper said officials had found an increase in incidents of settlers causing harm to Palestinians and to Israeli soldiers.

There were 429 incidents in the first half of 2008, against 551 in 2007.

There are frequent reports of settlers harassing Palestinians, with two attacks recently captured on video.

These have been widely broadcast and have brought the issue to greater prominence.

Haaretz said police, army and security services had also discussed allegations that some police and soldiers were deliberately ignoring violence by settlers against Palestinians, because they preferred not to get involved in difficult issues.

Settlement withdrawal delayed

In July, an Israeli rights group published a report saying nine out of 10 investigations into alleged attacks on Palestinians by Israeli settlers ended without anyone being charged.

The Yesh Din group said that, of 163 cases that it looked at, only 13 had ended with assailants being indicted.

Israeli police disputed the findings, but admitted just 15% of cases in the West Bank in 2007 ended in a charge.

And Israeli officials have said their priorities in the West Bank are to deal with terrorism against Israelis as well as criminal and public order offences, and resources are allocated accordingly.

Meanwhile, the Israeli defence ministry has said Israel has postponed the expected evacuation of the settlement of Migron, in the West Bank. No new date has been set.

Migron has a population of about 200, and is the largest of about 100 Jewish settlements established without Israeli government permission.

All settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

There are thought to be around 430,000 Jewish settlers living in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. (Source)

CAMERA Is Saying There Is No Palestine, AGAIN

The ever ready indefatigable zionist CAMERA (Committee for "Accuracy" in Middle East Reporting in America) is at it again. This time, their latest blog post concerns the NBC Olympics website where Palestine is listed as a country. It's a short post titled "NBC Olympics Web Site Awards West Bank to “Palestine”

There is currently no state of Palestine, and no international border between Israel and Judea and Samaria (aka West Bank). The borders and territory of any future Palestinian entity are disputed. However, the NBC Olympics Web Site includes a map showing Judea and Samaria (the West Bank, along with with the Gaza Strip) as part of a country called “Palestine.” Conversely, a map of Israel is shown minus that territory. In other words, NBC mapmakers are playing political arbiters and have awarded the disputed territory to the Palestinians.

The Palestine country page shows:


The Israel country page shows:



Now, let's go to the NBC Website and see what it REALLY says concerning Palestine( which as you will read, is not flattering to Palestine, blaming the Palestinians for the lack of transition to statehood, but that isn't sufficient to CAMERA, NO, they have to say there's NO SUCH THING as Palestine, it is instead, "Judea and Samaria, typical Eretz Israel Zionist lexicon)

Often called the "Holy Land." A historic region of southwest Asia between the eastern Mediterranean shore and the Jordan River, comprising parts of modern Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. Israel has handed most of the Gaza Strip and seven West Bank population centers to Palestinian rule under a process set in motion by the historic Israel-PLO peace deal in 1993.

In the late 1990s, the PLO and Israel agreed to expand The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), headed by Yasser Arafat, was founded in 1964 and is recognized by the United Nations as the government of the Palestinians. After a three-year hiatus, negotiations to determine the future of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank began in September 1999 but were cut off in September 2000 after violence broke out in both regions.

In April 2003, United Nations, European Union, United States and Russian officials announced the "Road Map to Peace," which outlined the steps that Israel and Palestinian authorities would have to take to achieve peace - including the creation of an independent Palestinian state - by 2005. The path was stymied along the way, as Palestinian authorities were unable to stop anti-Israeli terrorism and Israel's military struck back against Palestinians with force. But in 2005, all Israeli settlers were evacuated from the Gaza Strip and control was transferred to the Palestinian Authority.


Let's see what the NBC Olympics website has to say about Israel:

Located at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea and is bordered to the west by Egypt, to the east by Syria and Jordan, and to the north by Lebanon. Proclaimed its independence in 1948 as the state of Israel.


Maybe CAMERA is just upset because there is more written on the Palestine page even if it isn't flattering then there is on the Israel page!

CAMERA wrote, "no international border between Israel and Judea and Samaria"

What is that HUGE apartheid wall all about then? Oh yes, it's a border on one side, walling the Palestinians in and appropriating their lands seeking to establish "facts on the ground" in any possible future peace deal, but it is ONE WAY border which Israel controls. But it IS a border which Israel CLAIMS as a "security fence" and an ILLEGALLY built one also. Israel's OWN recent "peace offer" "gives" the land on the OTHER side of the apartheid wall to the PALESTINIANS. (sarcasm concerning "gives" intended)

Maybe CAMERA would be happier with a current more detailed map of the West Bank with all the ILLEGAL Israeli settlements there!

Now, just in case anyone from the eager beaver CAMERA comes to visit, they might want to know something concerning PALESTINE'S participation in the Olympics. On my prior post, "Palestine's Olympic Team", I was asked the following in my comment section by "William"

I thought only countries were able to enter teams in the Olympics? Palestine is not a country. How are they able to enter the Olympics? Are there any other non-countries participating in this way?

My response:

Hi William,
Here's the answer to your question:

Palestine was so excited about the possibility of competing in the Olympics that a Palestinian Olympic Committee was one of the first things established after the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed a peace agreement on the White House lawn in October 1993. Even though the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) is not a state, its status as an independent territory makes it eligible for the Olympics. For years, Israel blocked any recognition of “Palestine” arguing it was not a sovereign nation, yet non-sovereign nations like Puerto Rico, for example, which is an American territory, have a tradition of participation, Ray Hanania wrote in Mideast Youth ( on August 9. id=1958

They first participated in 1996 in Atlanta and have sent athletes to each summer Olympics since.


CAMERA, please go back to the NBC Olympics site and check out Puerto Rico! They are listed under COUNTRIES with their OWN FLAG and PAGE! WITH the explanation just like the page for Palestine gives.

So wasn't that a whole lot of huffing and puffing for NOTHING? Or maybe you have a beef with NBC over Puerto Rico too! (and for Israel's recent "peace offering" "giving" the land on the OTHER side of the apartheid wall to PALESTINE-of course with major settlement blocks they insist on keeping which "gives" the Palestinians a swiss cheese state still at Israel's "mercy".)

OH MY GOODNESS CAMERA, I think you need to contact the US Department of State concerning the map they have of Israel! They don't have the West Bank marked as Palestine, but they certainly don't have it marked as Israel either, JUST LIKE as you wrote on your blog concerning the NBC map, "Conversely, a map of Israel is shown minus that territory. AND for the purposes of the map for the NBC website, they were giving a map of the area-the West Bank (and Gaza) which the PALESTINIAN Olympic team represents.

Look closely at the State Department's map, they have a "*" next to "West Bank" stating, "Israeli OCCUPIED with current status subject to the Israeli Palestinian interim agreement"

Israel map and flag

Huff and puff til you blow your own house down CAMERA! PALESTINE is participating in the Olympics and accusing NBC of being "mapmakers (are) playing political arbiters is a WEE bit of a stretch.

And just in case you haven't seen, here are two beautiful pictures of PALESTINE'S Olympic team carrying THEIR flag.

Palestine, may you SOON be FREE!



Thursday, August 14, 2008

Drinking the Poisoned Waters of Gaza

I have a friend who as an independent journalist traveled to Gaza last year. We were speaking on the phone last night and she told me about a high incident of a type of anemia in the Gaza Strip and that the necessary medications are not getting in. She knew about this because while there she visited the Ministry of Health and a hospital where she saw patients suffering from this.

The below article is a new study out by scientists who have done a study on the drinking water in Gaza writing for a specialist journal, Science of the Total Environment.

First, from the Department of Health, New South Wales:

What is methaemoglobinaemia?

Methaemoglobinaemia is a very rare blood disorder where the blood is unable to carry oxygen to cells in the body. The condition occurs when normal haemoglobin, which is found inside red blood cells, is changed to abnormal haemoglobin, called methaemoglobin.

What are the symptoms

Symptoms of methaemoglobinaemia include:

  • headache
  • weakness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • increased heart rate
  • breathlessness
  • skin turning blue (called cyanosis)
  • loss of consciousness.

In severe cases, the disease can be fatal. Symptoms usually occur rapidly after being exposed to some toxic substances.

What causes methaemoglobinaemia?

Methaemoglobinaemia is caused when a person is exposed to some poisons, including some types of drugs. Chemicals called nitrites have been known to cause methaemoglobinaemia after consumption. Rarely, some people have a genetic defect that causes the disease.

How is it diagnosed?

A person suffering methaemoglobinaemia is often very unwell. A blood test is needed to confirm the diagnosis. It is important that this condition is diagnosed early and treated promptly.

How is it treated?

Methaemoglobinaemia is treated using oxygen therapy and an antidote called methylene blue. People suffering with methaemoglobinaemia can make a full recovery with prompt treatment. (but Gaza doesn't have the supplies of oxygen they need)

What can be done to avoid methaemoglobinaemia?

Outbreaks of methaemoglobinaemia have occurred when people have eaten food that has been contaminated with high levels of nitrites. People should not add any chemicals to food if they are uncertain of the ingredients. (source)


Drinking Water In Gaza Strip Contaminated With High Levels Of Nitrate

ScienceDaily (Aug. 14, 2008) — Palestinian and German scientists have recommended to the authorities in the Gaza Strip that they take immediate measures to combat excessive nitrate levels in the drinking water.

90 per cent of their water samples were found to contain nitrate concentrations that were between two and eight times higher than the limit recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), say the researchers from the University of Heidelberg and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) writing in the specialist journal Science of the Total Environment.

Over the long term they recommend that the best protection would be provided by quality management for groundwater resources. Groundwater is the only source of drinking water for the majority of people living in the Gaza Strip. In babies younger than six months, nitrate can lead to methaemoglobinaemia, to diarrhoea and to acidosis. The WHO therefore recommends keeping nitrate levels to 50 milligrams per litre or less.

According to unpublished research, half of the 640 infants tested were already showing signs of methaemoglobinaemia. The new Palestinian-German study confirms earlier water analyses and is the first study to pinpoint a source of the contamination. With the help of isotope analyses, the researchers were able to demonstrate that the nitrate pollution can be traced back to manure used in farming and to wastewater.

With over 2600 people per square kilometre, the Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated areas on earth. Because of their isolation, the inhabitants of this area between the Mediterranean, Egypt and Israel are reliant on being self-sufficient. The fields are mostly fertilized with chicken and cow dung. Artificial fertilizers account for only around a quarter of the fertilizer used.

Because of the area’s geology and the semi-arid climate, it is fairly easy for impurities to seep down from the surface into the aquifier system. Organic fertilizers and wastewater are the main causes of the nitrate contamination in the groundwater, followed by sewage sludge and artificial fertilizers.

This was revealed by the isotope ratios of nitrogen (15N/14N) and oxygen (18O/16O) in the nitrate. Isotopes are variations of the same chemical element that have a different number of neutrons in their nuclei. 18O and 15N are stable, i.e. non-radioactive, isotopes that are heavier than "normal" oxygen (16O) or nitrogen (14N) and can therefore be measured using a mass spectrometer.

"The lower 15N nitrogen isotope values in the sewage sludge indicate that the nitrate in the Gaza groundwater comes primarily from manure used as fertilizer," explains Dr Karsten Osenbr├╝ck of the UFZ. Between 2001 and 2007 the scientists took water samples from 115 municipal wells and 50 private wells on seven occasions. They measured nitrate concentrations of between 31 and 452 milligrams per litre. Only 10 of the 115 municipal wells examined were found to have a nitrate level below the WHO guideline value. The situation with the private wells was equally serious: apart from three, all the wells were found to have nitrate levels that were between five and seven times higher than the WHO recommendations. (source)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Let's Look Back at Putin's Speech in Munich for Clues

I originally posted this speech in February 2007 right after Putin delivered it. Everyone looking at the situation in Georgia now should take the time to read this rather lengthy speech to see the message he was sending back then, that the world needs to wake up to the fact that no one power can act unilaterally (such as what the US has been doing, particularly under George Bush with his administration's arrogance).

One must note that Georgia has been seeking NATO membership by becoming a client state of the US while building a growing military trained by both the US and Israel. Lost to many who listen to the MSM is the fact that Georgia lobbed the first volley in the current fighting. Tim Brunero writes in his article. "Russian Invasion Not Quite as it Seems":

"With the West sucking up to Georgia of late and vice-versa (Georgia has the third biggest contingent of foreign troops in Iraq) the government in Tblisi may have thought Russia would be wary enough to sit back and watch it reclaim the province. (South Ossetia) They were wrong.

Instead Russia chose to send a powerful message not only to restless ethnic groups like the Chechens on the fringes of their own country, but also to surrounding countries with large Russian minorities – all 25 million of them.

At the same time it showed the toothlessness of NATO and perhaps the folly of its eastward expansion into countries previously in the sphere of influence of Moscow.

In some ways, the West’s attempt to humiliate Russia by aggressively recruiting so close to its borders may have backfired and shown what a paper tiger they represent.

The Russian bear was not dead, but in hibernation."

Now to Putin's speech from last year which should have been a harbinger to how Russia/Putin may have chosen to react should they be challenged in such a manner.

Full Text of Putin's Speech in Munich

Everyone is buzzing about Putin's speech, and while the media covered what it deemed the "contraversial" statements, it did not cover the other important informational aspects of his speech which can only be found in the full text below:

Speech at the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy

(The speech was held in Russian. Find the English translation below.)

Thank you very much dear Madam Federal Chancellor, Mr Teltschik, ladies and gentlemen!

I am truly grateful to be invited to such a representative conference that has assembled politicians, military officials, entrepreneurs and experts from more than 40 nations.

This conference’s structure allows me to avoid excessive politeness and the need to speak in roundabout, pleasant but empty diplomatic terms. This conference’s format will allow me to say what I really think about international security problems. And if my comments seem unduly polemical, pointed or inexact to our colleagues, then I would ask you not to get angry with me. After all, this is only a conference. And I hope that after the first two or three minutes of my speech Mr Teltschik will not turn on the red light over there.

Therefore. It is well known that international security comprises much more than issues relating to military and political stability. It involves the stability of the global economy, overcoming poverty, economic security and developing a dialogue between civilisations.

This universal, indivisible character of security is expressed as the basic principle that “security for one is security for all”. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said during the first few days that the Second World War was breaking out: “When peace has been broken anywhere, the peace of all countries everywhere is in danger.”

These words remain topical today. Incidentally, the theme of our conference – global crises, global responsibility – exemplifies this.

Only two decades ago the world was ideologically and economically divided and it was the huge strategic potential of two superpowers that ensured global security.

This global stand-off pushed the sharpest economic and social problems to the margins of the international community’s and the world’s agenda. And, just like any war, the Cold War left us with live ammunition, figuratively speaking. I am referring to ideological stereotypes, double standards and other typical aspects of Cold War bloc thinking.

The unipolar world that had been proposed after the Cold War did not take place either.

The history of humanity certainly has gone through unipolar periods and seen aspirations to world supremacy. And what hasn’t happened in world history?

However, what is a unipolar world? However one might embellish this term, at the end of the day it refers to one type of situation, namely one centre of authority, one centre of force, one centre of decision-making.

It is world in which there is one master, one sovereign. And at the end of the day this is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within.

And this certainly has nothing in common with democracy. Because, as you know, democracy is the power of the majority in light of the interests and opinions of the minority.

Incidentally, Russia – we – are constantly being taught about democracy. But for some reason those who teach us do not want to learn themselves.

I consider that the unipolar model is not only unacceptable but also impossible in today’s world. And this is not only because if there was individual leadership in today’s – and precisely in today’s – world, then the military, political and economic resources would not suffice. What is even more important is that the model itself is flawed because at its basis there is and can be no moral foundations for modern civilisation.

Along with this, what is happening in today’s world – and we just started to discuss this – is a tentative to introduce precisely this concept into international affairs, the concept of a unipolar world.

And with which results?

Unilateral and frequently illegitimate actions have not resolved any problems. Moreover, they have caused new human tragedies and created new centres of tension. Judge for yourselves: wars as well as local and regional conflicts have not diminished. Mr Teltschik mentioned this very gently. And no less people perish in these conflicts – even more are dying than before. Significantly more, significantly more!

Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force – military force – in international relations, force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts. As a result we do not have sufficient strength to find a comprehensive solution to any one of these conflicts. Finding a political settlement also becomes impossible.

We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. And independent legal norms are, as a matter of fact, coming increasingly closer to one state’s legal system. One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other nations. Well, who likes this? Who is happy about this?

In international relations we increasingly see the desire to resolve a given question according to so-called issues of political expediency, based on the current political climate.

And of course this is extremely dangerous. It results in the fact that no one feels safe. I want to emphasise this – no one feels safe! Because no one can feel that international law is like a stone wall that will protect them. Of course such a policy stimulates an arms race.

The force’s dominance inevitably encourages a number of countries to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, significantly new threats – though they were also well-known before – have appeared, and today threats such as terrorism have taken on a global character.

I am convinced that we have reached that decisive moment when we must seriously think about the architecture of global security.

And we must proceed by searching for a reasonable balance between the interests of all participants in the international dialogue. Especially since the international landscape is so varied and changes so quickly – changes in light of the dynamic development in a whole number of countries and regions.

Madam Federal Chancellor already mentioned this. The combined GDP measured in purchasing power parity of countries such as India and China is already greater than that of the United States. And a similar calculation with the GDP of the BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – surpasses the cumulative GDP of the EU. And according to experts this gap will only increase in the future.

There is no reason to doubt that the economic potential of the new centres of global economic growth will inevitably be converted into political influence and will strengthen multipolarity.

In connection with this the role of multilateral diplomacy is significantly increasing. The need for principles such as openness, transparency and predictability in politics is uncontested and the use of force should be a really exceptional measure, comparable to using the death penalty in the judicial systems of certain states.

However, today we are witnessing the opposite tendency, namely a situation in which countries that forbid the death penalty even for murderers and other, dangerous criminals are airily participating in military operations that are difficult to consider legitimate. And as a matter of fact, these conflicts are killing people – hundreds and thousands of civilians!

But at the same time the question arises of whether we should be indifferent and aloof to various internal conflicts inside countries, to authoritarian regimes, to tyrants, and to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction? As a matter of fact, this was also at the centre of the question that our dear colleague Mr Lieberman asked the Federal Chancellor. If I correctly understood your question (addressing Mr Lieberman), then of course it is a serious one! Can we be indifferent observers in view of what is happening? I will try to answer your question as well: of course not.

But do we have the means to counter these threats? Certainly we do. It is sufficient to look at recent history. Did not our country have a peaceful transition to democracy? Indeed, we witnessed a peaceful transformation of the Soviet regime – a peaceful transformation! And what a regime! With what a number of weapons, including nuclear weapons! Why should we start bombing and shooting now at every available opportunity? Is it the case when without the threat of mutual destruction we do not have enough political culture, respect for democratic values and for the law?

I am convinced that the only mechanism that can make decisions about using military force as a last resort is the Charter of the United Nations. And in connection with this, either I did not understand what our colleague, the Italian Defence Minister, just said or what he said was inexact. In any case, I understood that the use of force can only be legitimate when the decision is taken by NATO, the EU, or the UN. If he really does think so, then we have different points of view. Or I didn’t hear correctly. The use of force can only be considered legitimate if the decision is sanctioned by the UN. And we do not need to substitute NATO or the EU for the UN. When the UN will truly unite the forces of the international community and can really react to events in various countries, when we will leave behind this disdain for international law, then the situation will be able to change. Otherwise the situation will simply result in a dead end, and the number of serious mistakes will be multiplied. Along with this, it is necessary to make sure that international law have a universal character both in the conception and application of its norms.

And one must not forget that democratic political actions necessarily go along with discussion and a laborious decision-making process.

Dear ladies and gentlemen!

The potential danger of the destabilisation of international relations is connected with obvious stagnation in the disarmament issue.

Russia supports the renewal of dialogue on this important question.

It is important to conserve the international legal framework relating to weapons destruction and therefore ensure continuity in the process of reducing nuclear weapons.

Together with the United States of America we agreed to reduce our nuclear strategic missile capabilities to up to 1700-2000 nuclear warheads by 31 December 2012. Russia intends to strictly fulfil the obligations it has taken on. We hope that our partners will also act in a transparent way and will refrain from laying aside a couple of hundred superfluous nuclear warheads for a rainy day. And if today the new American Defence Minister declares that the United States will not hide these superfluous weapons in warehouse or, as one might say, under a pillow or under the blanket, then I suggest that we all rise and greet this declaration standing. It would be a very important declaration.

Russia strictly adheres to and intends to further adhere to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as well as the multilateral supervision regime for missile technologies. The principles incorporated in these documents are universal ones.

In connection with this I would like to recall that in the 1980s the USSR and the United States signed an agreement on destroying a whole range of small- and medium-range missiles but these documents do not have a universal character.

Today many other countries have these missiles, including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea, India, Iran, Pakistan and Israel. Many countries are working on these systems and plan to incorporate them as part of their weapons arsenals. And only the United States and Russia bear the responsibility to not create such weapons systems.

It is obvious that in these conditions we must think about ensuring our own security.

At the same time, it is impossible to sanction the appearance of new, destabilising high-tech weapons. Needless to say it refers to measures to prevent a new area of confrontation, especially in outer space. Star wars is no longer a fantasy – it is a reality. In the middle of the 1980s our American partners were already able to intercept their own satellite.

In Russia’s opinion, the militarisation of outer space could have unpredictable consequences for the international community, and provoke nothing less than the beginning of a nuclear era. And we have come forward more than once with initiatives designed to prevent the use of weapons in outer space.

Today I would like to tell you that we have prepared a project for an agreement on the prevention of deploying weapons in outer space. And in the near future it will be sent to our partners as an official proposal. Let’s work on this together.

Plans to expand certain elements of the anti-missile defence system to Europe cannot help but disturb us. Who needs the next step of what would be, in this case, an inevitable arms race? I deeply doubt that Europeans themselves do.

Missile weapons with a range of about five to eight thousand kilometres that really pose a threat to Europe do not exist in any of the so-called problem countries. And in the near future and prospects, this will not happen and is not even foreseeable. And any hypothetical launch of, for example, a North Korean rocket to American territory through western Europe obviously contradicts the laws of ballistics. As we say in Russia, it would be like using the right hand to reach the left ear.

And here in Germany I cannot help but mention the pitiable condition of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.

The Adapted Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe was signed in 1999. It took into account a new geopolitical reality, namely the elimination of the Warsaw bloc. Seven years have passed and only four states have ratified this document, including the Russian Federation.

NATO countries openly declared that they will not ratify this treaty, including the provisions on flank restrictions (on deploying a certain number of armed forces in the flank zones), until Russia removed its military bases from Georgia and Moldova. Our army is leaving Georgia, even according to an accelerated schedule. We resolved the problems we had with our Georgian colleagues, as everybody knows. There are still 1,500 servicemen in Moldova that are carrying out peacekeeping operations and protecting warehouses with ammunition left over from Soviet times. We constantly discuss this issue with Mr Solana and he knows our position. We are ready to further work in this direction.

But what is happening at the same time? Simultaneously the so-called flexible frontline American bases with up to five thousand men in each. It turns out that NATO has put its frontline forces on our borders, and we continue to strictly fulfil the treaty obligations and do not react to these actions at all.******

I think it is obvious that NATO expansion does not have any relation with the modernisation of the Alliance itself or with ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary, it represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact? Where are those declarations today? No one even remembers them. But I will allow myself to remind this audience what was said. I would like to quote the speech of NATO General Secretary Mr Woerner in Brussels on 17 May 1990. He said at the time that: “the fact that we are ready not to place a NATO army outside of German territory gives the Soviet Union a firm security guarantee”. Where are these guarantees?

The stones and concrete blocks of the Berlin Wall have long been distributed as souvenirs. But we should not forget that the fall of the Berlin Wall was possible thanks to a historic choice – one that was also made by our people, the people of Russia – a choice in favour of democracy, freedom, openness and a sincere partnership with all the members of the big European family.

And now they are trying to impose new dividing lines and walls on us – these walls may be virtual but they are nevertheless dividing, ones that cut through our continent. And is it possible that we will once again require many years and decades, as well as several generations of politicians, to dissemble and dismantle these new walls?

Dear ladies and gentlemen!

We are unequivocally in favour of strengthening the regime of non-proliferation. The present international legal principles allow us to develop technologies to manufacture nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes. And many countries with all good reasons want to create their own nuclear energy as a basis for their energy independence. But we also understand that these technologies can be quickly transformed into nuclear weapons.

This creates serious international tensions. The situation surrounding the Iranian nuclear programme acts as a clear example. And if the international community does not find a reasonable solution for resolving this conflict of interests, the world will continue to suffer similar, destabilising crises because there are more threshold countries than simply Iran. We both know this. We are going to constantly fight against the threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Last year Russia put forward the initiative to establish international centres for the enrichment of uranium. We are open to the possibility that such centres not only be created in Russia, but also in other countries where there is a legitimate basis for using civil nuclear energy. Countries that want to develop their nuclear energy could guarantee that they will receive fuel through direct participation in these centres. And the centres would, of course, operate under strict IAEA supervision.

The latest initiatives put forward by American President George W. Bush are in conformity with the Russian proposals. I consider that Russia and the USA are objectively and equally interested in strengthening the regime of the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their deployment. It is precisely our countries, with leading nuclear and missile capabilities, that must act as leaders in developing new, stricter non-proliferation measures. Russia is ready for such work. We are engaged in consultations with our American friends.

In general, we should talk about establishing a whole system of political incentives and economic stimuli whereby it would not be in states’ interests to establish their own capabilities in the nuclear fuel cycle but they would still have the opportunity to develop nuclear energy and strengthen their energy capabilities.

In connection with this I shall talk about international energy cooperation in more detail. Madam Federal Chancellor also spoke about this briefly – she mentioned, touched on this theme. In the energy sector Russia intends to create uniform market principles and transparent conditions for all. It is obvious that energy prices must be determined by the market instead of being the subject of political speculation, economic pressure or blackmail.

We are open to cooperation. Foreign companies participate in all our major energy projects. According to different estimates, up to 26 percent of the oil extraction in Russia – and please think about this figure – up to 26 percent of the oil extraction in Russia is done by foreign capital. Try, try to find me a similar example where Russian business participates extensively in key economic sectors in western countries. Such examples do not exist! There are no such examples.

I would also recall the parity of foreign investments in Russia and those Russia makes abroad. The parity is about fifteen to one. And here you have an obvious example of the openness and stability of the Russian economy.

Economic security is the sector in which all must adhere to uniform principles. We are ready to compete fairly.

For that reason more and more opportunities are appearing in the Russian economy. Experts and our western partners are objectively evaluating these changes. As such, Russia’s OECD sovereign credit rating improved and Russia passed from the fourth to the third group. And today in Munich I would like to use this occasion to thank our German colleagues for their help in the above decision.

Furthermore. As you know, the process of Russia joining the WTO has reached its final stages. I would point out that during long, difficult talks we heard words about freedom of speech, free trade, and equal possibilities more than once but, for some reason, exclusively in reference to the Russian market.

And there is still one more important theme that directly affects global security. Today many talk about the struggle against poverty. What is actually happening in this sphere? On the one hand, financial resources are allocated for programmes to help the world’s poorest countries – and at times substantial financial resources. But to be honest -- and many here also know this – linked with the development of that same donor country’s companies. And on the other hand, developed countries simultaneously keep their agricultural subsidies and limit some countries’ access to high-tech products.

And let’s say things as they are – one hand distributes charitable help and the other hand not only preserves economic backwardness but also reaps the profits thereof. The increasing social tension in depressed regions inevitably results in the growth of radicalism, extremism, feeds terrorism and local conflicts. And if all this happens in, shall we say, a region such as the Middle East where there is increasingly the sense that the world at large is unfair, then there is the risk of global destabilisation.

It is obvious that the world’s leading countries should see this threat. And that they should therefore build a more democratic, fairer system of global economic relations, a system that would give everyone the chance and the possibility to develop.

Dear ladies and gentlemen, speaking at the Conference on Security Policy, it is impossible not to mention the activities of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). As is well-known, this organisation was created to examine all – I shall emphasise this – all aspects of security: military, political, economic, humanitarian and, especially, the relations between these spheres.

What do we see happening today? We see that this balance is clearly destroyed. People are trying to transform the OSCE into a vulgar instrument designed to promote the foreign policy interests of one or a group of countries. And this task is also being accomplished by the OSCE’s bureaucratic apparatus which is absolutely not connected with the state founders in any way. Decision-making procedures and the involvement of so-called non-governmental organisations are tailored for this task. These organisations are formally independent but they are purposefully financed and therefore under control.

According to the founding documents, in the humanitarian sphere the OSCE is designed to assist country members in observing international human rights norms at their request. This is an important task. We support this. But this does not mean interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, and especially not imposing a regime that determines how these states should live and develop.

It is obvious that such interference does not promote the development of democratic states at all. On the contrary, it makes them dependent and, as a consequence, politically and economically unstable.

We expect that the OSCE be guided by its primary tasks and build relations with sovereign states based on respect, trust and transparency.

Dear ladies and gentlemen!

**In conclusion I would like to note the following. We very often – and personally, I very often – hear appeals by our partners, including our European partners, to the effect that Russia should play an increasingly active role in world affairs.

In connection with this I would allow myself to make one small remark. It is hardly necessary to incite us to do so. Russia is a country with a history that spans more than a thousand years and has practically always used the privilege to carry out an independent foreign policy.

We are not going to change this tradition today. At the same time, we are well aware of how the world has changed and we have a realistic sense of our own opportunities and potential. And of course we would like to interact with responsible and independent partners with whom we could work together in constructing a fair and democratic world order that would ensure security and prosperity not only for a select few, but for all.

Thank you for your attention.
Munich Conference on Security Policy