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The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Impact of Islam
by Emmet Scott
Sir Walter Scott's Crusades and Other Fantasies
by Ibn Warraq
Fighting the Retreat from Arabia and the Gulf: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly. Vol. 1
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Literary Culture of France
by J. E. G. Dixon
Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays
by David P. Gontar
Farewell Fear
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Eagle and The Bible: Lessons in Liberty from Holy Writ
by Kenneth Hanson
The West Speaks
interviews by Jerry Gordon
Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
Emmet Scott
Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy
Ibn Warraq
Anything Goes
by Theodore Dalrymple
Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
by Norman Berdichevsky
Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
by Ibn Warraq
An Introduction to Danish Culture
by Norman Berdichevsky
The New Vichy Syndrome:
by Theodore Dalrymple
Jihad and Genocide
by Richard L. Rubenstein
Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
by Norman Berdichevsky



















These are all the Blogs posted on Sunday, 4, 2012.
Sunday, 4 March 2012
Benghazi - Graves of British and Commonweath Servicemen - Destroy that cross, they are unbelievers.

I posted last week about the desecration of the Benghazi Military Cemetery by a Muslim mob. The story, in the Mail on Sunday has been taken up by other papers slowly during this week. Today the Mail on Sunday has video of the desecration taking place with a translation of the conversations taking place at the time. I have found a copy of the video with better sound quality – everybody here knows what “Allah akbar” means.

Watch how one man climbs a ladder to reach higher up the cross, at the same time as his mate hacks at the bottom of the cross trying to fell it as if it were a tree.  They are stupid, candidates for a Darwin award even when not blinded by hate and anger towards us. Note also their particular rage when they discover the grave of a Jewish serviceman.

A year ago they begged for Britain’s help when Colonel Gaddafi’s tanks encircled their city, threatening annihilation.

Now former Libyan rebels in Benghazi – liberated with the aid of the RAF last March – have systematically desecrated the graves of more than 150 British servicemen killed in North Africa 70 years ago.

Headstones at the Benghazi War Cemetery have been torn down and crucifixes smashed with hammers by a mob of extremists, some carrying guns and dressed in combat fatigues.

Many were members of the famed 7th Armoured Division, known as the Desert Rats, who played a crucial role in the see-saw battle for control of Libya and Egypt between 1941 and 1943.

Sickeningly, the attack, which was carried out over two days last week and appeared highly organised, was filmed by one of the men involved and posted on the internet.

As they rampage among the graves, members of the mob are heard to repeatedly say of the dead servicemen: ‘They are dogs, they are dogs.’

Footage shows the mob methodically kicking down grave after grave. Some are then smashed with hammers. ‘Destroy that cross, they are dogs,’ cries one hooded rebel.

Another voice is heard saying: ‘We begin with this one then we’ll take care of that other one. We won’t leave any left.’

A few seconds later another extremist says: ‘This tomb has a cross on it – a disbeliever.’

As they discover a Jewish grave bearing the Star of David, one of the men says: ‘Look at what it says on it. There is even Israeli writing . . . in Hebrew.’

And in one of the most disturbing sequences, one protester attaches a ladder to the Cross of Remembrance next to the cemetery. He climbs up it and begins hacking at the memorial with a hammer. Then he shouts: ‘Watch out young people. It’s going to fall.’ The cross is then smashed off.

Relatives of those buried at the cemetery, which is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, last night reacted with disgust. The desecration was also condemned by Montgomery’s grandson Henry Montgomery, who called it ‘very sad’.

But one of the smashed headstones records the death of the Reverend Geoffrey Bond, Chaplain to the Forces, who was 30 when he was killed on March 21, 1941, near Benghazi. His nephew, Geoffrey Bell, said last night: ‘This is terrible news. Damn those bloody Libyans.’

Former diplomat Edward Chaplin, who heads the War Graves Commission, said: ‘Clearly it’s a terrible thing to have happened.

‘It’s shocking that attacks of this nature should be carried out against a cemetery. We take very seriously the preservation of these memorials to those who have given their lives in wars.’

Richard Frost, secretary of the regiment association,(The Kings Royal Rifle Corps, now 2nd Battalion The Rifles) said: ‘Our 1,500 surviving members will find it difficult to cope with what has happened. All riflemen, regardless of their age or where they served, will be disgusted by these scenes.’

A Commonwealth War Graves Commission spokesman promised that the cemetery would be restored ‘to a standard befitting the sacrifice of those commemorated at Benghazi’. But he added: ‘This could take some time because we will need to source replacement stones.’

Although the burning of the Koran was blamed for the desecration, others in the city believe it was also a perverse expression of deeper frustrations.

Posted on 03/04/2012 2:45 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 4 March 2012
How taxpayers are still funding the extremists

Andrew Gilligan in the Telegraph

Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is still being paid to groups linked to Islamist extremism, more than a year after David Cameron vowed to outlaw the practice.

People associated with one “extremist” group whose grant was terminated after the Prime Minister’s pledge are now being used to induct new staff into the Government’s own Office of Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT), the Home Office division responsible for directing Britain’s anti-terror efforts. Only last week the same individuals were awarded thousands of pounds of fresh public funding.

Meanwhile, the Civil Service has solicited “fast-stream” recruits for the top ranks in Whitehall from a group which has hosted numerous extremists and terrorist supporters, including the al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was linked to a number of international plots before his death last year.

Another body linked to the extremist sect Hizb ut-Tahrir, the public funding of which Mr Cameron condemned as long ago as 2009, is still receiving hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money, to educate primary-age children in Hizb ut-Tahrir ideology.

A few groups did have their funding ended after the speech. One, the STREET Project in Brixton, south London, paid for the publication of a booklet by a non-violent extremist group called Salafi Manhaj, which issues regular fatwas enforcing a Salafi, or ultra-literal and conservative view of Islam.

The fatwas call participation in parliament a “sin,” oppose “man-made laws”, such as British law, describe “those who speak in the name of 'freedom of religion’” as “enemies of Islam” and forbid “a man and woman to be alone together under all circumstances”, unless married. Salafi Manhaj condemns football as “impermissible” because players wear shorts and spectators “turn away from the remembrance of Allah” in a spirit of “repugnant bias and partisanship towards different teams”.

STREET’s website has published advice on clothing and music from anti-Semitic and extremist Salafi clerics. Its founder, Abdul Haqq Baker, an ultraconservative Salafi, was chairman of Brixton Mosque

However, Mr Haqq Baker appears to have bounced back, founding a new group, West London IMPACT, with the same aims as STREET but based in Hounslow. Last week, the local council awarded it £10,000 for “counter-extremism” work. Council papers say that it has been given thousands more by the OSCT.

Documents seen by The Sunday Telegraph also show that IMPACT is used to help induct new staff into the OSCT

Another group, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), has been used by the Civil Service to recruit new “fast-stream” trainees for its top ranks.

FOSIS has hosted numerous extremist and terrorist speakers at its annual conference and other events, including Azzam Tamimi, who supports suicide bombing, Haitham al-Haddad, who believes that music is a “prohibited and fake message of love and peace”, and Anwar al-Awlaki.

Several convicted terrorists have been officers of university Islamic societies affiliated to FOSIS and have attended its events. FOSIS has been condemned by Theresa May, the Home Secretary, and Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, for its failure to “fully challenge terrorist and extremist ideology”.

The Civil Service also arranged a further “fast-stream recruitment workshop” with FOSIS in October, cancelled only after pressure from Mrs May.

Despite Mr Cameron’s pledge to stop bankrolling undesirable organisations, accounts published in recent weeks reveal that many bodies closely linked to extremism continued to enjoy substantial public funding in 2011. Beneficiaries include the East London Mosque, paid at least £256,000 last year alone and the Osmani Trust, which received almost £600,000.

Both organisations are controlled by the Islamic Forum of Europe, which works to change the “very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed … from ignorance to Islam” in a “global” Islamic state under Sharia law.

Posted on 03/04/2012 4:59 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 4 March 2012
Emergency Committee on Israel calls Obama’s Bluff

ECI Washington, DC Bus Kiosk Ad March 2, 2012

President Obama is poised today to mount the podium at the Annual AIPAC Washington Policy Conference and demonstrate before  the  more than 10,000 attendees and hundreds of thousands watching the live webcast  that there is no daylight between his Administration and Israel when dealing with a nuclear Iran.  “No Bluff” was the rhetoric Obama  used  during an interview  with  Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic  in response to  the question of whether his Administration  would play  the military option  card, if necessary, to stop  Iran crossing the so-called ‘red lines’.  A crossing that could vault the Islamic Republic into the ranks of the nuclear club with the likelihood that it might use the capability to cow the Middle East Region and threaten Israel with genocidal annihilation. 

Prime Minister Netanyahu will be watching Obama’s speech from the Canadian Capital of Ottawa where he has spent this weekend in furthering warm relations between the Harper Government and his own in Jerusalem.  Netanyahu warned from the Canadian capital that the World should not fall into the trap of renewed negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. Netanyahu also laid out Israel’s conditions for Iran standing down from nuclear weapons development, something that the Obama White House has rarely, if ever articulated.  The Washington Post reported Netanyahu at saying at a joint press conference with PM Harper:

Iran could enter nuclear talks to try to ease mounting pressure from tough new international sanctions, but he asserted this would be a tactic to buy time.

“It could pursue or exploit the talks as they have done in the past to deceive and to delay so that they can continue to advance their nuclear program and get to the nuclear finish line by running the clock,” Netanyahu said. “I think the international community should not fall into this trap.”

The international community should make its demands on Iran clear, he added: Dismantle the underground nuclear facility in Qom, stop the enrichment of uranium — a key element of bombmaking — and get all enriched uranium out of Iran.

“And when I say all the material, I mean all the material.”

Emanuele Ottolenghi,  Senior  Fellow at Foundation  for Defense of Democracies (FDD)  Senior Fellow  has been a  frequent  guest on WEBY/New English Review International Middle East Round Table discussions. In a New York Times Op ed, “Only Crippling Sanctions will Stop Iran”, he  noted  the record of Iran’s  Ayatollahs capitulating to catastrophic threats during the disastrous Iran-Iraq War of the 1980’s:

Historical precedents demonstrate that Iran’s decision makers are not impervious to cost-benefit analysis. …

As tough as the current sanctions against Iran are, they will work only if Iran is brought to its knees once again. The pain inflicted must be far greater for the country to see backtracking as preferable.

Some  believe that  tougher  sanctions may not  produce sweet reason in the bizarre Tehran of Shiite facilities.  That might only be accomplished through a selective military strike against Iran’s vulnerable nuclear facilities.  (See David P. Goldman’s mid-February comments in PJ Media  on veteran German Defense expert Hans Ruhle’s assessment of Israel’s capabilities to carry out such a strike that might set back Iran’s nuclear weapons program by a decade).

Later today we will see what Obama offers to the eager crowd at the AIPAC conference in Washington in the way of positive evidence that he is calling Iran’s nuclear card bluff.

A Washington-based pro-Israel group, the Emergency Committee on Israel (ECI) has called Obama  on his intentions towards Israel caught  between the rising Islamist Middle East and a nuclear Iran ringing the Jewish nation.

ECI unveiled a series of bus kiosk ads around Washington showing President Obama versus Ayatollah Khamanei, Iran’s Supreme Ruler and President Ahmadinejad. The ad text reads:

He says Nuclear Iran is unacceptable DO YOU believe him?  Do They?

 On Thursday, March 1st,  ECI took out a full page ad in the New York Times  calling attention to the  illiberal track record on Israel  by the Soros-backed Center for American Progress and Media Matters.

On  Friday, ECI  released a 30 minute film, “Daylight; The Story of Obama and Israel” that chronicles news videos  of  events  during Obama’s three plus years  of his Presidency that graphically rebuts his positions  on the special relations with Israel. The film begins with Obama’s dramatic outreach to the Muslim Ummah with trips to, Islamist Turkish PM Erdogan, his  bow to Saudi King Abdullah and Cairo Speech to the Muslim Ummah at al Azhar University. A watershed speech during which he stakes out his Administration’s opposition to settlement building in Judea and Samaria communicated  to  Netanyahu during visits to Washington in 2010 and 2011. Then there  is  President Obama’s  suggestions that as part of any  peace agreement with the Palestinians  Israel  should retreat to the 1949 Armistice Lines, dividing the eternal city of Jerusalem , Israel’s capital. Those borders that Obama has  suggested as the basis for a possible peace agreement between Israel and a unified Palestine, that includes the terrorist group Hamas, are not secure and defensible borders  under UNSC Res. 242.  As Maj. Gen. Uzi Dayan notes in the ECI film those borders suggested by Obama would put nearly 75 percent of Israel’s population and 80 percent of its production within mortar range of Palestinian terrorists in the disputed territories.   The film presents a graphic record of the breach caused by the Obama Administration in the traditional warm relations and security guarantees between the two countries. This is a troubling record at a time of great uncertainty about the developments in the wake of the Arab Spring and Iran’s reach for nuclear hegemony in the region.

Watch the trailer for Daylight here and the full 30 minute version, here

Posted on 03/04/2012 10:13 AM by Jerry Gordon
Sunday, 4 March 2012
Allahu-Akbaring Libyans Smash The Graves Of Christian Servicemen

Watch here, as young Libyan men  accompany their acts of Muslim derring-do with cries of "Our [Muslim] God, Allah, is greater than your [non-Muslim] God. " The graves in questions are those of British servicemen -- but they might have been Americans, or French, or any others who were non-Muslim (graves of Italians in Libya have been desecrated for decades). This display is made possible by the more than 6,000 air sorties flown over Libya by British, American, French, and other non-Muslim airmen, without whose aid Qaddafy would not have been deposed.

The gratitude displayed is simiilar to the gratitute the Americans have felt from Muslims in Iraq, including those Shi'a who had been killed, in the hundreds of thousands, by Saddam Hussein.

The gratitude displayed is similar to the gratitude the Americans and other Coalition forces have felt from Muslims in Afghanistan, who were apparently suffering from the Taliban, but in any ways are much closer to the Taliban than they can ever be to any non-Muslims, whatever the generosity of the non-Muslims, and whatever the cruel ferocity of the Taliban. Islam inculcates hatred toward non-Muslims - why do we pretend that Islam, that Total Belief-System, reinforced at every step in societies suffused with Islam, does not have a great effect on those who call themselves Muslims?

The Western world must, for the moment, still buy oil and gas from those Muslims who did nothing to discover, to exploit, to find means of distribution, or to invent ways to use, tand who, from an accident of geology, have taken in more than $16 trillion dollars in completely unmerited wealth, since 1973 alone. There is no literary, artistic, scientific, or other significance of the Muslim world on the advanced West. We can pay what we must, and work to make those payments less necessary, but any taking seriously of the Muslim lands and peoples, and especialy the hypertrophied attention we have been giving them, attempting to figure out how to make them better, how to save Muslims from their own Islam-generated wretchedness and failures, is not worth our time or attention. The best way to let them come to the realization that Islam itself is what explains their political, economic, social, intellectual, and moral failures is to leave them alone, give them no aid, no training, no access to Western education or health care. Let them stew in Islam. Take care only to make sure that they do not acquire the weapons of mass destruction that can threaten non-Muslims, and to reverse the Muslim immigration to the West  that has, through inattention and ignorance and suicidal nonchalance, been allowed until now to take place unhindered. It must not merely be stoped, but undone, by making the countries of the West places where the practice of Islam is difficult, and its practitioners, confronted by non-Muslims who now grasp the nature of Islam, and can no longer be fooled, find that instead of being able to continually milk and bilk the generous support system of Western Infidel nation-states, they will be cut off from such support, and  their own futures in the West will, as a consequence of that and of the justified hostility of the non-Muslims,  be bleak.

Posted on 03/04/2012 10:54 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 4 March 2012
The Daily Mail On The Smashing Of Headstones, And Readers' Comments

From The Daily Mail:

Desecrated: The shocking video of Churchill's Desert Rats' graves being smashed to rubble... by the Libyans we helped liberate

  • Headstones torn down and crucifixes smashed with hammers by extremists

  • More than 150 graves of British serviceman systematically desecrated

  • Attack carried out over two days with footage posted online

  • Members of mob heard repeatedly calling dead servicemen 'dogs'

By Ian Gallagher and Martin Delgado

4th March 2012


A year ago they begged for Britain’s help when Colonel Gaddafi’s tanks encircled their city, threatening annihilation.

Now former Libyan rebels in Benghazi – liberated with the aid of the RAF last March – have systematically desecrated the graves of more than 150 British servicemen killed in North Africa 70 years ago.

Headstones at the Benghazi War Cemetery have been torn down and crucifixes smashed with hammers by a mob of extremists, some carrying guns and dressed in combat fatigues.

Desecrated: The headstones commemorating the deaths of allied servicemen, who fought in the Western Desert campaigns between 1942 to 1943, lay smashed on the ground

Desecrated: The headstones commemorating the deaths of Allied servicemen, who fought in the Western Desert campaigns between 1942 to 1943, lay smashed on the ground

More than 1,000 soldiers and airmen who lost their lives in the desert wars of Montgomery and Rommel are buried at the site in Eastern Libya.

Many were members of the famed 7th Armoured Division, known as the Desert Rats, who played  a crucial role in the see-saw battle for control of Libya and Egypt between 1941 and 1943.

Graves of RAF pilots were among those shattered by the thugs. It was their job to fly bombing raids – just as the RAF did last year – to assist Lieutenant General Montgomery’s Eighth Army and support commandos clearing routes for tanks.

Sickeningly, the attack, which was carried out over two days last week and appeared highly organised, was filmed by one of the men involved and posted on the internet.

As they rampage among the graves, members of the mob are heard to repeatedly say of the dead servicemen: ‘They are dogs, they are dogs.’

Senseless: A man kicks down headstones of soldiers

Senseless: A man kicks down headstones of soldiers during the rampage that was filmed and posted online

The violence was thought to be retaliation, in part, for the burning of the Koran by US soldiers in Afghanistan last month.

Footage shows the mob methodically kicking down grave after grave. Some are then smashed with hammers. ‘Destroy that cross, they are dogs,’ cries one hooded rebel.

Another voice is heard saying: ‘We begin with this one then we’ll take care of that other one. We won’t leave any left.’

A few seconds later another extremist says: ‘This tomb has a cross on it – a disbeliever.’

As they discover a Jewish grave bearing the Star of David, one of the men says: ‘Look at what it says on  it. There is even Israeli writing . . .  in Hebrew.’

And in one of the most disturbing sequences, one protester attaches a ladder to the Cross of Remembrance next to the cemetery. He climbs up it and begins hacking at the memorial with a hammer. Then he shouts: ‘Watch out young people. It’s going to fall.’ The cross is then smashed off.

Sacrifice: Some 1,214 graves are marked in Benghazi War Cemetery

Sacrifice: Some 1,214 graves are marked in Benghazi War Cemetery

Relatives of those buried at the cemetery, which is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, last night reacted with disgust. The desecration was also condemned by Montgomery’s grandson Henry Montgomery, who called it ‘very sad’.

'SHOCKED' LIBYAN AUTHORITIES 'EXTREMELY APOLOGETIC' OVER WAR GRAVES ATTACK

The Libyan government has been 'extremely apologetic' about the desecration of British war graves in the eastern city of Benghazi, a Foreign Office Minister said today.

Jeremy Browne said people would be understandably upset by images of damaged graves in today's papers, including the Mail on Sunday.

But he said the attacks were not aimed particularly at Britain or Christians, and did not represent a Libyan response to last year's military action when British aircraft took part in a campaign which toppled Colonel Gadaffi from his role as dictator in the North African country.

Mr Browne told the programme: 'There is an appalling story and people will be shocked by the photos. My grandfather's generation were truly heroic in that part of Africa in the Second World War and I think people will be shocked by what they see.

'It is worth saying the Libyan authorities themselves are shocked too. We have had direct dealings with them. They have been extremely apologetic and made a very strong commitment they will get to the bottom of this happening. They will try and do everything they can to resolve it.

'My understanding it is not just British graves or just Christian graves that have been desecrated, there is wider desecration taking place. The Libyan authorities are keen to work with us on this.

'I would not want people to think this is somehow an ingratitude by the government of Libya. That's not the case.'

Among the heroes buried at Benghazi is Geoffrey Keyes, who was the youngest lieutenant colonel in the British Army when he was killed at the age of 24 during Operation Flipper, a daring mission 250 miles behind enemy lines.

He was shot in a raid on what was believed to be Rommel’s headquarters in Sidi Rafa, Libya, in November 1941 and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for ‘magnificent leadership and outstanding gallantry . . . and supreme self-sacrifice’.

It was not clear last night if his headstone was among those destroyed.

But one of the smashed headstones records the death of the Reverend Geoffrey Bond, Chaplain to the Forces, who was 30 when he was killed on March 21, 1941, near Benghazi. His nephew, Geoffrey Bell, said last night: ‘This is terrible news. Damn those bloody Libyans.’

Former diplomat Edward Chaplin, who heads the War Graves Commission, said: ‘Clearly it’s a terrible thing to have happened.

‘It’s shocking that attacks of this nature should be carried out against a cemetery. We take very seriously the preservation of these memorials to those who have given their lives in wars.’

Mustafa Abdul Jalil, head of state in Libya’s caretaker government, condemned the attacks as ‘unethical, irresponsible and criminal’. 

He said the Libyan government ‘severely denounces such shameful acts and vows to find and prosecute the perpetrators’.

There are 1,214 Commonwealth servicemen of the Second World War buried or commemorated at  the Benghazi War Cemetery.

Of the 1,051 identified graves, 851 are  British. It also contains graves of Australian, New Zealand, South African and Indian servicemen.

Religious hate: Fanatics attack a Jewish headstone

Religious hate: Fanatics attack a Jewish headstone

One shattered headstone, broken into a dozen pieces, records the death of a Canadian pilot, M. P. Northmore, who was killed in October 1943.

The cemetery is the last resting place for several soldiers from one of Britain’s oldest regiments, the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, founded in 1775. Four of the regiment’s battalions took part in the North Africa campaign and one of its members, Rifleman John Beeley, was awarded the Victoria Cross after being killed while storming a German machine-gun post at the battle of Sidi Rezegh in November 1941.

Richard Frost, secretary of the regiment association, said: ‘Our 1,500 surviving members will find it difficult to cope with what has happened. All riflemen, regardless of their age or where they served, will be disgusted by these scenes.’

Wrecked: Extremists fetch a ladder to smash away at the war memorial next to the cemetery

Wrecked: Extremists fetch a ladder to smash away at the war memorial next to the cemetery

Fury: Extremists hack away at the monunent

Fury: Extremists hack away at the monunent

Disrespect: A man smashes the cross with a hammer

Disrespect: A man smashes the cross with a hammer

Sad: A remnant of the cross lies smashed on the floor

Sad: A remnant of the cross lies smashed on the floor

Shattered: The memorial after it was attacked by the mob

Shattered: The memorial after it was attacked by the mob

Pamela Thornton-Bassett, whose father, Flight Lieutenant Frank Thornton-Bassett, is buried at  Benghazi, said she was ‘greatly saddened’ by the attack.

The RAF officer was 40 when he died in an aircraft crash near the city on February 3, 1943.

His daughter, who lives in Halesowen in the West Midlands, said:  ‘He was attached to a unit that set up broadcasting facilities and was sent out to Cairo when Churchill was there to make an important speech. On the way back to Benghazi, where he was based, my father’s plane was brought down in the desert by a mechanical fault. The pilot was killed outright and one of the crew walked away. My father was badly injured and survived for a week.

‘I was concerned about what would happen to the cemetery all the time Gaddafi was in power. I never visited because I was put off by the thought of him running the country. Yet now this happens after his departure.’

A Commonwealth War Graves Commission spokesman promised that the cemetery would be restored ‘to a standard befitting the sacrifice of those commemorated at Benghazi’. But he added: ‘This could take some time because we will need to source replacement stones.’

Although the burning of the Koran was blamed for the desecration, others in the city believe it was also a perverse expression of deeper frustrations.

The uprising that brought an end to Gaddafi’s 42-year rule began in Benghazi, but many of the rebels there now feel left behind in the new Libya.

Since the transitional government moved west to the capital Tripoli, they say they have been ignored and have suffered economic hardship.

Desert city at the centre of a brutal tug-of-war

NOT JUST A STONE, BUT A MARK OF A 'WONDERFUL, CHARISMATIC' MAN

'He had a special aura': The top half of Rev Bond's smashed memorial

'He had a special aura': The top half of Rev Bond's smashed memorial

Rev Bond at his wedding to Patricia in 1940

Rev Bond at his wedding to Patricia in 1940

It lies smashed in half and smeared with red earth from the boots of the men who stamped upon it.

Like the rest of the 1,200 plain white gravestones in Benghazi War Cemetery, it records only elementary details.

It says that the Reverend Geoffrey Bond, Chaplain to the Forces, died  on March 21, 1941, at the age of 30.

And below this stark fact is a cross and the inscription: ‘Let light shine perpetually on him.’

But yesterday, traced by The Mail on Sunday, one of his surviving relatives recalled a cultivated, ‘extraordinarily charismatic’ man.

David Bell said: ‘He was my mother’s brother and a very wonderful man.

‘I was only a baby when he died but my mother absolutely adored him.  She spoke of his special aura, a way he had of making everyone feel better about themselves.

‘I had a brother who died aged three and I know Geoffrey counselled my mother afterwards and played a crucial role in getting her through her grief.’ 

Mr Bell said his Cambridge-educated uncle – whose own father Bernard was killed at the Somme in 1916 – was also held in affection by servicemen who greatly valued his pastoral care.

When he married Patricia Hodges  in Surrey in March 1940, he was presented with a silver cigarette box  by officers from 1st Heavy Armoured Brigade. His widow died in 1990.

Of the attack on the cemetery, Mr Bell said: ‘It is greatly upsetting, a disaster.’


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2109873/Benghazi-Shocking-video-Churchills-Desert-Rats-graves-smashed-rubble-Libyan-rebels.html#ixzz1oAeSWPAz
Posted on 03/04/2012 11:38 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 4 March 2012
Leo Rennert: On Scott Wilson, The Washington Post, And How Israel Is (Mis)Represented To Readers
WASH. POST LACES OBAMA-NETANYAHU SUMMIT WITH ANTI-ISRAEL POISON PILLS
In the run-up to President Obama’s summit with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, the president gave an interview to Atlantic Magazine during which he racheted up his warnings that the United States is prepared to use military force, if necessary, to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
“When I say we’re not taking any option off the table, we mean it,” Obama declared.  Asked to elaborate on what options he has in mind, he replied:  “It includes a military component.”  That’s news, coming from a president of the United States.

Obama said he’s confident that Israel takes him at his word.  “The Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the Untied States, I don’t bluff,” he remarked.  “Both the Iranian and the Israeli government recognize that when the Untied States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapons, we mean what we say.”

Obama also made news by emphasizing that blocking Iran from going nuclear “isn’t just in the interests of Israel, it is profoundly in the security interests of the Untied States” because of critical risks that an Iranian nuclear arsenal could leach such weapons to terrorist organizations and start a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world.
Finally, in terms of newsworthiness, Obama flatly ruled out any expectation that he might eventually resign himself to a nuclear-armed Iran and settle for a containment policy such as the United States adopted against a nuclear-armed Soviet Union.  A nuclear-armed Iran, he said, would be a totally different kettle of fish.  It could open a nuclear-proliferation Pandora’s Box – with Iranian-sponsored nuclear-armed terrorist groups on the rampage, plus half a dozen other Mideast players jumping on the nuclear bandwagon.  Compared with the U.S.-Soviet standoff during the Cold War, the president emphasized, “that is much more serious.”
Yet, in its March 3 preview of the Obama-Netanyahu summit, the Washington Post brushed aside all these new insights into Obama’s thinking and intentions.  Instead, in its main front-page article, the Post cast the summit not as a meeting of two allies about how to confront the Iranian threat, but instead about Obama grappling with a possibly premature Israeli military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.  Reading the Post, you’d think the main danger comes from Israel, not from the mullahs in Tehran (“Obama to urge Israel’s patience – A Caution Against Strike On Iran – Plans to ask Netanyahu to let sanctions work” by Scott Wilson)
Wilson, the author of the article, is a former Jerusalem correspondent for the Post whose legacy was a raft of Israel-bashing stories.  During his stint in Israel, the Wilson starting point for reporting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was that Israel is always in the wrong.
Accordingly, Wilson’s piece about the summit leads off not with Obama’s heighted warnings to Iran, but with plans by Obama to plead with Netanyahu for more patience and time to let sanctions take effect – as Wilson puts it, there is “within the administration fear that a pre-emptive Israel attack could set off a regional war.  This disagreement between the Untied States and Israel will color the meeting between the two leaders.  The White House talks are likely to focus on the effectiveness of sanctions and the dangers of an Israeli attack.”   The villain at this summit is Israel, not Iran.
It is not until the ninth paragraph that Wilson briefly alludes to Obama’s “I don’t bluff” remark – but without even telling readers what Obama isn’t bluffing about.  Obama’s declaration that there’s a military component to his warnings to Iran goes unmentioned.
While downplaying the Iranian threat, Wilson doesn’t hesitate to cast Israel as the real “source of frustration and fear in the Middle East.”  Unbelievable?  Not with Wilson.  Here’s how he puts it:  “Israel has its own undeclared nuclear program, including a large arsenal of nuclear weapons.  Obama has declined to call on Israeli leaders to declare the program, a source of frustration and fear in the Middle East.”
And in a revealing peek into Wilson’s animus against Israel, there is his description of  AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, not as a U.S. group, which it is, but as an Israeli one, which it isn’t – in his words, “the Jewish state’s most conservative and politically influential U.S.-based advocacy group.”
Thus, when Obama addresses AIPAC this weekend, according to Wilson, he will be the guest of an influential subsidiary of the state of Israel.  In one swoop, Wilson strips AIPAC of its U.S. identity.
For media monitors who followed Wilson’s stint as a Mideast correspondent, the bias is all too familiar.
Posted on 03/04/2012 12:06 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 4 March 2012
"Fear That The Conflict [Shi'a Iran And Allies vs. Sunni Arabs] Will Spread" Should Be, Rather, Hope

From The Washington Post:

March 3, 2012

U.S. officials: Iran is stepping up lethal aid to Syria

By and ,

U.S. officials say they see Iran’s hand in the increasingly brutal crackdown on opposition strongholds in Syria, including evidence of Iranian military and intelligence support for government troops accused of mass executions and other atrocities in the past week.

Three U.S. officials with access to intelligence reports from the region described a spike in Iran­ian-supplied arms and other aid for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad at a time when the regime is mounting an unprecedented offensive to crush resistance in the key city of Homs.

“The aid from Iran is increasing, and is increasingly focused on lethal assistance,” said one of the officials, insisting on anonymity to discuss intelligence reports from the region.

The expanded Iranian role in the conflict has been underscored by reports — supported by U.S. intelligence findings — that an Iranian operative was recently wounded while working with Syrian security forces inside the country.

The flow of military aid to Assad comes as Arab states are considering arming the regime’s opponents, raising the risk of a wider conflict that U.S. officials fear [fear? why not the word "believe" or "expect" or "anticipate" with the implied hint of hope, for hope it should rightly be, hope that Sunnis and Shia go at it, with volunteers, war materiel, and money from Iran on one side, and from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states on the other, enter the fray in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and with consequences in Pakistan and Afghanistan too] could spread to neighboring countries.

In addition, the intelligence reports about rising Iranian support for Syria come as U.S. officials are seeking to rally international support for efforts to drive Assad from power without resorting to arming the rebels — a move the Obama administration has opposed. The portrayal offered by the three officials ­quoted in this article is more detailed than previously reported; such accounts are generally difficult to verify independently.

Iran has made no secret of its support for the Assad regime, though President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made repeated calls for a peaceful solution to the conflict, which began almost a year ago.

‘Big guys wearing black’

The U.S. intelligence assessments are in line with recent reports by Syrian rebels, who say Iran’s involvement in the crackdown has escalated. Opposition leaders, citing high-ranking defectors from the Syrian military, say Iran has dispatched hundreds of advisers, security officials and intelligence operatives to Syria, along with weapons, money and electronic surveillance equipment.

“Iran has been involved in the crackdown by Assad on a much larger scale than previously thought,” said Ammar Abdulhamid, a Washington-based Syrian activist and a member of the Syria Working Group of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington think tank.

Stories of Syrian troops being accompanied by black-bearded men speaking a foreign language and assumed to be Iranian have circulated widely inside Syria for many months, but activists acknowledge they have little hard evidence that Iranians are actually participating in the offensives.

“We saw some evidence, but we can’t prove it,” said Omar Shakir, who fled to Lebanon from the former opposition stronghold of Bab Amr in Homs a week ago. “We have seen tall guys, big guys wearing black.”

The Free Syrian Army is holding seven Iranians captured in Homs in December. The Iranian government says they are power-plant workers, but the rebels assert that they were working for the Revolutionary Guard Corps. Eleven Iranian pilgrims abducted in January are still missing, Iran’s Press TV reported Saturday.

The belief that Shiite-dominated Iran is aiding the Syrian crackdown has helped sharpen sectarian sentiments among those in the mostly Sunni country seeking to topple the Assad regime, which is dominated by members of Assad’s minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

There have also been widespread but unproven allegations that the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah militia is aiding the crackdown. Sunni-dominated Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have advocated arming the opposition.

U.S. officials declined to address allegations about specific acts. But one of the officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity said intelligence agencies have documented reports of a wide range of assistance.

They’ve supplied equipment, weapons and technical assistance — even monitoring tools — to help suppress unrest,” the official said. “Iranian security officials also traveled to Damascus to help deliver this assistance.”

A second senior U.S. official said members of Iran’s main intelligence service, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, are assisting Syrian counterparts in charge of the crackdown. Last month, the Obama administration imposed sanctions against the intelligence service, citing “financial, material and technological support” for the Syrian crackdown. The Obama administration had previously imposed sanctions against Iran’s elite Quds Force for providing training and equipment to Syrian security units.

Iran’s intelligence service played a key role in Tehran’s crackdown on the country’s Green Movement in 2009 and is associated with allegations of sexual abuse, torture and mock executions of protesters.

It now is believed be “exporting its vicious practices to support the Syrian regime’s abhorrent crackdown on its own population,” said David S. Cohen, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence

The head of the Quds Force, Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, also has paid at least one visit to Damascus in recent weeks, U.S. officials said.

Syrian Vice President Najah al-Attar, hosting a group of visiting journalists Saturday in Damascus, hailed the “importance of the historical relations between Syria and Iran.”

“Syria’s ties with Iran will remain strong, being built on a principled basis as they serve the two countries’ peoples and contribute to boosting stability in the Middle East,” she said, according to the official Syrian Arab News Agency.

Report of a mass execution

In the latest offensive, Syrian troops swept into the rebel enclave of Bab Amr late last week, routing opposition fighters. The move ended a 27-day siege on the Bab Amr neighborhood, which had been in the hands of opposition forces for weeks. Activists and human rights groups have since accused Syrian forces of waging a campaign of revenge on the neighborhood, executing captives, looting homes and systematically shelling hundreds of buildings.

The New York-based group Human Rights Watch said at least 700 people have been killed in weeks of fighting in the area.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland described the situation in Homs as “absolutely horrific.”

Violence continued to rage across Syria on Saturday, with the opposition Local Coordination Committees reporting the deaths of 80 people nationwide. They included 47 soldiers said to have been shot in a mass execution after they tried to defect in the restive northern province of Idlib.

There were also reports of renewed shelling in several other neighborhoods of Homs where the Free Syrian Army holds sway.

The Syrian Arab News Agency reported that three people died in a suicide bombing in the southern province of Daraa. It also said 21 members of the security forces killed in the violence the previous day were given funerals.

The Syrian authorities continued to deny the International Committee of the Red Cross access to Bab Amr, two days after it was overrun by Syrian government forces in the wake of a retreat by the Free Syrian Army. An ICRC spokesman in Geneva told the Associated Press that the government was citing security concerns for its refusal to allow the aid group to enter.

Posted on 03/04/2012 12:12 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 4 March 2012
Israel Fiddles while Syria Burns

Ted Belkman, editor of Israpundfit

Editor's note:

Ted Belman is the editor and publisher of Israpundit, a blog focused on Israel, the Middle East and American polcies towards the Jewish State.  He is a former Torontonian who made aliyah to Israel in 2009. He is a friend of long standing who gave me my start as a blogger and writer eight years ago prior to my joining the New Engflish Review

In this piece, Belman writes knowledgeably about the recent overtures made by Syrian opposition groups to Israeli officials that might provide an opening for support should the Assad regime be toppled,

Jerry Gordon

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Israel fiddles while Syria burns

By Ted Belman *

“No peace, no war” has been the arrangement with Syria since 1973. The outcome of the present civil war in Syria has the potential to change that arrangement for better or worse. Israel has stayed out of the fray at least publically. No covert actions have yet come to light.

Like it or not, things are happening in Syria which will impact Israel considerably, so she should choose sides and try to affect the outcome.

The Obama administration has come out in support of the Syrian National Council (SNC) which is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and is working in cahoots with Islamist Turkey. If they do succeed in taking over Syria, it would put Israel in greater extremis.  The Muslim Brotherhood is sworn to its destruction and Turkey is no friend. Luckily the SNC does not have popular support in Syria and is not gaining traction.

The recent Friends of Syria conclave held in Tunis failed to unify the 60 plus countries taking part. China and Russia were not invited. Nor was the National Coordination Board, consisting mostly left-leaning political parties and independent political activists, including three Kurdish political parties, and youth activists, invited. Nor was the Syria Democracy Coalition (SDC) which advocates a secular democratic federated state, invited.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publically met with the SNC but failed to have it recognized as the official opposition other than by Britain. It recognized them as a “legitimate representative” of the Syrian opposition, rather than “a representative of the Syrian people” or as many had wanted, “the sole representative of the Syrian people.”  To make matters worse, Saudi Arabia walked out in disgust because the “friends” couldn’t or wouldn’t agree to supply arms to the Free Syria Army.

To make matters worse, the head of the SNC announced a few days later, that the SNC would have no problem dealing with Hezbollah if it supported a democratic change in Syria. This is an ominous sign of things to come.

Ever since Obama made a very deep bow when meeting King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, US- Saudi relations have gone downhill. Saudi Arabia is angry with Obama for pulling the rug out from under Mubarak and for suggesting reforms in Bahrain, her immediate neighbor. She is also very concerned that Obama has not dealt with Iran more forcibly.  Syria is another example where she is at odds with the Obama administration.

Saudi Arabia is determined to bring about Assad’s downfall mainly because Syria is an alley of Iran whom she sees as an existential threat. Also she does not want a Muslim Brotherhood controlled Syria because she sees the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat. She has encouraged al Qaeda to infiltrate Syria and has been supplying arms along with Qatar to the Free Syria Army. The war is far from over.

The Free Syria Army is made up mostly of defecting soldiers and officers. They are outgunned and out-numbered but have the support of the people and will fight on. Recently one of their representatives met with an Israeli journalist in secrecy to enlist Israel in their cause. He was opposed to the SNC and definitely opposed to Turkey dominating Syria. He argued that it was in Israel’s interest to remove the Assad regime as she would also be undermining Hezbollah and Iran two other of her enemies. Even so, he thought of Israel as the enemy and said it would take 20 to 30 years before normalization takes place and the Golan could be discussed. You would think that, given its great need for support, he would have offered to make peace with Israel immediately after the fall of Assad, without the Golan being returned, even if he couldn’t deliver on his promise.

Recently, a Syrian made contact with an IDF spokesperson on Face Book and wrote "We want to get rid of Assad and his regime and modernize Syria by promoting freedom of religion and freedom of thought. We do not want war with you and are definitely not interested in the Golan Heights."

And this individual is not alone. The Syria Democratic Coalition (SDC) embraces a similar view. They have considerable support from the following minorities:  Kurds, Christians, Druze, Assyrians and even the Alawites.  They want a federated state in which each minority has a delineated region and in which federal government is a secular democracy. What could be bad? Currently they are more fearful of a state ruled by Islamist thugs than a state ruled by the present regime and so have not become active in the revolt so far.

It is time for Israel to get off the fence. She must meet with the SDC and determine the bona fides of the group and the extent of its support. She must outreach to Saudi Arabia to find common cause in both the support to be given and the outcome to be achieved. It is entirely possible that Saudi Arabia would agree to the vision of the SDC because that would stop the growth of the Muslim Brotherhood, undermine Iran and Hezbollah and strengthen Israel. She needs a strong Israel to opposed Iran and doesn’t see Israel as a threat.

But this is easier said than done. Israel is in a very delicate position.  She is seeking Obama’s commitment to prevent a nuclear Iran. This is Israel’s dominant issue. She doesn’t want in any way to alienate Obama by working against his support of the Muslim Brotherhood dominated SNC. Similarly she doesn’t want to oppose Turkey’s plans for Syria. And she certainly doesn’t want Assad pushed to the brink.  He may then choose the Samson option and use his WMD’s against his neighbours, especially herself. Just on Saturday it was reported that Assad has ordered his army to fire a barrage of missiles at Israel should there be military intervention.  Hezbollah and Iran have agreed to do likewise. Israel prefers to leave well enough alone.  She also prefers to deal with one enemy at a time. To add to the complications, Syria and the Kurdish PKK operating in Turkey are allies as they both see Turkey as the enemy. In a way Syria becomes Israel’s alley as well.

Sometimes, fiddling is the best course of action.

  • Ted Belman is the editor Israpundit. He made Aliya from Canada in 2009 and now lives in Jerusalem.
Posted on 03/04/2012 1:11 PM by Ted Belman
Sunday, 4 March 2012
In Yemen, Al-Qaeda And The Army Go At It

From VOA:

 March 04, 2012

Southern Yemen Fighting Kills 30 Soldiers, 14 Al-Qaida Militants


An injured man lies on a stretcher in a hospital after a suicide bombing near the southern Yemeni city of Zinjibar, capital of the Abyan province, March 4, 2012.
Photo: Reuters
An injured man lies on a stretcher in a hospital after a suicide bombing near the southern Yemeni city of Zinjibar, capital of the Abyan province, March 4, 2012.

Yemeni officials and medics say a fierce battle between government troops and al-Qaida fighters in the country's south has killed at least 30 soldiers and 14 militants.

They say the fighting erupted in the southern province of Abyan on Sunday, when the al-Qaida militants detonated several car bombs and tried to overrun a military post in the Koud region near the provincial capital, Zinjibar.

Medics and officials say many government soldiers were wounded in exchanges of fire with the insurgents. They say the death toll from the fighting is likely to rise.

Al-Qaida militants seized control of Zinjibar last May while the government was pre-occupied with cracking down on nationwide opposition protests against the autocratic rule of then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Yemeni government forces have been trying to reclaim Zinjibar ever since.

Yemen has seen a surge in attacks blamed on al-Qaida since Saleh deputy Abed Rabo Mansour Hadi took office as president last month, under terms of a Gulf-backed deal to resolve the political crisis. Hours after Hadi's February 25 inauguration, a suicide bombing killed 26 soldiers at a presidential palace in the the eastern province of Hadramawt.

Hadi has said fighting al-Qaida and restoring security in the impoverished Arab nation are among his top priorities.

Posted on 03/04/2012 1:47 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 4 March 2012
Rival Rallies For And Against Assad In Beirut
From The Daily Star (Lebanon)
March 5, 2012
Rival rallies expose deep divides
By Stephen Dockery, Wassim Mroueh

BEIRUT: Nearly a thousand people turned out in Beirut Sunday for a fiery day of protests over the unrest in Syria, underscoring deep cleavages that are spilling across Lebanon’s borders.On one end of Martyrs Square, people waved banners reading “there is no god but God” and called for an end to the reign of President Bashar Assad. On the other end, protesters waved Syrian, Iranian and Hezbollah flags in support of Syria’s embattled president.

Hundreds of people were bussed in from Sidon in the south and Tripoli in the north to take part in a rare, large daytime protest in the country against the Assad’s regime’s brutal crackdown on the nearly year-old uprising in Syria.

Previous rallies against the regime in the capital have been broken up by pro-Assad groups, which have strong support in Beirut.

For Saadallah Shebaro, 25, the rally in support of the Syrian uprising was long overdue. Shebaro and his friends from Ras Beirut said they had been waiting for a chance to voice their support for the opposition to the Damascus regime in Lebanon’s capital, and affirmed that they were not extremists.

“Whoever wants to stand by Syria will come to this protest,” he added.

Organized by Sheikh Ahmad Assir’s mosque in Sidon, the protest bore the hallmarks of a religious event. Mosque volunteers organized demonstrators into lines and veiled women had their own protesting section and were escorted to their buses by volunteers.

Chants rippled through the mostly male crowd throughout the afternoon, professing faith in God, and calls to fulfil their Islamic duties.

The protesters called for jihad to overthrow Assad and avenge those who have been killed in the uprising. “With our blood and our souls we sacrifice for you martyrs,” they chanted.

Singer Fadel Shaker took part in the protest and slammed president Assad for the brutal crackdown.

Imam Abu Hudhaifa Beizeh called the day’s protest a statement of brotherhood with Muslims in Syria.

“Today’s demonstration expresses solidarity with the Syrian children, women and elderly in addition to the detainees and injured men,” said Beizeh, the imam at the Aisha Mosque in Tripoli.

Most of the demands from the anti-Assad demonstrators, who included Syrian nationals, were the same: to stop the violence against the opposition in Syria.

“People cannot tolerate injustice and oppression,” said Mohammad Shaar, 28, from Beirut.

A quarter mile away, across rows of concertina wire, groups of riot police and armored personnel carriers, the sentiment was just about the opposite.

The banner of choice was the red and black Syrian flag, many bearing the face of President Assad. Russian and Chinese flags were waved as well, an acknowledgment of the countries’ support for the Syrian regime at the United Nations.

On this side of Martyrs Square, Assad was promoted as a figure of protection, not oppression.

Ahmad Shaikhoun, from the Baath Party, drove from Nabatieh in the south to come to the rally.

“I came here for the sake of a president who represents defiance. This is the least I can do for his sake,” he said, with a Syrian flag wrapped around his neck.

Protesters voiced anger at what they saw as foreign influence and other interests behind the uprising in Syria. People chanted slogans against King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.

For 16-year-old Tareq, a Syrian from Sweida, the protest was an opportunity to make a little money.

Tareq came to sell kaak, but added that he was a staunch defender of Assad, whose poster he fixed to his bike’s handlebars, which also displayed kaak. “I am with Assad because he is making us live the best life ever,” he said.

Protesters danced the dabkeh as music echoed from speakers fixed on a Chevrolet. The tune of the slogans mimicked that of now-famous chants by anti-regime protesters in Syria.

“Grab your guns, Bashar is a holy leader,” they chanted.

Protesters also carried a poster for Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt with an eye patch similar to one late Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan used to wear. They chanted against Jumblatt, who recently broke ties with the Syrian regime.

The bulk of the pro-Assad protesters were Syrians working in Lebanon and some were Lebanese supporters of the Baath Party.

A Syrian from Aleppo said that he supported Assad because the president had given them a decent life.

“He has given us security and free electricity and phone services,” he said, carrying a Syrian flag. “Those [protesting on the other side] claim to be Muslims, but in reality they are terrorists.”

Posted on 03/04/2012 9:23 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 4 March 2012
A Musical Interlude: Lovable And Sweet (Annette Hanshaw)
Listen here.
Posted on 03/04/2012 9:26 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 4 March 2012
Maronite Bishop Understands That In Syria, Under Alawite Rule, Christians Have Been Protected

Violence turning Arab Spring into winter

Some Christians fear the Arab Spring turmoil is helping extremist Muslim groups. (File photo)
Some Christians fear the Arab Spring turmoil is helping extremist Muslim groups. (File photo)

Violence and bloodshed is turning the “Arab Spring” into winter, the head of Lebanon’s Maronite Church said, threatening Christians and Muslims alike across the Middle East.

Patriarch Beshara al-Rai, whose Maronite Church also has a strong presence in Syria, said change could not be brought to the Arab world by force and that Christians feared the turmoil was helping extremist Muslim groups.

“We are with the Arab Spring but we are not with this spring of violence, war, destruction and killing. This is turning to winter,” Rai told Reuters in Bkirki, seat of the Maronite church in hills overlooking the Mediterranean Sea north of Beirut.

The upheaval sweeping through the Arab world, toppling four veteran leaders, gave voice to millions of people who suffered decades of repression. But it also brought conflict in Libya and has tipped Syria towards civil war.

“We say that we cannot implement reforms by force and arms. No one can guess the scale of the great losses and damage which could result,” said Rai, speaking this week in an ornately decorated reception room in the patriarchate in Bkirki.

Unlike the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 which overthrew Saddam Hussein, the Arab uprisings started as largely grassroot protests against entrenched leaderships.

But Rai, who attended a memorial service in Iraq last year for Christians killed in an attack on a Baghdad church, drew a parallel between Iraq and the rest of the Arab world, saying Christians could bear a disproportionate share of the suffering.

“How can it be an Arab Spring when people are being killed every day?” he said. “They speak of Iraq and democracy, and one million Christians out of an original 1.5 million have fled Iraq.”

The patriarch said all communities in the Middle East were threatened by “war and violence, economic and security crises”, but Christians were particularly vulnerable because of their relatively small and dwindling numbers. [meaning: they can't defend themselves against Muslim oppressors, as they have historically been able to in Lebanon, given their larger numbers and, consequently, strength]

Maronites, who have a presence in Lebanon, Syria and Cyprus, follow an Eastern rite of the Roman Catholic church and number about 900,000 in Lebanon, around a quarter of the population.

Christians not at ease

Lebanon’s Maronite leaders have had tense relations with Syria and led calls for an end to its military presence in Lebanon in 2005.

But since protests erupted against President Bashar al-Assad many Christians have been uneasy about supporting the increasingly militarized and mainly Sunni Muslim uprising against his secular Baath Party, which ensured freedom of belief for minority faiths.

The 72-year-old Rai, elected patriarch on the same day in March last year that serious protest first broke out in Damascus against Assad, said Maronites were neither supporting nor opposing the Syrian authorities.

“Syria, like other countries, needs reforms which the people are demanding,” he said. “It’s true that the Syrian Baath regime is an extreme and dictatorial regime but there are many others like it in the Arab world.”


All regimes in the Arab world have Islam as a state religion, except for Syria. It stands out for not saying it is an Islamic state ... The closest thing to democracy (in the Arab world) is Syria.”

“We are not defending it. But we regret that Syria, which wants to take a step forward ... is undergoing this violence and destruction and (use of) power and weapons.”

The United Nations says more than 7,500 people have been killed in the uprising and puts the blame for the bloodshed mainly on Assad’s government, saying it has reports of summary executions, imprisonment and torture by authorities.

Syrian government forces have bombarded opposition districts of the city of Homs for weeks, killing and wounding civilians cowering in its ruined buildings.

Assad’s government said in December more than 2,000 police and soldiers had been killed by what it describes as “terrorist armed groups,” backed by foreign powers, which it says are trying to stir up violence in Syria.

Rai has expressed fears the Arab uprisings could replace autocratic leaders with radical Islamic groups, and said extremist groups were getting foreign support.

“It’s not the people who want them. There are countries behind them, supporting them financially and militarily and politically,” he said. “Moderate people do not want them.”

“We do not speak out against any sect and we do not fear moderate Islam. We fear the extremists groups that use the language of violence”.

Many Lebanese of all religions, still recovering from their ruinous 1975-1990 civil war, fear the violence in Syria will upset their own fragile sectarian balance and could push the country towards its own renewed conflict.

Rai said Lebanese were divided by events across the border, and he feared the shockwaves could have an impact in Lebanon, home to Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims, Maronite and Orthodox Christians, Druzes and Alawites - the same sect as Assad.

Two people were killed in street battles in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli three weeks ago between Alawite supporters of Assad and Sunni Muslims who back the uprising against him.

“God forbid that the conflict turns into a sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Alawites,” said Rai.

“In Tripoli we have Alawites and the situation there is like a fire (smoldering) under the ashes.”
Posted on 03/04/2012 9:56 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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