Sunday, February 27, 2005

Samarra, Pipes, ATFP article

1) US snipers on Samarra's spiral minaret:

The US military says "military necessity" takes
precedence over the safeguarding of this Islamic
landmark- By Lucian Harris

US army snipers have been positioned at the top of the
great spiral minaret of the 9th century al-Mutawakkil
mosque in Samarra. The 172-foot-high minaret, known as
the Malwiya (spiral in Arabic), has a commanding view
of the surrounding area, and the US army says that
positioning snipers at its summit has drastically
reduced the number of roadside bombs targeting
military vehicles. However, their presence has raised
concerns for the safety of one of the most important
buildings in the history of Islamic architecture, of
such significance for Iraqis that it is depicted on
the new 250 dinar banknote."

2) Pipes Again:

By Jim Lobe
Inter Press Service
February 25, 2005

Despite the apparent decision by President George W.
Bush against re-nominating him to the board of the
United States Institute of Peace (USIP),
"anti-Islamist" activist Daniel Pipes is working as
diligently as ever to protect the United States and
the Western world from the influence of radical

He has proposed the creation of a new Anti-Islamist
Institute (AII) designed to expose legal "political
activities" of "Islamists," such as "prohibiting
families from sending pork or pork byproducts to U.S.
soldiers serving in Iraq," which nonetheless, in his
view, serve the interests of radical Islam...

3) ATFP article:

By Ori Nir
February 25, 2005 Issue

Washington — America's largest Jewish policymaking
body will
host an unlikely guest at its annual gathering this
weekend in
Washington: the head of America's most prominent
advocacy group.

Ziad Asali, founder and president of the American Task
Force on
Palestine, will participate in a special discussion on
March 1
at the annual policy plenum of the Jewish Council of
Affairs, a policy coordinating body that brings
together 13
national organizations and 123 local Jewish
communities. It will
be the first time in more than a decade that the JCPA
has included such a discussion on whether American
Jews and
Arabs can work together for Middle East peace.

"The question we are posing is: Given our very
narratives and perspectives on the Middle East
situation, is
there enough common ground now for us to come together
support the efforts for peace?" said Martin Raffel,
the JCPA's
associate executive director.

Asali's answer is a resounding "yes."

Since he established the Task Force, more than two
years ago,
the 63-year-old retired physician has been calling for
Arabs —
both in the Middle East and in America — to reach out
American Jews and work together for peace. The
American Jewish
community's support of a two-state solution is
"essential" for
any viable peace accord between Israelis and
Palestinians, he
said in a recent interview with the Forward.

"If we do not reassure [American] Jews that what we
are striving
for is a Palestinian state that will live in peace,
security and
respect alongside an Israeli Jewish state, then we
simply cannot
proceed" toward realizing that goal, he said. That
Asali said, should be based on building both personal
organizational rapport between the two communities,
and on
charting the political common ground.

Both communities, Asali said, should start by simply
getting to
know each other, by breaking the wall of stereotyping
dehumanization that divides them. "We all suffer from
the sin of
synecdoche" — the tendency to attribute the
characteristics of a
part to the whole. "In fact, each community is more
moderate and
pragmatic than the other may think, and in both
communities the
majority wants what is good for America and what's
good for both
peoples in the region."

Asali said that the place where the national security
of Americans, Israelis and Palestinians meet is where
he tries
to position his organization. In 2003, after three
years as the
president of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination
Committee and
nine years of heading other national Arab-American
groups, Asali
decided to establish an organization that would stand
out in
several ways: It would focus on achieving
peace, operate as a political advocacy group and avoid
attacks on the close relationship Israel enjoys with
the United

In the face of raging Israeli-Palestinian violence
during the
past four years, Asali's approach resonated in
Washington. It
was well crafted to fit President Bush's two-state
vision, which
has made Palestinian statehood an American national
priority. It became even more palatable in Washington
Israel's leaders, advocating for the pullout from Gaza
and parts
of the West Bank, talked about ending the occupation
as a chief
Israeli national security objective.

Asali's moderate voice and solid contacts with the
administration and Congress have turned this
Jerusalem-born physician into the most visible
spokesman for the
Palestinians in Washington in recent months. Together
Washington lawyer and Republican activist George
Salem, who is
on the board of the relatively new pro-Palestinian
Asali was chosen by the White House to represent
America on the
official three-person U.S. delegation to Yasser
funeral. He and Salem, along with two senators,
Republican John
Sununu of New Hampshire and Democrat Joe Biden of
Delaware, were
part of the official American delegation sent to the
region last
month to monitor the Palestinian Authority
elections. And earlier this month, he was invited to
before a congressional committee on the prospects for
Israeli-Palestinian peace, joining former secretary of
Henry Kissinger and former U.S. Mideast envoy Dennis

At the hearing, he voiced some unorthodox views: One
was that
Palestinians "absolutely should fulfill all their
as stipulated in the road map peace plan "without
Another was that the question of Israeli security is

It was another statement, however, that got the
activist invited to speak at the JCPA's annual plenum.

At a press briefing following his trip to monitor the
Palestinian elections, Asali said that Palestinians
should come
to terms with the fact that they would not be able to
their "right of return" to their old homes in Israel.

The JCPA's Raffel, who was watching the briefing on
said: "When I heard that, I jumped from my chair. I
said, 'Hey,
that's a guy I can do business with.'"

Asali, who was six when his family fled Jerusalem in
the spring
of 1948, says he knows full well how unpopular this
position is
among Palestinians. His mother, he says, died with the
key to
their Jerusalem home under her pillow. "But we must
now separate
the right from the return," he said. The moral right
of refugees
to recover their properties, he said, should be
addressed by a
combination of compensation and an Israeli
acknowledgement of
the wrong that was done to hundreds of thousands of
Palestinians. "But in terms of an actual return, well,
there is
really nothing to return to. It's Israel now."

According to several Palestinian-American activists
who were
interviewed for this story, Asali's moderate views do
not cast a
shadow over his credibility. Some of his views might
controversial, "'but he is widely respected, and
that's unusual
in a community that is so internally divided," said a
Palestinian-American activist.

Asali believes that speaking his mind enhances his
"I am fed-up with making points or scoring points in
debates," he said. "I understand the young
students who scream on university campuses. I know
what they are
talking about. And I also know that they don't know
what they
are talking about." Palestinians and their friends in
he said, should quit focusing on grievances of the
past and
instead do their best "to avoid the disasters of the


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