Friday, February 26, 2010

Jews of the world: denounce Zionism!

MFL notes: An excellent piece of Class Struggle on Zionism and the Jews, taken from, the link is here and was written by an Israeli Communist. Having said Israeli Communist, it means that the comrade doesn't believe in identities, rather, simply the struggle of the working class. Due to the on-going blunders of the Zionists in Israel, along with their religious die-hards and Torah based fanatics, I was forgeting the ABC of Marxist thought towards the case of Palestine. Of course, coming from the other side of the borders, I have more to say on the issue, but it is always great to see our comrades fighting for the working class wherever they go. I am certain that this author is also under persecution in Israel because those religious fanatics cannot swallow what he said.

The crimes of the Zionist ruling class in Israel against the Palestinian people have been rightly condemned by all progressive and left people around the world. However, there are reactionary right-wing elements that try to exploit this to push an anti-Semitic agenda. Genuine socialists reject both Zionism and anti-Semitism. The solution to ethnic and national conflicts is to be found in the class struggle and socialism. We publish this contribution on the question from a Jewish Marxist living in Israel.

During and after the Israeli massacre in Gaza, the world was flooded by an overwhelming wave of resistance to the Zionist crimes. How could anyone not protest at such a grotesque crime against a whole people, a people that has been without a genuine homeland ever since Israel was created?

However, there is also another side to this situation, an attempt by small Fascist and neo-Nazi groups in Europe to exploit this wonderful display of international solidarity to their own advantage. These forces take advantage of Zionist crimes, such as the bombing and invasion of Gaza a few months back, to promote their own anti-Semitic propaganda. They claim that these crimes and the refusal of the bourgeois governments throughout the world to intervene against them are "proof" of an inherent evil nature of Jews in general. They also use this to spread filth about the supposed desire for “world domination” on the part of the Jews. This is all reminiscent of anti-Jewish Nazi propaganda.

This attempt to divert a progressive and justified struggle along racist lines has produced its effects. Anti-Semitic crimes have risen substantially recently, particularly in Europe. The Gaza massacre gave rise to anti-Semitic incidents, not seen in Europe for quite some time. Surprisingly, the reactionary forces behind these attacks are being aided by the Jewish leaders throughout the world: they were mostly silent in taking a stand against the Zionist massacre. Mostly they collaborated with the Zionist and anti-Semitic lie that portrays Israel as the state of the Jewish people and Zionism as the national movement and sole representative of the Jewish "nation".

The truth is, that ordinary Jews from within, and particularly from without Israel have nothing to do with the massacre. They have nothing to do with Zionism altogether. But as long as they continue to support the Israeli state and the Zionist movement that gave birth to it and its crimes, the anti-Semitism fuelled by the fallacious associations made between Zionist barbarism and the Jewish people as a whole is likely to continue, putting many innocent Jews in jeopardy.

(Zionism cynically regards any criticism, as sounded and justified as it may be, against its crimes, as anti-Semitism. Drawing by Latuff.)

Zionism and anti-Semitism

Zionism cynically regards any criticism, as sounded and justified as it may be, against its crimes, as anti-Semitism. This, in turn, helps to confuse the progressive struggle against Zionism with the reactionary forces behind anti-Semitism. Both Zionism and anti-Semitism benefit from that confusion. It would not be the first time that Zionism and anti-Semitism have collaborated against Jews and other people.

Contrary to Zionist propaganda, Zionism is not the answer to anti-Semitism. It is a form of anti-Semitism itself. Zionism began with the fear of West European petty-bourgeois Jews of a flood of Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe. They collaborated with anti-Semites on more than one occasion for a common goal: to cleanse Europe from its Jewish inhabitants (mostly poor workers) and keep them away from collaborating with the growing workers' movement, and particularly with Bolshevism.

Similar to anti-Semitism, Zionism claims that Jews are inherently different from their non-Jewish neighbours and that they cannot and should not integrate with them. So Zionism gives the anti-Semitic answer to the Jewish question: the Jews should be evacuated from Europe to a place far away.

Zionism and imperialism

Zionism in practice meant two things in the past. First of all, it promoted "Jewish" colonialism in Palestine, starting with a group of adventurers who took over Palestinian land in order to build a kind of "White settler" colony on it, and then they imported ordinary Jews as workers and soldiers to be exploited on that same stolen land. Secondly, it also embodies the practice of keeping the local workforce divided along ethnic lines, with “Jews versus Arabs”, fighting each other constantly rather than uniting against their common oppressors. This situation produced a unique opportunity for imperialism, which is the main reason why it survives until today.

After the Israeli state was created, it eventually received recognition and support from imperialism. As the Cold War developed, the Soviet Union (which had originally supported the partition of Palestine and the creation of Israel) threw its weight behind the Arab states, while American imperialism, in particular, came to understand the significance of such a state as Israel for its interests in the Middle East. Such an artificial state, which causes such antagonism amongst its neighbours will be forever dependent on imperialism, and will always need to depend heavily on the supply of arms for its survival. It thus serves as a garrison state in the service of global imperialism against the struggle of the Arab masses. This is the reason why Israel is so supported by the imperialist states. It is not because of some secretive "Jewish domination" over international capital as the anti-Semites claim. It is international capital itself, by its own logic, regardless of who "controls" it, which dictates the need for an artificial, disintegrated, hysterically violent and heavily armed state in the heart of the Arab world.

Why do Jews support Zionism?

How was it that Jews, who had always been at the forefront of the revolutionary forces in Europe, found themselves entangled in the most reactionary and barbaric forces in the world?

Initially, most Jews disregarded Zionism. Many of them loathed it. Only a minority of Jews migrated to Palestine. It took the rise of Nazi-fascism in Europe to radically change the picture. Jews that were being persecuted in Europe, their attempts to seek shelter in other countries being turned down, would go anywhere they could in search of refuge. Most of them still saw Palestine only as a last resort. They mostly fled to Latin America, North Africa, Russia, North America and other places. Only a minority found itself, not always willingly, moving to Palestine. In spite of this, an influx of Jews into Palestine did take place and it was sufficient to provide a solid base for the future Israeli state. After the Holocaust, many of the survivors were also evacuated to Palestine. The European bourgeoisie did not want to deal with the Jewish refugees and preferred their relocation to Palestine. Zionist delegations collaborated with that trend and persuaded the confused survivors to migrate to Palestine.

Today, it can be understood why the Jews who live in Israel support Zionism whether their ancestors wanted to migrate to Palestine or not. It is not just that they are constantly bombarded with Zionist propaganda from early childhood onwards. It is also because of the antagonism that Zionist colonialism has provoked in the surrounding Arab world, which pushes them to support the Zionist state as the only means for their protection.

It is less clear why Jews outside of Israel support Zionism. First of all, they do it to a far lesser extent than the Jews inside Israel. Many of the sharpest critics of Zionism are in fact Jews, and that is hardly surprising. Secondly, those who do support Zionism are doing it out for two reasons.

The first reason is that conservative Jews have come to understand that over time Jews will eventually integrate into the societies they live in. In this sense, Israel is regarded as the only place where Jews are incapable of “integrating” as there cannot be anything else but Jews.

The second reason and the more alarming one, is the vicious circle caused by the fear of anti-Semitism. Jews support Israel because they regard it as a shelter from a possible anti-Semitic resurgence, but that very support fuels anti-Semitism. This vicious circle must be broken if we want to rid the world of anti-Semitism. Zionism is not and cannot be a shelter for persecuted Jews. On the contrary, it is exactly what makes Jews easy victims of persecution. It is a convenient mechanism for keeping them apart from the societies they live in, and as long as they do not denounce this fact, loudly and clearly, it will be much easier for anti-Semitism to taint them with the crimes of Zionism.

There is no Jewish nation

Many Zionists raise what seems to be a legitimate question: don't the Jews deserve the right of self-determination like other nations? The answer to this should be unequivocal: whilst we support the right of Israeli Jews, who after all have been living in Palestine for 60 years now, to self-determination, this self-determination (based on the right of Israeli Jews to their own language and culture in the regions they inhabit) cannot be used as a justification for Zionist expansionism and occupation of another people. Nor can it be a substitute for the struggles of Jews living outside Israel, alongside their class brothers and sisters, against capitalism and racism. The answer to the plight of the Jews should not be sought in national grounds, but on social ones.

Contrary to Zionist propaganda, the Jews around the world have not been a ‘nation’ like the English, the Russian or the German nations for millennia. Jews share no common territory, they do not speak the same language, and they have different histories and different cultures. A Jew that lives in Argentina will have much more in common with his Argentine neighbours than he would have with another Jew, living in France or in Turkey. We reject unequivocally this ‘solution’ to the Jewish question proposed by the Zionists.

This is why any attempt to solve the "Jewish question" on national lines will be fallacious and harmful. The answer to the problems of anti-Semitism should be a social answer, and particularly a class answer. The struggle against anti-Semitism was always intertwined with the class struggles of society. It took the bourgeois revolutions to revoke the anti-Semitic laws and restrictions set up against the Jews in feudal times. It was also the class struggle of the proletariat that involved the fighting together of Jews and non-Jews against their common oppressors, particularly against the fascist elements who tried to no avail to separate the working class via nationalistic and anti-Semitic propaganda. Jews should not be coerced or encouraged to escape to Palestine, because there they will only be protected by the broken reed of the Zionist state, which makes the Jews under its rule more hated and vulnerable than in any other place. The labour movement should encourage Jews to stay in their respective countries, joining forces with the progressive and proletarian elements there, fighting together against any form of reaction.

Denounce Zionism, Move on to socialism!

Concentrating the Jews of the world in a small bracketed and violent state, at the expense of the native population, hated by everyone around them, is a very strange way to fight anti-Semitism. Nowadays it proves to be the main fuel for anti-Semitism in a time where such a phenomenon should have been eradicated long ago. Those Jews, in Israel or outside it, who support Zionism, end up unintentionally supporting the anti-Semitic forces which feed on this situation.

The answer to anti-Semitism is socialism. There is no way to evade that fact. Bourgeois society will always seek to divide the workers, and to lull them with reactionary fairy tails about a "glorious", "eternal" and "united" nation which can only be in conflict with other nations, never within itself. There will always be room for anti-Semitism in such an environment, and the Zionist crimes falsely associated with the Jews as a whole will make sure that this room will be ever larger. This is why we must urge anyone who regards him or herself as Jewish, to stand up against Zionism and to join forces with the progressive and revolutionary elements in his or her society. There is no other way if we desire a world without racism.

That said, socialists recognise that because Israeli Jews have lived in Palestine for over 60 years, and have developed something of a common language and culture, we reject reactionary calls (sadly sometimes seen also on the left) for them to be either ‘thrown into the sea’ or forced to live as second-class citizens in an Arab Palestine. Both the Israeli-Jewish and Palestinian peoples have the right to national, cultural and linguistic autonomy, but this is not something that can be granted by the imperialists and their ‘two-state’ solution (which in practice would mean a small, weak and divided Palestinian state under the iron heel of Israel). Only a single workers’ state of Israel/Palestine, with autonomy for both peoples but with free movement between them, and as part of a socialist federation of the Middle East, can provide these two peoples with what they desperately crave.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Reality Behind Isreal's War of Words

Again, today, another Syrian official reminded Israel of the disadvantages of war, its results would be catastrophic. Apparently Israel, with maximum under-estimation of its historic enemy, doesn't care.

The whole issue started with the arrival of Lieberman, an ultra-Zionist nutcase, and his clown, Ayalon. Displaying Israeli superiority complex, Ayalon insulted the Turkish ambassador in Israel. Ayalon argued that it was vengeance on what Turkey's spearhead, Mr. Tayeb Ordogan said in the World Economic Forum. The Turkish official simply highlighted the atrocities committed by the Israeli Defense Forces on Gaza. This was approved by the United Nation's Human Rights Committee, and voted on with a majority in the UN. Of course, the USA shut it down.

As Gaza's war left Israel militarily victorious, Israel hoped to boast its confidence in overcoming the defeat they suffered in 2006 by Hezbollah and the various civilian resistance movements (which included refugee relief, media wars, and exposing Israel for its real face: a Fascist state).

The plans of Israel backfired drastically. Ever since 2009, the majority of the world was disgusted by Israel's brutality. Another problem Israel faced is its arrogance, the majority of the world no longer looks at Israel as a victim, definitely, those World War II images were wiped out finally by its brutality on Gaza. As a matter of fact, a think tank in Israel argued that the entire world is hateful of Israel, and the last frontier was the United States. Even in the United States, according to the think tank, various informational hubs, university activists, left-wing activists, and others are exposing Israel for its reality, a fascist state that was based on ethnic cleansing. The think tank predicted that if Israel doesn't do anything drastic, Israel's final bastion for protecting its reputation (along where the real veto power lays) will collapse. Such a collapse is not any collapse, it is Israel's life-line supplier, the United States of America.

The Goldstone Affair played a role in exposing Israel's disgusting thoughts. Goldstone, a Zionist Jew himself, was traumatized to see what has happened in Gaza. A Zionist bashed Israel's Zionist regime for its inhumane activities. Israel accused its supporter of anti-semitism, which of course, remains the name of the game of shutting out critics. This reflected badly on Israel. As a matter of fact, 2009/2010 as two chronological years, appear as the breakdown of Israel's "anti-semitism" technique. Of course, Israel acknowledged that it used banned phosphoric bombs, and "persecuted" two high ranking officers. This accusation was launched during the July War on Lebanon as well as evidence of Israel's usage of banned weaponry. The world is fed up of Israel breaking International Law.

The blame of this hate, according to Lieberman and Ayalon, was directed on little Mahmoud Abbass, a clown that is selling everything in his power in the name of the Palestinians, and in the name of the 4.2 million Palestinian refugee (estimates on that number go as far as 7.2 million). Abbass, and the current form of Fatah, have been holding peace talks that was supposed to include 22% of historic Palestine. Earlier officials cut down the talks to 80% of the 22% of Palestine proper (preserving major settlements of the Zionists). Eventually, Sharon and his goons (special thanks to the Apartheid Wall and expanding settlements) cut down the negotiations to 42% of the 80%, which rotated around Gaza, West Bank, and East Jerusalem. The last corner, as a matter of fact, had been gradually undergoing Palestinian expulsions while being replaced illegally by Zionist settlers. If anything, the Palestinians, according to Jonathan Cook (Disappearing Palestine), the Palestinians are left to negotiate for 42% of the 80% of the 22% of the 100% of their national homes. What a deal to the real natives of the land. It is not Abbass's fault, it is the fault of the world finally waking up to Israel's fascist mask.

The stubbornness of Israel to block settlements and give peace negotiations a chance angered the United States as well. Well, the United States, under AIPAC dominion, cannot react much. A group of congressmen in the US submitted a petition to the US Administration, that the United States should be more aggressive with Israel, the Israeli readers wondered how did AIPAC allow that to happen. Israel's non-democratic acts have reflected too long on US affairs. The United States' democracy itself is under threat because AIPAC should approve of congressmen.

Of course, Natanyaho and his goons were hoping for a face save. Hence, Haiti as a disaster took place, and Israeli media made sure to provide coverage for the 200 IDF units. This actually put Israel in trouble. Gaza remains shattered, burnt to the ashes, as Israel still inflicts a siege on it (well now Moubarak is helping Israel too).A lot argued that this was low blow to cover up for Gaza. In my opinion, I agree. When some Natanyaho officials bragged that they were the only ones to help Haiti, he didn't notice the billions of dollars coming from his Arab neighbors. Of course, some IDF soldiers may have the intent to help; however, these are the soldiers of an institution that is accused of war crimes against humanity.

The IDF as a matter of fact is facing another front, a rebellion from its veterans, those who were forced to serve in that fascist disgusting army, and decided to go in the open exposing Israel's "glorious brave army" for looting, humiliating, insulting, degrading, torturing, and even killing Palestinian citizens. The movement, Breaking The Silence, currently is touring the United States, again, the stronghold of Israel's propaganda centers, and I sure hope they can have listening ears.

The on-going attempted arrests which made Levni herself, another war criminal, a temprary fugitive in Britain also sored relations between Israel and the UK. Israel attempted to change the British law to make its war crimes an exception. The British audience were angered by Israeli arrogance while the leadership of Brown was totally embarassed. The law will not change.

Another damaging effect was the assassination of a Hamas figurehead in Dubai. That alone also got Israel alienated with France, England, Ireland, and other countries. This again goes down to the blunderous acts of Ayalon and Lieberman. As a matter of fact, these two clowns are soring relations between Israel and United States to the extent Israel's Peretz is negotiating with the United States, instead the foreign minister.

Israel also is irritating the United States as well, it depends on US funds and weapons, but Israel also has its own military trade, which ends up selling arms to China. AIPAC cannot justify that as well.

Such attempts have pushed the ruling elites of Israel to go and push for media war with Syria and Lebanon. Lebanon is always under threat from Israel, and Nasrallah pledged that if they go to war, it will not be a joy ride for their armies. This goes into Israeli calculations that Hezbollah had upgraded its missiles to repay Israel with "eye for eye, ear for ear", hence Nasrallah's famous speech, Ben Gurion's Airport for Beirut's Rafiq Harriri Airport. Syria pledged to rush for the aid of Lebanon, but not morally, rather militarily this time. The Lebanese are fed up of Syria's moral support then harvest victories on their backs. This also means if Israel targets Syria, it will rain rockets from Lebanon as well. Two fronts that I am certain Israel will be left in total loss. The Israeli Air Force is not that comfortable also, Nasrallah last year announced it that Hezbollah "has the capacities to shoot down Israeli Airplanes". If that is a fact, then, not just Israel is in trouble, but other regimes as well, specially the "peaceful" countries that surround Israel: Egypt and Jordan. Of course, this collission doesn't exclude the future confronation between Iran and Israel. Russia, which recieved a pleasant visit from the Israeli government, disregarded "Israeli favors" and sold Iran its latest state of the art Defense System.

The entire regimes of Jordan and Egypt are standing on the fact that "nothing can be done with Israel". The superior airforce of Israel allowed these two countries, among others, that nothing can be done to face the Israeli army. If Hezbollah accomplishes greater victories against Israel, specially by hindering Israeli Air Force, the regimes might not be able to justify to their people why the peace treaty stands. Of course, The Israeli Lobby Book, argues how Egypt and Jordan are the second and third most funded countries in the US agenda, after Israel. The two flanks of Israel will face rough time in controlling their people's wrath, who all are not happy with the peace treaty. Hence, if Hezbollah proves a real victory in a war against Israel, Moubarak in specific may be overthrown in the end of the day. Of course, I won't feel any sorrow towards his son not taking over "the presidential throne".

This leads to the question, how desperate is Natanyaho. Is he willing to make the blunders of Olmert and open two fronts? The Gaza front in the past was easy, but the Lebanese Front was devestative. Can Israel easily go to war with Syria and Lebanon? Is Israel going to destabilize its two allies, Egypt and Jordan? Natanyahou's blunders already pushed Syria and Turkey to reconcile. As a matter of fact, now Turkish citizens do not need VISA to go and visit Lebanon or Syria, and vice versa.

My Question is: For How long the United States is willing to allow Israel go on a rampage of racism, fascism, terrorism, and acts of war against humanity. Obviously the Iranian dilemma, Haiti bravery, escalation of political tensions in the Middle East didn't cover up anything.

Actually, I do have one more remark, while the Israeli movie, Ajami, is reeping awards on a global scale. Israel attempted to promote the film as an Israeli product done by the Israeli Arabs, the same Arabs who regard themselves as Palestinians, but under gunpoint, they are suffering cultural genocide. The actor in the film, who was then nominated for an Oscar, was brutally beaten up by the Israeli Army, and arrested. Another slap in the face, and another bullet in Israel's supposed democracy.

The final embarassment is the fanatic religious surges within Israel that are becoming more and more public. The gender division of women and men on buses, the attempts to ban internet, and the non-protected Palestinian Christians of Jerusalem who were threatened not to celebrate Christmas, reflects badly on Israel. For how long those idiots of the Neo-Christians want to support Israel?

J-Street was targeted last week by Ayalon as he refused to meet with J-Street Affiliated US Congressmen, which also triggered another fiasco between USA and Israel. J-Street is attempting to counter AIPAC, and in a short period of time had been assembling a lot of Jews there. Of course, Israel considered them "the enemy" because there is one color of Judaism, that is, Zionism. The Jews should be liberated from Zionism, because Zionism is holding every Jew in the world its hostage. If they disagree, just like Pape and Goldstone, they are traitors, self-hating Jews, and Muslim Lovers, in the eyes of the Israeli government. The latest escalations of the Israeli government will not shed its reality. Zionist Israel is losing its legitimacy.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Ironies and Lebanon's Democracy

One of the biggest contradictions about Lebanon is the symbolism it represents.
For starters, Lebanon represents co-existence and the symbol of peace, where 18 sects co-exist with each other. The Lebanese President even praised the Lebanese model as "a model of coexistence". The other face of Lebanon is the fact it is the next of sectarianism. Sectarian wars that exploded in 1958, 1975 – 1990, 2008, are a proof also that Lebanon is a model for war. I am certain that a lot of Lebanese abroad spend a lot of their time explaining to the world that Lebanon is divided according to sectarian lines, but all Lebanese love each other. Personally, I agree with the former position, sectarianism is imposed from above, and was legitimated since the French mandate. Like all 19th and early 20th century colonial empires, the French mandate imposed a political body that was aimed to divide the communities in order to renew their mandate. The French are gone, but that type of a regime, that suits the traditional family leaders, remained. Few politicians are exceptions to the norm, they bulldozed their way and became integrated into the system. Coexistence also includes the abolishment of sectarianism towards the Palestinian refugees, seek common solutions with them, and the obliteration of racism towards foreign labor (unless they come from the West, then they are treated with royalty).

Lebanon is "Modern and European" but also "Backward". Sure, wherever the Lebanese go, everyone calls Beirut as the "Paris of the East", or dub Lebanon "Switzerland of the East". Of course the difference is, Paris with all its historic glory, is the symbol of academic discussions on racism exploding there: what it means to be a real French. Switzerland is famous for its historic breakthroughs in patching up its communities and enjoy a prosperous peace. Lebanon on the other hand, enjoys a unique night life that is undisputed by any capital in the world. Dubai, Tel Aviv, Istambul, and others tried to recreate that "rich night life" in Lebanon, but so far it didn't reach Beirut's standards. Nevertheless, Beirut, was the city that demolished on daily basis. Theodor Hanf highlights the remarkable phenomenon, during the 1975 – 1990 civil war, how Beirut was rebuilt itself every time there is a seize fire. Nevertheless, it gets demolished again. After the end of the Israeli aggression on Lebanon in 2006, Beirut automatically restored its night life after the Israeli siege of Lebanon was lifted. As a matter of fact, while Israel was bombing Lebanon, nightlife was also booming in Beirut's nightlife. Couple of pub and nightclub managers told me that their profits maxed out to a new level (two in Ras Beirut, two in Gemayzi) during the Israeli aggression. The time when night life plumbed down was during the 2008 mini civil war we experienced, everyone hid in their houses with few peace activists who were trying to build a front for peace. However, nightlife is not a standard measure for modernity. Such a belief makes some people to become backward. Backward is not to have a religious community as well. It is about sectarianism. Backward is not remembering that the politicians need the people, and not as it currently stands, the people need the leaders.

Lebanon is the beacon of "democracy in the Middle East", but Lebanon is ruled by feudal lords. Hence, is it really democratic when the bourgeoisie elites meet up for months and months discussing the layout of the electoral constituencies whereby most of the results are already determined by the borders and alliances? Sure, Lebanon has a democratic competition between two gigantic coalitions, nevertheless, the results of the competitive coalitions appear when only few constituencies determine the real victor. Usually, such constituencies, have the real balance of power. Another side of the coin is how sectarian or political minorities appear to be beaten up by the supporters of the majority. The elections of 2009 showed how even minorities in the same sect are beaten up. Hence, elections in general rotate around how many traditional figureheads will return. The electoral platform of a party or candidate doesn't matter much, it rotates around who is a real Shiite, Christian, Druzi, and Sunni, in the eyes of the voters. Other voters, who are not really that low in number, vote on the premises of choosing between "the lesser evil". In that sense, who will ruin Lebanon's economic statures less than the others. This boils down usually to two coalitions which we already have. Last but not least, Lebanon's "democratic" system is usually hostage for the elites. They spend a lot of time of choosing a government that suits all the tastes of the elites, and that doesn't save the Lebanese from political tensions. As a matter of fact, the stressing-out-of-the-people phenomena contributes in creating sectarian walls.

There is no war but class war

Monday, February 01, 2010

The tree-lined bunkers that could change the face of the Middle East

An Excellent Article by Robert Fisk, taken from here

It looks like a hop, skip and a jump. There's the first electrified fence, then the dirt strip to identify footprints, then the tarmac road, then one more electrified fence, and then acres and acres of trees. Orchards rather than tanks. Galilee spreads beyond, soft and moist and dark green in the winter afternoon - a peaceful Israel, you might think. And a peaceful Lebanon to the north, tobacco plantations amid the stony hills, just an occasional UN armoured vehicle to keep you on your toes. "Major Pardin says you cannot take pictures," a Malaysian UN soldier tells me. Then a second one says the same. Then along comes a Lebanese army intelligence officer and stares at our papers. "OK, you have permission," he declares, and I snap away with my old 36-frame real-film Nikon; the fields, the frontier fence, the high-tech surveillance tower on the horizon. This must be the most photographed border in the world.

Of course, the gentle countryside is an illusion. Benjamin Netanyahu and his colleagues in the Israeli government have been announcing that the only "army" of Lebanon is the Hizbollah, the Iranian-armed and Syrian-assisted guerrilla force whose bunkers and missiles north of the Litani river might just tip the balance in the next Hizbollah-Israeli war. And Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the chairman of the Hizbollah, has been making some even more interesting threats: that his forces will "change the face of the Middle East region" if there is another war with Israel. No-one is in much doubt about what this means. The newly resurfaced Lebanese roads near the border - courtesy of Hizbollah money - suggest that someone might want to move men at high speed towards the frontier. Perhaps even to cross the border.

That's what the Israelis suspect, too - and it makes sense of Nasrallah's warning last week. The Hizbollah claimed that the 2006 war with Israel was a "divine victory" - it didn't feel that way to us in southern Lebanon at the time - yet even Israel admits it was a near-defeat for its own ill-trained soldiers. But how would Israel react if the Hizbollah managed to enter Israel itself? Israeli army commanders are talking about this in the Israeli press. A fast, dramatic spring across the frontier to the west - in the direction of Naharia, perhaps, or a grab at the settlement of Kiryat Shmona - and Hizbollah would announce it had "liberated" part of historic "Palestine". Israel would have to bomb its own territory to get them out.

This is no game. The Israeli army wants to revenge itself on the Hizbollah, which humiliated it in 2006. Nasrallah - on giant-wide screens, for security reasons - often talks as if he's the Lebanese president. Did the Israelis really think al-Qa'ida or the Hizbollah were behind the attempted killing of two Jordanian diplomats between Amman and the Allenby bridge, Nasrallah asked. No friend of al-Qa'ida, Hizbollah would have succeeded in blowing them up if it had been involved. The crowd roared its agreement.

But the threats continue. The Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, says that the Lebanese government will be held responsible for any future war and the Lebanese have had the usual warnings from Israel. Lebanon's infrastructure will be attacked, its bridges and highways destroyed, its villages erased. Israel, Mr Barak has been saying, was restrained in 2006 - when it attacked Lebanon's infrastructure, destroyed its bridges and highways and erased its villages. Plus ça change.

But there's a good deal of "change". Syria is being courted by the Obama administration. Its old allies in Lebanon - Druze leader Walid Jumblatt among them - are uttering honeyed words to Damascus. Indeed, Jumblatt has been meeting both Nasrallah and his old enemy Michel Aoun, and concluding that he is three-quarters of the way down the road to Damascus. And President Assad of Syria has been visiting Tehran again, to assure the Islamic Republic of his ever-loyal support.

You can see the way everyone is thinking. And here's the big question, the camel in the room. If Israel ignores Obama and attacks Iran's nuclear sites - a real aggression if ever there could be - the Hizbollah could fire rockets into Israel, perhaps even revealing its new anti-aircraft missile capacity. Hamas might join in from Gaza. Hamas is a tin-pot outfit; the Hizbollah is not. An Israeli attack on Iran will unleash Iranian military power against America. But part of that power is Hizbollah in Lebanon. This is serious business.

Over Christmas, a parcel "from a foreign country" was delivered to three Hamas officials in Beirut and blew up, killing all of them. Last week, a bomb exploded in a building in southern Lebanon owned by two Hizbollah officials, wounding three children. One of them, 11-year-old Diana Zreik, had her left leg amputated. It looks like a glance at the past, to the 1970s, when Israel posted letter-bombs to its enemies in Lebanon.

The United Nations has been complaining at the increase in Israel's overflights of Lebanese territory. The Lebanese army has been opening fire on Israeli aircraft flying over the border - useless, of course, because the Americans don't give the Lebanese army weapons that can hurt Israel - while US Senator John McCain has dropped by in Beirut to complain about the Hizbollah's weapons which, under UN Security Council Resolution 1701, are supposed to be in the hands of the Lebanese army. This is the same resolution that should prevent Israeli overflights.

And what do those overflights show? "We see Hizbollah expanding inside Lebanon and its growing influence, political and otherwise," Barak said last week. "We again wish to make clear to the Lebanese leadership that we see everything, and we will hold the parties which cause increased tension responsible... the situation can quickly deteriorate." Thank you, Israel. Especially if Israel attacks Iran.

Party of God: Hizbollah and the politics of Islamic resistance

* Hizbollah, which can be translated as Party of God, is a Lebanese, Iranian and Syrian-backed, Shia Islamist political movement with a paramilitary wing known as "Islamic Resistance". It emerged in 1982 as a small militia force with the aim of ending Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon.

The movement is now a major player in Lebanese politics with its own satellite TV network, a radio station, and a vast network of social programmes from housing to agriculture. According to Hizbollah's manifesto, the Lebanese people must be free to choose what form of government they want, but they are strongly encouraged to pick the option of Islamic government. The movement's original goal of turning Lebanon into an Islamic Republic has been abandoned.

* Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah became Hizbollah's Secretary General in 1992. A popular and charismatic figure, his face appears from billboards and hoardings across Beirut and south Lebanon. The deeply religious 49-year-old studied theology in Iran and is noted for his fiery sermons, excerpts of which are sometimes heard on mobile phone ringtones.

* Israel tried to kill Nasrallah during the month-long war it fought against Hizbollah in 2006. The conflict followed a Hizbollah attack on an Israeli army convoy patrolling the border with south Lebanon. Nasrallah now says Hizbollah will defeat Israel in any new conflict. "I promise you that should a new war with the Zionists erupt, we will crush the enemy, come out victorious and change the face of the region," he said last week.

IDF Kidnaps Lebanese Citizen on Lebanese Grounds

A shepherd, leading his flock, was kidnapped by the Israeli Deranged Forces as he was tending his sheep close to Shiba'a Farms. The IDF crossed and "arrested" him. The article is found here

As for the Israeli media, as always, they distorted the news, as Israeli army arrested a Lebanese carrying an army knife. Excuse me, if the poor lad was a shepherd, it is natural to have a knife wondering around. Haaretz, also failed to mention that the citizen was kidnapped on Lebanese grounds, rather claimed that the victim was in Sheba'a farms.

Then, of course, Israel wonders: Why Hezbollah are so damn popular in Southern Lebanon? Need a clue? Their brutality!

Israel Is Becoming as Religious as Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, activists are doing their best to empower women against all odds. Israel on the other hand, is heading exactly towards the opposite direction, becoming as religious as Saudi Arabia fundementalists. Currently, they are half way in legalizing gender seperation on buses and elsewhere, a phenomenon that exists in the Arab Gulf areas. I can arrogantly say that Lebanon is more religious moderate than a country ruled by a fascist organization called Zionism, holding its own Jews as hostages by speaking in their name, and gradually becoming more and more religious zealots. Anyone want to tell me this is democracy (other than the fact non-Jews are also treated as class B or class Z citizens?)

This article below was written in Haaretz's staff

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) said on Sunday that Israel would allow the ultra-Orthodox community continue to run their private bus lines segregated by gender, but could not officially recognize the practice on public bus lines.

The minister was responding to a petition sent by the Israel Religious Action Center and a women's rights group to the government and to the Egged and Dan transportation companies.

Katz declared in his response that Israel does not disapprove of buses which separate between men and women to accommodate the Hardi community, but that segregation could not become institutionalized.

The minister added that buses should be permitted to hang signs explaining the ultra-Orthodox community's request to separate seating between men and women, however the request could not be enforced if passengers chose not to adhere to it.

Kats also said that violence and the disruption of order on segregated buses must be stopped, and instructed professional security forces on the matter.

Currently, there are 56 segregated bus lines operating throughout the country, a total of 2,108 buses a day. All the buses will be permitted to remain segregated so long as they choose to, but passengers will not be forced to adhere to the decision, only to respect it at will.

Most of the buses cater to ultra-Orthodox passengers.

"The minister expressed a worthy attitude towards the ultra-Orthodox community and he understands the publics' needs," Rabbi Shimon Stern of the Rabbis Transportation Committee said in praise of the decision.

Segregated buses are a relatively new phenomenon in Israel, with the first one appearing 10 years ago on a line between Jerusalem and neighboring Beit Shemesh

(MFL final note: Religion is the Opium of the Masses)