Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Kerry blasts Bush on federal response to Hurricane Katrina

Kerry blasts Bush on federal response to Hurricane Katrina
By Jonathan Allen

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) unleashed a furious attack on the Bush administration at a Brown University speech yesterday, upbraiding the president's response to the hurricane that recently devastated the Gulf Coastand tying it to what he sees as other flaws at the White House.

"This is the Katrina administration," read prepared remarks posted on 2004 Democratic presidential nominee's website, www.johnkerry.com. "Katrina is a symbol of all this administration does and doesn't do," read Kerry's script, portions of which were included in an e-mail to supporters that ended with a fundraising appeal.

"Michael Brown [Bush's former emergency-management director] ...is to Katrina what [former Iraq administrator] Paul Bremer is to peace in Iraq; what [former CIA Director] George Tenet is to slam-dunk intelligence; what [former Deputy Defense Secretary] Paul Wolfowitz is to parades paved with flowers in Baghdad; what [Vice President] Dick Cheney is to visionary energy policy; what [Defense Secretary] Donald Rumsfeld is to basic war planning; what [House Majority Leader] Tom Delay [R-Texas] is to ethics; and what George Bush is to 'Mission Accomplished' and 'Wanted Dead or Alive.'''

In a brief interview, Tracey Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, called Kerry's pitch for cash "repulsive."

In a news release, she said, "John Kerry's attacks on President Bush's efforts to assist the victims and rebuild the Gulf Coast don't come as a surprise. Armchair quarterbacking on tough issues has never been a problem for Senator Kerry. The American people have pulled together during a difficult time and Democrats' efforts to politicize this tragedy are unsavory at best."

Kerry's speech is the latest salvo in a political battle over accountability that has pitted the parties against each other in Washington and federal officials against their state and local counterparts in the Gulf region.

While Kerry's speech may play well with the Democratic base, Sarah Binder, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a professor at George Washington University, said the senator has a tough challenge to pin blame on Bush.

Click on the link to see the source. Kerry blasts Bush on federal response to Hurricane Katrina

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Christianity Dying In Its Birthplace

What some observers are calling a pogrom took place near Ramallah, West Bank, on the night of Sep. 3-4. That's when fifteen Muslim youths from one village, Dair Jarir, rampaged against Taybeh, a neighboring all-Christian village of 1,500 people.

The reason for the assault? A Muslim woman from Dair Jarir, Hiyam Ajaj, 23, fell in love with her Christian boss, Mehdi Khouriyye, owner of a tailor shop in Taybeh. The couple maintained a clandestine two-year affair and she became pregnant in about March 2005. When her family learned of her condition, it murdered her. That was on about Sep. 1; unsatisfied even with this "honor killing" - for Islamic law strictly forbids non-Muslim males to have sexual relations with Muslim females - the Ajaj men sought vengeance against Khouriyye and his family.

They took it two days later in an assault on Taybeh. The Ajajs and their friends broke into houses and stole furniture, jewelry, and electrical appliances. They threw Molotov cocktails at some buildings and poured kerosene on others, then torched them. The damage included at least 16 houses, some stores, a farm, and a gas station. The assailants vandalized cars, looted extensively, and destroyed a statue of the Virgin Mary.

"It was like a war," one Taybeh resident told The Jerusalem Post. Hours passed before the Palestinian Authority security and fire services arrived. The fifteen assailants spent only a few hours in police detention, then were released. As for Khouriyye, the Palestinian police arrested him, kept him jail, and (his family says) have repeatedly beat him.

As the news service Adnkronos International notes, for Palestinian Christians "the fact that the Muslim aggressors have been released while the Christian tailor-shop owner is still being held, at best symbolizes the PA's indifference to the plight of Palestinian Christians, at worst shows it is taking sides against them."

A cousin, Suleiman Khouriyye, pointed to his burned house. "They did this because we're Christians. They did this because we are the weaker ones." The Khouriyyes and others recall the assailants shouting Allahu Akbar and anti-Christian slogans: "Burn the infidels, burn the Crusaders." To which, an unrepentant cousin of Hiyam Ajaj replied, "We burned their houses because they dishonored our family, not because they are Christians."

This assault fits a larger pattern. According to the Catholic Custodian of the Holy Land, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Christians in the Bethlehem region alone have suffered 93 cases of injustice in 2000-04. In the worst of these, in 2002, Muslims murdered the two Amre sisters, 17 and 19 years old, whom they called prostitutes. A post-mortem, however, showed the teenagers to have been virgins - and to have been tortured on their genitals.

"Almost every day - I repeat, almost every day - our communities are harassed by the Islamic extremists in these regions," Pizzaballa says. "And if it's not the members of Hamas or Islamic Jihad, there are clashes with ... the Palestinian Authority." In addition to the Islamists, a "Muslim land mafia" is said to operate. With PA complicity. it threatens Christian land and house owners, often succeeding to compel them to abandon their properties.

The campaign of persecution has succeeded. Even as the Christian population of Israel grows, that of the Palestinian Authority shrinks precipitously. Bethlehem and Nazareth, historic Christian towns for nearly two millennia, are now primarily Muslim. In 1922, Christians outnumbered Muslims in Jerusalem; today, Christians amount to a mere 2 percent of that city's population.

"Is Christian life liable to be reduced to empty church buildings and a congregation-less hierarchy with no flock in the birthplace of Christianity?" So asks Daphne Tsimhoni in the Middle East Quarterly. It is hard to see what will prevent that ghost-like future from coming into existence.

One factor that could help prevent this dismal outcome would be for mainline Protestant churches to speak out against Palestinian Muslims for tormenting and expelling Palestinian Christians. To date, unfortunately, the Episcopalian, Evangelical Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches, as well as the United Church of Christ, have ignored the problem.

Instead, they pursue the self-indulgent path of venting moral outrage against the Israeli bystander and even withdrawing their investment funds from it. As they obsess with Israel but stay silent about Christianity dying in its birthplace one wonders what it will take to awaken them.

By Daniel Pipes
FrontPageMagazine.com | September 13, 2005

Click here to see the source. Christianity Dying In Its Birthplace

Monday, September 12, 2005

School-buses showdown: Mayor Nagin vs. Russert

School-buses showdown: Mayor Nagin vs. Russert
New Orleans chief claims he did everything possible to save lives

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is defending his actions in connection with Hurricane Katrina, as he was grilled yesterday about why hundreds of public buses were not used to evacuate the city in advance of the devastating storm.
"I think I did everything possible known to any mayor in the country as it relates to saving lives," Nagin said.
The mayor, questioned by NBC's Tim Russert on "Meet the Press," claimed he could not find drivers for the metro and school buses, which were left to flood in the post-hurricane deluge.
"Sure, here was lots of buses out there," Nagin said. "But guess what? You can't find drivers that would stay behind with a Category 5 hurricane, you know, pending down on New Orleans. We barely got enough drivers to move people on Sunday, or Saturday and Sunday, to move them to the Superdome. We barely had enough drivers for that. So sure, we had the assets, but the drivers just weren't available."

Russert did not let up on the question, continuing into this exchange:

RUSSERT: But, Mr. Mayor, if you read the city of New Orleans' comprehensive emergency plan-- and I've read it and I'll show it to you and our viewers--it says very clearly, "Conduct of an actual evacuation will be the responsibility of the mayor of New Orleans. The city of New Orleans will utilize all available resources to quickly and safely evacuate threatened areas. Special arrangements will be made to evacuate persons unable to transport themselves or who require specific life-saving assistance. Additional personnel will be recruited to assist in evacuation procedure as needed. Approximately 100,000 citizens of New Orleans do not have means of personal transportation."
It was your responsibility. Where was the planning? Where was the preparation? Where was the execution?

MAYOR NAGIN: The planning was always in getting people to higher ground, getting them to safety. That's what we meant by evacuation. Get them out of their homes, which - most people are under sea level. Get them to a higher ground and then depending upon our state and federal officials to move them out of harm's way after the storm has hit.

RUSSERT: But in July of this year, one month before the hurricane, you cut a public service announcement which said, in effect, "You are on your own." And you have said repeatedly that you never thought an evacuation plan would work. Which is true: whether you would exercise your obligation and duty as mayor or that - and evacuate people, or you believe people were on their own?

MAYOR NAGIN: Well, Tim, you know, we basically wove this incredible tightrope as it is. We were in a position of trying to encourage as many people as possible to leave because we weren't comfortable that we had the resources to move them out of our city. Keep in mind: normal evacuations, we get about 60 percent of the people out of the city of New Orleans. This time we got 80 percent out. We encouraged people to buddy up, churches to take senior citizens and move them to safety, and a lot of them did. And then we would deal with the remaining people that couldn't or wouldn't leave and try and get them to higher ground until safety came.

Russert also quoted previous statements from Nagin about alleged racism delaying response, as Nagin had said, "the more I think about it, definitely race played into this. If it's race, fine, let's call a spade a spade, a diamond a diamond. We can never let this happen again. Even if you hate black people and you are in a leadership position, this did not help anybody."
"Who in the leadership position hates black people?" asked Russert.

"I don't know who hates black people," responded Nagin, "but I will just tell you this, that I think the imagery that came out across the nation portrayed that this was primarily poor black people that were affected. And I don't know if that affected the response or not. But I got really upset when I heard about some of our residents walking to one of the parish lines and were turned back by attack dogs and armed guys with machine guns."

When asked what his biggest mistake was in connection with the disaster, Nagin said, "My biggest mistake is having a fundamental assumption that in the state of Louisiana, with an $18 billion budget, in the country of the United States that can move whole fleets of aircraft carriers across the globe in 24 hours, that my fundamental assumption was get as many people to safety as possible, and that the cavalry would be coming within two to three days, and they didn't come."

Click the link to see the source. WorldNetDaily: School-buses showdown: Mayor Nagin vs. Russert

Arabs in Gaza show their true colors.

PA and Hamas defend synagogue destruction

Khaled Abu Toameh, THE JERUSALEM POST Sep. 12, 2005

The Palestinian Authority and Hamas on Monday defended the decision to demolish the synagogues in the Gaza Strip, saying they did not want to give Jews an excuse to ever think about returning to the area.

PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas visited the former settlement of Dugit in the northern Gaza Strip, where he declared that the Israel did not leave behind any synagogues. "There are no synagogues here," he said.

"Israel left behind some empty buildings which that are likely to collapse. All the public buildings they left are in danger of collapsing," he said.

According to Abbas, the PA would destroy all the empty structures, including the synagogues, to build homes for thousands of Palestinians.

Ismail Haniyeh, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, said his movement would not allow the synagogues to exist for fear that they would be turned in the future into "Wailing Walls" for Jews. "We won't allow any Wailing Walls on our blessed land," he said.

Defending the decision to raze the synagogues, Haniyeh said Israel was trying to keep them to put pressure on the PA to protect them in the future. "These synagogues were built for political, not religious, reasons. They were built illegally and should go away with the occupation."

Meanwhile, a number of armed groups in the Gaza Strip announced that they would continue to launch attacks on Israel until it withdraws from more territories.

The armed wing of Fatah announced that it was planning to launch attacks inside Israel "until all our lands are liberated." Muhamemd Hijazi, commander of one of the Fatah- affiliated militias in the Gaza Strip, said his men were planning suicide attacks in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Beersheba.

"We will continue our martyrdom operations inside Israel until all our lands are liberated, by God's will," he said. "Gaza is only part of historic Palestine. We won't lay down our weapons as long as Jerusalem and the West Bank are under occupation."

Islamic Jihad leader Muhammed al-Hindi said his group's main task now was to liberate Jerusalem and the West Bank. "Today we are celebrating victory in the Gaza Strip, but we still have Jerusalem and the West Bank," he said. "Today we have begun the march toward Jerusalem and all of Palestine."

He said the pullout from the Gaza Strip did not mark the end of Israeli occupation "because Israel continues to control the airspace and border crossings." He, too, declared that his group would not abandon its weapons following the disengagement.

Click on the link to see the source. PA and Hamas defend synagogue destruction

Arabs don't really want peace

Israel pulls out of Gaza By Nidal al-Mughrabi

Jubilant Palestinians planted flags on the rubble of Jewish settlements and set synagogues ablaze on Monday as Israeli troops pulled out of the Gaza Strip after 38 years of occupation.

"This is a day of happiness and joy that the Palestinian people have not witnessed for a century," President Mahmoud Abbas told reporters in Gaza City.

Palestinian forces waving victory signs took over while tanks and armored vehicles trundled out in the dark, for the first time giving up settlements on land Palestinians want for a state and leaving them a volatile testing ground for statehood.

"The mission has been completed," said Brigadier Aviv Kochavi after the gates closed at the main crossing point. "Israel's presence of 38 years has come to an end."

But rancor over the fate of synagogues clouded hopes the pullout would help revive peacemaking as Washington wants.

Attacking what they saw as symbols of hated occupation, youths set ablaze several of the houses of worship left behind in 21 settlements evacuated last month under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to disengage from conflict.

Palestinians were furious when Sharon's cabinet decided to leave synagogues intact, under pressure from rabbis whose support could be key in a power struggle. Adding to tensions, Israel demanded on Monday that the buildings be preserved.


Removing Gaza's 8,500 settlers has won Sharon international accolades.

But while Palestinians welcome the withdrawal, they fear Sharon is trading Gaza, home to 1.4 million Palestinians, for a permanent hold on larger areas of the occupied West Bank where 245,000 Jewish settlers live isolated from 2.4 million Arabs.

Palestinians were also angry that Israel, citing security reasons, will continue to control Gaza's border crossings, air space and waters and say the occupation is far from over.

Celebratory gunfire overnight gave way to festive scenes. Thousands of Palestinians brought their families to nose around former settlements, licking ice creams and sucking on sweets.

"Before, this was a symbol of fear and evil. Today it's a place to visit and a source of happiness," said building worker Abdullah Salah, 35, in the biggest settlement of Neve Dekalim.

In demolished enclaves in north Gaza, Palestinians scavenged for everything from roof tiles to bathtubs.

With the departure of Israeli forces that had maintained strict control along the Egypt-Gaza border, thousands of people crossed the fence line both ways, reuniting in celebration with friends and relatives, as Egyptian police stood idly by.

"More than 3,000 Palestinians and Egyptians crossed the border between Palestinian Rafah and Egyptian Rafah ... to express their joy," an Egyptian border official, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters.

The flood of Egyptians and Palestinians seemed to make a mockery of Israel's efforts to keep hold of Gaza's border crossings with Egypt for at least the near term. Under a deal with Israel, Egypt had deployed special border police forces to stop arms smuggling to Gaza by militants.


Israeli troops cheered and hugged one another as they crossed out of Gaza, scene of some of the worst bloodshed since the uprising blew up in 2000 after peace talks failed.

Israeli commanders had first planned to bypass poor and densely populated Gaza in the 1967 war. Even after capturing it, some Israeli leaders expressed reservations about ruling a territory seen by many Israelis as a costly liability.

President Abbas's first task will be to enforce order and rein in militant groups which refuse to disarm. Israel has threatened massive retaliation if attacks from Gaza continue.

"They can wave any flag they want, but we expect the Palestinian Authority to take full responsibility," said the general commanding the pullout, Dan Harel.

Abbas told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that by year end: "I will be able to control the chaos in Gaza."

Militants were among the first to scramble into the settlements, trying to plant their faction's flags on the highest ground. At Abbas's behest, militants kept to a seven-month-old ceasefire to smooth the Israeli pullout.

"Four years of our resistance have done more than 10 years of negotiations," said one masked militant from the Islamic Hamas group, posing a growing political challenge to Abbas.

Rightist Israeli opponents of the withdrawal had called the evacuation of Gaza's settlers a capitulation to the militants. Many settlers saw Gaza as a biblical birthright, but most Israelis were happy to see the back of it.

"There is no doubt our stay in Gaza was a historic error, and I am proud we found the strength to rectify this error," said Israeli Vice-Premier Shimon Peres.

But settlers said they hoped to return one day and rebuild.

Only synagogues and public buildings were left standing. Palestinians were angry at Israel's decision to leave the synagogues, torn between wanting to erase emblems of Israel and uncomfortable at being seen destroying places of worship.

Israelis expressed anger at the destruction of the synagogues, which the army itself had originally planned to demolish. Sharon adviser Dore Gold said: "Setting them on fire isn't a way of creating a new environment for a hopeful future."

Palestinian officials said all would be demolished. But David Baker, an official in Sharon's office, said: "We expect the Palestinians to leave the structures intact, untouched and preserved."

(Additional reporting by Mohammed Assadi in Netzarim, Diala Saadeh in Nissanit, Dan Williams in Kissufim, Jonathan Saul in Kerem Shalom, Corinne Heller, Allyn Fisher-Ilan and Matt Spetalnick in Jerusalem. Writing by Matthew Tostevin in Jerusalem)

Click here to see the source.Print Story: Israel pulls out of Gaza on Yahoo! News