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The Daily Journal: April 5, 2007

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Democrats Easily Outraising Republicans

A graphic in the Times, along with the sum-up that "the Democratic presidential candidates collectively outperformed the Republicans, and by a substantial amount: Democrats raised a total of about $78 million, compared with just over $51 million by their rivals, according to preliminary first-quarter figures provided by the campaigns":

Why Pelosi's Visit Upset Neocons So Much

An editorial in the Beirut Daily Star: “neocons cringe at the idea of opening channels of dialogue with Damascus and Tehran. Put simply, they prefer to demonize, rather than deal with, their political rivals. And that is exactly the tactic that they are employing when they say that Pelosi committed an error - or worse - by visiting Damascus. Pelosi is no traitor; she is a public servant of the American people and is acting to promote their interests and opinions, as expressed during November's elections. In fact, she would do well to take her trip to Syria a step further and also open channels of dialogue with Iran, as recommended by the bipartisan Baker-Hamilton report. But Pelosi can't do everything on her own. Local actors need to remember that dialogue is a two-way street, and the American speaker's bold actions need to be matched with reciprocal gestures from those who are in the neocons' crosshairs. Syria, Iran and even groups like should now step up their efforts to keep the lines of communication clear and open and to challenge the faulty notion that they are bent on destabilizing the region.” The full editorial...

How Hamas Wins Hearts and Minds Even as It Terrorizes

From Salon: On July 31, Hamas militants used a soccer field where children were playing as a launching pad for rockets against Israeli forces. “They set up in a clump of trees and prepared to fire their rockets, but this time the Israeli tank shells came raining down before they could launch a single Qassam. An Israeli tank shell burst next to Nahid Mohammed Fawzi al-Shanbari and killed him instantly. Press reports gave his age as 16, and conflated his death with the earlier casualties on the same field, but though he was tall, lean and athletic, Nahid was actually only 12 when he died. When a family member dies in the Palestinian territories, there's a three-day mourning period in which friends, relatives and just about everyone else around town comes over to sit with the family in support. And like any gathering of Arabs, this requires lots of tea, coffee and lunch. The funerals themselves, particularly when Israeli munitions are responsible for the death, can also become propaganda opportunities for whichever political faction claimed the allegiance of the deceased. In Gaza, nearly every family has at least a loose affiliation with one of the militant groups or political parties. Family and party affiliation is the source of jobs, education, income and status. It is not uncommon for the party to defray the costs of a funeral, since the price of tea and cakes and enforced hospitality can be hard for the average Palestinian in the camps to handle. A Palestinian without a party has no wasta at all. Mohammed al-Shanbari, Nahid's father, had no wasta. An unemployed laborer who lost his job in Israel when the intifada began back in 2000, he had nine surviving children and two wives to support and really couldn't afford all those beverages and lunches. But his only party affiliation was with an obscure and long-dormant Marxist offshoot of the dimly remembered People's Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which gave him a tenuous tie to the present-day Fatah. After his son's death, Shanbari went to officials of Fatah, the most powerful party in Beit Hanoun, and asked for help. Shanbari told them he considered his son a martyr to the Palestinian cause and needed a little money to put on a proper funeral. In return, Fatah would have the benefit of claiming Nahid as its own for propaganda purposes. Fatah did offer to lead the funeral, complete with political theater to highlight the plight of the people of Gaza. But Fatah didn't offer him any money, in part, Shanbari suspects, because he belonged to the obscure PFLP subgroup and has never been that politically active anyway. Shanbari went away empty-handed. And then the guys from Fatah's bitterest rivals, Hamas, showed up at his door. Hamas offered to pay Shanbari $150 a month for three months if they could make Nahid a Hamas shahid, or martyr. Shanbari said yes. In exchange for the money, he permitted Nahid's image to become part of a poster. The 12-year-old's image was covered with Hamas logos and surrounded by masked fighters holding weapons. The posters were plastered all over the Beit Hanoun camp, where many of them remain eight months later, faded and torn amid the dozens of other tributes to slain militants that cover the walls and lampposts of Gaza. Hamas also handled the funeral, with its armed militants leading the procession, and paid for all the tea, coffee and lunch. Hamas had once again proved itself better than Fatah in meeting the needs of the average Palestinian. What neither of the two leading factions in the occupied territories could or would do, however, was put a stop to the firing of rockets from the Beit Hanoun soccer field. They are still asking the militants to stop, just as they were before the deaths of the boys on July 11 and the death of Nahid al-Shanbari on July 31. "We beg them and beg them to stop," said one local man, "but they don't listen. And if we complain too much, maybe they will think we are informers for the Israelis." ” The full story...

The Other Shiite Uprising: Yemen

From "In the Saada province, 150 miles (240 kilometers) north of the capital Sana'a, nearly 700 people have been killed as fighting reignited in late January between Yemen's army and Zaidi Shiite insurgents — formed by now-deceased tribal chief Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi — Al Shabab Al Moumin (the Youthful Believers), after the rebels threatened to kill members of a small Jewish community in Saada if they did not leave the country within 10 days. [...] The current conflict represents the third government crackdown since 2004 in the Saada province, where the anti-government Shiite rebel movement started out as a small domestic protest against Yemeni policy. Rebel clerics have denounced the government's ties with the United States and demanded an end to its gradual shift to Western-style social and democratic reforms. While government military forces seem to have emerged victorious from the latest fighting — they recently crushed the main rebel strongholds in the Razih and Al-Shagaf areas of Al-Naqa'ah — Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, the new leader of this Shiite insurgency threatens to widen the circle of armed confrontations to areas outside of Saada." The full story...



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