Tag Archives: Middle East

Immigrant Children To Finland Need More Assistance

Finland increasingly has become the destination of thousands of immigrants. During the past four decades the new Finnish immigration has come from the Middle East and Africa which is a revolutionary change for the Finnish education system. A recent study in Finland suggests a growing gap between what immigrant children need and what is being delivered by the school system. A child from an African or Arab background undoubtedly will encounter school bullying or discover few teachers in the school have the language skills needed to work with these new immigrants. The report notes, “Finnish language and remedial teaching” must be vastly improved.

Finland, like so many European nations is experiencing a new diversity arriving and they are discovering a lack of trained educators, reading materials, and sensitivity toward their needs within existing school systems. Educators have to learn more about the cultures of the new immigrants as well as how there is need to adjust teaching materials and methods.

Army Creating Toxic Mess In War Zones

A report by the Rand Corporation charges the United States Army has paid scant attention to the hazardous wastes that are being left all over Iraq and Afghanistan in the wake of fighting. Rand believes there is no plan on how to deal with waste that emanates from engaging in combat and “environmental considerations are not well incorporated into Army planning.” The report is titled: “Green Warriors: Army Environmental Considerations for Contingency Operations from Planning through Post Conflict.” A long title but not as long as mistakes listed in the report such as constructing an airport over an old one whose toxic problems had never been resolved or dumping insecticides, batteries and other hazardous waste all over the landscape.

A question that has never been discussed by Bush is will American forces clean up the environmental mess they have created in the Middle East. Michael Wolford of the US Army Engineers, conducted a briefing and among the comments he heard were:
“We’re in the desert, what does it matter?”
“We’re here to fight, not to pick up trash.”
“We’re just passing through and do not have time.”

According to the Rand Corporation, someone had better make the time and get the task done.

Will Israel Be That Important To US In 2009?

Yoel Marcus, writing in Haaretz raises the question as to whether after all the political posturing among Democrats and Republicans during the election, will Israel really be high on the agenda of any new American president in 2009. Israel always has placed high on the list of issues that American presidents are concerned with handling as exemplified by the fiasco of the famous Annapolis Conference called by George Bush. “What a lot of hot air that turned ou to be” and although Condi Rice flies around the Middle East there is scant evidence any of her trips have resulted in anything other than giving her a large number of frequent flyer miles.

Marcus bluntly says Israel will be lower on the list of important American needs given the current financial crisis and need to deal with major problems in Afghanistan. The Haaretz writer believes given those realities it is up to Israel to assume responsibility for solving its own conflicts and not simply rely upon an American intervention. “What we don’t do, nobody is going to do for us. We must get ready for a year without America.”

The real question is whether new prime minister Tzipi Livni can form a coalition with Ehud Barak and work together to achieve peace with the Palestinian Authority. Right wing fanatics like Benjamin Netanyahu are waiting in the wings and their obtaining power dooms any real chance for peace.

Mixed Reviews For Obama Among Arab Leaders

There was a mixed reaction among Arab leaders and the media to the recent Middle Eastern visit of Senator Barack Obama. He did meet with President Abbas and pledged to assume an active role in working for peace in the region, and he did please many Arab leaders by telling the Jerusalem Post that “aggressive settlement” construction most probably violated agreements made by Israel. Obama emphasized that Israel has to be more flexible and ready to compromise on certain issues like West Bank settlements. His view was in sharp contrast with that of Senator McCain who did not meet with Arab officials and played to the Jewish vote in American by ignoring Arab concerns.

Ambassador Hesham Youssef, of the Arab League, told the Cairo Daily News, “it gave us a opportunity to get to know him first hand, and leads us to hope that, unlike the current administration, Obama as president would dedicate more time to resolving the arab-Israel conflict and not just focus on Iraq.” However, Youssef Barghouti, of the Palestinian Legislative Council, was concerned Obama did not visit any Arab villages and spent more time with Israelis than with Arab officials.

There was genuine concern among many Arabs that Obama said Jerusalem would remain “the undivided capital of Israel” although he later modified that statement by saying Israel and Palestinians would have to resolve that issue. Most Arabs accepted Obama would be more favorable to Israel since he is engaged in a presidential race. Al Jazeera analyst, Marwan Bishara bluntly said: “His middle name might e Hussein, his father might be Muslim, but he is a staunch supporter of Israel that is his message.”

Barack Obama-Hope For New Approach To Peace

Yasser Khali, writing in the Cairo Daily News, believes the Barack Obama candidacy has drawn global attention, particularly among Muslims who are fascinated at the prospect of a black skinned man becoming president of the United States, a nation most view as prejudiced against those with dark skins. The is new interest in the United States comes “amidst almost unanimous feeling of indignation and rage towards the United States foreign policy, particularly in Iraq and Palestine.” They are impressed with his emphasis upon political rather than military approaches to dealing with controversial issues.

“As an Arab Muslim,” writes Yasser Khali, “in Egypt who is affected by United States foreign policy, I believe an Obama approach may help solve accumulated problems between Muslims and the US that have become more aggravated since the September 11 terrorist attacks.” He believes Obama’s “new and more creative methods could hurt al-Qaida recruiting efforts.”

Khali hopes Obama will take a “more proactive stance in creating just and fair policies” that will lead to an resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. “by embracing dialogue with Muslim countries such as Syria and Iran and jump starting US diplomatic efforts, Obama will open doors that have been shut–bolted– in recent years.”

US Muslim Congressman Urges Fair Mid-East Policy

Keith Ellison, the first Muslim to be elected to Congress, on a tour sponsored by the US State Department, told Egyptians the next president of his nation must be someone who is even-handed in dealing with Middle Eastern issues. “Because of our lack of being even handed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflcit, a lot of people in the Muslim world have dooubted our commtment to democracy, doubted our commitement in promoting civil and human rights. The invasion of Iraq has done real damage to the reputation of the US.” Ellison emphasized the importance of respecting the right of Muslim nations to handle their own affairs.

Congressman Ellison discounted those who blame the “Israel Lobby” as controlling US Middle Eastern policy. He said American Jews are simply doing what other ethnic and religious groups have done in American history and it is important that factions within American society express their views.

Ellison’s comments will most probably be seized upon by right wing commentators as an example of a Barack Obama supporter revealing hostility towards Israel. Congressman Ellison said the obvious– there is need for an American president who approaches Israel-Palestinian issues from a fresh perspective and is not trapped in old arguments or events.

Helpess And Hopeless Peace Negotiations!

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met last week in the ongong process of talk and inaction. They discussed the lack of results from secret talks being held by their respctive foreign ministers on issues related to West Bank settlements, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Israel, in response to American pleas, did remove some roadblocks and checkpoints in the West Bank but Palestinian an third-party observers say only a small number of dirt piles have been pushed aside and that the main obstacles to Palestinian traffic still remain intact. Olmert complained West Bank settlements were in clear violation of the roadmap plan while Olmert cited a letter from President Bush in 2004 which assured Israel their West Bank settlements would remain intact in any fnal-status solution with Palestinians.

As the two leaders met to discuss more meetings, Hamas continued its own threats of pssible bombings anddenunciation of any talks. Israel leaders this week warned of war with Iran and the civilian population conducted air raid drills. The only result of all these discussions is no result. Perhaps, that is the Bush plan for resolving Middle East problems. After all, that is the goal in Iraq.

Syria Heats Up Situation In Lebanon And Region

During the past few months the government of President Bashar Assad has alternated between expressing a desire for peace with Israel to inflammatory expressions of warlike defiance. The Army radio quoted a “high ranking Arab source” as claiming Assad was willing to risk war with Israel in order to pursue policies in Lebanon which support the efforts of Hizbullah to gain power in that nation. However, the London based daily Al Hayat, quoted Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Molem as saying his nation was willing to renew peace negotiations with Israel if its opponent was serious. The paper said both nations had exchanged reassuring messages of a desire for peace.

One of the problems in the Middle East stems from the disaster in Iraq where the Bush war has aided in the destablilization of the region. The United States has alternated between showing restraint in its policy with Syria to issuing threats. At the present time three issues are unresolved in the Middle East– the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the confusing situation in Lebanon which has prevented a president from assuming power, and the disaster that is Iraq. President Bush simply lacks the intelligence or sophistication to work in a cooperative manner with all the players trapped in present disputes. The world will have to wait the arrival of a new president who might be able to end bellicose rhetoric and work quietly and with intelligence to help all parties resolve these issues.

Al-Aqeda Training “Western Style” Looking Terrorists

CIA director Michael Hayden says al-Qaeda is training operatives who “look western” and could enter the United States to conduct terrorist attacks. “They are bringing operatives in that region(northwest area of Pakistan) for training– operatives that, a phrase I wold use, wouldn’t attract your attention if they were going through the customs line at Dulles with you.” The new recruits “look western” and “would be able to come into this country… without attracting the kinds of attention that others might.” Genral Hayden also noted Osama bin Laden was no longere the operational leader of al-Qaeda and had become an”iconic figure” while day-by-day opeerations were more frequently under the direction of the Egyptian militant, Ayman Al-Zawahiri.

The sad commentary about this ridiculous statement by the head of the CIA is that he doesn’t even grasp the implication of what he said to the press. It appears an assumption of General Hayden is that people with features from the Middle East would more likely capture your concern if on an airplane with them because, by his definition, they don’t look western and thus are more likely to be terrorists. In my youth, I was told I “looked Jewish” which automatically meant I was less than a real American. Now, we have an official of the Bush administration who believes those who look Middle Eastern are not like the resut of “us.” I have traveled in Israel where sometimes it is difficult separating the native Israel Sabras from Arabs. That is why Mossad agents can sometimes pass for Arabs. Should we be on the lookout for Israelis and Turks, and other-non western looking people?

Is Israel Seeking Peace Treaty With Syria?

It has become a byproduct of the Israel-Palestinian conflict for reports to circulate every few months about a seceret Israel initiative to Syria. an Israel government official, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, hinted his nation might be planing to hold secret talks with Syria in an effort to end their long standing dispute over the Golan Heights. “All efforts are bing made to bring Syria to the ngotiating table,” he noted, “to sign a peace treaty.” Prime Minister Olmert has told German diplomats he is ready to negotiate with Syria provided as part of the talks, Syrian gives a commitment to cease providing aid to Hizbullah and Hamas.

These supposed talks have been on and off again for nearly twenty years and in each case, rumors of a get together began with hints of “sceret discussions.” Perhaps, it is time to cease having “secret rumor talks” and openly announce Israel’s intention to enter negotiations with Syria. It might even be interesting to include Hamas and Hizbullah representatives at such a meeting in order to get all sides together that are impacted by any peace treaty.