*The Iranian courts–get this–have according to some sources sentenced two pollsters to 7-8 years in prison because their poll showed that a majority of Iranians favors a dialogue with the United States. This news could not be absolutely verified at time of writing. Abbas Abdi and Husayn Ghaziyan are apparently being used as object lessons. Abdi has been active in the reformist faction, which the clerical hardliners in charge of the courts wish to crush. Someone should get those mullahs up to speed; we are living in the 21st century, and you don’t imprison people for thought crimes.
*Iraq has been moving oil supplies and equipment down to Baghdad from the Kirkuk fields in the north, in preparation for the coming war.
*Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh called on political leaders and parties in Yemen to work within the constitution and democratically for change rather than resorting to violence. Yemen is among a very few Arab countries that has moved toward more openness and parliamentary elections in recent years. But some elements in the Islamist Islah Party appear to have ties to al-Qaida, and to have taken advantage of the greater openness. There has been violence in Yemen, including tribal elements fighting government troops trying to capture al-Qaida suspects, and some rocket fire and bombings.
*See the article at Plain Dealer (someone forgot to tell them to bury this in the back pages; the advantage of being in Cleveland rather than in a big city).
The mainstream US media continue a virtual news blackout over the Sharon government’s egregious violation of The Fourth Geneva Conventions. In the past week the Israeli army has devastated commercial districts in two Palestinian towns, tearing down 28 shops in Nazlat Isa and destroying dozens of shops in Gaza City in a fire started by indiscriminate Israeli rocket fire. Presumably the goal of these actions is to throw the Palestinians into such penury that they will have no choice but to emigrate. It is absolutely outrageous that these actions are being taken by a government that is signatory to the Geneva Conventions. One would have thought that a country of the descendants of Holocaust survivors would be a little more interested in international legality. The Geneva Conventions, after all, were designed to forestall the kinds of abuses and war crimes we saw in WW II. I suppose these massive demolitions do not show up on television because the Israeli forces are clever about keeping camcorders away, and so there is no good footage. But sometimes you wonder if the American news channels would bother to show it if there were footage. The poverty, misery, and hunger of the Palestinian children continues to grow daily. UN workers say they have never seen it so bad. The destruction of so many shops can only contribute to the misery. The days of collective punishment should be over. The only good news is that Amram Mitznah, the labor party head, is laying down some firm conditions for joining a national unity government, including Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza and a return to direct talks with the Palestinian Authority.
I know, I know. Partisans of Sharon will say that Palestinian terrorism justifies this action. That is such a pitiful, morally bankrupt stance. Punish terrorists by all means. Don’t tear down (or burn down) shops just because the proprietors are of the same ethnicity. All you have to do is reverse the situation, so that some government was collectively punishing Jews for the actions of a few hotheads, to see what is really going on here.