Arafat Slaps and Whips Out His Gun
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Arafat Slaps and Whips Out His Gun



The new Intifada, and then the events of 911, have spawned a variety of new press and Internet outlets of various kinds. The aim of many is to try to maintain some control of the information flow to certain constituencies, to"spin" the news in the direction of their sponsors, and to push their own analysts and "experts" onto radio and TV programs. One of the new ones, called Media Line, is particularly interesting in that with considerable backing from wealthy American Jews, mostly in the Los Angeles area, it has engaged some serious professional journalists to follow the Arab media and spin things in very subtle and sophisticated ways in Israel's direction. Because that is not always so easy to do anymore, American Jews, often in tandem with Israeli intellectuals and academics, are further stepping up their efforts even though they are already lightyears ahead in the USA of the Arab and Muslim communities when it comes to journalism and public relations. The article from Michael Widlanski, a former professional American reporter now teaching in Israel at Hebrew University, is a good example of this trend. We don't know for sure one way or the other if what is reported about Arafat's recent conduct is in fact fully accurate; but that's just the point.

As for Israel's economic situation, it should be remembered that little Israel continues to have an economy, as well as a military, considerably stronger than all of the neighboring Arab countries combined. But that's more a reflection of the great weakness of the Arab political and economic situations, not necessarily an indication of unlimited Israeli power to fully withstand the damage being done to its economy as well as its international image. The tourism and hotel industries are not just down; they are in deep depression. But at the end if toe day, as long as the Israeli/Jewish lobby remains powerful and the U.S. Congress remains compliant, it is likely the Israelis will continue to come out on top of every major battle -- even if at considerable cost to all parties including itself.


By Michael Widlanski

February 12, 2002 will probably be remembered as a day when both Israelis and Palestinians realized that their war of attrition had entered a new level of psychological stress.

The first sign was when the Israeli shekel sank to its lowest currency exchange level against the U.S. dollar, and the second sign was when Yasser Arafat came close to shooting one of his own generals Tuesday afternoon during a heated discussion inside Palestinian headquarters.

Arafat reportedly pulled his pistol and pointed it into the face of Jibril Rajoub, the man who heads counter-intelligence for the Palestinian Authority. The exact details of the event are skittish, and it was not reported in the Palestinian state media, but if fits a pattern of dramatic mood swings from Arafat who has been penned up inside his headquarters for weeks.

Only about ten days ago Arafat reportedly had a similar clash with Gaza counter-intelligence chief, Muhammad Dahlan, slapping him in the face in front of onlookers.

For Israeli policymakers, the signs of strain are less violent but no less dramatic: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer barely spoke to each other in the last two weeks before and during their separate visits to the United States. It was clear that the two men, who head the Likud and Labor parties, respectively, were each trying to outstage the other during meetings with officials of the Bush Administration.

Ben-Eliezer tried so hard that he leaked sensitive conversations with Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, while Sharon got physically ill, got a fever and cut back on his official schedule.

Both men returned home to find that the Palestinians had launched "Qassam" rockets at Israeli communities, ignoring Israeli threats of reprisal.

But perhaps worse than the lack of Palestinian belief in official Israeli government pronouncements was the fact that Israeli public signaled its own disbelief in government policies by large movements of money from Israeli shekels into American dollars.

"The markets are very jittery," said Joseph Frankel, a manager in a Tel Aviv brokerage firm.

"(Israeli) Officials said the dollars would reach a certain level, and it has now gone much higher and people have lost their faith in official predictions," he said.

The shekel has been devalued by about six percent against the dollar in the last month, reaching a record level Tuesday of 4.78 shekels to the dollar.

The run on the dollar was only stymied by an announcement by David Klein, Governor of the Bank of Israel, that he would not hesitate to raise Israeli interest rates to stem the tide.

But raising interest rates in Israel is widely seen as a measure which would only deepen the Israeli recession which has been exacerbated the current warfare and the worldwide terror situation.

Only a few months ago, Israeli government economists were predicting four percent GNP growth, but most private economists believe that there will be negative growth in the current year.

>From their point of view, the Palestinians are trying hard to use psychological warfare against Israel, encouraging far-left Israeli fringe groups to refuse army service.

A group of about 50 Israeli army reservists, who have been financially backed by European Union supporters and small pro-Palestinian Israeli groups such as Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc) have issued statements calling for a refusal to serve in the West Bank or Gaza.

Yasser Abd-Rabbo, the PA cabinet official in charge of public relations, has made no secret of the Palestinian/European desire to inhibit Israel's military capacity.

"The European community has a clear position regarding the Israeli society," said Abd-Rabbo during an interview on the Voice of Palestine Tuesday.

"The position (of the Europeans)," continued Abd-Rabbo, "is that there is no security solution as Sharon thinks but only a political solution."

At the same time as Abd-Rabbo heads the Palestinian campaign to deter Israel from using full military force, he has also been leading a new campaign to boost the personal image of Yasser Arafat.

Truckloads of European and Palestinian supporters as well as Far-Left Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs have been brought to Ramallah daily for much- photographed daily pep sessions with Arafat, who seems to draw strength from the effort at cheerleading the crowds outside his office.

But the crowds have been smaller than expected, and when Arafat goes back into his office he has little solace but to listen to the new radio jingles being broadcast on Voice of Palestine that extol his leadership as "ramz al-sha'ab al-filasteeni": "the symbol of the Palestinian people."

Yet as the strains of war rise on both sides, symbolism is wearing thin. [Media Line - 2/12/2002]

Israeli shekel slides as public confidence wanes

By Tova Cohen

TEL AVIV, Feb 12 (Reuters) - The battered Israeli shekel (ILS-) slipped further against the dollar on Tuesday, continuing a month-long slide that is increasingly being seen as a vote of no-confidence in the government's economic policies.

The shekel has lost more than 10 percent since the Bank of Israel slashed its key interest rate by 2.0 percentage points in late December to an all-time low of 3.8 percent.

But the finger of blame is now being pointed at the government's weak fiscal policy and failure to respond to Israel's worst recession in nearly half a century.

"The Bank of Israel has a lot to answer for but what it has done is hurry a process that would have happened anyway," said Victor Shohet, Deutsche Bank vice president in Tel Aviv.

"Most of the blame is on fiscal policy. The currency is like equity, but instead of a share in a company it's a share in a country. The question on whether to hold the share depends on the underlying. Would you want to hold Israel at the moment? I think not."

The shekel weakened by 0.6 percent against the dollar on Tuesday as its month-long slide gathered steam, following last week's delayed passage of the 2002 budget.

In active midday trade the shekel fell as low as 4.775 against the dollar, compared with a representative rate of 4.744 on Monday, when the shekel fell 1.6 percent. Later it bounced back to trade at 4.745 against the dollar at 1122 GMT.

"The dollar is flying, there is buying all around," said Michael Rabinowitz, a senior dealer at Israel Discount Bank.

The dive in the shekel comes against the backdrop of a reeling Israeli economy that has been hit hard by a global economic downturn and a more than 16-month Palestinian uprising that has hurt exports and kept tourists away.

Gross domestic product is expected to grow by 0.5-2.0 percent in 2002 after a 0.5 percent decline in 2001.

Rabinowitz said rumours had circulated in the market on Monday that the Bank of Israel might raise interest rates to stem the shekel's fall.

"But at the end of the day commentators said there was no real reason to raise interest rates and this is having an effect of bringing more of the public into buying (dollars)," he said.

The shekel had remained strong against the dollar since the end of 1999, and its rapid descent has raised inflation fears since housing prices are linked to the U.S. currency.

Many economists now believe the central bank will have no choice but to put interest rates back up, perhaps by as much as one percentage point and perhaps as early as this month.

The market will be closely watching January's consumer price index, due to be released on Friday.

Inflation, which was just 1.4 percent in 2001, is seen rising to around three percent in 2002.

An interest rate rise is likely to give a temporary boost to the Israeli currency, economists say, as the rapid and sharp depreciation is seen as somewhat of an overshooting.

But in the long term the currency will be weak unless the government begins to deal with the country's economic problems and wins back credibility.

"At the moment Israel looks like it's in a big mess. It will run a big deficit this year and its debt will rise," Shohet said.

Economists forecast the budget deficit could reach five percent of GDP this year, compared with a government target of three percent.

Government debt could reach nearly 100 percent of GDP, compared with some 92 percent in 2000, though Shohet noted the shekel depreciation in itself will not have much of an effect since external debt is very low.

At the root of the problem is the 2002 budget, which Shohet called "a disaster."

"The revenue forecast is way out and as for priorities in the budget, I don't know if anyone even thought of that. There's nothing in it, there's no increase in infrastructure investment," he said.

Shohet's comments echoed those in Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's leading daily, in front page headlines usually devoted to security news.

"No surveys are needed: the public is expressing out loud its negative opinion of the government's economic policy," the paper's financial commentator Sever Plocker wrote. "Citizens and investors have realised that this budget is not authentic, is not correct and is not credible.

"The Israeli government is increasingly perceived as a confused, embroiled, spineless entity, lacking direction, lacking answers and lacking credibility."

Comment on these article(s)

February 2002


(February 28, 2002)
The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, precisely what the U.S. now insists is the main reason for its expansion of its "war on terrorism" far beyond the what happened and who did it of 9/11, didn't begin with the Arab and Muslim countries, it actually began with American's main ally, Israel.

Thousands of Israeli Soldiers Attack Refugee Camps
(February 28, 2002)
Under cover of diplomatic deception the Israelis, and the Americans, are preparing the way not for a Middle East peace, but rather for a major Middle East war that will attempt to recast the politics and alliances of the region for some time to come.

Israel Further Defies U.N. and Arab League
(February 28, 2002)
More Palestinians have died and been shot in the past weeks than in any other comparable period since the major wars in 1948 and 1967. Adjusted for the size of the U.S. population, about 100,000 Palestinians have been killed by the Israelis, with continual American assistance, just since Intifada II began! the Land of the Free
(February 27, 2002)
Since 11 September last year, up to 2,000 people in the U.S. have been detained without trial, or charge, or even legal rights. The fate of most is unknown. Andrew Gumbel investigates a scandal that shames the land of the free.

"Terrorism" For All Seasons and Reasons
(February 27, 2002)
While U.S. Attorney John Ashcroft is busy draping the statue of the Spirit of Justice, and while the White House is busy making excuses for getting rid of the Israeli-centric speechwriter, David Frum, the USG is using the "terrorism excuse" not only to get ready for "regime change" in Iraq but to keep "undesireables" from even speaking up through all kinds of new intimidation and repression techniques.

Diplomatic Deceptions Amidst War and Plunder Plans
(February 26, 2002)
There are so many things going on these days it's not easy to put all the pieces together. But among the things that should be causing people truly concerned about a just and viable Middle East much pause is this: ...

The Real George Bush Junior
(February 25, 2002)
The Bush White House is a little spooked, not quite sure what the public will make of all this For this "wholesome" President who has brought "dignity back to the White House", this video documentary about to debut could be the near-equivalent to Bill Clinton's public denials -- and all those senior officials he enlisted on his behalf -- followed by Monica Lewinsky's now-infamous semen-stained little "blue dress".

Blair and Bush to Plot War on Iraq at White House Summit
(February 25, 2002)
After Vice-President Cheney -- former Pentagon chief and former oil company executive -- makes an unprecedented visit to a dozen countries in the Middle East and central Asia that surround Iraq or that will be involved in one way or another in the coming "regime change" war, British PM Tony Blair and Pres George Bush II will hold a war council at the White House.

Pearl Was Israeli
(February 23, 2002)
We now learn that Daniel Pearl, the kidnapped and killed Wall Street Journal reporter, was an Israeli citizen. What more may we learn next?

Sharon Up Against The Wall - Time of Greatest Danger
(February 23, 2002)
Bulls and Tyrants are most dangerous when wounded. And this is now the case with Ariel Sharon and the powerful Israeli military/intelligence/occupation authorities he now commands.

Uncle Sam, Uncle Tom, and Uncle Ben
(February 22, 2002)
We all know who Uncle Sam is. And there are many who think of Colin Powell as Uncle Tom, thought admittedly he usually plays his role so well in public. The Israelis and Sharon have Shimon Peres. And the Americans and Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld have Colin Powell. But...Uncle Ben?

Israelis Proceed With Long-Term Plans
(February 22, 2002)
The current Israeli Prime Minister probably had plans to do just what he is now doing long ago. Since become PM he's just been manuevering to get things in place to do so. Even at the Wye River talks after he became Israeli Foreign Minister Sharon refused to even shake Yasser Arafat's hand.

Palestinians Under Occupation Fight Bravely While Those in Exile Fail Miserably
(February 21, 2002)
As courageous and in some ways remarkable as the Palestinian struggle is against an occupation army with high-tech weapons supplied by the world's only superpower, the Palestinians now face a potentially even more catastrophic fate.

"Where Is The World?" "A Future Not Worth Living"
(February 20, 2002)
The following eye-witness news comes from Dr. Mona El-Farra of the Union of Health Work Committees in Gaza.

More Strikes Ahead; Or More Justification For the New Crusades?
(February 20, 2002)
In a predawn raid Wednesday, Israeli army F-16 warplanes, Apache helicopters and naval boats attacked Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's beachside Gaza City headquarters, killing at least five Palestinians and wounding 10, Palestinian witnesses said.

The New Pentagon "Office of Strategic Influence" - Media Missiles Ahead
(February 19, 2002)
The big "defense" and "entertainment" corporations have bought up the major American media in the past few decades. Now the Pentagon and the State Department are diversifying into the news business in order to still further manipulate the foreign media and international public opinion.

Modern-Day Saudi Arabia - Crimes, Lashes, and Cover-ups
(February 18, 2002)
It's not a crime in Saudi Arabia to stash away hundreds of millions in totally unearned kick-back commissions in secret foreign bank accounts -- oops it's actually billions now with the total of all "Royal" foreign accounts now estimated to be approaching a trillion!

U.S. Truly Becoming the Star Wars Empire
(February 18, 2002)
The American President is in Asia, touring one past and potential future battlefield in Korea. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is in India touring another. And the Vice-President is preparing for an unprecedented trip that will take him, along with senior military and CIA operatives, to nearly a dozen countries that just happen to surround Iraq.

Saudis To Propose Deal With Israel
(February 17, 2002)
are many ways to do things; and the Saudis have specialized in doing things in the wrong ways for the wrong reasons for a very long time now.

King Bandar of Saudi Arabia
(February 17, 2002)
Is it cowardice or ignorance that lies behind the rule of Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia -- the man effectively in charge of the oil and petrodollar "Kingdom" at this crucial historic time?

To Damn or to Applaud "Speaker Burg"
(February 15, 2002)
The very notion these days of simply "trusting" anyone associated with the Israeli political establishment or more specifically in this case Israel's Labor Party is pretty difficult -- there's such a long history of deceit and mistrust, and such good reasons.

WAR! U.S. and Israel Will Take On Both Iraq and Iran
(February 14, 2002)
Flushed with their "victory" against the primitive Muslim "Taliban" (students) of Afghanistan, the new name of the game for the new Washington -- run more than ever now by the oil companies, the Pentagon/CIA, and the military-industrial-banking complex -- is "regime change".

Arafat Screams "Israeli spy! CIA agent!" at Rajoub
(February 13, 2002)
Jibril Rajoub is not just an "Arafat aide". He's actually the main guy in charge of the West Bank for the "Palestinian Authority", groomed for some time now by both the Americans and the Israelis to possibly take over for Arafat and to help force his people into submission with his thuggish bruttish ways.

Musharraf Panders; Arafat Crippled
(February 13, 2002)
You'd have to be really crazy to buy a used car from Shimon Peres, or even to take it for free as in all likelihood the expensive repairs it would require would be more than it was worth. The idea of buying Peres' warmed over doubly-castrated "peace plan" and "Palestinian State" is even more foolish.

Arafat Slaps and Whips Out His Gun
(February 13, 2002)
The new Intifada, and then the events of 911, have spawned a variety of new press and Internet outlets of various kinds. The aim of many is to try to maintain some control of the information flow to certain constituencies, to "spin" the news in the direction of their sponsors, and to push their own analysts and "experts" onto radio and TV programs.

TV Arabs: Fouad, James, and Clovis - MER FlashBack
(February 12, 2002)
Why have things gotten so depressingly miserable when it comes to mass media coverage of the Middle East, especially in the United States? There is no single answer, no magic bullet solution. The answer is quite complex and multi-faceted in fact.

Kashmir - More Killed and Tortured than in Palestine
(February 12, 2002)
Just like in the once Holy Land, the politically cancerous situation in Kashmir has been left unresolved by the international community and has now become dangerously life-threatening.

911 Was Really 'Massive Blown Back'
(February 11, 2002)
"The course that Sharon, Bush and his British cheerleader, Tony Blair seem set upon will probably in the long run destabilize the Arab moderates, to the delight of the reactionary regimes in Syria, Iraq and Iran and the only true beneficiaries will once again be the extremists and the terrorists."

Standing Ovation for Mark Bruzonsky at University of Chicago
(February 9, 2002)
In Chicago the evening of 31 January 2002 Mark Bruzonsky, Publisher of MER, gave the keynote address at the University of Chicago Model United Nations. For the first time in the history of the keynote talks at this annual event the speaker received a prolonged standing ovation.

Jordanian King Takes Desperate Gamble To Retain Power
(February 8, 2002)
Trying to save the final Hashemite throne, the Royal regime in Jordan has decided to get even more in bed with the U.S. and Israel than ever before. It may work and the final Hashemite regime in power after enthronment by the British and the CIA in the last century may survive for the time being.

Washington Scene - Arab and Muslim "Client Orgs" Totally Lacking in Credibility
(February 8, 2002)
Ariel Sharon is on his fourth visit to Washington since both he and George Bush II took power. It is a War Council, coming at a time of unprecedented danger (Sharon clearly sees opportunity), coming at a time when he finally has Yasser Arafat, now the titular figurehead of the Palestinian people, under a newfangled form of town arrest in Ramallah with tanks pointing in his direction just a stone throw away.

"Transfer" the Palestinians Say Many Israelis
(February 7, 2002)
The Moledet party's media blitz for the mass expulsion of Palestinians is gaining momentum.

Triumphant Sharon
(February 7, 2002)
Ariel Sharon has arrived in Washington triumphant as many never believed could or would happen in their worst political nightmares. He may well be the single man who has had more influence on the Arab-Israeli conflict, and on the history of the entire region, than any other.

King Prostrates Jordan for More U.S. Money and "Support"
(February 6, 2002)
King Abdullah II, born of a British mother, Anglo-American educated including at the Jesuit Center of Georgetown University, and essentially enthroned with the help of the CIA (aided by Princeton grad daughter of the former head of Pan American Airlines, Lisa Halaby, reincarnated as Queen Noor), has been ever so helpful to the Americans as now since he was enthrowed as the former long-time Crown Prince was overthrown.

(February 6, 2002)

Lie To Them And They Will Come
(February 5, 2002)
For the holidaymaker in search of a sun-soaked Mediterranean beach away from the crowds, Gush Katif sounds ideal. Or so thinks Israel's hardline tourism minister, Binyamin Elon.

Killing and Refusing
(February 5, 2002)
There is a great deal of moral twisting and turning and cover-up going on among the Israelis; and oh so necessary however late in the day. This article in today's Ha'aretz gives the impression that torturing and shooting to death many Palestinians in cold-blood is something new or rare.

King Bandar of Arabia
(February 16, 2002)

Israel sets up Iran as next target for the US
(February 8, 2002)

"Americans Can Be A BloodThirsty Lot"
(February 4, 2002)

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