Friday, May 30, 2008

American talkshow idiots, must see

I have been arguing for a while now that there is a serious problem in the US with eccentric political talk show hosts on TV and radio that simply don't know their stuff. They do however have access to huge audiences. In fact many of these lazy minded political commentators appear only to have one agenda which is creating controversy in order to improve ratings. Unfortunately many of these mad men and women, the most prominent of whom are pro Bush pro war people usually succeed. The worst offenders are Michelle Malkin, Anne Coulter, Lou Dobbs and Rush Limbaugh. However occasionally they get exposed and when it happens it is truly beautiful. Watch below as radio talk show host Kevin James gets made a monkey of by MSNBC's Chris Matthews. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Chris De Burgh in Iran

Irish singer Chris De Burgh is in Iran this week seeking permission from the authorities to be the first western artist to perform in the country since the 1979 revolution. In order to do this he must meet with the approval of the ministry of culture and Islamic guidance.

De Burgh hopes to be able to play to his legions of fans in September. Personally I can confirm how popular he is in Iran. On a 2004 trip to Iran I was getting my hair cut in a Tehran barbers when after the barber inquired as to my nationality he scurried into a back room and returned with a Chris De Burgh CD. He played the CD and sang along the whole way through my cut. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I can't stand the sound of De Burgh's voice.

Nevertheless I admire Chris De Burgh for travelling to Iran and perhaps bringing a bit of normality to the peoples lives while simultaneously confronting the ugly stereotype of the angry Iranian that exists in the west. Gubu World hopes that De Burgh might do for the Iranians what Hasslehoff did for the East Germans and the Rolling Stones for the Czechs.

Cluster Bomb Treaty Agreed

At Croke Park Dublin yesterday 109 nations agreed the text of a treaty to ban the use, production and stock piling of cluster bombs. The treaty also provides for the clearing up of contaminated areas and prevents the future development of similar weapons. The treaty will be signed in Oslo next December. The turning point appears to have been when both France and Britain, two of the largest producers of the weapon agreed to support the draft treaty in full by withdrawing previous amendments. The entire event is seen as a huge success for those campaigning against cluster bombs for decades. Irish minister for foreign affairs Micheal Martin (pictured) has hailed the outcome as a victory for Irish diplomacy.

While the treaty will only be legally binding on on those that sign it is hoped that it will stigmatize cluster bombs to the extent that all nations will be reluctant to use them in the future. Russia, China, USA, Israel, Pakistan and India are not part of this agreement but it is expected that future use of cluster bombs by them would be unlikely not just because of the moral backlash but because many of these nations are in military alliances with others that have signed. This has created a thorny legal bind.

There was controversy earlier in the week when the US claimed that the treaty could compromise its ability to take part in joint humanitarian missions as this would mean operating alongside signatories of the treaty. However this was quickly dismissed as an attempt to sabotage the treaty. It appears today that these legal difficulties have been overcome.

This development is excellent news. Some will no doubt argue that anything that speeds up war making it more efficient should be encouraged as this saves lives in the long term and that treaties and ceasefires that prolong war are actually more cruel. This is the "Hiroshima was good because it forced a conclusion to WW2" argument. It would be ridiculous to argue this with the cluster bomb treaty. The victims of cluster bombs are frequently entirely innocent non combatants. In many cases death and injury can be inflicted many years after the bombs are dropped. This treaty will dramatically reduce the number of innocents that get killed and maimed in conflict zones over the next several decades.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Israel and Ireland

In an article in The Irish Times today controversial journalist Kevin Myers (pictured) wrote an interesting piece about Israel and Ireland that is sure to trigger a wave of angry responses from Ireland's legions of Israel bashers. Myers is one of the few individuals in the Public eye in Ireland that regularly defends the Jewish state. The ultimate point that Myers makes in this particular article is that Israel has few friends and that Ireland should be one.

I tend to agree. Israel is a country that deserves respect. For all the suffering surrounding the conflict (which Israel does share plenty of blame)there is much to admire about Israel and its people. I will elabourate in future posts but for now let me say that protesting a commemoration of Israels foundation or picketing an Ireland Israel world cup qualification match at Lansdown Road are not in my book legitimate protests against Israeli policies in the west bank or Gaza, they are in fact demonstrations against the Israeli state itself. Israel is a legitimate state and those that claim or imply that the root cause of the conflict is the existence of Israel should be vociferously opposed.

Unfortunately in this country whenever Israel is discussed the debate is dominated by badly informed highly opinionated left wingers. Both Israeli and Palestinian observers of this debate could be forgiven for thinking that this is mainstream opinion. This I believe contributes negatively to the conflict. When for example Irish people take radical stances such as calling for a one state solution it embitters Israelis and makes them more introvert and less likely to engage in dialogue while also encouraging Palestinians to continue holding on to a dream that even Yassir Arafat had abandoned by the time of the Oslo agreement. I would like to see the debate dominated by those in the Conflict Resolution Unit at the Department of Foreign Affairs or by scholars of the troubles at the Glecree reconciliation center in Wicklow. We have overcome a conflict on this island that was at once deemed as intractable as any in the world. Encouraging the people of the Middle East to do the same should be our only agenda.
Above, Israeli and Irish soccer fans (including yours truly, bottom right with green baseball cap) mingle outside a bar in Tel Aviv before a March 2005 World Cup qualification match.

I believe that Israel listens to and acts on international criticism but only if it comes from a source they respect. I think Ireland should be a respected source. We should be perceived as a genuine honest broker. If this were the case then we would have influence in Jerusalem and would have leverage against those among the Israeli right hell bent on expanding Jewish settlements in the west bank which in my opinion is nothing more than mass theft of Palestinian land, an issue which incidentally I would like to see Myers address.

We all rightly identify with the ongoing suffering of the Palestinian people but that in my mind prompts the question, what needs to be done for that suffering to come to an end? If I believed that heaping boycotts and divestment on to Israel would reverse its policies I would probably be in favor. However anybody who understands Zionism realises that this tactic is totally futile. Israel will I believe disengage from all the occupied territories. They will dismantle almost all post 67 settlements. But they will not do so because it looks good, or because of international pressure and certainly not because of terrorism. They will do so when they feel secure.

This is where Ireland the honest broker should use its influence to make clear to the Palestinians that they must truly accept Israels right to exist as a Jewish state and not simply try to negotiate themselves into a position of strenght from where they will be better placed to oppose the state of Israel, a tactic some Palestinian leaders have admitted to. But more importantly, an Ireland that is close to Israel can contribute to a resolution by convincing Israel of the need to confront those within the country that are opposed to peace and in favor of expansion.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Irish Army mission to Chad begins in earnest

Last week 161 troops of the 97th Infantry battalion arrived in Goz Beida on the Border of Chad and Sudan. This brought the number of Irish troops serving in the EUFOR mission to 350. In June that number will reach its peak at 450. Of the total 3,700 troops due to serve with EUFOR only the French will have a larger contingent than the Irish. Other nations serving include Austria, Belgium, Sweden and Holland. Irishman Lieutenant General Pat Nash is in command of EUFOR's mission to Chad.

In February 50 members of the elite Army Ranger Wing were deployed to the border region along with French special forces in order to assess the area in terms of logistics and to determine the level of rebel activity in the region. One of their goals was to make contact with locals and inform them of the upcoming EUFOR mission and its mandate. This has gone relatively smoothly although two weeks ago 30 members of the Ranger Wing did have an encounter with a group of 200 rebels from an anti government group called Union of Forces for Change and Democracy (UFCD). The incident apparently passed peacefully as both sides simply stated their objectives and pledged not to interfere with one another.

So what is EUFOR's mandate ? This UN mandated mission's objective is to set up refugee camps inside Chad along the border with Sudan's Darfur region and ensure that civilians have a safe place to flee to. Civilians are fleeing from the genocide in Darfur, fighting in North East Central African Republic and the Chadian civil war itself. EU forces are not supposed to get involved in any way in Chad's civil war. That being said EUFOR does have a strong peace enforcement mandate which means they "can fire on armed groupings to prevent criminal acts against refugees, aid agencies, or EUFOR personnel". This is a stronger mandate than many standard peace keeping missions.

Gubu World believes that this is an entirely honorable mission and is proud that Ireland is taking a leading role in it. I am personally disappointed that a very vocal minority in Ireland have decided to label this an imperialist adventure. Individuals associated with Indymedia and the socialist Workers Party claim that the real agenda is to prop up the pro French Chadian government of President Idriss Deby in order to secure oil supplies for Europe. This is ridiculous. Look at UN resolution 1778. EUFOR's mission is about protecting refugees that have been through utter hell in recent years. They are under strict orders to stay out of of the Chadian conflict. I think its a shame the far left could not have wished these 450 brave young men and women well on their mission rather than invent some sinister motive that fits into their anti capitalist view of the world. I for one wish Lieutenant General Pat Nash and the Irish battalion all the very best on their mission.
Go ndeiri an tadh libh lads

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Hagee worse than Wright

Yesterday republican candidate for president John McCain renounced his endorsement of and from evangelical pastor John Hagee. Personally I just don't get this American political practise of assassination by association. I don't care what church Obama goes to or who McCain associates himself with. However since it has become a political issue let me say that I passionately believe that pastor Hagee is emphatically more of a radical and a fanatic than Reverend Wright. Firstly a quick word about Wright. I am not even an American and I understand that many African Americans are distrustful of the white establishment. Barack Obama is a black American. If he were to disassociate himself from every black man with a radical anti American point of view he would have to walk away from half the people he has ever met. In any case Obamas relationship with Wright was not a political one.

I have mentioned John Hagee on this blog before As a person with a major interest in the Israel Palestine Peace process I take great offense at his opposition to peace efforts. Any sane observer of the conflict knows that the rational objective for all that wish to see a resolution to the worlds most intractable conflict is for Israel to end its occupation of Palestine in exchange for real and total Arab recognition of Israel. How dare he rant and rave from the safety of his pulpit in San Antonio about holding on to this extremely controversial land. The Palestinian militants are not going to come after him. His Kids do not serve in the IDF. It is the Israeli people that will suffer attacks as a result of the radical agenda that he is encouraging. He and his group "Christians united for Israel" are fanatically opposed to peace in the Middle East. They Send tens of millions of dollars over to the most extreme elements within the west bank settler movement that have violently opposed the disengagement plans of successive Israeli governments while he simultaneously spews anti Semitic innuendos. His most recent gaff that proved too much for senator McCain claimed that Hitler was doing Gods work by persecuting the Jews in Europe and therefor returning them to the holy land

The difference between Wright and Hagee is that Wright is a nobody. Hagee however has actively and successfully been influencing US foreign policy to pursue policies that go completely against American national interest. How he has been allowed to do this is truly beyond me.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Persian Paradox, Irans Jews

In a world where misunderstandings, ignorance and a lack of dialogue often contribute to conflict and war I wanted to do a piece about the Jews of Iran (pictured). Many people are stunned to hear that Iran has a Jewish community numbering approximately 35,000. It is by far the largest Jewish community (outside Israel) in the Middle East. Iran unlike most Muslim countries in the region did not expel its Jewish population after the foundation of the Israeli state in 1948. At the time the Iranian Jewish population numbered 150,000. Over the next 30 years, many Iranian Jews chose to follow the example of many world Jews and make Aliyah (migration to Israel). By the time of the Iranian revolution in 1979 the number of Jews in Iran had decreased to 80,000.

When the Shah fell in 1979 the future of the Jewish community was uncertain. So it came as a surprise to many when Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa decreeing that the Jews were to be protected. Khomeini was a radical, but to his credit he did not appear to disregard elements of Islam that he found inconvenient as the Koran clearly states that Judaism and Christianity are part of the one monotheistic religion and must be respected. To this end the rights of Jews have been enshrined in the constitution of the Islamic Republic. In addition the Iranian Jewish community is entitled to representation in the Iranian Parliament. Every four years one Jew is elected to the Parliament to represent the Jewish constituents. However after the revolution Jewish migration to Israel continued. Between 1979 and 2000 approximately 40,000 Jews left Iran for either Israel or the United States. During this time there has been tension. In all 13 Jews have been executed for allegedly spying for Israel. However the 35,000 or so remaining appear willing to stay and adamantly claim that they are proud Iranians. Many of them have refused financial incentives from Israelis and wealthy American Jews to emigrate. Perhaps a true indication that the Iranian government and the Jewish community have begun to trust each other is the decision recently made to allow Iran's Jews to visit their relatives in Israel and return.

The reason I feel it is necessary to make an issue of this is because there are several prominent individuals in America who are making a career out of demonizing Iran. The last thing I want to do is appear like I am defending the Iranian regime because I am very much aware of how cruel they can be toward their own people. However I believe that academics like Michael Ledeen, TV show hosts like Glen Beck and evangelical Christians like John Hagee must be confronted when they make outlandish claims about the Iranian regime and its objectives that are simply not true. These men constantly argue in front of their very large audiences that the Iranian regime want to "kill every Jew out there", are "fanatically committed to the destruction of the Israeli state" and that Ahmadinejad is the "worlds most dangerous dictator". None of these descriptions are accurate and such deliberate misinformation about a country that America may go to war with amounts to nothing short of war propaganda. As I will elaborate in future posts, Iran is far from perfect but it is in fact one of the most misunderstood countries in the world.

Lebanon Crisis Subsides

It would appear that the threat of all out civil war in Lebanon has decreased significantly today. Talks sponsored by the Arab league aimed at ending the recent violence and indeed the 18 month political stalemate have been underway this past week in Qatar. It would appear they have come to an agreement. This agreement it seems, according to major news outlets, offers Hezbollah veto power in government and a "redistricting" plan ahead of next year's election in exchange for an end to Hezbollah's crippling government protests that have paralysed Lebanese politics in recent times. I take "redistricting" to mean a re-evaluation of the current system that allocates Hezbollah with 54 out of 122 seats in Parliament despite that party receiving 57% of the vote. In addition, for the first time since President Emile Lahoud's term expired in November last, a new president has been chosen that is acceptable to all in the power sharing government. It is expected that Lebanon's army chief Gen. Michel Suleiman (pictured) will be elected president by the Parliament on Sunday.

It is unclear how this will play out in the wider region. Some will no doubt claim that the agreement offers too many concessions to an emboldened Hezbollah that already forced major concessions from the Siniora government earlier this month when it forced the government to lift its ban on Hezbollah's telecommunications system and to reinstate the chief of security at Beirut's airport, the two events that triggered the recent violence that left 80 dead. However the US and Syria have welcomed the agreement. The truth is it remains to be seen how powerful Hezbollah will be when this agreement is implemented. In my opinion anything that stabilises the Lebanon is obviously a good thing. I will continue to attempt to connect the dots here at Gubu World between events in the Lebanon, Iran and the Israeli Syrian peace talks.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Israel and Syria in talks

The cloak and dagger antics that have characterised Israeli Syrian relations took another twist today as it was revealed that the two nations are engaging in peace negotiations in Turkey. What has prompted these negotiations is very difficult to call as the world has largely been kept in the dark in recent times as to the nature of Damascus Jerusalem contact but many will speculate that there is a connection between this latest development and last Septembers raid by the Israeli Air Force on Syria. As of yet the location and the objective of the raid has still not become public knowledge. Some speculate that the target in this bizarre attack, which may have included the use of ground forces and that both sides have barely acknowledged even occurred, was a North Korean built nuclear reactor. Others claim it was against Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programme that was transferred to Syria just prior to the US invasion of 2003. Either way today's revelation will no doubt allow the Israeli right to claim that they have bombed the Syrians to the negotiation table. So what do both sides want from these negotiations ?

Both sides are claiming that the aim of the talks is to achieve a "comprehensive peace", but why now? It is clear that Israel today is feeling more under siege than anytime since the 1967-73 period when outright destruction seemed a real possibility. Back then the threat came from the Arab nations, mainly Egypt Jordan and Syria. However successive peace agreements, Egypt 1979, Jordan 1994 have left Syria as the only Arab nation with a traditional territorial dispute with Israel. It is therefor natural to assume that a standard land for peace agreement may be on the cards. The disputed land in question is the Golan Heights (pictured), occupied by Israel since 1967. The Israelis have been reluctant to give it up in the past as it contains valuable water resources, the sea of Galilee (a popular tourist attraction), 18,000 Jewish settlers and is strategically important as it overlooks North East Israel and parts of Syria and Jordan. However today Israels much greater enemy is the Iran Hezbollah Hamas axis. This unofficial alliance crosses the Sunni Shia sectarian divide and is based on a belief that adherence to Islamic principles, not secular nationalism is the best way to oppose Israel. Syria is part of this alliance but unnaturally so. It is coming under increasing pressure from its fellow Arab nations to oppose the Iranian expansion of influence that we are currently seeing throughout the Middle East. And from an Israeli point of view, they would love nothing more than to be able to take Syria out of the equation whilst calculating how to best confront the Iranian threat. No doubt some of Syria's supporters will urge them to resist whatever carrot is dangled in front of them, likening it to the peace agreement signed between Egypt and Israel at Camp David in 1979 which many believed freed up Israel to Invade the Lebanon in 1982. For this reason the carrot will have to be quiet large. If Syria is going to turn its back on Iran in order to curb their influence in the Lebanon, they will need more than the Golan heights in exchange. This is where the US comes in in the form of massive investment.
Perhaps I am getting too much ahead of myself. Maybe the negotiations will not last just as in 2000. Perhaps, but without a doubt the incentive is there for all as the region teeters on the brink.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Iraqi Army enters Sadr City

A crucial event is being played out in Iraq this week that has bypassed much of the world media. The Shiite dominated Iraqi government led by Nouri Al Maliki has come under enormous pressure over the last two years to crack down on fellow Shiite militants that until now appear to have been able to operate independently. This was certainly the case in Basra where Moqtada Al Sadr's people as well as SCIRI elements have been largely in control since the British withdrawal to the outskirts of the city last year. However massive pressure from the Sunnis, Via Saudi complaints to the White House have forced Maliki's government to act. Following countless violent clashes and ceasefires and ceasefire violations the Iraqi army it would appear are in control of Basra.

However the real test happens today where according to Reuters, the Iraqi army is about to enter the real Shiite stronghold of Sadr City, located inside Baghdad. This is a massive moment for the Iraqi army that until now only patrolled the perimeter of the two million strong Shiite suburb. The operation is part of a ceasefire agreement reached with Muqtada Al sadr's Mehdi army in which Al Sadr's forces lay down their arms and agree not to resist the Iraqi army incursion on the condition that US forces stay out of Sadr city. It remains to be seen if the terms of the ceasefire will hold. Until now the Mehdi army were by and large responsible for the administration of Sadr city by providing health, education and security for its residence. This agreement if successful appears to be an unofficial acknowledgment that the Iraqi government and its armed forces are the legitimate authorities in Sadr city. Gubu World will update how this progresses over the next few days.

Gubu World also acknowledges that obtaining accurate information from Iraq is extremely difficult. I am not there. My information is coming from the mainstream media and the blogosphere and is as far as I am aware accurate. However, I am open to and welcome contrary opinions.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Cluster bomb conference opens in Dublin

Today marks the beginning of a 12 day conference aimed at producing a treaty banning the use, production and stockpiling of cluster bombs. The conference, being held at Dublin's Croke Park, home of the Gaelic athletic Association, is being attended by over one hundred nations. Not in attendance are the usual suspects most notably Russia, Israel, Pakistan, China, USA and India. Any treaty agreed will only be legally binding on the signatories.

Why cluster bombs ? Cluster bombs are a particularly nasty weapon. A bomb is dropped or a shell is fired in a specific way so that the bomb explodes mid air above the battle zone. This sends hundreds of miniature bombs raining down in all directions. Not surprisingly this inaccurate type of weapon causes many civilian casualties. However the real damage to civilians is done by unexploded bomblets. These miniature bombs can be left unexploded for decades. Amazingly approximately 300 people a year are killed in Vietnam by cluster bombs left by the US military since the early 70s. 18 civilians have been killed and 136 wounded by cluster bombs in the Lebanon since the end of the second war in august 2006. Other countries suffering greatly include Iraq, Afghanistan, Laos, Kosovo and Western Sahara. Most of the victims are either farmers, whom accidentally trigger a bomblet whilst working the land or children whom come across one and interfere out of curiosity.

Of all the nations in attendance not all are in agreement about the text of the treaty. Several want to see amendments to the draft that at present states that signatories will never:

"(a) Use cluster munitions;

"(b) Develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer to anyone, directly or indirectly, cluster munitions;

"(c) Assist, encourage or induce anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a state party under this convention."

We will know toward the end of the week the likelihood of the objective of the conference being fulfilled, this being to reach an acceptable text for all the signatories so that the treaty can be signed at a ceremony in Oslo in December. Gubu World will report on the progress of the conference and pay particular attention to the nations eager to see the draft treaty watered down.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Anti Semitism in Ireland

I was stunned today to read about an anti Semitic incident that occurred in Galway yesterday. You can read the details here.
To my knowledge incidents like this in Ireland are extremely rare however this does not take away from its seriousness. I would like to think that the culprit in this case was nothing more than a delinquent teenager with a spray can whose actions were prompted by a combination of boredom, stupidity and ignorance. However one cant help wonder if its not part of a larger anti Semitic trend happening in the country. Herb Meyer's (pictured above) home was vandalised in the past. It was not thought at the time that there was a racist motive for the previous attacks but given the nature of the graffiti in this latest case it seems reasonable to assume there is a connection.
But what do I mean when I say larger trend and what exactly is modern antisemitism.

The vandalism of Mr Meyer's home is a form of overt anti semitism. It is indeed very rare in Ireland. However 21st century hatred toward Jews often manifests itself in anti Israel or anti Zionist politics. This is not for a split second to suggest that critics of Israel, even fierce critics are necessarily harbouring racist feelings for Jews. But in some instances I believe that this is the case. The reality is that many people on the far left of the political spectrum resent Jewish ability to accumulate wealth. They identify a connection between rampant global capitalism and Jewish influence on wall street and ownership of multi national corporations. They do not know how to articulate this anger so instead they demonize Israel at any opportunity and criticise the Jewish state out of all proportion and context. I believe that the motivation behind this type of far left criticism of Israel is often anti Semitic. This is my explanation for the sometimes truly bizarre anti Israeli rants I occasionally hear coming out of Ireland where badly informed, highly opinionated left wingers adopt stances more hard line than even moderate Palestinians.

Gubu World will keep an eye on this in the future. Anti semitism also comes from the right and the church which is equally despicable. They will not be spared here. There is no place for anti semitism or any other form of racial bigotry in modern Ireland.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The real Ahmadinejad

This is my first post about Iran. It will not be my last. In fact I intend to blog more about the "Persian Puzzle" than any other country. I have much to say about the country I did my thesis on, have travelled all over and have many friends from. Suffice it to say for now that I believe it to be the single most misunderstood country in the world. I will qualify this in later posts.

Lets start with the basics, Iran's eccentric president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. There is a bizarre obsession in the western media, particularly in American with this guy. Perhaps its not surprising as many news outlets in the states are more interested in ratings than news so a controversy junkie like Ahmadinejad is their dream come true. However this obsession obstructs reality and confuses the issue. Ahmadinejad is not the leader of Iran. He is president of the parliament, a position that has very little influence over Iranian foreign policy. The Iranian constitution places the Council of Guardians, a body of 12 religious clerics led by the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni above the Parliament. The council has the authority to veto any bill or prevent any candidate from running for office, a privilege they regularly take advantage of. Ahmadinejad does not control the Judiciary or the military. The truth be told, he doesn't make it into a list of the top 20 most powerful people in the country,

I will elaborate on the complicated power structure in Iran in future posts but the ultimate point I want to make is this. If Iran is intent on developing nuclear weapons, if they are behind the insurgency in Iraq and if they are hell bent on dominating the Lebanon in order to attack Israel, all these policies are not being driven by Ahmadinejad. Obsessing with him and his rants is a distraction.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Natural disasters fulfill Christian Zionist doctrine

Last weeks Cyclone in Burma which claimed at least 32,000 lives coupled with today's catastrophic news from china where an earthquake has killed 10,000, a number certain to soar dramatically, will undoubtedly be met with excitement among the Christian Zionist community.

Based primarily in the United states Christian Zionists have a very particular interpretation of the old testament. They have been maintaining for years that a sequence of events is in motion which will lead to the eventual second coming of Christ. I understand these events to include the return of the Jews to all their ancient land, an increase in natural disaster's as the moment draws near, a global war and the eventual mass conversion of Jews to Christianity. After this we all get saved.

I would love to say that these people are on the fringes, but unfortunately this is not so. Led by cartoon characters such as Pat Robertson and John Hagee (pictured and also John McCains new best friend)they have been very influential around Washington in recent times. A very powerful lobby group they have contributed significantly to the white houses hardened stance on Iran and in particular Israel. I would not so much say that they are fanatic supporters of the Jewish state so much as they are fanatic about seeing biblical prophecies come true. Their primary agenda is to see all the land between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean returned to the Jewish people as this is the number one criteria that will hasten the second coming. To this end they are fiercely opposed to the US, EU, UN or any other body putting pressure on Israel to compromise over Jerusalem and indeed the whole west bank. As for the Palestinian refugees, well there is nothing about them in the bible.

In the opinion of Gubu World, it is a bad reflection on American that nobody in the political mainstream or in the media appears willing to confront these crazies. It is truly Grotesque Unbelieveable Bizare and Unprecedented that at such a crucial time in US history such people are allowed to have a genuine influence over US foreign policy.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Hezbollah take over West Beirut

After a series of clashes over the last few days it now appears that Hezbollah are in control of West Beirut. Hezbollah fought government troops and other militants as they gradually gained control over the predominantly Sunni Muslim district of the city. This is leading to tremendous fears that the country is returning to civil war as the capital is witnessing scenes similar to the 1975 to 1990 period where militias roamed the streets and road blocks and burned out building were the norm.

What can I say, no country in history has ever been the victim of outside interference in its internal affairs more than the Lebanon. We are seeing it here again. I do not know what the outcome of this struggle will be. Perhaps the coalition government and the Lebanese army will regain control or international pressure on Iran and Syria will force Hezbollah back into southern Beirut. I certainly hope so because what I do know is this. A Lebanon dominated by Hezbollah brings us all that bit closer to the nightmare scenario of a US or Israeli war against Iran. Israel, rightly or wrongly perceive Hezbollah as an Iranian instrument. If Hezbollah gain control of the country then Irans capability of carrying out its threats (regardless if those threat were real or not) of annihilating Israel are greatly increased. Israel will not allow this. And meanwhile, the Lebanon gets torn apart, again.

Gubu World will keep a close eye on this over the next few days.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

New Taoiseach (PM)

Today is the first full day in office of the new Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen. As a political commentator I am looking forward to this as he will certainly be more controversial than the previous master of fence sitting Bertie Ahern. Firstly I know he has strong opinions about the Middle East and other aspects of global affairs which were demonstrated during his four years as minister for foreign affairs (2000-2004), a period which saw the outbreak of the second intifada, September 11th and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

A little fact often forgotten about Brian Cowen is that on the morning of September 11th 2001 he was in a meeting with Yassir Arafat in Ramallah, discussing the deteriorating situation in the holy land, when the news came through of the attack. The two men held a joint press conference together surrounded by scores of jostling reporters, photographers and cameramen. Obviously they were far more interested in Arafats reaction than Cowens but one cant help comment on what a spectacular piece of historical timing it was for Cowen.

Another little historical tit bit is that Ireland was on the security council in November 2002 when the famous resolution 1441 was passed unanimously stating that Iraq must disarm. Foreign minister Cowen did not have any difficulty in voting for it as far more sceptical nations such as France Russia and even Syria were in favour too. However it soon became clear that the sceptical nations required an additional resolution in order to authorise the invasion itself. At one stage it appeared that the Irish vote might be vital as to whether the war would be legal or not. How truly relieved Cowen and Bertie must have been when Ireland's two year term on the security council came to an end in January 2003 and they never had to make that decision. There never was a second resolution because of the threatened French veto. I wonder how we would have voted. Cowen and Bertie certainly got out of jail on that one. Observing how Cowen might deal with a US attack against Iran, a country that Ireland has full diplomatic relations with, now that really would be interesting.

However what I am really looking forward to observing is how he handles Dublin's relations with the Northern Irish assembly and in particular what kind of relationship he will form with its soon to be first minister, the young dynamic and highly intelligent unionist leader Peter Robinson. Seeing these two men interact is a mouth watering prospect for any lover of politics. The reason I say this is because both men are entering office at the beginning of a new and exciting era but both men perceive that era very differently. North south relations on this Island are all about cordiality at the moment but sooner or later the issue of the future status of Northern Ireland is going to resurface. Nationalists, whether they be constitutional or militant republicans interpret the Good Friday Agreement as another stepping stone (as Michael Collins famously described it)to a united Ireland, unionist however see it as cementing Northern Ireland within the union. They simply cant both be right. Only time will tell. In the short to medium term relations between the two will be about economic cooperation but when this uncomfortable reality finally lands on the agenda, it will be some duel between the two. Let me just say with respect to my northern friends that Gubu World is on your side Brian. Go Neiri an tadh leat.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Protest outside Israeli embassy in Dublin

It has just come to my attention that the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) are staging a protest outside the Israeli embassy in Dublin tonight to protest the celebrations marking Israels 60th birthday.
I am completely opposed to this protest. I think it is perfectly appropriate for Ireland to acknowledge Israels anniversary and have no problem with any Irish official attending. This is not a protest against the occupation or any other aspect of the conflict. This is a protest against the Israeli state itself. Israel is a legitimate state that deserves our respect. It certainly has mine. Is it perfect? No. But to protest an event celebrating its foundation is tantamount to saying its foundation is illegitimate and that it does not have a right to exist. Totally absurd.

Bertie goes to washington and declares Ireland at peace

As someone whose two passions are Irish and American politics it was strangely surreal to see both worlds come together last week as Taoiseach Bertie Ahern addressed the joint houses of congress and senate. Using a phrase I have no doubt will become famous in time he declared "I am the first Taoiseach to inform the united states congress that Ireland is at peace".

The occasion was a fitting tribute to the outgoing Taoiseach who has led the country through the two best things that have ever happened the Island; The CelticTiger (Ireland's economic boom) and the resolution of the Northern Ireland conflict.

However I am a little bit concerned at the image American people might have of Ireland and its history in the wake of such high profile exposure. Firstly, the Republic of Ireland where I am from has been at peace since 1923. The sectarian conflict in the north or the troubles as we call them lasted ruffly from 1969 to 1998. I don't want to appear cynical or for people to think that I am trivialising the conflict but in the grand scheme of things it was a low level conflict not comparable with those in the Lebanon or the Balkans although at times it threatened to. The annual murder rate in the North during the troubles rarely exceeded that caused by conventional crime in your average American city, the difference obviously being that in our case the violence was politically motivated.

I am not entirely sure why I am making these points except that I just want to remind people that in modern times the people of southern Ireland (which contains 26 of the Islands 32 counties) have always lived at peace and even in the north during the troubles many people there did manage to live fairly normal lives and avoid the sectarian conflict.

Nevertheless I am extremely proud of how we have overcome it and sincerely hope that we aggressively export the successes of the peace process to other nations in conflict (particularly Iraq right now where the sectarian division of Baghdad among sectarian lines is freakishly similar to that in Belfast) because there most definitely are lessons to be learned.

As for Bertie, good speech Taoiseach, Gubu World applauds.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

How do Europeans and Israelis perceive each other

It has become increasingly clear to me that Europes image in Israel and vice versa has descended to a new level of distrust, anger and hate. I do not think when one examines the viciousness of the debate out there, whether it be in universities or over the blogosphere that it is an overstatement to use the word hate. I do however believe that it need not be so.

At the present time the American press is full of stories about the resurgence of anti semitism in Europe. In Israel it goes a lot further. The right wing Israeli press regularly lambasts Europe acusing it of displaying its age old hatred of the Jew except that this time, it is disguised as hostility toward Israeli policies. This incenses Europeans. European leftists simply cannot understand how they can examine the Israeli Palestinian conflict, make an issue of how the IDF conducts its war against Palestinian militants and then get accused of jew hatred. Some in the mainstream Israeli media even go as far to say that all European Jews must migrate to Israel as Europes appeasement mentality combined with its own anti semitism is rendering Europe unsafe for Jews.

This is of course nonsense and highly offensive, as is the connected theory currently doing the rounds that European civilisation and its democratic values will be overtaken during this century by radical Islam. Its only objective is to insult Europe. It is astonishing how many respected political thinkers suscribe to it. However it must be noted that both sides are guilty of bringing the Israel Palestinian debate into disrepute. Highly opinionated badly informed left wingers currently dominate this debate in Europe. It is becoming increasingly tiresome and I can understand how some Israelis on seeing this, become disenchanted and resort to counter insults.

A lot of work will have to be done before this rift will begin to heal. As always, I advocate compromise. Europeans, particularly leftists are going to have to accept that left wing politics is riddled with anti semitism. I will qualify this in later posts but I have no doubt that it is true. And for Israelis and their supporters they will have to acknowledge that killing debate by accusations of anti semitism or other forms of bigotry IS A TACTIC (it is not a myth as many maintain) used by israels supporters in order to deflect discussion away aspects of the conflict where Israel has failed to live up to their obligations.