Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Economy on brink of recession, Greenspan says

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan warned on Tuesday the U.S. economy was on the brink of a recession, with the chances of that happening at more than 50 percent.

The U.S. economy has been hit by a credit crisis which began in the sub-prime mortgage market, prompting a series of interest rate cuts to help boost the economy. But price pressures are growing, making more rate cuts unlikely.

Asked if the U.S. economy was in recession, Greenspan said: "We are on the brink."

A quick recovery was unlikely, he said via video link to a conference in Johannesburg. "A rebound at this stage is not something I think is in the immediate outlook," he said.

"There are still very considerable structural problems remaining in the financial system. They will remain for a while. It's going to be very difficult. There are a lot of unexpected adverse events out in front of us," Greenspan said.

Greenspan said he did not believe arguments that the housing problems in the U.S. were due to interest rates being too low during his tenure. "As far as I'm concerned, the data do not support it (that argument). The housing bubble is clearly an international phenomenon."

On South Africa, Greenspan said the country's Reserve Bank had been right to raise interest rates in the face of accelerating inflation.

"The problem that you have here is that ... significant pressures are coming from oil and food, but they are none the less real," he said. "The price increases are real and unless the central bank leans against them ... you will get a highly unstable inflation environment."

South Africa's central bank has raised its repo rate by 500 basis points to 12.0 percent since June 2006 to try tame inflationary pressures. But its targeted inflation gauge continues to accelerate, reaching 10.4 percent year-on-year in April.

(Reporting by Stella Mapenzauswa, writing by Gordon Bell; editing by David Stamp)

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Khawaja trial witness recounts his radicalization

OTTAWA — A star witness in a terrorism trial has told a Canadian court he was inspired to try to join al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan even though his mother was nearly killed in the 9/11 terror attack in New York City.

Mohammed Junaid Babar, a 33-year-old, Brooklyn-raised convicted terrorist, made a surprise appearance as the first-day witness in the trial against Canadian terrorism suspect Mohammed Momin Khawaja. It's expected Mr. Babar will testify that he met Mr. Khawaja in Pakistan and facilitated his entry to a training camp.

Mr. Khawaja, 29, is the first man charged under Canada's Anti-Terrorism Act. His trial began Monday in Ottawa under heightened security.

Mr. Babar's testimony in Canada follows similar evidence he gave two years ago in the UK as part of a plea bargain agreement to reduce his eventual U.S. Jail sentence.

Momin Khawaja is the first person to be tried under Canada’s Anti-terrorism Act. Tom Hanson/The Canadian Press
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Momin Khawaja is the first person to be tried under Canada’s Anti-terrorism Act. (Tom Hanson/The Canadian Press)

Recounting his strange radicalization Mr. Babar, a university dropout and former security guard, described how he was increasingly drawn to joining an armed jihad by the time 9/11 occurred.

"My mother worked at the World Trade Centre," he said, explaining she had made it out that morning before the towers crumbled. Despite the fact that terrorists had almost killed his mother, "about six or seven days (after 9/11) that's when I decided it was time to go to Afghanistan and fight," he said.

Mr. Babar testified he wanted to fight on the side of Taliban and al-Qaeda. He said he was driven by the belief that all the other Islamic countries in the Middle East were ruled by corrupt governments that deserved to be overthrown by force so as to install Islamic rule.

Mr. Babar testified he fell in with an extremist outfit known as al-Muhajaroon, which had only a handful of members in New York and Pakistan, but hundreds in the United Kingdom. The organization helped him install himself in Pakistan in 2001-2002, he has testified. It was in Pakistan where he began meeting members of the British cell that Mr. Khawaja allegedly joined later.

Crown prosecutor David McKercher spent nearly 90 minutes laying out the bomb-building, terrorist-training and terrorist-financing charges against Mr. Khawaja earlier Monday.

In broad strokes, the Crown alleges Mr. Khawaja was involved in a trans-Atlantic terrorism conspiracy, meeting a group of fellow extremists in London in 2002 before learning how to fire AK47s and rocket-propelled grenades at a Pakistan training camp in 2003.

He also allegedly constructed a detonation device he called the “high-fi Digimonster” which was seized from his Ottawa home in 2004.

“The result would be massive destruction and loss of life,” Mr. McKercher told the court, explaining the Digimonster was intended to spark simultaneous explosions around London, including possible attacks on a shopping centre, a night club and a power grid.

Not only did the RCMP seize the Digimonster, Mr. McKercher said, but tests revealed precisely how it was outfitted with signal jammers and encryption codes to prevent a premature explosion. Mr. McKercher added the device was supposed to work on the 916.84 megahertz frequency, indicative of the prosecutor's keen eye for detail.

Rifles, money and government credentials

The Crown's opening statement suggests agents watched or listened to just about every significant conversation or meeting Mr. Khawaja had in the six month run-up to his March 2004 arrest. According to the Crown, the Digimonster was seized from Mr. Khawaja's brother's room in the family home. Three rifles –including one with a bayonet – were seized from the suspect's own bedroom along with $10,300 under a mattress, the Crown said.

Mr. Khwaja worked as a computer contractor at Canada's department of Foreign Affairs at the time of his arrest and Mr. McKercher suggested the suspect used his DFAIT credentials for terrorist activities. The prosecutor told the court Mr. Khawaja sent e-mails about his detonator project to London co-conspirators through a DFAIT computer, that he showed UK customs agents his DFAIT pass when he entered the UK, and that he suggested to his conspirators he could use DFAITs internal shipping services to send goods to the mujahedeen in Pakistan.

Mr. Khawaja, beardless and with long wet hair parted in the middle, simply pleaded “not guilty” in a soft-spoken voice to each of the seven terrorism charges he faces. The defence has not signalled how it will attempt to rebut these allegations.

Four years of official silence ends

The prosecution's opening statement ended more than four years of official silence from federal government authorities on the case, marking the first time evidence in the case has ever been openly discussed.

Prosecutors have deferred to a court-ordered publication ban for years, and although the trial is only beginning now, the Khawaja case has already served to highlight a number of cumbersome Canadian criminal-justice procedures.

To protect Mr. Khawaja's right to a fair trial, his lawyers requested the gag order immediately after his March, 2004, arrest. Challenges of the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act and later attempts to see secret documents consumed all the court time since 2004.

Some experts looking at the Khawaja case and others like it say that regardless of the rights of the accused, society should have the right to know the blow-by-blow of the allegations much sooner.

“The gag orders imposed on the media and authorities by the judiciary in [Commonwealth] countries prevent the authorities from informing the Muslim community about the scope of the terrorist threat because the evidence against the suspects cannot be disclosed until the trials are over,” writes Marc Sageman, a psychiatrist and former CIA case officer in an influential new book, Leaderless Jihad.

Mr. Sageman says the London plot that Mr. Khawaja is alleged to have been involved in stands as a clear example of an emerging “homegrown” threat, and authorities should reconsider a host of practises – including court-imposed pretrial gag orders – to better challenge an extremist narrative that seduces Westerners into joining armed jihad.

“The gag orders have contributed to broad public and especially Muslim skepticism and suspicion about” terrorism cases, Mr. Sageman writes. “The idea that the public can suspend judgment about such dramatic events as arrests and wait for three or four years to discover the evidence runs against human nature.

“The public will fill in the gaps in its knowledge and this can potentially turn against the authorities.”

Even among Commonwealth countries, Canada is particularly prone to protracted pretrial debates that lengthen gag orders on the evidence. For example, haggling over document disclosure can serve to delay a trial for years – as happened in the case of Mr. Khawaja.

Comparatively, U.S. cases are more efficient. “In the US, criminal defendants have a slightly narrower constitutional right to disclosure,” Wake University law professor Robert M. Chesney, a specialist in terrorism law, wrote in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail.

“Prosecutors must disclose that which reasonably could be used as exculpatory, not just relevant” as is the case in Canada.

State secrecy

In Canada, state secrecy matters are also decided by Federal Court judges who aren't involved in the actual trial, thus creating a bottleneck in the process. U.S. trial judges are one-stop shops, as they are given the scope to determine which documents are secret and which are not.

“Let's say you have a qualifying document that should be disclosed but that the government wants to keep secret. [The U.S. Classified Information Procedures Act] allows the government to apply to the trial judge with that argument,” Mr. Chesney wrote.

“The judge will determine first whether the document really is disclosable, and if so, whether there is any way to craft a compromise or substitute that would disclose the key substance without undue harm to classified info.

“That usually resolves the matter.”

The disclosure issues that delayed the Khawaja trial threaten to delay the trial of a group of Toronto-area suspects arrested in 2006. One peripheral suspect – legally considered a youth – is currently on trial having had relatively few pretrial legal issues. But 10 adult accused remain mired in the early stages of preliminary wrangling. One suspect has recently penned an open letter from prison complaining he is not getting adequate disclosure.

Still, the Khawaja matter remains the first test case of the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act. Although the Canadian gag order has always remained in place, a parallel British trial that led to the convictions of five U.K. conspirators has revealed pretty much the entire case against Mr. Khawaja.

None of the British court evidence has been subject to a publication ban in Canada and much of it was repeated in court Monday.

Because Mr. Khawaja has opted for a judge-alone trial, there is no jury prejudice that can result from publishing the information.

The defence's challenge will be threefold: Rebut the evidence of items the RCMP says it seized in Ottawa; rebut the conversations and e-mails British agents secretly recorded, and rebut the evidence of a U.S. witness, a one-time co-conspirator with whom the FBI convinced to work for them.

The seizures

It's alleged that Mr. Khawaja built a remote control device for the British cell that wanted to detonate a bomb in central London. An RCMP officer flew to England two years ago to testify that he found circuitry in Mr. Khawaja's residence – actually his bedroom in his parents' house in Orleans, Ont. – that indicated the initiator worked at a range of up to 300 metres in an open environment.

The evidence was also that police teams discovered guns, knives, circuit boards, computer chips and literature with titles like ‘Terrorism and Self Sufficiency,” ‘Defence of The Muslim Lands,' ‘The Religion And Doctrine of Jihad,' and ‘CIA Special Operations and Equipment' U.K. Crown Prosecutor Mark Heywood gave more details of items seized from Mr. Khawaja's house: “A long rifle gun, 7.62 calibre weapon was found in a gun box in the bedroom, under the bed. There was also a second 7.62 calibre rifle in the same place. Both were not loaded but the box contained ammunition. A third long gun was also found under the bed as well as a gun cleaning kit and a box of 7.62 cartridges.

“On a shelf was found five books including ‘CIA Special Operations and Equipment' and a military manual. On another shelf was a combat knife. On a computer desk was a box which contained computer parts. Electrical wires and components were found in a plastic tray type box.”

Mr. Heywood continued continued: “A white box also contained computer parts on the main desk top. Also on the desk top were books entitled ‘The Art of War', ‘On Guerilla Warfare' and ‘Defence of the Muslim Lands.”

The intercepts

The British evidence was that authorities intercepted Mr. Khawaja's e-mails to the British group, wherein he updated them almost monthly on the progress of his remote control device, prior to visiting London to show them pictures.

For example in December 2003, Mr. Khawaja is alleged to have e-mailed the U.K. ringleader. He reportedly wrote, “We finished designing the baby, now we just gotta put things together and test out next week or two. If all goes well I'll come down and show you the baby.”

Then in January Mr. Khawaja allegedly wrote another e-mail, according to the British evidence: “Praise the most high, we got the devices working. I am gonna try and get a booking asap to come over and see you.”

In February, Mr. Khawaja allegedly asked if he should “parcel it over,” according to the British Crown: “I just want to do a demo of it and show you how it works and stuff, its range. So we gotta find a way to get it into the UK. Maybe I can courier it over...”

But the U.K. evidence suggested those plans were dispensed with. In another e-mail from Canada, Mr. Khawaja allegeldy wrote: “I think it will be too dangerous to mail or send anything ... You know these kuffs [short for kuffar, or unbelievers] are tight these days.”

British authorities testified their eyes and ears were trained on Mr. Khawaja for the entirety of his three-day trip to London later that month.

Both Mr. Khawaja and the British group were rounded up in sweeps at the end of March.

The witness

But all eyes Monday were on the well-guarded prosecution witness Mr. Babar, who arrived in Canada courtesy of the FBI. Mr. Babar was arrested in his native Brooklyn a few days after the London and Ottawa sweeps.

While the dubious interrogation practices of other U.S. intelligence agencies are very much under scrutiny these days – the CIA is under investigation for its use of waterboarding while the Pentagon is under fire for setting up Guantanamo Bay – what has been overshadowed is the FBI's effective use of more conventional U.S. laws and interrogation practices.

When the soft spoken Mr. Babar testified in London, he told the British court that black suited agents surrounded him on a street in his neighbourhood and brought him to a hotel. He stayed in the suite for several days as he was given the option of co-operating, in order to reduce his jail sentence.

He testified that he agonized over the decision until he recalled a haddith, or Islamic proverb, about one of the first martyrs of the religion. Mr. Babar testified that it reminded him that God forgives those who are made to say things after being captured by the enemy.

So he told about the backdrop to the bomb plot, how he allegedly met Mr. Khawaja and the British suspects in Pakistan about a year before the arrests.

Mr. Babar testified he was already in Lahore when he was told to smooth a Canadian's entrance to a Pakistani training camp.

“What up bro, listen my name is Kashif... send me your flight information because I will be picking you up from the airport,” his e-mail said.

The response, allegedly from Mr. Khawaja, was “Alright bro, arriving on Thursday July 15 at 3pm at Islamabad airport.”

Later that month, Mr. Khawaja allegedly attended a training camp in Pakistan. According to Mr. Babar's testimony the Canadian told him how he fired a rocket launcher for the first time – and smiled, saying how he very much wanted to do it again.

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Heartbroken Briton sells his 'entire life'

LONDON, England -- A heartbroken Briton is one step closer to starting a new life as he tries to auction his "entire life" online following the break-up of his marriage.

Ian Usher said he was selling his house and all its contents because they remind him of his marriage.

Ian Usher said he was selling his house and all its contents because they remind him of his marriage.

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Ian Usher, who moved to Australia six years ago, is selling his house, car, job and even an introduction to his friends on eBay. By 1530 GMT on Monday bids had reached almost US $285,000.

Usher is saying goodbye to his three-bedroom home in the western Australian city of Perth and all its contents, including his car, motorbike, jet ski and parachuting equipment.

The auction closes at 2 p.m. Australian time on Saturday (0600 GMT) after which he said he would leave the country. "My current thoughts are to then head to the airport and ask at the flight desk where the next flight with an available seat goes to, and to get on that and see where life takes me from there," he said.

The 44-year-old, who originally came from Darlington, in northern England, will even include an introduction to his friends and a trial run at his job. "On the day it's all sold and settled, I intend to walk out of my front door with my wallet in one pocket and my passport in the other, nothing else at all," he said on his Web site, ALife4Sale.com.

Usher said he wanted a fresh start because his current life reminds him of his former marriage.

The couple parted a year ago but details of the breakup are only available to those who pay a fee on Usher's Web site.

He said: "Everything that I have -- the furniture in the house -- all has memories attached to it. It's time to shed the old, and in with the new."

Usher's employer at the rug store in Perth where he worked as a shop assistant, said she backed the auction. Her company vowed to offer the successful bidder a two-week trial run that could result in a permanent job.

She said: "When Ian came up with this idea, because we had seen him go through a break-up of marriage and pain and bits and pieces, I thought it was really exciting.

"We thought, why not give it a go?"

Usher said his friends in the city were prepared to be introduced to the highest bidder so he could advertise his auction as offering a complete lifestyle.

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Dispatches: The Killing Zone

China demolishes mosque for not supporting Olympics: group

Muslim pilgrims pray at the grave of an Islamic scholar on their way to the Imam Asim Shrine at the edge of the Taklamatan desert near the former Silk Road city of Hotan, Xinjiang province June 21, 2008, home to China's ethnic-minority Muslim Uighurs. (Reinhard Krause/Reuters)
Reuters Photo: Muslim pilgrims pray at the grave of an Islamic scholar on their way to the...

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese authorities in the restive far western region of Xinjiang have demolished a mosque for refusing to put up signs in support of this August's Beijing Olympics, an exiled group said on Monday.

The mosque was in Kalpin county near Aksu city in Xinjiang's rugged southwest, the World Uyghur Congress said.

The spokesman's office of the Xinjiang government said it had no immediate comment, while telephone calls to the county government went answered.

"China is forcing mosques in East Turkistan to publicize the Beijing Olympics to get the Uighur people to support the Games (but) this has been resisted by the Uighurs," World Uyghur Congress spokesman Dilxat Raxit said in an emailed statement.

Beijing says al Qaeda is working with militants in Xinjiang to use terror to establish an independent state called East Turkistan.

Oil-rich Xinjiang is home to 8 million Turkic-speaking Uighurs, many of whom resent the growing economic and cultural influence of the Han Chinese.

Dilxat Raxit added that the mosque, which had been renovated in 1998, was accused of illegally renovating the structure, carrying out illegal religious activities and illegally storing copies of the Muslim holy book the Koran.

"All the Korans in the mosque have been seized by the government and dozens of people detained," he said. "The detained Uighurs have been tortured."

The Olympic torch relay passed through Xinjiang last week under tight security, with all but carefully vetted residents banned from watching on the streets and tight controls over foreign media covering the event.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)

(For more stories visit our multimedia website "Road to Beijing" at http://www.reuters.com/news/sports/2008olympics; and see our blog at http://blogs.reuters.com/china)

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Gangs out of control

By EMILY WATT - The Dominion Post

Police say it is sheer luck they are not dealing with a multiple homicide after Mongrel Mob members rampaged through a 21st birthday party, swinging knives, baseball bats and a machete.

Five people were admitted to Hawke's Bay Hospital with serious injuries after 100 partygoers were set upon just before midnight on Saturday.

The Hawke's Bay gang violence comes as Southland police work to quell a feud between rival Mongrel Mob and Road Knights gangs in Invercargill. The Southland tension has led to two properties being torched.

Meanwhile, the attack at the birthday party is the fifth gang-related attack in Hastings in three weeks, and Mayor Lawrence Yule says the violence against innocent people is of great concern.

Three men were arrested at the scene of the latest incident and a fourth, who police believe was the principal offender, was arrested yesterday afternoon at a Hastings address. The men are charged with five counts of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Detective Sergeant Mike Foster said it appeared a "reasonably senior" gang member was known to the people throwing the party, but he was not invited. When he was refused entry, he returned with a car-load of armed gang members.

The sight of these patched men slashing their way through the crowd must have been "absolutely horrific", Mr Foster said. "They basically stabbed and slashed and beat anybody who stepped in their way."

He praised the first police on the scene, who had to deal with "pandemonium" and managed to stabilise the bleeding victims and still arrest three fleeing gang members.

He did not know what had caused the latest spate of gang violence in Hastings. The attacks did not appear to be directly linked.

"We need to sit on this very quickly, and I believe we have done that. We're putting them away, we're seeking the cooperation of the [Mob] hierarchy. That's really all we can do."

Mr Yule said gangs had been present in Hawke's Bay for many years, but violence had worsened dramatically in the past few months. While Wanganui suffered inter-gang violence, "what they are doing here is causing mayhem on innocent people".

"It's completely unacceptable. We're going to have to get tough and deal with it."

Canterbury University gang researcher Jarrod Gilbert said it was "enormously rare" for the public to get caught in gang violence. Gangs were usually well-controlled, but Mob leaders seemed to have less control because the gang was so large and violence, known as "Mongrelism", was almost endorsed.


Police have arrested nine people, including five Mongrel Mob members, in connection with five attacks in Hawke's Bay in the past three weeks.

June 21: More than 100 people set upon by six Mongrel Mob members who, armed with knives, baseball bats, and a machete, gatecrashed a Hastings 21st birthday party. Five people taken to hospital. Four arrests so far.

June 8: A 21-year- old man was beaten after he opened his front door to four men in Flaxmere, Hastings. His terrified partner hid her newborn baby then confronted the men. They were wearing red and black and and yelled out youth gang slang during the beating. A 15-year-old has been arrested in connection with the attack. A 34-year-old man was seriously injured in an assault at Hastings' Mongrel Mob headquarters. Four people have been arrested.

June 6: A 27-year- old Hastings man was beaten in the suburb of Camberley by several suspected Mongrel Mob members. The man had no gang links and police say the attack appeared to have been unprovoked.

June 1: Gang members walked into a 21st birthday party and assaulted three people in Camberley.

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Despite Economic Dip, Giving Rose in 2007

Donations Passed $300 Billion for 1st Time

Washington Post Staff Writer

Americans donated $306 billion to charities in 2007, as U.S. philanthropic giving rose to a record level despite a downturn in the national economy, a survey being released today has found.

Charitable giving increased 1 percent last year, when inflation is taken into account, and surpassed $300 billion for the first time, according to the Giving USA survey.

But experts said that the growth may be short-lived, as many charities reported concerns that rising gas prices and turmoil in the housing and credit markets could hamper their fundraising this year.

In 2007, most of the donations, about $229 billion, came from individuals. But after years of steady growth, that figure remained stagnant last year, a sign that the softening economy may be pinching charitable contributions. Giving by corporations totaled $15.9 billion, an inflation-adjusted decline of 1 percent from the year before.

Meanwhile, giving from private foundations increased 7 percent and through personal bequests 4 percent, adjusted for inflation.

Del Martin, chairwoman of the Giving USA Foundation, which compiles the annual report, said the modest growth encouraged her. But she said many charities surveyed, particularly those with small endowments, were worried about this year's fundraising totals.

"Those nonprofits that have the most tenuous relationships with donors are the ones that have the greater concerns," she said.

In Washington, as in cities across the country, demand for services at charities is soaring amid the economic downturn. Requests for emergency assistance have increased 28 percent at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, said president and chief executive Edward J. Orzechowski.

Donations to Catholic Charities increased last year, he said, crediting a loyal corps of donors.

"When times are tough, people are willing to dig deeper," Orzechowski said. But, he added, "when the demand rises to the degree that it is, there's no way we can meet that demand, even with increased giving."

Any decrease next year in giving, no matter how modest, could severely hurt area nonprofit organizations, said Julie L. Rogers, president of the District-based Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation. She said many groups are "chronically undercapitalized anyway."

"They may be very well managed, but they live at the financial margins because most of them don't have much by way of financial reserves or working capital, and they are raising every dollar every year," Rogers said.

A promising sign for charities is the steady growth in giving by private foundations. Buoyed by gains in stock market investments and a record $37 billion in new gifts, the combined assets of U.S. foundations rose from $550 billion in 2006 to $614 billion in 2007, according to a recent survey by the Foundation Center, a group that researches philanthropic giving.

Although much of that money remains locked in endowments year after year, foundations are spending a larger share of their assets than was true a decade ago, the survey found. More than half of foundations surveyed said they planned to increase their giving in 2008.

"What you are seeing is the value of sustained endowments that increase in good times and therefore are equipped and able to respond to society's needs in bad times," said Steve Gunderson, president and chief executive of the Council on Foundations.

In overall U.S. charitable giving, religious congregations received the biggest windfall from donors, the Giving USA study found. Religious groups collected $102 billon, or one-third of all gifts, followed by nonprofit educational organizations, which collectively raised $43 billion.

But the share of overall donations going to religious groups has decreased steadily over time. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, religious congregations received nearly half of all gifts, according to Giving USA's historical data.

Martin attributes this to increased competition among nonprofit groups for donations, as the number of charitable organizations has soared over the past decade to about 1.4 million.

In 2007, international aid agencies, environmental groups and human service charities saw the largest increases in charitable gifts. Gifts to international groups, which were so small 20 years ago that the category was nonexistent in the survey, have grown steadily, increasing by 13 percent last year to $13 billion.

"That number is indicative of what I say often: In a global economy, you have global philanthropy," Gunderson said.

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Israeli troops accused of abuse

Blindfolded detainees are led by Israeli soldiers at a military base near the Gaza Strip (11 June)
Israel says it complies with laws governing the treatment of detainees

An Israeli human rights group has accused Israeli soldiers of routinely abusing bound Palestinian prisoners.

The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) said the army was indifferent to such mistreatment.

The organisation said its findings were based on 90 detailed accounts from Palestinians and soldiers who say they witnessed the abuse.

A military spokesman said the army viewed any violation of its ethical code with great concern.

The army says it set up a special unit to look into complaints of abuse in 1996, and since then there had been a rise in the number of soldiers reporting violence against detainees.

A military spokesman, quoted by AFP news agency, insisted that the armed forces "act in line with international and Israeli laws regarding the arrest of terrorist suspects".

'Serious injuries'

Israeli troops frequently round up prisoners during raids in Palestinian areas. They say their actions are aimed at preventing attacks on Israeli civilians by militants.

But the human rights group says that soldiers are often violent towards prisoners - even after they have been handcuffed and no longer pose a threat.

"On certain occasions, the ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees is highly violent, resulting in serious injuries," said the report, which covers the period from June 2006 to October 2007.

"Minors, who must be granted special protection under both Israeli and international law, are also victims of abuse," the report said.

Earlier this year, the PCATI accused Israeli officials of using psychological torture against some Palestinian detainees by threatening action against their families if they did not co-operate.

The Israeli government has already said such interrogation tactics are illegal, and the internal security organisation, Shin Bet , denied the claims.

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Cameras help Palestinians 'Shoot Back' at violent settlers

A woman films with a video camera. As a deterrent against armed Jewish settlers it does not look much. But the video camera has become a frontline defence for ordinary Palestinians living between Hebron and the Jewish settlement of Kyriat Arba in the West Bank.(AFP/File/Jeff Pachoud)
AFP/File Photo: A woman films with a video camera. As a deterrent against armed Jewish settlers it...

HEBRON, West Bank (AFP) - As a deterrent against armed Jewish settlers it does not look much. But the video camera has become a frontline defence for ordinary Palestinians living between Hebron and the Jewish settlement of Kyriat Arba in the West Bank.

"I always keep the camera at my side; it's the only thing which prevents the settlers from hurling stones at us or coming into my shop," says Bassam al-Jaabari as he stitches a pair of shoes in his dusty and poorly stocked grocer's shop.

He jerks his head towards a three-storey house that can be seen about 100 metres (yards) away through the grill protecting his store windows.

More than a year ago, several families of Israeli settlers, who claim they had bought the property, moved into the building in the Palestinian district of Al-Ras.

The Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem, immediately provided the four Palestinian families living near to that house with video cameras, as part of its programme "Shooting Back".

"We know from experience what happens as soon as settler move into the heart of Palestinian areas," explains Issa Amro, the B'Tselem official responsible for the volatile Hebron sector in the southern West Bank

"They (the settlers) make the life of the Palestinians impossible. But if their neighbours film them, they think twice before harrassing them," he adds.

Since the start of 2007, B'Tselem has distributed about 100 cameras to Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, especially in the Hebron area where tension with the Jewish settlers is particularly intense.

Some of the videotapes have been broadcast by Israeli and international media, including one in March last year that showed an Israeli woman hurling a stream of insults for several minutes at a Palestinian neighbour in the old town of Hebron.

"The pictures of this woman have been broadcast throughout the world and provoked at lot of reaction. It was then we realised the potential of 'Shooting Back' which was then in a testing phase," recalled Oren Yacokovobish, in charge of the B'Tselem programme.

"The cameras have above all a deterrent effect; they protect Palestinians. They also enable the public to see incidents which otherwise are invisible and whose veracity can always be challenged," he added.

Last Tuesday, two settlers were arrested after being filmed beating up two Palestinian shepherds, an elderly man and his wife, near Hebron. The incident was made public the previous week when the British BBC broadcast video showing young masked settlers apparently attacking the couple with clubs.

"The settlers gave us a 10-minute warning to clear off from the land," Thamam al-Nawaja, 58, told the BBC after spending three days in hospital following the attack.

She said she and her 70-year-old husband stood their ground and that her arm was broken and her left cheek fractured in an ensuing attack.

The spokesman for the Jewish community in Hebron insists the images provided by B'Tselem don't prove anything.

"Today it's very easy to manipulate pictures," claims David Wilber. "The videos don't show what happened a few minutes earlier. Perhaps what was filmed was in response to provocation."

According to him, even if security in Hebron is "very good," many Israelis fear Palestinians who he claimed are often armed.

B'Tselem said it investigated 47 cases of physical assault, gunfire, beating, kicking, or stone-throwing by settlers against Palestinians last year and reported them all to police.

"Based on B'Tselem's experience, the reported incidents are likely a small portion of the cases of settler violence against Palestinians," the group said in its 2007 annual report.

"All law enforcement agencies and judicial authorities demonstrate little interest in uncovering the substantial violence that Israeli civilians commit against Palestinians in the occupied territories," the group said.

Under an agreement with the Palestinian Authority, Israel pulled out of 80 percent of Hebron in 1997, retaining for several hundred settlers an enclave around the Tomb of the Patriarchs. The group lives amid 150,000 Palestinians and is protected by the Israeli army.

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Jeremy Scahill: Blackwater is Still in Charge, Deadly, Above the Law and Out of Control

Think Blackwater's days are numbered? Think again. Jeremy Scahill explains why its slaughter of Iraqis has not stopped the notorious mercenary firm.

On June 3, Jeremy Scahill's bestselling Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army was released in fully revised and updated paperback form. The new edition includes reporting on the now-famous Nisour Square massacre on Sept. 16 of last year, in which Blackwater mercenaries opened fire in a Baghdad neighborhood, brutally murdering 17 Iraqi civilians. The killing spree, which the U.S. Army would label a "criminal event," would reveal the extent of the lawlessnewss enjoyed by private contractors abroad and the lengths the Bush administration will go to protect its private army of choice.

Antonia Juhasz caught up with Scahill on the phone the day the new edition was released. A fellow at Oil Change International and author of The Bush Agenda, Juhasz is also the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Oil: The World's Most Powerful Industry, and What We Must Do to Stop It. Juhasz and Scahill discussed, among other topics, the story behind Blackwater, congressional inaction, radical privatization, Barack Obama, corporate vs. independent media, GI resistance in the age of private mercenaries, getting real about challenging corporations and the power of dissent.

Antonia Juhasz: I first have to admit that, until now, I had not read Blackwater and that, as someone who had been reading your Nation articles, I had quite erroneously assumed that I knew what you had to say about this company. I could not have been more wrong. This is a fantastic, informative, insightful and critically important book.

Jeremy Scahill: Thank you. I started writing this book by accident. I'd been writing about Blackwater when my [Nation] editors Katrina vanden Heuvel and Betsy Reed sat me down and said, "We've published ten articles about one company and you're doing great work, but you either need to write a book or get a new beat." Once I began researching the company in the context of a book, I realized that, in many ways, it was a metaphor for so much that was happening with the country, particularly with the privatization agenda of the war machine. So, while there are some parts of the book that are based on reporting I did for the Nation, the vast majority is new investigative research.

AJ: What drew you to Blackwater?

JS: I was in Yugoslavia during the 1999 NATO bombing that Bill Clinton prosecuted ... Halliburton and other war contractors, like Dyncorp, were very much present on the ground during the Yugoslavian civil war, primarily in Bosnia. And so that was really my first direct interaction with this sort of parallel army of contractors.

Then the [U.S. attack on] Iraqis in Falluja was very important to me as a reporter, because I had been there many times and had friends inside of Falluja. I remember watching on March 31, 2004, when those four Blackwater contractors were ambushed and killed inside Falluja, and my immediate response after seeing the way it was covered in the press -- that they were "civilians" [or] "civilian contractors" -- was "Oh my god, Bush is going to destroy that city."

I began my reporting on Blackwater [in April 2004] based on a very simple question: "How were the deaths of these not-active-duty U.S. soldiers -- not civilians, but four corporate personnel working for Blackwater, a mercenary company -- how do their deaths warrant the destruction of an entire city?"

I realized that it was a story that spoke volumes to what we were seeing happening in this country with the export of this incredibly violent foreign policy, the connections of political allies of the president to the war industry… [So I began] an in-depth investigation of Blackwater: Who runs the company? What are their connections to the Bush administration and the national security apparatus of the U.S., etc.?

AJ: What did you hope that writing the book would accomplish -- and has it?

JS: When I was writing, I wasn't thinking of it in terms of what I hoped to accomplish. What I was looking at was: Here is this company that was on no one's map, basically, before March 31, 2004, and even in the weeks and months after that, was really just a blip on the media radar screen. I was hoping to expose this company as something much bigger than just its boots on the ground in Iraq, or its role in Falluja, Najaf and elsewhere -- but to explain, in a readable way, that this is a very dangerous trend that has been put on a radical fast track almost overnight.

Once we started to realize just how deeply embedded in the occupation of Iraq Blackwater has been, and its connection to the Bush administration, then the point of the book (became) raising hell in Congress and in the public -- saying to people, "We have to wake up and do something about this!"

Has that been a success? Well, probably not. I learned a very humbling lesson after the Nisour Square killings in September 2007, when it really appeared as though this company was on the ropes, and that it was quite possible that their time in Iraq was at an end. And I largely blame the Democrats in the Congress for failing to deliver that knockout blow. Because this was a company that had been involved in the worst massacre of Iraqi civilians to date in the Iraq war involving a private company, and yet their contract gets renewed in April 2008 and the Democrats continue to fund their operations -- and with the exception of [congressman] Henry Waxman [D-Calif.], almost no one in the Congress has done anything to effectively take on these individuals or this company.

AJ: You write in the book about the lack of both serious congressional inquiry and mainstream media coverage, but the book is filled with examples of congressional hearings, investigations, stand out members and references to many mainstream media reporters and stories. You also write in the new introduction to explain Democratic inaction, almost as a throwaway line, that "the Democrats take mercenary money too," but then you tell a story that is uniquely about the Bush administration in particular and the Republican Party in general. Talk about these seeming inconsistencies. What explains congressional inaction? And, in terms of informing the public, why aren't a few excellent stories at the LA Times, Washington Post, New York Times and other outlets enough?

JS: Change does not happen through one-off articles or one-off hearings. Only drumbeat coverage in the media, drumbeat action by Congress, leads to change. You can find examples of corporate media outlets doing a great job explaining one incident involving Blackwater or a congressional hearing where some very important things were said, but the action has not been aggressive, and most importantly, it has not been sustained.

Blackwater is unique among war contractors in that it only butters one side of the bread -- the Republican side. [Founder and CEO] Erik Prince and other senior executives at Blackwater are die-hard ideological Republicans. They are foot soldiers for President Bush's domestic and international agenda … But Blackwater is unusual. Most war contractors give depending on which way the political wind is blowing. Right now, Antonia, for the first time in 14 years, weapons manufacturers are actually donating more to the Democrats than to Republicans -- about 52 percent of the defense industry's donations. In 1996, Democrats got just 32 percent.

AJ: Could Democratic inaction be summarized as: (1) money, and (2) there is an inherent contradiction that, if they really blow the cover on the private contractors, they will simultaneously be challenging the very continuation of the war, which far too many are not truly prepared to do?

JS: I interviewed one Democratic congressperson starting to work on this issue, and he said repeatedly, "I don't want to be portrayed as anti-contractor," almost like contractor was the new Israel … No one who has political aspirations is going to give the perception that they are anti-business, and war is very, very big business in this country. I've also learned that congresspeople are just flat-out lazy. A lot of them have a pack of kids in their early 20s, in the case of the House, who are only looking at job listings for jobs on committees and to hop over to the Senate, and they couldn't care less …

AJ Jeremy, you do know that I was once one of those kids, right?

JS You would have been extraordinary and an exception. I've had congresspeople say to me, "My staffers are a bunch of frat boy idiots whose only aspiration is to move up the chain." One congressman asked me to help him write a bill. I asked him about his legislative aides and he said, "Legislative aides? Are you kidding me?! I'd have to write my own bill. These kids couldn't write their way out of kindergarten."

I'd never had any experience on the Hill. I learned the lesson that if the member wants to do something, unless the member makes this a priority, probably nothing will be done. I also think that the Democrats are too busy funding the war … they can't even get straight what they want to do about official U.S. forces in Iraq, much less the shadow army of contractors.

AJ: Talk about the presidential candidates.

JS: There is something deeper here when you talk about Sen. Obama's Iraq plan … (which) is going to necessitate using these private contractors for the foreseeable future in Iraq … Obama refuses to rule out using Blackwater or other private security companies in Iraq. The reason is simple, [there is] no one who can step in and fill Blackwater's role come Jan. 21, 2009 … [Obama has] identified them as unaccountable, above the law, out of control, jeopardizing the safety of U.S. troops -- but, because he does not plan to end the U.S. occupation, he may very well have to use them.

[However] Obama is the author of the Democrats' contractor reform bill that passed the House and is now before the Senate [the "Transparency and Accountability in Military and Security Contracting Act"]. He introduced it eight months before Nisour Square. I have problems with that legislation, but it's a start … Obama more than probably anyone in the Senate, except for Bernie Sanders [I-Vt.], probably understands this issue.

But, I did a story in the Nation in February 2008 [in which Obama's] staffers acknowledge that … he will not sign on to the Sanders-Schakowsky bill, "Stop Outsourcing Security Act," which seeks to ban the use of these companies in U.S. war zones and make all of the diplomatic security agents full-time employees of the U.S. government, which means that they would have an accountability structure in place.

AJ: Is it a good bill?

JS: I would back it 75 percent. There is a part of it that will allow a sort of permanent status of a paramilitary force in the U.S. State Department and just transfer the job from the private guys to full-time State Department employees. But in terms of trying to get those companies out of Iraq and shut down their operations there, the bill would go very far in doing that.

AJ: Let's talk about the impact of private mercenaries on U.S. troops and anti-war organizing.

JS: That's my challenge to the anti-war movement moving forward … This plays into some of the actions that you've been involved with, Antonia. Right now in Iraq there are 180,000 private contractors operating alongside 150,000 American troops, those contractors are not all armed individuals. In fact we don't know the exact numbers.

AJ: What percentage do you think are mercenaries?

JS: The GAO estimated approximately 70,000 people working for private security firms in Iraq. In 2006, the estimate was about 48,000. But it's incalculable because of the labyrinth contracting system. It took Congressman Waxman three years just to find out who the Blackwater contractors were working for when they were attacked in Falluja.

So, when you realize that there are 630 companies on the U.S. government payroll in Iraq right now, with personnel from 100 countries -- we would need hundreds of people working in the Congress making this their priority to get the kind of answers to the question you're asking. Realize that we're in a situation now where the private army, the corporate army, is now bigger than the U.S. military presence in Iraq.

The top priority of anti-war movement should be a two-pronged attack: Go after the war corporations, without whom the occupation of Iraq would be absolutely untenable, and those congresspeople who purport to be for change and continue to fund this corporate army.

We have many allies who are coming out of the ranks of the U.S. military, we should embrace them as a lot of us have with Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and move forward and realize that this is now a corporatist state, and the corporations have been let off the hook for far too long with the exception of a few dedicated activists across the U.S. This needs to be priority No. 1 for the anti-war movement, because that's the way to shut down the war, is to shut down the business of the companies that make it possible.

AJ: You and I were both at IVAW's Winter Soldier hearings in Maryland, and I was just at the Northwest Winter Soldier in Seattle. GI resistance, the organizing of veterans, and counter-recruitment are all key organizing strategies against this war. Much of this is based on a model from Vietnam. But, the key difference today is the role of private mercenaries. Talk about this resistance within the context of the private mercenaries. Is there an impenetrable weakness in this strategy if private contractors can simply take their place? Or, would it be impossible to entirely fight a war using private contractors? What about organizing the private contractors against the war?

JS: It would not be possible to fight the entire war with contractors. Right now, we have the most powerful army on earth and a parallel army of contractors in Iraq, yet the U.S. is still militarily losing the war to a disorganized resistance that is also killing itself. The U.S. military is far more coordinated and organized than any army of contractors would ever be.

We have to adapt and adjust our tactics to those of the war machine. The war contracting companies are also taking advantage of the economic conditions of those they end up hiring. Who gets killed in Iraq for Halliburton? Poor people who go over there as truck drivers because they are in debt.

I think that raising the visibility of the counter-recruitment movement to include those people targeted for employment with these war companies would be a very difficult undertaking, but a very important one if we're serious about ending this war and stopping this system of radical privatization of the war machine.

AJ: Do you think that private mercenaries should be outlawed? That they shouldn't exist?

JS: Yes. I think that we have a grave threat, not only to democratic processes of the U.S., but to global peace and stability when a system that intimately links corporate profit to an escalation of war and conflict is not only permitted but actively supported. And we can talk until we're blue in the face about the misdeeds of Blackwater in Iraq, but the reality is, Blackwater wouldn't be there if there wasn't a demand. Blackwater is the fruit of a poisonous tree -- this unquenchable thirst for offensive war and U.S. domination. The only function that these companies play in U.S. society is to enable unpopular, aggressive wars of conquest and a subversion of democratic oversight and accountability over U.S. taxpayer-funded operations.

AJ: I was fascinated by your discussion of the role of private security companies and oil corporations. We are in a historic moment with cases moving in U.S. courts against Chevron for its operations in Nigeria and against ExxonMobil in Indonesia. The companies are accused of using domestic military forces to brutally suppress local resistance. What if the companies had used private mercs? Mercenaries against whom, as you describe in great detail, we essentially have no laws?

JS: That's a very interesting question, and I don't know. Blackwater has a private intelligence company called Total Intelligence Solutions that offers what they describe as "CIA-type services" to Fortune 1000 corporations when they go into hostile areas. The U.N. Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries said recently about Latin America that, and I quote, "an emerging trend in Latin America and also in other regions of the world indicates situations of private security companies protecting transnational extractive corporations whose employees are often involved in suppressing legitimate social protest of communities and human rights and environmental organizations of the areas where these corporations operate." It's on right now, and it's growing by leaps and bounds.

I think it would be very difficult for local people in those communities to even know who did the action if mercenaries did it. Nigerians knew exactly who the people were who attacked them, from their insignias on their uniforms. And that information is being used in the case brought against Chevron. In the case of these private companies, often they operate with no indicator of who they are. It would take a huge amount of effort just to discover who the hell it was doing the torturing or whatever. We've already seen that its tremendously difficult to get any information about the official work of official forces, not to mention when you put it through layers of secrecy that come with contractors and subcontractors.

AJ: Let's talk about the incredible success of the book. What makes a politically charged book, which bucks the popular narrative, an international bestseller?

JS: When the book came out -- and, really, up until this moment -- corporate newspapers largely ignored it. There were no reviews. When it debuted at No. 9 on the New York Times bestseller list, the paper did a favorable little 150-word article on it. But that's it. Instead, it was a tremendous victory for independent media that the book debuted in the way it did because it was community media, grassroots activism, and online media activists and journalists that pushed this book around the country and raised awareness about it.

We did this very long book tour organized largely through the network of community radio stations that I've worked with over my life. In many places these were fund-raisers for stations [which] are often at the center of activism in their local communities. They connected me to activists, independent newspapers, online journalists, etc. The power of grassroots community media around the U.S. is what kept the book afloat and the issue afloat for the many months preceding the Nisour Square killings.

AJ: Nisour then brought the issue in to the headlines and brought you into mainstream media. Talk about that experience.

JS: On Sept. 16, I was just starting to think to myself that maybe I should start working on something different. I wouldn't drop this issue, but I was wondering, "What's the next phase of this work for me?"

I woke up the next morning and before I know it, I'm in a car on my way to CNN. I'm on live for five minutes, and it was clear from the beginning that they didn't exactly know who I was, that maybe a producer had just quickly googled "Blackwater," saw there is someone who wrote a book, and let's get them on the show. A lot of the interview was about the basics of Blackwater. Then at one point the host says, "So it sounds like you're critical of these companies and of Blackwater," and asked, "So, what are the alternatives?" What I think he meant was, "Should the military do this instead? Is there another company?" But I said, "I think that U.S. should withdraw all of its military forces from Iraq, all of the mercenary companies and the army of contractors." I thought for certain that was it, that they would shut down in the interview, and there was sort of a pause, and I decided well, hell, I'll just keep going if they're going to let me talk, and I said, "and I think that the U.S. should pay reparations to the Iraqi people for the destruction of their country." And with that the interview ended.

I left there thinking that I'd likely never be on CNN again or any other corporate media. [Instead] I was asked to be on almost every corporate media outlet except FOX. In one night, I was on ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News. All of a sudden all of these journalists who were ignoring the book and the story systematically for a year were calling me up and demanding to speak with me.

I took it deadly seriously, and it was a very humbling experience, because I felt like this is one chance that we have to have someone who is firmly against this war to get on corporate media. I viewed it as a campaign to try to inject as much truth about the war as possible into the corporate media landscape. For almost two months, all I was doing with my life was going on these shows. It really seemed as though it was having an impact, as though something was really going to happen in Congress. I learned a lesson about power, and Congress, and media … The ball was dropped at the moment when it mattered the most.

AJ: What does it say about the mainstream media that they were so eager to have you on? Why did they continue to have you on after it was clear that you were an anti-war voice?

JS: In all candor, I have no idea. It was one of those rare moments where the media took this story very seriously and realized that this was legitimate criticism of a very powerful company. I also think it was a sensational story in a true tabloid sense, so everyone was interested. There were also very few people who have any sort of in-depth knowledge of Blackwater and what it is and does.

To your bigger point, though, about the anti-war movement, I think its one of the great media crimes of our lifetime that articulate anti-war people have been completely and totally wiped out of the media landscape in this country.

But did it go anywhere? You know, it's sort of depressing when I think about that … I think it did raise awareness in a much broader segment of the population about the dangers of the radical privatization agenda with these companies. But, where it really matters, in the halls of Congress -- I don't know that it had any real effective impact.

If anything, the real lesson was a very powerful reminder of the importance of small groups of grass-roots activists who are determined, who show up every Thursday afternoon in front of the federal building or at a company headquarters. It reinforced my belief that the conscience of this country can be found in those people in small groups across the country who are standing up against this madness. Those who have made a personal lifelong dedication. Congress is fickle, but activism is consistent.

Our challenge is to keep those actions going and growing but also to become very serious about what we're doing to stand up to the Democrats in the Congress about the war and what they're doing (or not doing) to confront these corporations. The war machine is very sophisticated. We have brilliant people in our movement -- there's no reason why we can't elevate to the level of taking them on in a way that actually impacts their bottom line.

Original here

Israel 'committing memorycide'

Ilan Pappe says Israel needs to acknowledge the crime it committed
against the Palestinian people

As part of Al Jazeera's coverage of the anniversary of the creation of Israel and the Palestinian 'Nakba', Israeli historian Ilan Pappe reflects upon the events of 1948 and how they led to 60 years of division between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Between February, 1948 and December,1948 the Israeli army systematically occupied the Palestinian villages and towns, expelled by force the population and in most cases also destroyed the houses, looted their belongings and took over their material and cultural possessions. This was the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

During the ethnic cleansing, wherever there was resistance by the population the result was a massacre. We have more than 30 cases of such massacres where a few thousand Palestinians were massacred by the Israeli forces throughout the operation of the ethnic cleansing.

Pappe says the Israeli army systematically
forced Palestinians from their homes
The Israeli army became a bit tired toward the end of the operation and the Palestinian villages became more aware of what was awaiting them and therefore in the Upper Galilee the Israeli army did not succeed in expelling all of the villages. This is why today we have what we call the Arab-Israelis or Israeli-Arabs.

This is a group of 50 to 60 villages that remained within the state of Israel and its population was steadfast and was not expelled over to the other side of the border - to Lebanon or Syria.

The international community was aware of the ethnic cleansing but the international community, especially in the West, decided not to confront head on the Jewish community in Palestine after the Holocaust.

And, therefore, there was a kind of conspiracy of silence and again the international community did not react and was complacent and this was very important for the Israelis because it showed them that they can adopt as a state ideology ethnic cleansing and ethnic purity.

Erasing history

Part of any ethnic cleansing operation is not just wiping out the population and expelling it from the earth. A very typical part of ethnic cleansing is wiping people out of history.

For ethnic cleansing to be an effective and successful operation you also have to wipe people out of memory and the Israelis are very good at it. They did it in two ways.

They built Jewish settlements over the Palestinian villages they expelled and quite often gave them names that reflected the Palestinian name as a kind of testimony to the Palestinians that this is totally now in the hands of Israel and there is no chance in the world of bringing the clock backwards.

Pappe says many former Palestinian villages
were turned into recreational spaces
The other way they did it is planting trees - usually European pine trees - over the ruins of the village and turning the village into recreational spaces where you do exactly the opposite of commemoration - you live the day, you enjoy life, it is all about leisure and pleasure.

That is a very powerful tool for 'memorycide'. In fact, much of the Palestinian effort should have been but was never unfortunately - or only recently began - was to fight against that 'memorycide' by at least bringing back the memory of what happened.

I think that there should be no reason in the world that two people - the Palestinians and the Jews - despite everything that happened in the past should not be able live together effective and in one state.

You need three things for that to happen. You need closure for the 1948 story - namely you need an Israeli acknowledgment of the crime it committed against the Palestinian people.

The second thing that you need is you need to make Israel accountable for this and the only way of making Israel accountable is by, at least in principle, accepting the Palestinian refugees right of return.

And thirdly you need a change in the Palestinian and Arab position towards the idea of a Jewish presence in Palestine as something legitimate and natural and not as an alien colonialist force.

I think these principles have to emerge and so far the political elites on both sides are unwilling to accept them.

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Al Jazeera.

Original here

Special report: Is Al Qa'ida in pieces?

It continues to mount brutally effective operations around the world, but from Saudi Arabia to the streets of east London, hardline Islamists are turning against Al-Qa'ida in unprecedented numbers. Is the global terror network self-destructing? A special report by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank

Within a few minutes of Noman Benotman's arrival at the Kandahar guest house, Osama bin Laden came to welcome him. The journey from Kabul had been hard – 17 hours in a Toyota pick-up truck, bumping along what passed as the main highway to southern Afghanistan. It was the summer of 2000, and Benotman, then a leader of a group trying to overthrow the Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, had been invited by Bin Laden to a conference of jihadists from around the Arab world, the first of its kind since al-Qa'ida had moved to Afghanistan in 1996. Benotman, the scion of an aristocratic family marginalised by Qaddafi, had known Bin Laden from their days fighting the communist Afghan government in the early 1990s, a period when Benotman established himself as a leader of the militant Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.

The night of Benotman's arrival, Bin Laden threw a lavish banquet in the main hall of his compound, an unusual extravagance for the frugal al-Qa'ida leader. As Bin Laden circulated, making small talk, large dishes of rice and platters of whole roasted lamb were served to some 200 jihadists, many of whom had come from around the Middle East. "It was one big reunification," Benotman recalls. "The leaders of most of the jihadist groups in the Arab world were there and almost everybody within al-Qa'ida."

Bin Laden was trying to win over other militant groups to the global jihad he had announced against the West in 1998. Over the next five days, Bin Laden and his top aides, including Ayman al-Zawahiri, met with a dozen or so jihadist leaders. They sat on the floor in a circle with large cushions arrayed around them to discuss the future of their movement. "This was a big strategy meeting," Benotman told one of us late last year, in his first account of the meeting to a reporter. "We talked about everything, where are we going, what are the lessons of the past 20 years."

Despite the warm welcome, Benotman surprised his hosts with a bleak assessment of their prospects. "I told them that the jihadist movement had failed. That we had gone from one disaster to another, like in Algeria, because we had not mobilised the people," recalls Benotman, referring to the Algerian civil war launched by jihadists in the 1990s that left more than 100,000 dead and destroyed whatever local support the militants had once enjoyed. Benotman also told Bin Laden that the al-Qa'ida leader's decision to target the West would only sabotage attempts by groups such as Benotman's to overthrow the secular dictatorships in the Arab world. "We made a clear-cut request for him to stop his campaign against the United States because it was going to lead to nowhere," Benotman recalls, "but they laughed when I told them that America would attack the whole region if they launched another attack against it."

Benotman says that Bin Laden tried to placate him with a promise: "I have one more operation, and after that I will quit" – an apparent reference to 11 September. "I can't call this one back because that would demoralise the whole organisation," Benotman remembers Bin Laden saying.

After the attacks, Benotman, now living in London, resigned from the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, realising that the United States, in its war on terrorism, would differentiate little between al-Qa'ida and his organisation.

Benotman, however, did more than just retire. In January 2007, under a veil of secrecy, he flew to Tripoli in a private jet chartered by the Libyan government to try to persuade the imprisoned senior leadership of his former group to enter into peace negotiations with the regime. He was successful. This May, Benotman told us that the two parties could be as little as three months away from an agreement that would see the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group formally end its operations in Libya and denounce al-Qa'ida's global jihad. At that point, the group would also publicly refute recent claims by al-Qa'ida that the two organisations had joined forces.

This past November, Benotman went public with his own criticism of al-Qa'ida in an open letter to al-Zawahiri, absorbed and well received, he says, by the jihadist leaders in Tripoli. In the letter, Benotman recalled his Kandahar warnings and called on al-Qa'ida to end all operations in Arab countries and in the West. The citizens of Western countries were blameless and should not be the target of terrorist attacks, argued Benotman, his refined English accent, smart suit, trimmed beard, and easygoing demeanour making it hard to imagine that he was once on the front lines in Afghanistan.

Although Benotman's public rebuke of al-Qa'ida went unnoticed in the United States, it received wide attention in the Arabic press. In repudiating al-Qa'ida, Benotman was adding his voice to a rising tide of anger in the Islamic world toward al-Qa'ida and its affiliates, whose victims since 11 September have mostly been fellow Muslims. Significantly, he was also joining a larger group of religious scholars, former fighters, and militants who had once had great influence over al-Qa'ida's leaders, and who – alarmed by the targeting of civilians in the West, senseless killings in Muslim countries, and barbaric tactics in Iraq – have turned against the organisation, many just in the past year.

After 11 September, there was considerable fear in the West that we were headed for a clash of civilisations, with the Muslim world led by Bin Laden, who would entice masses of young Muslims into his jihadist movement. But the religious leaders and former militants who are now critiquing al-Qa'ida's terrorist campaign – both in the Middle East and in Muslim enclaves in the West – make that less likely. The potential repercussions for al-Qa'ida cannot be underestimated because, unlike most mainstream Muslim leaders, al-Qa'ida's new critics have the jihadist credentials to make their criticisms bite. "The starting point has to be that jihad is legitimate, otherwise no one will listen," says Benotman, who sees the Iraqi insurgency as a legitimate jihad. "The reaction [to my criticism of al-Qa'ida] has been beyond imagination. It has made the radicals very angry. They are very shaky about it."

Why have clerics and militants once considered allies by al-Qa'ida's leaders turned against them? To a large extent, it is because al-Qa'ida and its affiliates have increasingly adopted the doctrine of takfir, by which they claim the right to decide who is a "true" Muslim. Al-Qa'ida's Muslim critics know what results from this takfiri view: first, the radicals deem some Muslims apostates; after that, the radicals start killing them. This fatal progression happened in both Algeria and Egypt in the 1990s. It is now taking place even more dramatically in Iraq, where al-Qa'ida's suicide bombers have killed more than 10,000 Iraqis, most of them targeted simply for being Shia. Recently, al-Qa'ida in Iraq has turned its fire on Sunnis who oppose its diktats, a fact not lost on the Islamic world's Sunni majority.

Additionally, al-Qa'ida and its affiliates have killed thousands of Muslim civilians elsewhere since 11 September: hundreds of Afghans killed every year by the Taliban, dozens of Saudis killed by terrorists since 2003, scores of Jordanians massacred at a wedding at a US hotel in Amman in November 2005. Even those sympathetic to al-Qa'ida have started to notice. "Excuse me Mr Zawahiri but who is it who is killing, with Your Excellency's blessing, the innocents in Baghdad, Morocco and Algeria?" one supporter asked in an online Q&A with al-Qa'ida's deputy leader in April that was posted widely on jihadist websites. All this has created a dawning recognition among Muslims that the ideological virus that unleashed 11 September and the terrorist attacks in London and Madrid is the same virus now wreaking havoc in the Muslim world.

Two months before Benotman's letter to al-Zawahiri was publicised in the Arab press, al-Qa'ida received a blow from one of Bin Laden's erstwhile heroes, Sheikh Salman al-Oudah, a Saudi religious scholar. Around the sixth anniversary of 11 September, al-Oudah addressed al-Qa'ida's leader on MBC, a widely watched Middle East TV network: "My brother Osama, how much blood has been spilt? How many innocent people, children, elderly, and women have been killed... in the name of al-Qa'ida? Will you be happy to meet God Almighty carrying the burden of these hundreds of thousands or millions [of victims] on your back?"

What was noteworthy about al-Oudah's statement was that it was not simply a condemnation of terrorism, or even of 11 September, but that it was a personal rebuke, which clerics in the Muslim world have shied away from. In Saudi Arabia in February, one of us met with al-Oudah, who rarely speaks to Western reporters. Dressed in the long black robe fringed with gold that is worn by those accorded respect in ' Saudi society, al-Oudah recalled meeting with Bin Laden – a "simple man without scholarly religious credentials, an attractive personality who spoke well", he said – in the northern Saudi region of Qassim in 1990. Al-Oudah explained that he had criticised al-Qa'ida for years but until now had not directed it at Bin Laden himself: "Most religious scholars have directed criticism at acts of terrorism, not a particular person... I don't expect a positive effect on Bin Laden personally as a result of my statement. It's really a message to his followers."

Al-Oudah's rebuke was also significant because he is considered one of the fathers of the Sahwa, the fundamentalist awakening movement that swept through Saudi Arabia in the 1980s. His sermons against the US military presence in Saudi Arabia following Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait helped turn Bin Laden against the United States. And Bin Laden told one of us in 1997 that al-Oudah's 1994 imprisonment by the Saudi regime was one of the reasons he was calling for attacks on US targets. Al-Oudah is also one of 26 Saudi clerics who, in 2004, handed down a religious ruling urging Iraqis to fight the allied occupation of their country. He is, in short, not someone al-Qa'ida can paint as an American sympathiser or a tool of the Saudi government.

Tellingly, al-Qa'ida has not responded to al-Oudah's critique, but the research organisation Political Islam Online tracked postings on six Islamist websites and the websites of Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya TV networks in the week after al-Oudah's statements; it found that more than two-thirds of respondents reacted favourably. Al-Oudah's large youth following in the Muslim world has helped his anti-al-Qa'ida message resonate. In 2006, for instance, he addressed a gathering of around 20,000 young British Muslims in London's East End. "Oudah is well known by all the youth. It's almost a celebrity culture out there... He has definitely helped to offset al-Qa'ida's rhetoric," one young imam told us.

More doubt about al-Qa'ida was planted in the Muslim world when Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, the ideological godfather of al-Qa'ida, sensationally withdrew his support in a book written last year from his prison cell in Cairo. Al-Sharif, generally known as "Dr Fadl", was an architect of the doctrine of takfir, arguing that Muslims who did not support armed jihad or who participated in elections were kuffar – unbelievers. Although Dr Fadl never explicitly called for such individuals to be killed, his takfiri treatises from 1988 and 1993 gave theological cover to jihadists targeting civilians.

Dr Fadl was also al-Zawahiri's mentor. Like his protégé, he is a skilled surgeon and moved in militant circles when he was a member of Cairo University's medical faculty in the 1970s. In 1981, when Anwar Sadat was assassinated and al-Zawahiri was jailed in connection with the plot, Dr Fadl fled to Peshawar, Pakistan, where he operated on wounded mujahideen fighting the Soviets. After al-Zawahiri's release from jail, he joined Dr Fadl in Peshawar, where they established a new branch of the "Jihad group" that would later morph into al-Qa'ida. Osama Rushdi, a former Egyptian jihadist then living in Peshawar, recalls that there was little doubt about Dr Fadl's importance: "He was like the big boss in the Mafia in Chicago." And Bin Laden also owed a deeply personal debt to Dr Fadl; in Sudan in 1993, the doctor operated on al-Qa'ida's leader after he was hurt in an assassination attempt.

So it was an unwelcome surprise for al-Qa'ida's leaders when Dr Fadl's new book, Rationalization of Jihad, was serialised in an independent Egyptian newspaper in November. The incentive for writing the book, he explained, was that "jihad... was blemished with grave sharia violations during recent years... Now there are those who kill hundreds, including women and children, Muslims and non Muslims in the name of jihad!" Dr Fadl ruled that al-Qa'ida's bombings in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere were illegitimate and that terrorism against civilians in Western countries was wrong. He also took on al-Qa'ida's leaders directly in an interview with the newspaper Al-Hayat. "Zawahiri and his Emir Bin Laden [are] extremely immoral," he said. "I have spoken about this in order to warn the youth against them, youth who are seduced by them, and don't know them."

Dr Fadl's harsh words attracted attention throughout the Arabic-speaking world; even a majority of al-Zawahiri's own Jihad group jailed in Egyptian prisons promised to end their armed struggle. In December, al-Zawahiri released an audiotape lambasting his former mentor, accusing him of being in league with the "bloodthirsty betrayer", Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak; and, in a 200-page book titled The Exoneration, published in March, he portrayed Dr Fadl as a prisoner trying to curry favour with Egypt's security services and the author of "a desperate attempt (under American sponsorship) to confront the high tide of the jihadist awakening".

Ultimately, the ideological battle against al-Qa'ida in the West may be won here in Britain, in places such as Leyton and Walthamstow, east London, whose residents include five of the eight alleged al-Qa'ida operatives currently on trial for plotting to bring down US-bound passenger jets in 2006. It is in this country that many leaders of the jihadist movement have settled as political refugees, and the capital has long been a key barometer of future Islamist trends. There are probably more supporters of al-Qa'ida in Britain than any other Western country. Over the last half-year, we have been interviewing London-based militants who have defected from al-Qa'ida, retired mujahideen, Muslim community leaders, and members of the security services. Most say that, when al-Qa'ida's bombs went off in London in 2005, sympathy for the terrorists evaporated.

In Leyton, the local mosque is on the main road, a street of terraced houses, halal food joints, and South Asian hairdressers. Around 1,000 people attend Friday prayers there each week. Usama Hassan, an imam at the mosque, has a PhD in artificial intelligence from Imperial College in London, read theoretical physics at Cambridge, and now teaches at Middlesex University. But he also trained in a jihadist camp in Afghanistan in the 1990s and, until a few years ago, was openly sympathetic to Bin Laden. And, in another unusual twist, he is now one of the most prominent critics of al-Qa'ida. Over several cups of Earl Grey in the tea room next to the mosque, Hassan – loquacious and intelligent, every bit the university lecturer – explained how he had switched sides.

Raised in London by Pakistani parents, Hassan arrived in Cambridge in 1989 and, feeling culturally isolated, fell in with Jam'iat Ihyaa Minhaaj Al-Sunnah (Jimas), a student organisation then supportive of jihads in Palestine, Kashmir and Afghanistan. In December 1990, Hassan travelled to Afghanistan, where he briefly attended an Arab jihadist camp. He was shown how to use Kalashnikovs and M-16s and was taken to the front lines, where a shell landed near his group's position. "My feeling was, if I was killed, then brilliant, I would be a martyr," he recalls. Later, as a postgraduate student in London, Hassan played a lead role in the student Islamic Society, then a hotbed of radical activism. "At the time I was very anti-American... It was all black and white for us. I used to be impressed with Bin Laden. There was no other leadership in the Muslim world standing up for Muslims." When 11 September happened, Hassan says the view in his circle was that "al-Qa'ida had given one back to George Bush".

As al-Qa'ida continued to target civilians for attacks, Hassan began to rethink. His employment by an artificial intelligence consulting firm also integrated him back toward mainstream British life. "It was a slow process and involved a lot of soul-searching... Over time, I became convinced Bin Laden was dangerous and an extremist." The July 2005 bombings in London were the clincher. "I was devastated by the attack," he says. "My feeling was, how dare they attack my city."

Three days after the London bombings, the Leyton mosque held an emergency meeting; about 300 people attended. "We explained that these acts were evil, that they were haram [unlawful]," recalls Hassan. It was not the easiest of crowds; one youngster stormed out, shouting, 'As far as I'm concerned, 50 dead kuffar is not a problem.'"

In Friday sermons since then, Hassan has hammered home the difference between legitimate jihad and terrorism, despite a death threat from pro-al-Qa'ida militants: "I think I'm listened to by the young because I have street cred from having spent time in a [jihadist] training camp." This spring, Hassan helped launch the Quilliam Foundation, an organisation set up by former Islamist extremists to counter radicalism by making speeches to young British Muslims about how they had been duped into embracing hatred of the West.

Such counter-radicalisation efforts will help lower the pool of potential recruits for al-Qa'ida – the only way the organisation can be defeated in the long term. But the reality facing British counterterrorism officials, such as Detective Inspector Robert Lambert, the recently departed head of the Metropolitan Police's Muslim Contact Unit, is that "al-Qa'ida values dozens of recruits more than hundreds ' of supporters". In order to target the most radical extremists, the Metropolitan Police have backed the efforts of a Muslim community group, the Active Change Foundation, based around a gym in Walthamstow run by Hanif and Imtiaz Qadir, two brothers of Kashmiri descent.

Hanif Qadir, now 42, revealed to us that he himself was recruited by al-Qa'ida after the US overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Jihadist recruiters in east London, no doubt noting wealth, sought out Qadir, who had earned enough money running a car repair shop to buy a Rolls-Royce and live in some style, and recounted lurid tales of American brutality in Afghanistan. "The guy who handled me was a Syrian called Abu Sufiyan... I'm sure he was from al-Qa'ida," recalls Qadir. "He was good at telling you what you wanted to hear... he touched all my emotional buttons, like the fact I've always wanted to help others."

Qadir agreed to join. He drew up a will and, in December 2002, bought a first-class ticket to Pakistan. But, as the truck he was in crossed the dirt roads into Afghanistan, a chance occurrence changed his life: a truck carrying wounded fighters approached them from the other direction, among them a young Punjabi boy whose white robes were stained with blood. "These are evil people," another of the wounded shouted. "We came here to fight jihad, but they are just using us as cannon fodder." Qadir's truckload of wannabe jihadists made a U-turn. "That kid, he was like an angel. He kicked me back into reality," he recalls. When Qadir landed back in the UK he was so angry at having been manipulated that he wanted to find his recruiters and confront them. He never found them, but became determined to stop others like him from being recruited. In 2004, he and his brother opened the gym and community centre in Walthamstow. Soon, hundreds of young Muslims were attending.

The scale of the challenge was quickly clear. Soon after the centre opened, he got wind that pro- al-Qa'ida militants were secretly booking rooms there for their meetings. Worse, in the summer of 2006, several of those arrested in connection with the al-Qa'ida airlines plot, including alleged ringleader Abdullah Ahmed Ali, were found to have attended his gym. But, rather than shutting the radicals out, Qadir continued to allow them to meet. "Sometimes our youngsters get into debates with these people, for example on jihad, and make them look ridiculous in front of their followers," he says. Qadir believes his approach is finally starting to pay off: "The extremists are burning out: the number of radicals in Walthamstow is diminishing, not growing."

Qadir, determined to do his part to prevent all innocent loss of life, is now extending his deradicalisation drive to the rest of London. "We are going to mirror our adversaries' tactics by identifying and recruiting vulnerable youngsters," he told us last week, "but we are going to channel their desire to help their fellow Muslims in a positive direction, by involving them in local community projects, for example."

Not far down the road from Walthamstow is the Finsbury Park mosque, dominated by the notorious, hook-handed cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri from the late 1990s until it was shut down by police in 2003. Abu Hamza's followers continued to have a strong presence in the area. But in February 2005, police helped broker a deal for the mosque to re-open under the leadership of the local chapter of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), a Muslim Brotherhood group. The Brotherhood is the most powerful Islamist group in the Arab world, with chapters throughout Europe and North America. It has long opposed al-Qa'ida's jihad, a stance that so angered al-Zawahiri that he published a book, The Bitter Harvest, condemning the organisation in 1991.

No sooner had the moderates gained control of the mosque than they were confronted by Abu Hamza's angry followers, led by the pugnacious Atilla Ahmet, who calls himself "the number-one al-Qa'ida in Europe" and who, in October, pled guilty to providing British Muslims with terrorist training. "They brought sticks and knives with them," recalls Kamal El-Helbawy, spokesman for the new trustees at the mosque.

Undeterred, a few days later Helbawy gave the first Friday sermon, explaining that this was a new start for the mosque and stressing how important it was for Muslims to live in harmony with their neighbours. Detective Inspector Lambert, the Metropolitan Police officer who helped broker the takeover, says that, because of its social welfare work and its track record supporting the Palestinian cause, the MAB has "big street cred in the area and [has] made an impact on Abu Hamza's young followers".

Salman al-Oudah, the Saudi preacher, spoke at the re-opened mosque in 2006, as has Abdullah Anas, an Algerian former mujahideen fighter based in London who has been a critic of al-Qa'ida for years. Anas worked with Bin Laden in Pakistan during the 1980s, fought in Afghanistan for almost a decade against the communists, and married the daughter of a Palestinian cleric who is still lionised as the spiritual godfather of the jihadist movement, the most radical wing of which would morph into al-Qa'ida. Anas told us that his critiques of al-Qa'ida were not well received in 2003, but that, "in the last two or three years, there has been a change in opinion", citing the Madrid and London bombings as turning points. In 2006, Anas went public with his criticisms of al-Qa'ida in an interview with Asharq Alawsat, one of the leading newspapers in the Arab world, criticising the London subway bombings as "criminal deeds... prohibited by sharia".

In December, al-Qa'ida's campaign of violence reached new depths in the eyes of many Muslims, with a plot to launch attacks in Saudi Arabia while millions were gathered for the Hajj. Saudi security services arrested 28 al-Qa'ida militants in Mecca, Medina and Riyadh, whose targets allegedly included religious leaders critical of al-Qa'ida, among them the Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, who responded to the plot by ruling that al-Qa'ida operatives should be punished by execution, crucifixion or exile. Plotting such attacks during the Hajj could not have been more counterproductive to al-Qa'ida's cause, says Anas, who was making the pilgrimage to Mecca himself. "People over there... were very angry. The feeling was, how was it possible for Muslims to do that? I still can't quite believe it myself. The mood was one of shock, real shock."

Is al-Qa'ida going to dissipate as a result of the criticism from its former mentors and allies? Despite the recent internal criticism, probably not in the short term. Al-Qa'ida, on the verge of defeat in 2002, has regrouped and is now able to launch significant terrorist operations in Europe. And, last summer, US intelligence agencies judged that it had "regenerated its [US] Homeland attack capability" in Pakistan's tribal areas. Since then, al-Qa'ida and the Taliban have only entrenched their position further, launching a record number of suicide attacks in Pakistan in the past year. Afghanistan, Algeria and Iraq also saw record numbers of suicide attacks in 2007 (though the group's capabilities have deteriorated in Iraq of late). Meanwhile, al-Qa'ida is still able to find recruits in the West. In November, Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5, said that record numbers of UK residents are now supportive of the group, with around 2,000 posing a "direct threat to national security and public safety".

However, encoded in the DNA of apocalyptic jihadist groups such as al-Qa'ida are the seeds of their own long-term destruction: their victims are often Muslim civilians; they don't offer a positive vision of the future (but rather the prospect of Taliban-style regimes from Morocco to Indonesia); they keep expanding their list of enemies, including any Muslim who doesn't share their precise world view; and they seem incapable of becoming politically successful because their ideology prevents them from making the real-world compromises that would allow them to engage in genuine politics.

Which means that the repudiation of al-Qa'ida's leaders by its former religious, military and political guides will help hasten the implosion of the jihadist terrorist movement. As Churchill remarked after the battle of El Alamein in 1942, which he saw as turning the tide in the Second World War, "This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

Noman Benotman, Bin Laden's Libyan former companion-in-arms, assesses that al-Qa'ida's recent resurgence, which he says has been fuelled by the Iraq war, will not last. "There may be a wave of violence right now, but... in five years, al-Qa'ida will be more isolated than ever. No one will give a toss about them."

The scholars and fighters now criticising al-Qa'ida, in concert with mainstream Muslim leaders, have created a powerful coalition countering the organisation's ideology. According to Pew polls, support for al-Qa'ida has been dropping around the Muslim world in recent years. The numbers supporting suicide bombings in Indonesia, Lebanon and Bangladesh, for instance, have dropped by half or more in the past five years. In Saudi Arabia, only 10 per cent now have a favourable view of al-Qa'ida, according to a December poll by Terror Free Tomorrow, a Washington-based think tank. Following a wave of suicide attacks in Pakistan in the past year, support for suicide operations among Pakistanis has dropped to 9 per cent (it was 33 per cent five years ago), while favourable views of Bin Laden in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, around where he is believed to be hiding, have plummeted to four per cent from 70 per cent in August 2007.

Unsurprisingly, al-Qa'ida's leaders have been thrown on the defensive. In December, Bin Laden released a tape which stressed that "the Muslim victims who fall during the operations against the infidel Crusaders... are not the intended targets". Bin Laden warned the former mujahideen now turning on al-Qa'ida that, whatever their track records as jihadists, they had now committed one of the "nullifiers of Islam", which is helping the "infidels against the Muslims".

Kamal El-Helbawy, the Muslim Brotherhood leader who helped bring in moderates at the Finsbury Park mosque in London, believes that al-Qa'ida's days may be numbered: "No government, no police force, is achieving what these [religious] scholars are achieving. To defeat terrorism, to convince the radicals... you have to persuade them that theirs is not the path to paradise."

About the authors

Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank are research fellows at New York University's Center on Law and Security. Peter Bergen is also a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and the author of The Osama Bin Laden I Know. This article first appeared in The New Republic magazine in the US.

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