Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Disturbing Idea of Expelling Arabs from Israeli Territory Gains Ground
By Conn Hallinan, AlterNet
One of the more disturbing developments in the Middle East is a growing consensus among Israelis that it would acceptable to expel -- in the words of advocates "transfer" -- its Arab citizens to either a yet as unformed Palestinian state or the neighboring countries of Jordan and Egypt.
Such sentiment is hardly new among Israeli extremists, and it has long been advocated by racist Jewish organizations like Kach, the party of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, as well as groups like the National Union, which doubled its Knesset representation in the last election.
But "transfer" is no longer the exclusive policy of extremists, as it has increasingly become a part of mainstream political dialogue. "My solution for maintaining a Jewish and democratic state of Israel is to have two nation-states with certain concessions and with clear red lines," Kadima leader and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told a group of Tel Aviv high school students last December, "and among other things, I will be able to approach the Palestinian residents of Israel, those whom we call Israeli Arabs, and tell them, ' your national solution lies elsewhere.'"
Such talk has consequences.
According to the Israeli Association for Civil Rights, anti-Arab incidents have risen sharply. "Israeli society is reaching new heights of racism that damages freedom of expression and privacy," says Sami Michael, the organization's president. Among the Association's findings:
* Some 55 percent of Jewish Israelis say that the state should encourage Arab emigration;
* 78 percent of Jewish Israelis oppose including Arab parties in the government;
* 56 percent agree with the statement that "Arabs cannot attain the Jewish level of cultural development";
* 75 percent agree that Arabs are inclined to be violent. Among Arab-Israelis, 54 percent feel the same way about Jews.
* 75 percent of Israeli Jews say they would not live in the same building as Arabs.
The tension between Israeli democracy and the country's Jewish character was the centerpiece of Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu Party's campaign in the recent election. His party increased its Knesset membership from 11 to 15, and is now the third largest party in the parliament.
Lieberman, who lives in a West Bank settlement near Bethlehem, calls for a "loyalty oath" from Arab-Israelis, and for either expelling those who refuse or denying them citizenship rights. During a Knesset debate last March, Lieberman told Arab deputies, "You are only temporarily here. One day we will take care of you."
Such views are increasing, particularly among young Jewish Israelis, among whom a politicized historical education and growing hopelessness about the future has fueled a strong rightward shift.
In a recent article in Haaretz, Yotam Feldman writes about a journey through Israel's high schools, where students freely admit to their hatred of Arabs and lack of concern about the erosion of democracy.
"Sergei Liebliyanich, a senior, draws a connection between the preparation for military service in school and student support for the Right" Feldman writes, "' It gives us motivation against the Arabs. You want to enlist in the army so you can stick it to themI like Lieberman's thinking about the Arabs. Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the rightwing Likud Party] doesn't want to go as far."
Feldman polled 10 high schools and found that Yisrael Beiteinu was the most popular party, followed by Likud. The left-wing Meretz Party came in dead last.
In part, the politicalization of the education system is to blame.
Mariam Darmoni-Sharviot, a former civics teacher who is helping implement the 1995 Kremnitzar Commission's recommendations on education and democracy, told Feldman, "When I talk to a civics class about the Arab minority, and about its uniqueness in being a majority that became a minority, my students argue and say it's not true that they [Arabs] were a majority." She said when she confronted teachers and asked why students didn't know that Arabs were a majority in 1947, the teachers become "evasive and say it's not part of the material."
In part, students reflect the culture that surrounds them.
"Israeli society is speaking in two voices," says Education Minister Yuli Tamir. "We see ourselves as a democratic society, yet we often neglect things that are very basic to democracy. If the students see the Knesset disqualifying Arab parties, a move that I've adamantly opposed, how can we expect them to absorb democratic values?"
All the major Israeli parties voted to remove two Arab parties, United Arab List-Ta'al and Balad, from the ballot because they opposed the Gaza war. Balad also calls for equal rights for all Israelis. Kadima spokesperson Maya Jacobs said, "Balad aims to exterminate Israel as a Jewish state and turn it into a state for all its citizens." Labor joined in banning Balad, but not Ta'al.
The Israeli Supreme Court overturned the move and both parties ended up electing seven Knesset members in the recent election.
"The ultimate aim here," says Dominic Moran, INS Security Watch's senior correspondent in the Middle East, "is to sever the limited ties that bind Jews and Arabs, to the point that the idea of the transfer of the Arab-Israeli population beyond the borders of the state, championed by Yisrael Beiteinu, gains increasing legitimacy."
This turn toward the Right also reflects an economic crisis, where poverty is on the rise and the cost of maintaining the settlements in the Occupied Territories and Israel's military is a crushing burden. Peace Now estimates that the occupation costs $1.4 billion a year, not counting the separation wall. Israel's military budget is just under $10 billion a year. According to Haartez, the Gaza war cost $374 million.
Some 16 percent of the Jewish population fall below the poverty line, a designation that includes 50 percent of Israeli Arabs.
"The Israeli reality can no longer hide what it has kept hidden up to now -- that today no sentient mother can honestly say to her child: ' Next year things will be better here,'" says philosophy of education professor, Ilan Gur-Ze'ev. "The young people are replacing hope for a better future with a myth of a heroic end. For a heroic end, Lieberman fits the bill."
Intercommunity tension manifests itself mainly in the Occupied Territories, where the relentless expansion of settlements and constant humiliation of hundreds of Israeli Army roadblocks fuels Palestinian anger.
This past December, settlers in Hebron attacked Palestinians after the Israeli government removed a group of Jewish families occuping an Arab-owned building. In response, the settlers launched "Operation Price Tag" to inflict punishment on Palestinians in the event the Tel Aviv government moves against settlers. Rioters torched cars, desecrated a Muslim cemetery, and gunned down two Arabs.
Settler rampages on the West Bank are nothing new, even though they receive virtually no coverage in the U.S. media. But a disturbing trend is the appearance of extremist settlers in Israel. Late last year Baruch Marzel, a West bank settler and follower of Kahane, threatened to lead a march through Umm al-Fahm, a largely Arab-Israeli town near Haifa.
"We have a cancer in our body capable of destroying the state of Israel," Marzel told The Forward, "and these people are in the heart of Israel, a force capable of destroying Israel from the inside. I am going to tell these people that the land of Israel is ours."
Arab-Israelis charge that settlers -- some of them extremists re-settled from Gaza three years ago -- played a role in last year's Yom Kippur riots in the mixed city of Acre and forced Arab families our of their houses in the east part of the city. Arabs make up about 14 percent of Acre and 20 percent of Israel.
Rabbi Dov Lior, chair of the West Bank Rabbinical Council, has decreed, "It is completely forbidden to employ [Arabs] and rent houses to them in Israel."
The Adallah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights is urging Israeli Attorney General Mernachem Mazuz to investigate "Wild incitement to racism against Arabs in general and the [Arab] residents of Acre in particular."
On Oct. 15, three days after the Acre riots, two Arab apartments in Tel Aviv were attacked with Molotov cocktails. Seven Jewish men were arrested. The Arab residents of Lod and Haifa charge that they too are being pressured to move.
In the case of Lod, municipal authorities are open about their intentions. Municipal spokesman Yoram Ben-Aroch denied that the city discriminates against Arabs, but told The Forward that municipal authorities want Lod, to become "a more Jewish town. We need to strengthen the Jewish character of Lod and religious people and Zionists have a big part to play in this strengthening."
However, the growing lawlessness of West bank settlers and Jewish nationalists has begun to unsettle the authorities in Tel Aviv. After rightwing extremists tried to assassinate Peace Now activist Professor Zeev Sternhell, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin said the intelligence organization was "very concerned" about the "extremist right" and its willingness to resort to violence.
Even Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said "We are not willing to live with a significant group of people that has cast off all authority," and called Operation Price Tag a "pogrom."
So far, however, the government and Shin Bet have done little to rein in the rising tide of rightwing terror, which is aimed at Jews as well as Arabs.
Ahmad Tibi of the Arab Ta'al Party says that while Arab Israelis feel threatened by what Ben Gurion University political scientist Neve Gordan calls a "move toward xenophobic politics," Tibi warns that, "It is the Jewish majority that should be afraid of this phenomenon."
Readers might want to subscribe to Jewish Peace News at email@example.com for a very different picture of Israel than most Americans get.
Conn Hallinan can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Video by:Fukn Newz
Seriously, people always talk about tolerance..I'm all for tolerating anything or anybody as long as it has nothing to do with Religion..Religion should be abolished and anyone who believes in such bullshit should be jettisoned to Mars where they can be free to practice their worship in the Easter Bunny er... I mean Jesus.
Every time I hear someone go "well it's god's way" I want to puke in my mouth ."my kid got ran over, it was god's way" "I lost my job, it was god's way" "My 4 year old daughter was sodomized in the ass by circus clowns, it was god's way"
I guess as long as we have looney as shit leaders who constantly have to bless our country as if God had an American bias and just thought that the rest of the world was too much of a shit hole for him to bless.God: "Uk? Nah they have fucked up teeth ain't blessing them" "Israel? HAHAH Hell no!" "Iraq, there ain't no saving that rape victim of a country" "Amsterdam? Nah screw those druggies and whores!!" "America? Hmm trailer trash hypocritical backwoods imbred hillbillies hooked on oxycontin and cheap shit from Walmart?? I'm in!!!"
The only thing that has come out of religion is wars,rapes,lies,deceit,extinctions,burnings,torture,more wars, more rape and oh right more wars..
I sometimes wish and hope that they'll find a cure.. maybe a test before birth: Doctor to parents:"Well it's going to be a boy,but he's going to grow up to be a christian" Parents "fuck that crap give me the coat hanger I'll do it myself!"
Or maybe someone will come up with a wonder virus that only wipes out nutty religious people...No instead we are left with idiots who go "Global warming is a bonafide fabrication of the left wing to further their socialist agenda I don't believe in stupid fairy tale mumbo jumbo like that!!" Sane Person:"But you believe in a guy that walked on water?" Imbred:"your damn right I do boy how dare you disrespect the lord in my trailer!!"
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Stolen from Kentucky Kernel
It’s a movement about coal, said NASA climatologist James Hansen.
“Coal is 80 percent of the solution to global warming,” Hansen said. “We cut coal, we’re doing a lot for the climate.”
On Monday, around 4,000 people will join Hansen and other leaders of environmental groups around the country in Washington, D.C., as part of the Capitol Climate Action mass civil disobedience to protest the burning of coal as an energy source.
The group will demonstrate outside of the coal-fired Capitol Power Plant to call for emergency action to stop climate change and stop the burning of coal, said Matt Leonard, a Greenpeace member and one of the coordinators of the movement.
“For decades now, the world’s best scientists have warned about the effects of climate change and legislators have ignored it,” Leonard said. “We are getting together to show the world global warming is real, is happening before our eyes, and is man-caused.”
The Capitol Climate Action group plans to take every entrance of the power plant to shut down business as usual for the day, Leonard said.
“The power plant is a powerful icon because it shows the power coal has over our policies and, literally, over our Congress.”
But transitioning power plants like the one that powers the Capitol building in Washington requires new technology, said U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky. If technology can be employed to burn coal cleanly and efficiently, there is no reason it shouldn’t continue to use coal as a fuel source, Whitfield said in an e-mail to the Kernel, especially because the mineral is a key part of industry in Kentucky.
The West Virginia Federation of Young Republicans also supports pro-coal legislation in states like West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky, the group’s leader said.
“Coal is West Virginia’s future and the future of other states like Kentucky,” said Ashley Stinnett, chairman of the West Virginia Young Republicans. “Our politicians must never work to damage that relationship.”
At the movement on Monday, Hansen said he hopes to show people that the real threat of damage lies in the effects to the global climate. Mountain glaciers providing fresh water to rivers and streams are rapidly receding, Hansen said. Coral reefs are under stress and the subtropics are expanding into the southern U.S. and parts of South America and Africa, he said.
“We’re beginning to have truly noticeable effects of climate change,” Hansen said. “The hard part is for people to realize we have a planet emergency and the term ‘global warming’ is much more than just a political tool.”
Because the effects of climate change are increasing — the global temperatures are increasing almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit each decade — this is the right time to lobby in Washington for the “new administration to deal with this with some priority,” Hansen said.
Organizers of the event want to keep the protests civil and have asked all participants to dress in their Sunday best and undergo nonviolence training before the event on Monday. Their hopes are to model this act of civil disobedience after historical instances like the civil rights movement, Leonard said.
The group will have lawyers on hand in the case arrests are made. A spokesman for the Washington, D.C., police said the department is preparing just as it does for any other protest of this size.
“Arrest isn’t the goal itself, it’s the medium we’re using to show our strong message for climate change,” Leonard said. “But holding down the plant to show our seriousness, arrest is something we’re risking.”
12,000-strong youth movement to converge on Washington
More than 12,000 young people, mostly high school and college students, from around the country are traveling to Washington D.C., Friday to take part in the four-day-long Power Shift 2009. The annual event serves to lobby legislators for climate-friendly bills and immediate environmental action, said Teri Blanton, a member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth who will serve on a series of panels during the youth conference.
“It is their future we’re destroying,” Blanton said. “The youth movement is about creating a form of electricity without coal.”
Students from UK, Berea College, Eastern Kentucky University, Murray State University, Transylvania University, the University of Louisville and Western Kentucky University are joining up with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and the Student Environmental Action Coalition to travel to Washington for Power Shift 2009.
“We want to be there to represent Kentucky,” said Emily Gillespie, a senior at Western and president of the Kentucky chapter of the Student Environmental Action Coalition. “A lot of people see Kentucky as underdeveloped because it seems to be owned by coal. We want to show people that we want a new form of energy.”
Gillespie said the student group hopes to help sustain the national student movement toward finding an alternative energy source to coal.
Joe Gallenstein is one of several UK students who plan to attend the Power Shift conference.
“Some people say it’s too late, that global warming is already happening. They’ve given up,” Gallenstein said. “But they don’t know what people are really capable of.”
Stolen from The Independent
Story By:Donald Macintyre
The Israeli military's policy of targeted killings has been described from the inside for the first time. In an interview with The Independent on Sunday, and in his testimony to an ex-soldiers' organisation, Breaking the Silence, a former member of an assassination squad has told of his role in a botched ambush that killed two Palestinian bystanders, as well as the two militants targeted.
The operation, which took place a little over eight years ago, at the start of the present intifada, or uprising, left the former sharpshooter with psychological scars. To this day he has not told his parents of his participation in what he called "the first face-to-face assassination of the intifada".
As the uprising unfolded, targeted assassinations became a regularly used weapon in the armoury of the Israel military, especially in Gaza, where arrests would later become less easy than in the West Bank. The highest-profile were those of Hamas leaders Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi in 2005, and of Said Siyam in the most recent offensive. But the targeting of lower-level militants, like the one killed in the operation described by the former soldier, became sufficiently common to attract little comment.
The incident described by the ex-soldier appears almost trivial by comparison with so much that has happened since in Gaza, culminating in more than 1,200 Palestinian casualties inflicted by Operation Cast Lead this January. It might have been forgotten by all except those directly affected, if it had not been for the highly unusual account of it he gave to Breaking the Silence, which has collected testimony from hundreds of former troops concerned about what they saw and did - including abuses of Palestinians - during their service in the occupied territories.
That account, expanded on in an interview with the IoS, and broadly corroborated by another soldier's testimony to Breaking the Silence, directly challenges elements of the military's official version at the time, while casting new light on the tactic of targeted assassination by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). So do comments by the father of one of the Palestinians killed, and one who survived, also traced by the IoS.
Our source cannot be identified by name, not least because by finally deciding to talk about what happened, he could theoretically be charged abroad for his direct role in an assassination of the sort most Western countries regard as a grave breach of international law. From a good home, and now integrated into civilian life in the Tel Aviv area, the former soldier is about 30. Intelligent and articulate, and with a detailed memory of many aspects, he is scrupulous in admitting his recall of other points may be defective.
The former conscript said his special unit had trained for an assassination, but was then told it would be an arrest operation. They would fire only if the targeted man had weapons in his car. "We were pretty bombed it was going to be an arrest. We wanted to kill," he said. The unit then went south to Gaza and took up position. It was 22 November 2000.
The squad's main target was a Palestinian militant called Jamal Abdel Razeq. He was in the passenger seat of a black Hyundai being driven north towards Khan Younis by his comrade, Awni Dhuheir. Both men were wholly unaware of the trap that was waiting for him near the Morag junction. This section of the main Salahadin north-south road in Gaza went straight past a Jewish settlement. Razeq was used to seeing an armoured personnel carrier (APC) beside the road, but he had no idea that its regular crew had been replaced by men from an elite air force special unit, including at least two highly trained sharpshooters.
Story continues below
Since before he even left his home in Rafah that morning, Shin Bet - the Israeli intelligence service - had been monitoring Razeq's every move with uncanny accuracy, thanks to a running commentary from the mobile phones of two Palestinian collaborators, including one of his own uncles. The man who was to kill him says he was "amazed" at the detail relayed to the unit commander from Shin Bet: "How much coffee he had in his glass, when he was leaving. They knew he had a driver [and] ... they said they had weapons in the trunk, not in the car. For 20 minutes we knew it was going to be a simple arrest because they had no weapons in the car."
But then, he says, the orders suddenly changed. "They said he had one minute to arrive, and then we got an order that it was going to be an assassination after all." He thinks it came from a war room set up for the operation and his impression was that "all the big chiefs were there", including a brigadier general.
The two militants would still have suspected nothing as they approached the junction, even when a big Israel Defence Forces (IDF) supply truck lumbered out of a side turning to cut them off. They would have had no way of knowing the truck was full of armed soldiers, waiting for this moment. A 4x4 was deployed by the road, only in case "something really wrong" happened.
But something did go wrong: the truck moved out too soon, and blocked not only the militants in their black Hyundai, but the white Mercedes taxi in front of them. It was carrying Sami Abu Laban, 29, a baker, and Na'el Al Leddawi, 22, a student. They were on their way from Rafah to Khan Younis to try to buy some scarce diesel to fire the bread ovens.
As the critical moment approached, the sharpshooter said he began to shake from the waist down. "What happens now is I'm waiting for the car to come and I am losing control of my legs. I have an M16 with digicom [special sharpshooter sights]. It was one of the strangest things that ever happened to me. I felt completely concentrated. So the seconds are counted down, then we started seeing the cars, and we see that two cars are coming, not one. There was a first car very close to the following one and when the truck came in, it came in a bit early, and both cars were stopped.Everything stopped. They gave us two seconds and they said, 'Shoot. Fire.'" Who gave the order, and to whom? "The unit commander ... to everybody. Everybody heard 'Fire'."
The target, Razeq, was in the passenger seat, closest to the APC. "I have no doubt I see him in the scope. I start shooting. Everyone starts shooting, and I lose control. I shoot for one or two seconds. I counted afterwards - shot 11 bullets in his head. I could have shot one shot and that's it. It was five seconds of firing.
"I look through the scope, see half of his head. I have no reason to shoot 11 bullets. I think maybe from the fear, maybe to cope with all the things that are happening, I just continue shooting."
As far as he can recall, the order to fire was not specific to the sharpshooters in the APC. He cannot know for certain if the troops in the truck thought wrongly that some of the fire was directed at them from the cars. But he says that after he stopped "the firing gets even worse. I think the people in the truck started to panic. They're firing and one of the cars starts driving and the commander says, 'Stop, stop, stop, stop!' It takes a few seconds to completely stop and what I see afterwards is that both cars are full of holes. The first car, too, which was there by coincidence."
Razeq and Dhuheir, the militants, were dead. So were Abu Laban and Al Leddawi. Miraculously, the driver of the taxi, Nahed Fuju, was unscathed. The sharpshooter can remember only one of the four bodies lying on the ground. "I was shocked by that body. It was like a sack. It was full of flies. And they asked who shot the first car [the Mercedes] and nobody answered. I think everybody was confused. It was clear that it had been a screw-up and nobody was admitting [it]." But the commander did not hold a formal debriefing until the unit returned to its main base.
"The commander came in and said, 'Congratulations. We got a phone call from the Prime Minister and from the Minister of Defence and the chief of staff. They all congratulated us. We succeeded perfectly in our mission. Thank you.' And from that point on, I understood that they were very happy." He says the only discussion was over the real risk there had been of soldiers' casualties from friendly fire in the shoot-out, in which at least one of the IDF's own vehicles was hit by ricocheting bullets, and at the end of which at least one soldier even got out of the 4x4 and fired at an inert body on the ground.
Saying his impression was "they wanted the press or the Palestinians to know they were raising a step in our fight", he adds: "The feeling was of a big success and I waited for a debriefing that would ask all these questions, that would show some regret for some failure, but it didn't happen. The only thing that I felt is that the commanders knew that it was a very big political success for them."
The incident immediately caused something of a stir. Mohammed Dahlan, then head of the Fatah-run Preventative Security in Gaza, called it a "barbaric assassination". The account given at the time to the press by Brigadier General Yair Naveh, in charge of IDF forces in Gaza, was that it had been intended as an arrest operation, but that sensing something amiss, Razeq had pulled out a Kalashnikov rifle and attempted to open fire at the Israeli forces, at which point the troops shot at his vehicle. While Razeq was the main target, it was claimed, the two victims in the taxi were were also Fatah activists "with ties to Razeq".
Mr Al Leddawi said last week that his son's presence was a tragic accident of timing and that the family had never heard of the other two men. "It was all by coincidence that they were there," he said. "We have nothing do with the resistance in this family." Beyond saying that he had received "not a shekel" in compensation, the taxi driver, Mr Fuju, did not want to talk to us in Rafah last week. "You want to interview me so the Israelis can bomb my house?"
The Israeli military said in response to detailed queries about the incident and the discrepancies between its account at the time and that of Palestinians, and now the ex-soldier, that it takes "human rights violations very seriously" but "regrets that Breaking the Silence does not provide it with details or testimony of the incidents it alleges in order to allow for a thorough investigation". It added that "these soldiers and commanders did not approach senior commanders ... with their complaints during their service."
Our revelations in brief: Secret unit on a mission to kill
The Independent on Sunday has obtained an account which, for the first time, details service in one of the Israeli military's assassination squads.
A former conscript has told the IoS and an ex-soldiers' organisation of his part in an ambush that went wrong, accidentally killing two men as well as the two militants targeted.
The ex-soldier, a trained sharpshooter, says he fired 11 bullets into the head of the militant whose death had been ordered by his superiors. The squad was initially told it was going on an arrest mission, but was then ordered on a minute's notice to shoot to kill.
Instead of the flaws in the operation being discussed afterwards, the squad was told it had "succeeded perfectly" and had been congratulated by the Prime Minister and chief of staff.
The former soldier, who was psychologically scarred by the incident, has never told his parents what happened.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Stolen from MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS
By CORINNE REILLY MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS
BAGHDAD -- Every day, a man driving a tanker truck filled with water comes to Nashat al-Chamamla's village in southern Iraq, and every day the people line up to fill their jugs and jerry cans. "The water we buy from the tanker isn't clean. You can see the dirt in it," Chamamla said. "But we drink it anyway."
Violence has dropped dramatically across Iraq in recent months, but the fight for a better life is just beginning. From electricity and health care to education and the economy, Iraq has many needs, and safe drinking water is among the most urgent.
"The water situation in Iraq is a crisis," said Bushra Jabbar al-Kinani, an Iraqi lawmaker and a member of the parliament's services and public works committee. "We see the consequences in the health of our people, and they are very bad."
Waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid are endemic. A cholera outbreak this summer sickened hundreds in Baghdad and Babil province. Diarrhea is among the leading causes of childhood illness and death in Iraq, according to the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization, a nonprofit aid agency.
"Everywhere there is not clean water there is disease," said Jalil al-Shimari, a doctor with Baghdad's health directorate. "We see a steady number of people still getting sick from the water problems."
No one in Nashat al-Chamamla's village about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad has running water. Until an enterprising man started showing up with the tanker truck a couple of years ago, everyone drank from the Euphrates River. Most people in the village still use river water to bathe and wash their clothes, and some still drink it.
"I hear it's dangerous," said al-Chamamla, who's unemployed. "But I haven't been sick from the water yet, so I think it's OK."
Though estimates vary, most say that nearly half of Iraq's people don't have reliable access to safe drinking water. In a national survey that questioned 8,700 people in August, 58 percent said they can get clean water at least some of the time, according to a Defense Department report.
For the rest, every sip is a gamble.
About 40 percent of Iraqi households still don't have running water, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Even before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, a large portion of Iraq's population lacked access to safe drinking water. The 1991 Gulf War and the sanctions that followed it took a toll on the country's ability to deliver clean water and properly handle sewage. The violence and the widespread looting that accompanied the fall of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship aggravated the problems.
Some families without running water buy it from stores and tanker trucks, but others who are too poor collect it from rivers, canals and wells that often are badly polluted.
In Baghdad, about two-thirds of the city's sewage still flows untreated to rivers and other waterways, said Lt. Col. Jarrett Purdue, the head of the water sector for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Gulf Region Division.
Even for those who have it, running water isn't consistently available, and its safety is questionable.
"People can simply smell the water and know it's bad. I hear this all the time," al-Kinani said. "And often they turn on the tap and there is nothing."
Haider Hussein, a 35-year-old father of two, said that his house in Baghdad's Sadr City district rarely has water. "Especially in the mornings, you turn on the sink and nothing comes out," he said. "If it does, it smells of sewage . . . . I am afraid to give it to my children, but we can't afford bottled water every day."
In Baghdad and outlying provinces alike, water purification plants use inconsistent and often ineffective methods, said Dorothea Krimitsas, a spokeswoman for the ICRC, which is working to improve clean-water delivery in Iraq.
"Sometimes it's a lack of expertise in the people staffing the plants, and sometimes it's a lack of chemicals and equipment," Krimitsas said. "But whatever the reasons, we know steps do get missed."
Contamination after water leaves purification plants is a bigger problem, she said. Pipes across Iraq have been damaged by the war. Others have gone years without maintenance. That's especially dangerous in the many areas of Iraq that also lack operational sewage lines.
"When you literally have sewage flowing down the streets and the pipes for the clean water are broken, it's easy to imagine how it all ends up mixing back together," Krimitsas said.
Muslim Khalaf, a 38-year-old English teacher from Basra, won't let his four children drink water from their faucets. Instead, he drives two or three times a day to a nearby shop to fill an empty water can.
"We know the pipes are all broken, and we know sewage gets in," Khalaf said. "We are fortunate that we can afford to buy something safer."
International aid organizations, the U.S. and the Iraqi government are all working to improve clean-water delivery. Since 2003, the U.S. has spent about $2.4 billion on water projects here, according to an October report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.
Most of that has gone to building and repairing pipe networks, water purification plants and sewage pumping and treatment stations. The U.S. also has launched programs to train plant operators and develop the Iraqi government's capacity to manage its own water projects, said Purdue, the Army Corps official.
"We've definitely come a long, long way," he said. "Millions of people here have water who didn't have it before."
But there's a long way to go, too.
Most estimates put the total cost of delivering clean water across Iraq at more than $10 billion, and that number goes up every time insurgents target pipelines, pumping stations and other facilities. A homemade bomb recently broke a water main in Baghdad's Adhamiyah neighborhood, cutting service to hundreds of thousands of people, the U.S. military said.
Al-Kinani, the Iraqi lawmaker, said that progress also has been slowed by corruption and incompetence in Iraqi government ministries.
"They don't understand the significance of the problem because they don't go out to meet the people and see the suffering," he said. "This is unfortunate, because the suffering is everywhere."