Fixing the Potholes

Poor Muayyad Shraim. Ten months ago the 37-year-old physical education teacher was one of Hamas's rising stars. After the Islamist group swept local elections in the West Bank town of Qalqilya last May, he won a seat on the municipal council. But as he walks though the town's streets today, Shraim occasionally looks as if he'd rather get back to leading calisthenics than listen to all his constituents' complaints. Some blame the fundamentalists for higher electricity prices. Others gripe about...

Cash vs. Terror

As they passed over the border, the Palestinian workers had their sweat shirts slung over their shoulders like sacks, each one bulging with Israeli oranges. Awaiting the young men on the other side of the Erez Crossing--a checkpoint that separates Israel from Gaza--was a huge crowd that pressed forward, shouting and shoving to get at the oranges. Palestinians waved 20-shekel notes, yelling, "That's a good one!" and "Leave that to me!" The bidding at this squalid spot market began at...

Extreme Victory

The polls had barely closed before friends of the henna-bearded Muhammad Abu Tir, 55, began talking him up to be the Palestinian Authority's next Interior minister. "I think I'd be good at it," he told NEWSWEEK at his East Jerusalem home. "I'm qualified." Abu Tir--the victorious Hamas's second-ranked candidate in last week's parliamentary elections and a onetime leader in the militant Islamist group's armed wing--has plenty of firsthand experience with law enforcement. He's spent most of his...

Everything's Coming Up...

It is one of President Bush's favorite applause lines. "Freedom isn't America's gift to the world," he repeats in speech after speech. "It is God's gift to mankind." And I, George W. Bush, am merely the delivery man. (That follow-on line is only implied, but you can't miss it.) The president has indeed been making deliveries--planting seeds of freedom, at least rhetorically, wherever he goes. In Iraq, in the Palestinian territories, in troubled Lebanon, even in politically stifled Egypt, we are...

Militants and Moderates

Firas Ammar isn't buying the campaign slogans. On this cold and cloudy Election Day in the West Bank--as Palestinians stream to the polls to cast their first ballots in 10 years for a Palestinian legislature--the 34-year-old barber stands outside a Ramallah polling station with his hands stuffed into his pockets. He looks on with a cynical squint as voters squeeze past the Hamas supporters wearing bright green baseball caps, handing out campaign fliers and insisting that force is the only...

Molding the Message

It was billed as a "media blitz"--at least by the media itself. But the Bush administration's focus on the domestic eavesdropping program doesn't really work as a PR exercise. Nor is it intended to. At the risk of disappointing journalists and bloggers (both of whom suffer from an unhealthy obsession with the media), this isn't a campaign that is directed at newspapers or TV.The giveaway is President Bush himself. If this were a media blitz, the president might have delivered a targeted speech....

Larger Than Life

There are few corners of Jerusalem more loyal to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon than Mahaneh Yehuda, the city's main outdoor produce market. Almost every wall is plastered with Sharon's colorful election posters, and its winding lanes are a can't-miss whistlestop for right-wing politicians during campaign season.So when news reached the market Thursday morning that Sharon had suffered what doctors were calling a "significant stroke"--almost certain to end Sharon's political career--the...

Lebanon: Sniffing Out Assassins

Samir Kassir slouched in his chair and glanced out the window of his office above Martyr's Square in Beirut. A month earlier, the vast plaza was choked with almost a million flag-waving demonstrators protesting the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. The democratic spring of Lebanon that began there had seemed as though it would spread across the Middle East. But Lebanon's brief and brittle unity had fractured, the people had scattered, and as the newspaper columnist...

Dangers in Damascus

For a Syrian, Samir Nashar is close to being a dream democrat. He's liberal, secular, rich--and brazenly outspoken. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has "lost his credibility," Nashar boldly told a NEWSWEEK reporter who visited him recently at his home in Aleppo. Three months ago, Nashar and six friends decided to form a political group called the Alliance of Free Nationalists. Yet even Nashar says that his tiny democracy movement can barely muster support. The group is "still waiting for a...

On The Beach

Nabil Kafarneh blames "mysterious elements" for the fire that destroyed his nightclub five years ago. Its location on the Gaza Strip's Mediterranean coast made the Appointment a popular spot for Arab tourists, raking in more than $30,000 a month, a fortune in Gaza. Then one morning in September 2000, Kafarneh showed up to find his place in flames--most likely the work of Islamists opposed to the free-flowing liquor and dancing women. "It's no fun without women!" he protests. "We're a democracy....

Mahmoud Zahar

As Israel completed its historic withdrawal of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip last week, the streets of Palestinian Gaza were already filling up with neon green banners from the Islamist group Hamas, declaring: gaza is the beginning. Both Israel and Washington consider Hamas a terrorist group, in large part because of its endorsement of suicide bombings.But the organization's network of social services makes it popular among Palestinians, and President Mahmoud Abbas believes that getting...

THE END OF A DREAM

The first Zionist pioneer of the Ben-Zvi family was Moshe. In 1918, he emigrated from Austria aboard a ship that took him to Lebanon. According to family lore, Moshe was robbed of his wallet almost as soon as he got off the boat, and walked penniless to the Holy Land. He eventually sank roots in Menachemiya, a farming village in Galilee, where he was given a house, land and a cow shed with--support from Baron Edmond de Rothschild, the French philanthropist. Arab raiders were a danger then, so...

JAMES WOLFENSOHN

James Wolfensohn arrived in Gleneagles, Scotland, last Thursday, hoping to press G8 leaders for billions of dollars in aid for the Palestinian territories. The former World Bank president unexpectedly found himself looking on as British Prime Minister Tony Blair responded to the London attacks. Despite the week's horrific events, Wolfensohn--now acting as an envoy to the Middle East on behalf of the "quartet" (the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union)--secured...

MARSHALING HIS FORCES

When Gen. Michel Aoun returned to Lebanon from 15 years in exile last month, few expected he would make much of a political impact. But the 70-year-old Maronite Christian politician surprised his critics last week, winning a landslide victory in the third round of parliamentary elections. While opposition leaders warned that Aoun's tactical alliances with pro-Syrian politicians could endanger the anti-Syrian resistance, diplomats and analysts wondered how the general will play to Muslim voters,...

Waiting for Democracy

Natan Sharansky became a celebrity in Washington, D.C., earlier this year after President George W. Bush endorsed his second book, "The Case for Democracy." But Sharansky is not always so popular in his own nation of Israel. Last week, as Palestinians went to the polls in municipal elections that were being watched closely to gauge the relative strength of Hamas, the former Soviet dissident resigned from Ariel Sharon's cabinet, citing differences over Sharon's plan to withdraw from Gaza. Over...

Flexing Their Muscles

Layla Abuahghali raises an eyebrow as she squeezes her way into a crowded sandlot in Rafah, a Gaza Strip city of 175,000 Palestinians just across the border from Egypt. On the last day of campaigning for Gaza's municipal elections, several thousand female supporters of the Islamist group Hamas are holding their own campaign rally: no men allowed. Outside the concrete walls, ushers wearing green Hamas baseball caps and carrying sticks shoo away a crowd of curious boys. Inside, the raucous women...

The Shadow of Syria

For 10 years, Mahassen Faddoul's downstairs neighbors were Syrian spies. The men moved in after she and her family fled Hammana, a village east of Beirut, during the Lebanese civil war in the 1980s. When she returned, in 1995, there they were--loud and vulgar, playing raucous games of cards and football at all hours. At night, Faddoul, now 67, would sometimes hear the crack of a whip or the cries of a prisoner in the chambers below. "We tried to close our eyes and our ears," she recalls. Then...

HOW HAMAS WINS VOTERS

Imad Awad stands toward the back of Bethlehem's Manger Square, where a few hundred supporters of the Islamist group Hamas have gathered in advance of the town's municipal elections next month. Masked boys dressed like suicide bombers strut through the crowd and slice the air with hatchets; others torch Israeli flags. Awad, a 26-year-old unemployed engineer, voted for moderate President Mahmoud Abbas back in January. But he considers himself a swing voter, and he's grown tired of the corruption...

'No Room for Neutralities'

In American lives, F. Scott Fitzgerald once remarked, "there are no second acts." But in Israel, the same familiar characters return in scene after scene. Skeptics squawked earlier this year when Shimon Peres, the 81-year-old leader of Israel's Labor Party, joined Likud Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's coalition government as vice premier. Yet last week Israel's odd couple moved one step closer to their goal of a summer withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, after the Parliament approved the state budget...

UPDATING THE HOLOCAUST

Avner Shalev tried to keep it real. The director of Jerusalem's recently renovated Holocaust History Museum, Yad Vashem, never liked the Disneyland feel of some rival exhibitions. Walking a reporter through the galleries, he gestures toward the authentic relics of a historical tragedy: documents, diaries--even lampposts recovered from the Warsaw ghetto. Toward the end of the tour, Shalev approaches a large beige model of the crematorium at Birkenau, by Polish sculptor Mieczyslaw Stobierski....

Media: Life as a 'Reality Show'

To go live, or not? That was the dilemma at the 10 a.m. news meeting of Future Television, the Beirut-based cable network once-owned by slain former prime minister Rafik Hariri. The network's young management team gathered last Tuesday inside Future's low-slung studio building--a heavily guarded complex surrounded by barbed wire and barricades--to mull over the decision. "This is no rally," griped one executive, referring to the massive Hizbullah-organized demonstration that was scheduled for...

Guns Or Ballots?

During the first week of March, Lebanon's political opposition seemed to hold the world in its hand. Galvanized by the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Harari, the opposition's mix of Christian, Druse and Sunni Muslim supporters held several high-energy rallies in Beirut's Martyrs' Square, demanding that Syria pull its troops out of the country and stop meddling in Lebanese affairs. Young activists threw up an improvised tent city in the square, pulled out acoustic guitars and sang...

A Militant's Allegiance

Zakaria Zubeidi is a wanted man. As soon as he steps out the door of a concrete apartment block into the hardscrabble lanes of the Jenin refugee camp, he is besieged. Not by the Israelis, who consider the 29-year-old head of the city's Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades a terrorist who has ruthlessly ordered suicide attacks. He's wanted by his own neighbors. An old man wearing a checkered headscarf presses close and asks Zubeidi whether he can get him a better deal on his electricity bill. Zubeidi, who...

THE INAUGURAL: SUPER T'S SUPER GIG

If you're looking for a ticket into the First Family's good graces, you might take a lesson from Tyrone Smith, the Nashville-based wedding singer otherwise known as Super T. A longtime frat-party and cotillion favorite in the South, Smith is known for playing his second set of R&B cover songs wearing a blue jumpsuit and a red cape. After seeing Super T at a friend's Texas wedding, Jenna Bush invited him to play the twins' wild White House holiday party in 2003, where Smith got the president to...

Now For the Hard Part

But the excitement was short-lived. In the middle of Abu Mazen's speech, people started to turn around and leave. The initial burst of emotion had been impressive, especially for the straight-laced former schoolteacher whose own supporters concede is not the most charismatic of leaders. But in the end, his appearance was like a dash of oil dropped in the pan--a sizzle and a snap, and then nothing. By the middle of the speech, the young Fatah loyalists had quieted and were streaming toward the...

DIMEBAG'S LAST WALTZ

Darrell (Dimebag) Abbott was known around the heavy-metal world for his scary stage persona. The burly lead guitarist for a group called Damageplan adorned his body with leather and tattoos, and wore a scraggly goatee he often dyed red. He spoke his own language, which friends called "Dimebonics," and enjoyed the party lifestyle, frequently ordering up his favorite drink, a "black-tooth grin": whisky with only "a splash of Coke."In reality, friends told NEWSWEEK, 38-year-old Abbott was a common...

Travel: Good Times In The Skies

Cancellations, sour flight attendants, legroom fit for a 10-year-old: you've heard it all a million times. Airlines are the companies consumers love to hate. Travelers who lean toward schadenfreude probably have had a few chuckles lately. Carriers lost more than $11 billion last year and will lose billions more in 2003. Some of the biggest carriers, like American and United, have flirted with or filed for bankruptcy. The shaky economy is keeping free-spending business travelers at home and...

Q&Amp;A: 'Nothing Easy About This'

Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, 52, is the American ground forces commander in Iraq. A Gulf War vet who has commanded the Army's First Cavalry Division, McKiernan now shuttles between his rear headquarters in Kuwait's Camp Doha, and Saddam's Abu Ghurayb North palace, near Baghdad's international airport. Recently he met there with NEWSWEEK's Rod Nordland and Kevin Peraino to discuss how the mission is going now that major combat operations have been declared over. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: Are you where...

Fishing In Saddam's Moat

After 14 days in the desert with no beds, toilets or showers, the troops of the Third Infantry Division were delighted to move into the sprawling Baghdad compound known as Presidential Palace North.Infantrymen from the division pushed their way in to the main building through a gaping hole in the back of the beige palace complex earlier this week. Military officials here guessed either a JDAM guided bomb or a Tomahawk missile had caused the damage--and the grunts climbed in through the rubble....

Who Do You Trust?

Friend or foe? Staff Sgt. Andrew Sorenson can't tell. A blue sedan speeds down the road toward him, weaving through the column of American tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles. He could be an ordinary Iraqi in a hurry to get someplace--or he could be a guerrilla in a vehicle packed with machine guns or explosives. Sorenson doesn't wait to find out. He rams the car with his Bradley, then fires a burst from his submachine gun. The blast shatters the car's back window, sending the car skidding off...

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