Gaza Corner Audio Broadcast by Dore Stein 7/26/14
(click for audio)
note: my apologies to Gabor Mate who in my live comments was mistakenly referrred to as 'she'.
The Beautiful Dream of Israel
has Become a Nightmare
(by Gabor Mate, Vancouver based author, speaker and Holocaust survivor
who wrote this opinion piece in the Toronto Star, 7/22/14)
As a Jewish youngster growing up in
Budapest, an infant survivor of the Nazi genocide, I was for years
haunted by a question resounding in my brain with such force that
sometimes my head would spin: “How was it possible? How could the world
have let such horrors happen?”
It was a naïve question, that of a child. I know better now: such
is reality. Whether in Vietnam or Rwanda or Syria, humanity stands by
either complicitly or unconsciously or helplessly, as it always does.
In Gaza today we find ways of justifying the bombing of hospitals, the
annihilation of families at dinner, the killing of pre-adolescents
playing soccer on a beach.
In Israel-Palestine the powerful
party has succeeded in painting itself as the victim, while the ones
being killed and maimed become the perpetrators. “They don’t care about
life,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says, abetted by the
Obamas and Harpers of this world, “we do.” Netanyahu, you who with
surgical precision slaughter innocents, the young and the old, you who
have cruelly blockaded Gaza for years, starving it of necessities, you
who deprive Palestinians of more and more of their land, their water,
their crops, their trees — you care about life?
There is no understanding Gaza out of context — Hamas rockets or
unjustifiable terrorist attacks on civilians — and that context is the
longest ongoing ethnic cleansing operation in the recent and present
centuries, the ongoing attempt to destroy Palestinian nationhood.
The Palestinians use tunnels? So did my heroes, the poorly armed
fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto. Unlike Israel, Palestinians lack Apache
helicopters, guided drones, jet fighters with bombs, laser-guided
artillery. Out of impotent defiance, they fire inept rockets, causing
terror for innocent Israelis but rarely physical harm. With such a
gross imbalance of power, there is no equivalence of culpability.
Israel wants peace? Perhaps, but as the veteran Israeli journalist
Gideon Levy has pointed out, it does not want a just peace. Occupation
and creeping annexation, an inhumane blockade, the destruction of olive
groves, the arbitrary imprisonment of thousands, torture, daily
humiliation of civilians, house demolitions: these are not policies
compatible with any desire for a just peace. In Tel Aviv Gideon Levy
now moves around with a bodyguard, the price of speaking the truth.
I have visited Gaza and the West
Bank. I saw multi-generational Palestinian families weeping in
hospitals around the bedsides of their wounded, at the graves of their
dead. These are not people who do not care about life. They are like us
— Canadians, Jews, like anyone: they celebrate life, family, work,
education, food, peace, joy. And they are capable of hatred, they can
harbour vengeance in the hearts, just like we can.
I used to believe that if people knew the facts, they would open
to the truth. That, too, was naïve. This issue is far too charged with
“People’s leaders have been misleaders, so they that are led have
been confused,” in the words of the prophet Jeremiah. The voices of
justice and sanity are not heeded. Netanyahu has his reasons. Harper
and Obama have theirs.
And what shall we do, we ordinary people? I pray we can listen to
our hearts. My heart tells me that “never again” is not a tribal
slogan, that the murder of my grandparents in Auschwitz does not
justify the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians, that justice, truth,
peace are not tribal prerogatives. That Israel’s “right to defend
itself,” unarguable in principle, does not validate mass killing.
But can we not be sad together at what that beautiful old dream of
Jewish redemption has come to? Can we not grieve the death of
innocents? I am sad these days. Can we not at least mourn together?
A Palestinian woman carries her belongings past the rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli strikes in Beit Hanoun.
Photograph: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP
A pause in the bombing by Israeli forces -
and the ruins of Gaza are laid bare
(Peter Beaumont, The Observer, Guardian UK, 7/26/14)
the dangerous streets around the hospital in Beit Hanoun, the buildings
were, by and large, still standing on Friday afternoon. By Saturday
morning, after a day of intense Israeli bombing and shellfire, the
hospital in the northern Gaza town was standing in a sea of rubble, its
walls pockmarked with gunfire and torn by shrapnel.
The skyline, until so
recently regular and neat, had been transformed into something torn and
ragged. The tops of a pair of minarets had been blown off, and the
graves in a cemetery smashed to pieces. Houses, offices, apartment
blocks and shops were collapsed or collapsing.
What happened here in Beit
Hanoun, and in other neighbourhoods of Gaza hardest hit by the Israeli
assault, will inevitably demand an explanation: whether the extremity
of violence unleashed in these residential areas in recent days was
proportionate, or if the destruction amounts to a war crime.
Those are questions for the
days ahead. On Saturday, however, in the midst of a 12-hour
humanitarian ceasefire, the concerns were more immediate ones, as
thousands of Palestinian residents flocked back to their ruined
neighbourhoods to see what remained.
As they came on foot and in
cars, they were accompanied by fire engines, bulldozers and ambulances
of the Red Crescent, whose crews by mid-afternoon had recovered 85
bodies, many of them partially decomposed, buried under the rubble of
Gaza's most damaged neighbourhoods. Officials said the death toll among
Palestinians had passed 1,000.
In some places visited by the
Observer whole blocks had been flattened, dozens of buildings at a time
reduced to a moonscape from which the smell of death at times wafted.
"My house, my house," said
another man, hitting his head with his hand. Nothing, it seems, had
escaped the flying pieces of white-hot metal thrown out by the bombs –
not electricity cables, or cars left behind, not windows or doors.
Near the hospital a man
leads a horse out of the ruins, a long streak of blood staining its
hindquarters where it was struck by shrapnel. Elsewhere, we come across
donkeys and cattle killed where they were left tied up in the street,
scorched, stomachs swelling with gas.
A group of men show us the home of the Shabat family, seven of whom died when it was flattened by a bomb.
It is hard to imagine that anyone who did not flee could have survived the attack, but a few did.
"We lived through a
night of horror. The shelling was all around our house," says Hanan
al-Zaanin, standing with four of her children outside their home.
Zoheir Hamad is with his wife
Umm Fadi next to a home that is little more than a few barely standing
walls; the water pumping station next to them is also badly damaged.
"We left at the beginning of the war," says Zoheir.
"It is the first time that we
have managed to come back." Umm Fadi adds: "We're staying in the UN
school in Jabaliya. We came to get clothes for the children. But there
is nothing left."
It is the phrase we hear
throughout a long day: "Nothing left." And it is true. Whole areas that
were once inhabited have been reduced to a landscape of earth and dust
and broken shapes.
Although in places there is
evidence fighting has taken place, what is hard to comprehend is the
Israeli justification for the scale of the destruction, save
destruction for its own sake in pursuit of a policy of collective
Ahead of probable
international criticism over the scale of the destruction, some Israeli
political figures were trying to deny the scale of the attacks was in
any way disproportionate.
And if Beit Hanoun is largely
destroyed, Shujai'iya, an eastern neighbourhood of Gaza that has been
shelled and bombed for a week, is incomparably worse.
In the midst of an area of
rubble the size of two football pitches in the last of these areas, we
meet three brothers standing on what was once the four-storey building
in which their families lived in four apartments. Next to them is a
bomb crater measuring 10 metres across and six metres deep.
Alaa Helou, 35, a carpenter,
points to what is no longer there. "That was a two-storey house. There
was three storeys and over there was four storeys high. We came to see
our house. We thought it might have been damaged by a shell. But there
is nothing left of it."
"We spent 20 years making our place nice," says his older brother. "We spent all of our money on our homes."
If there is something
worse than the scenes of destruction, it is what is visible in the
faces in Beit Hanoun and Shujai'iya. A man is led away down one street
in Shujai'iya; staggering and blind with grief he his held up by two
others. Women sit in the dust, crying.
We find 33-year-old Rifaat
Suqr sitting outside his gutted house, a stunned look on his face. "It
is like an earthquake hit this street," he says. "An earthquake."
Except that this was not an earthquake. This was the work of men.
No ceasefire without justice in Gaza
We will not "return to a living death" of siege
and blockade, say Gaza civil society leaders
(published in Electronic Intifada, 7/22/14)
We will not “return to a living death” of siege and blockade, say Gaza civil society leaders.
As academics, public figures and activists witnessing the intended
genocide of 1.8 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, we call
for a ceasefire with Israel only if conditioned on an end to the
blockade and the restoration of basic freedoms that have been denied to
the people for more than seven years.
Our foremost concerns are not only the health and safety of the
people in our communities, but also the quality of their lives – their
ability to live free of fear of imprisonment without due process, to
support their families through gainful employment, and to travel to
visit their relatives and further their education.
These are fundamental human aspirations that have been severely
limited for the Palestinian people for more than 47 years, but that
have been particularly deprived from residents of Gaza since 2007. We
have been pushed beyond the limits of what a normal person can be
expected to endure.
A living death
Charges in the media and by
politicians of various stripes that accuse Hamas of ordering Gaza
residents to resist evacuation orders, and thus use them as human
shields, are untrue. With temporary shelters full and the
indiscriminate Israeli shelling, there is literally no place that is
safe in Gaza.
Likewise, Hamas represented the sentiment of the vast majority of
residents when it rejected the unilateral ceasefire proposed by Egypt
and Israel without consulting anyone in Gaza. We share the broadly held
public sentiment that it is unacceptable to merely return to the status
quo – in which Israel strictly limits travel in and out of the Gaza
Strip, controls the supplies that come in (including a ban on most
construction materials), and prohibits virtually all exports, thus
crippling the economy and triggering one of the highest poverty and
unemployment rates in the Arab world.
To do so would mean a return to a living death.
Unfortunately, past experience has shown that the Israeli
government repeatedly reneges on promises for further negotiations, as
well as on its commitments to reform.
Likewise, the international community has demonstrated no
political will to enforce these pledges. Therefore, we call for a
ceasefire only when negotiated conditions result in the following:
Freedom of movement of Palestinians in and out of the Gaza Strip.
Unlimited import and export of supplies and goods, including by land, sea and air.
Unrestricted use of the Gaza seaport.
Monitoring and enforcement of these agreements
by a body appointed by the United Nations, with appropriate security
Each of these expectations is taken for granted by most countries,
and it is time for the Palestinians of Gaza to be accorded the human
rights they deserve.
Link for signatures.
An Old Man and a Young Man in Gaza
(Poem by Heathcote Williams with grateful acknowledgements to Angela Godfrey-Goldstein; courtesy international .it, 7/17/14)
“No man can cause more grief than
the one clinging blindly to the vices of his ancestors.” William
Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust
An old man holds a placard that reads,
“You take my water, burn my olive trees,
Destroy my house, take my job, steal my land, Imprison my father, kill my mother,
Bombard my country, starve us all,
Humiliate us all, but I am to blame:
I shot a rocket back.”
Here are some ungodly chants
From the Zionist Book of Psalms
Which are used to justify
Laying waste to a whole country
And to its inhabitants:
“We must blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages
Destroying all the infrastructure including roads and water”
Eli Yishai, former Deputy Prime Minister.
“There are no innocents in Gaza. Mow them down …
Kill the Gazans without thought or mercy.”
Michael Ben-Ari, an ex-member of the Knesset.
Gaza should be “bombed so hard the population Has to flee into Egypt”
Israel Katz, a Minister of Transportation.
The Chabad Lubavitch Rabbi Schneerson,
A self proclaimed Messiah
Whose followers await his return from the dead, (As if the Rabbi hadn’t preached
Enough when alive by his making the claim
That his religion heralded a new Master Race) – Has a devoted and powerful acolyte, Rabbi Manis Friedman,
Who declares that the “only way to fight a moral war” Is to “destroy the Arabs’ holy sites” and “to kill them.”
To “kill men, women and children”, and to eliminate anyone Who stands in the way of a Greater Israel.
Ethnic cleansing is Israel’s origin
Netanyahu tells students at Bar Ilan University (1977),
“Israel should have exploited the repression
Of the demonstrations in China,
When world attention focused on that country,
To carry out mass expulsions
Among the Arabs of the territories.”
In front of their Arab neighbours,
A song is sung by settlers at Purim
Praising Baruch Goldstein’s massacre
Of 29 Palestinians at prayer during Ramadan:
“Dr. Goldstein, there is none other like you in the world.
Dr. Goldstein, we all love you… he aimed at terrorists’ heads,
Squeezed the trigger hard, and shot bullets,
And shot, and shot.”
At this settler hero’s funeral, Rabbi Yaacov Perrin famously
claimed that even one million Arabs Are “not worth a Jewish fingernail”.
Goldstein’s mass murder created suicide bombers –
Some two hundred amongst ten million Palestinians –
Which led to Israel’s land-grabbing apartheid wall.
The Israeli lawmaker, Ayelet Shaked, calls
For the genocide of Palestinians on Facebook
And she advocates “the slaughter of Palestinian mothers
Who give birth to ‘little snakes,’”
“The entire Palestinian people is the enemy.”
She urges their complete destruction,
“including its elderly and its women.”
Two Israeli girls hold up a banner
“Hating Arabs is not racism, it’s values!”
Placing the Hebrew word for “Arabs”, ARAVIM,
Into Twitter reveals young Israelis desiring
That Arabs die or be tortured to death.
The US House of Representatives
Votes unanimously to reaffirm its full support for Israel.
US jets duly declare war on Arab children
Whose futures they disintegrate.
In the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis,
Eight members of the Al Haj family
Are killed, including five children.
Four Arab children, fishermens’ children
First cousins from the Bakr family, aged nine to eleven,
Playing football on the Gaza beach in July, 2014,
Are shot dead by an Israeli gunboat.
A 12-year-old boy loses 18 members of his family in an air raid
From US planes including his father, a schoolteacher,
A photograph of Abdul Rahman Al-Batsh
Shows his shoulders slumped against a car.
It’s the moment that he’s discovered
That his father is amongst the dead.
Later Abdul Rahman would say,
“They think we are worth nothing. They are killers,
They have no humanity,
And one day I will avenge my father.”
Israel receives more aid from the US
Than the whole of the continent of Africa
Comfortably seated on camp chairs and sofas
Some fifty Israelis gather to eat popcorn
And watch from a Sderot hilltop
As bombs rain down from US-supplied F-16s.
They clap and applaud each deadly blast
From 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs.
The conquerors’ fans draw up their chairs;
Swigging on beers as they tend their barbecue
And watch Gaza burn from their vantage-point
In Sderot (once the Palestinian village of Najd).
Someone points out that Hamas
(Rather than it having been elected)
Is “a death-cult” and Palestinians “enjoy martyrdom”
So “we’re doing the Arabs a favour.”
A lurid cocktail of triumphalist hatred,
Mixed with smoke from burning flesh,
Blinds them to Palestine’s righteous yearning
Their right in international law;
To be unencumbered by occupation
To be free from being Israel’s penal colony;
Free from being stateless in a brutalized Bantustan –
A colonized people who are jeered at and decried
For their minimal attempts to fight back.
Later that night a bomb would land on a Gaza care home
Filled with elderly patients who cannot move
And with children who are already disabled;
Incited by a fascistic atavism,
Israeli Jews go on the rampage
Looking to beat any Arab they encounter
To heighten their sense of victory.
On July 2nd, 2014,
A young man in Shuafat, Jerusalem,
A 16-year old boy with a knowing, elfin smile
Is pulled into a car
And kidnapped in East Jerusalem
While waiting to go into the mosque.
He is tied and beaten;
He has gasoline poured into his mouth
And he is burned alive.
His body is found in the Jerusalem Forest;
Battered in the head
And with soot deposits in the lungs
Suggesting he’s still breathing
When set on fire.
Ninety per cent of his body is burned.
Another victim of Israel’s slow motion genocide –
A holocaust which, this time,
Is being financed and uncritically supported
By ‘the good guys’,
By the internationally ‘great and the good’,
By the craven chorus of the compliant
Who ritually pipe up to defend
Israel’s right to defend itself –
To defend the indefensible,
And to supply the money
The weapons, and the excuses
To enable it to do so.
It has no need of the fearful hatred,
Fuelling its bombs and its bullets,
Unless it wishes to fade away –
Putting out the light that might enable it
To see the stranger as a friend.
Click for footnotes located at bottom of poem.
Israel firing experimental weapons
at Gaza's civilians , say doctors(Rania Khalek, Electronic Intifada, 7/15/14)
Doctors treating patients in Gaza have accused Israel of using experimental weapons on Palestinian civilians.
Using Gaza as a laboratory
Addressing reporters at a press conference on Sunday, Youssef Abul
Resh, undersecretary of the health ministry in Gaza, said, “Medical
teams have registered injuries consistent with those caused by DIME
[dense inert metal explosives] and other banned weapons.”
DIME munitions were developed by the US
Air Force in 2006 and have since been tested repeatedly on the people
of Gaza, who have long served as involuntary lab rats for Israel’s
DIME bombs contain tungsten, a cancer-causing metal that helps to
produce incredibly destructive blasts which slice through flesh and
bone, often decapitating the lower limbs of people within the blast
Renowned Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert, who witnessed the horrific
injuries caused by DIME bombs during Israel’s 2009 Gaza onslaught, told
The Electronic Intifada over the phone from al-Shifa hospital in Gaza
City that patients are showing up with DIME-related injuries.
“A good number of the injuries seen here are consistent with the use of
dense inert metal explosives, or DIME, that we saw during the 2009
attack and also in 2006,” said Gilbert. “The bodies are pretty much
destroyed by enormous energy released by the explosives that are shot
near them or at them.”
Gilbert first witnessed the effects of DIME munitions on the human body
during Operation Summer Rains, Israel’s 2006 months-long attack on the
Gaza Strip that killed more than four hundred Palestinians. “Large
chunks of flesh, of muscles were cut away. We didn’t find any shrapnel
and [the wounds] were delivering a strange fume. Gradually we came to
understand these must have been the new DIME weapons developed by the
US Air Force together with the Israelis,” he said.
The experimental weapon was used on a
larger scale during Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s attack on Gaza in
late 2008 and early 2009, which killed 1,400 Palestinians, including
Through Lens, 4 Boys Dead by Gaza Shore
“We had a large number of patients who came in with these horrendous
injuries where arms and legs were cut off as though a huge axe had
chopped off their limbs with a direct immense force, cutting through
skin, muscles and bones. Bones would be shattered and completely cut
off,” Gilbert recounted. “In addition we saw very, very
destructive burns coming from some extreme temperature that turned
skin, muscle and even bones into charcoal.”
But Gilbert warned that focusing on
the DIME weapons, which are not explicity banned under international
law, risks distracting from Israel’s far more damaging crimes against
the people of Gaza.
“The siege and the constant bombing of civilian targets —
those two issues are much more important than if [the Israelis] choose
to use a traditional shell with a grenade or a DIME weapon,” he argued.
“As a doctor, my prescription is very clear. Number one, stop the
bombing, and that means stop Israel from bombing civilians and
indiscriminately hitting families. Number two, lift the siege. And
number three, find a political solution,” said Gilbert.
“And at the core of the political solution is equity and justice for
the Palestinian people to be treated in an equal way as all other human
beings protected by international law with UN security, dignity and the
right to live their lives in peace.”
(by Tyler Hicks, NY Times , 7/16/14)
I had returned to my small seaside hotel
around 4 p.m. to file photos to New York when I heard a loud explosion.
My driver and I rushed to the window to see what had happened. A small
shack atop a sea wall at the fishing port had been struck by an Israeli
bomb or missile and was burning. A young boy emerged from the smoke,
running toward the adjacent beach.
NBC News Pulls Veteran Reporter from Gaza After Witnessing Israeli Attack on Children(Glen Greenwald, Firstlook.org/The Intercept, 7/17/14)
Update: NBC was shamed into reinstating the reporter a few days later.
I grabbed my cameras and was putting on body armor and a helmet when,
about 30 seconds after the first blast, there was another. The boy I
had seen running was now dead, lying motionless in the sand, along with
three other boys who had been playing there.
If children are being killed, what is there to protect me, or anyone else?
There is no safe place in Gaza right now. Bombs can land at any time, anywhere.
A small metal shack with no electricity or running water on a jetty in
the blazing seaside sun does not seem like the kind of place frequented
by Hamas militants, the Israel Defense Forces’ intended targets.
Children, maybe four feet tall, dressed in summer clothes, running from
an explosion, don’t fit the description of Hamas fighters, either.
Israelis are completely misled about what's going on
"I haven’t slept for a second as the explosions have surrounded our
home, yet the international community seems to be paying no attention
(by Abeer Ayyoub, Haaretz, 7/11/14)
note: Haaretz articles require registration
A doll lies on the rubble of a destroyed building following an
Israeli air strike in Gaza City on July 11, 2014. Photo by AFP
GAZA - Enjoying the relatively calm
hours in the early morning following a noisy sleepless night, everyone
in the house was sleeping when my brother, who lives in the same
building, came to wake us. He told us that our neighbor got a phone
call from the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) asking him to evacuate
his house, which was about to be bombed. Our neighbor’s house is only
couple of meters away; getting ready for the closest bombardment yet
was so traumatizing.
My mother opened all the windows so the strike wouldn't break
them; broken glass is usually the main cause of injuries in such cases.
The 20 members of my extended family gathered in the living room
waiting for the awful event. Taking care of the children who didn’t
know what was going on was the hardest challenge. As I write this, a
couple of hours have passed since the call, and we are still,
surprisingly, waiting for the strike so we can get rid of the massive
panic everyone at home is suffering.
Last night wasn’t like any other night. The extremely noisy drones
haven’t stopped circling the sky of Gaza for a second, F16s haven’t
stopped targeting for a single hour, and the gunboats continued to
shell the area near the beach for the whole night.
I could not sleep for a second as
the explosions were surrounding us; in the besieged coastal enclave,
the furthest point in Gaza is still close by, as the territory is so
small. I was following the news on social media, TV and radio channels.
For the whole night, the rockets were targeting buildings with tens of
people sleeping inside. Nothing changed from one area to another,
except for the family names.
Curiously, I was looking for Israeli spokesperson interviews
online to see how they connected the announced goals of Operation
Protective Edge, stopping the rockets from Gaza and damaging the
infrastructure of Hamas, and killing dozens of children and other
innocent civilians while sleeping. I watched an interview with IDF
spokesman Avichay Adrey on one of the Arabic channels, and I was
totally surprised by him talking about the success of the operation so
I don’t know what success Israel is talking about when most of the
86 people killed (through early Thursday) were children and women.
note: By Friday afternoon, the Palestinian Health Ministry put the
death toll in Gaza at 81 people — among them 22 children, 15 women and
12 elderly people — since Operation Protective Edge began on
Tuesday. Another 537 people have been injured.
As of Saturday morning Gaza time, 114 Palestinians were killed by
the IDF, including 26 children and 18 women. (By Saturday night the
death toll had reached at least 151).
Through social media, I could know
that most of the Israelis are totally misled about what’s going on in
Gaza. My Israeli followers on Twitter keep telling me that I should
move away from Hamas if I want to stay alive, as Hamas is a monster
that lives somewhere here. In contrast, I could always understand how
it feels for an Israeli child to be killed. I never excluded humanity
from how I look at the Israeli-Palestinian scene.
After dozens of houses were demolished, I started to feel real
danger; my siblings did, too. Israel always claimed that civilians are
only hurt when they are near areas where Palestinian fighters fire
rockets, yet this narrative is not acceptable anymore. I think that
Israel is trying to place more pressure on Hamas to seek a cease-fire
by killing more civilians.
Visiting the main hospital in the central Gaza Strip, I could zoom
in on the Israeli craziness more and more. Injured babies, burnt flesh
and children who still don’t know they lost their parents and siblings
are everywhere in the hospital. Much worse, I am told that the hospital
has run through over 35 percent of its medicine and 55 percent of its
medical supplies. Surprisingly, yet maybe not, none of the Arab or
international countries around seem to be paying attention to what’s
happening to the 1.8 million-plus human beings living in Gaza. (The
total area of Gaza is 139 sq miles.)
Being left under crazy rockets, the lack of regional and
international support and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas'
disappointing attitude is leaving people here hopeless and desperate. I
now know why Israel is violating international human rights laws,
because no one in the world dares to cast a veto on its actions.
Waiting for our turn in the slaughter house
(by Amira Haas, Haaretz, 7/13/14)
“On Thursday afternoon a building
in the neighborhood was bombed. With a missile. All the air filled up
with light, a sort of big ball of fire we only started seeing during
this attack,” a woman I will call 'T'. related at noon on Friday. Like
all Gazans, they didn’t sleep at night and fell asleep only at around 8
A.M. According to a woman I will call 'A', the target was presumably a
Hamas institution located in the building, in Gaza City’s Tel al-Hawa
neighborhood, but the missile missed and killed Dr. Anas Rizaq Abu
al-Kas, 33, in his clinic.
The physician’s “father and mother
were also killed, also in error, during Operation Pillar of Defense, in
2012,” 'A' added.
T., in an uncharacteristically weak voice, continued. “At night we
wait for day. In the day we wait for night. Waiting for our turn in the
slaughterhouse. We heard just this morning how the entire Ghanam
family, from Rafah, died. Another family that was killed,” T. says.
'A' tells me that one member of the Ghanam family was an Islamic
Jihad member. In its daily report issued late Friday, the Palestinian
Center for Human Rights wrote that early Friday morning: “Israeli
warplanes launched 3 missiles without a prior warning at a house
belonging to ‘Abdul Raziq Hassan al-Ghannam, 58. As a result, he, his
wife, his son, his daughter and his relative were killed:
Less than an hour earlier, at approximately 4:35 A.M. Friday, an
Israeli warplane fired a missile at tunnels in the Sha’ath neighborhood
of Rafah. Nour Marwan al-Nijdi, 10, was killed by shrapnel; her brother
Abdul Rahman, 15, and her mother, Salwa Ahmed al-Nijdi, 49, were
wounded. They were in their home at the time.
“You can never know which window the missile will come through. I
told the children and my husband: ‘We should always remain together, in
one room. If a missile comes, we’ll all be killed, so none of us is
left alive, alone,’” related T. “Our youngest daughters are afraid to
shower, fearing that a missile will come and kill everyone else just
then. I told them: ‘We shower so as to be clean when we die.’ The
children are stronger than I. They tell me, stop being afraid. Either
we’ll die or we’ll live.’”
'T' ponders, “Where are the Arabs,
where are the Europeans, where is the West Bank? It’s our fate,
operated by a remote control of the Israeli army.”
'F', a woman from Rafah, says also sees the ball of fire after
every air strike. “The whole house shakes,” even when the explosion is
far away, she says. Everyone experiences it: The pilotless
drones, meanwhile, never stop buzzing.
“Since yesterday we haven’t slept, 24 hours have gone by and we
don’t sleep,” 'F' says. “We don’t see our daughters and our siblings
who live in other parts of the city. No one leaves their home. And now
there’s no electricity, either (because Rafah is dependent on Egypt for
its power), and the house is so hot,” F. says.
L., also from Rafah, discusses a family on her street that was
informed by phone that its home was about to be destroyed. “The
neighbors immediately told everyone to leave, because when they bomb
one house the houses nearby are damaged, too, and you can be killed by
shrapnel or injured by flying glass,” says L. “We woke my
father-in-law, who is 88. He was so scared he was shaking. The poor guy
was afraid he wouldn’t be able to cross the street. After about an hour
the explosion came. We opened the windows ahead of time, and they
didn’t shatter. But at my brother’s place, in the Tel al-Sultan refugee
camp, all the windows shattered from an explosion that was nearby, and
he came with his family to live with us. My 8-year-old daughter asked,
‘Why are they bombing during Ramadan?’”
International activists staying at Gaza hospital
the IDF plans to bomb
14 patients, men and women over the age of 60 that cannot be moved remain hospitalized at Gaza's only rehabilitation hospital.
(by Amira Haas, Haaretz/Reuters, 7/12/14)
International solidarity activists
are staying in a Gaza hospital, which the Israel Defense Forces has
indicated it plans to bomb, as a human shield. They joined patients
unable to leave because the rest of Gaza's hospitals are in a state of
emergency, treating persons injured in the bombings and waiting for
more patients to come in.
Two warning rockets were fired at the Al Wafa hospital east of
Gaza City at 2 A.M. early Friday morning, Director Basman al Ashi told
Haaretz. At 7 P.M. a rocket was fired at the fourth floor, blasting a
large hole in the ceiling and shattering windows. The floor was
evacuated on Wednesday.
Al Wafa is the only rehabilitation hospital in the Gaza Strip.
Established in 1996, it is intended for patients injured in serious
accidents. Currently there are 14 patients aged over 60 being treated
in the hospital, who require constant care and who cannot take care of
themselves without medical supervision. Some of them are immobile,
others are being fed intravenously. 25 other patients in less of an
acute state left the hospital.
Joseph Catron, a 33-year-old American, is one of the activists
that decided to stay at the hospital as a human shield together with
colleges from New Zealand, Australia, England, Spain, Sweden, and
Venezuela. Catron told Haaretz that the hospital's director took them
on a tour of all the hospital's floors and rooms and "though I am not a
military man, I didn't see anything resembling a rocket in the
According to Catron, he and his friends notified their respective
embassies that they are staying at the hospital slated to be bombed by
Former Shin Bet chief Diskin: Delusional Israeli government brought us to this security deterioration
Diskin criticizes Israeli leadership that is under the 'illusion
The escalation of violence in the territories, Jerusalem and the
triangle (of Arab towns in central Israel) are the direct result of the
policies of the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former
Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin wrote late Friday in a harshly critical
that the Palestinians will just accept all that
we are doing in the West Bank and not respond.'
note: Israel's internal security service, Shin Bet or Shabak
to in depth Al Jazeera article: "Inside Shin Bet") as it is known in
both Hebrew and Arabic, is one of the three branches of the Israeli
General Security Service (GSS) alongside Aman (military intelligence)
and the Mossad (foreign intelligence service).
In his lengthy comment, Diskin wrote that the rapid deterioration
in the security situation has shattered the Israeli leadership's
"illusion that Israel's frustrated Arab citizens will not at the end of
the day take to the streets over the lack of response to their problems
and the containment of the Palestinians in the West Bank, and will not
react despite their frustration and the worsening economic situation."
This illusion, Diskin said, "worked perfectly for as long as the
defense establishment succeeded in providing impressive calm in the
defense arena. The rapid deterioration in the security situation was
not only down to the brutal murders of Naftali, Eyal and Gil-Ad, but
first and foremost it is the result of the illusion that the
government's stagnation in every area was really keeping the situation
in deep freeze."
Diskin, who headed the Shin Bet for six years, went on to define
the various "illusions" that he says the government is propagating.
"The illusion that 'price tag' attacks are just a few slogans on
the walls and not really racism; the illusion that everything can be
solved with a little more force; the illusion that the Palestinians
will just accept all that we are doing in the West Bank and not
respond, despite their rage, frustration and worsening economic
situation; the illusion that the international community will not
impose sanctions on us; that Israel's frustrated Arab citizens will not
ultimately take to the streets over the lack of treatment of their
problems; and the Israeli public will keep submissively accepting the
government's incompetent response to the social gaps that its policies
have only worsened, when corruption continues to eat away at all that
is good, and so on and so on."
Diskin concluded with a grave warning that there could still be worse to come.
"Anyone who thinks that this can be sustained is making a huge
mistake. What has been happening in recent days could be much worse -
even if the situation temporarily calms down. Do not be fooled for one
moment, because the massive internal pressure will still be there, the
combustible fumes in the air will not dissipate, and if we do not
dispel them, there will be an even more serious situation."
Muslim Americans of different backgrounds and cultures are marking the Holy Month of Ramadan [AP]
Ramadan: A centuries-old American tradition
Many forget that the first Muslims to celebrate
Ramadan in America were African slaves.
(Al Jazeera, Khaled A Beydoun, Opinion, 6/28/14)
This weekend marks the beginning of
Ramadan. Nearly one-fourth of the world will observe the annual fast
and eight million Muslims in the United States will abstain from food
and drink from sunrise to sunset during the holy month.
Islam in America is rapidly expanding. It is the fastest-growing religion in the nation, and the second most practiced faith in
twenty states. These demographic shifts prompted a prominent Los
Angeles-based imam to comment, "Ramadan is a new American tradition."
The cleric's forward-looking pronouncement marks Islam's recent arrival
in the US. However, this statement reveals a pathology afflicting a lot
of Muslim Americans today - an inability to look back and embrace the
opening chapters of Muslim American history written by enslaved African
Social scientists estimate (links to 92 pg PDF "Muslims & the Making of America")
that 15 to 30 percent, or, "[a]s many as 600,000 to 1.2 million slaves"
in antebellum America were Muslims. 46 percent of the slaves in the
antebellum South were kidnapped (links to book "Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas") from Africa's western regions, which boasted "significant numbers of Muslims".
These enslaved Muslims strove to
meet the demands of their faith, most notably the Ramadan fast,
prayers, and community meals, in the face of comprehensive slave codes
that linked religious activity to insubordination and rebellion.
Marking Ramadan as a "new American tradition" not only overlooks the
holy month observed by enslaved Muslims many years ago, but also
perpetuates their erasure from Muslim-American
Although the Quran "[a]llows a believer to abstain from fasting if
he or she is far from home or involved in strenuous work," many
enslaved Muslims demonstrated transcendent piety by choosing to fast
while bonded. In addition to abstaining from food and drink, enslaved
Muslims held holy month prayers in slave quarters, and put together
iftars - meals at sundown to break the fast - that brought observing
Muslims together. These prayers and iftars violated slave codes
restricting assembly of any kind.
Therefore, practicing Islam and observing Ramadan and its
fundamental rituals, for enslaved Muslims in antebellum America,
necessitated the violation of slave codes. This exposed them to
barbaric punishment, injury, and oftentimes, even death. However, the
courage to observe the holy month while bonded, and in the face of
grave risk, highlights the supreme piety of many enslaved Muslims.
Ramadan was widely observed by enslaved Muslims. Yet, this history
is largely ignored by Muslim American leaders and laypeople alike - and
erased from the modern Muslim American narrative.
Muslim America was almost entirely
black during the antebellum Era. Today, it stands as the most diverse
Muslim community in the world. Today African Americans comprise a
significant part of the community along with Muslims of South Asian and
Arab descent. Latin Americans are a rapidly growing demographic in the
community, ensuring that Muslims in America are a microcosm of their
home nation's overall multiculturalism.
Muslim diversity in the US has reshaped Ramadan into a multicultural American tradition.
This Muslim American multiculturalism comes with many challenges:
Namely, intra-racism, Arab supremacy, and anti-black racism prevents
cohesion inside and outside of American mosques. These deplorable
trends perpetuate the erasure of the Muslim slave narrative.
Integrating this history will not only mitigate racism and facilitate
Muslim American cohesion, but also reveal the deep-rootedness of the
faith, and its holiest month, on US
This Ramadan honouring the memory of the first Muslim Americans
and their struggle for freedom seems an ideal step towards rewriting
this missing chapter of Muslim American history into our collective
Khaled A Beydoun is the Critical Race Studies Teaching Fellow at the UCLA School of Law.
Follow him on Twitter: @KhaledBeydoun
Israel seizes political, military opportunity
in teens' disappearance
(Electronic Intifada, Maureen Clare Murphy 6/19/14)
Palestinians mourn over the body of twenty-year-old Ahmad Sabarin
Since three Israeli youths went missing while hitchhiking in the
occupied West Bank on 12 June, Israel has mobilized all its resources
“to crush Hamas in the West Bank and destroy the recently formed unity
government as well as collectively punish the Palestinian people.”
So states the rights group Addameer
in a fact sheet (see below)
issued today on Israel’s ongoing West Bank military assault and the
Palestinian hunger strike long underway in Israeli prisons.
The Israeli government has so far offered no evidence that the Hamas
party is responsible for the disappearance of the youths . No
Palestinian faction has claimed responsibility.
rom Jalazone refugee camp during his
funeral, 16 June. Sabarin was killed by Israeli soldiers in the refugee
camp on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Ramallah, according to
medics and witnesses.
(Issam Rimawi / APA images)
Addameer Fact Sheet
International media ignore Israel's
On 12 June, it was announced that three
illegal Israeli settlers disappeared on the roads between Hebron and
Bethlehem. Since the announcement, the Israeli government has
sanctioned widespread attacks on Palestinians in the form of invasions,
mass arrests, killings, home demolitions and new legislation that curbs
the rights of Palestinians and prisoners.
The following is an analysis by Addameer Prisoner Support and Human
Rights Association of the collective punishment of the Palestinian
people, with a focus on the mass arrest campaign and its implications.
The disappearance of three illegal settlers on Thursday 12 June has
created the perfect pretext for the Israeli government to attempt to
crush Hamas in the West Bank and destroy the recently formed unity
government as well as collectively punish the Palestinian people.
Despite the fact that no Palestinian faction has taken responsibility
for the disappearances, the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) is using
this opportunity to crush Hamas in the West Bank.
According to a Reuters
story, Israeli military spokesperson Peter Lerner stated: “We have two
efforts ongoing in parallel. First is to bring back the boys, and the
second is to take a toll on Hamas for its actions." This comment
implies a tactic of intimidation and ulterior political motivations
that go beyond a search for the missing illegal settlers.
Ongoing now is the largest Israeli military operation in the West Bank.
Israeli officials have stated that this is the beginning of a larger
and prolonged operation, which can be interpreted as a way to
strategically capitalize on the disappearance in order to wage
destruction and terror across the West Bank.
As a human rights organization, we are deeply concerned about the
collective punishment and mass arrest campaigns that have been imposed
on the Palestinian people, especially due to the widespread silence of
the international community in the escalation of human rights
violations of the Palestinian people.
for conscience) Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association is a
Palestinian non-governmental, civil institution that works to support
Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli and Palestinian
prisons. Addameer believes in the importance of building a free
and democratic Palestinian society based on justice, equality, rule of
law and respect for human rights within the larger framework of the
right to self-determination. Addameer's work is based on a belief in
the universality of human rights as enshrined in international law.
abduction of Palestinian teens
(Electronic Intifada, Amena Saleem 6/17/14)
In the first ten days of June, seventeen teenage boys were abducted in the occupied West Bank.
Some were dragged at gunpoint from their homes and family in the middle
of the night; others were seized from the streets in broad daylight.
All of the abductions were documented by
the Palestinian Monitoring Group.
reported by the
international media. No Western politicians called for the release of
On 12 June, three more teenage boys went missing in the West Bank.
Their disappearance sparked worldwide media coverage, cries of
terrorism and demands for their release by the US Secretary of State
and the UK Foreign Secretary.
Those three are Israeli. The seventeen others are Palestinian.
Since the disappearance of the three Israelis last week, the
Palestinian town of Hebron has been held under siege by the Israeli
army, up to 1,000 soldiers have been going door to door in towns and
refugee camps across the West Bank searching and ransacking civilian
homes, two hundred Palestinians have been taken into detention, a
twenty-year-old Palestinian has been shot dead (see above photo) , and
the Israeli government has been threatening the forcible transfer of
some West Bank Palestinians to Gaza.
This is the degree of control that Israel exerts over Palestinian
lives. But that control seems to be so accepted, or ignored, by Western
media that there has been next to no comment on Israel’s actions, and
the illegality of them, over the last five days. The sole focus is on
the Israeli teenagers, with scarce journalistic attention left over for
the collective punishment being meted out to thousands of Palestinians
by a country which calls itself democratic.
Netanyahu 'loathes' Obama,
The case illustrates starkly the
difference in the attitude of Western media towards Israelis and
Palestinians, an attitude exemplified by the BBC.
BBC news bulletins have carried regular updates on the missing Israelis
and backed them up with online stories....while BBC audiences remain in
the dark about the Palestinian children and teenagers regularly
abducted by Israeli soldiers.
BBC reporting also shields them from the frequency with which Palestinian children and youth are killed by Israeli forces.
There were no BBC reports on the killing of 14-year-old Yussef
Shawamreh, shot in the back and hip while gathering thistles in March,
or of 18-year-old Saji Darwish, shot in the head as he tended his goats
that same month. The killing of seven-year-old Ali al-Awwar in an
Israeli missile strike on Gaza last week also failed to warrant a
Silence cloaks house demolitions (15,000 Palestinian homes demolished
by Israel since 1993), the destruction of entire communities, with
Palestinian villages being bulldozed both in the West Bank and within
present-day Israel, the killing of Palestinian children (1,405 killed
by Israel since 2000), the denial of sufficient water for drinking,
washing, cooking to Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank, and
the true effects of the siege on Gaza which denies Palestinians
everything from essential medicines to electricity.
How many consumers of mainstream news reports in the West know any of this?
Amena Saleem is a journalist and activist, working closely with
Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the UK. More information on PSC’s
solidarity work is available here.
Israel's opposition leader charges
Prime Minister's hostility to Obama is 'endangering Israel's security,'
claims Labor's Issac Herzog, in rare confirmation
of long-rumored strained ties between 'Bibi' and 'Barack'
(Times of Israel Staff, 6/6/14)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
“loathes” Barack Obama, and his hostile attitude to the US president
constitutes a danger to Israel’s well-being, the head of the Israeli
opposition charged on Friday night,
in a highly unusual acknowledgement of the long-rumored strained personal ties between the two leaders.
Herzog, who was minister of welfare
under Netanyahu from 2009-2011, was speaking in an interview on Channel
2 news in the aftermath of this week’s formation of a new Hamas-backed
Palestinian unity government. Netanyahu had called on the international
community to stand up against what he described as a government backed
by a terrorist organization, but instead the US led the world in making
clear that it
would work with the new Palestinian government, and the EU, the UN
and much of the rest of the international community quickly followed
Netanyahu and Obama have long been perceived as having a strained relationship, with policy differences emerging over how
to stop Iran’s nuclear program, and the prime minister’s expansion of settlements, among other issues.
For a figure as prominent as Herzog to use Israel’s most-watched
news program to declare that the prime minister loathes the US
president was unprecedented.
Herzog charged that Netanyahu “does not listen” to the
international community, and they don’t listen to him. Under Netanyahu,
Israel was now “completely isolated,” he said.
Herzog said Israel needed to negotiate with the Palestinians on
the principle of a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 lines, with
land swaps and “arrangements”
to resolve the contested fate of Jerusalem.
An activist puts a Palestinan flag on the Separation
Wall facing the Modi’in Illit settlement
Photo: Anne Paq/ Activestills.org
Here we go again. Palestinians do something Israel doesn’t approve
of, and Israel retaliates by using its unchecked power and leverage to
block the possibility of a Palestinian state ever becoming a reality.
By announcing the advancement of about 3,300 settlement units on
Thursday, as a retaliatory measure that it unabashedly admits is
punishment for the formation of the temporary Palestinian unity
government, Israel is proving that settlements come at the direct
expense of Palestinian livelihood – that they are the main obstacle to
a two-state solution and a Palestinian state.
Settlements as a form of punishment
also exhibit that Israel is the omnipotent power and that any form of
negotiations within this reality is inherently imbalanced and
ineffective. Israel controls the reality on the ground and does as it
pleases, when it pleases, while laying blame on the Palestinians. Even
though Israel is constantly taking unilateral actions, when
Palestinians do so, it is suddenly out of bounds.
It is not the first time Israel has used settlement expansion as a
direct response to Palestinian efforts to promote statehood in the
international arena. It did so in 2012 after the UN recognized
Palestine as a non-member state with observer status, and in 2011 when
Palestine was successfully admitted to UNESCO.
In recent years, every time Palestinians take an independent
political step in an effort to somehow alter their evergreen reality as
a stateless, occupied nation, Israel punishes them for it – as if it
were an abusive parent.
Can you imagine the Palestinians doing the same thing in response
to their objection to the makeup of the Israeli government or its
actions in the international community? Of course not, because the
Palestinians do not hold that kind of power. They cannot affect direct
and immediate changes on the ground the way Israel can, through
demolishing homes, cutting off water or electricity, withholding tax
revenues, intimidating people, arresting children, etc. All of these
tools are of course very violent, but if Palestinians so much as throw
rocks, they are immediately cast as the violent party and often at risk
Palestinian daily lives are
entirely subject to Israeli rule and systematic violence – and whether
they respond with violence or try through various long-term
non-violent means to change the reality – i.e. through popular
protests, applying to international bodies or boycott movements, they
are punished. Israel puts a lot of energy and resources into
delegitimizing and debilitating the non-violent efforts.
It is not just the fact that Israel is expanding settlements
on a future Palestinian state – something the entire international
community agrees is a direct affront to Palestinian self-determination
– as a form of punishment, but the cynical and cruel way in which it
uses Palestinian lives, land and resources as a bargaining chip, a
blackmailing tool, a pawn to promote its own agenda.
When you think about it, it is really quite astonishing that the
world lets Israel get away with it, over and over again, and that so
many people still seem to think this is a conflict with two equal sides
and that Israel has any intention of facilitating the establishment of
a Palestinian state.
For additional original analysis and breaking news, visit +972
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Istanbul based Israeli percussionist Yinon Muallem
note - Yinon was studio guest during Gaza Corner on 5/31/14;
posted two articles from 2012 featuring Yinon
photo courtesy of Emil Salman
Turkey and Israel keep bonds alive through music
Israeli and Turkish musicians have become "volunteer ambassadors" to create and maintain bonds between the two countries
(Menekse Tokyay for SES Turkiye, 2/21/12)
At a time of battered bilateral
political relations, Turkish and Israeli musicians continue to bridge
differences. Although music alone doesn't have the power to transcend
all political problems, it does keep some level of people-to-people
contact alive, helping to create better understanding between cultures.
"The sound of music doesn't have any passport … It does not recognise any border or religion," explained Yinon Muallem
an Israeli composer and percussionist who is also the cultural attaché
at the Israeli consulate in Istanbul. "The aim of the music and the art
in the greater sense is to unite peoples and cultures, to bring hearts
together around a multicultural language," he added.
As a self-described lover of Turkey, Muallem has taken the stage with
various Turkish musicians like Omer Faruk Tekbilek, harpist Sirin
Pancaroglu, singer Ferhat Gocer and the Tekfen Philharmonic.
Musical Diplomacy between Turkey and Israel
The music of Yinon Muallem, who is now the cultural
attache in Israel's Istanbul consulate, embodies
all that can be good about Israeli-Turkish relations
(by Bernny Ziffer, Haaretz, 8/31/12)
Yinon Muallem handed me his CD, "Nefes"
("breath" in Turkish ), on the cover of which he had scribbled the
brief inscription, "In friendship." The truth is that, without being
acquainted with one another, the two of us have for many years been the
friends, even the lovers, of the same city: Istanbul. While Muallem, a
talented musician, composer and arranger, expresses his feelings for it
with music, I express them with words.
More than a decade ago, I visited what
had once been my mother's home in Istanbul and which is today a coffee
house and concert hall that bears the name Gitarcafe. The owner at the
time, Sumru Agiryuruyen
(who also performs on Muallem's CD ), said to me, "Yinon Muallem was
here just yesterday." At the time, I had no idea that the Israeli-born
Jew is one of the most admired musicians in Turkey and that he has made
a name for himself as someone who has breathed new life into classical
Turkish music and given it a new relevance.
Meanwhile, Israel wisely decided to utilize Muallem's popularity and,
during this difficult period in Israeli-Turkish relations, appointed
him cultural attache in the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul.
It could be said that Muallem anticipated the need to heal this rift:
He decided to make his home in Turkey because of his love for Turkish
music and because of a desire to learn from one of the masters of the
oud how to play that instrument. After moving there , he married a
Turkish woman (whose name is Dilek; her voice can be heard in one of
the tracks on the album ); they have a son, Rast (which is the name of
a makam, an important melodical or compositional tradition in Middle
Eastern music ) or Can (which means "soul" in Turkish ).
His father, David Muallem, is a retired judge and Israeli musicologist
who is the author of a basic text on Middle Eastern music, "The Maqam
Book: A Doorway to Arab Scales and Modes," which was published in
English translation by OR-TAV Music Publications (2010 ). Although he
has followed in his father's footsteps, Yinon has distanced
himself from the theoretical tenor of his father's approach and, in his
compositions, blends various classical Middle Eastern genres with one
another as well as with jazz and world music. The result is a light and
highly contemporary texture that nonetheless preserves the beat of the
decisive rhythm that dominates Ottoman music.
Recently, at Beit Avi Chai, a cultural and social center in the heart
of Jerusalem, I saw him perform in a show entitled "Istanbul-Tel Aviv:
Music without Borders," which sums up Muallem's years of wandering
between these two cities with an ensemble that has loyally stayed at
his side for years.
A fighter in Aleppo. Rebels, many of them small-time gangsters, ‘have smeared much of the Syrian revolution’s legitimacy’.
Fine line between fighter and thug in Syria
Journalist Anthony Loyd recounts being betrayed, beaten,
(Anthony Loyd, The Times (UK) 5/19/14)
see excerpted text below
Battered: (UK) Times journalist Anthony Loyd
Loyd audio excerpt courtesy of BBC's Today program
"A few hours before he shot me, Hakim Anza sat on a mattress next to me, staring into space. He had been awake all night and when I asked why he could not sleep,
he made a twirling motion beside his temple. “The war. Many things,” he said.
At his feet a silver automatic pistol lay onthe floor beside a cup of cold coffee and
a piled ashtray. It was 6.30am.
I had known Hakim for two years. In his early 30s, he had been an accountant
who was among the first to rebel against President Bashar al-Assad’s
regime, driving the police from the area of Tal Rifat, his home town in
By mid-2012 Hakim was a mid-level commander with Liwa al-Tawhid, a
rebel brigade that later morphed with other local rebel units to become
part of the Islamic Front.
Since our first meeting with him, photographer Jack Hill and I had stayed
with Hakim on several occasions: I had
seen him cry over the bodies of his dead fighters, exalt over the
lives of his three young children, and I had slept and eaten on the
same floors with him in Aleppo’s urban front lines.
So I considered Hakim a friend. I knew he had a ruthless streak
and that many of his fighters had the semi-feral aura of men imbued too
long with violence. But I liked him, and part of the reason that I
visited him last Tuesday evening, staying overnight as a guest in his
home before setting off for Turkey the following morning, was to
congratulate him on the recent birth of his daughter.
That silver automatic was no stranger to me either. Hakim never
went anywhere without it, and slept with it under his pillow. It was in
Hakim’s hands a few hours later, a few hours after Jack and I had bid him farewell.
Hakim and men like him, small-time
gangsters elevated to power by civil war, have smeared much of the
Syrian revolution’s legitimacy. Their criminality has so clouded the
outside world’s perception of the war that most people in the West now
regard the conflict as a struggle between two competing and
equal evils: the regime and the rebels. Syria’s third dimension — the
silent and innocent civilian majority who have found themselves torn
apart between two sets of slathering jaws — is
too often ignored.
The plan that Hakim hatched was an example of flawless treachery.
He embraced Jack and me as we said our goodbyes to him in Tal Rifat on
Wednesday morning and headed north towards Azaz and the Turkish border.
In the car with us were Hamza, our friend and prized fixer, and Avo, a
handy young rebel who acted as our close protection. In the vehicle in
front three of Hakim’s men drove as escort. We were on his turf and we
trusted him. I was already thinking of a hot shower in a Turkish hotel.
Then a dark blue BMW G8 four-wheel-drive vehicle appeared in front
of us. A camouflaged arm appeared from the window and waved us down.
Certain it was
an abduction attempt, I told Hamza to accelerate, but our car was no match for
the pursuer’s power. So we pulled in.
Four armed men leapt from the BMW, pushing Hakim’s men aside and
bundling the four of us into their boot with a succession of hefty
blows and kicks. They put a blanket over our heads and sped away. We
were taken to an abandoned agricultural building near Azaz, where every
item was taken from our pockets, along with our luggage. The eager
snatching of our watches and wallets seemed to suggest a criminal group
rather than Islamic extremists, but this was little consolation.
Blindfolded and plasticuffed,
within an hour we were bundled into another vehicle and driven into a
lockup garage in Tal Rifat. I was in the back seat beside Avo. Jack and
Hamza were in the boot.
It was then that our abductors made a key mistake. They left the
boot open an inch to allow Jack and Hamza to breathe and they left only
one guard to watch over us. There was no way I could remove my
plasticuffs, nor could I properly hear the whispered discussion between
Hamza and Jack in the boot. Unbeknown to me, both men had freed their
hands. Hamza suddenly jackknifed upwards and kicked the boot open,
springing out to tackle the guard, whose identity confirmed our worst
fears: it was Alaa, one of Hakim’s gang who had served us breakfast
In the space of a few seconds, as I sat trapped and bound in the
car, Jack and Hamza fought with the man, and left him beaten on the
ground. It was a violent start to a savage hour. Avo and Hamza burst
through the side of the lockup doors and sprinted up the street,
yelling at dumbfounded bystanders that Hakim was holding Western
hostages. Hamza jumped on a moped. Jack ran straight into
Tofiq, one of Hakim’s henchmen, and the two men began to fight in the street.
Hakim appeared from a doorway and laid into Jack too, as Jack,
fighting desperately, screamed at him in a mixture of rage and
surprise: “You are my
f . king friend!”
I had climbed the lockup stairs and was making my escape across
the roofs, my hands still bound. This went well, until the roofs ran
out. For a time I squeezed flat in a narrow slash of shadow against a
water tank, planning to wait until darkness.
But people in the street had seen
my rooftop dash and were pointing out my position to gunmen below. I
scrambled down a ladder and, as women fled a courtyard below, I ran
into a private home, clamped a kitchen knife between my teeth and
attempted to saw through the cuffs securing my wrists. I had not got
very far when two Kalashnikov bullets smacked into the wall beside me.
Hakim’s men burst in and dragged me outside, where they started
beating me around the head with rifle butts. I was covered in blood and
lying on the ground when Hakim walked up. He was white with rage. His
double-cross had failed, and now he had to contend with a questioning
“I thought you were my friend,” I told him. “No friends,” he
replied, pulling his pistol and shooting me twice in the ankle just to
have the satisfaction of crippling me.
But his chance was over. There was no way, before so many
witnesses, of taking us hostage again. Hamza and Avo were already gone,
spreading word of what had happened and rousing help.
Jack was beaten up and taken to a police cell where he was
stripped, before being rescued by some Islamic Front fighters and taken
to a safe house. I was dragged outside, still bound, and beaten further
Just for the hell of it, Hakim’s men wheeled up the man who had
been felled by Jack and Hamza for him to have a go too. After punching
and kicking me for what seemed like eternity, his piece de resistance
was to pick up a rock and smash it across my head.
After that they either had to kill me or take me to a local
clinic. Fortune was fast leaving them, and our special risk consultant,
Russ Finn, had already come across the border with Islamic Front rebels
to search for us.
Hakim’s continued claims that we
were CIA spies or ISIS volunteers did not gain much traction with the
locals, so they took me to a clinic. Doctors looked horrified at what
They saw me, covered in blood, have every item of clothing cut from my body so that my hands could be kept lashed together.
Soon an Islamic Front commander arrived. He looked at me and looked at Hakim’s men. “Get out,” he ordered them. They left.
I do not know if anything ever happened to Hakim as the result of his actions. I doubt it.
He sent me a threatening, half-crazed message on Skype on Friday,
repeating allegations that I was a spy and alleging that a head torch
that Jack had given him was an eavesdropping device. He warned that if
this story was ever published he would respond by printing contrived
documents that would endanger us.
He may have beaten us and hurt us, but his greatest crime was to
rob from his own people. Our entire documentation of a week’s work in
Aleppo — notebooks, cameras, video — was stolen by his men. The voices
of decent, innocent Syrians struggling for life amid abysmal conditions
were stolen by Hakim in his bid for personal profit, making him guilty
of a crime far worse than abduction with violence."
note: More than 60 journalists have died in Syria since 1992.
Fighting for history:
Iraq, the US and the hidden Jewish archive
2003, American troops discovered a trove of Jewish documents in
Baghdad. Now the Iraqi Jewish Archive is at the center of a struggle
for Iraq's past and its future.
(by Raf Sanchez, The Telegraph UK 5/15/14)
The basement of the bombed-out Iraqi intelligence headquarters was dark, hot and flooded.
Severed wires hung from the ceiling and dead animals floated in
the water that filled the gloomy hallways. The building’s top floors
had been crushed by US bombs dropped weeks earlier and it seemed
possible that the whole structure could collapse at any time.
But the soldiers from Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha, the American
unit tasked with hunting for Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass
destruction, waded on into the darkness.
One of the American soldiers pushed into a small room off the main
basement corridor and after a few moments emerged holding a wooden box
shaped like a minaret and covered in purple cloth.
“I was shocked and overwhelmed,”
said Harold Rhode, a Pentagon Middle East expert working alongside Team
Alpha that day in May 2003. “I’m a religious Jew and I knew what this
was. But I didn’t know it was only the tip of an iceberg.”
The box was a tik, an ornamental case used by Middle Eastern Jews
to protect their holy Torah scrolls. It was just one of more than 2,700
Jewish artifacts amassed by Saddam’s mukhabarat agents and now lying
submerged beneath the fetid water.
Taken together the Jewish documents - ranging from five-century
old Hebrew Bibles to a 1918 letter discussing how sheep should be
allocated during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year - capture hundreds
of years of peaceful and prosperous Jewish existence in Iraq.
That life came to an abrupt end after the founding of Israel in
1948 sparked a wave of anti-Semitic laws in Iraq and most of the
country's 130,000 Jews fled.
“These items provide an invaluable window into a way of Jewish
life in Iraq that no longer exists,” said Doris Hamburg, the director
of preservation at the US National Archives.
The Jewish books and papers would eventually fill 27 large metal
trunks, which were stored inside an Iraqi freezer truck to arrest the
growth of mold on the damp parchment.
They remained that way until August
2003, when a deal was struck: Iraq would allow the artifacts to be sent
to the US where they would be restored and catalogued on the condition
they were returned when the project was complete.
The items were christened the Iraqi Jewish Archive and hailed as
an optimistic symbol of friendship between a victorious America and a
But more than ten years later, after thousands of American deaths
and amid frayed ties between Baghdad and Washington, the US is no
longer so sure about returning historical documents it spent $3 million
(£1.8 million) restoring.
Earlier this year the US Senate, in a rare moment of unanimity,
passed a resolution calling on the Obama administration to renegotiate
the agreement with the Iraqis.
The senators argue that the archive belongs first and foremost to
the descendants of the exiled Iraqi Jews, the vast majority of whom now
live in Israel. Like most Arab nations, Iraq does not recognise Israel
and it would be virtually impossible for those descendants to travel to
“This is a group of people that have had so much of their history
taken away or destroyed over the years, and under no circumstances
should these artifacts be handed back to Iraq,” said Chuck Schumer, a
New York Democrat and the most prominent of the Senate’s ten Jewish
Any hint of concessions to Israel
would be politically explosive in Iraq, and Lukman Faily, the Iraqi
ambassador, made clear his country expects the archives back.
"We consider the history of Jewish communities in Iraq to be an
integral part of the history of our country - one that we honour and
cherish - and nothing can erase this history, nor change our commitment
to preserving its memory," Mr Faily said in a statement to The
Telegraph in February.
This week, Mr Faily announced a compromise agreement had been
reached whereby the archive will stay in the US for now. It is not
clear if the extension will be indefinite or if a new date of return
will be announced.
While the senators claimed to be acting on behalf of the
descendants of the Iraqi exiles, not all those descendants accept the
argument that their ancestors’ belongings have no place in Iraq.
“Hauling these precious artifacts out of Iraq and into an American
gallery brings to mind the Egyptian artifacts that were taken out of
their native country to fill the display halls of the British Museum,”
wrote Sigal Samuel, a Canadian writer whose grandfather was among the
exodus of Iraqi Jews. “We should blush at the thought of expropriating
this archive for our own museums.”
Among the hundred of scholarly books found in the mukhabarat
headquarters there stands out a handwritten prayer book from 1902,
lovingly copied out by a young Baghdadi Jew in both Arabic and Hebrew.
While the unknown scribe is presumably long dead, the book has
survived through the Holocaust, the exile from Iraq, and the water that
filled the dark basement.
The flooding was caused by a 2,000lb American bomb that cut
through the building only to burrow into the ground outside without
Had the bomb exploded, the book and all the others with it would have been destroyed in an instant.
The 66th Anniversary of Israel's Independence was May 5, 2014.
The Guardian UK published several articles leading up to the anniversary.
Below are several headlines that are linked to the full articles.
Netanyahu pushes to define Israel
as nation state of Jewish people only
(by Peter Beaumont, 5/4/14 Guardian UK)
Remembering the Nakba:
Israeli group puts 1948 Palestine back on the map;
Zochrot aims to educate Israeli Jews through tours and a new
phone app about a history obscured by enmity and denial
(by Ian Black, 5/2/14 Guardian UK)
In a conflict famous for its irreconcilable national narratives, the
basic facts are not disputed, though the figures are. Between November
1947, when the UN voted to partition British-ruled Palestine into
separate Arab and Jewish states, and mid-1949, when Israel emerged
victorious against its enemies, 400-500 Arab villages and towns were
depopulated and destroyed or occupied and renamed. Most of them were
left in ruins.
Understanding has deepened since the late 1980s, when Israeli
historians used newly opened state archives to revisit that fateful
period. Key elements of this new history contradicted the old, official
version and partially confirmed what Palestinians had always claimed –
that many were expelled by Israeli forces rather than fled at the
urging of Arab leaders.
Fierce debate still rages over whether this was done on an ad hoc basis
by local military commanders or according to a masterplan for ethnic
cleansing. The result either way was disastrous.
Zochrot's focus on the hyper-sensitive question of the 750,000
Palestinians who became refugees has earned it the hostility of the
vast majority of Israeli Jews who flatly reject any Palestinian right
Benjamin Netanyahu would rather stay in power
than pursue a peace deal
Israel-Palestine peace talks have collapsed, and Netanyahu's rightwing
coalition remains in place. But this is not a long-term solution.
(Opinion by Aluf Benn, 4/30/14 Guardian UK)
What We Left Behind in Iraq
An increasingly authoritarian leader, a return of sectarian violence, and a nation worried for its future
(by Dexter Filkins, The New Yorker Magazine, 4/28/14)
Exploring 'What We left Behind In Iraq' on NPR's Fresh Air, 4/29/14)
Dore note: The New Yorker article
is an in-depth report by Filkins who covered the war from beginning to
end and recently returned there. Below are various observations
excerpted from the article but only provide a taste of what the full
New Yorker excerpts:
1) The capture of Iraqi territory by Islamic extremists, barely two
years since the last American soldiers left, prompted an extraordinary
wave of soul-searching in Iraq and the United States, which lost more
than thirteen hundred men and women in Anbar Province. Much of that
reflection, in both countries, centered on Maliki, the man in whom the
United States invested so much of its hopes and resources. Among many
Iraqis, the concern is that their country is falling again into civil
war, and that it is Maliki who has driven it to the edge.
2) At the nadir of the American occupation, in 2007, Baghdad resembled
a medieval city under siege. U.S. soldiers stood guard on every block,
part of a force of a hundred and sixty-five thousand throughout the
country, along with about thirty thousand contractors and five thousand
The fantastic bloodletting of the civil
war, when thousands of Iraqis were dying a month, turned neighborhoods
that for centuries had harbored both Sunni and Shiite Muslims into
confessionally pure enclaves.
Composer Turned Activist Malek Jandali Asks Audiences to Contribute to
Humanitarian Organizations Helping Children in Syria
(Jessica Jones, NPR Weekend Edition Saturday 4/26/14; 4:04 audio segment )
3) Two years after the last American soldiers departed, it’s hard to find any evidence that they were ever there.
4) Iraq has become one of the world’s largest oil producers, but little of the profit reaches ordinary citizens;
5) The resurgence of Iraq’s Shiites is the greatest legacy of the
American invasion, which overthrew Sunni rule and replaced it with a
government led by Shiites—the first since the eighteenth century.
6) Hanaa Edwar, who runs a nonprofit called Al-Amal (Hope) is proud of
her work but ashamed of the Iraq that Maliki and his American sponsors
have made. She recited a list of woes: “Divisions among people. The
failure of public services. The corruption. The human-rights abuses.
The judicial system? There is no judicial system, really. We are losing
7) Former American Ambassador in Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad:
emphasized that he did not choose Maliki; he had merely exerted
American leverage to maximum effect.
By the time Maliki returned to Baghdad, in April, 2003, Maliki had come
to regard the United States with profound animosity, friends and
associates say. Over the years, the U.S. government had supported
nearly all of his enemies—most notably Saddam—and opposed his friends,
especially the revolutionary regime in Iran. “Maliki was known as an
8) After the Gulf War, the U.S. encouraged an enormous Shiite uprising.
Saddam’s ruthless counter-offensive killed as many as a hundred and
fifty thousand Iraqis, the overwhelming majority of them Shiites; the
U.S. stood by, which Shiites see as a monstrous betrayal.
Syrian Refugee Benefit
Friday, July 11 in SF
Living room concert featuring
Palestinian qanunist/singer Ali Amr
info: tangentsradio (at) gmail.com
NPR Audio Transcript:
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
As the conflict in Syria rages, a
pianist named Malek Jandali has turned to composing to express his
sorrow. He was one of the first Syrian artists living abroad to openly
criticize the Assad regime, not long after an uprising swept across his
Jessica Jones from North Carolina Public Radio shares how he found his voice through music.
JESSICA JONES: In 2011, Malek Jandali was visiting his family in Syria.
There he witnessed the early stages of a rebellion that resulted in the
detainment and torture of many young Syrians. When Jandali returned to
the U.S., he sat down at the piano and poured his heart out in a song.
MALEK JANDALI: And I started in a very melancholic, sad minor key.
JANDALI: I was just actually pouring my thoughts and my melodies and my
passion and just making music. I was just inspired by those kids and by
what's going on back home.
JONES: As an orchestral composer, Jandali had never put words to music
before. He decided to call the song "Watani Ana" or "I Am My Homeland."
Recorded in 2011, it featured Palestinian and Iraqi singers as soloists
(including Salma Habib).
JONES: That song marked the beginning of the soft-spoken composer's
turn toward activism. In addition to writing more music about the
conflict in his homeland, Jandali is also on a concert tour that asks
audiences to contribute to humanitarian organizations helping children
in Syria. He performed recently at Duke University.
JANDALI: You don't need anything else but stop the war, have a no-fly
zone, protect the children so we can have peace, justice and
JONES: Local musicians and singers
participated in the concert. North Carolina State University music
professor Jonathan Kramer accompanied Jandali on the cello.
An unmanned U.S. Predator drone
JONATHAN KRAMER: The cello is of my own heart turned outward. And the
opportunity that I have to play this music with this man under these
circumstances is a way to express my own deep love for music and
humanity and my deep sorrow that things are the way they are in the
JONES: Members of the audience said they were moved by the performance.
Rebecca Jouben is a professor at Davidson College just outside
REBECCA JOUBEN: I think that he speaks to our conscience. This is a
tragedy before our eyes. It's not something we're reading about in
history books. It's right before our eyes.
JONES: According to the U.N., more than 100,000* people have died in the Syrian conflict.
*Dore note: Most authorities believe the death toll is now greater than 150,000
Jandali's parents were severely beaten when their home was invaded by
what he says were government thugs just three days after the first live
performance of "Watani Ana" in the United States. They are in the U.S.
JANDALI: So I thought, oh, my God, you know, this little, tiny song is
actually shaking an entire regime back home. For them to send their
soldiers to beat my parents, is this how powerful music is? And from
that moment, I was just on fire to do more.
JONES: Jandali has posted politically charged works on his website and
YouTube. They're set to compositions from his latest album called
"Emessa," the ancient Greek name for his hometown of Homs, Syria.
Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP Images
Yemen: On the ground in a country where unmanned
missile attacks are a terrifyingly regular occurence
(Vivian Salama, Rolling Stone in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute, 4/14/14)
The people of Yemen can hear destruction
before it arrives. In cities, towns and villages across this country,
which hangs off the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula, the air
buzzes with the sound of American drones flying overhead. The sound is
a constant and terrible reminder: a robot plane, acting on secret
intelligence, may calculate that the man across from you at the coffee
shop, or the acquaintance with whom you've shared a passing word on the
street, is an Al Qaeda operative. This intelligence may be accurate or
it may not, but it doesn't matter. If you are in the wrong place at the
wrong time, the chaotic buzzing above sharpens into the death-herald of
an incoming missile.
Such quite literal existential uncertainty is coming at a deep
psychological cost for the Yemeni people. For Americans, this military
campaign is an abstraction. The drone strikes don't require U.S. troops
on the ground, and thus are easy to keep out of sight and out of mind.
Over half of Yemen's 24.8 million citizens – militants and civilians
alike – are impacted every day. A war is happening, and one of the
unforeseen casualties is the Yemeni mind.
Symptoms of post-traumatic stress
disorder, trauma and anxiety are becoming rampant in the different
corners of the country where drones are active. "Drones hover over an
area for hours, sometimes days and weeks," said Rooj Alwazir, a
Yemeni-American anti-drone activist and cofounder of Support Yemen,
a media collective raising awareness about issues afflicting the
country. Yemenis widely describe suffering from constant sleeplessness,
anxiety, short-tempers, an inability to concentrate and,
Last year, London-based forensic psychologist Peter Schaapveld
presented research he'd conducted on the psychological impact of drone
strikes in Yemen to a British parliamentary sub-committee. He reported
that 92 percent of the population sample he examined was found to be
suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder – with children being the
demographic most significantly affected. Women, he found, claimed to be
miscarrying from their fear of drones. "This is a population that by
any figure is hugely suffering," Schaapveld said. The fear of drones,
he added, "is traumatizing an entire generation."
Air strikes by U.S. drones and Yemeni jets have grown in frequency in
recent months, destroying families, and as such have stoked resentment.
"For every one person killed," psychologist Schaapveld argued, "there
are going to be hundreds that are affected psychologically."
This undated image posted on a
militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 shows fighters from the
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching in Raqqa, Syria.
Photo by AP
Syrian jihadi town where 'brides' are snatched from schools
Missile strikes, allegedly by U.S.
drones — which American officials argue is a safer, more efficient and
precise form of aerial warfare than using piloted fighter jets or
sending ground troops — have now been reported in twelve of Yemen's 21
governorates, with as many as 504 people killed in confirmed strikes
since 2002, according to data compiled by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism
. Another 44 people have been killed in possible U.S. strikes.
The overall fatality count, though, is clouded by America's growing use
of so-called "signature strikes" — guilt-by-association attacks against
suspected but unidentified targets. Having committed no prior crime,
these victims' names are not part of any list and in some cases, not
even known. Many Yemenis say that the increased prevalence of signature
strikes makes it impossible for them to predetermine possible targets,
heightening anxieties among those who feel that they will inevitably
end up in the crosshairs.
Beginning in 2009, the Obama administration made drone strikes its
go-to method for killing members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
(AQAP), causing a spike in reports of drones in Yemen.
The U.S. has tacitly admitted some culpability for accidental civilian
deaths. Caitlin Hayden, a spokesperson for the National Security
Council, says that, "in situations where we have concluded that
civilians have been killed, the U.S. has made condolence payments where
appropriate and possible."
None of the families to whom the author spoke to report receiving any
payment from the American government, but some families, including
those impacted by the wedding strike, have been promised compensation,
in the form of 101 rifles and $101,000, from the Yemeni government.
Once liberal bastion Raqqa was over-run by al-Qaeda group
before secular rebels launched a fight back
(Richard Spencer, Independent UK, 3/29/14)
A year ago, the city of Raqqa in
northern Syria was sprouting political activist groups and
philosophical discussion circles. A “guerrilla gardening” squad
promoted environmental awareness by planting vegetables in central
The liberals who made it a base after the rebels swept in and drove out
the regime in March last year are gone, disbanded, accused of
supporting democracy and other “kuffar” or infidel beliefs, their
members living either underground or in Turkey.
The city has been transformed into a
staging ground for displays of the harshest “justice” meted out by the
Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the jihadi group too extreme
even for al-Qaeda that has imposed its rule over large parts of the
Refugees, women still living under its rule and men who have escaped
from its prisons have told Telegraph of the life under the shadow of
the extremist group’s black flag.
One woman, whose name the Telegraph knows but is withholding, described
how she went to the recruiting office of an all-women jihad unit,
formed from the women who have flocked to Syria from Europe and
elsewhere to serve the cause, some with their children.
“I went inside their headquarters, which used to be the Christian
church,” she said. “I asked what the conditions were to join. They said
you have to be 18-25, unmarried, and you would earn 25,000 Syrian
“But if you joined you had the opportunity to marry one of the
foreign fighters. However, they make sure you are a real jihadist.”
She said that outside she met four new recruits, three from Tunisia,
and one Frenchwoman, who told her she was divorced and had brought her
12-year-old daughter and four younger sons to Syria to join the
The opportunities for marriage in the Syrian jihad - and before
“martyrdom” - is a recurring theme of the blogs and other online forums
favoured by ISIS’s foreign fighters in Syria, many of whom write in
But the Raqqa woman and other activists from the town say that the
imbalance of the sexes means ISIS has begun to “recruit” brides from
local schools and colleges.
Among those who resisted, they say, was
a 21-year-old student called Fatima Abdullah from a tribal area outside
the city, whose brother had joined ISIS and persuaded their father to
hand her over for marriage to a Tunisian. She refused, and when her
family insisted, killed herself with rat poison. The story was
confirmed by other activists from the town.
Since the beginning of January, rival rebel groups including
western-backed militias still loyal to the original opposition Free
Syrian Army have launched a counter-attack across the north of Syria to
drive out ISIS.
Earlier this month, rebels all but completed an operation to remove the
extremists from Idlib province while in Aleppo province ISIS have been
forced into towns to the east. As they left their former strongholds
they killed some of their prisoners, freed others, and loaded many more
on to trucks and took them with them.
In Aazaz, a town between Aleppo and the Turkish border, ISIS retaliated
for the FSA attack by beheading four captives from other militias and
placing their heads on the plinth in the middle of the roundabout in
one of the main squares, residents.
Ahmed Primo, described how he was saved from a similar fate by a stray shell.
“I heard a voice calling my name for execution,” he said. “Then
suddenly there was the sound of an explosion. The guards and the emir,
the militia leader, were injured, and carried away. The next day the
prison was liberated and I escaped.”
Mr Primo had previously been detained by
the Syrian regime in his home city, Aleppo, and held for a month. Asked
whether the treatment he received from ISIS, which included beatings,
being bound and blindfolded for weeks at a time, and electrocuted in
his testicles, was better or worse than his experiences under the
regime, he said: “It is not a question of better or worse. It was
exactly the same.”
ISIS split last summer from Jabhat al-Nusra, the recognised wing of
Al-Qaeda in Syria, and in February was disavowed by Al-Qaeda’s leader,
But by then its capacity to instill fear by its harsh punishments, and
ability to attract fanatical fighters from abroad had enabled it to
take control of large parts of northern Syria, with Raqqa province
mostly under their sway.
Anwar Mohammed, one of the early “citizen journalists” who sent reports
of the initial uprising against President Bashar al-Assad to the
outside world, was among Aazaz’s luckiest people. He had been seized
from his home by ISIS fighters, taken to the group’s headquarters in
Aleppo city, a former children’s hospital, for interrogation, and then
detained in a prison in another town, Hreitan.
Light of build, he managed to escape one night by squeezing through the
bars of his cell and lowering himself to the ground with knotted
blankets. When he made it home - and across the Turkish border - his
father said ISIS had visited him to tell him his son was to be executed
as a spy.
What is perhaps most remarkable is that
despite the brutality, many residents of north-west Syria still back
ISIS. Samer Amori, Mohammed Nour’s uncle, said that people who
supported the regime now support ISIS. A more convincing explanation is
that by demanding control of all aspects of its subjects’ lives, ISIS
did at least manage to impose some sort of order on a Syria that is
becoming more lawless as the war progresses.
But for many men and women, particularly the liberal activists, who
have suffered under both the regime and ISIS, the recent fighting has
brought the third year of the uprising to deeply depressing close.
Mr Primo, electrocuted by fighters from the regime and Assad, said he
had always believed the West would intervene, and that what had
happened in Tunisia and Libya would happen in Syria. Now it is clear
that with the country little more than a fighting ground for rival
warlords, some not even Syrian, the West has little stomach for
“When I started out I could never have imagined anything like this,” he
said. “These people, they do not have our way of life, or of thinking.
It’s very strange to us. I didn’t expect it would turn out this way.”
Screenshot of the B'Tselem video
Over 1500 children killed by Israel since 2000
Palestinian minister says more than 10,000 children have been arrested during the same period and 200 are still detained.
Wesleyan declares itself an Open Hillel
The Wesleyan Jewish Community is the
third local Hillel-affiliate to declare that it will no longer follow
Hillel International's restrictive "Standards of Partnership".
The Open Hillel movement has already captured two campuses, Swarthmore and Vassar, and is making inroads at Harvard, Berkeley and Brown.
Statement from the Wesleyan Jewish Community
Published with the support of the majority of student leaders
Over 1,500 Palestinian children have
been killed by Israeli forces since 2000, the Palestinian Authority
minister of social affairs Kamal al-Sharafi said on Saturday.
In a statement marking Palestinian Children's Day
Sharafi said that 1,520 Palestinian children have been killed and
approximately 6,000 injured by the Israeli military in the past 14
years, the Ma'an Palestinian news service reported.
More than 10,000 Palestinian children have been arrested, al-Sharafi added, and 200 are currently being held in Israeli prisons.
"Protecting and supporting children should be a national
responsibility," he said, calling upon the Palestinian Authority to
ratify a law for the protection of minors.
The United Nations Children Fund said in a 2013 report that some 700
Palestinian children aged 12 to 17, most of them boys, are arrested,
interrogated and detained by the Israeli military, police, and security
agents every year in the occupied West Bank.
In the report, UNICEF said it identified examples of practices that
"amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the
Convention against Torture."
of the Wesleyan Jewish Community 4/2/14
"We, student leaders of the Wesleyan
Student Jewish community, have followed with great interest and concern
the controversy that has swirled around Hillel International's Standard
of Partnership for Israel Activities, which prevent Hillel from
partnering with, hosting, or housing anyone who,(a) denies the right of
Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and
recognized borders, (b) delegitimizes, demonizes, or applies a double
standard to Israel, (c) supports boycott of, divestment from, or
sanctions against the State of Israel.
These policies have resulted in the barring of speakers from
organizations such as Breaking the Silence and the Israeli Knesset from
speaking at Hillels without censorship, and has resulted in
Jewish Voice for Peace and other Jewish organizations not being welcome
under the Hillel umbrella or in the Jewish community that gathers in
At Wesleyan, values of inclusion are
central to our identity both as Jews and as participants in the wider
Wesleyan community. We believe that no one should be made to feel
excluded, marginalized or unsafe in a religious or cultural space
because of their political beliefs, and that welcoming an individual
while censoring their opinions represents little more than probationary
community membership. We reject the idea implicit in Hillel's
guidelines that Jewish plurality gives way to Zionist unanimity, and
are acutely aware that many individuals have formed robust, meaningful
Jewish identities that do not comport with traditional Zionist ideas.
Our community is structured in a way that gives voice to these values.
Student leaders known as Jewish Renaissance Fellows organize Jewish
student life and programming on campus. The Jewish program house (known
as The Bayit) is operated by a student House Manager who also takes a
leading role in organizing student Jewish life. Thus, at Wesleyan,
Jewish life and the place of Israel within that life is shaped and
determined by the students themselves.
We believe that trust is the bedrock of any community that values each
of its members. We are grateful that the Wesleyan Jewish community does
not employ chaperones for our conversations. Students are allowed and
encouraged to introduce and be exposed to the widest possible range of
views, and trusted to make sense of the mosaic before them and form an
informed position. Our community is built on the assumption that such a
process results not in confusion, but in opinions about Israel and
Judaism that are more robust and well-reasoned because of the thought
that has gone into them. We believe that restrictive guidelines such as
the ones Hillel international has adopted are not conducive to
fostering a culture of intellectual exploration and free inquiry.
We believe that dialogue and critical
engagement are central Jewish values. Our community is founded on texts
that are meant to be interpreted, argued over, and debated endlessly.
The talmud, our central body of religious commentary, contains many
differing opinions on how laws are to be interpreted. Hillel draws its
name from the great rabbinical sage who believed that all should be
able to learn, and that discourse should be free and unbound by
guidelines imposed from above. No one has ever suggested that these
values weaken the Jewish community, and we believe Hillel
International's deviation from these principles alienates members of
our community and strays from Jewish tradition.
When Israeli settlers attack and steal, Palestinians now have a strategy
In light of these values, we would like to state explicitly what has
long been the implicit policy of our student campus community: we will
not follow the current formulation of Hillel's Standards of
Partnership. We are committed to neither censoring nor excluding
individuals, groups or speakers from our communal spaces merely because
their political views around Israel or other issues stray from
mainstream opinion. We are committed to a conversation around Judaism
and Israel that reflects the values of the members of our community,
rather than the political preferences of the leaders of Hillel
Therefore, the undersigned student leaders of the Wesleyan Jewish
Community — the vast majority of current student leaders, including
both current Jewish Renaissance fellows and the current Bayit House
manager, as well as many former Jewish student leaders — express our
solidarity with, and support of, the Open Hillel movement. As an
affiliate of Hillel, we call upon Hillel International to reform its
guidelines so as to ensure that no member of the Jewish community is
barred from a space that should be rightfully theirs because of a
desire to critically engage with, and express opinions about, issues
that relate to Israel."
(Daniel Estrin, PRI's The World 3/28/14)
A few weeks ago, in a West Bank olive grove, someone tried to steal a mule.
The incident may seem way too trivial to even bother mentioning. It didn’t make headlines when it happened.
But in the West Bank, an event like this quickly becomes a very high
stakes game. And that offers a glimpse of life against the backdrop of
one of the world’s most intractable conflicts.
Lubban is a Palestinian village surrounded by Israeli settlements on nearly every hilltop.
Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official who monitors Israeli settler
activity in the West Bank, said he got a call that a farmer near Lubban
had caught a settler trying to steal his mule.
“The settler was in a car, driving,” Daghlas said. “He saw a mule tied
up to a tree. He thought he would steal the mule. He could get on the
mule and ride it [back to his settlement up the road.]”
But the Palestinian farmer caught the settler, put him in a car, and
telephoned his village council. Soon, a whole group of villagers were
surrounding the farmer’s car with the settler inside. When Daghlas
arrived, he called Palestinian liaison officials, who called their
Israeli army counterparts, who soon arrived.
One villager used his cell phone to film as the farmer told the
soldiers what happened. The trespassing settler, the farmer said, was
named Zohar and was approximately 20 years old. “I told him, ‘Zohar, I
want to put you in my car, you are like my son, do not be afraid,’” the
farmer said on the video.
The Israeli soldiers escorted the settler out, unscathed. End of story.
The same thing happened a few months ago close to the nearby village of
Qusra. A group of settlers in their late teens and 20s were seen
attacking Palestinian farmers in broad daylight.
Palestinian villagers caught them and beat them up, but another group
of Palestinians put the kids on the roof of a house, gave them bandages
and water, and despite a gathering mob, made sure no one harmed them
further. Palestinian officials called Israeli soldiers who escorted the
The residents of Lubban have every reason to be angry with Israeli
settlers. In 2010, settlers were suspected of torching a village mosque
and olive trees. In 2012, a soldier and two Israeli women were arrested
for spray painting “Mohammed is a pig” on a village home.
Capturing someone in the act, however, is rare. Nabbing the mule thief
was like the occupied trapping the occupier, the mouse catching the
cat. It showed a strategy that Palestinian officials are trying to
“If a problem erupts, we need to announce it through the mosque
declaration system. The whole village will know about it,” Daghlas
said. “Secondly, everyone should gather. We need numbers to combat such
"Number three, we need to immediately [alert] people like me, as well
as a Palestinian coordination officer. We need to create a system for
coordination” — for contacting Israeli soldiers to evacuate the
settlers and avoid Palestinians harming them.
March 22 is World Water Day
East Children's Alliance (MECA) Maia Project is now providng
clean water to more than 50,000 children in Gaza every single day
For Palestinians, this is a strategic move, said Daghlas.
“Our people are aware of the repercussions and the punishments that
would fall on their heads if they were to use violence,” Daghlas said.
Settler attacks can happen as frequently as every week, said Sarit Michaeli of the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem
These spontaneous vigilante groups — neighborhood watch-style — are the
only real way Palestinians can protect themselves from settler attacks,
she said, because the Israeli security forces aren’t doing their job
“Each and every incident seems minor. I mean, it’s one car here, one
olive grove there,” Michaeli said. “But if you view the series of
attacks that have been perpetrated against Palestinians in specific
areas, every single incident contributes to a very, very large picture
in which people are living in places where they have no protection.”
Dani Dayan, a leader of the settler movement, chastises the Israeli
security forces for failing to prevent and prosecute settlers who
commit the attacks.
Dayan said he has met with Israel’s attorney general, the police
inspector general, the head of the Shin Bet clandestine security
service and the army officer in charge of the area.
“I begged. I would say I demanded of them to be more harsh, and first
and foremost to be more effective,” Dayan added. “I don’t have an
intelligent answer to the question why and how our law enforcement
agencies are so unsuccessful.”
But over the past eight years, according to UN figures, the annual rate of Israeli settler attacks has almost quadrupled.
That sometimes leaves Palestinians feeling that their only recourse is taking law enforcement into their own hands.
fall, MECA installed 14 new water purification and desalination units
in schools and kindergartens bringing the total number of purification
units to 52. You can check the MECA website for a full list of locations and beneficiaries.
Water apartheid in Palestine - a crime against humanity?(Ayman Rabi, stopmekorot.org, 3/22/14)
MECA also announced the addition of Safaa El-Derawi to our team in
Gaza. Safaa is a water engineer born and raised in the Gaza Strip. She
will be making regular visits to all of the schools and kindergartens
where we have installed water units to test the water, oversee any
repairs and maintenance necessary, lead workshops about the water
crisis in Gaza, and explain to staff and students the dangers of
unpurified water to their health.
While MECA celebrates this important milestone in the Maia Project,
MECA would also like to highlight a new call to action from
friends and partners in Palestine.
Today marks the start of the first International Week Against Mekorot,
Israel’s state-owned water company that is responsible for implementing
"water apartheid" on Palestinians.
Today is UN World Water Day
- a day to
remember the billion people who are unable to meet their needs for
safe, clean water due to drought, poverty and official neglect.
But it’s also a day to remember, and fight for, 2.1 million
Palestinians who suffer something different – an artificial water
scarcity deliberately created and sustained by Israel’s military
occupation, and the private Israeli water company Mekorot.
Systematic, acute, malicious discrimination in access to water in the
West Bank and Gaza, combined with massive resource theft, is operated
by the occupation authorities and the private water company Mekorot.
Increased international pressure brings hope that the tide may be
finally turning for Palestinians striving for water justice in the West
Bank and Gaza – in particular, recent investment and partnership
decisons against Mekarot, which runs Israel’s discriminatory water
policy in the West Bank.
The situation in Gaza is especially dire. The tiny, densely populated
territory relies entirely on its depleted, saltwater-contaminated and
sewage-polluted aquifer, and the water it produces is unfit for
consumption. Water has to be bought, expensively, in bottles or from
Moreover restrictions on fuel imports
mean that Gaza’s single power station spends most of its time idle –
and so long as it’s not running, water and sewage cannot be pumped. So
the taps are dry, toilets are blocked, and sewage pollution gets worse.
Not that Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem have it a lot better.
As reported on 17th March, the city suffered a long water cut beginning
on 4th March leaving Ras Shehada, Ras Khamis, Dahyat A’salam and the
Shuafat refugee camp – cut off from the rest of the city by the
separation wall – with no running water.
The reason is simple – old and inadequate water infrastructure, which there are no plans to improve or renew.
For West Bank as a whole the facts speak for themselves. The Oslo II
Accords dealt Palestinians a singularly poor hand - limiting the volume
of water it could produce, as well as imposing severe restrictions on
the development and maintenance of Palestinian water infrastructure.
The Accords allow Palestinans to abstract only 118 million cubic meters
(mcm) per year from boreholes, wells, springs and precipitation in the
West Bank. But Israel is allowed to take four times as much – 483 mcm
per year – from the same Palestinian resources.
So not only does Israel now occupy 80% of the area of historic
Palestine, but it – via the water company Mekarot – also takes 80% of
the water resources from the 20% of the land that is left to the
As reported by Amira Hass in Ha’aretz,
“in that agreement Israel imposed a scandalously uneven, humiliating
and infuriating division of the water resources”.
While Palestinian water is piped into Israel at no cost, a fraction of
it is then piped back again, and paid for. In this way Israel is
extracting from Palestinians both their water, and their money.
In some cases Palestinians are forced to pay ten times more for their
water than the price in Tel Aviv – as in the village of Sussia on South
Mount Hebron, where they have to drive to the nearby town to buy
According to the UN Human Rights Council, this all translates into a
wide disparity between water use by Palestinians and by settlers in the
All Palestinian populations receive water volumes far below the level
recommended by the World Health Organization of 100 – 250 l/c/d.
According to the UNHRC:
“Settlements benefit from enough water to run farms and orchards, and
for swimming pools and spas, while Palestinians often struggle to
access the minimum water requirements. Some settlements consume
around 400 l/c/d, whereas Palestinian consumption is 73 l/c/d, and as
little as 10-20 l/c/d for Bedouin communities which depend on expensive
and low quality tanker water.”
These very low levels of water provision fail to meet the water needs
of many Palestinian communities – leaving them with often contaminated
water, and not enough of it.
An estimated 113,000 Palestinians in the
West Bank have no piped water supply, while hundreds of thousands more
have only intermittent supply, especially in the summer.
The restrictions and limitations imposed on Palestinians to access
their own resources and develop them have exacerbated the already
severe water shortages among Palestinian communities.
Among the restrictions are limits on the size of supply pipe, intended
to limit flows as a form of rationing. Typically 30% of the water leaks
from Palestinian supply pipes – because Israel refuses to allow their
In ‘Area C’, which covers 60% of the area of the West Bank, Palestinian
farmers and communities are not allowed to connect to the water network
that serves the growing settlements – and are forbidden even to dig out
The international community considers the establishment of Israeli
settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories illegal under
international law, as set out in the report of the fact finding mission
of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Yet the construction of new illegal Israeli settlements and ‘outposts’,
and the expansion of existing ones, is proceeding apace – and further
reducing the quantity of water allocated to Palestinians.
As reported by the UN in March 2012, another threat arises from settlers seizing springs by force:
“Palestinians have increasingly lost access to water sources in the
West Bank as a result of the takeover of springs by Israeli settlers,
who have used threats, intimidation and fences to ensure control of
water points close to the settlements.”
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) found that:
‘Week of Action Against Mekorot’
“The denial of water is used to trigger displacement,
particularly in areas slated for settlement expansion, especially since
these communities are mostly farmers and herders who depend on water
for their livelihoods.
“A number of testimonies highlighted that the cutting off from water
resources often precedes dispossession of lands for new settlement
Mekorot – at the heart of Israel’s water apartheid
All Israeli settlements in the West Bank are connected to piped water
supplied by Israeli water company Mekorot, which took over
responsibility for the water resources of the West Bank from the
occupying forces in 1982.
As the UN Human Rights Council reports: “In the Jordan Valley, deep
water drillings by the Israeli national water company Mekorot and the
agro-industrial company Mehadrin have caused Palestinian wells and
springs to dry up. Eighty per cent of the total water resources drilled
in the area is consumed by Israel and the settlements.”
Mekorot violates international law and
colludes in resource grabbing -including pillaging water resources in
Palestine. It supplies this pillaged water to illegal Israeli
settlements, and engages in systematic discrimination and denial of
water to the Palestinian population.
For this reason Palestinian
organizations including PENGON / Friends of the Earth Palestine have
co-organised a ‘Stop Mekorot‘ week of action starting today, on World
Why is Palestine taboo at Columbia College?
Eric Ruder reports on an effort to defend academic freedom for a Columbia instructor
The campaign aims to intensify pressure on governments and companies to
boycott Mekorot and hold the company accountable for its discriminatory
water policies and practices in Palestine.
In December 2013 the largest drinking water supplier in the
Netherlands, Vitens, set a precedent when it decided that its
commitment to international law meant it had to withdraw from a
cooperation agreement with Mekorot.
Mekorot suffered another blow this week when authorities in Buenos
Aires, Argentina, suspended a proposed $170m water treatment plant deal.
The decision followed a campaign by local trade unions and human rights
groups which highlighted Mekorot’s role in Israel’s theft of
Palestinian water resources.
Palestinians must have their rightful share of available resources and
be granted full authority to manage them properly. Equitable and wise
use of available resources among all people is the only basis for
lasting peace in the region.
And until then the deliberate, systematic, purposeful water
discrimination and resource theft carried out in Occupied Palestine by
the Occupation and Mekorot must be recognised for what they are –
crimes against humanity.
Ayman Rabi represents Friends of the Earth Palestine / PENGON, the
Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network – established in 1996 to serve
the Palestinian environment by coordinating the scattered efforts of
the different Palestinian NGOs working in the field of environment.
When Iymen Chehade, an instructor at
Columbia College, was summoned last fall for a meeting with the chair
of his department, he had a pretty good guess as to why. "There's
generally been one reason that they ask me to meet," he said in an
Unfortunately, he was right.
Since 2010, Chehade has taught a course about the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict in the department of Humanities, History and Social Science.
He initially taught three sections of the course and then was reduced
to two. But this semester, in the wake of his meeting with department
Chair Steve Corey, he's only teaching one.
So why did Corey want to meet with Chehade? After Chehade held a screening of the Oscar-nominated documentary 5 Broken Cameras
his class last fall, one of Chehade's students went to Corey with a
complaint of "bias." Corey told Chehade to teach his class in a more
"balanced" way and then requested that Chehade provide proof that he is
qualified to teach.
It's not difficult to see why anyone might find a viewing of 5 Broken
Cameras to be a jarring experience, but frank discussion of pressing
social issues is precisely why students seek out Chehade's class. The
film provides a firsthand account of nonviolent resistance against
Israel's attempts to destroy the West Bank village of Bil'in as Israeli
troops clear the way for construction of a separation wall.
This apartheid wall snakes it way through Palestinian territory,
separating farmers from their fields and families from one another. In
2004, the Hague's International Court of Justice ruled that Israel's
wall violates international law. Filmmaker Emad Burnat's moving
commitment to document his village's resistance to the wall
provides footage of Israeli troops using arrests, beatings, tear
gas and live ammunition to attempt to break the spirit of Bil'in.
On November 4, just seven days after Chehade's meeting with Corey,
Columbia College posted course offerings for students seeking to
register for the spring semester, including two sections of Chehade's
class. Within hours of posting the courses, however, administrators
pulled one of his sections, leaving him with only one course this
This Isn't the first time that Chehade
has found himself fending off charges of "bias." When Chehade was asked
to moderate a discussion after a public screening of 5 Broken Cameras
at Columbia College last spring, members of the campus Hillel
complained about the lack of a "pro-Israel" speaker. (Lynn Pollack, a
member of Jewish Voice for Peace, was a featured presenter.)
In the fall semester of 2011, eight students from three different
sections of Chehade's course, some of them members of Hillel, signed a
petition also making the charge of "bias" against Chehade. In a
follow-up meeting between the students, Chehade and some Columbia
College administrators, the students cited as examples of Chehade's
bias that he referred to the West Bank and Gaza as the "Occupied
Territories" (they preferred the term "Disputed Territories") and that
he used the term "ethnic cleansing" to describe how Israel drove some
750,000 Palestinians from their land and homes through violence,
intimidation and terror.
In response, dozens of students also in his class rallied to Chehade's
defense, crafting their own petition countering the eight students and
describing Chehade's course as an asset to Columbia College.
Of course, the charge of "bias" is really an attempt to constrain the
way in which the Israel-Palestine conflict is portrayed. In the words
Academic freedom entails not only the right to speak from a particular
perspective, but the freedom from being compelled to engage in a
particular type of speech. The frequent demand from Zionists that any
discussion of the conflict be "balanced" would be considered absurd in
most other contexts. For example, must every presentation about the
African American civil rights movement include a speaker who will
attempt to justify the denial of these rights?
Saudi Arabia Lists Muslim Brotherhood as Terrorist Organization
(Naharnet Newsdesk/Agence France Presse, 3/7/14)
Chehade also notes that when some
student groups at Columbia provided a platform for former Israeli
soldiers to speak in defense of Israel's military occupation of the
West Bank, he announced the event to his students and offered them
extra credit if they attended. He also did not insist on the inclusion
of a "pro-Palestinian" perspective.
Speaking about Chehade's situation, Ali Abunimad
, an internationally renowned advocate of Palestinian rights and author most recently of The Battle for Justice in Palestine
, put it this way:
For too long, teachers and students who want to speak freely about the
situation in Palestine have had to live in fear of retaliation. Calls
for "balance" are often ill-disguised efforts to ensure that
Palestinian voices are not allowed to be heard without supervision, and
that fundamental differences in power between Palestinians and the
Israeli state that occupies and colonizes their land are obscured with
"Fortunately, this is a new day, and more people are standing up
and speaking out against the silencing tactics that have been used on
campuses for so long," said Abunimah.
Prominent intellectuals and artists are adding their voices to this
effort by helping to explain the Israel-Palestine conflict in terms
that so many can relate to. Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Alice
Walker, for example, recently compared Israel's oppression of
Palestinian to the conditions facing African Americans in the South
prior to civil rights movement. "It's so much like the South of 50
years ago, and actually more brutal, because in Palestine so many more
people are wounded, shot, killed, imprisoned," Walker said on Democracy Now!
The campaign to defend academic freedom at Columbia College and Prof.
Chehade's right to teach free of the administration's interference is
one part of this growing movement. In the words of Chehade:
"It is important to provide oppressed and struggling groups with forums
in which they speak for themselves and in their own voices--whether it
is the LGBTQ community, the African American community, or Palestinians
living under occupation. This is precisely what my approach has sought
to bring to the Palestine issue, and professors around the country are
taking a similar approach. The Zionist demand for "balance" is designed
to present the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as symmetrical. However,
the severe imbalance is clear: Palestinians are denied their basic
civil rights, and Israel continues to be in violation of international
law. The demand for "balance" is a simply a tool to muzzle."
Saudi Arabia on Friday listed the Muslim Brotherhood and two Syrian
jihadist groups as terrorist organizations, and ordered citizens
fighting abroad to return within 15 days or face imprisonment.
The move represents a major escalation against the Muslim Brotherhood
of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and indicates rising
concern in Riyadh over the possible return of battle-hardened Saudi
extremists from Syria.
In addition to the Muslim Brotherhood, Saudi listed Al-Nusra Front,
which is Al-Qaida's official Syrian affiliate, and the Islamic State of
Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a rogue group fighting in both Syria and
Iraq, as terrorist organizations.
The order penalizes involvement in any of the groups' activities at
home or abroad -- including demonstrations -- and outlaws the use of
"slogans of these organizations", including in social media.
Riyadh is a staunch supporter of the Sunni-led rebels* battling to
overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad but has long feared blow-back
from radical jihadist groups, particularly after a spate of attacks by
a local Al-Qaida franchise from 2003 to 2006.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar have
reportedly armed and funded extremist groups that have been responsible
for repeated atrocities according to a Human Rights Watch report.
King Abdullah last month decreed jail terms of up to 20 years for belonging to "terrorist groups" and fighting abroad.
Similar sentences will be passed on those belonging to "extremist
religious and ideological groups, or those classified as terrorist
organizations, domestically, regionally and internationally," state
news agency SPA said at the time.
Supporting such groups, adopting their ideology or promoting them
"through speech or writing" would also incur prison terms, the decree
Rights group Amnesty International
sharply criticized last month's decree in an article on its website titled Saudi Arabia: New terorism law is latest tool to crush peaceful expression
the law used an "overly vague definition of terrorism". Amnesty
International also describes Saudi Arabia's ascendancy to a seat on the
United Nation’s Human Rights Council as showing "utter disregard
for international human right law and the UN mechanisms put in place
for its protection."
Saudi and other conservative Gulf monarchies have long been hostile
towards the Muslim Brotherhood, fearing that its brand of grass-roots
activism and political Islam could undermine their authority.
Saudi hailed the overthrow of Morsi and pledged billions of dollars to
Egypt's military-installed government following his July 2013 ouster,
and in recent months has eclipsed Qatar as the main backer of Syria's
Egypt has launched a sweeping crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and detained reporters from Qatar's Al-Jazeera news network.
Leaked transcripts of a closed-door
meeting between Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Saudi Prince Bandar bin
Sultan, head of Saudi intelligence, shed an extraordinary light on the
hard-nosed Realpolitik of the two sides.
WikiLeaks cables portray Saudi Arabia
The details of the talks were first leaked to the Russian press. A more
detailed version has since appeared in the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir,
which has Hezbollah links and is hostile to the Saudis.
As-Safir said Prince Bandar pledged to safeguard Russia’s naval base in
Syria if the Assad regime is toppled, but he also hinted at Chechen
terrorist attacks on Russia’s Winter Olympics in Sochi if there is no
accord. “I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics next
year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are
controlled by us,” he allegedly said.
Prince Bandar went on to say that Chechens operating in Syria were a
pressure tool that could be switched on an off. “These groups do not
scare us. We use them in the face of the Syrian regime but they will
have no role in Syria’s political future.”
as a cash machine for terrorists
(then Sec of State) Hillary Clinton memo highlights Gulf states' failure to block funding
for groups like al-Qaida, Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba
(Declan Walsh, Guardian UK, 12/5/2010)
According to the website middleeast.about.com
the United States has long been Saudi Arabia’s leading arms supplier.
From 1950 through 2006, Saudi Arabia bought or was granted from the
United States weapons, military equipment and services worth $79.8
billion. Almost a fifth of all American arms sales during that period
went to Saudi Arabia.
In comparison, Israel has received
$53.6 billion in U.S. military grants between 1949 and 2007. The Bush
administration agreed to a colossal increase in annual military aid to
Israel, however. militaries. Annual military grants to Israel represent
over 20% of the Israeli defense budget. U.S. military aid will increase
from $2.4 billion in 2008 to $3.1 billion a year through 2018. About
75% of the aid is spent on American weaponry and services.
Wikileaks article excerpt:
Saudi Arabia is the world's largest
source of funds for Islamist militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban
and Lashkar-e-Taiba – (which carried out the Mumbai terrorist attacks
in 2008) but the Saudi government is reluctant to stem the flow of
money, according to Hillary Clinton.
"More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial
support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist
groups," says a secret December 2009 paper signed by the US secretary
of state. Her memo urged US diplomats to redouble their efforts to stop
Gulf money reaching extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
"Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide," she said.
The cables highlight an often ignored factor in the Pakistani and
Afghan conflicts: that the violence is partly bankrolled by rich,
conservative donors across the Arabian Sea whose governments do little
to stop them.
The problem is particularly acute in Saudi Arabia, where militants
soliciting funds slip into the country disguised as holy pilgrims, set
up front companies to launder funds and receive money from
Washington is critical of the Saudi refusal to ban three charities
classified as terrorist entities in the US. "Intelligence suggests that
these groups continue to send money overseas and, at times, fund
extremism overseas," she said.
Any criticisms are generally offered in private. The cables show that
when it comes to powerful oil-rich allies US diplomats save their
concerns for closed-door talks.
The cables show how before the Mumbai attacks in 2008, Pakistani and
Chinese diplomats manoeuvred hard to block UN sanctions against
Starvation in Al Yarmouk Palestinian Camp
Click here for video
Thousands 'slowly dying' in Yarmouk Palestinian camp in Syria
(Serene Assir, Irish Examiner, 3/1/14)
Thousands queuing for food aid
in Yarmouk camp where fighting off starvation
and death has become a daily reality
Combined excerpt from all articles:
Gaunt, ragged figures fill the streets
for as far as the eye can see in the besieged Palestinian refugee camp
of Yarmouk outside Damascus, where some 40,000 are said to be slowly
starving to death.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)
shocking images this week of thousands of people, their faces
emaciated, desperately flocking to receive food aid that only a few
were lucky enough to collect.
*UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly
in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a
population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees.
“We live in a big prison,” said Rami al-Sayed, a Syrian activist living
in Yarmouk. “But at least, in a prison, you have food. Here, there’s
nothing. We are slowly dying.”
Residents have spoken of eating grass, cats, and dogs in a bid to stay
alive. At least 86 people are known to have starved to death.
After months of shelling and fierce
fighting in and around Yarmouk between rebels and president Bashar
al-Assad’s troops, the camp’s population which was once Syria’s largest
Palestinian camp, has shrunk from 160,000 to 40,000.
Among them are 18,000 Palestinians.
Since last summer, the area has been under choking army siege, creating inhumane conditions for its inhabitants.
“The situation is really tragic. On the streets, all you see are emaciated people, their faces drained of any life” said Sayed.
“There are no more people in Yarmouk, only skeletons with yellow skin,”
Umm Hassan, a 27-year-old resident and the mother of two toddlers
“Why don’t they kill us with chemicals? It would be done in a few
minutes. It’s better than this way,” said Abu Muhamed, an activist.
The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinians is overwhelmed by the crisis.
Since January, the agency has only been able to carry out limited, intermittent food distribution in the camp.
“Gaunt, ragged figures of all ages fill
the streets of the devastated camp for as far as the eye can see,”
UNRWA said, adding that such scenes were the agency’s “daily reality”.
“Humanitarian need has reached profound levels of desperation. Hunger
and anxiety are etched on the faces of the waiting multitudes.”
Since January, UNRWA has distributed only 7,500 food parcels in
Yarmouk, describing that as “a drop in the ocean compared with the
rising tide of need”.
Much of the camp has been reduced to rubble by shelling, fighting and occasional aerial bombardment.
The distribution only began after rebels who had come from outside the
camp agreed to withdraw, following a deal reached with Palestinian
The lack of food in Yarmouk is compounded by medical shortages.
“In the hospitals, there are wounded people who cannot be treated because there are no doctors or medicines,” said Sayed.
After a visit this week, UNRWA chief Filippo Grandi described the “shocking” conditions of life he witnessed in Yarmouk.
He compared the people flocking to the distribution point as “the appearance of ghosts”.
“[They] have been trapped in there not only without food, medicines,
clean water — all the basics — but also probably completely subjected
to fear because there was fierce fighting.
“The devastation is unbelievable. There is not one single building that I have seen that is not an empty shell by now.”
But he said the condition of the camp’s remaining residents “is more shocking even”.
“They can hardly speak,” he said.
Yarmouk is one of several parts of Syria where civilians are trapped
under regime or opposition sieges which prevent freedom of movement and
the entry of food and medicines.
More than 140,000 people have died in Syria since the conflict erupted in March 2011.
When the uprising against Assad erupted in March 2011, most
Palestinians stayed on the sidelines. As the revolt turned into a civil
war that reached Yarmouk in December 2012, most residents backed the
rebels and some even took up arms to fight Assad’s troops and
pro-government Palestinian fighters. (Pro-Assad Palestinian
factions blamed the presence of 2,500 rebel fighters in the camp for
the length of the siege.)
Starving to death in Syria's Yarmouk camp
Fighting has cut off food and medical supplies to 18,000 desperate refugees
(Eric Reidy, Al-Jazeeria, 1/29/14)
background information excerpt:
Innocent, starving, close to death:
Yarmouk is located 8km south of Damascus
and was established for refugees after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war
led to the creation of Israel, and the displacement of hundreds of
thousands of Palestinians.
Over the decades the camp grew into a large Damascus suburb home to
160,000 residents, prior to the outbreak of Syria's civil war in 2011,
according to UNWRA
estimates. Now, only about 18,000 people remain
inside the desolate camp.
The civil war reached Yarmouk in December 2012 when rebel forces
entered the camp attempting to consolidate their positions to the east
and south of Damascus, and push on towards the city centre. Syrian
government forces responded with aerial bombardment, sending thousands
fleeing in search of shelter in other parts of Syria and Lebanon.
Forces loyal to Assad succeeded in surrounding the camp and controlling
access to it in February 2013 (in an attempt to force out rebels).
Military-held checkpoints opened to allow aid to enter and residents to
escape, but in July government forces began blocking access points.
Yarmouk has now been under siege for more than 180 days.
One victim of the siege that shames Syria
(Fernande van Tets, Independent.co.uk, 1/16/14)
Israa al-Masri, who died shortly after this photo was taken, was one of
18,000 Palestinians trapped and starving in the Yarmouk refugee camp in
photo courtesy of AP from activist group Palestinians of Syria
(click above headline for full story)
Israa al-Masri was still a toddler when
she lost her battle to cling to life. But the image of her face,
pictured just minutes before she finally succumbed to starvation, is
becoming the symbol of a wider nightmare.
For Israa, tongue swollen, wearing a chunky sweater and woollen hat
that seem more substantial
than she is, was just one of thousands of
Palestinian refugees trapped and starving in Yarmouk refugee camp,
Once Syria’s largest Palestinian camp,
Yarmouk has been under siege for almost a year. Most of its 160,000
population fled following violent clashes in December 2012, but at
least 18,000 have remained, and months of encirclement by the Syrian
army, cut off from supplies and medical aid, have reduced them to
subsisting on a diet of animal food, water with salt and and leaves.
Lifting the Siege of Yarmouk
(Franklion Lamb, CounterPunch, 2/7-9/14)
Women are shot at by snipers as they try to gather plants to feed their
children. Israa is one of at least 50 to have died from hunger-related
causes since October.
“The people are now eating grass and have started to eat cat and dog
meat as a routine meal,” says Qais Saed, 26, whose last meal was three
days ago and consisted of water with some spices. He cannot recall the
last time he was not hungry.
Pro-Assad Palestinian factions blame the presence of 2,500 rebel fighters in the camp for the length of the siege.
Residents have recounted a scene of devastation and desperation inside
the camp, which was originally built in 1957 to house thousands of
Palestinians displaced by the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Over time it
turned into a bustling residential area, with Syrian as well as
Palestinian inhabitants. Downtown Damascus is just five miles away.
“There are no more people in Yarmouk, only skeletons with yellow skin,”
Umm Hassan, a 27-year-old resident and the mother of two toddlers
“Why don’t they kill us with chemicals? It would be done in a few
minutes. It’s better than this way,” said Abu Muhamed, an activist.
A large yellow flat-bed truck arrived on
the morning of 2/5/14 and this observer watched as food parcels were
off-loaded and neatly stacked into six white pick-up trucks that were
then driven into Yarmouk under the watchful gaze of pro and anti-regime
forces and security agents. According to one source from
South Beirut who this observer had met earlier, Jabhat al Nusra, Jabhat
Islam, Daash and Jund al Cham snipers could be observed on rooftops
monitoring the distribution activity with their eyes pressed against
their rifle scopes. One SARCS volunteer who this observer has known for
two years advised that she feared there might be a shootout between
these fighters and nearby Palestinian forces allied with the government
(Ahmad Jibril’s PFLP-GC) suspected Hezbollah fighters with hand radio
phones who were watching and seemingly discussing the events. Frankly,
for this observer, it is increasingly difficult to distinguish which
group is which around here given the proliferation of fighters with
beards and essentially indistinguishable attire.
For many food parcel recipients, their
first act is to open the jar of jam inside the cardboard box and scoop
the confections into the mouths of their children or the nearby infirm
refugees, usually elderly. On 2/6/14, UNWRA also started a polio
vaccination program, its first in Yarmouk and which is urgently needed
by thousands of trapped camp residents. Ten thousand dosages of polio
vaccines are being allowed into the camp with vaccinations currently
underway for the second day running.
The Politics of Starvation in Syria
(Patrick Cockburn, CounterPunch, 1/30/14)
In addition to the so far paltry amount of food allowed into the camp,
approximately 1,600 people have been allowed to leave Yarmouk for
One elderly lady, maybe in her late sixties, explained to this observer
that every day for the past seven months, i.e. since the tight siege of
Yarmouk began last June, she has stood in the same location waiting for
her son Mahmoud to come to her from inside besieged Yarmouk. She has no
idea if he is alive but she explained to me that she believes that God
will deliver him safely to her.
Another view of much needed Divine assistance was articulated by a
lovely young mother who had just exited Yarmouk with her two toddlers
who looked, as she did, to be in fairly bad shape and in need of
immediate hospitalization. A former English literature student, the
lady, whose family is from Haifa, Occupied Palestine, explained to this
observer that she no longer has any belief in God and as she elaborated
why, she lowered her voice so as not to offend the nearby elderly
believer waiting for her son Makmoud.
She told of her experience trapped inside Yarmouk: “For the past more
than five months I have sold my body for one hour to whoever
would give me a kilo of rice which sometimes costs as much as 14,000
s.p. (close to $ 100). I was proud to be a whore for these terrorists
in order to keep my parents alive and who are still trapped and I also
prevented complete starvation of my children.”
“God did not help me and my family but I promise if I live and ever see
one of those dogs I will kill him and he can learn if his God exists or
not. None existed for me!” and she sobbed
as two young lady volunteers
from the PRCS held her as she and her little ones made
their way to
a waiting PRCS ambulance.
“Bread is a dream for children inside
Yarmouk Camp,” says Fuad, a Syrian Palestinian music
teacher who tries
to help bring food to the 20,000 Palestinians besieged inside Yarmouk.
Syria is dotted with sieges and blockades
of cities, towns and districts which in some cases are producing mass starvation.
The siege of Yarmouk, the Palestinian area in Damascus once called
“Little Palestine” and home to 160,000 people, is only one element in
the disaster that has hit the half-million Palestinians in Syria. Fuad,
the music teacher who is trying to emigrate to Egypt, says “it is a
second ‘al-Nakba’ for us”, the first al-Nakba or catastrophe being the
Palestinian expulsion in 1948 from what became the state of Israel.
All the Palestinians in Syria are caught up in this new disaster
because their camps after 1948 were usually built on the outskirts of
cities such as Damascus and Aleppo. They were therefore right in the
path of Syrian rebel forces advancing from the countryside in 2012 and
five camps have some presence of the armed opposition.
Palestinians living in a swathe of camps in south Damascus fled first to Yarmouk and then fled again when the rebels took most
of it over.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians believes that “440,000
Palestinians need help
and half of them are displaced within Syria.”
Between 30,000 and 50,000 have become refugees
What You Can Do:
Founder Barbara Lubin wrote the following earlier this week:
I will be travelling to Palestine and Lebanon in a few weeks to deliver aid and visit MECA’s projects on the ground.
Since I was in Lebanon last year, tens
of thousands more refugees from Syria—Palestinians and Iraqis, as well
as Syrians—have arrived in Lebanon’s already overcrowded refugee camps
and border areas.
Half of them are children.
As the war in Syria approaches three years, with no real sign of
resolution, more refugees arrive each day. They are cold, hungry,
traumatized by the violence they fled from, and in need of the most
basic things to survive with a little dignity.
The best way MECA can help them is for me to go there, meet with our
partner organizations in the refugee camps, and work with them to
purchase and distribute the items that are needed most.
Please make your donation
now so MECA can bring aid to thousands of children and families who fled the catastrophe in Syria.
Founder and Director
An open to Naftali Bennett:
is a United Nations agency established
by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance
and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine
refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon,
Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in
human development, pending a just solution to their plight.
Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand
for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees,
expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's
General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities are 97% reliant
on voluntary contributions.
The below linked donation page describes where contributions go
including UNRWA's urgently needed work on behalf of the 18,000
Palestinian refugees under siege in Yarmouk.
Unlike you, and most Israelis, water is not something I take for granted. It is a daily existential struggle.
(Nasser Nawajah, Haaretz 2/18/14)
note: Haaretz requires registration
full letter posted below all headlines
Water Torture for the Palestinians
Water discrimination is another tool being used
to wear down the Palestinians socially and politically
(Amira Hass, Haaretz, Opinion 2/18/14)
Why is the Israeli establishment so bent on denying the existence of water discrimination?
The Israeli 'watergate' scandal
facts about Palestinian water; Israel has adopted a drip-feed approach
to providing Palestinians with water instead of letting them control
their own natural resource
Because this time the Israeli establishment cannot wrap it in the usual
security excuses it resorts to with other sorts of blatant
When it comes to the water situation, the Israeli propaganda machine
and its helpers, the Zionist lobbies in the Diaspora, are in big
trouble. As was clearly shown when the German Martin Schulz had the
audacity to inquire in the Knesset – if the rumor he had heard
was true [he queried whether Israelis were allotted four times as much
water as Palestinians].
The systematic discrimination in water allocations to the Palestinians
is no false rumor. Israelis’ water welfare is not dependent upon it,
but without it the whole settlement enterprise would be way more
expensive, and perhaps even impossible to sustain in its current and
No wonder Habayit Hayehudi, the party most identified with the
settlers, reacted so furiously to Schulz’s remarks and walked out of
Water discrimination is another governmental tool being used to wear down the Palestinians socially and politically.
here are the facts:
* Israel doesn’t give water to the Palestinians. Rather, it sells it to them at full price.
Undeniable discrimination in the amount of water
* The Palestinians would not have been forced to buy water from Israel
if it were not an occupying power which controls their natural resource
and if it were not for the Oslo II Accords, which limit
the volume of
water they can produce, as well as the development and maintenance of
their water infrastructure.
* This 1995 interim agreement was supposed to lead to a permanent
arrangement after five years. The Palestinian negotiators deluded
themselves that they would gain sovereignty and thus control over their
The Palestinians were the weak, desperate, easily tempted side and
sloppy when it came to details. Therefore, in that agreement Israel
imposed a scandalously uneven, humiliating and infuriating division of
the water resources of the West Bank.
Some 20 percent goes to the Palestinians living in the West Bank, and
about 80 percent goes to Israelis – on both sides of the Green Line –
who also enjoy resources from the rest of the country.
Why should Palestinians agree to pay for desalinated water from Israel,
which constantly robs them of the water flowing under their feet?
The agreement’s second major scandal: Gaza’s water economy/management
was condemned to be self-sufficient and made reliant on the aquifer
within its borders. Overpumping in Gaza, which causes seawater and
sewage to penetrate into the aquifer, has made 90 percent of the
potable water undrinkable.
allocated to Israelis and Palestinians
Full post of Nasser Nawajah's
Open Letter to Naftali Bennett,
Israel's Minister of the Economy
Dear Minister Bennett:
My name is Nasser Nawajah. Although we
have never met, I am sure that you have visited very close to my home.
My neighbors from the settlement of Susya are very fond of you. In the
last election, 270 of the 381 voters from the settlement of Susya voted
for you and your party.
I understood from your response to the speech of European Parliament
President Martin Schulz that you find dealing with the issue of water —
or, more precisely, the water shortage among the Palestinians living in
the West Bank — to be something of a nuisance. You may be surprised to
hear that unlike you and most Israelis, water is not something I take
for granted. Instead, it is a daily existential struggle. It is no
theoretical matter; it is my family’s life. The war of statistics has
already begun, but I want to tell you about myself and my village.
I live in the village of Susya, which is
located between the settlement of Susya and the archaeological site
that you have named “the ancient Hebrew city.” That “ancient city” was
my home. In 1986,
when I was 4 years old, Israeli occupation forces
came to the village. The soldiers told us that it had been expropriated
“for public needs,” threw us out of our homes, demolished our homes and
forbade us to return there. Without home or property, we moved into
caves on our land and tried to rebuild our lives.
Unfortunately for us, during that time the settlement of Susya was
established very close to my family’s land. Army troops threw us out
again and again. We would build and plant, and everything would be
ruined. In 2001, we were expelled twice. Your Supreme Court ruled that
the second expulsion was illegal. We were told it had been a mistake.
But the destruction was awful: water wells and caves were destroyed and
fields were trampled. We did not give up. We kept living on our land,
holding onto what we could. Our story is one of many in the southern
Hebron Hills region, and one
of thousands across the West Bank.
We live from day to day, never knowing when the next expulsion will
come. But even in the midst
of this uncertain life, one of the major
difficulties we have is the same thing that angered you so much when
Mr. Schulz spoke about it: water.
For generations, my family and community have lived mainly on the
natural water reservoirs on our land. These are wells that my ancestors
dug in the hard ground, and on rainy days we collect our year’s supply
of water in them. The State of Israel, which has complete control over
Area C, treats us differently from our settler neighbors and refuses to
connect us to the water infrastructure. We have two options: buying
water or pumping it from our wells. Does that sound simple?
Access to 70 percent of our water wells
is currently blocked. Demolition orders hang over our heads. To reach
the wells, we need a special permit from the Israeli army. When we are
lucky enough to obtain a permit, we must deal with violent attacks by
settlers, who keep us from the water by force. Dozens of attacks have
taught us to be careful. My children know not to go near the area by
themselves lest the settlers come. When the army arrives, it disperses
us and the settlers, and sometimes arrests a few of us, but in any case
we cannot draw water that day. The water pipe that belongs to the
settlement of Susya passes through our private land, beneath our homes,
but we have no access to the water.
From left, Daniel Boyarin of Berkeley, Corey Robin of Brooklyn College, Rabbi Alissa Wise and
We can buy water in tanks, but we pay 35 shekels (about $10) per cubic
liter for water from the nearby city of Yatta. (You certainly know that
you, like every Israeli, like every settler, pay less than 9 shekels
for the same amount). One-third of my family’s monthly expenses go for
water, but unlike the Palestinians in the southern Hebron Hills, we are
lucky because we live near a road. The inhabitants of the more distant
villages pay more than NIS 50 per cubic liter of water.
I understand that these statistics are hard for you to hear, but
average water consumption among the Palestinians is less than 70 liters
per person per day, while for Israelis (including the settlers), water
consumption reaches 250 liters per day. No matter what the figures are,
I can assure you that we use much less water than the average. I would
like to believe that you, too, understand that no one
should live that
way. No child should have to be afraid to drink a glass of water lest
there be none tomorrow. These are my difficulties. These are my
The writer lives in the Palestinian village of Susya in the southern Hebron Hills.
Charles H. Manekin of the University of Maryland; all observant Jews who have found
that their views on Israel differ from those of family members and friends. (NYT)
A Conflict of Faith, Devoted to Jewish Observance,
but at Odds with Israel
(Mark Oppenheimer, Beliefs, NY Times, 2/14/14)
Hell freezes over
(NYT publishes glowing profile of anti-Zionists)
(Phillip Weis, Mondoweiss, 2/15/14)
short excerpt fr Mondoweiss
We’ve always told Adam we’ll have to
shut this site down when the mainstream media begin doing their job.
Well, here’s a big opening, involving the Jewish community. Mark
Oppenheimer’s “Beliefs” column in the New York Times profiles a number
of Jewish-observant anti-Zionists, in very positive terms. All are
sympathetic or supportive of the boycott, divestment, sanctions
excerpt from Oppenheimer NYT column:
There is no question that Charles H. Manekin
is a rarity. Not because he is an Orthodox Jew who keeps the Sabbath,
refraining from driving, turning on lights, even riding in elevators on
Saturdays. Rather, this philosophy professor at the University of
Maryland is rare because he believes that his Orthodox faith calls him
to take stands against Israel.
Professor Manekin, 61, became Orthodox
in college and became an Israeli citizen in the 1980s. Yet in an
interview this week, he denounced Israel’s “excessive reliance” on
military force, its treatment of Arab citizens and its occupation of
the West Bank. He is “sympathetic” to B.D.S., as the global
movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel is known.
“As a religious Jew,” he said, “I am especially disturbed by the daily injustices perpetrated against
The vast majority of Jews consider themselves supportive of Israel.
They may quarrel with various Israeli policies, but since the state’s
founding in 1948, and especially since the 1967 war, Zionism
has been a
common denominator of world Jewry.
And while there have always been anti- or non-Zionist Jews, today they
cluster on the less observant end of Judaism, among secular or
religiously liberal Jews. In such a world, Professor Manekin — a modern
Orthodox Jew in a skullcap whose religion moves him to oppose Israel —
is exceedingly rare.
Zionism was not always the norm among American Jews. Nevertheless,
those committed to Jewish practice but openly at odds with Israel are
now likely to find themselves at odds with their friends and family.
Since 2007 he has regularly offered criticisms of Israel on his blog, The Magnes Zionist
It is named for Judah L. Magnes, an American rabbi who, until his death
in 1948, argued that a Jewish return to the Middle East did not require
“People look at ‘non-statist Zionism’ as the type that lost,” Professor
Manekin said this week, referring to Rabbi Magnes’s philosophy. “But I
found a lot of what they were saying resonated today, and a lot of
their predictions about endless war had come to pass.”
67, teaches law at Hofstra University, on Long Island. He refrains from
work on the Sabbath, keeps kosher, and studies a page of the Talmud
every day. But his views on Israel have always been unusual.
“My parents were very sensitive to the issues of Palestinians,” Professor Krieger said. “My mom had a book called ‘They Are Human Too
and my memory is she would take it off the bookshelf, as if this was
some sort of scandalous tract she was showing me, and show me pictures
of Palestinians in refugee camps.”
Professor Krieger, who supports the B.D.S. movement, will not rise in
synagogue for the traditional prayer for the state of Israel. “I think
nationalism and religion together are toxic,” he said.
34, grew up in Cincinnati, in what she calls a “modern Orthodox or
Conservative kind of background, a very right-wing Zionist background.”
In 1999, she arrived at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. On her first
day of classes, there was a pro-Palestinian rally on campus.
Rabbi Wise — she was later ordained in
the Reconstructionist branch of Judaism — was shocked to learn of the
West Bank occupation. “I had gone to Jewish summer camp and Jewish day
school my whole life and had no idea,” she said.
Today, Rabbi Wise works for Jewish Voice for Peace
, a group that endorses some boycotts against Israel.
who teaches Talmud at the University of California, Berkeley, attended
Orthodox synagogues for 30 years. He believes that Zionism was always
“The very concept of a state defined as being for one people was deeply
problematic and inevitably going to lead to a moral and political
disaster,” said Professor Boyarin. “Which I think it has.”
Professor Boyarin, 67, is still observant, but he has dropped out of
synagogue life. “I have been so disturbed by the political discourse,”
he said, “that I felt that I couldn’t participate.”
Skepticism toward Zionism used to be common. Before World War II,
Reform Jews tended to believe that they had found a home in the United
States, and that Zionism could be seen as a form of dual loyalty.
Orthodox Jews generally believed, theologically, that a state of Israel
would have to wait for the Messiah’s arrival (a view some
ultra-Orthodox Jews still hold). In the 1930s and ’40s, the persecution
of European Jews turned many American Jews into Zionists. Major
organizations, like the American Jewish Committee and Hillel, the
Jewish campus group, turned toward political Zionism after the war.
was founded, it took a clear non-Zionist position,” said Noam Pianko
who teaches Jewish history at the University of Washington. “What you
see is a shift in the American spectrum: from non-Zionism with a few
Zionists, to a situation, by the 1960s, where the assumption is that
any American Jewish organization is also going to be clearly Zionist.”
, 46, a regular at a Conservative synagogue in Brooklyn, writes a blog
his opposition to Israeli policy and his support for the B.D.S.
movement. “There are lots of ways to be Jewish, but worshiping a
heavily militarized state seems like a bit of a comedown from our
past,” Professor Robin, who teaches political science at Brooklyn
College, said in an email.
He said that he tries not to get into arguments with friends, but he
has become very “vocal and visible” in his writings. In response to
such views, Professor Robin is often accused of despising Judaism.
“As my mother, who is very pro-Israel, will tell you, I love being
Jewish,” Professor Robin said. “I love when I’m walking down the
street, and my 5-year-old daughter’s skipping next to me, singing to
herself some tune in Hebrew that we sang in shul.
“I can’t listen to that tune and the words we sing when we close the
ark without a shudder. I love being Jewish. I just don’t love the state
Rena Netjes, who left Egypt after being accused of spreading false news: '
They want to close down anyone who gives them a voice.'
Photograph: Remko De Waal/EPA
Threats, assaults and arrests...perils of reporting from Egypt
(Patrick Kingsley, The Guardian, UK, 2/7/14)
Al-Jazeera English correspondents Sue Turton and Dominic Kane are among 20 journalists charged
in Egypt with tarnishing the country's reputation abroad, and helping
the former president Mohamed Morsi's now-banned Muslim Brotherhood.
Charges include "spreading false news" and aiding alleged terrorists –
part of a campaign against journalists that has taken many forms in
recent weeks. Turton and Kane are safely out of the country, but
four of their al-Jazeera colleagues are still in jail after being
arrested last year, while one was released this week.
Al-Jazeera is the most prominent target for Egyptian authorities as it is owned by Qatar
which has acted as a safe haven for Brotherhood members since Morsi's
overthrow in July. But all foreign media have come under threat
because, unlike almost all local outlets, international reporters have
tended to question the government narrative that Egypt is on the path
As a result, Egyptian newspapers and
television channels – both public and private – have claimed that all
foreign journalists are funded by the Muslim Brotherhood, or foreign
spies. Government officials have also played their part, attacking
foreign news outlets, including the Guardian UK.
"Egyptians believe they are in a state of war against the Muslim
Brotherhood, and anyone who gives them a microphone is seen as also
wanting to destroy Egypt," said Rena Netjes, a Dutch broadcast journalist who fled Egypt this week
after being accused of spreading false news. "So they want to close down anyone who gives them a voice."
The effect on journalists reporting in public spaces has been chilling.
Covering anti-government demonstrations has always been dangerous
because of the state's frequent use of live bullets and teargas, and
the police's tendency to briefly detain journalists at the scene. But
now correspondents are wary of reporting at state-sanctioned protests
because many members of the public are so hostile to foreign media.
Nadine Marroushi, a British freelancer and former news agency reporter
working in Egypt since 2011, was interviewing pro-government
demonstrators making their way to Tahrir Square on the third anniversaruy of Egypt's revolution on 25 January
when she was suddenly accused of working for al-Jazeera. "He kept
saying 'al-Jazeera, al-Jazeera', and then he said: 'We have to arrest
her,'" Marroushi said, in a story that strikes a chord with anyone
reporting in Egypt.
The crowd's mood shifted instantly. People started to attack Marroushi
and her colleague, "and one woman was basically strangling me with her
scarf". The police sheltered the pair in a nearby building while the
mob banged on the door.
While tourists are welcomed with open arms at Egypt's tourist sites,
most Cairo-based journalists have experienced similar assaults in
crowds, at the hands of both local citizens and police. The weekend
Marroushi was attacked, a German film crew was hospitalised after being
attacked by a mob, and an Italian journalist was also beaten up. On 25
January alone, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) documented 24
infringements against journalists.
Scarlett Johansson Chooses SodaStream Over Oxfam
The crackdown on Morsi supporters and secular activists have been far more brutal,
but some journalists now fear they will be next after Islamists and then leftist revolutionaries were targeted.
Hossam Meneai, an Egyptian documentary-maker, was arrested at his home on 22 January
a shocking incident that frightened many, said Meneai's British
flatmate, Nizar Manek. "They have pulverised the Brotherhood and now
they are going after secular liberals, even non-political actors who
may at some stage pose some difficulty for the regime," said Manek, a
business journalist who witnessed Meneai's arrest, and who has now fled
the country. "Hossam and myself are fairly ordinary people – so the
fact that they can turn up at our door means they can turn up at
What the law says about journalists is often unclear. The authorities
have given only incomprehensible advice on the legality of interviewing
the Muslim Brotherhood, who are now designated terrorists despite
holding public office less than a year ago. Egypt's new constitution
supposedly enshrines free speech, except "in times of war", a term the
government has used to describe the crackdown on Islamists.
Photojournalists are in a particularly precarious position. Not only
does the nature of their work force them closer to the violence, but
their equipment makes them more visible to vigilantes and police, said
Mosa'ab Elshamy, an acclaimed local photojournalist, whose brother
Abdullah is one of four al-Jazeera journalists in jail.
"The atmosphere of fear the government has created has made the public
suspicious of anyone holding a camera – just as they are suspicious of
people looking foreign," he said. "If you're on the streets with a
camera and a gas mask, equipment which is not easy to conceal, it's a
At least four international photojournalists have left Egypt since
December because the environment makes it almost impossible for them to
do their work.
"Possessing a camera is essentially an offence now," said Mosa'ab
Elshamy, "and certainly possessing a camera with protest photos in
After Dispute About West Bank Factory
SodaStream factory is built on a settlement made possible by one of the
largest expropriations of Palestinian land by Israel durng its 46-year
occupation of the West Bank.'
(Robert Mackey, The Lede, NY Times Blog, 1/30/14)
Forced to choose between two endorsement
deals, the actress Scarlett Johansson decided Wednesday to end her
charitable work on behalf of Oxfam
an antipoverty group that opposes trade with Israeli settlements, and
continue as a paid “brand ambassador” for SodaStream, a company that
manufactures products in the occupied West Bank.
Oxfam’s stated position is that “trade from Israeli settlements, which
are illegal under international law,” should be discouraged because
companies profiting from the continued occupation “further the ongoing
poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we
work to support.” Last week, however, Ms. Johansson expressed her
outspoken support for the SodaStream factory in the Israeli settlement
of Maale Adumim, echoing the company’s chief executive in calling the
plant “a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine.”
While the content of the talks between the actress and the charity were
not made public, a statement released on her behalf contained a
significant error about Oxfam’s policy regarding Israel. According to
the statement, Ms. Johansson and Oxfam parted ways because of “a
fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment
and sanctions movement.”
But Oxfam does not support the Palestinian-led campaign known as B.D.S.
seeks to isolate Israel economically until it ends the military
occupation of territories seized during the Six-Day War in 1967 and
allows Arab refugees to return to their former homes in what is now the
Jewish state. The charity objects to the import of goods produced in
Israeli settlements but is not opposed to trade with Israel, an Oxfam
representative told The Lede on Thursday.
Although many Israelis expect that settlement to become a part of
Israel after the land swaps Israeli governments have insisted on in any
future peace deal, “Maale Adumim is nevertheless a settlement
especially loathed by Israeli peace activists. It was made possible in
the 1970s by one of the largest expropriations of Palestinian land
implemented by Israel during its 46-year occupation of the West Bank.”
As the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem explained in 1999
the settlement, including the SodaStream factory, was built on land
taken from five Palestinian towns and two Bedouin tribes evicted by
Perhaps more important, as the Israeli columnist Larry Derfner
explained in 2012, this settlement is already “a stake in the heart of
a prospective Palestinian state,” because it nearly bisects the West
Bank and further construction there threatens to cut off “Palestinians’
access to East Jerusalem, their hoped-for capital.” That appears to be
less by accident than by design. Mr. Derfner noted that Benny Kashriel,
the settlement’s longtime mayor, told The Jerusalem Report in 2004,
“Maale Adumim was established to break Palestinian contiguity.” The
settlement, he added, “is Jerusalem’s connection to the Dead Sea and
the Jordan valley; if we weren’t here, Palestinians could connect their
villages and close off the roads. Maale Adumim necessarily cuts the
West Bank in two.”
While opponents of settlement trade,
like Oxfam, argue that the relatively small number of jobs generated by
factories there do not outweigh the crippling effect of Israel’s
military occupation on the Palestinian economy as a whole, SodaStream’s
defenders contend that the plant is a boon to hundreds of local
workers. The company’s chief executive, Daniel Birnbaum, told The
Forward this week that although the location was “a pain,” and that
SodaStream could move all of its manufacturing to a factory inside
Israeli’s internationally recognized borders, he would not do so out of
concern for the Palestinians who would lose their jobs. “We will not
throw our employees under the bus to promote anyone’s political
agenda,” he said.
Mr. Birnbaum also told a Reuters reporter who visited the factory the
next day that the SodaStream factory was “a dream for activists and
politicians on both sides of this dilemma, because it’s a model for
peace and is proving every day that there can and will be peace between
The reporter, Noah Browning, noted however that a “mid-level
Palestinian employee who spoke to Reuters outside the plant, away from
the bosses, painted a far less perfect picture.”
“There’s a lot of racism here,” he said, speaking on condition of
anonymity. “Most of the managers are Israeli, and West Bank employees
feel they can’t ask for pay rises or more benefits because they can be
fired and easily replaced.”
'A New York Times reporter in Israel is invariably
called an anti-Semite or self-hating Jew'
Haberman reflects on 37 years at the Times, his stint in Jerusalem and
on Israel, then and now: 'Your fencing yoursef in. You're
building your own Warsaw Ghetto.'
(Chemi Shalev, Haaretz 1/16/14)
(above link requires registration)
Clyde Haberman, 68, has just parted ways
with the Times, much to the regret of legions of fans of the smart New
York City columns that he’s written for the past 18 years. Before that
he reported for the Times on several major and historic national and
international news stories, from Japan to Jerusalem, from the fall of
Saddam to the fall of communism, and was also the Times’ bureau chief
in Tokyo and Rome.
But his stint in Israel during the tumultuous days of the Oslo Accords
was undoubtedly special for the Orthodox-born-and-raised Haberman, in
more ways than one.
“Throughout my career,” he says, “I’ve had my fair share of “you’re an
idiot” letters, but many more letters of praise as well. Israel is the
only assignment I ever had in which in four years I never once got a
letter that said "nice job." If I would have gotten one, I would have
had it embossed and put it on a wall, like a business does with the
first dollar bill it makes.”
This, he says, is the lot of most New York Times’ reporters in Israel,
as well as other prominent American journalists who have agreed to an
Israel posting. I ask whether sending a Jewish reporter is hence a good
or bad idea. “All other things being equal,” he replies, “it is
probably better to send a non-Jew rather than a Jew – just as I would
probably prefer to send a non-Indian to India. It’s better to avoid
that extra component.”
But when I point out that a majority of the Times’ representatives in
Israel in the past 30 years have, in fact, been Jewish, Haberman says:
“You may be surprised to learn that there aren’t as many correspondents
clamoring for the job as Israelis would like to think. Every Times
person in Israel has been subjected to non-stop assault. People realize
that it entails a lot of scrutiny, grief and verbal abuse.”
“We’ve had decades of correspondents that, no matter how different
they’ve been one from the other, no matter how talented they are or how
many Pulitzer Prizes they have to their name, always end up being
accused of being either anti-Semites or self-hating Jews. At some
point, this seeps into the DNA of the newspaper: This is what you can
expect if you go there - to have your integrity hurled back in your
face every single day.”
After a while it became clear to me, he
adds drily, “that if I didn’t want to be accused of hating Israel, I
should start every story with: ‘50 years after 6 million Jews died in
the Holocaust, Israel yesterday did one thing or the other.’”
“Jews still don’t believe that the world won’t turn on them. It’s
hardwired into their systems. They can’t accept that the Holocaust is a
distant memory for most of the world’s population and they get upset
when they are not perceived as perennial victims, even though they
hardly look like victims anymore. But historical memory today is almost
an oxymoron. People hardly remember the Vietnam War, and even 9/11 is a
starting to be a fading memory for younger Americans.”
Haberman recounts how impressed he was by Yitzhak Rabin’s inaugural
speech after his second election as prime minister in 1992, when he
told the Knesset that Israelis “have to stop thinking that the whole
world is against us." These words, Haberman notes, “were like a large
gong for me”, and the phrase even made the front page of the New York
Times. “It was such a dose of reality and such a refreshing change from
Yitzhak Shamir, who kept insisting that the whole world was against us
– all 5 billion of them.”
But that was a brief hiatus, I remind him, and it is Shamir’s view that
has prevailed. “I know,” he sighs. “All there is today is ‘we're under
siege, we’re under siege.’ Israel has built fences and barriers and
walls all around it. It has basically built its own ghetto, its own
Warsaw Ghetto, to keep everybody out.” To which he adds, almost
instinctively: “I know I’m going to get into trouble over that.”
...Haberman recounts the time a Jewish lady in a group he was lecturing
asked him about a report written by a Times reporter called David
Cohen. “I wracked my brains,” he says, “but didn’t know who she was
talking about. But then a light came on in my head and I said: ‘it’s
David Chen, not David Cohen.’ She had subconsciously inserted the O.”
“You better get used to it,” he told his
sheepish questioner, “There are less and less Cohens going into this
business and more and more Chens, and Hus, and Lius.” Part of the
problem of Jews and Israelis who habitually complain about the
‘self-hating Jews’ in American journalism," he adds," is that they are
simply behind the times.
Ariel Sharon 2/26/28-1/11/14
AP Photo/Oded Balilty
How Ariel SharonShaped Israel's Destiny
(Max Blumenthal, The Nation, 1/11/14)
excerpt pasted below related articles
I ask him what surprised him most about Israelis. For someone from the
Upper West Side, he says, it was the diversity of the population and
the coarse and rough day-to-day contact with other people. “But while I
may have eaten better in Rome and Tokyo,” he adds, “Jerusalem was the
most viscerally grabbing city I have lived in, perhaps because I’m
“I could see myself happily living there,” he adds, “if I was in
another line of work, if I didn’t have to involve myself in people’s
miseries and conflicts.” And if he didn’t have to be subjected to the
steady stream of animosity and criticism that seems to come with the
territory, I add, as we say goodbye.
The Sharon Doctrine
(Hussein Ibish, Foreign Affairs.com, 1/11/14)
For most Arabs, no Israeli in history is
more synonymous with violence and Israeli expansionism than Ariel
Sharon. His name quickly conjures the worst massacres, deepest
pro-settlement fanaticism, and most extreme nationalistic provocations
in the Palestinian bill of particulars against Israel. Less readily
appreciated by most Arabs is the complexity of Sharon's legacy and the
important lessons, both positive and negative, his final policies
suggest for peace.
Ariel Sharon, Israeli Hawk Who Sought Peace on His Terms, Dies at 85
(Ethan Bonner, NY Times, 1/11/14)
In many ways, Mr. Sharon’s story was
that of his country. A champion of an iron-fisted, territory-expanding
Zionism for most of his life, he stunned Israel and the world in 2005
with a Nixon-to-China reversal and withdrew all Israeli settlers and
troops from Gaza. He then abandoned his Likud Party and formed a
centrist movement called Kadima focused on further territorial
withdrawal and a Palestinian state next door.
Excerpt fr Max Blumenthal piece linked above:
A central player in Israeli affairs
since the state’s inception, Ariel Sharon molded history according to
his own stark vision. He won consent for his plans through ruthlessness
and guile, and resorted to force when he could not find any. An accused
war criminal who presided over the killing of thousands of civilians,
his foes referred to him as “The Bulldozer.” To those who revered him
as a strong-armed protector and patron saint of the settlements, he was
“The King of Israel.” In a life acted out in three parts, Sharon
destroyed entire cities, wasted countless lives and sabotaged careers
to shape the reality on the ground.
The first act of Sharon’s career began after the 1948 war that
established Israel at the expense of 750,000 Palestinians who were
driven away in a campaign of mass expulsion. Badly wounded in the
battle of Latrun, where the Israeli army suffered a bitter defeat at
the hands of the Royal Jordanian Army, Sharon yearned to finish 1948—to
complete the expulsion project he viewed as deficient.
In 1953, Sharon was appointed the head
of a secret commando unit tasked with carrying out brutal acts of
reprisal and sabotage. Following a lethal Palestinian assault on an
Israeli kibbutz, Sharon led his men into the West Bank town of Qibya
with orders from Ben Gurion’s Central Command to “carry out destruction
and cause maximum damage.” By the time they were done, sixty-nine
civilians—mostly Palestinian women and children—lay dead.
In the years after that scandal, Sharon carried out bloody raids on
Egyptian and Syrian territory that inflamed relations with Israel’s
neighbors and led them to seek urgent military assistance from the
Soviet Union. In the 1956 Sinai Campaign, Sharon was accused by one of
his commanders, Arye Biro, of overseeing the massacre of forty-nine
Egyptian quarry workers who had been taken prisoner and had no role in
the fighting (official censorship kept the details from the public for
decades). In the 1967 Six Day War, Sharon ran up the body count on
encircled Egyptian tank units, converting unprecedented kill ratios
into national fame. With the Gaza Strip now under Israeli control,
Sharon orchestrated the razing of Palestinian citrus orchards to make
way for Jewish colonization.
Appointed minister of agriculture, Sharon exploited his seemingly
insignificant position to bring the messianic project of Greater Israel
to fruition. With unbridled vigor, he expanded the settlement
enterprise across the West Bank, He revealed his strategy in a private
chat with Winston Churchill’s grandson: “We’ll make a pastrami sandwich
out of them. We’ll insert a strip of Jewish settlements in between the
Palestinians, and then another strip of Jewish settlements right across
the West Bank, so that in twenty-five years’ time, neither the United
Nations nor the United States, nobody, will be able to tear it apart.”
Sharon entered the Defense Ministry
consumed with dreams of an Israeli-friendly Christian puppet government
in Beirut—the bulwark of a regional Israeli empire. Clamoring for an
invasion of Lebanon, Sharon withheld his true intentions from everyone
except perhaps Begin, claiming he merely aimed to drive the PLO out of
southern Lebanon, where it had staged periodic raids on Israeli
territory. When Begin green-lighted Operation Peace for Galilee in June
1982, Sharon sent Israeli tanks rumbling towards Beirut without the
approval of the rest of the cabinet, whom Sharon had deliberately
deceived. Many of them were outraged, but it was too late to turn back.
Against fierce Palestinian resistance, one of the Middle East’s most
vital and cosmopolitan cities was laid to ruin. Sharon’s forces
flattened West Beirut with indiscriminate shelling, leaving streets
strewn with unburied corpses. With each passing day, disease and famine
spread at epidemic levels. In August, the day after the Israeli cabinet
accepted US special envoy Philip Habib’s proposal for the evacuation of
the PLO, Sharon’s forces bombarded Beirut for seven hours straight,
leaving 300 dead, most of them civilians. The Israeli sociologist
Baruch Kimmerling wrote that the raid “resembled the attack on Dresden
by the Allies toward the end of World War II.”
An Israeli tank patrols the Gaza border.
PLO forces withdrew from Lebanon but the
worst was yet to come. Sharon had stymied a proposal for the
introduction of multinational peacekeepers capable of preventing
reprisals against the defenseless Palestinian refugees who had been
left behind. Thus the stage was set for the most heinous massacre of
the war. Following the assassination of Bashir Gemayel, the Christian
warlord who was supposed to serve as Sharon’s handpicked puppet
president, Israeli forces helped usher Christian Phalangist militias
into the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Shatila, then surrounded by the
Israeli military, providing them with intelligence and operational
support. Sharon and many of his officers were well aware of the
Phalangists’ intention to murder as many women and children as they
could. After days of slaughter, as many as 2,000 civilians were dead,
with countless others raped and brutalized.
In February 1983, Israel’s Kahan Commission found Sharon “indirectly
responsible” for the massacre, urging his dismissal as defense
In July 2001, a Belgian court opened an inquiry into the Sabra and
Shatila massacre when a group of survivors filed a complaint under the
country’s “universal jurisdiction” guidelines. Elie Hobeika, the
Phalangist commander directly responsible for the killings, was
assassinated months later, after informing Belgian politicians that he
would testify against Sharon. In September 2003, with Belgian relations
with Israel at an all-time low, the Belgian court threw out the case,
citing Sharon’s diplomatic immunity
Above excerpt is from an article that appears in The Nation written by Max Blumenthal.
for full article.
British parliamentarians are calling for an end to the blockade that started five years ago.
Photograph: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images
Time to end Israel's Gaza blockade
(The Guardian UK, 12/27/13)
UK MPs say time to end Israel's Gaza blockade and collective punishment of Palestinians
The MP's letter:
"Today marks five years since the
Israeli military launched missile and ground attacks on Gaza, which
Israel named Operation Cast Lead. According to the UN, 1,383
Palestinians died as a result, including 333 children."
Dore note: according to B'Tselem -
The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied
Territories, Palestinians killed 9 Israelis during the operation.
Another 4 soldiers were killed by friendly fire.
"And what of the survivors? For the 1.7 million living in the tiny Gaza
Strip, life has become increasingly desperate because of Israel's
continuing blockade, backed by Egypt and with no effective challenge
from governments around the world. The blockade has brought electricity
cuts of 16 hours a day, which means the only street lights visible at
night have been those from Israel's nearby towns. The electricity
shortages have severely affected almost all essential services,
including health, water, sanitation and schooling. With waste plants
not operating, Palestinian children have been wading through freezing
sewage to attend school. The terrible floods in Gaza brought the
promise of increased electricity supplies for a few weeks, but the
international community must demand that supply is constant and
This blockade has also resulted in
unacceptable limits on personal freedom. Most Palestinians are
prevented from travelling outside Gaza, an area of 139 sq miles: about
the same size, but much more densely populated, as Newcastle. It is
deplorable for us to allow this continuing collective punishment
against Palestinians in Gaza. We urge the UK government to take
immediate action to bring an end to the blockade on Gaza."
Baroness Blackstone, Peter Bottomley
MP, Richard Burden MP, Martin Caton MP, Katy Clark MP, Michael Connarty
MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Alex Cunningham MP, Lord Dubs, Mark Durkan MP,
Lord Dykes, John Hemming MP, Julian Huppert MP, Lord Hylton, Hugh
Lanning, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Lord Judd, Caroline Lucas MP,
Sir Gerald Kaufman MP, George Mudie MP, Grahame Morris MP, Sandra
Osborne MP, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, Rt Hon Dame Joan Ruddock MP, Andy
Slaughter MP, Baroness Tonge, Yasmin Qureshi MP, David Ward MP, Mike
UNWRA’s Chris Gunness
“Any normal community would struggle to recover from this disaster. But a
community that has been subjected to one of the longest blockades in
human history, whose public health system has been destroyed and where
the risk of disease was already rife, must be freed from these man made
to deal with the impact of a natural calamity such
as this. And of course it is the most vulnerable, the women and
children, the elderly who will pay the highest price of failure to end
The crisis in Gaza is escalating daily,
resulting in even greater suffering for the 1.7 million Palestinians
living under siege in just 365 sq km of land bordering the
Mediterranean. Half of the population are under 18, and two thirds are
Until recently, in an inventive attempt to survive despite Israel’s
brutal blockade, much of Gaza’s food and fuel requirements came through
tunnels dug between Gaza and Egypt. But following the coup, Egypt has
blocked the tunnels and closed the crossing at Rafah (the pedestrian
crossing between Egypt and Gaza) to almost all Palestinians.
Israel, supported by the US, UK and EU, has laid siege to the Gaza
Strip since June 2007. Dov Weissglass, acting as advisor to the Israeli
Prime Minister at the time, clarified the plan was to increase
Palestinian suffering as punishment for delivering a majority to the
Palestinian party Hamas after holding democratic elections in 2006.
“The idea,” he said, “is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to
make them die of hunger.”
Palestinians living in Gaza had already been subjected to severe
restrictions in movement, but the Israeli-led siege increased their
suffering – with even foodstuffs, medicines and educational supplies
Palestinians in Gaza are subject to regular Israeli attacks by air,
land and sea . Farmers in the ‘buffer zone’ have been shot and killed.
Israel arbitrarily imposed a limit of 3km for fishing boats – and has
shot at boats, kidnapping fishermen and taking them to Israel.
Israel’s military attacks on Gaza intensified in winter 08/09, and November 2012.
An Interview with Roger Waters
by Frank Barat, Counterpunch 12/6/13
On 27 December, 2008, Israel launched an air offensive, killing more than 200
Palestinians in the first day, followed by a ground invasion on 3
January 2009. By the time that Israel withdrew its ground troops on 21
January 2009, over 1400 Palestinians had been killed, and 13 Israelis.
Between 14 and 21 November 2012, Israel launched another wave of air
strikes against Gaza. The UN Human Rights Council reported that 174
Palestinians were killed – at least 168 of them by Israeli military
action, including 33 children and 13 women. Six Israelis were
Israel’s blockade also targets reconstruction materials to repair
houses and infrastructure, including sewage pipes, damaged by Israeli
strikes. This means that sewage seeps into the water supply in Gaza,
with raw sewage pumped directly into the sea.
90% of the water in Gaza is unfit for human consumption. Electricity
powercuts are frequent, and fuel shortages are only too common.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC)
PSC campaigns for peace & justice
for Palestinians, in support of international law and human rights
& against all racism. PSC is an independent, non-governmental
and non-party political organisation with members from many communities
across Britain, and increasingly throughout the world.
situation in Israel/ Palestine, with the occupation, the ethnic
cleansing and the systematic racist apartheid Israeli regime is
FB: When did you make the decision to make the Wall tour (that ended in Paris in September 2013) so political ?
RW: The first show was October 14th 2010. I had already decided
to make it much broader politically than it had been in 1979/80. It
could not be just about this whinny little guy who didn’t like his
teachers. It had to be more universal. That’s why ‘fallen loved ones’
came into it (the shows are showing pictures of people that died during
wars) trying to universalise the sense of grief and loss that we all
feel towards family members killed in conflict. Whatever the wars or
the circumstances, they (in the non western world), feel as much lost
as we do. Wars become an important symbol because of that separation
between ‘us and them,’ which is fundamental to all conflicts.
it comes to Palestine, you are very open about your support for a
cultural boycott of Israel. People opposing this tactic say that
culture should not be boycotted. What would you answer to that?
RW: I would say that I understand their opinion. Everybody should have
one. But I can’t agree with them, I think that they are entirely wrong.
The situation in Israel/ Palestine, with the occupation, the ethnic
cleansing and the systematic racist apartheid Israeli regime is
unacceptable. So for an artist to go and play in a country that
occupies other people’s land and oppresses them the way Israel does, is
plain wrong. They should say no. I would not have played for the Vichy
government in occupied France in the Second World War, I would not have
played in Berlin either during this time. Many people did, back in the
day. There were many people that pretended that the oppression of the
Jews was not going on. From 1933 until 1946. So this is not a new
scenario. Except that this time it’s the Palestinian People being
murdered. It’s the duty of every thinking human being to ask: “What can
I do?”. Anybody who looks at the situation will see that if you choose
not to take up arms to fight your oppressor, the non violent route, and
the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (B.D.S) movement, which started in
Palestine with 100% support from Palestinian civil society in
2004-2005, a movement that has now been joined by many people around
the world, the global civil society, is a legitimate form of resistance
to this brutal and oppressive regime. I have nearly finished Max
Blumenthal’s book "Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel"
It’s a chilling read. It’s extremely well written in my view. He is a
very good journalist and takes great pains to make sure that what he
writes is correct. He also gives a voice to the other side. The voice,
for instance, of the right wing rabbinate, which is so bizarre and hard
to hear that you can hardly believe that it’s real. They believe some
very weird stuff you know, they believe that everybody that is not a
Jew is only on earth to serve them and they believe that the Indigenous
people of the region that they kicked off the land in 1948 and have
continued to kick off the land ever since are sub-human. The parallels
with what went on in the 30’s in Germany are so crushingly obvious that
it doesn’t surprise me that the movement that both you and I are
involved in is growing every day. The Russell Tribunal on Palestine was
trying to shed light on this when we met, I only took part in two
sessions, you took part in many more. It is an extremely obvious and
fundamental problem of human rights which every thinking human being
should apply himself to.
scary thing is that the extreme Rabbinate you were talking about with
the extreme right wing views about the Palestinians and the non-Jews
are having a more and more prominent place in terms of the Israeli
society, regime and power structure and that is very scary.
I wanted to follow up on the Cultural
Boycott. You could, as many others do, I guess enjoy the benefits of
your success and lead a quiet, at least politically, non-controversial
life. Why do you do it but more importantly why do you think not more
people are doing it? Why a lot of artists who often take position
against wars, why don’t they touch Palestine?
RW: Well, where I live, in the USA, I think, A: they are frightened and
B: I think the propaganda machine that starts in Israeli schools and
that continues through all the Netanyahu’s bluster is poured all over
the United States, not just Fox but also CNN and in fact in all the
mainstream media. It’s like a huge bucket of crap that they are pouring
into the mouth of a gullible public in my view, when they say “we are
afraid of Iran, it is going to get nuclear weapons…”. It’s a
diversionary tactic. The lie that they have told for the last 20 years
is “Oh, we want to make peace” and they talk about Clinton and Arafat
and Barak being in Camp David and that they came very close to
agreeing, and the story that they sold was “Oh Arafat fucked it all
up”. Well, no, he did not. This is not the story. The fact of the
matter is no Israeli government has been serious about creating a
Palestinian state since 1948. They’ve always had the Ben Gurion agenda
of kicking all the Arabs out of the country and becoming greater
Israel. They tell a lie as part of their propaganda machinery whilst
doing the other thing but they have been doing it so obviously in the
last 10 years . For instance, even after when Obama went to Cairo and
made that speech about Arabs and the Israelis, everybody was like “Oh,
this is a step in a new direction at least”. But as soon as he visited
Israel, they said. “Oh by the way, we are building another 1200
settlements”. Exactly the same when Kerry went last year saying, “Oh I
am going to try to get the sides together and talk peace”. Netanhayu
said “Fuck you. We are going to build another 1500 settlements..”
Is AIPAC losing its clout?
It is a very complicated situation which
is why you and I and all the other people in the world who care about
their brothers and sisters and not just about the people of our own
faith, our own colour, our own race or our own whatever, have to stand
in solidarity shoulder to shoulder. This has been a very hard sell
particularly where I live in the United States of America. The Jewish
lobby is extraordinary powerful here and particularly in the industry
that I work in, the music industry and in rock’n roll as they say. I
promise you, naming no names, I’ve spoken to people who are terrified
that if they stand shoulder to shoulder with me they are going to get
fucked. They have said to me “aren’t you worried for your life?” and I
go “No, I’m not”. A few years ago, I was touring and 9/11 happened in
the middle of the tour and 2 or 3 people in my band who happened to be
United States citizens wouldn’t come on the next leg of the tour. I
said “ why not? Don’t you like the music anymore?” and they replied
“no, we love the music but we are Americans and it’s too dangerous for
us to travel abroad, they are trying to kill us” and I thought “Wow!”.
You know that Shuki Weiss (preeminent Israeli promoter) was offering me
a hundred thousand people at hundred dollars a ticket a few months ago
to come and play in Tel Aviv! “Hang on, that’s 10 million dollars”, how
could they offer it to me?! And I thought Shuki are you fucking deaf or
just dumb?! I am part of the BDS movement, I’m not going anywhere in
Israel, for any money, all I would be doing would be legitimizing the
policies of the government.
If eyes are going to be opened (people) need to either visit the
Holy land, visit the West Bank or Gaza or even visit Israel or any
single checkpoint anywhere and see what it’s like. All they would need
to do is visit or, read, read a book! Check out the history. Read Max
is an English rock musician, singer-songwriter, & composer. Best
known as bass player, co-lead vocalist, lyricist & principal
songwriter in Pink Floyd. He tweets @rogerwaters
Frank Barat is one of the producers of "The Wall has ears, conversation for Palestine."
Two recent defeats bode well for emerging Jewish activist groups
such as Bay Area's Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) (12/14/13)
John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, co-authors of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy
wrote in a March 2006 essay
"Jewish Americans have set up an impressive array of organisations to
influence American foreign policy, of which AIPAC (American Israel
Public Affairs Committee aka "America's Pro Israel Lobby") is the most
powerful and best known. In 1997, Fortune magazine asked members
of Congress and their staffs to list the most powerful lobbies in
Washington. AIPAC was ranked second behind the American Association of
Retired People, but ahead of the AFL-CIO and the National Rifle
Association. A National Journal study in March 2005 reached a similar
conclusion, placing AIPAC in second place (tied with AARP) in the
Washington ‘muscle rankings’.
AIPAC forms the core of the Lobby’s influence in Congress. Its success
is due to its ability to reward legislators and congressional
candidates who support its agenda, and to punish those who challenge
But is AIPAC losing its clout?
Two recent defeats bode well for emerging Jewish activist groups such as Bay Area's Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)
Below are two excerpted emails I received this week from Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP):
The Prawer Plan has been cancelled!
We've just received the welcome news that the Prawer Plan to forcibly
relocate over 40,000 Israeli Bedouin from their ancestral lands is no
longer under consideration by the Israeli Knesset. The recent
demonstrations on both sides of the Green Line, and throughout the
world, succeeded in raising enough doubt about this plan to help take
it off the table.
Your voices, in concert with the Bedouin communities in the Negev,
Jewish-Israeli activists, and the unanimous Palestinian resistance,
revealed the plan’s lack of integrity and accountability. We now know, if and when a future plan is developed, we have the ability to stop it in its tracks.
As we celebrate the Prawer Plan being scrapped, we understand that this victory is temporary.
This does not mean the Bedouin
communities in the Negev will be treated as equal citizens, or hooked
up to the basic services they require, or have their ancestral land
claims be recognized. Dozens of Bedouin villages remain unrecognized by
the Israeli government, lacking basic infrastructure such as water,
sewage, and electricity, and Bedouins continue to be forbidden from
building, buying or selling a home, receiving full government services,
or running for or voting in local government elections. Many Bedouin
homes and villages are still slated for demolition (the village of
Al-Araqib has already been demolished over 60 times).
Now more than ever, the Union for Reform Judaism
and all of us, must continue to raise our moral voice in favor of equal
rights for the Bedouin and recognition of their ancestral land claims.
We can exhale for now, with relief the Prawer Plan is no more, and then
take a new breath and get ready to continue the work to ensure that the
Negev Bedouin, and all people in the region, have what they need to
Rabbi Alissa Wise
Jewish Voice for Peace
1611 Telegraph Ave, Suite 550
Oakland, CA 94612
AIPAC's Visa Waiver!
Arnon Milchan, center, with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in 2005. Photo by Reuters
Hollywood tycoon Arnon Milchan opens up about past
The House of Representatives left DC for
the year just hours ago, and with it they left behind a terrible bill.
The US-Israel Strategic Partnership Act included admission for Israel
into the US Visa Waiver Program, which would have codified in US law
the right for Israel to discriminate against US citizens on the basis
of religion or ethnicity.
And now that bill is dead!
Jewish Voice for Peace
supporters, working in coalition, played a critical role in this victory:
• Over the past few months, JVP chapter-led
delegations met with their members of Congress in 23 cities to argue
against the bill
• Over 10,000 thousand JVP supporters signed a petition to the State Department
• Hundreds more participated in call-ins
And it worked! Congress just let the bill die without even a vote on the floor of the House or Senate.
The significance of our win cannot be overstated.
As you know, Arab and Muslim Americans are systematically targeted for
harassment, detention, searches, delays, and deportation when trying to
enter Israel. Including Israel in the Visa Waiver program with 37 other
countries would have tacitly approved and rewarded Israel's
The influential Israel lobby group
AIPAC made the bill one of its top priorities for 2013, but it didn't
even get out of committee. AIPAC lost this fight. They lost their fight
against diplomacy with Iran. And they lost the fight on bombing
The lesson here? We can fight AIPAC, and we can win.
P.S This work takes people, time and money. If you are inspired, please make a gift
as Israeli arms dealer andd secret agent
(Allison Kaplan Sommer, Haaretz, 11/26/13)
note: free registration required to access some stories
related Haaretz stories fr 2011-2013:
Did Hollywood bigwigs help Israel buy arms in the 1970's and '80's?
Longtime Hollywod film producer Arnon Milchan says they did
Israeli spy turned Hollywood producer rejects attempts to turn his story into a film
(Haaretz and Yossi Melman, 4/2/12)
Will your book on Arnon Milchan hurt Israeli security? An interview with author Meir Doron (Yossi Melman, Haaretz 7/20/11)
'Hollywood prodcuer was an Israeli nuclear agent'
According to a new biography, Arnon Milchan,
close friend of Israeli prime ministers and Hollywood stars,
was recruited by Shimon Peres to purchase equipment for Israel's nuclear program.
(Yossi Melman, Harretz 7/18/11
The Israeli investigative program “Uvda”
broadcast its season premiere telling the story behind the glitzy
career of one of the most influential figures in Hollywood: Arnon
Milchan, who led a double life as a longtime weapons dealer and
Israeli intelligence agent who purchased equipment for Israel's nuclear
program. He is also the Israeli producer of such hit movies as
"Pretty Woman," “Fight Club” and “L.A. Confidential.”
Though it wasn’t the first time
Milchan’s double life as an arms dealer and Israeli intelligence
operative has been reported, it was the first time the Israeli-born
Milchan, a multi-billionaire, discussed it openly in front of the
cameras, and the first time some of the movie stars and studio
executives who know him spoke about it on the record.
The show traced Milchan's career from the late '60s and early '70s,
when he was a young and successful businessman in the United States who
had a close relationship with Shimon Peres. At the time, Peres was in
the midst of creating the Dimona nuclear reactor, and Milchan began
helping in the effort to acquire equipment and knowledge for Israel’s
nuclear project through the secretive agency Lakam, Israel’s Bureau of
“Do you know what it was like to be a 20-something guy whose
country decided to let him be James Bond? Wow! The action! That was
exciting,” Milchan said. "Uvda" reporter Ilana Dayan described how
Milchan would set up bank accounts and companies, all used to acquire
material and equipment for the agency, while working for spy masters
Rafi Eitan and Benjamin Blumberg. Dayan reported that at the peak of
Milchan's activity, he was operating 30 companies in 17 different
In the 1970s, Milchan brokered deals for hundreds of millions of
dollars between Israel and U.S. companies for helicopters, missiles and
other equipment, "Uvda" reported.
The "Uvda" report does, however,
contain new details about Milchan's work, including claims that
other Hollywood bigwigs like the legendary, late director Sydney
Pollack, the director of “Tootsie” and “Out of Africa,” and at least
one other Academy Award-winning actor, both figured into his work for
Israel. The report reveals that Pollack acquired arms and other
military equipment for Israel in the 1970s.
Milchan also tells Dayan that he used at least one big-name actor's
star quality to lure U.S. scientist Arthur Biehl – an expert on nuclear
weapons and a co-developer of the hydrogen bomb – to a meeting.
According to the report, Milchan invited Biehl to the actor's home
under the pretense that the actor was seeking scientific advice for a
project he was working on.
Milchan said he thought Biehl would cooperate because, "Anyone who
lives in California is a 'star-fucker…' They hear 'star'…they come
The show revealed that Milchan convinced a German engineer to take home
classified documents from a safe where he worked: plans that detailed
how to construct a nuclear facility that Israel desperately needed but
that no state would share for any amount of money. Saying the engineer
"couldn't be bought," Milchan said he persuaded him to leave them on a
table and went out to dinner with his wife on the understanding that
someone would enter the house and photograph them.
The acquisition of nuclear triggers for
Israel by Milchan's company Milco was what nearly got him into serious
trouble when the FBI discovered that they were shipped to Israel
without the proper licensing, which led to the 1985 indictment of
aerospace executive Richard Kelly Smyth, who used one of Milchan’s
companies to ship triggers to Israel.
After the trigger incident, which was followed by the 1986 arrest of
Jonathan Pollard for spying on behalf of Israel, Israel's Bureau of
Scientific Relations was shut down.
Milchan also admitted to having used his Hollywood and media
connections to help the South African apartheid regime in its attempts
to polish its international image, in exchange for helping Israel
When Milchan’s friends and business associates were asked if the rumors
of his activities on behalf of Israel’s military had done anything to
tarnish his reputation in the entertainment industry, they said no.,
adding that the success of his films and his personal charm trumped any
misgivings. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch told Dayan: “Hollywood is a very
Jewish industry. Very pro-Israel. Many would honor him for it. Others
might be a bit frightened by it, but that’s all right.”
"Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan"
, released last year by Gefen Books, contains numerous disclosures about Milchan's involvement in Israel's nuclear program.
Writers Meir Doron and Joseph Gelman say the book is not an authorized
or official biography, and was in fact only shown to Milchan after it
Last year, Doron and Gelman told Haaretz
what they believe to be the most important disclosure of the book: "The
hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars paid in commissions for
defense deals between Israel and the United States. They were deposited
in secret bank accounts all over the world and used to fund Israeli
espionage activities abroad. The money in these accounts paid for
operations that helped Israel to obtain materials, technologies and
equipment that turned it into a nuclear power, with the fifth biggest
nuclear arsenal in the world.”
Bedouin children walk to school in the Negev desert.
"Prime ministers and defense ministers and finance ministers came and
went, but there was only one 'treasurer' of Israel's secret espionage
budget - Arnon Milchan. He collected commission fees from American
security firms that were deposited in the bank accounts of various
companies he set up in several countries where Israeli spy agencies
operate," said Doron and Gelman.
"The investigation into Milchan's life took us all over the world. To
apartheid South Africa and an atomic experiment carried out there by
Israel near the South Pole. To Iran in the era of the Shah and an
almost fantastical project in collaboration with the CIA that Milchan
was involved in. We found Milchan's 'fingerprints' in California, where
a company called Milco had been set up and that obtained technologies,
materials and equipment for the Dimona nuclear reactor and for the
Jericho missiles. We were amazed to discover that the company had
recruited some of the best nuclear experts in the United States, who in
effect worked for Israel."
"We believe Milchan acted out of patriotism. But he also saw great
profits, from transactions that were not carried out for the Israeli
government, including in Iran, South Africa and Taiwan, deals that he
might not otherwise have obtained. His companies made millions from
Photograph: Karen Robinson
Brits protest over Israel plan to remove 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins
More than 50 public figures including Julie Christie and Brian Eno
put names to letter opposing expulsion from historic land
(Harriet Sherwood, Guardian UK, 11/29/13)
More than 50 public figures in Britain,
including high-profile artists, musicians and writers, have put their
names to a letter opposing an Israeli plan to forcibly remove up to
70,000 Palestinian Bedouins from their historic desert land – an act
condemned by critics as ethnic cleansing.
The letter, published in the Guardian, is part of a day of protest on
Saturday in Israel, Palestine and two dozen other countries over an
Israeli parliamentary bill that is expected to get final approval by
the end of this year.
The eviction and destruction of about 35 "unrecognised" villages in the
Negev desert will, the letter says, "mean the forced displacement of
Palestinians from their homes and land, and systematic discrimination
The signatories – who include the artist Antony Gormley, the actor
Julie Christie, the film director Mike Leigh and the musician Brian Eno
– are demanding that the British government holds Israel to account
over its human rights record and obligations under international law.
According to Israel, the aims of the Prawer Plan – named after the head
of a government commission, Ehud Prawer – are economic development of
the Negev desert and the regulation of Palestinian Bedouins living in
villages not recognised by the state.
The population of these villages will be removed to designated towns,
while plans for new Jewish settlements in the area are enacted.
But Adalah, a human rights and legal centre for Arabs in Israel, says:
"The real purpose of the legislation [is] the complete and final
severance of the Bedouin's historical ties to their land."
The "unrecognised" villages in the Negev, whose populations range from
a few hundred to 2,000, lack basic services such as running water,
electricity, landline telephones, roads, high schools and health
clinics. Some consist of a few shacks and animal pens made from
corrugated iron; others include concrete houses and mosques built
without necessary but unobtainable permission.
The Bedouin comprise about 30% of the
Negev's population but their villages take up only 2.5% of the land.
Before the state of Israel was created in 1948 they roamed widely
across the desert; now, two-thirds of the region has been designated as
military training grounds and firing ranges.
A member of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) speaks into a microphone
Under the Prawer Plan, between 40,000 and 70,000 of the remaining
Bedouin – who became Israeli citizens in the 1950s – will be moved into
seven over-crowded, impoverished, crime-ridden state-planned towns. The
Israeli government says it is an opportunity for Bedouins to live in
modern homes, take regular jobs and send their children to mainstream
schools. They will be offered compensation to move, it adds.
Miranda Pennell, a film-maker and one of the letter's signatories,
said: "Citizenship counts for nothing in Israel if you happen to be an
Arab. Tens of thousands of Palestinian Bedouin are being forcibly
displaced from their homes and lands. At the same time, there are
Israeli government advertisements on the web that promise you funding
as a British immigrant to come and live in 'vibrant communities' in the
Negev – if you are Jewish. This is ethnic cleansing."
The actor David Calder said: "The Israeli state not only practices
apartheid against the Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian
territories, but it seems they have no hesitation in practicing
apartheid on their own citizens – in this instance, the Bedouins. When
is the west going to find these actions intolerable?"
urging people to join their fight against the regime, in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.
Al-Qaeda's battle for hearts and minds in Syria
Al-Qaeda spreads its gospel in market places and mosques in Syria
as it steps up bid to turn country into new caliphate
(Ruth Sherlock, Kilis, Turkey; Telegraph U.K. 11/20/13)
Al-Qaeda is waging a campaign to
indoctrinate civilians across northern Syria in a fundamentalist
interpretation of Islam, the first step in its ambition to build an
Behind the front lines of the war with the Assad regime, in towns and
villages in rebel-held Syria, the group is quietly working to impose
its ideology, sending its imams to preach in mosques, banning smoking
and beard-trimming and telling women to wear the burka.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Jabhat Al-Nusra –
both linked to al-Qaeda – first became known in the insurgency for
being some of the toughest and best equipped fighters.
For many months, they insisted that toppling President Bashar al-Assad
– not gaining an ideological foothold in Syria – was their immediate
goal. But a week of interviews by The Telegraph with members of
al-Qaeda, civilians living in Syrian towns and villages now under their
rule, and with other rebel fighters in the areas, reveals the
sophisticated strategy that the extremists are using to try to change
the nature of Syrian society.
Speaking from a safe house in Turkey
close to the border, Abu Abdullah, a Jordanian member of the ISIL, said
he had come to “apply Shariah, the rule of Allah” to Syria.
“We do this from the roots up; going through the educational process –
typing out a new syllabus for children in schools, and in the mosques
at Friday prayers,” he said. “We are putting them on the right track of
This regimen, al-Qaeda’s project for the future Syria, is most evident
in Raqqa, in the north-east, and in Dana, close to the Turkish border,
two towns where ISIL rules uncontested.
“They are imposing more and more new rules in the city every day,” said
Ahmed, a resident of Raqqa, who did not want to be identified by his
full name for fear of recrimination. “Last week ISIL put up signs all
round the city giving the order that all women 'must cover their
beauty’ including wearing a head covering. They gave a deadline of four
days by which time everyone had to be covered. There are jihadists in
the market handing out hijabs to passers-by.”
Raqqa’s residents have traditionally observed a moderate form of Islam.
It was not uncommon for women to be seen in public without the veil, or
even wearing skinny jeans. It had also been a hub for Syria’s more
Now, women are told not to visit male
doctors, speak to men outside the family, or even leave the house
unaccompanied by a man. The jihadists are trying to shut down the
mixed-sex schools, local people reported.
In Dana, the group has banned smoking, all shops must close at prayer
times and barbers are forbidden from trimming beards, local residents
Children are taught the new religious practices, and the society operates under the control of the Islamic court.
Signs have emerged warning that thieves will have their hands cut off as punishment for stealing.
Over the past year, the group has positioned itself, strategically, in
towns in Syria close to the Turkish border. From these hubs, its
members have dispatched emissaries to villages across the region,
trying to ensure that no population centre is left without its
Another member of ISIL, agreed to meet The Daily Telegraph in a hotel
in a small town in Turkey close to the border. Using the name Abu
Mohammed, he said he joined ISIL as soon as the foreign “brothers” came
to Syria because he agreed with their ambitions to build an Islamic
Violently sectarian, Abu Mohammed proclaimed that Alawites – the Shia
Muslim sect to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs – had “no place
It was these views that al-Qaeda was spreading, he said. And to do it
the group was taking to Syria its most eloquent speakers. “We are
sending our sheikhs and imams every week to the mosques in all the
liberated areas,” he added.
The preachers, many of whom operated in
Iraq during the 2003 invasion, are trained in grabbing the attention of
the crowds, in winning their support and whipping them into a frenzy.
Citrus farmer Yusuf Jilal
Arafat stands in front of his home, in which his 5-year-old daughter
Runan was killed when 10 Israeli missiles struck this mostly
agricultural area in the Al Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City, December
2, 2012. Arafat’s wife, four months pregnant, and 8-year-old son Jilal
(black shirt) were found alive in the rubble. His children now suffer
from frequent panic attacks at night. Arafat does not know why his home
was targeted, as no rockets were launched from the area.
In the rural plains of northern Syria, where education levels are low, the speeches are working to great effect.
“I sat in the sermon when one of their sheikhs came to my village
in Idlib,” said a Syrian man who used a pseudonym, Mahmoud.
“He blamed this war on the 'kaffers’, accusing Alawites and the West.
But his speech was eloquent and powerful. The next week when he came
back a bigger crowd had come to the mosque. The week after he had won
Abu Mohammed was confident ISIL would win. “For 40 years we have been slaves to the regime,” he said.
“When we teach Islam you find old men and women cramming into the
classes with the children; this is something they have been missing for
40 years. They want to breathe the Koran.”
With alliances in a constant flux in the Syrian war, it is impossible
to quantify exactly how much terrain groups linked to al-Qaeda fully
control. However, analysts say that, where just over a year ago they
were alien to Syria, they now have “influence in most towns and
villages” in the north of the country.
Charles Lister, a defence analyst for Janes said “The problem is, for
now, ISIL is simply too powerful for civilians to rise up against, and
even for the more moderate groups to fight.”
(photo by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)
A year after 'Pillar of Defense' the nightmare continues
year after 165 Palestinians and 6 israelis were killed, political
leaders have yet to conduct independent, impartial investigations into
allegations of human rights violations.
(Yonatan Gher, +972blog, 11/16/13)
On 21 November 2012, 13-year-old Mahmoud
Abu Khousa was killed when he was struck by a missile fired by an
Israeli drone as he walked to a shop down the road from his home in the
al-Manara area of Gaza City.
Delegates from Amnesty International’s International Secretariat examined the site
of the missile strike a few days later. The missile struck Mahmoud on a wide road
with good visibility from above. Israeli aerial surveillance
should have been able to see that he was a child. Witnesses said there
were no evident military targets in the vicinity at the time.
Mahmoud was killed on the last day of an eight-day conflict between the Israeli military and Palestinian armed groups
in the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces had launched Operation Pillar of
Defense on 14 November 2012 by killing the leader of the military wing
of Hamas, following unlawful attacks by both sides in the preceding
Within just over a week, more than 165 Palestinians, including
more than 30 children and some 70 other civilians who were not directly
participating in hostilities, and six Israelis, including four
civilians, were killed. A ceasefire was reached on the evening of 21
The Israeli military has not commented on the killing of Mahmoud
in any of 18 strikes documented by Amnesty International, in which
civilians were killed by Israeli drone-fired missiles during that
Tens of thousands of Gazans fled their homes during the conflict.
While the majority of these families were able to return to their homes
after the ceasefire, they still struggle with the trauma of having had
to flee, often under fire. Hundreds of families in Gaza remain
displaced because their homes
were destroyed in the conflict. A year on, most have been unable
to rebuild because of the continuing Israeli restrictions on the import
of construction materials into Gaza.
In Israel, too, civilians bore the brunt of the conflict.
Palestinian armed groups fired more than 1,500 rockets and mortars
during the eight days. The vast majority of these weapons were
indiscriminate, meaning that they were not capable of being directed at
military targets and therefore their use violated international
One year after the fighting, neither side has conducted independent and impartial investigations into allegations of violations.
Israel’s Military Advocate General has received scores of
complaints from Palestinian and Israeli NGOs, including cases of
civilians who were killed in attacks which may well have been war
crimes, but has yet to open a single criminal investigation to Amnesty
Syrian Kurds with a PKK flag protest against the construction of a wall along the border.
The Hamas de facto administration in the
Gaza Strip has not conducted investigations of any kind into violations
of international humanitarian law by Palestinian armed groups during
The lack of accountability for serious violations of
international humanitarian law, including war crimes, is systemic and
goes well beyond the November 2012 conflict.
Israeli violations in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank
continue on a daily basis, including regular use of lethal force
against Palestinian civilians posing no threat to Israeli forces.
The fear of more bloodshed hangs like a dark cloud over men,
women and children who feel trapped in a cycle of violations fueled by
a climate of impunity. And if the fear of more deadly attacks wasn’t
bad enough, those living in Gaza have to contend with the disastrous
effects of Israel’s continuing land, sea and air blockade of the
territory, together with restrictions imposed by Egypt. Gazans lack
safe drinking water, face 12-hour power outages on a daily basis, and
many struggle to access basic necessities such as adequate food and
These hardships were compounded on November 1 of this year when
Gaza’s sole power plant was forced to shut down due to lack of fuel,
further jeopardizing vital health and sanitation services.
“The world has forgotten Gaza, its women and children. The
blockade is as bad as the war; it’s like a slow death for everyone in
Gaza. We are paying the price for disputes between different powers.
The world haslost its humanity,” ‘Attiyeh Abu Khousa, Mahmoud’s father, told Amnesty International last week.
The world continues to look the other way when it comes to the blockade
on Gaza, which collectively punishes 1.7 million civilians. This stark
violation of international law has been allowed to continue for more
than six years. Unless Israeli and Palestinian leaders demonstrate
political will to protect civilians –on both sides – the cycle of
violations will become a recurring nightmare. And unless the
international community ensures that ending human rights abuses and
impunity for crimes under international law are prioritized, a just and
enduring resolution of the conflict will remain elusive.
Yonatan Gher is the Director of Amnesty International Israel.
For additional original analysis and breaking news, visit +972 Magazine's Facebook page
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Photograph: Mehmet Engin/AFP/Getty Images
Turkey's new border wall angers Kurds on both sides of Syrian divide
Locals shocked at building of 'unnecessary and divisive' new border wall,
which they claim risks Kurdish peace talks
(Constanze Letsch in Nusaybin, on the Turkey-Syria border; Guardian UK, 11/8/13)
The Turkish authorities have started
erecting a wall on the frontier with Syria in what is being seen as an
attempt to divide the Kurdish majority populations on both sides of the
border, prompting protests and hunger strikes, and jeopardising peace
Without informing the local government in the town of Nusaybin in
south-eastern Turkey, the authorities sent in construction crews
recently to start erecting a two-metre-high wall on the border with
Qamishli in north-eastern Syria. The sudden building project is stoking
fears that more walls are planned.
The Nusaybin mayor, Ayse Gökkan, has spent several days on a "death
fast" at the site this week in protest at what she calls the "wall of
shame". About 50 others joined the hunger strike, according to local
reports, and a big protest march is planned against alleged
According to Turkish newspaper reports on Friday morning, the wall
construction has been stopped temporarily and mayor has stopped her
The Turkish interior ministry said last
month the wall was being built "for security reasons", and to curb
smuggling and illegal crossings, allegations that Kurdish community
leaders on both sides of the frontier dispute strongly.
"There have never been fire fights across this border," Gökkan said.
"The terrain is completely flat and can be easily monitored. There are
landmines. This is probably the safest bit of our border with Syria."
"Why do they not build walls further west, where rebel fighters and
al-Qaida are allowed to cross the border freely?" Gökkan asked.
All Gökkan's inquiries to ministries and government offices went
unanswered. "I learned about the wall from the newspapers," she said.
Most locals strongly oppose what they see as an attempt to divide their
community. "We don't call it Nusaybin and Qamishli, or Turkey and
Syria," said one woman who wished to remain anonymous. "It has always
been 'this side of the fence' and 'the other side of the fence'. We are
all inter-married, we all have family on the other side. Many have dual
citizenship. This wall is an effort to separate Kurds in the region,
and nothing else."
The mayor warned that the anti-Kurdish move could sabotage ongoing
peace talks between Ankara and the Kurdish militants of the PKK aimed
at ending the 30-year-old Kurdish insurgency in Turkey.
"The wall is a declaration of war against Kurds by the Turkish
government," she said. "What kind of peace are they trying to achieve
by driving a wall between us?"
Many on both sides of the frontier see
the wall as the latest evidence of perceived Turkish government support
for Islamist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of
Iraq and the Levant who have been attacking Kurdish villages in Syria,
killing and displacing thousands, while also fighting the Assad regime.
In Syria, Palestinian Refugees Made Refugees Again
(Matt Surrusco, The Daily Beast, 1018/13)
Many Syrian Kurds who have fled to Turkey are angry too.
"We don't want this," a 56-year-old woman explained. "It is reassuring
to know that the rest of your family is right there in Qamishli. The
wall would cut us off completely from our relatives. Three of my
daughters are still in Syria."
" Ismail Boubi, head of a local Syrian-Turkish aid organisation who
fled Syria for Nusaybin 14 years ago, demanded that the wall be halted,
the minefields cleared and the barbed wire dismantled.
"The construction of the wall demolishes democracy. This is not what we need."
With Syria's civil war entering its
third year, 2 million Syrians are displaced internally while nearly
730,000 are refugees living outside Syria. But for the half million
Palestinian refugees who have lived in Syria since 1948, the situation
is even more dire. Jordan denies them refuge as a matter of policy, and
Lebanon restricts entry by a visa fee that Syrian refugees are not
required to pay.
Palestinians are running out of places to go.
More than half of the Palestinian residents of Syria have been
displaced, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency
(UNRWA), the U.N. agency that provides aid and services to 5 million
Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
Speaking from Amman, UNRWA deputy commissioner Margot Ellis recounted a
recent trip to Lebanon, where she visited a family of 23 Palestinians
from Syria who lived in a two-room apartment in the Shatila refugee
camp. They had to sleep in shifts because there wasn't enough room for
everyone to lie down at the same time. Lebanon has allowed in more
Palestinians from Syria than any other country, but it already hosted
490,000 refugees descended from those who fled in 1948.
(Dore Stein note: For Palestinians, 1948 marks the 'Nakba' or the
'catastrophe', when hundreds of thousands were forced out of their
The vast majority is denied citizenship or the right to work in nearly
every profession. They are dependent on international aid.
Jordan hosts the most Palestinian
refugees, with 2 million from the generations displaced in 1948 and
1967, and their descendants. But while nearly 400,000 Syrians have
found refuge in Jordan, the government has officially denied entry to
the Palestinians amongst them since January, citing security concerns
and the country's delicate demographic balance. The 9,200 Palestinian
refugees from Syria who did cross the border into Jordan have been held
in separate facilities, with local relatives prevented from obtaining
In dozens of cases, Palestinians have been sent back to Syria, against
the international norm of non-refoulement, or the principle of not
sending refugees back to the place they are fleeing due to persecution
Last year Israel offered West Bank residency to Palestinian refugees
from Syria, but only on condition they renounce their claim to refugee
status, meaning they would lose the right to UNRWA aid and give up
their right of return. Palestinians have not taken Israel up on its
“Without a just resolution of the refugee question in the context of a
negotiated Palestinian-Israeli settlement, Palestinians have nowhere to
go,” Ellis said.
First flying from Damascus to Cairo, 1,500 Palestinians from Syria have
gone to Gaza, where 67 percent of the standing refugee population of
1.2 million lives with food insecurity. About 6,000 Palestinians
fleeing Syria have stayed in Egypt and less than 1,600 went to Turkey,
both countries in
which UNRWA has no mandate.
The only other alternative is to remain in Syria and risk being killed.
Where Palestinian refugees once lived in large concentrations in Syria, now there are “ghost camps,” Ellis said.
In December 2012, fighting spilled into
the Yarmouk camp, a suburb south of Damascus and once home to the
largest Palestinian refugee population in Syria. Since then, Ellis
said, Yarmouk’s refugee population has declined by approximately
Human Rights Watch New Report on Syria
"You Can Still See Their Blood:
87 percent—from 160,000 to 20,000 or fewer.
Syrian government and opposition forces control different entry points
and areas inside the camp, which has compelled Palestinians to flee.
This phenomenon has been replicated in six of Syria’s 12 UNRWA camps,
where staff members no longer
In a single day in April, Ellis said 6,000 people were displaced from
Ein el-Tal, an unofficial camp near Aleppo, after armed groups swept
through the camp.
“If we can't get access, we can't help Palestinians in need,” she said.
Palestinians call their displacement from Syria “a second Nakba,” Ellis
said. The first Nakba, or catastrophe, was when Palestinians were
displaced in 1948.
But whereas in 1948 Syria greeted them with open arms, today their
adopted home is a war zone and the other Arab states that once welcomed
them are turning them away.
If Israel and the Palestinians reached a two-state solution, there
would be more flight options for Palestinian refugees, Ellis said.
“Palestinians would know what their future held.”
Until that happens, Palestinian refugees are apt to be made refugees many times over.
Executions, Indiscriminate Shootings, and Hostage Taking by Opposition Forces in Latakia Countryside"
(Click to view report, 10/10/13)
Click to View Human Rights Watch Video
Some of the Report's Findings:
Armed opposition groups in Syria killed
at least 190 civilians and seized over 200 hostages during a
military offensive that began in rural Latakia governorate on August
4. At least 67 of the victims were executed or unlawfully killed
in the operation around pro-government Alawite villages.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) Syria researcher Lama Fakih stated that taking
these Alawite villages in Latakia countryside would be a shot into the
heartland of Assad's stronghold. These villages are on the front line
of what is increasingly sectarian war between government forces and
The HRW Report
report presents evidence that the civilians were killed on August 4,
the first day of the operation. Two opposition groups that took part in
the offensive, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham and Jaish
al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, are still holding the hostages, the vast
majority women and children. The findings strongly suggest that the
killings, hostage taking, and other abuses rise to the level of war
crimes and crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said.
“These abuses were not the actions of rogue fighters,” said Joe Stork, acting Middle East director
at Human Rights Watch
. “This operation was a coordinated, planned attack on the civilian population in these Alawite villages.”
To provide victims a measure of justice, the UN Security Council should
immediately refer Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC),
Human Rights Watch said. Human Rights Watch has also documented war
crimes and crimes against humanity by Syrian government forces.
For the report, Human Rights Watch
conducted an on-site investigation and interviewed more than 35 people,
including residents who survived the offensive, emergency response
staff, and fighters and activists on both government and opposition
Human Rights Watch found that at least 20 distinct armed opposition
groups participated in the operation. It is not clear whether all
or most of these groups were in the villages on August 4 when the vast
majority of abuses apparently took place.
However, five groups that were the key fund-raisers, organizers, and
executors of the attacks were clearly present from the outset of the
operation on August 4: Ahrar al-Sham, Islamic State of Iraq and Sham,
Jabhat al-Nusra, Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, and Suquor al-Izz.
Through the on-site investigation, witness statements, videos and
photographs, and a review of hospital records, Human Rights Watch
determined that opposition forces unlawfully killed at least 67 of the
190 dead civilians who were identified. For the rest of those killed,
further investigation is required to determine the circumstances of
their deaths and whether the victims died as a result of unlawful
The high civilian death toll, the nature of the recorded wounds
and the presence of 43 women, children, and elderly among the dead
together indicate that opposition forces either intentionally or
indiscriminately killed most of the remaining victims.
The scale and pattern of the serious abuses carried out by opposition
groups during the operation indicate that they were systematic and
planned as part of an attack on a civilian population.
In some cases, opposition fighters
executed or gunned down entire families. In other cases, surviving
family members had to leave loved ones behind. One resident of the
hamlet between Blouta and al-Hamboushieh described fleeing his home
with his mother as opposition fighters entered his neighborhood, and
having to leave his elderly father and blind aunt behind because of
their physical infirmities. He said that when he returned to the
neighborhood after the government retook the area, he found that his
father and aunt had been killed:
CIA ramping up covert training program for Syrian rebels
(Greg Miller, Washington Post 10/02/13)
the below excerpt combines the above story with an opinion piece by Tyler Durden
My mom was here in the house with me. She came out of the house first,
and I was behind her. We saw the three fighters just in front of us,
and then we fled on foot down behind the house and into the valley. The
three fighters that I saw were all dressed in black. They were shooting
at us from two different directions. They had machine guns and were
using snipers. My older brother came down and hid with us as well. We
hid, but my dad stayed in the house. He was killed in his bed. My aunt,
she is an 80-year-old blind woman, was also killed in her room. Her
name is Nassiba.
Fourteen residents and first responders, interviewed separately, told
Human Rights Watch that they witnessed executions or saw bodies that
bore signs of execution, including some corpses that were bound and
others that had been decapitated.
According to opposition sources, including an opposition military
officer from Latakia involved in negotiations, the Islamic State of
Iraq and Sham and Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, are holding over 200
civilians from the Alawite villages as hostages, the vast majority
women and children.
According to Syrian security officials, media reports, Western
diplomats, and observations by journalists and humanitarian workers,
foreign fighters in these groups enter Syria from Turkey, from which
they also smuggle their weapons and obtain money and other supplies,
and to which they retreat for medical treatment.
Public statements by fundraisers and financiers, opposition activists,
and opposition fighters reveal that at least some of the funding for
the Latakia operation came from individuals residing in Kuwait and
other Gulf countries.
The US government is shut down, which means only essential spending is permitted.
So what does the US government, or rather its Central Intelligence
Agency decide to spend precious, mission-critical taxpayer money on?
Why arming the "rebels" in Syria of course.
The Washington Post reports that the CIA is expanding a clandestine
effort to train opposition fighters in Syria amid concern that
moderate, U.S.-backed militias are rapidly losing ground in the
country’s civil war.
The CIA operation was secretly authorized by President Obama in a covert action finding he signed this year.
The CIA effort was described as an urgent bid to bolster moderate
Syrian militias, which have been unable to mount a serious challenge to
Assad or match the growing strength of rival rebel factions that have
hard-line Islamist agendas and, in some cases, ties to the al-Qaeda
The CIA is “ramping up and expanding its effort,” said a U.S. official
familiar with operations in Syria, because “it was clear that the
opposition was losing, and not only losing tactically but on a more
The latest setback came last month, when 11 of the largest armed
factions in Syria, including some backed by the United States,
announced the formation of an alliance with a goal of creating an
Islamic state. The alliance is led by Jabhat al-Nusra, a group that has
sworn allegiance to the al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan.
Those hard-line factions have drained
momentum and support from moderate rebel groups. The most prominent
Islamist groups, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Jabhat
al-Nusra, include fighters who have extensive experience from the war
in Iraq, have ties to al-Qaeda and have carried out high-profile
strikes against Assad’s government.
Former deputy CIA director Michael J. Morell said in a recent CBS
interview that the most effective organizations on the battlefield in
Syria are the Islamist factions. “And because they’re so good at
fighting the Syrians, some of the moderate members of the opposition
joined forces with them,” he said.
Islamist factions have lured fighters away with offers of better pay,
equipment and results. A spokesman for the ISIS said the group had
added 2,000 Syrian recruits and 1,500 foreign fighters over the past
“More and more Muslims in Syria and outside are realizing that we are
the only true force able and willing to defend the Syrian people
against this monstrous regime without any Western agenda,” said the
spokesman, Mohammed al-Libi.
Recruiting efforts by militias working with the CIA have sagged, officials said.
Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) bar Israelis
U.S. officials said the classified program has been constrained by
limits on CIA resources, the reluctance of rebel fighters to leave
Syria for U.S. instruction and Jordan’s restrictions on the CIA’s
paramilitary presence there.
There is also the legal issue known as the Leahy Law that requires a
determination that no recipients of U.S. military assistance had
committed human rights abuses.
CIA veterans expressed skepticism that the training and weapons deliveries will have any meaningful effect.
The program is aimed at shoring up the fighting power of units aligned
with the Supreme Military Council, an umbrella organization led by a
former Syrian general that is the main recipient of U.S. support.
The training is led by small teams of operatives from the CIA’s Special
Activities Division, a paramilitary branch that relies heavily on
contractors and former members of U.S. Special Operations forces.
Some have questioned the wisdom of expanding the CIA’s mission at a
time when many think the agency has become too paramilitary in focus
and should return to its traditional intelligence-¬gathering role.
Officials said the main CIA training effort does not involve
instruction on using high-powered weapons such as rockets and antitank
munitions, which are being supplied by countries such as Qatar and
And where do Qatar and Saudi Arabia get their weapons from?
“What happens when some of the people we trained torture a prisoner?”
said a former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with agency
operations in the Middle East. Even if the CIA can produce records to
defend its training program, “we’re going to face congressional
hearings,” the former official said. “There is no win here.”
from joining Palestinian protest against settler concert
(Mairav Zonszein, 972 mag.com, 9/26/13)