In 2012, the beloved and greatly mourned Palestinian singer Reem Banna publicly declared her dedication to a Free Syria and denounced the silence of the world in the face of the “most criminal and backward regime of the Arab world”, the Assad regime. Following is her declaration in Arabic, English and Italian.

“For the first time, I declare my position regarding what is happening in Syria: Bashar Al-Assad is a delinquent, a criminal and a child-killer… The regime of Assad is the most criminal and backward regime of the Arab world. Shame on anyone who continues to remain silent. Every moment that passes without us standing up and doing something, means hundreds of Syrians being killed. We are silent in the face of the killing of over 11,000 Syrian martyrs. At the same time and, unfortunately, there are some who are still defending this regime and delude themselves with the worn out justifications defending a ruler who has lost an entire country and perhaps will lead to no one being left, except for some of his Shabiha (para-military gangs for the regime – translator’s note) and some other cowards, after having gotten rid of the population… The conspiracy… it is the most tremendous cosmic conspiracy against Palestine and Syria… this is my position on it. Even if I will be boycotted, even if I will be stopped and denied entry into any Arab country at all… art without a position and action is an art that differs only in form from cabaret, but with more elegance. All of those who glorify a homicidal ruler, who do not stand up against him, are free to do so…. But I will not accept that someone hinders me on account of my position. Whoever would like to cut me out of their “friends” list… let them do so… they are absolutely free to do what they want.

And to the shabiha who are going to jump on spreading this status far and wide in order to increase the perimeter in which to kill me psychologically, on a human level and technically, I say to you: Palestine taught me to never be silent against injustice. Close your eyes if you want to, but do not dare to close the eyes of others.

Long live the free Syrian people… Long life Syria as a free country, for freedom. I love you Syria.” Reem Banna 30/5/2012

Reem Banna:

“Per la prima volta dichiaro la mia posizione su quanto sta accadendo in Siria: Bashar al-Assad è un delinquente, un criminale e un assassino di bambini.. Il regime di Assad è il regime più criminale e arretrato del mondo arabo.. Vergogna su coloro che continuano a stare in silenzio.. Ogni momento che passa e noi non facciamo nulla… Centinaia di siriani vengono uccisi.. Non rimaniamo in silenzio sull’uccisione di oltre 11.000 martiri arabi siriani.. Allo stesso tempo e purtroppo.. alcuni stanno ancora difendendo e si illudono con le logore giustificazioni su un sovrano che ha perso un intero paese e forse nessun altro rimarrà, alcuni dei suoi shabiha e alcuni codardi dopo essersi sbarazzati del loro popolo.. La cospirazione…è la più grande cospirazione cosmica contro la Palestina e la Siria.. questa è la mia posizione.. anche se verrò boicottata, mi sarà impedito e negato l’ingresso in qualsiasi paese arabo. .l’arte senza posizione e azione.. è un’arte che differisce solo nella forma dell’arte del cabaret.. ma più elegantemente.. tutti coloro che glorificano  un sovrano omicida.. non gli faccio causa.. è libero.. ma non accetterò che qualcuno mi faccia causa per la mia posizione .. chi vuole togliermi dalla sua lista di amici.. lascia che lo faccia… è assolutamente libero..

E allo shabiha che ora si affretterà a trasferire questo status per aumentare il perimetro in cui uccidermi psicologicamente, umanamente e tecnicamente.. Dico lui: la Palestina mi ha insegnato a non tacere sull’ingiustizia.. Chiudete gli occhi se volete, ma non chiudere gli occhi agli altri. Lunga vita al popolo siriano libero.. Lunga vita alla Siria come patria libera, per la libertà.. Ti amo Siria.


ريم بنا

أعلن لأوّل مرّة موقفي مما يحدث في سوريا: بشار الأسد سفّاح ومُجرم وقاتل الأطفال .. النظام الأسدي أكثر نظام مُجرم ومتخلّف في الوطن العربي .. عار على الذين يستمرّون بصمتهم .. في كل لحظة تمّر ولا نتحرّك .. يُقتل فيها مئات السوريين .. لا للصمت على قتل أكثر من 11.000 شهيد سوري عربي .. وفي نفس الوقت وللأسف .. ما زال البعض يُدافع ويوهم نفسه بالتبريرات المُهترئة لحاكم أضاع بلد برمّتها وربما لن يبقى فيها غيره وبعض من شبّيحته وقلّة من الجبناء بعد التخلّص من شعبه .. أما بالنسبة لموضوع “المؤامرة” .. فهو أكبر مؤامرة كونية على فلسطين وعلى سوريا .. هذا موقفي .. حتّى لو سيتم مُقاطعتي ومنعي وحرماني من دخول أي بلد عربي .. الفن من دون موقف وفعل .. هو فن لا يختلف إلا شكلاً عن فنّ الكاباريهات .. لكن بأناقة أكثر .. لكل مَن يُعظّم بحاكم قاتل .. أنا لا أحاكمه .. هو حُرّ .. لكن لن أقبل بأن يُحاكمني أحد على موقفي .. مَن يرغب بحذفي من لائحة أصدقائه .. فليفعل .. له مُطلق الحُريّة ..

وللشبّيحة الذين سيسارعون الآن في نقل هذا الستاتوس لتوسيع رقعة قتلي نفسيّاً وإنسانيّاً وفنيّاً .. أقول لهم: إن فلسطين علّمتني أن لا أسكت عن الظلم .. لن أتجاهل هذا الدم النازف لو على قطع رأسي .. وأن فلسطين .. أيقونة تحميني من قذاراتكم .. أغمضوا أعينكم إن شئتم .. لكن لا تفقأوا عيون الآخرين ..

عاش الشعب السوري الحُرّ .. عاشت سوريا وطناً حُرّا للأحرار .. أحبّك سوريا

30/5/2012 عرض أقل

Welcome Mustafa! We know who hurt you!

Posted: 01/22/2022 by editormary in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Italian author Roberto Saviano has shared this picture with the following commentary on Facebook. Of course, the Assad regime fans in Italy go into full-on denial, but there is not a word in the caption to his picture that is untrue. (Translated in English below)

“Mustafa, this child who wonderfully smiles in his father’s arms, was not mutilated, he was born without hands and without arms [and legs]. The malformations were caused by the gases inhaled by his mother during Assad’s bombings. The Syrian regime has dumped its chemical arsenal on the country’s civilian population.

This shot, “Hardship of life” by Mehmet Aslan, portrays Mustafa and his father in a refugee camp. Mustafa’s father lost a leg due to a barrel bomb dropped from a regime helicopter.

Last year, this photo last year won the Siena International Photo Award (SIPA), and, thanks to SIPA itself that organised a fundraiser, yesterday Mustafa and his family were able to disembark at Fiumicino airport and will be welcomed in their new home made available by Caritas and the Archdiocese. At the Budrio Prosthesis Centre, little Mustafa will have his limbs given back to him.

The war in Syria continues, though completely forgotten. For years, most Italian populists have argued that the use of gas was a lie, despite evidence brought by independent bodies and hundreds of journalistic investigations. The Assad dictatorship has remained standing thanks to the propaganda of those who claim it’s better to keep him than to be getting ISIS, but in reality, Assad has destroyed any hope of democratic life. It is Assad who has destroyed the democratic Syrian spring that sought to create a secular and free democracy in Damascus. It is Assad who has driven many of the opponents of his regime to flee in exile or enlist in the ranks of Islamist troops.

Assad is among the worst tyrants history has ever known, yet he enjoys a strange fortune: to have managed to be considered a “lesser evil” compared to ISIS; having obtained protection from the Putin regime without facing a real contrast from Western democracies; and to have clung to power at least until the pandemic wiped Syria out of the media narrative.”

📸 @mehmetaslan.photoarts

Written by Mary Rizzo

Vaccinations are widely perceived as useful and necessary, but there is growing civil unrest, as all criticism and dissent to public policies is silenced or demonised. The progressive vision of potential for a positive transformation of a hard-hit society after the tragedy of the pandemic has been all but lost, as worries about the lack of pluralism in the political debate and the fragility of democracy in a what resembles a cultural hegemony are concrete

The vaccination campaign in full swing. PHOTO BY GIOVANNI DIFFIDENTI

A shortened version was first published in German on Bildungswerk Berlin der Heinrich Böll Stiftung

Crawling from the Covid wreckage, “Whatever it takes”

Two years after the outbreak of Covid and its rapid diffusion in Italy, the country still finds itself under a State of Emergency, despite the fact that the data of the vaccination campaign show that Italy outperforms other countries. While Prime Minister Draghi has had the opportunity of boasting of the effectiveness of government policies both at the European Council and the G20, the fourth wave could reserve some negative surprises, so the Health minister is not taking off the table the possibility of extending the State of Emergency into the spring, with other hotly contested restrictive measures continuing through (at least) June. All of this in the midst of establishing a budget law that sees workers losing more rights, and incrementally moving the finish line for retirement further in the distance, an issue in which the reformist left is woefully disinterested and which shockingly met with barely an outcry from the labour unions.

With the vaccination campaign in full swing, since July 2021 there has been a gradual loosening of the closures put on most forms of sport, commerce leisure and cultural activities. A policy of total closure was enforced starting on 9 March and lasting until 18 May, rather than opting for using the WHO recommended preventive and sanitary measures. In essence, investments had to be made to adapt facilities to the new reality, but then the facilities, from cultural centres to gyms, restaurants to shops, were ordered to be shuttered, some for 18 months, as if the loss of these sectors for such an extended time would not damage actors in part of the economy, in what might be seen as a form of “austerity”. The grip applied by the State to some economic sectors has indeed been deadly, after the tragic parenthesis and linguistic shift that determined workers, and not just sectors, being classified as “essential” and “non-essential”. Unfortunately, the fate of those positioned in some forms of labour and entire economic sectors, namely, workers with precarious or no contracts, and the SMEs – that alone represent 78.5% of workers -, is clearly not even close to being a priority.

Draghi, as former head of the European Central Bank and part of the directorate of the Group of 30 think tank, has expressed clear ideas about which workers are expendable. For the think tank that moves from a role of consultant to one of policy-maker when its members become Prime Ministers, the post-Covid philosophy is that not all suffering businesses should be saved and that the choice of recipients of public support should be determined by their potential to be profitable after the pandemic. The two Italian governments in power during the pandemic (Conte’s second legislation, governing during its onset, and Draghi since 13 February 2021) each introduced economic aid packages intended to bring relief to most of the affected actors, but in reality, the aid was deemed by the beneficiaries as insufficient to even meet costs (in the Ho.Re.Ca. sector, for example, of 243 billion euro being lost, only 29 billion was financed, a mere 7%). Access to aid became increasingly limited through the perdurance of the epidemic, as efforts were made to avoid indiscriminate disbursement, and the infamous red tape involved discouraged their pursuit.  This left some businesses unable to even contemplate reopening after the closures were lifted, much less derive a profit from their activities.

In light of all these hardships for the workers and citizens and the clear programmatic tendency toward supporting only the profitable, Covid remains the crux of public policy and discourse, considered as the primary problem to be addressed by those in power, at the expense of other concerns. The State attributed to itself the successes of the vaccination campaign and hard lockdown, while framing any failures a result of the action of individuals and successively, imputing to the anti-vaxxers and the conspiratorial thinking that largely defines and influences their position, all criticism of the governance of a vaccination campaign that is, in the eyes of many, including researchers and public administrators, severely flawed and poorly managed. It did not help matters that the Extraordinary Commissioner for the Covid-19 Emergency  (Army General Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, replacing Domenico Arcuri), responsible for the implementation and coordination of the necessary measures for the containment and contrast of the epidemiological emergency, was issuing contradictory indications for recipients of the available vaccines from one week to the next. Suddenly pulling vaccines, as was the case with the AstraZeneca vaccine which was already given to millions being taken out of circulation in many countries, including Italy, only created confusion, fear and hesitation in the Italian public that takes the saying, “Con la salute non si scherza – Health is the most serious thing” as an oath.

Italy is currently the scenario of a full-blown protest movement, upon which the Ministry of the Interior has put a clampdown as of 12 November, “From tomorrow, all marches will be prohibited, and this is true for all protests, not just the no vax ones,” in the words of Carlo Sibilia, undersecretary of the Ministry, with static sit-ins in areas away from city centres being still allowed. These words reveal the conflation being made between two distinct issues: protests about the vaccination and protests about other measures introduced and the continuation of the State of Emergency. Opposition is not coming only from the anti-vax faction, or the fascist movements, which indeed are present in the dissent, and in the case of Rome, have a massive presence. Dissent is much more capillary, diversified and democratic than the mainstream media lets filter through, and a great deal of it is coming from anarchist and antifascist movements and the reformist and revolutionary left.

The Parliament seems to accept that the Prime Minister’s authoritative “Whatever it takes” statement is peremptory and that all debate is therefore closed. By and large, the mainstream media and the pundits of the centre-right and centre-left political areas have all faithfully reiterated the government line in a narrative that promotes its single-minded approach as sound, as well as unquestionably the only course of action that must be considered so as to safeguard the health and safety of the population. This notion extends to most of the progressive media as well. All this seemingly universal agreement appears so coordinated and harmonious, much more than would even be rational to be expected in a country that often feels like it is in a never-ending electoral campaign.

“The problem, comrades, is not that there is also the right, the problem is that we are not there!”

Italians need to keep in mind the words of Umberto Eco, that freedom and liberation are never-ending tasks. And this holds true even during a health emergency. In these two dramatic years, the lack of real pluralism in the political debate and discussion of containment and recovery measures is noticeable, with citizens and workers feeling excluded from the body politic. When practically all the institutional and communication points of reference exhibit a dangerous lack of critique and display a choral backing of anything the government says or does, it shifts the space for dissent about government measures “to the fringes” of the left and the right, where they are then easily demonised. While all Italians agree that “everything’s changed” and that a return to the past is out of the question, some people see what they label as the government’s obsessive focus on security as continuing to use Covid-19 as a diversionary tactic to bring about policies that otherwise might meet with resistance, since they involve more government control but fewer safety nets, resulting in more polarisation within an exhausted population, which has in effect led to protests demanding change.

While the progressive and revolutionary left is present, it is disheartening that is not organising the street, or as better expressed by a far-left organiser, The problem, comrades, is not that there is also the right [organising], the problem is that we are not there!”.  However, the majority of the protesters may not have any ideological identification at all and, in the narrative, the divergence of the dissent is downplayed. In a constant stream of televised discussions, the line is hegemonic, there’s no hint that the imposition of some measures that many ordinary people are concerned about could be a problem, they are too busy framing the people being worried as the true problem. In essence, all resistance or opposition to measures either dealing with Covid or a consequence to Covid are being articulated as deriving from nationalist-populist-fascist tendencies, and it doesn’t seem to matter whether they actually do or not. This is precisely what is happening with the current wave of protests that are sweeping Italy, and the media coverage that frames it and consolidates public opinion. As was stated by sociologist Luca Fazzi, “When in a democracy it is necessary to emphasise that one agrees with the dominant opinion in order to even have the right to speak, it is cause for alarm … with the result of destroying the very principle of dialectics that is the basis of every truly democratic system.”

The State of Emergency has become the ordinary state

The government didn’t make vaccinations mandatory, possibly out of fear about managing or controlling dissent, but it might also be because the constitution indicates that it would require an intervention of Parliament to impose it, and not just a Prime Minister’s Decree, as has been the mode of governance during the pandemic. Very few politicians would be willing to take the risk of deliberating on such a delicate issue where politicians are never popular (the attitude of the populace toward politicians has been defined as “a culture of perennial resentment” in Foreign Policy). Urging the government to do so was never an aspect of this crisis, although there were some seeing obligatory vaccinations favourably. A journalist of a major far-left site wrote, “A government seriously concerned about safeguarding its own citizens would not have any doubts, it would make [vaccines] mandatory. And it would also assume that substantially small percentage of unpopularity (that 25% of sceptics, the uncertain, doubtful, etc.) as long as they achieved the result.”

Instead, it was chosen to extend the adoption of a certificate that has taken on a totemistic role and extended its range of action, the Green Pass. This is a document valid for 9 months when one is vaccinated or for 48 hours after a negative swab for those who are not. It was introduced by decree and without democratic process or public debate. Initially seen by the general public primarily as an inconvenience when applied to allowing access to restaurants and leisure activities, it revealed itself to also have dangerous discriminatory potential when it became obligatory for all workers as of 15 October and has since become that bridge too far, since each required molecular swab, paid by the individual workers, has an average cost of €72, putting it well out of the reach of many workers. The Green Pass is not in any way medical and the critical issues that exist about its use are serious, though kept far from the political debate. It can be used in a vexatious and discriminatory way in the workplace, and all workers who do not comply with it will be fined, suspended and have their pay frozen. Foreign workers also run the risk of having the renewal of their stay and work permits denied. Its application also involves issues of violation of privacy and tracing. According to Niccolò Bertuzzi, researcher on social movements, Italy would be “the only country in the ‘developed world’ that binds the exercise of any profession at all to the exhibition of a pass that certifies the absence of one sole illness.”

Others in the left claim that the imposition of the Green Pass has a nefarious political project behind it, “Numerous citizens crushed by the crises, whose grievances have been reduced to silence by the continual “emergency” nature of the situations, understand that submitting to an instrument that separates, with substantially arbitrary motivations, who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’ is the definitive weapon to break the back of all resistance.” Its imposition in place of mandatory vaccination “without even bothering to explain the reasons,” is also labelled as “cunning, hypocritical and chaotic” in an editorial in MicroMega, a leading progressive magazine.

If the issue is vaccinating as many as possible, herd immunity has more or less been obtained in Italy. Neither is it a question of bringing the anti-vax movement into the fold of science (which is not going to happen, fears have to be respected, even if they are irrational); the true issue is how the political class will be able to manage, in the respect of human and political rights, the strong dissent to the punitive bureaucratic controls of a slice of the population that refuse them.

Pushed to the margins is the reasoning that a more effective way to fight the pandemic and increase vaccinations could have been to adopt a policy of persuasion, rather than imposing the Green Pass, widely viewed, even by those involved in social solidarity and bioethics as a necessary punitive coercion to vaccinate, (though there is still the contradiction of leaving the citizen free to refuse being vaccinated). Citizens do at some point, even during a health crisis, expect to be treated as beings with agency, and democratic processes and silencing of criticism being put on the back burner to impose diktats (the State of Emergency only serves ostensibly to streamline purchasing and distributing vaccines) is an idea that is tearing at the seams. The hegemony of the institutions does have some cracks though, as authoritative figures outside of politics are questioning these policies, including the virologist Andrea Cristanti, who stated, “After two years, the State of Emergency has become the ordinary state, and this is not acceptable, this demonstrates that they haven’t understood us well enough.” 

Who’s the enemy?

Despite the initial progressive and revolutionary belief of leftist movements that the pandemic would lead to cooperation and a revived sense of community to face the common enemy, (the virus), the reality was instead that the State, which has a low level of trust (in a poll from 2020, only one person in three trusted it), assumed the role as the sole representative of the general interest of the community. This disappointment in a missed opportunity was expressed by activist and author Nicola Casale: “To regain legitimacy, [the State] established measures in which the only possible solution was to put all the responsibility of stopping the pandemic on individual behaviour, up to the point of unleashing a phobia of the other, each one terrorised by the possibility that the other is the public enemy, ready to attack him in case of lack of respect of the social distancing rules. The theoretical potential of the community that could open the way toward a new community of class consciousness was immediately resolved in the opposite direction.” Social cohesion has started to fray as the pandemic has evolved, given the social stigma associated with the carriers of the virus, who were identified to those in their communities, quarantined and often feared or blamed, particularly if they were exposed to the virus through travel or leisure activities.

With a strong belief in the necessity of mass vaccinations, the left, both reformist and revolutionary, has found itself promoting many of the same policies as the government, but unable to suggest an alternative in Italy to the crippling economic measures or the contradictory mode of imposition. It has instead been the fascist movements (organised in parties and movements and eager to ride the wave of discontent) who are attempting to represent themselves as organisers of the people against an authoritarian system that does not engage in a dialogue, much less a deliberation.  “Dissent” in times of Covid is being treated either as a privilege or a deviant activity. There is indeed considerable political disaffection of the populace in a country where the governments formed don’t usually represent the will expressed by the voters, since coalitions can be forged and smitten without any reflection on the popular vote, seen most recently in the record low turnout for widespread administrative elections in October.

No one can deny that the two administrations governing during Covid have wielded an unspeakably immense power in imposing a generalised national lockdown during what has been, objectively, the most stringent lockdown in the world. According to Global Risks Insights, “The government’s ‘stay at home’ strategy became increasingly hard to implement after it became clear to the public that the vaccine rollout had stalled and there seemed to be no end to the lockdown in sight.” The Italian people exhibited an extreme amount of obedience and compliance, making sacrifices both for the greater good and to avoid punishment, “always confined to the home in a timeless night of the virus.” But over time, public goodwill changed to dissatisfaction and a growing anger at the fact that the government constantly changes the indicators for this required obedience. Nationalised hard lockdown and closures until vaccine. Selective, often inequitable and arbitrary closures and lockdowns. Access restrictions in some closed spaces (Green Pass) until herd immunity is reached. Herd immunity as established by the commission to manage the emergency somehow arbitrarily moving from 70% to 85%, even to 90% and beyond. Division of society where only the vaccinated have the right to work. The policy-makers have done anything and everything to make individuals responsible for the prevention of the collapse of the healthcare system that Covid put to the extreme test, except resolving the problem at the structural level, which would mean reversing the cuts in public health spending, modernising the hospital system, hiring more healthcare professionals and doctors. But that would require too much negotiation and a change of course. In Italy the health system is national only in name, it is actually fragmented into twenty-one different systems, making it all very much based on political patronage, and therefore, extremely discontinuous from region to region.

Technical government mon Amour
At this point, understanding the dynamic between the governed and the distrust of those who govern them is essential for comprehension of the particularly complex Italian situation during the pandemic. The number of governments Italy has had (69 since the republic was formed in 1945, making it an average of one new government every 13 months) can strike people as surprising, but it is telling as to the amount of political fragmentation that exists in this country’s politics.  Following the collapse of the second Conte government through the ultimatum of a junior member of the coalition, the technocrat Draghi was called in by the President of the Republic who said it would be too much of a risk to hold elections at this point in the pandemic. If a parliament cannot reshuffle the coalition, the President has the liberty to decide whether to call elections or postpone them to an undetermined point in the future. Italians actually never know when they will be voting or which parties will be created and dissolved in the meantime. This tends to distance the public from the political sphere. It was never made clear how voting during a pandemic might be too much of a risk, and considering a period of time when voting is not permitted at all (six months before the election of the President of the Republic by the parliament for a seven-year term) this leaves enormous power in the hands of a few. The one thing that the pandemic situation has made clear to all is that a handful of people can sink and form governments without a popular mandate or a large parliamentary representation, and then govern by decree or with votes of confidence.

The current government is a “national unity” coalition representing the entire political spectrum present in parliament with the exception of one party, defined as “the Cutting Edge of Post-Democratic Governance” in The Jacobin. The catch-all movement that won the majority in the last general election (MoVimento 5 Stelle) has lost almost all public support in polls and the governing style assumed by each successive government is more “top-down”, using a strategy of personalisation of leadership and consolidating it in the management of the Covid crisis where “the source of legitimacy has shifted from traditional democratic procedures to the use of emotional capital,” in the view of researchers for Frontiers in Political Science.  Almost all policy by the Conte II government has been due to the use of Prime Minister’s Decrees (avoiding legislation), with panel of “experts” providing guidance. Nearly weekly televised messages to the Nation were focused on announcements of more Decrees and a call to personal responsibility. With the health emergency, democratic institutions were left out of the decision making, and the die was cast for the normalisation of a paternalistic pinnacle of power that prefers decrees to deliberation, and it doesn’t matter whether this individual’s entitlement to power is based on charisma or expertise.

As in other countries, parliamentary right-wing forces that act like opposition serve a long-established function. They represent a fake opposition able to intercept the real discontent and channel it to where it cannot cause any damage to the system. But they also provide an outlet for those in the centre or left who defend the system to silence or slander all of the discontent that cannot be tapped into by the right-wing and by the fascist-inspired forces, by associating all dissent with them. In essence, all resistance or opposition to measures either dealing with Covid or a consequence to Covid are being articulated as deriving from nationalist-populist-fascist tendencies, and it doesn’t seem to matter whether they actually do or not. If, as the majority of Italians, one gets all news from the television or mainstream press, they would think there was a sole fascist “mastermind” behind dissent. This is precisely what is happening with how the media coverage is framing the current wave of protests that are sweeping Italy, while a closer look reveals a much different picture. The heart of the protests has actually been organised by social movement unionism.

Democracy means that the freedom of the individual has to be filtered by collective freedom, but also that the freedom of the community is achieved only with the freedom of all its members: in a true democracy, there is no demand that everyone comply with a sole possible worldview or idea, even when that idea is elevated into to being for the common good. Instead, as long as we are in a democracy, the thoughts of everyone are to be respected and divergence of opinion is to be allowed and especially, dissent is not to be silenced, vilified or misrepresented.  Two years into this pandemic, the dialogue between different analyses has been shut down, in a Manichaean way, every issue has two clear sides and no compromise is possible: on one side or the other of the Green Pass, the discourse is reduced to either saving the community through the necessity of restrictions that unfortunately might be discriminatory, but these are the times and this is the demand, and all those against it are anti-science and a danger to society or, alternatively, that Italians are living in a “health dictatorship” where our free choice and freedoms are no longer a value and we are living in a regime that has put democracy on hold. There is no middle ground in the public discourse when maybe each side contributes some valid points which require addressing. In the same way, parliamentary deliberation to address the structural causes of the health service being in such precarious condition is off the tables right now, given the health emergency and political climate.

The weakness of the system itself and its difficulty in dealing with dissent are barely touched upon (if at all) by all the pundits and journalists, and now we are at the boiling point and the only way out is for those who govern to loosen the reins, declare the state of emergency to be over and begin democratically managing the Covid crisis as part of ordinary administration of a pluralistic democracy acting in its full powers and not an eternal sword of Damocles where obedience is required and persuasion is eschewed. Then the polarisation will be fitfully ended because the actual thing that exists that pits the system against “the people”, its unilateral power to control freedom of movement and prevent people from going to work, school or even leaving the house, will have no reason to exist. At present, there is a total avoidance to utter the concept of this clash between State and population, as if we aren’t witnessing it and to speak of it at this delicate moment (if not now, when?) would break the spell. It would mean that the government is in reality not strong, but weak, and must resort to a monopoly on discourse or vilification of dissent every time its control is too severely challenged.

Moni Ovadia, Italian actor and musician

The artist speaks on the clashes in Jerusalem: “I am Jewish but the victims are the Palestinians abandoned by everyone”.

In an interview Moni Ovadia (Italian actor and musician, translator’s note), comments on the escalation of violence in the Middle East that has resulted in a long night of bombing between Israel and the Gaza Strip: “The policy of this Israeli government is the worst of the worst. It has no justification, it is nefarious and without equal. They want to drive the Palestinians out of East Jerusalem, they try in every way and with all sorts of tricks, scheming and manipulation of the law. It is ceaseless harassment that occasionally sparks the protest of the Palestinians, who are abundantly the victims, because they are the ones who die, they are the people being massacred.”

“Israel’s policy is segregationist, racist, colonialist,” punctuates the Jewish actor, musician and writer, “and the bias of the international community is repulsive. With a few rare exceptions, countries such as Sweden and some South American countries, there’s no mention that the condition of the Palestinian people is that they they are the most neglected, most abandoned people on earth, and this is because everyone gives in to [Israel’s] unjust blackmail, using the exploitation of the Shoah as justification”. Moni Ovadia continues in the explanation: “All this discussion that mentions the extermination of the Jews has nothing to do with things, mentioning it is pure instrumentalisation. Today Israel is a very powerful, very well-armed State, which has the most powerful countries on earth as its allies, and the very minute it makes a small protest, all the countries prostrate before it, starting with Germany because of its terrifying guilt”.

“I am Jewish, I too come from that people – insists the artist – But instead of seeking peace, coexistence and mutual acceptance as the answer to the horror of extermination, we see the use of this violence as a response? Where does all of this lead? The Palestinian people exist, whether Nethanyau likes it or not. There is a people who have the right to have their own land and dignity, and children have the right to have their future, and instead, they are treated as if they are enemies.”

And on the reactions of the international political community and in particular of Italy, Ovadia is clear: “There are courageous Israelis who speak out, who denounce… But the international community does no such thing, for example Italy hides behind its cowardice, it runs with the hare and hunts with the hounds. There should be a firm position taken, a boycott, starting with the goods that the Israelis produce in territories that are not theirs.”

Peace “is made between equals, it is not a diktat as the Israelis would like – concludes Moni Ovadia – I am not on anyone’s payroll, I represent myself and I fight against any form of oppression, it is my entitlement. I am with all those who suffer ill-treatment, abuse and persecution, and it was the history of the Jews that taught me to do so. I’m very Jewish, but I’m not Zionist, not in the slightest.”

Translated by Mary Rizzo. ORIGINAL IN ITALIAN Globalist

Photo: Il Fatto Quotidiano

Written by Mary Rizzo
Italy is probably going to get another major lockdown. After weeks of closure of many things in the cities, to contain the spread of this deadly disease, “suddenly” it looks like a normal Christmas. Streets resemble oceans of people, exactly like they always have in years before the plague. Yes, I repeat that… in the days when the recommendation is to lower the risk by giving the virus less hosts to infect, the streets in major cities were as full as any Christmas in the past. But, did this human flood violate the restrictions? Absolutely not. People were actually encouraged to go to the shopping districts and to purchase something in at least 10 stores, because that was how they were being “rewarded” by a special bonus (with public money earmarked for it) that was supposed to help all those shops closed during lockdown and restrictions and give a boost to the economy in the period when the fate of businesses is sealed by sales that are the equivalent to a quarter of their annual turnover. The “Cashback” was announced during the televised speech by the Prime Minister to present the measures to contain the spread of the disease, and to illustrate the exceptional lockdown measures on three of the key days (when stores are closed but families traditionally gather). We were again to be told that the government was working hard on saving the health system and the economy, so we had to take these sacrifices in stride (the tradition of the family gathering would be affected due to a restriction on leaving town) but we were also being offered the carrot of discounted shopping with a scheme to prevent the use of cash and the tracing purchase through credit cards and debit cards, to fight tax evasion.

All of that stick and carrot that every Italian is used to would even have been somehow acceptable if that speech were not given on that single day when almost 1,000 Italians died from Covid. The bland measure to encourage shopping was announced in pompa magna, as if THIS was what we had been waiting for, in a week when the deaths were climbing, but all of our awareness of death has been tranformed into waiting for the number shown on the screen every evening, when they announce the statistics, and feeling a twinge of pain, but also jumping immediately into “analysis of the trend”.

Death has become nothing but a statistic if you are an ordinary Italian, and rather than acknowledge this “event” of at least one or two jumbo jets of Italians dropping off into the sea every day, the PM unveiled a rebate system for shopping in physical stores. He made absolutely no mention of the deaths. The deaths from Covid, and therefore, deaths in general, have become normalised and the trend to ignore them has continued. It was deemed more important to our well-being, morale and society to give us the hope of €15 back on a purchase of €150, and if we want to enjoy the full extent of the measure, to spend €150 in ten different stores. Not online stores, stores in cities, where people are all clamouring for gifts to give their loved ones and need to see them before the holidays because on the 24th and 25th they will be prohibited from doing that.

When people get mixed messages, and what the government gave to us was a mixed message, they ignore the part that they don’t feel is convenient and they are still doing the right thing, because they are respecting the law in fact and in principle. And now, talk is ongoing of a corrective lockdown measure because people “exaggerated” by actually going shopping as they had been encouraged to do. When someone is upset, they fall into mechanisms to feel better. “Shopping therapy” is something a lot of distressed and traumatised Westerners are familiar with. But they also recognise that they are reacting to a negative event or a trauma, and shopping alleviates feelings of loss.

But the people of this country have undergone a trauma that they are not allowed to actually process in the natural and normal way. They are not allowed to discuss it because, “the holidays”, “the economy”. No other country in Europe has been so hard hit by Covid. There are quite a few reasons for it, including the economy of Italy that is so dependent on tourism, culture and the movement of people, all aspects of life and the economy that took a beating or even have been slaughtered. Given the population density and lack of employment opportunities, Italian social life is largely spent outdoors and with a “promiscuity” of generations, with grandparents taking on a role of babysitters. Even the physical proximity and gestures of greeting that involve the handshake together with the kiss on both cheeks have been radically altered in the space of only a few months. You would think it is difficult to strip a culture of such an ingrained habit, but it isn’t. People can adapt if they need to, they do get used to it and they change. If it means survival, yes, you change. But the suffering soul of the Italians has not been addressed. The need to mourn, the acknowledgement of the loss of loved ones, all of this has not been in any way addressed.

It is a trauma for a country that loses so many people to see their citizens represented solely as a statistic, with merely a few exceptions, which I will mention later. In Italy, during the first wave there was the shock that this virus had actually taken hold here and turned so deadly so fast. There was a feeling of grief that the entire country felt at the death toll, watching our hospitals being converted into places where many entered just to die, where the only services were life support for Covid patients, and this kept the lockdown going. Every time you heard an ambulance, your heart ached, every time a helicopter flew overhead you knew that was because your local hospital had all the beds full and this was someone being brought to a place to die far from home. The only traffic in those days was a traffic of death and police, to enforce the lockdown. Because you knew that death was involved as well as the weight on the healthcare system, people quickly complied and the disease was nearly eradicated after almost 3 months of enforced quarantine on an entire country of “individualists”. But in the second wave, when the deaths are at peaks unheard of back in the Spring, talk of death has been erased. Higher numbers of deaths do not automatically repeat the mental process of the Spring, because the government cannot save the economy from an even worse depression if they close the country down again. It is the economy that is front and centre in the discourse. Sickness and death are just statistics mentioned a few times during the news.

If a country does not allow its people to process the death of their loved ones, because in addition to the lack of funerals, there is an absence of memorial services, there is a mutation to the natural order of things, which have historically included the acceptance and awareness of death as an event every family would face many times, bringing them together to contemplate and support one another. It always involved a period of mourning to process the sudden painful separation from those we love. One of the main victims of Covid is the status death has been given and the way it has been shoved out of our awareness as a reality and exists only as a statistic.

The end of life is only “acknowledged” and celebrated if you are a football star. We have just witnessed the televised funeral in a stadium of Paolo Rossi, the hero of the World Cup in 1982, and this happened just weeks after the death of another football legend that meant a great deal to Italians, Maradona. Neither of them died of Covid, since death finds other ways to abruptly end a life. There were television specials and the usual amount of mystification of their (real or imagined) heroism. Everyone knows and accepts the wild trajectory of Maradona, his tarnished personal life was vastly compensated in the public opinion by his great talent. It’s a good idea to draw the sums on what he meant to this country and to the spirit of an area that felt he was lifting them from a kind of misery, but inserted within a culture that was more than capable of a Hosanna on a Sunday and a crucifixion of the same saviour the following Friday. When his dedication to his own national team prevented him from accepting the defeat his Italian home turf public thought was owed to them, he was dismissed as rapidly as possible and the tax authorities sent him running. His substance abuse, which was not a problem earlier, was suddenly an issue. The blind eye was blind no more when he could be chewed up and spat out. But, at least, he played that match of matches fairly. He did not cater to anything but to a sport ethic at that moment, and his team’s victory forced Italy to be left out in the cold in our own World Cup. It could be that THAT was the beginning of his downward spiral on the pitch, his human story was as glorious as it was pathetic, in equal measure.

But, Italy wants “its own” heroes that didn’t have to be imported. They are to embody a unifying national sentiment that serves a social purpose. Something we can all “feel” as well as “feel the same about”. The tributes lasting many days, almost to the same level as those for Maradona, not once mentioned that Rossi was involved in one of the most squalid economic and sport scandals in the history of Italian football. It cost him 2 years of disqualification for having accepted to fix the games for the betting of the criminal world, he “paid” his debt, and miraculously, his image also became as pure as the driven snow.  That “football betting/calcio scomesse” wasn’t mentioned during any of the televised comments of “all of Italy being in mourning for our great champion”, nor was it mentioned that he was a candidate with Alleanza Nazionale, (a far right party) for the European Parliament. He had to be depicted as a unifying figure and he was somehow “selected” to be the one every Italian mourns, if you take the words of all the tv channels seriously.

National mourning has been chosen to take place for one individual. Where are the State funerals commemorating the 65 thousand deaths and the pain and loss of 65 thousand families and the communities they were part of? Why is the State so silent about this ghastly haemorrhage? Why do they suggest the “shopping cure” for depression of every sort rather than deal realistically with this trauma and even allow us that sobering moment of acknowledgement of the national tragedy and the catastrophe? Why?

Written by Mary Rizzo

Silvia Romano is a young Italian humanitarian volunteer who was kidnapped by criminals in Kenya, passed on to terrorists in Somalia and, thankfully, liberated, through the coordinated work of the Italian, Somalian and Turkish secret services, whose efforts brought an end to eighteen bitter months of captivity. Once again, Italians can be grateful that our government has been successful in such a risky mission and, at least in some cases, the intelligence services work in the shadows so that innocent prisoners are returned to the safety of their homes and the love of their families without recourse to blitzes that do not ensure their safety.

Only Silvia knows what she endured in those long, terrible months of captivity, and only time, distance and a great deal of psychological support will be able to allow her to build her life as a free woman once again. Italians got to know this woman through photographs of her before her abduction, dressed in a tank top or donning a Masai costume, with a wide smile and often surrounded by African orphans, who were the beneficiaries of her humanitarian efforts. The first hours of acritical joy at the liberation of this woman were quickly replaced with the typical Italian population response of scorn and derision that is reserved for the victims of these crimes. As she descended from the plane that brought her to her country after her rescue, her attire was commented on, with the press continually stating it was “Islamic dress”.

Many of us watched that descent, a small, yet energetic woman, who waved at the press with the wide smile we came to know and love, but clothed in a large green integral veil that covered her entire body with the exception of part of her legs, where we saw the Somalian dress that it is claimed she had worn for the past year and a half. We were in tears, awe and very moved by her walk on the tarmac, toward her parents and sister, and we also were “treated” to witnessing the long embrace with her family. Soon, though, if one follows the media reaction, the principle question emerges, “did she convert to Islam?”. The response to this omnipresent question in comment sections under every kind of article was by and large negative, angry and hostile. We see a renewed playing out of that typically Italian drama that happens at the release of every hostage. There is the idea that “we paid while she played”, which is a disgusting script adopted for almost all of the female hostages, because often, they were not protected by a company or were not working for a newspaper or government, but ventured into difficult situations as humanitarian volunteers for NGOs who “could have stayed home and saved us the money”.

Rather than adopt a position that seeks to understand the complicated and fragile position of a person who had been deprived of her freedom for a year and a half, the Italian people are quick to condemn and judge. They refuse to consider that this woman will undergo a new and different kind of prison, that of being a public person against her will and who is subject to constant criticism and vile attacks. Why does the Italian public ignore that reality that this person will have to travel on a road back to freedom and serenity that will be long, difficult and at times full of depression, regret, anger, fear and a dual and contradictory need to resume a normal life, but to seek an escape from the pressures of life as a freed captive in Italy, where her every move, thought and emotion will be scrutinised and condemned. Never mind that every single Italian is reaffirmed that they will be protected to some extent if something terrible should happen to them overseas. They will not be abandoned to their fate. Every Italian enjoys the guarantee that the Italian government will work to free hostages, and this effort will not be denied to anyone, including any of the lions of the keyboard or their loved ones. Criticising the government for upholding a duty to protect its citizens overseas is always counterproductive and small-minded.


But, if Silvia had descended from the ramp of that plane dressed in the blue tank top we were used to seeing her in, this criticism toward the government, which immediately morphed into criticism of the victim of the crime and her family, “let THEM pay the ransom!” may never have been so loud. It’s always painful to read the commentary that follows one of these liberations. The petty and resentful nature of the Italians that claim to be speaking for the common man shines brightly through them. Some comments were borderline absurd, “We have been forced for two months to not be able to embrace our relatives and here she is holding her mother tightly! How unfair”. No, that was not ironic, and yes, the commenter used the word “congiunti”, here translated as relatives, which has been the subject of much discussion as it was the mysterious word the Prime Minister used to define which persons could be visited at the first loosening up of the lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic. Other comments were vicious and cruel, claiming she was in cahoots with the criminals, and it was all a trick so that she could get the terrorists money so that they could commit horrible acts in Europe and she was returning to Italy only to give birth in our hospitals, as her body under that veil was scrutinised shamelessly. Perhaps that veil was intended to protect her, as it may have done for such a long period of captivity, but here in Italy, it has put her on the defendant’s stand.

Again, Italian public opinion, upon the release of hostages, always tends toward the vicious and nasty when a young woman is concerned and where the crimes committed against her take place in a country where Islam is the dominant or state religion, particularly if there are terrorist organisations in those countries who define themselves as Islamist. In the eyes of these critics, she must be condemned because she committed some cardinal sins: she didn’t “thank the Italian people”, “she went into a dangerous place unprepared and we are paying for her adventure”, and “she did not condemn the criminals”. Not only did she claim that she was throughout her captivity she treated without violence, but she admitted that she had converted to Islam.

The mass media, quick to pick up on the anger and gossip mood of a people that has become even more provincial after three months of navel-gazing during a lockdown where the rest of the world barely existed and our own return to normality is a huge worry and a massive problem for millions who have not seen the governmental support required to ensure not only a future of work in the long-term, but survival in the short-term, as they are undergoing difficulties in paying their bills and purchasing food, jumped on the “Conversion to Islam” angle. From the more detached and objective outlets to the most reactionary or conservative, all the titles of the news focused on that aspect.

That Silvia had decided to answer the question of her conversion is one thing, that it has been rendered public is totally another. In addition to this statement, the papers have disclosed that she said she was always treated well by those who held her captive, that she was not subjected to violence or forced into marriage or forced to convert, but that she had asked for a copy of the Qu’ran, was taught some Arabic and decided without constraint to convert. Was the press violating a pact of confidentiality by revealing these words that were made to investigators, in a place, evidently that was microphoned for the press? Isn’t the investigation to find and subject the criminals to legal procedures ongoing? Shouldn’t any statements made to the investigators be strictly confidential, particularly if they have the capacity of instigating public outrage and anger?

“If she was not subjected to violence, why did she need a ransom paid or a State flight to take her back to Italy?” Yes, this is a legitimate question for someone to ask, but it also reveals a lack of comprehension of what a person who is a victim of this kind of trauma and violence might be able to say or how he or she is able to process such awful events. I know several victims of kidnapping and persons who were taken hostage, but I also know humanitarian volunteers and workers who were abducted by foreign governments and imprisoned and subjected to torture, physical and psychological violence. They are well aware that their freedom was robbed from them, that their families had to undergo periods of terrible anguish and dread. They have experienced situations of such unique and painful separation and fear for their very survival, that they have had to learn a new way of survival in a situation where they may not know if they will see another day. It is not whitewashing criminals to speak of relative good treatment, favours granted or even to never speak at all of the violence or to need years to process the experience and even talk about it at all. They have to learn ways of protecting their own sanity and also protecting those whom they love who do not physically share the prison with them, but are also imprisoned by the criminal acts.

Persons who have undergone these experiences may also decide to not reveal the worst to those who love them the most, to spare them the sorrow and pain. It is a logical and quite natural thing to keep bad things from those you love, to prevent them suffering any more than they have to. To state that her captors used no violence against her may not mean that they were wonderful people with whom she identifies. There may not be any Stockholm Syndrome going on, but a coping approach that either spares the loved ones’ knowledge of the violence beyond that terrible crime of holding a person against their will and denying them their human rights. Silvia was aware of the loss of freedom that millions of persons in Africa and elsewhere are subject to, as her university thesis was on human trafficking. Before her captivity, she must have been familiar with the mechanisms, where the prisoner relinquishes their freedoms and ceases to fight in order to be able to survive until a moment arrives for their release or escape. They have to bear with the situation in order to survive and see a future that will restore their human rights to them. Whatever Silvia had undergone during that lengthy captivity, she had the strength to know and apply the survival mechanisms and to be able to make it through until the joyful moment of her reunification with her family and loved ones.

Was her conversion a free choice? Is anything a free choice under captivity? That is a question will can and will ask ourselves, but she should be neither condemned for it nor praised for it, as I have seen in, for instance, an article in the Naples edition of La Repubblica, where an Imam says that since there is no constriction in Islam, her conversion was entirely her own choice and should be respected. There are certainly many who celebrate this as a wonderful outcome of a horrible situation. Whatever her choices are, for belief, for survival, for conviction, or even to study the only book that she would have been allowed access to under the terrorist group Al Shabaab, these choices should and must be respected and understood as belonging to a person in an extreme situation and in a condition of imprisonment. Since the conversion has been rendered public, that doesn’t mean that it has to be accepted as a wonderful thing or condemned as a terrible thing. All of those kinds of responses are irresponsible and damaging to this person who is fragile and will require time and effort to come back to freedom. Italians should be more understanding of this, as we too have been deprived of our freedoms due an event out of our control, just as the abduction of Silvia was out of her control.

Hopefully, full light will be brought on the perpetrators of this crime and all the crimes committed against the freedom of individuals, and the criminals will be tried and punished to the full extent of the law. That is where energies and efforts are needed, in addition to creating more security for the people in the places where there is suffering, poverty and war, as well as for those humanitarians whose mission it is to bring them comfort, aid and support. Right now, we should feel joy at the liberation of such a decent human being. Life offers so few opportunities to feel pure joy, and this is one of them. Bentornata a casa, Silvia!

helena cobbanThe webinar series called “Commonsense (sic) on Syria” organised by Just World Educational, a “non-profit” educational organisation affiliated to a book publishing enterprise run by Helena Cobban is for the most part, an exercise in cheap propaganda. The latest session was a textbook example of how to produce propaganda for a regime, meant to be consumed by educated and informed people in the west.

This is the recipe: present only one guest that represents your narrative; allow the moderator to frame the discourse to fit that bias and never question the narrative; go so off theme of the actual topic that the talk is supposed to cover (in this case “On Western Media and Syria”); “blind the audience” with an overwhelming assortment of random notions dressed up as facts; use the topic of terrorism as the key theme of the war and play down the humanitarian situation; name drop and accuse without presenting evidence or a right of reply to the accused; filter any discourse and dissent by allowing a question time that is limited to the moderator and guest responding only to questions posed by their friends and admirers; and to top it off, give the audience the idea that what they are hearing is correct, not by presenting any kind of scholarly analysis or evidence, but by framing what is being heard as being “common sense”, a belief so correct, sound and widely held as to be an anathema to doubt it for a moment.

Even the style of the moderator is instrumental in the recipe, as she liberally throws in “air quotes” to emphasise that any view aside from her own or any alternative narrative only deserves to be ridiculed, for this tic of derision is designed to function as a mechanism that seeks to convince the viewer that is it worthless to present any counter-position, and thus excuse her lack of having provided any. In doing so, the moderator pushes to dismiss that a dialectic approach could be worthwhile as a means of the discovery of what is true.

Truth here is not the point. An excess of random information is rattled out in what looks more like a hack job and hatchet job and screed against any and every news source but that of the guest and moderator, particularly the opening screed against the NYT and the internal one against Amnesty International, MSF and HRW, which are not Western Media, but are human rights organisations. But if one actually listens and attempts to sort through the whiny list of grievances, one finds a thoroughly weak grasp of reality. Max Blumenthal pulls the “stop the sanctions” rabbit out of his hat, saying that it does not weaken the “legitimate leader of Syria, who has won the war” (in what a normal human being might see at best as nothing more than a Phyrric victory) but at the same time claims that it is desirable to do so. He claims that sanctions against Iran have caused “hundreds of thousands of deaths from Coronavirus”. Fact checking isn’t even necessary with an absurd number like that, but it if it’s true, you realise that Blumenthal has sources the rest of the world doesn’t have any access to.

Helena Cobban’s screed continues against the think tanks, including the Brookings Institution (for which her husband must have earned quite a pretty penny as a senior fellow). It should be clear to anyone (shall we say it is “common sense”?) that political ideas are associated with money, that people make good money by promoting their formulas in western think tanks and that foreign policy, and to some extent journalism, are influenced by the policies that the think tanks promote. It is yet another thing to associate these western governmental policies as proof of the narrative that the opposition to the Syrian regime stopped being genuine and was merely an instrument to push forward the USA/Israeli policy of regime change. To do so is a denial first of all of the agency of the Syrian people, and secondly, it is a dangerous disconnect from the tangled realities of the war. There is even denial of the presence of western journalists in Syria, no mention whatsoever of the hundreds of citizen journalists who have documented on a daily basis what life in wartime is actually like. There is a black hole where the awareness of this source of verifiable information and archive of documentation of all kinds is beyond the access and comprehension of Blumenthal and Cobban, becoming quite absurd to the casual observer, and a great deal more to the journalists and eyewitnesses who have collected evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity within Syria for nine years.

maxresdefaultTo conflate, again and again, the White Helmets with a propaganda operation run by a western PR company is to miss the point of the (this time literally) hundreds of thousands of deaths by the air strikes, barrel bombs and missile attacks of the regime against areas where the regime itself has forced millions into internal displacement. Even RT, which Blumenthal mentions, has flown drones over Aleppo, showing the utter devastation of the city that had been “won” by the Russia-backed Syrian government. To claim to have “exposed” the White Helmets and to state that he, the journalist has been “attacked”, is to have a dubious connection to the meaning that flows behind words. A journalist should be criticised if the work produced is shoddy, since he or she is expected to present evidence and then to check that evidence and to even challenge it through due diligence, but in this case, even logic would suffice. Asserting that Syria was being destroyed by not allowing it to promote tourism is such an absurd claim when the reality of the destruction of Syrian homes, infrastructure and any semblance of civil functioning in all the parts the regime has (literally) attacked is before the eyes of everyone. To deny this visibile evidence denotes a detachment from reality that is frightening, but more so in the arrogance and determination with which it is presented.

It is a slap in the face to the oppressed to witness the vehemence with which Blumenthal asserts his position that everything would have been just fine if the protesters stopped in the early days, that the “legitimate government” was merely responding to the violence of the protesters and that they simply had to call Russia, Iran and Hezbollah in because these protesters were armed by the United States, with the assumption that the listener will not actually check that this arming was next to nothing and included orders to not fight against the Syrian regime in any way.

Blumenthal and Cobban constantly trip up on the trope of the proxy war as cause of the uprising in their continual denial of the maxim that correlation is not causation. They fall into the questionable cause logical fallacy in nearly every statement they make, and do not allow space for it to be challenged, because they already accept it as a truth. They put the US involvement before the involvement of any other players, including that of the Syrian intelligence/torture machine and decades of oppression and the absence of free speech within Syria due to the dynasty that refused to do anything but consolidate its power and destroy all opposition. The history of the war is rewritten with some “scare quotes” and lazy journalism.

However, the evidence they sought to produce in this webinar, that Western journalism was not presenting an accurate or a complete picture of the war was never touched upon. Because that was not really the point of the webinar. It was simply yet another exercise in propaganda for the Syrian regime, because evidently, despite their claims to the contrary, it is impossible for the Assad Regime (a name they throw in air quotes, but don’t define what it is instead of being a regime, aside from stating that it is legitimate) to celebrate a victory, when half of the country is in ruins and half of the citizens, only those that opposed the regime in power, are displaced, many of them permanently.


In 2019, from the left, Chinese president Xi Jinping, Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi, Italian Vice president Luigi Di Maio and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (afp)

The economic crisis that opened the door to coronavirus in Italy

Mary Rizzo

There have been many theories about why Coronavirus has struck Italy so violently. At first, it was approached as if it were a logistics problem to resolve, and the solution to it would be to trace and track down “Patient Zero” and quarantine travellers from Wuhan within the Spallanzani Infectious Diseases Hospital of Rome. It was simply understood that it could be contained with precisely these careful measures, because there was an awareness that it involved direct contact with regions in China affected by the virus. It was considered as likely, at least by the financial and political sectors of the country, that cases would be concentrated here, given the extensive business and economic ties of Italy with China that led to intense international travel between the two countries. However, almost a year to the date of Prime Minister Conte signing on to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative Infrastructure project, in Italy poetically called “Silk Road”, the number of deaths from Covid-19 surpassed the 10,000 mark in Italy, and the primitive containment effort of those early days is nothing more than a blip on the radar of our Coronavirus crisis. It was believed by the Italian government that the economic agreement so dear to the heart of China, to expand its already saturated trade with Italy beyond imagination, with the injection of cash and investments, would be the remedy to lift Italy out of its recession. It’s stated aim was to provide some oxygen to the faltering and struggling Italian economy, but what hadn’t been taken into account was that this oxygen might be drawn, literally, from the lungs of Italian citizens.

The Italian economy, based on some unique sectors such as cultural and naturalistic tourism, agri-food and high quality manufacturing, as well as a circuit of micro-businesses and a widespread submerged economy, 12% of the country’s GDP, for quite a while has resembled a haemorrhage whose blood flow is relentless, as more and more entrepreneurs find themselves forced out of business or forced to lay off their employees, and skilled workers enter into the underground and consequently, untaxed economy or they emigrate. Arable terrains are abandoned as Italian grain prices plummet, yet still can’t overcome the Canadian and Ukrainian competition, that have even become the primary suppliers of our renowned pasta companies. The small factories that produce high fashion and top line ready-to-wear or quality furnishings and building materials such as marble and ceramics are with growing frequency keeping the design offices in Italy, but outsourcing labour due to the incredibly high costs that no government seems to be able to relieve. The outsourcing is primarily to Turkey and Poland for cars, China for clothing, shoes and sheet metal.

It is true that “Made in Italy” is a concept that carries with it a bit of a deception. With every passing year, the focus has been in promoting under the banner of Made in Italy primarily the idea of the Italian lifestyle and Italian taste, concepts such as design and the style that are considered by the world as uniquely Italian. The focus is moving away from the actual production stages happening in Italy with increasingly less Italian-produced materials and workmanship. China had the appetite and the market and the workers and the industrial philosophy to produce our products, products that demand a high price tag, leading to many of our companies transferring their factories to China in order to maintain profits, as well as Chinese investors taking command of uniquely Italian companies and institutions. Even the quintessence of Italian national spirit, Serie A football, has a Chinese stamp on it, particularly in the region so hard hit by Coronavirus. The two major teams of Milan have recently or still have Chinese ownership.

chamber of commerce china

Photo: Camera di Commercio Italo-Cinese

There came to be a growing realisation, with the unfolding of the scientific information about this virus, that contagion would not necessarily involve direct contact with the original Wuhan hotspot, but was bound to happen with more frequency where Italian and Chinese business relations were a consolidated fact. After this information of the virus that originated in Wuhan spreading beyond China was made public, the Italians reacted in two dramatically different ways, but ways that are very much within the cultural and social psyche and very much from “the gut”, and it took only seconds for the deeply conflictual political parties to draw their lots with one or the other of these sides as they encouraged a specific public conduct, not from a scientific point of view, but from the polarised gut whose main concern is the vox populi that can ensure that these parties either remain in power or obtain power if they are in the opposition.

One view encouraged avoiding Chinese businesses. While part of this call to action could be quite logically seen as a health recommendation, it rang out as a discriminatory and xenophobic approach, given that those promoting it are parties that have incitement of xenophobia as their driving factors in the electorate. However, there was some justification of this approach also within the Chinese community itself. Every spokesperson of the Chinese communities in Milan and Prato had been claiming that they had already been self-isolating for at least a month before the first case in Italy had been announced, as well as encouraging their co-nationals in China to put off trips to Italy until after the emergency, offering this as the explanation for having no cases of contagion in their expatriate community, and deeming themselves as not being carriers of the virus, but rather, unfairly affected by a wave of discriminatory populist politics.

sweatshop in naples

Image of a Chinese sweatshop in Naples where workers earned €2.50 per hour and had 15 hour workdays 

Apparently, the leaders of the Chinese community and representatives of it in the Chamber of Commerce were aware of the severity of the situation before Italians were, and took the necessary precautions, or it is likely that some things have not yet come to light, since the Chinese community in Italy, which has a crucial part of its economy in the “underground”, with sweatshops violating every health and safety code being located in every manufacturing region, has been suspiciously absent from any health effects of this virus, which has instead stormed through the general population with alarming speed and severity.


Mayor of Turin Chiara Appendino meets with 14 Chinese Associations to condemn “fear and racism”

The other view, to counter the restrictive approach, likewise with an appeal to the gut and sensitivities of the Italians, went overboard the other way. It was not only encouraged to frequent, in particular, Chinese business establishments and support their economy, but it was communicated by the more progressive wings as possibly being racist to distance oneself from Chinese people, and the typically Italian physicality of embracing and touching was encouraged toward this community that for the most part considers itself and is considered as outsiders and separate. The concept of “Milano da bere”, the socialising of the aperitif, the adoption of the Movida a few months before its natural lifecycle in the spring, was encouraged also by these political parties and progressive movements. The leader of the Partito Democratico, in late February, posed in photos engaging in these very social activities, only to announce in early March that he tested positive to the virus and was putting himself in self-quarantine.
In a matter of days, the situation of contagion skyrocketed in the productive regions of the north. Efforts to lock down these towns in “red zones” were rapid, and united the two vastly different political sides in their recognition of the need to isolate and quarantine for the common good. However, in spite of efforts that currently look mild, but at the time were quite radical, day after day, it became clear that the virus was spreading rapidly beyond the red zones, so efforts were stepped up to lock down the north in order to slow down the growth of the contagion, and particularly, to prevent it from spreading to the south, where it would create an unprecedented crisis within the crisis, since it does not have the health structures to handle the demand for intensive care that this virus, in many cases, requires.

There have been some good analyses that take into consideration the reasons for the particular virulence of the virus in Italy, many of them based on cultural factors such as human vicinity and the very reduced physical distance Italians use in their daily lives. Others cite geographical factors such as population density. There are logical assumptions about the quantity and frequency of social contact as well. There is much commuting in daily life in Italy, with most children using public transportation to get to school in lieu of the school buses so common in other countries. Most schools do not provide extra-curricular activities, so many children also attend oratories for after-school activities if their parents work, or frequent sport structures. But, most of the smaller children spend a great deal of time with their grandparents, who take care of them in their own homes or in the homes of their own children. The amount of time that different generations spend together, relatively high in comparison to most other countries, is determined not only by a sense of family and affection, but also out of economic requirements when parents have no other alternative. Children are “notoriously” very effective carriers of viruses and the elderly are “notoriously” very susceptible to complications from a virus turning into something extremely severe and also fatal.

foto ansa

Naples Photo ANSA

Another cultural factor is that Italians have a habit of going out each day for the required ingredients for their meals. You don’t need to have a Spritz in Milan to be in the firing line for the virus, it’s enough to get your bread, milk and meat fresh daily together with hundreds of others in your neighbourhood. You might grasp their arm, give them a kiss, take hold of their hand as you do it. Italians, for the most part, live in small flats within densely populated cities and towns, and the public space is used not only as a social space, but also as an extension of the living space. It has been a hard blow to lose all of it, suddenly and completely, but given the particular configuration of this country, it was inevitable to require national lockdown as soon as possible and for it to be as thorough as possible.

All of these factors cited above, and many more, contributed to such a virus spreading and searing its way through Italy in the first months of 2020. Italians are aware that their own social, economic and cultural situation can be considered as related to the cause, and, with incredible sense of responsibility, they have been sacrificing so much of their affections, freedoms, spaces and habits.

Written by Eugenio Dacrema  25 March, 2020, translated by Mary Rizzo

For human beings, every problem, even a very concrete one such as the spread of a disease within a community, is first and foremost a matter of perception given by our essence as social animals. If, for example, at some point we personally do not have a certain disease and people in direct contact with us do not have it, it will be very difficult that we perceive the spread of that disease as something serious in the country or in the city in which we live. This has very practical effects: until a couple of weeks ago many citizens of Milan, including the writer, did not realise the danger of the new virus until the media started dedicating massive energies to it and more and more announcements by the authorities, ever more alarming, began to arrive about the number of infections and deaths.

This might seem like pure theoretical elucubration if it were not that, especially in today’s world, the separation between perception and reality is often masterfully and very concretely exploited by many regimes in power throughout the world to manage the most serious global crisis of our generation: that of the coronavirus.

The perception that dictatorship is a defense against the spread of the virus

To understand what that means, simply take a look at the data on deaths and infections published throughout the world (many news sites, for instance, Bloomberg, do it very well with interactive maps). The numbers seem to tell us a rather peculiar thing: leaving China aside (on whose data it would still be necessary to do a great deal of checks), the virus seems to hit democratic countries particularly hard, and only touch the countries governed by dictatorships with benevolent lightness.

The debate over this discrepancy has become increasingly surreal in recent weeks. A “rationalist” approach raises arguments that have some factual basis, for example, the fact that advanced democracies are more interconnected with the world and for this reason were some of the first to be reached by the contagion. We have also seen an increase in the number of explanations flirting with the perennial Italic fascination with authoritarian solutions. According to this line of thinking, “strong” men and regimes would have somehow been able to keep the virus at bay thanks to their ability to impose discipline “with brutal measures” (although it is not clear how, since in most cases no special restrictive measures were imposed: perhaps simply “using fear”). In Italy, this approach has brought out one of the most disheartening aspects of this crisis in recent days, namely the tendency of many Italians to throw themselves at the feet of any dictator ready to give us some planes full of aid (with an often dubious utility and usefulness) and to tell us that his “strong” regime, as opposed to our democracy, has kept the disease at bay.


Media control and the battle of Italy

The point that “rationalist” and “pro-authoritarian” explanations seem to be unable to grasp is a simple mechanism that modern dictatorships have learned: if you control everything, from hospitals to information to the police, you don’t need to solve a problem, you just have to say that you that you have solved it. If you don’t look for a problem (for example, by not testing patients) of course you won’t find it. And thus, for example, in Russia there are a mere 150 cases of coronaviruses declared and hospitals are instead dealing with thousands of cases of a particularly lethal pneumonia (but, of course, according to the authorities, it’s all absolutely ordinary). In Egypt, the authorities seem more committed to introducing restrictive measures for journalists who have been talking about the expansion of coronavirus in the country, rather than introducing measures to contain the contagion. In Iran, a regime already in the midst of a crisis of legitimacy, contradictory messages are being sent, divided between the one message on the need for aid and the other of not appearing excessively weakened in the eyes of its citizens. And so, while Zarif is asking for help via tweets in English – and rightly many, including Mondodem, have taken action to ask their governments to support Iran at this time and to press the US for at least a partial lifting of sanctions – Khamenei does not miss any opportunity to reiterate that the virus is an American plot to strike the country.

We have often seen the actual dictatorships flanked by leaders with aims that are not exactly what we could consider as democratic, such as the Brazilian Bolsonaro – who called the coronavirus a media hoax – and the Israeli Netanyahu – who used an emergency decree to annul a parliamentary vote that prevented the government from using equipment normally used for hunting down terrorists to monitor the contagious among the population. Because as another Israeli, the writer Yuval Noah Harari, said, the real dividing line that the pandemic is tracing is that between two different reactions of societies around the world: those that will decide to proceed with coercion and imposition from above, and those who will first try to delegate responsibility (and power) to their citizens, explaining to them the situation and the very good reasons why certain restrictions have become necessary.

Italy is now in the balance between these two choices. So far, the Italian citizens have been able to take responsibility for themselves and, despite some regrettable exceptions, the vast majority have understood the seriousness of the situation and have been able to comply with the restrictions demanded by the government without the need for major intervention of surveillance and law enforcement. Unfortunately, however, the fascination so many people have for dictatorships, often encouraged by the ability of those dictatorships to show themselves as being much stronger and untouchable than they really are, is still strong, for solutions of authority that involve delegating responsibility and power to a higher authority, giving it free reign to impose by force all the restrictions it desires. It does not matter if such restrictions often have a struggle ahead of them in being reversed once the emergency is over. A trend that is indicative of the lack of maturity of many Italians who prefer to feel like children who are being cared for by a father-master state rather than owners on a par with power – and therefore duties and responsibilities – in their own society. But the choice between these two approaches is, after the medical one against the virus, the other fundamental battle worth fighting today. Because if we can be sure that the epidemic will end sooner or later, we can be equally certain that the choices we make today to combat it will leave even deeper traces of the virus in our future and that of future generations.


Daniele Ranieri, Italian journalist, writes: Updates on the death of Iranian general Soleimani


Did the American Reaper drone that killed Suleimani depart from the Sigonella base in Sicily? The Reaper can fly for 1,900 km and the distance to Baghdad is 2,700 km, so this theory is to be excluded. It’s is like there are no nearby slopes in the Middle East where it could have been launched from. Half of Baghdad airport is a giant American base, and Soleimani’s car skirted the wall.

The Iraqi Parliament did not “vote for the ousting of the Americans.” It met to approve a non-binding letter to the Prime Minister calling for an end to military missions in Iraq and the dissolution of the militias. “Reunited” is a big word because there were 170 out of 328 MPs, the other 158 deserted the chamber because they opposed the motion.

The Americans are in Iraq because there is a letter of invitation from the Iraqi Prime Minister and he can theoretically withdraw it. But he hasn’t done it yet. He called for foreign soldiers to remain in Iraq so that they would train Iraqi soldiers, but this is a request that will not be heeded: the trainers will not remain in Iraq without all the other soldiers who guarantee them a minimum of protection.

In short: Iraqi politicians had to save face in the face of the Iranian regime with a “vote”. It is very likely that the presence of the International Coalition in Iraq will end soon anyway, because it makes no sense to continue operations against the Islamic State and to stay in bases that will be bombed by pro-Iranian militias with rockets and mortars.

There are no “American bases” in Iraq, there are Iraqi military bases that contain compounds where Americans (and soldiers of other nationalities, Italians included) are staying. And every time Soleimani’s militias fire rockets and mortars at the bases, they injure and kill Iraqi soldiers.

In mid-October, Soleimani met with militia commanders in Baghdad to create a new militia unknown to the Americans that would increase attacks on the bases. The Iranian general had also coordinated the arrival of other weapons from Iran, including anti-aircraft missiles to shoot down Coalition helicopters, according to a piece published yesterday by Reuters, which interviewed two militia commanders present at the meeting.

So, Soleimani alive or Soleimani dead, Iran’s campaign to end the Coalition’s presence in Iraq was already underway. Thirteen attacks in the last two months of the year are the proof.

Did Trump order Soleimani’s killing to distract America from impeachment? Republicans have 20 seats that should change their minds in the Senate but will never vote to remove Trump. The impeachment was born dead and in fact the TV rating was rather uninspiring.

Why drive out of Iraq the soldiers of the international mission who are carrying out operations against the Islamic State and who have at their disposal very advanced and valuable technology and intelligence against terrorists and who sooner or later would have left anyway? Because for three months there has been a stalemate in the country: the center of the capital is occupied by thousands of protesters who peacefully demand an end to Iranian interference in the country. Soleimani’s militias have killed no less than five hundred, but that’s not enough. The government is comatose, the Prime Minister has resigned but no one has yet replaced him. Tension against an external enemy has the potential of extinguishing protests. And in fact, in three days the coverage of the “war” between America and Iran was a thousand times greater than that of the protests. This is an explanation that holds up far more as a theory than “there was a need for a distraction against impeachment.”

Soleimani’s death sparked a wave of relief and joy in the Middle East. His militias – also made up of teenagers recruited in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, sent to war for Iranian interests – have kidnapped, tortured and made thousands of people disappear, have besieged some cities until death by starvation of the civilians and destabilised the region for years.

The Iranian Soleimani wanted to appoint the prime minister of Iraq, had Iraqi soldiers killed at their bases, kidnapped and killed 20-year-old Iraqi protesters. It was the textbook definition of military butcher and imperialist arrogance.

Have the Iranians withdrawn from the nuclear agreement? No, the Iranians after Trump suddenly abandoned the agreement, had also announced a gradual and progressive withdrawal. The announcement made yesterday does not accelerate the withdrawal that was already underway and does not touch on one of the most important principles: the possibility for the International Atomic Agency to carry out inspections at sites in Iran. In short: it is very likely that the Iranian regime will turn the nuclear issue into a tug of war, into a permanent crisis to make Western governments pay for it, but for now, the drama is in the headlines, not in the facts.

The Trump Administration does not want to wage war and yet it continues to make a fuss and to cite the invasion of Iraq in 2003 or the conflict in Vietnam. The American Administration has established a principle of deterrence: if the Iranians send a bomb truck against an American embassy, the Americans bomb Iranian targets (this is just is an example). I understand that if the Administration wanted to occupy Tehran, it would be a disintegration, but it is not. Deterrence, not war, is what is actually happening.

Soleimani’s militias yesterday released a video with faces covered in balaclavas, weapons and black clothes in which they announce suicide attacks.

Original in Italian: aWbbRugu05EwbahkYM2PCdp3E9Bg1uKB0DUlyFdy9RSz03p3atjm4smEWdm_S4ahC0e3xlOwOc1z07n0pvteelJvn5EsEKsNvmRrvu4JVCEVTbvUSkLFm5a9OXJD1fp8QPkAIMM3QA8sJ0gVhWDv13f1vNndspWtdqqpCi __xts__ CaMfUcUCZAPNcF9Y3Ea6h1QZCW7UjjB3MULJrebzZo0IdCGTY-91Tib9bX-b2Uo5GCof2bLYk7WG8LT6VjJI8Y5drE&__tn__-R


WRITTEN BY Francesco Petronella, translated by Mary Rizzo

Why is the war in Syria and its dead remembered only if Trump and Erdogan intervene, badly? Or when something touches Rojava?

Operation “Spring of Peace”, conducted on Syrian territory by the Turkish army against the Kurdish YPG militias (part of the security forces of the NES, commonly known as Rojava), comes as a thunderstorm that wipes out the fog of hypocrisy. It clearly shows the inherent contradictions in the way the Syrian conflict has been viewed by the Western world, and by Italians in particular.

The first “great discovery” that the Turkish offensive in northeastern Syria (NES) has brought to light is as extraordinary as it is obvious: there is a war in Syria.


The mainstream media, the in-depth news talk shows and the whole Western media circus connected to it, seem to have remembered the war in Syria only through the US withdrawal and the Turkish offensive. This creates some perplexity in the face of a conflict that has been going on, continuously, for almost 9 years and has resulted in a civilian death toll that is officially (under)estimated to count between 370,000 and 570,000 deaths.

In Syria, in fact, people died even before Trump gave the green light to Erdogan’s Turkey to launch the operation. One only has to look at the last battle ground between the self-styled Islamic State and the SDF and the constant Russian-Syrian government raids against anti-Assad rebels in the Idlib area, under the canton of Afrin.

In that region – regarded by the Assadists as “in the hands of fundamentalists” – people died (and still today die) in a very particular way. Local health officials, in fact, communicate the coordinates of hospitals, clinics and field schools to the Syrian army and to its responsible bodies, so that missiles and Russian-Syrian government air raids avoid these targets by focusing their firepower on the rebel positions.


The outcome, as evidenced by various sources including the UN and the WHO, is exactly the opposite: health and school facilities are systematically targeted by the Russian-Syrian forces using these coordinates supplied to them.

Mohamad Kattoub of the Syrian-American Medical Society (Sams), interviewed by the Italian agency “Dire”, said that of the 38 hospitals hit from April to July 2019 in the Idlib area “14 had shared their coordinates for the first time” with Assad’s forces.

A very serious act and a blatant crime against humanity, but also news that, taken up by almost no one in the Italian media, has not aroused a fragment of the political and social uproar seen in recent days for the Turkish campaign against the YPG. Almost as if there were double standards at play, however, ones that follow an already common pattern.

In February 2018, with operation “Olive Branch”, Turkish forces together with Syrian anti-Assad rebels took control of the Syrian canton of Afrin, which until then was controlled by the Kurdish YPG. The operation sparked protests in many of Italy’s cities, enraged tweets against Turkey and even the call for a No Fly Zone in the area to counter the air raids against Afrin.

A few months earlier, civilians living in Eastern Ghouta, a Damascus suburb controlled by anti-government militias, were subjected to indiscriminate airstrikes by Russian-Syrian government forces, with deaths in the thousands. Yet, also in that case, in the face of the outcry over Afrin, there was only silence for Ghouta.


Why did Afrin matter more than Eastern Ghouta, and today, why does Rojava matter more – for us Westerners – than Idlib?

The reason is because the difference between civilian deaths in Syria and victims of the Turkish invasions is purely political.

Without a doubt, abandoning Rojava to its own – terrible – fate after the SDF and YPG have been praised as having “defeated the Islamic State” is just as counterproductive as it is immoral and wrong, but this isn’t enough to explain why there is so much indignation currently.


The YPG – talking about “Kurds” is a simplification that can even be misleading – arouse particular sympathy in certain circles of the Italian and international left, from Youth Social Centers to parliamentary forces. Everyone in recent days has spoken in favour of the Kurdish-Syrian cause and against the Turkish offensive and the issue has entered – to the detriment of the Turkish players – also on the football pitch.

The reason for this feeling between the YPG – armed branch of the Syrian wing of the Kurdish PKK – and the Italian left is due to the fact that the former have had, over the years, the incredible ability to propose their cause as a one that is socialist, libertarian, gender-friendly and even gay-friendly. They, as mentioned in a previous article, had the ability – for a just cause – to use the mass media and social media in their favour.


To understand the phenomenon, just sift through social media or enter any bookstore. If we talk about the YPG or SDF, the images are always those of proud young women armed with machine guns and with the wind blowing through their hair: the perfect nemesis of the male-dominated jihadists and obscurantists of the Islamic State or al-Qaeda. The antithesis of what we as Westerners define as “wrong” in Islamic culture.

Bearded and observant? Terrorist. Woman without a headscarf? Courageous leftist revolutionary. The reality, unfortunately or fortunately, is much more complex than that.

Needless to say, among the Kurdish population, the vast majority of whom are Sunni Muslims, there are also bearded men who pray five times a day and observe Ramadan like any devout follower of Islam. Needless to say, Rojava, the PYD (of which the YPG are the armed branch) are only the forces on the ground, a fragment of a spectrum – the Kurdish cultural one – that is far wider and more diversified.

It would be superfluous, if these purely aesthetic and formal aspects were to become the substance of the discussions on the Middle East, those that make us define –  à la Fallaci – in a Manichean way, the “good” and the “bad”, fomenting the enormous misinformation in the West on the subject.

Mideast Syria


It is less superfluous to point out that the application of Democratic Confederalism in Rojava theorised by Ocalan was not the only “left-wing experience” of the Syrian conflict.

In the forgotten Eastern Ghouta, experiments in the organisation of civil society were undertaken by the rebels, involving the provision of the welfare and assistance needs from below through the Local Coordination Committees – tansiqiyat in Arabic – in competition with the top-level structure of the regime, known with the term Nizam (literally ‘system’). All this is following the writings of a Damascus dissident Omar Aziz, for whom the goal of the Syrian revolution – “the time of the revolution” – was to reduce the dependence of Syrian citizens on the regime and its structures – the time of power – for its daily livelihood.

Is there anything more left-wing than that? And Aziz was not the only one. Razan Zaytouneh, Samira Khalil are only some of the names, unknown in the West to almost everyone, of those who dreamed of a secular and democratic Syria, but did not have the press agents necessary for this dream, the original dream of the Syrian revolution, so it  was never able to reach the lazy ears of the Westerner.

Let us be clear, this is not a condemnation of the YPG, the SDF or of Rojava, but of the way in which we, here in Italy and the West, perceive and/or think we understand the war in Syria with the terrifying result that when we talk about it, the discriminating factor between general protests and indifference does not seem to be concerned with the loss of life, almost always civilian lives, but it is all about us and our ideological belonging.

This is why the visual narrative offered by the YPG is successful. It gives the left – or presumed such – a subject with which it is easy to empathise. Just as, always on an ideological and communicative level, the images of the Assad military and the “great defender of Christianity” (and beacon of American anti-imperialism) Putin against bearded terrorists fuel the rhetoric of the radical right.

Add to this the possibility that the attack – again from our ideological point of view as Westerners – or the invasion is carried out by the “absolute villain” Erdogan thanks to the betrayal of the “even worse villain” Trump against the “absolute good guys” of the YPG, we have the perfect storm: a scenario where it’s in fact too easy to take sides.

Even at the expense of forgetting now – as happened in the past – the rest of Syria, so it will be easier to forget it again when the Rojava emergency is over.



Written by Yassin Al Haj Saleh, translated by Na Assouad (into Italian) and Mary Rizzo (into English)

13 October 2019

Suppose that we Syrians resigned ourselves and no longer had hope in the revolution, suppose that the revolution has come to an end and we wish, as many actually would, to turn the page and move on. I ask myself if our enemies would even allow us to do that? Would the despicable regime accept it?

No, they would desecrate the revolution, the memory of the martyrs and they would cancel every trace of it, as they have already done in Ghouta. They would falsify everything that happened, as they have been doing, imprisoning those who have returned to the “lap of the motherland”, torturing and killing them.

Would the protectors of the despicable regime accept it? No, never! They first have to paint the page as black as possible, they have to burn it and then scatter its ashes.

It must serve as an example for everyone! Isn’t that what they have always done in the past?

Would the comrades of the despicable regime accept it? No, never! They will continue their war, against even the memory of the revolution, against the term “Syrian revolution”, as long as the despicable regime stays in power.

They will pursue this memory and destroy it to the bitter end, dragging it in the mud with insults and lies until the end of their days.

For these reasons, the despicable regime and its accomplices and protectors can slaughter us, but they will never defeat us, because they do not even know the concept of politics, they are bereft of values, they can do nothing but contemplate their crimes.

The Syrian revolution has come to an end. It’s true! But the Syrian Cause has just begun.

And the enemy of the revolution is the same enemy of the cause, so there is no other choice than to continue, to persist, but with different methods, other rhythms, basing ourselves on the lessons that the martyred and battered revolution has given us.

The crux of the cause is the construction of Syria on the basis of the values of the revolution, of the republic, the takeover of politics and of the country, dignity and justice, to continue the battle after the defeat.

ergogan map

Scattered and disconsolate thoughts
WRITTEN by Fouad Roueiha, translated by Mary Rizzo

The US green light for the Turkish operation in northern Syria is a disaster and yet another demonstration of how damaging the divisions between Kurds and Arabs have been, actually serving the interests of others, rather than to those of people living or who have lived in Syria. The Kurdish forces, the YPG and YPJ of the PYD party, have been the backbone of the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF) sought by Washington and used for the purposes of not having to deploy American boots on the ground in the fight against ISIS. A battle that took place without regard for the local populations (see Raqqa, razed to the ground by US bombing) and which handed over large Arab-majority territories to a force perceived as Kurdish nationalist (not wrongly) and therefore as foreign, as if it were an invasion. Emblematic was the entry of the SDF into Raqqa after its “liberation”: no Syrian flags, many flags of the most powerful Kurdish party and enormous portraits of its ideologue Abdullah Ocalan. On the other hand, the military collapse by the Arab anti-Assad militias, increasingly becoming hostages to the “sponsors” and therefore quarrelsome and competing with each other, crushed by the enormous weight of the Russian air force and Iranian ground troops and other allies of Assad, has pushed whoever remained standing either to embracing Al Qaeda (in some of its recent incarnations) or becoming factually under the auspices of Turkey.


This situation has already led to a huge polarisation between Syrian Arabs and Kurds, especially with the increase of cooperation between Kurds and the regime on the one hand, with the Turkish invasion of Afrin (and consequent deportations of Kurds) on the other. The Arabs now speak of the Kurds as “separatist militias” (which is only partially true) and the Kurds speak of Arab forces as “jihadists in the service of Turkey”, here too, only partially true.

The feared Turkish invasion of northern Syria to the Euphrates, to create a buffer zone and free it from “terrorism” (as Ankara defines the Kurdish forces), will produce the forced displacement of Kurdish-majority areas, which will be repopulated by Syrian Arab refugees currently hosted in Turkey and which Erdogan hopes will be loyal to him. We are talking about poor people who have lost their homes who will be allowed to leave the hell of the refugee camps to settle in the homes of poor people like themselves, expelled to make room and leave the government in Ankara alone. The PYD and its militias are likely to turn to their “least worst” enemy, namely Assad, and their traditional Russian ally, in recent years betrayed for those states that have now dumped them, attracting hatred, not concerned about the rest of the Syrian population, as there were not enough barbed wire to divide the communities that make up the Syrian people. The only moments when Arab and Kurdish forces cooperated fruitfully against common oppression were the peaceful demonstrations of 2011 (looked down upon by the PYD, which then prevented it from continuing) and the Battle of Kobane in which also battalions of the Free Syrian Army participated (looked down upon by Erdogan, who also had the historical rivals of the PYD/PKK participating, namely the Peshmerga of the Iraqi Kurdish leader Barzani).

This will inevitably produce more sectarian hatred and tensions, seeds that will transcend generations by building a fence of mistrust and resentment between Arabs and Syrian Kurds that will remain in people’s common memory.

If Turkey will really create this “safe zone”, then it too, like Russia and Iran, will be one of the occupying forces in Syria that will have under their control much larger portions of territory than those occupied (and now almost annexed) by Israel in the Golan Heights.


Written by Mary Rizzo, long-time Ken-skeptic, and only cheated out of money for the “Ferry to Gaza” that never saw the light of day.

It’s been over three and a half years since Ken O’Keefe announced (and started asking for money) the World Citizen Solution. In the meantime, he’s often announced he’d actually announce what this whole Solution actually was, but all he’s pretty much come up with was that he paid a lawyer a lot of other people’s money to look into the solution, the time of which to properly announce has not yet arrived.

He must have over-estimated his followers’ patience, because he’s been dumped by almost all of his supporters and those involved in the “solution” and even been dumped by many of those who promoted him, allowing him to gain more followers, and most importantly, get a lot of donors, using their “reputations” in the “alternative news”, anarcho-capitalist “investment”, “truther” and conspiracy theorist movements (such as David Icke and those whose income were derived from association with him).

He bitterly fights (or insults or blocks) whoever has actually questioned him, but the one thing they’ll never get from him is ACCOUNTABILITY.

Well, if Ken won’t come up with the goods, somebody better. It’s time for some research, and since his former followers are laying low, I guess that means I’ll do some digging.

I’ve searched for anything I could find about the World Citizen Solution in the past six months. I’ve come up with almost nothing.


Then, it hit me, clear as the light of the new day. I suppose people weren’t paying attention. It was there in front of their eye(s) all the time.

Now, before I get ahead of myself, I have to make a premise. In the beginning, Ken was about ecology. He was about burning passports. Then he was about anti-war. Then he was about Palestine. Then he was about Banksters. Then he had some spiritual-ish place in a tropical island decorated by his girlfriend. Then he was about TSA. Then he was about going to Thailand and doing who knows what and being arrested for not updating his visa, which is required by every foreigner who is prolonging their presence in the country. Almost all of these campaigns had him asking people to give him money so that he could do these things and make videos about them. He claimed again and again that he was risking his life, that people were trying to kill him. Wait… he actually said he DID die and that he came back to life, so the Ken we are seeing has also been resurrected from the dead. Usually that brings an epiphany, when people have near death experiences, it makes them want to make peace with the universe and since he is a believer in God, the common response is to live life to the fullest, but also to make amends with those he may have hurt (or cheated). But rather than just answer all of his donors when they asked either if they could have their money back or know EXACTLY how it was spent, he spewed more nastiness at them and did it from a tropical swimming pool (again, those tropical zones!) where he repeatedly said that he was fearing “they” would kill him. (Well, his donors were angry, but he doesn’t mean them. He means the PTB (“Powers That Be”). It seems that currently he’s living a nomadic life of being the guest at the homes of his followers in many different countries. Apparently, he has ZERO interest in revealing either what the money was spent on (other than generic “expenses” and the famous report from the famous lawyer), so people…. It’s no use to keep asking. You are not going to get an answer NOR are you going to get your money back. EVER. End of. You should  have listened to our warnings years ago.

But, if you look through the evolution of Ken over the years, you find that there are some strange things, and I’m going to put on my tin hat right now and tell you that he might even be “one of them”! An Operative or an Infiltrate into all of your movements.

Ken joins movements (that already exist), gives them a twist where he assumes a sort of “leadership” role, while at the same time, stressing that it’s a true movement of a HUGE group of people. He doesn’t abide anyone shifting him out of leadership position, though. Once he’s pretty much gotten what he could out of the movement (or some within it have grown wise to him) he shifts to another movement. He completely dominates in the same way whatever it is that the movement is doing/discussing and challenged anyone else in it for the leadership of it. He’s not got his heart in all of it, probably, he wasn’t the Star of a White Nationalism and Guns convention (Free your Minds) in some American backwoods, nor was he the key draw in the Alt Guru event called, with incredibly originality, “Open Minds” and, sad to say, he didn’t outshine turbo-libertarian Jeff Berwick or right-wing Milo Yiannopoulos in the Anarcho-Capitalist conference held in a five-star hotel in Mexico, but he does enjoy the limelight and the special perks of these events and caters whatever his speech is to the feelings of those attending, because all of them have wallets and all of them can recruit other people to following Ken. Following his trajectory, you can see how, in 12 easy steps, he went from the One State Solution to the World Citizen Solution, losing almost all the original followers and requiring him to start a new group of them each and every time. Aloha indeed.

The strange thing, though, is that most of the movements he enjoys the greatest popularity in can be considered along the “conspiracy theory” spectrum. If you look at this video, where he talks about finance, you can see it was picked up because of one of the lines he says as a message to his followers (who discuss whether it’s the Freemasons, Illuminati, Jesuits or Reptilians who control the world, though lately, he’s added Jews, feeling emboldened by the zeitgeist).

KOK is it the illuminati


Clearly, these are the discussions of those who follow him. So, it would stand to reason that he’d KNOW that they were very tuned-in to the related symbolism. He’d HAVE to be, right? He’d have to just KNOW you would not put this picture of yourself up as the symbol of your campaigns on one of the sites you use to ask for money, because it would be a red flag to whoever is donating to you.

KOK illuminati


Then, let’s look at the campaign, the one that probably spelled the definitive downfall of Ken as the (One) World (!!!) Citizen (Final) Solution. Here it is, with the money collected ONLY through the Indiegogo site of that campaign. This site does not include any other way that money was donated to it. So, raised by Ken’s followers and paid exclusively to Ken from this one means of collection was $113, 470. Not a huge amount, but certainly, a lot of money that was going to something people believed in and wanted answers concerning how their donations would specifically stop the perpetual cycle of war.

kok money

Yes, that was what the purpose of WCS was, at least, that was the one in black on white. It might be hard to do much of ANYTHING with a shiny silver coin that has no value as currency, but maybe in time will become some hot little collector’s item.


But wait… the coin was just one of the perks. There were others, including a t-shirt. Let’s see how that got distributed:

KOK sticker

JJ Alexander, a donor (only donors could comment) as recently as three months ago (that is, three years and three months after he donated) said that he felt Ken scammed them. JJ got the sticker, BUT NO SHIRT! Oh, and where are the other actions he promised, while we are at it?

KOK shirt no

I believe it’s reasonable to say that everyone can stop waiting for the solution Ken will give you (with money he asks for to do it) to end the perpetual cycle of war, you can probably also stop waiting for the T-shirt promoting him and “his Solution”.

At this point, I feel it is safe to say that the World Citizen Solution, the source of disappointment to so many believers has revealed itself as being nothing more than a sticker. People who donated (maybe not even all of them, but at least most of them) have something to stick on their luggage, when they go to tropical islands and exotic places, or to five-star hotels and retreats in Bali.

You got a sticker. Hope the glue at least does what you expect it to.

KOK sticker 2


all that glitters

Any person who has been a campaigner for Palestinian rights is aware of the various techniques that Israel uses to whitewash the occupation of Palestine and the oppression that the Palestinians are subject to. Along with Hasbara, which is a kind of prepared narrative to dominate the talking points and shift the discourse to a place where it makes Israel appear to be the underdog fighting for its legitimate rights instead of its actual reality as a brutal militarily occupying force against Palestinians, there is “whitewashing”. When regimes or countries that are not democratic use whitewashing, they make use of propagandists to determine talking or selling points that make these countries seem more democratic, more progressive and more appealing than they really are. The curtain is never pulled back to show what lay on the other side of all that “great stuff”.

Israel invests heavily in campaigns of tourism. “Two Sunny Cities, One Break” and “Douze Points” are only two of the campaigns in recent years that have sought a new, fashionable kind of tourist, one that was looking for the nightlife and a place to party 24 hours, and mostly a place to continue the promotion with selfies to be shared, encouraging yet more tourism to Israel in a virtuous circle. In the advertisements, the emphasis is on discotheques, pools, chic restaurants and bars. It’s all about fun and hedonism. That doesn’t mean that the “heritage” tourism, to religious sites and kibbutzes has stopped, it’s just that the advertising focus wants the potential tourist to believe that going to Tel Aviv is exactly like going to Milan, Prague or Madrid, only in this case, your holiday will never be spoiled by rain and your fun never stops. It is selling the side of Israel that reaps the benefits from the occupation, and doesn’t actually have to even think about Palestinians existing on the other side of the wall or who are living imprisoned on the outskirts of Jewish Settlements or any of the other situations where Palestinians do not experience full rights, including the right of free movement in their own country.

The BDS movement has a statement on ethical tourism which begins as follows:

Based on the UN’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) affirmation in its statutes that it fundamentally aims at “the promotion and development of tourism with a view to contributing to […] universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion”

It would follow that tourism to countries where there is a brutal occupation, violations of human rights and enclaves of persons living in grave peril under bombing and siege by their “government” and its allies would be exactly like violating the BDS call to boycott Israeli tourism. To go to places like that would require a particular behaviour set in order to be ethical, and that set has to be consistent. One can’t dance in the Tel Aviv discos and also show solidarity by avoiding all institutional links of any sort with Israel. You can’t pick and choose parts from each; it’s all or nothing.

The Syrian government has learned so much from the Israeli government’s use of hasbara, of throwing the rock and hiding the hand. One can say that it realises that slick propaganda is the other side of military occupation and oppression. They are working hard at whitewashing Syria, pointing out the sun, fun and pride of the “loyalist” Syrians (who never had to experience the bombs and destruction of any of the opposition areas, because the opposition did not have the military power or the conviction to subject the civilian population to sieges and air strikes). But, the regime can’t do it alone. It can’t put up slick advertisements on major Western TV channels. It is really limited in the extent to which it can promote the false narrative. This means that it has to find an alternative.

syrian ministry tourism.PNG

Facebook main photo of the Syrian Ministry of Tourism

The Syrian Ministry of Tourism has always been the propaganda arm of the regime. In the past, the process of vetting (and interrogating) tourists, with those finally passing through all the hoops specifically having limited or no access to some places and making a person fully aware that the “walls have ears”, made tourism there a sort of adventure tourism and a bit of a Truman Show. You accept that you have certain limits, which you are careful to not overstep. And how could you ever forget, with pictures of Big Brother everywhere, at public transport hubs and markets, but even on archaeological sites and churches. Everyone around you knows you can be called a spy, so you will only hear the most glowing and fervent praise of the government. The element of it being an inauthentic experience for everyone was more than mitigated by: for the tourist,  beautiful scenery and a very different kind of experience (something to write home about as weird but exciting), for the Syrians playing along, making some money off of tourists. Everyone played the game, but at least, everyone knew it was a game.


The regime in the past also had a habit of involving bloggers and journalists – and not just those whose topic was travel, but especially those who were active in blogging for Palestine or Arab Nationalism – in “junket trips” where they not only had the government approved handlers, but were also shown many of the same places, with a similar narrative and the instructions to “take the talking points back home”, with a sort of briefing of what the points were. That allowed them to create a group of people who, given the amount of perks and the hospitality, were either blinded or they felt morally obligated to pay back the courtesy. Letting oneself be wilfully blinded works if someone can ignore reality. That was certainly easier in the past, when Syria was never in the news, when people “disappeared” for having told a joke or their opportunities were determined by how much they were able to prostrate themselves before the dynasty in power and all of its long arms around the country.

Today, it is impossible to ignore what is going on in Syria. That half of the country’s population has become refugees or internally displaced. That enormous areas of the country have been destroyed by constant and relentless air raids by the regime and other occupying forces, with Russia and Iran’s proxy militias playing the leading roles in these destructive raids, expecting their payback now and in the future. That hundreds of thousands of civilians have “disappeared” and many have been documented in photographs smuggled from a Syrian prison where they were tortured to death. That massacres of all kinds have been documented, with loyalists rejoicing and calling the victims terrorists, even the children who were slaughtered by knives, nerve gas or barrel bombs.

To go to Damascus and other regime-held areas, partying in the shisha bars, sunbathing at the beaches, buying souvenirs in the souks and visiting the sites, whether pretending to be “independent”, while employed by RT, or on a fact-finding mission, getting only the facts the regime wants one to get, with the loyalist behaviour doing the self-censorship, would require a certain, pathological kind of disconnect from reality, along with a severe ethical deficit.

To go to Saydnaya and to just look at the beautiful church, denying that the regime’s most brutal torture prison is located in the same village, is just like going to Tel Aviv, and not pulling the curtain back on Hebron’s misery.

Beware of any “journalist” or “tourist” going to Syria being anything but a propaganda tool for the regime and a knife in the heart of the Syrian people whose struggle for freedom was also a struggle to no longer play the game of lies and deceit. To live in their own country, authentically, without the oppression of the dynasty in power.

Douraid, Rifat and Firas

Firas, Rifaat and Douraid al-Assad. Photo published on Douraid al-Assad’s Facebook page

Introduction and Translation by Amr Salahi

The following Facebook post was written by Firas al-Assad, one of the sons of Rifaat al-Assad. It is addressed to his brother, Duraid. Rifaat al-Assad is the brother of Hafez al-Assad and uncle of Syria’s current President Bashar al-Assad. In the 1970s and 80s he was a powerful figure in Syria, taking charge of the feared Defence Companies. He is widely held responsible for the 1982 Hama Massacre, in which up to 30,000 Syrians were killed following a failed uprising against Hafez al-Assad’s regime. In 1983, when Hafez became seriously ill, Rifaat attempted to take charge of the country, trying to overrule the six-member emergency committee Hafez appointed to rule in his stead. When Hafez’s health improved, he sent Rifaat into exile. Rifaat has lived in France and Spain ever since, so far escaping prosecution for the Hama Massacre and other crimes he committed in Syria. When Bashar succeeded Hafez in 2000, Rifaat opposed his nephew’s assumption of the presidency. Firas has distanced himself both from his father Rifaat and his cousin Bashar. Duraid however, remains loyal to his father and supports the Assad regime. The two brothers are currently engaging in a Facebook war, which has widely been reported in Arabic-language media.

To Dureid the Son of Rifaat La-Assad (The Non-Lion)

It’s not my fault, Dureid, that your uncle was victorious over your father, and it’s not my fault that your cousin became the ruler of Syria and left you to rule a Facebook page as a consolation prize.

And it wasn’t certain that you would inherit the leadership if your father had defeated your uncle, as you had hoped, because you know that your younger brother is everything to your father. And there’s no doubt that the Khayyir family – and you know who I mean by the Khayyir family – would have finished you with all their might and put you to one side, out of the way of your brother.

Their influence would have been without a doubt many times that which Syrians attribute to Mohammed Makhlouf and his sons, taking into account the difference in the relationship between the Khayyir family and Rifaat Al-Asssad on the one hand and the Makhlouf family and Hafez al-Assad on the other. And everyone around your father knows what our share of.. the Khayyir family means and their total control of him.

It’s not my fault, O son of the leader of the Defence Companies, that you didn’t become the commander of the horsemen and a great leader.

It’s not my fault that the late Basel [Al-Assad] deprived you of competing in the horse-racing championships and told you – according to what you said – that “people won’t be able to take two heroes from the Assad family”.

It’s not my fault that your dreams of ruling Syria crumbled before your eyes.

It’s not my fault that your father didn’t attack your uncle in Kafr Sousseh – as you wished – when he had the opportunity and the tanks of the Defence Companies around him, while your uncle had only a few observers around him, including Basel, whose presence you said was an opportunity which would never present itself again.

It’s not my fault that you accuse your father of cowardice and hesitation and hold him responsible for your dreams falling into a swamp of disappointment.

It’s not my fault that “their Makhlouf” felt superior to “your Makhlouf” and put him in a position different from the one you wanted.

It’s not my fault that you’re living glories which only exist in your own mind.

It’s not my fault that your cousin refused your father’s conditions – and they’re conditions he took from the Khayyir family – for his return to Syria.

It’s not my fault that I was shocked to learn in Europe – under your father’s care – that everything I had learned about nations and patriotism was lies and hypocrisy.

It’s not my fault that I was flabbergasted at your father’s requests to Julian Emery and Francois De Grossouvre.

It’s not my fault that I discovered in Europe the extent of the lies that every citizen in Syria lives.

It’s not my fault that you have cut me off for 21 years because I refuse to visit your father or even speak to him on the phone.

It’s not my fault that you love power, leadership, and rule and I love peace, love, and equality between people.

It’s not my fault that the Syrian people rose up against you because you have led them to a state of despair and revolt.

It’s not my fault that I refuse the killing and torture of innocents and the rape of women in prisons… It’s not my fault that I wasn’t created with a criminal, predatory, or savage nature.

It’s not my fault that my heart breaks for every Syrian child who dies in criminal bombing by a vile hater or despicable occupier.

It’s not my fault that my heart breaks for tens of thousands on poor young Syrians who were martyred or found themselves fighting in the ranks of the Syrian army to protect your regime, which could have avoided all this by showing some modesty towards its people. Would your Uncle Hafez have accepted that Lavrov and Suleimani have the last word concerning Syria and the Syrian people. I swear by God that he would have hanged Atef Najib and Rami the Thief in the squares of Daraa and Damascus to satisfy the Syrian people and prevent the collapse of the country.

Why do the people of Qardaha have to die while the young men of the Assad family make a commotion in the street with their Mercedes, smoke shisha in cafes and fill Facebook up with their posturing posts?

Why do the sons of Muzaira, Jableh, Masyaf, Tartous, and Homs have to die while the son of Rami Makhlouf shows off his car and plane in Dubai?

Why don’t you and your brothers fight?

Even your brothers in Europe come and go to Damascus… well go on a visit to one of the frontlines for a couple of days!

I swear I don’t wish harm on any of you but what about the blood of hundreds of thousands?! Aren’t they humans like you? Are your children more precious than the children of the poor?

Those who tell people to fight… should themselves fight, o son of a leader!

Those who ask the children of other people to die… should have their sons standing in the front rank.

Really there’s something I can’t understand… did God create you to be leaders and create poor Alawis to die for your leadership?

Why is it my fault, o son of the doctor, that you are killers, criminals, and mass murderers destroying your country, crushing your people and causing hundreds of thousands of people to die, while giving up your country to foreign occupation just for the sake of your position.

It’s not my fault that I don’t want to carry the burden of this on my conscience and in front of God.

It’s not my fault that I don’t want my children to carry the burden of all this killing, criminality, and cheapening of the lives of millions of people.

It’s not my fault that I wanted to break with all this history so my children could respect me when they grow up and so I could be the link that broke off the chain of criminality and attached itself to a new chain full of love and humanity.

It’s not my fault that many of our people believe you while you want to lie forever and ever.

It’s not my fault that many of our people don’t know what a nation is and consider that those who steal their whole country and give them a house or car or salary to buy their loyalty is doing them and their children a favour.

It’s not my fault that my conscience forces me to tell the truth to the people so I can light a candle in the darkness that you’ve kept people’s minds in for fifty years.

It’s not my fault that my heart breaks for Fadi Al-Qauzi, my poor driver, who was killed by this damned war of yours.

firas al assad + father

Rifaat and Firas Assad with François Dougrossover, Adviser to Françios Mitterand, then President of France.

It’s not my fault that I refuse to belong to a family with a thousand faces, which doesn’t know right from wrong, which doesn’t know God and conscience, and which God and conscience don’t know.

It’s not my fault that you’re increasing your stores of gold, diamonds, and ancient artefacts in the “Fusch” cellars [reference to Rifa’at al-Assad’s Paris address] while poor people are dying on the front lines while chanting your names.

It’s not my fault that I couldn’t be proud of you while knowing the truth.

It’s not my fault that I refused to be a cheap agent for foreigners.

It’s not my fault that I shouted in the face of that Saudi colonel and told him to carry that case of money to the car himself.

It’s not my fault that your father wanted me to humiliate myself in front of other people for money.

It’s not my fault that I refuse to care about my portion of your father’s inheritance while you grasp at it with your teeth and claws, and that’s why you rush to answer me every time I go deeper and deeper into my memories, so that your father can be satisfied with your good perfomance.

It’s not my fault that I have a brother who never thought of leaving off even the price of a cup of juice of his brother’s bill for years while he is eating in his restaurants.

It’s not my fault that money is your god, Dureid… but not my god!

It’s not my fault that you only see Alawis as cattle to milk and donkeys to ride.

It’s not my fault that your father refused my repeated requests – through your brothers – to break with the past, confess to sins, and place all his material means at the service of poor and needy Syrians inside and outside Syria and the children of martyrs.

It’s not my fault that money to you is more precious than the blood of millions.

Tell your father that I tell him “fie” and “fie” and “fie” [mentioned in the Quran as something rude and forbidden to say to your parents].

Inform him that the Quran – which he never believed in for one day – didn’t mean him personally in that blessed verse. That verse was talking about parents who are human, children of Adam.

Tell him that the old fear has now been erased from my heart.

Tell him that he shouldn’t have hesitated to throw me in Lake Geneva when his knights, commandos, and valiant men carried me there… he would have been rid of me and my writings.

Tell him that my will today cannot be destroyed. My mother is now over 80 and her illness doesn’t leave her any space for more worries… like the worry of him.

Tell your regime in Damascus that I will see my mother, who they are preventing me from visiting… if not in Damascus then at the gates of heaven.

Tell them that my mother’s shoe is worth more than all of themselves.

And lastly Dureid, son of Abu Dureid..

Don’t ever say again that you are my brother, we were never brothers for a single day, and your father was never my father.

Search on my page for the last eight years until today… search through the hundreds of times I talked about your father in my memories and comments, you won’t find a single time where I called him my father – not one – and I only say “my father” so that I can clarify my words and so that people don’t get confused and misunderstand what I’m saying… he is not my father.

Between me and you is the blood of a hundred thousand poor Alawis – or more – who were killed to preserve your thrones.

Between me and you is the blood of 500,000 poor Syrians – or more – who were killed because you told them that our corruption is their fate, and our oppression is their fate, and our prisons are their fate, and our annihilation is their fate, and we are their supreme lords who they will worship.

You even told them that the corrupt Atef Najib and the thief Rami Makhlouf are their fate… so the people stopped believing in you and the nation and fate.

Between me and you are the remains of thousands of Syrian children whose bodies were torn apart by your barrel bombs and indiscriminate strikes and who you buried in the ruins of their houses.

Between me and you is the blood of my poor, gentle driver Fadi Al-Qauzi..

Between me and you is a huge desert, every grain of sand in which cries out that you are oppressors…

Between you and me are seas, in which every wave rises up to declare your arrogance and your persecution of people…

Between you and me are a few words…

Be quiet…

I will not be quiet!

Internatinal-SolidarityApril 2, 2019

Dear Friends:

Critical developments around the globe compel the creation of a new type of transnational socialist and anti-authoritarian solidarity network.

Objectively, we are facing the growth of authoritarian capitalist governments, an increasing economic and military competition between the U.S. and China, and the ominous consequences of climate breakdown. In addition, we confront insurgent white-supremacist and other racist ethno-nationalist movements which, similar to ISIS in their extremist views, are willing to employ mass-violence against Muslims, Jews, and other marginalized people.

Subjectively, a new generation of youth is getting interested in socialism because capitalism’s inhumanity and exploitation does not offer it a better future.

The Me Too movement challenging sexual abuse is growing among women around the globe and targeting the abuse of women in government, all fields of work, and the family. The Black Lives Matter movement which emerged in the U.S. in response to state-sanctioned police murder and abuse of Black people has struck a chord internationally. There is no lack of popular protests and strikes around the world, from Sudan, Algeria, Iran and Palestine to Europe, and from China and India to Latin America, Haiti, and the U.S. However, some of these struggles are being crushed by various authoritarian and imperialist forces, and others face the danger of rightwing populism.

In response to these struggles, the international Left has been disappointing. The Syrian revolution was not only crushed by the Assad regime with the help of Russia and Iran. It was also abandoned or rejected by the majority of the international Left. The poor and starving masses in Iran and Venezuela are being told by supposed “socialists” and “peace and justice” advocates that their miseries are only caused by U.S. imperialism and that they have to live with authoritarian regimes like the Islamic Republic or Maduro’s state as the “lesser of the two evils.”

There is no doubt that U.S. imperialism and settler colonialism are the cause of much misery and death in the world both presently in the actions of the Trump administration and historically. Nonetheless, the U.S. is not the only capitalist-imperialist power exploiting and oppressing humanity. We live in a world of various imperialist and sub-imperialist power rivalries. In particular, Chinese and Russian imperialism are competing with U.S. imperialism for global dominance.

In the face of this reality, however, many leftists are rationalizing the actions of authoritarian regimes such as those of Putin in Russia, Assad in Syria, Khamenei in Iran, Ortega in Nicaragua, and Maduro in Venezuela – simply because these governments use the rhetoric of anti-U.S. imperialism. Some socialist observers have named this rationalization or support the “red-brown alliance” which follows the “campist” approach of dividing the world into competing military camps, and negating the role of the working class and oppressed peoples within those “camps.”

Given the evidently sordid and bloody history of U.S. imperialism, many Western leftists justifiably endorse Karl Liebknecht’s declaration, made in 1915 amid the depths of World War I, that “the main enemy is at home.” Liebknecht was expressing what he thought should be the position of socialists in an inter-imperialist war. His statement should not be used as an excuse to abandon working-class struggles around the world. Unfortunately, today, many on the Left have twisted this principle to minimize or deny well-documented chemical-weapons attacks by the Assad regime in Syria; murders of protesters in Russia, Venezuela, and Iran; mass-internment concentration camps such as those holding a million Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region; and other heinous attacks of state violence carried out by regimes that claim to be against U.S. imperialism. Such views greatly violate the core ethical principles of humanism, egalitarianism, and human solidarity with oppressed peoples, and confuse the struggles of workers and the oppressed against capital and the State with inter-imperialist intrigues.

We need a transnational socialist and anti-authoritarian solidarity network that breaks with such careless and undiscerning views of the world and instead sets human emancipation, not inter-imperialist rivalry, as its aim. We need to create a network that offers in-depth analyses, genuine grassroots socialist solidarity, and forums for working out real solutions – such as alternatives to capitalism, tackling climate breakdown, and overcoming patriarchy, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia.

We believe that the essence of socialism is humanism, the idea that human beings have the potential to use their reasoning capacity to move forward, establish intercommunication and relations free of domination and servitude.

The signatories of this call include a variety of socialist and Marxist humanists, anarchists, and anti-authoritarians. We reject the systems that existed in the former USSR and the People’s Republic of China as authoritarian. We oppose capitalism both in private and state form as well as racism, sexism, and heterosexism. We seek humanist, intersectional, and sustainable ecological alternatives to oppression and ecocide.

Please join us in an effort to create a transnational and anti-authoritarian socialist-humanist solidarity network with the initial aim of organizing speaking tours and building a speakers’ bureau with a related website aimed at the following:

  1. Concrete expressions of solidarity with ongoing progressive and revolutionary popular struggles on the basis of opposition to capitalism, racism, sexism, heterosexism, transphobia, and xenophobia.
  1. Genuine dialogue and debate on humanist alternatives to capitalism, visions of a free and sustainable society, liberation of women, and LGBT persons, the right to self-determination, and a commitment to truth, reason, and human emancipation.

We propose a speakers’ bureau that would offer a resource list of speakers/ topics and coordinate speaking tours which would bring together local, national, and international issues and struggles.

This is an international effort aimed at concrete solidarity work and dialogue on the burning questions of our day, and hopes to prove that the idea of emancipatory socialist solidarity can be credible in theory and practice.

If you agree with these ideas and would like to be part of this effort to form a Transnational Socialist-Humanist Solidarity Network, please contact us at


Abou Jaoude, Elias, Sofware Developer, Lebanon

Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists

Afary, Frieda, Producer of Iranian Progressives in Translation, member of Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists, U.S.

Afthinos, Pantelis, Internationalist revolutionary socialist website, e la liberta, Greece

Al-Saadi, Yazan, Syrian Canadian Writer

Amina, Syria solidarity activist, U.S.

Ayoub, Joey, Writer, editor and researcher, IFEX, Global Voices, Scotland

Independent journalist and activist, Argentina

Castro, María, Professor of Spanish and French Studies, U.S.

Chelliah, Lalitha, Maternal and Child Health Nurse – Socialist, Australia

Cuffy, Robert, Socialist Workers’ Alliance, Guyana

Dehkordi, Sara, Manjanigh Collective, Germany

Fareid Eltayeb, Amgad, Spokesperson of Sudan Change Now movement & producer of Sudan Seen blog

Fischer, Dan, Graduate worker, U.S.

Galyon, Shiyam, Syrian American feminist and campaigner

Hensman, Rohini, Writer, independent scholar and author of Indefensible, India

Hirsch, Michael, New Politics Editorial Board member, U.S.

Kousinatas, Kostas, Internationalist revolutionary socialist website, e la liberta, Greece

La Botz, Dan, Teacher, writer, co-editor of New Politics, U.S.

Language professor, Seattle, U.S.

Lopez, Rocío, Mexican-American writer, U.S.

LeFage, Shanelle, Climate activist, U.S.

Leonard, Ralph, Writer and student, U.K.

Maria, Eva, Independent Venezuelan Socialist Feminist, U.S.

Masjedi, Fatemeh, Iranian feminist and history scholar, Europe

Melcher, Thorne, transgender activist, writer and coder, U.S.

Munif, Yasser, Syrian Sociology Professor, U.S.

Noor, Yalda, Psychologist, U.S.

Petersen-Smith, Khury, Socialist and geographer, U.S.

Quiquivix, Linda, Community scholar and farmer, U.S.

Ram, Joshua, Writer, U.S.

Ramírez, Krys Méndez, Disability Justice organizer and Ethnic Studies scholar, U.S.

Reid Ross, Alexander, geography professor, and author of Against the Fascist Creep, U.S.

Reimann, John, Former Recording Secretary of Carpenters’ Local 713 and current producer of blog, U.S.

Rizzo, Mary, Editorial Staff of Le Voci de la Libertà, Italian blog for the Syrian Revolution, Italy

Ruder, Eric, socialist and journalist, U.S.

Saravi, Jose, writer and translator, Argentina

Schulman, Jason, New York City Democratic Socialists of America

Sethness, Javier, Family Nurse Practitioner and author, U.S.

Shurmand, Azadeh, Iranian women’s studies scholar, Europe

Sloughter, Tristan, Denver Democratic Socialists of America, U.S.

Soeller, Peter, Anti-fascist activist and writer, U.S.

Smith, Ashley, Socialist writer and activist, U.S.

Weston, Matt, Social Worker, U.S.

Wind, Ella, Middle East Studies scholar and member of Democratic Socialists of America, U.S.

Zekavat, Sina, Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists, Germany

Zuur, Cheryl, former president, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 444, U.S.



(Aleppo Civil Defense/Pool/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

WRITTEN BY ASMAE DACHAN for Avvenire (print edition of 12 January, 2019)

Sixty thousand civilians of the city outside Aleppo are living under siege by the Jihadists of al-Qaeda. Two hundred who oppose are “wanted” by the terrorists. They are also not spared Assad’s bombs

The ordeal of Syrian civilians appears to be endless. The advance of the militias of Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS), a group affiliated to al-Qaeda, in the citadel of al-Atareb, in the Aleppo province, opens up a new, disturbing scenario. Roughly sixty thousand people live in the area, many of them displaced from other cities. In recent days, the militia bombed al-Atareb, which was under the control of the last pockets of resistance, the opposition forces, as well as being one of the first cities to have declared itself independent of the regime in 2012. In this town, civilians had organised themselves into committees for self-government. The HTS has surrounded the city, succeeding in easily advancing in an area where the forces of the National Liberation Front (NLF), a military opposition group supported by Turkey, are in the minority. According to the agreements signed by Turkey, Russia and Iran last September in Sochi, Ankara would have the task of curbing the terrorist militias of the north-west of Syria, supporting the military actions of the NLF, but the resounding advance of HTS at al-Atareb, just like at Darat Izza, simply reinforces the many perplexities regarding its implementation expressed by many parties. Al-Atareb is seen as an important conquest to many because it is in a highly strategic area, both from the logistic and economic point of view, because here one finds the main route of connection between Aleppo and the Bab Al Hawa pass (the only official border crossing with Turkey).

The terrorists immediately disseminated a list with the names of about two hundred matlubin, a “wanted” list, that included many women, all active in the self-government committees and protagonists of the revolts against both the regime and ISIS. Among them we also find the eighty-year-old Hajja Hamra Akush, known as “the mother of the opponents”, a woman known to everyone and whose home had served as a safe house for military deserters who refused to fight against their fellow countrymen.

Civilian sources report executions, kidnappings and violence, in addition to the closure of all schools. Concerning public health, the situation is dire; there is a lack of medicine and the few remaining medical staff is unable to provide for the needs of the entire population. The particularly harsh winter only aggravates the situation. Al-Atareb is one of the most emblematic examples of the way in which the moderate opposition, made up of civilians, women and men, who only sought a different Syria, without a regime and without extremists, were left entirely to their own devices, abandoned and at the mercy of the countless forces on the field. The fear of civilians in the area now is that the presence of the terrorists in al-Atareb is going to be used as a pretext to justify a new wave of joint Russian-Syrian regime bombing. According to civilian sources, more than seven hundred people have been killed in the city in recent years. No one can tell just how much more blood has to be shed by civilians before their lives become the priority in international negotiations.

A rally in al-Atareb on September 28, 2018 for the Syrian Revolution. Chants include:  “The Baathists [the party of Bashar al-Assad] went crazy when we demanded freedom”:


Translated by Mary Rizzo


Written by Labib Nahhas: Rather than luxury, ambition or idealism we have to understand undoubtedly that there is no other option left in front of us.

(1) Some believe that the revolution – from early on – had to open proper channels of communication with the Russians and build the right discourse to deal with them and their interests, but the reality is that Russia never thought of a political solution in Syria. If we take a closer look at Russia’s history and its experiences, and if we consider Putin’s czarist character and his own experience in Chechnya and closely follow his speech to the West about the Syrian issue and his focus on combating “Sunni terrorism”, we will reach a definite conclusion that the policy of the Russian regime in Syria would not change, especially in the absence of a clear and appeasing alternative. Just as the Assad regime has resorted to the “Hama model” in dealing with the Syrian revolution as a successful model from his point of view, it is logical that Russia resorts exclusively to the “Grozny model,” which openly boasts of being an ideal example of dealing with “insurgencies.”

Russia has taken all necessary military steps to impose a new political reality in Syria, and has established political tracks alternative to the Geneva process, arriving at the Sochi Conference, which resulted in the idea of the so-called Constitutional Commission, through which the Russians plan to obtain the legitimacy of “the opposition” and its joining in a political process that ensures the continuation of the Syrian regime (and perhaps Bashar himself) and gives the green light to the international community to open the door for the reconstruction in Syria and the flow of funds for this purpose, to be equal to a reward for the regime for its criminality and success of the Russian project in Syria in a conclusive way. Then, if Syria is without big economic and financial support it will remain a ‘failed state” threatened by a new explosion under the influence and corruption of the Assad regime and Iranian intervention and its penetration of the heart of Syrian society. For the knowledge: The cost of the reconstruction in Syria is estimated at between $ 250 billion to about $ 1 trillion; the regime does not possess from it any proportion and Russia is not able to contribute in it. Even those countries that support Russian military action in Syria in secret will only be able to support the reconstruction process with an international green light and existence of a political solution with Syrian and international legitimacy.

(2) The path of the Constitutional Commission will undoubtedly lead to a complete end to the revolution militarily, tame it completely politically, and consolidate Assad’s rule. Therefore, a fundamental question arises: What is the interest of the revolution and the Syrians in the participation of those who claim to represent the revolution in the so-called constitutional committee? The answer is: there is no interest, not partial nor total, neither in the near term nor in the long run, and there is no possibility of achieving any gain (unless there is someone who trusts the Russians as guarantor and the regime as an executor), or if we would consider the installation of some associated with the “opposition” in a future government under the rule of the regime to be a positive thing or would recognize that such “achievement” is the ceiling of the current revolution and the most achievable under the new political “realism.”

There is a fundamental problem in the existence and composition of the political “opposition” and the parties that run the political process and the so-called negotiating process in the name of the revolution: most of these are not revolutionaries at all, but traditional opponents at best under the cover of a fancying reality and they are incapable of acting (or even imagining) outside the frame of regional and international understandings (no matter how fragile). They never understood the true meaning of being a revolutionary for the sake of freedom and dignity against a criminal regime. They were engulfed in the concepts of “realism” and political “experience”, and became part of a system that they supposedly rebelled against one day, because it deprived them and their people of their rights and freedom (we don’t mean the Assad regime).

We have to ask and answer with all frankness and clarity: What is the constitution that will be written under the auspices of the Russian occupier?! What is the reference and legitimacy of the names that are presented as political “opposition”, and how have they been reached (to clarify: the satisfaction of the regional and international parties about persons or their performance does not give legitimacy)? What is the experience of these names in writing constitutions? In the name of whom this “opposition” negotiates? What are the papers of this “opposition” to negotiate in accordance with its current structure and its relationship with the interior (or lack thereof) and its defeatist speech? Do these “politicians” have a clear road map of milestones and results for what they are doing? Do they tell their people what is happening?

The most important question: Do they really think that this path will lead to the writing of a constitution that protects the rights of the Syrians and weakens the powers and authorities of the regime! And provides a safe environment for the return of the displaced and the preservation of their property! But more importantly: who will force the regime to implement this presumed constitution! Is there among these “opponents” (with the exception of the hired ones) whomever will be safe to go to Damascus to work within the future government of Assad and under the supervision of his security services?

(3) The logic of these “politicians” depends on two basic ideas: First, what is happening in Syria is an international and regional agreement, and political “experience” and “realism” require identification with this agreement. The second point is that we have no choice but to follow the path of the Constitutional Commission, and those who do not like this path: “Let him suggest another option!!!” Of course, the previous speech is based on big fallacies and miserable logic and refuted, and lacks the minimum degrees of desire for change and revolutionary spirit.

As for this international and regional agreement that is dealt with as sure, unavoidable destiny; what must be understood is that the international and regional community has not yet reached a final solution or agreement on Syria (although there is – at present – greater acceptance of the continuation of the regime in some form with cosmetic modifications considering the absence of a real, acceptable alternative.) However, the complexity of the Syrian issue has made the countries behave differently with different allies according to each region of Syria, and in general, we are still far from the comprehensive solution. But the Russian political momentum on the ground and in diplomatic corridors began to bear fruit, especially in the absence of any effective and counter political activity by the revolution.

Even if there was an international tendency towards a solution or concept against our interest as revolution and Syrians, the least we can do is to refuse and say “no” and, most importantly, to strive to impose a reality on the ground, militarily and socially (and this is of highest importance) hindering any solution that does not achieve our minimum interests. The “international decision” regarding the speech and mentality of the political upheaval about the revolution has changed into a self-fulfilling prophecy, into a pretext for their failure and inability to perform or deliver anything outside the bureaucratic routine of their work of attending meetings and conferences and then marketing what they are doing and justifying and suppressing those who disagree. However the reality is opposite to what they think, and the new reality that we need as Syrians and revolution is possible despite its extreme difficulty, but it needs hard work and great sacrifices, and breaking into fields outside their “comfort zone” and this is what they do not want to do.

(4) As for the alternative to the “Constitutional Committee”: I did not hear of someone who was offered poison then drank it voluntarily, rather exhausted himself in drinking it and justify that in front of people, rather he calls them to it! The alternative exists and is available but is not ready and requires work by everyone because there is no other option.

The alternative is to cling to the Liberated Land in the Syrian north under a unified civil authority and a revolutionary army, in which the factions will dissolve permanently as the only option to continue, and to strive to build the military, political and popular environment necessary for the success of the project, and develop the patch of this project in the near future to include the east of Syria completely within a regional-international frame that preserves the minimum of our interests as Syrians and takes into account the interests of the countries closest to us.

Our speech must be absolute rejection of any process collaborative with the criminal regime and the occupation forces, because we as Syrians reject the foreign occupation and refuse to be under the rule of a collaborator regime that brought the occupation forces and committed war crimes against our people, because we cannot live under the authority of these criminals preserving our lives and the lives of our people and the next generations. If millions of Syrians inside and outside Syria need a safe haven where they can live in freedom and dignity, enjoying their full rights as citizens and human beings, this will not be achieved under the rule of the Russian-Iranian occupation and their lackey the Assad regime.

Syria is divided – for those who did not realize that yet – and the Russian and Iranian occupation forces created their own spheres of influence and gave the Assad regime a “useful Syria” homogeneous socially and politically according to their perception. Our goal in the near future is to create a safe haven for Syrians in Syria outside the regime and occupation control, and starting from these areas through military, security, political and popular work to build a new model and reunite Syria.

(5) This regional-international framework that we need in the north and east of Syria depends mainly on the return of the Turkish-American relations and the attaining of agreement regarding its minimum borders between the two sides on the Syrian file in general and northern and eastern Syria in particular, which is a crucial semi-decisive matter in dismantling the Astana-Sochi system, that carries the largest part of the calamities we are living today (without ignoring the evil of the dealing and handling of the factions and political “opposition” with it). There is no doubt that the Western policy toward Turkey in recent years has played a major role in the induction of the change – maybe historical – in the context of Turkey’s foreign relations. However, this change is not permanent, and the Turkish side knows well that Russia is not a party to build a long-term alliance with (and there is a long history confirming that) especially since the experience of recent years proved that the commitment of the Russians to the agreements is very low, and Turkey knows that Russia will gradually squeeze it in a narrow corner after stripping it from as much of its papers in Syria as it can to force it to accept a comic solution that does not realize its ambitions.

Turkey has been and remains the most important ally of the revolution, the strategic depth of the Syrians, as Syria is Turkey’s strategic depth, geopolitically, demographically and economically. Now, more than ever before, and despite the difficulty, the revolution must rebuild the relationship with Turkey on the basis of common interests (which are many) and through a long-term perspective. Turkey is living under a great threat, internally and externally, and in fact does not have a true ally to rely on from the regional or international powers (with which a relationship of competition and cold war prevails), and here comes the role of the emergence of a revolutionary political-military leadership with real legitimacy emanating from the real strategic depth of the revolution, the Syrian interior, capable of presenting various bold visions based on real common interests with Turkey and, most importantly, providing the tools capable of implementing these visions and proposals.

(6) The realization of a safe haven (homeland) for free Syrians within Syria including the north and east of the country will have acceptance at regional and international parties (and there are movements on the ground in this direction) if posed in the right context and provided the tools necessary to achieve it, and the most important from that is that it is suggested by a Syrian party possessing credibility and legitimacy. It is a must to stop talking in the language of humanity and international law, and speak in the language of interests and in the name of the real will of the people, and what this people really wants and what realizes their interests. The preservation of the lives and dignity of civilians is not achieved through processes of reconciliation with the criminal regime with Russian guaranty, nor with surrender of heavy weapons, nor keeping civilians at the mercy of a regime that has proved to be closer to animals in its conduct. Saving civilians is with ensuring a safe haven and safe environment for them. And it is a must that it is the goal of the revolution in the next phase. It is a must to impose a new reality within Syria, and building regional and international support in any way possible.

The negotiating bodies that have spearheaded the political revolution do not possess any ability in negotiating and have been made heavy with sticky gelatinous individuals looking for their own role and personal interest. The time has come to overthrow these figures or the entire bodies. The Revolution is in need of categorizing new leaderships and open the way for the real “generation of the revolution”, and collect the military, political and popular capital of the revolution in one project and one front, even if this requires the execution of a revolution within the revolution itself, because most of the current “leadership” individuals are no longer susceptive to reform or development, and the revolutionary bodies need to be re-produced within new frameworks radically different from what preceded.

Some will say that this is an impossible project or that previous attempts to achieve it have not worked, but we have to understand undoubtedly that there is no other option left in front of us, and that achieving this solution is a matter of existential necessity rather than luxury, ambition or idealism. It is impossible to continue with divided factions and straying political leaderships that are unable to carry out the present duty. Owners of personal or factional projects need to realize that even the success of their projects requires the success of the greater project of the revolution. It is a must to freeze the participation of any party representing the revolution (or claiming to do so) in the trajectory of the “Constitutional Committee” and all efforts must be focused on a new speech and vision and real project that will serve the country and its people instead of running behind the mirage in a scene in which Syria is destroyed.


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It could be slightly cruel to snicker at a narcissist when his delusions of personal infallibility crumble in a public way, but I have to admit, I’ve been laughing at the turn of events of the Gilad Atzmon libel suit.

Atzmon is a public personality (an Israeli, NOT a former Israeli) who seems to enjoy the fact that he is a “controversial” figure, and he’s really seriously concerned about his popularity and actually boasts about how many notifications he has on Google. As long as people have an opinion about him and take notice of him, he’s good. He loves to write and speak about himself as much as he seems to love pushing the envelope and riling people up, because he has an ironclad and indestructible sense of his own worth.

He referred to himself as a “self-hating ex Jew” but the truth is that it’s hard to find anyone who loves himself to the levels he does. He might be the only person you will hear tell you, and expect you to agree with him, that he is the “most clever person you know” and that all of his books and records are “best sellers”. He actually believes (despite evidence) that no one has ever “really” debunked or challenged any of “his” ideas. The debate would certainly be open further if anyone cared about the originality of them, given that he borrows “a lot”, particularly from his brilliant mother. But he also claims that he is a warrior for “truth” and “free speech”, concepts that go beyond the personal and indicate a sort of self-sacrifice and integrity that means one will fight to the bitter end for what they believe in. In his libel case, he tends to give the spin that “his” fight is also “your” fight, as shall be examined further on.

Atzmon’s political critique began in the typical way to garner audiences, an Israeli looking daring by stating the obvious about the injustice of the occupation of Palestine, but over the years the critique began to focus much more on “ethnic Jews” than on “Israeli nationals”. To illustrate his points, he finds minor figures in the Anglo-American panorama and decides his public speaking and his essays are best suited for making battles against them, where he considers himself a sort of David vs Goliath. By doing that (provincial) sort of “bait and shift”, he takes the heat off of the Israelis. He’s basically ignored the pleas of many Palestinians who, early on, appreciated that there was a growing number of Israelis who were claiming to be in solidarity with them.

Running blogs and sites on Palestine where Atzmon and other Israelis also contributed, I often received direct requests from Palestinians that these Israelis use the benefits they had of information to assist them in THEIR battle, to be free of occupation and to return to the homeland that was so viciously stolen from under their feet. I had suggested many times to Atzmon that he delve into this subject and respond to the requests. The Palestinians who wrote to the blogs or who attended events thought he might share some secrets of IDF and Israeli indoctrination, and I couldn’t agree more that this could be an important contribution. Since Gilad Atzmon’s father actually designed weapons that killed Palestinians, there’s no doubt he’d have some information that would be very useful in the struggle. But Atzmon chose instead to keep the personal tuned exclusively to his very own story (turning it into a part of his nightclub act) about his time in the IDF band… The story of those days was supposed to be a humorous and entertaining romp about young guys who ended up (somehow) in the IDF, just playing music and suddenly witnessing by accident the oppression of Palestinians in Lebanon, but they weren’t real “IDF soldiers” in the way his storytelling goes. And, since he had to develop his act to folks who wanted a fun night out, that slapstick register does seem fitting.

However, it seems he never felt any inclination to actually undermine Israeli oppression by exposing things only an Israeli in his situation could know, and instead, he investigated “Jewish identity politics” and “Jewish tribalism” as if Golder’s Green were the umbilical of the world. His current audience is very different from the original audience, back then. Its interests are different and so is its obsessions.

But, hey! Lots of us were disappointed when we realised he was not going to help the Palestinian cause because his writing got farther and farther away from topics that could possibly be interesting to the liberation cause, and, admittedly, the repetitiveness of his discourse became boring. It has been 10 or 11 years since I “broke ties” with Atzmon. At that time I was busy with my own struggle of dealing with debilitating chemotherapy whilst listening to ridiculous demands by him to edit something he’d written as if it were so important that everything else must be pushed to the margins. I was already beyond tired of the situation, and he provided me with an opportunity on a silver platter to make a definitive cut and be quite certain that not even the tiniest favour I would be asked to do was worth my time. When I said I was finished, that I no longer was interested, no longer had time, making it clear that I was ill and was doing all I could to keep a Palestine solidarity site running with new content daily, he pulled a card out of his sleeve and tried to push “as an editor” of my site someone that a Palestinian journalist who collaborated on the site identified as a known Zionist. That was indeed the last straw. He fought very hard for the guy and claimed he was not a Zionist, saying “I’m Israeli, I’d know!” Who should one believe?  Because one has to make a choice and believe one of the two people making statements of which they both are certain. An Israeli or a Palestinian? My choice was made and the connection was severed, with a sigh of relief, even with a tinge of sadness and bitterness.

That Atzmon has to lose a libel case to a British Zionist, and that a Zionist has to win a court case about reputation is a pity. But, it’s certainly not unexpected. Atzmon possesses enviable self-confidence as well as a less attractive narcissistic idea of his own infallibility. It would only have been a matter of time until someone would challenge his hyperbole and it would happen in court. So certain of victory was Atzmon that he wrote this response to a supporter:

gilad will defend and win

In order to not get ahead of myself, here is the story. Gilad Atzmon wrote an article, published on his blog and presumably on other sites that pick up his writing and even some that translate it. In this article, entitled. “Antisemitism is merely a Business Plan“, he makes these statements:

“We are asked to choose between two versions of the truth, that delivered by Falter who leads the Campaign Against Antisemitsm (CAA) and basically makes his living manufacturing antisemitic incidents and the judicial approach of the CPS: a public body, subject to scrutiny and committed to impartiality. This is hardly a difficult choice.

Falter and the CAA obviously fabricate anti-Semitic incidents.”

“Since Falter makes a living out of the ‘rise of anti-Semitism’, it shouldn’t surprise us that he himself propels such a rise.”

“Falter and the CAA employ the same method. A decrease in anti-Semitic incidents or Jews being loved and cherished could have fatal consequences for Falter and his CAA’s business plan. They need anti-Semitism and a lot if (sic) it. When it isn’t there, they just invent it.”

“Falter and the CAA need the Jews to be hated so they can collect more and more British taxpayer money.”

Apparently, in the alternative reality of Gilad Atzmon, none of these statements are libellous or could even be interpreted in that direction. Just a quick peek at the text, not even by a lawyer, but by someone who watches court dramas, would quickly reveal that these statements are presented as fact, not “opinion” and therefore, when they can be demonstrated as factual and true, they aren’t libellous, so a day in court could even be an opportunity to pull veils off what is hidden. Otherwise, they are prime material for someone who wants to sue. By the way, the article in question had been preventively removed, but you can still find it online if you want to. I read it for the first time today while doing a search of the title. It was on a White Power site called, just in case you haven’t figured out the strange bedfellows of Atzmon, here is an excerpt from their introductory page:

“We intend to keep the flame of White racial nationalism burning, and play a part in ensuring that the Anglo Celtic nations survive the deadly threat of race-mixing and internationalism now facing them.

And thirdly, we aim to provide an online forum for all Anglo-Celts of like mind to come together and share experiences and ideas, to meet with each other and organise to start turning the tide in the fight for our survival.”

Master race stuff, no problem!

After the notification of the impending legal procedure, Atzmon had his plea for help and money spammed in an article entitled: Gilad Atzmon Needs Your Immediate Support! I will fight and win this court case, but I need your support…”

Tasty quotes include:

“I have made the decision to fight this crucial battle for freedom of expression even though this fight poses a real risk of bankrupting me and my family.

I choose to fight their suit because I believe that the CAA and its chairman and its use of libel laws pose a danger to freedom of speech and the future of this country as an open society. Enough is enough!”

I think the decision to go to court was “forced” on him, as half the cases in the world are, but he somersaults to turn it into a freedom of speech issue. He’s going to be the (literal) White knight to fight this crucial battle because after all, “Enough is enough!”

“I can not fund my defence alone.  I am obliged to ask every peace loving human being who cares about freedom and ethics for funds to help me defend this case. Fighting  this battle may cost tens of thousands of pounds. I am going to need some four figure donations to find the ludicrous amount required. But every single penny mounts up and please do give something.

If you have ever enjoyed my writing – join the fight. If you don’t agree with me yet support freedom of speech – my fight is your fight. If you support the right to point at the truth without being labeled ant-Semitic – this lawsuit is the battle ground,   my fight is your fight.”

Wow! The best-selling author is asking the plebes for FOUR FIGURE DONATIONS, framing it as if it is YOUR fight. Stick the words “truth” in there and mention how damaging it feels to be labelled as ant-Semitic (sic) make it sound like the guy is going to really be the avenging angel for “Freedom of Speech”, and don’t forget the Paypal donation to give your four figure donations so that he can win.

Well. You know the end of the story already. Atzmon released a statement with a very neutral name “Falter vs. Atzmon: Update”. Apparently, Atzmon’s flag of truth wasn’t being unfurled and instead, he had his lawyer read a public apology. Explaining this choice Atzmon says:

“I did not (and do not) believe that Mr. Falter was motivated by fraud and I do not think that there is anything I said that suggested it. However, I have to accept the ruling that the court made.

Even taking the case to this point had been costly on both a financial and personal level, and after this ruling it was clear to me that I had no option but to apologise and settle the case.

The overall battle for free speech has been very expensive and it is probably far from over.

The case has re-confirmed to me the crucial importance of freedom of expression and the restrictions imposed on it by the libel courts in this country.

Despite what has been suggested earlier today by Mr Falter in a press release, the court didn’t make any finding that I myself am an anti-Semite.”

… and he again asks for money.

Evidently, his defence must have been that what the words do not mean what they are actually saying in very explicit terms, but whatever they actually mean inside the mind of Atzmon and his preferred readers. Saying that “Falter obviously fabricates anti-semitic incidents” must mean something else than that he fabricates anti-semitic incidents, obviously. That Atzmon is relieved that he’s not found to be an anti-Semite by the court (as if that were on trial… oh, Gilad, even when you’re involved, it’s not always all about “you”!) However, to recoup some of the losses, maybe Atzmon could change his tack on not suing for libel in the same way that he changed his tack in relinquishing the fight for free speech, because “Enough is enough!” Enough people call him Anti-Semitic, so his lawyers could still make money even if they lose by all the cases he could bring forth. Sounds like a Business Plan to me!

The content of the “sincere” (LOL!) apology on court record contains the acknowledgement that the allegations he raised were false. Here’s an excerpt:

atzmon apology

Naturally, in his own statement the victorious Claimant gloats over the humiliating defeat that Atzmon underwent:

“After just two hours of argument, High Court Justice Matthew Nicklin issued a preliminary ruling stating that Mr Atzmon had deliberately accused Mr Falter of: “dishonestly fabricating antisemitic incidents; deliberately exaggerating the prevalence of antisemitism and antisemitic activity (including being too ready to characterise as antisemitism legitimate criticism of Israel); by doing these things Mr Falter therefore risked increasing antisemitism; Mr Falter’s motive was to obtain funds (including funds from the British taxpayer) to support the activities of the CAA and to provide his own income; the funds obtained by this fabrication and misrepresentation were consequently obtained by Mr Falter’s fraud; and Mr Falter is guilty of hypocrisy – he campaigns against antisemitism but he is content with its continued prevalence (even resorting to the manufacture of incidents) because his income and that of the CAA depend upon it.”

Faced with the impossible task of substantiating these libels, Mr Atzmon instead capitulated and agreed to settle the case, admitting that all of the claims were false and agreeing to pay substantial damages and costs. Mr Atzmon did not show his face in court, instead sending his solicitor to read an apology on his behalf.

The defeat is a humiliation for Mr Atzmon.”

So, please, keep on clicking that Paypal and sending money to fill the coffers of the Zionists and the lawyers. Apparently, that’s Gilad Atzmon’s idea of YOUR fight!