Archive for March, 2014

siriani2--620x420WRITTEN BY ALESSANDRA COPPOLA, translated by Mary Rizzo

Which European country sustains the greatest number of refugees?

No, it’s not Italy. Despite the news of the refugee landings and the tragedies of Lampedusa, the proclamations of politics and the sacrifices of the local communities, women, men and children who cross our borders are for the most part directed elsewhere. The Syrians, in particular: they land here, in the southern part of Sicily or even along the Calabrian coast, they reach a train station, then they continue their travels towards the north. The answer to the original question, then, is another, miles and miles away: Sweden. Faithful to a long and established tradition of hospitality, Stockholm offers families fleeing the war the possibility of a permanent residence permit. In expectation of that document, there is a guarantee of a roof, meals, assistance, and the prospect of language training and placement programs, although in one of the villages scattered in the snowy landscape of Scandinavia. This was explained to me by a woman traveling with her two daughters in their twenties, passing through Milan: “I ​​would stay in Italy, but here the maximum that you can give us is a piece of paper: that’s not enough to give you a roof over your head and you can’t eat with it. In Sweden, they give us a home and a support to start over again.”

The civilised choice of Stockholm is proving, however, untenable even for an advanced welfare like Sweden’s. And the Scandinavian government, as yesterday stated in the Wall Street Journal, that it no longer is hiding its annoyance regarding the Mediterranean countries that complain about the mass arrival of migrants (receiving millions in EU aid), but at the same time (ignoring the regulations) push refugees to the Northern European countries, shifting the problem elsewhere. The criticism is directed towards Athens, but especially towards Rome.

“There was much talk of economic difficulties – protests the Swedish Immigration Minister Tobias Billström – but Italy still remains one of the 20 richest countries in the world.”

Without a comprehensive law on asylum and with a reception system founded on emergencies and improvisation. The European regulations definitely deserve to be revised, but Sweden (9.5 million inhabitants) now compares the numbers and asks Brussels to intervene: in 2013 (UNHCR data) has received 50,000 applications for asylum against 25 thousand of Italy (60 million inhabitants). Regarding those applications from Syrians, the disparity is embarrassing: 677 here, 14,362 in Sweden, with the forecast of other 23 thousand in 2014.

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syiswritten by Santiago Alba Rico, translated by Manuel Talens, editor’s note at the bottom. 

One of the curious effects of Israeli bombardment on Syria – to which Bashar Al-Assad immediately responded by bombing Aleppo, Deraa and Raqa – is his regime’s legitimization plus the criminalization of “rebels” and, by extension, of left-wingers in solidarity  with the  Syrian people’s struggle against dictatorship. Indeed one section of European anti-imperialism and anti-Zionism considers that such a solidarity means support of Israel and its occupation of Palestine and, therefore, needs “our” more active “ethical and moral rejection” of it as paladins of both the Palestinian cause and global liberation.

The fact that such a multi-semantic shortcut – equivalent to confounding apples and oranges back and forth – is frequent within the anti-imperialist side does not make it less painful and destructive as its dark power multiplies when the man who uses it is a committed and renowned  intellectual (http://www.tlaxcala-int.org/article.asp?reference=9628).
To tell you the truth, I don’t like the casual and bully tone with which Gilad Atzmon, a very good guy, bumps off at once both the complexity of Syria’s situation and the solidarity gesture of, among others, Tariq Ali, Fredric Jameson, Norman Finkelstein and Ilan Pappe. Where does Atzmon speaks from? From a superior commitment? After all, he is “a very good guy who wants to liberate Palestine” and as well as other very good guys like Ali, Jameson, Finkelstein, and Pappe, he devotes part of his time and his effort to defend a just cause. What’s the  difference? All of us are very good people who, in any case, don’t put our life at stake – or at least not directly – but only our intelligence, our speech and perhaps our prestige (the Achilles heel where a spear can wound us). Words are our only weapon, but even if we only compromise our words it involves at least two consequences.
The first one is that if we only “say” we also only “do” what we say: our actions are our verbs. I don’t think we need to remember everything Tariq Ali, Jameson or Pappe have said throughout their lives on the Israeli occupation, nor that such “discursive actions” have never been denied outside the discourse – the contradiction we call hypocrisy or double standards – by any material action: they certainly have not colonized the West Bank nor bombed Gaza while talking about freedom and democracy, and they have not ever shared cocktails with hangmen nor participated – for instance – in a pro-Israeli demonstration. They are as good people as Gilad Atzmon who – like Gilad Atzmon – consist on what they write, and nothing they have written to date contains the slightest hint of support, either direct or indirect, to Israel and the occupation of Palestine.
The second consequence of only committing words is that we have to be extremely careful about what we say. And if Tariq Ali, Jameson and Pappe have had an extreme care in drafting the statement on Syria (http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article28370) the same thing cannot be said of Gilad Atzmon’s criticism. Breaking language legs is not like breaking a brother’s legs, of course, but it is a exceedingly serious breaking of something we have a close relationship with. Atzmon cares little about language. He abuses it. He forces it to say things that disable its capacity to make a difference, that is, its power to signify. He says that Ali, Pappe and Jameson have “ended up in bed with Bibi” because he, Atzmon, has decided that there is some mysterious hypotaxis (i.e. subordinate) relationship between the two terms of this coordination: the signing of a statement in solidarity with the Syrian people and the bombing of Israel on Damascus.
But such a hypotaxis is worse than phony, it’s evil, or even worse than evil: it’s false. No argument totally reversible – one that allows contagious associations ad libitum – is truly an argument. An arbitrariness that shortcuts all possibility of thinking and introduces differences is not a thought. Let’s examine it: if Atzmon says that solidarity with the Syrian people is equivalent to ending up in bed with Netanyahu, the U.S., Qatar, NATO, etc., we could also say that solidarity with the Palestinian people amounts to ending up in bed with Iran, the Islamic Jihad, radical rabbinic sectors, the French National Front and anti-Semitic neo-Nazi groups. Even more absurd: this kind of two-way escalators leads to self-destruction because down the road we would have to accept that being in favor of both Syrians and Palestinians – as is the case of Ali, Jameson and Pappe – means also being for and against jihadists, Nazis, NATO, the U.S., Israel and Palestine, that is, in favor and against all players, friends and enemies, all together in that kind of group-sex bed Syria has become.
Why does Atzmon, an intelligent and committed man, do this to our Mother tongue? Why does he mock those who “want to liberate the Syrian people”? Doesn’t he want to liberate the Palestinian people? Does one people deserve less than the other? Do we have to choose between one of the two? Those of us who are simultaneously committed to affirming principles and complexity don’t think so. Some of us are committed only by word through statements and articles, but in Syria, on the ground, there are thousands of men and women (from Local Coordinators to revolutionary left parties, including many Palestinians) who are risking their lives defending principles (democracy, secularism, sovereignty, socialism) and assuming a complex opposition: certainly to Al-Assad’s criminal dictatorship, but also to Israel, the Gulf powers, the U.S., the Muslim Brotherhood, the Al-Nusra Front.
Atzmon will say that there are not particularly many, and they won’t win, that geostrategy imposes its fierce noose, that now is no time for softness nor naivety, that we have to choose a resounding Jesuit simplicity instead of principles and complexity (forget “humanism” or “progressiveness”). But then, in the name of what, how he dares to speak – and with such a patronizing and dismissive wrapping – of “ethics and morality”? When I think Atzmon’s criminal shortcut faithfully reproduces the Syrian regime’s logic I find particularly painful the invocation of “ethics and morality” with which he dispatches “those very good people”. Ali, Jameson, and Pappe are safe, and Atzmon doesn’t want to kill them. But to those who in Syria think as Ali, Jameson and Pappe such a criminalizing logic – “rebels” are “terrorists” who end up in bed with Israel – is literally reducing them to pieces: bombing raids, torture, indiscriminate massacres. Perhaps Atzmon thinks they deserve it – guilty of ending up in bed with Netanyahu – and that Israelis deserve as well the same (a collective expiation of a massive collective crime), but he should dare, if he has guts, to root that bloody madness in “ethics and morality.”
Consistent reasoning is like homeopathy: at worst it has no effect. However inconsistent reasoning always has material consequences. Atzmon, who has suffered in his own flesh these pollutant hypotaxises should not surrender to the lust of criminalization because it has offspring as he well knows monster descendants roaming at night, vigilantes who purge the ranks of those who are not enough Zionist, not enough anti-Zionist, not enough friends. Equal logic produces equal effects, be it Israel or Syria, and those who suffer the blows are people and their defenders. There is something decidedly “Israeli” in the Syrian government and decidedly “Syrian” in the Israeli government. And nowadays there is something decidedly Palestinian in the Syrian people and decidedly Syrian in the Palestinian people. Couldn’t Atzmon, a very good guy, oppose “Israeliness” in general while showing solidarity with these two massacred peoples, Syrians and Palestinians, instead of “choosing” one – as Israel does – or instead of criminalizing those who defend justice, democracy and dignity for all – as Israel also does?
The worst thing that can be said of Tariq Ali, Jameson, and Pappe is that they have verbally supported the Syrian people; the best that can be said of Atzmon is that he has abandoned it. But it has done something much worse: he has said that the same ones who denounce Israel for its crimes … are supporting Israel’s crimes when they denounce the Syrian regime for their own! Is it possible to say such a thing without reducing language to shreds? Do word-bombs exist? A few days ago, the Spanish Interior Minister, Jorge Fernández Díaz, issued a statement of perfidious and glorious nonsense: “Abortion has something to do with [armed Basque nationalist and separatist organization] ETA but not too much.” Well, Atzmon’s argument can be paraphrased with the same sarcasm a Facebook user disparaged the minister’s nonsense: “This sentence has something to do with the possession of a brain, but almost nothing.”

It has nothing to do with ethics and morality, for which just one barely decent neuron suffices.

originally published in English on: http://www.tlaxcala-int.org/article.asp?reference=9652

Read “In Bed With Bibi by Gilad Atzmon

Editor’s note: I founded Tlaxcala, where this article was published, together with several activist friends 8 years ago. At the time, there was a very simple idea circulating among us: that we could share “anti-imperialist” writing published all around the world in the hopes of uniting everyone around the idea that “the people not only had the right, but the duty to fight for their rights and combat all forms of oppression and dominance”. Our contribution was not to dictate, but to interpret and merely to offer solidarity and support to the struggles other people were fighting. The world was a little bit simpler 8 years ago. You could talk about Revolution, because there wasn’t a revolution going on that was costing your country blood and sending you and your family into torture chambers and exile at the monumental levels that are now evident to even a lazy observer. The people of the Levant were oppressed by imperialism and the domination of Western Interests, impoverished by imperial-driven wars and greed, but in spite of Israel’s wars against Palestine and Lebanon, the idea of genocide happening in the Levant was not realistic, the idea of an entire population being targeted for extermination so that a leader could stay in power was just not contemplated (and anyway, a decent human would never justify that kind of action in any way, shape or form), and every anti-imperialist knew who the enemy was and offered their best arms to fight them, whether they be intellectual, economic or military.

But things changed. Revolutions from below erupted in the Arab world with a rapidity and force that meant that they could only be crushed by the military boot of those very powers that were being told to step down or face a revolution. Assad, like other tyrants, uses the idea that he is an opposor of Zionism as a protective body shield, but it is a lie that does not stand up to scrutiny, given that not only has he killed over 200,000 Syrians and turned 9 million  of them into homeless refugees, but he’s not spared the lives of over 2000 Palestinians and made sure that their refugee camps bowed to him or were crushed. If the revolution did not catch fire and win the support of freedom lovers around the world, it would transform and be destined into becoming lingering revolts and insurgent struggles defined by battles and changing fronts that carried fragmentation of the territory and population with them.

It always happens that some of the worst counter-revolutionaries are those who had once been part of the revolution, even sitting comfortably in the West…..  Tlaxcala, (which I and another 34 people abandoned after a change of course that did not serve the voice of the people or the revolutionary struggle as was our intention) has become a primary voice for the reactionary and counter-revolutionary “left”. It is rare to find an article that is not an Israeli/European/American voice telling Syrians and Libyans and Egyptians and Palestinians what is good for them and how they should be thinking, and defining their enemy as if they were not capable of doing so themselves! Orientalist Career “activists” take the place of men and women on the ground, revolutionaries not only in front of a computer screen, but in their daily lives.

The complexities of a revolution from below that is not Marxist but which also contains original revolutionary content particular to the regional traditions and culture, has been absolutely LOST on those who even paid it lip service during the Palestinian intifada. The inability to identify with the struggle because of an ingrained idea of superiority that is nearly impossible to break in the West/Left, still stuck in the idea of evil empires and incapable of defining foreign intervention if it is not USAmerican/Nato/UK intervention. The total inability to “read” the revolution has been supported also by a plethora of extremely low quality writing based on faulty assumptions and zero analaysis, of which the Gilad Atzmon piece being critiqued is a prime example.

I stumbled upon this excellent piece by an old friend Santiago, translated by an old friend Manuel and critiquing an old friend Gilad. Thank you Santiago for not abandoning ethics, morals and also… the revolution…  in this astute and intelligent article.

Tamim-Al-Barghoutipar Tamim Barghouti, traduit par Eric Lamy

À trois reprises, les médias furent trompés : “la gravitė de la famine était exagérée”, “les témoins oculaires mentaient” et “les victimes de la faim n’avaient faim que de célėbrité”. Dans ces trois cas précis, les forces assiégeantes mangèrent et burent devant les caméras des reporteurs, juste à côté du camp, pour mieux humilier et insulter ceux qui y vivaient.

Le camp de réfugiés de Yarmouk (à Damas) est assiégé depuis des mois, soumis à des bombardements terrestres ou aériens. De nombreux réfugiés sont morts de faim, n’ayant d’autre ressource que de se nourrir de feuilles ou de cactées ; le manque d’eau potable à également entraîné des affections intestinales et des maladies de peau.

Des nouveaux-nés ont péri de même, ainsi que leurs mères, des personnes âgées, des malades et des blessés, à cause du manque de médicaments. Toute personne qui essaie de quitter le camp est abattue, et le camp à été bombardé à de nombreuses reprises.

Même quand le régime syrien a permis l’entrée de l’aide dans le camp (grâce à la pression des médias étrangers), il a aussitôt refermé le siège quand l’attention des médias s’est relâchée.

Les tentatives des soutiens du régime syrien pour nier leur responsabilité vis-à-vis de Yarmouk sont pathétiques : le camp jouxte Damas. L’armée syrienne est seule responsable, légalement et moralement et aussi sur le plan régional, puisqu’elle contrôle entièrement la ville.

Quoique les supporteurs du régime prétendent qu’ils ont le droit pour eux, leurs actions immondes seraient moins ignobles s’ils ne prétendaient pas les accomplir au nom d’une cause prétendue.

Pour ce qui est d’affamer les Palestiniens, le régime syrien en a une longue expérience, peut-être même la plus accomplie que tout autre pays arabe. Trois des quatre pays qui entourent la Palestine ont été impliqués dans la mort de Palestiniens. Septembre, Sabra & Shatila et le blocus de Gaza… Pour autant, un seul pays sur les quatre fit couler le sang Palestinien à trois reprises : Tel Zaatar, la Guerre des Camps de réfugiés, et le camp de Yarmouk aujourd’hui.

À trois reprises, la scène se répète : le régime syrien utilise des milices alliées et leur donne l’ordre d’encercler le camp. Concernant le camp de Tel Al-Zaatar (1976), Damas a utilisé les milices chrétiennes maronites (et notamment les Phalangistes de la plus importante milice chrétienne), sans oublier les “forces Kataeb”, les “gardiens du Cèdre” et le “mouvement Marada”.

Au cours de la Guerre de Camps (1985/1988), le régime syrien à recruté la milice shiite Amal qui était, à l’époque, en conflit armé avec le Hezbollah pour le contrôle de Beyrouth et du Sud-Liban. Le Parti de Dieu ne prit pas part à la Guerre des Camps, mais Amal ouvrit le feu sur les Palestiniens et, simultanément, attaqua le Hezbollah.

Comme aujourd’hui, le régime syrien s’appuie directement sur son armée ainsi que sur des milices Palestiniennes inféodées, comme le Front Populaire pour la Libération de la Palestine – Commandement Général (FPLP – CG) et le groupe Fatah al Intifada.

Dans ces trois différents camps de réfugiés, l’eau et l’électricité furent d’abord coupés : les gens furent privés d’approvisionnement jusqu’à manquer de tout, jusqu’à mourir de faim. Dans ces trois cas, la faim à poussé les gens à manger des feuilles et à réclamer des fatwas pour être autorisés à manger des chats, des chiens et des cadavres d’animaux. Les femmes qui s’aventuraient jusqu’aux puits et autres pompes de forage à l’extérieur du camp étaient abattues par les snipers positionnés autour du camp.

Hussein Ayyad et Maysa Khatib, habitants de Tel Al-Zaatar, ont raconté que les corps des femmes tuées par les snipers tombaient dans les puits ; les gens étaient obligés de puiser l’eau dans laquelle restaient les corps des martyres. Impossible de les en retirer car les snipers continuaient de leur tirer dessus.

Dans ces trois exemples précités, les médias furent mystifiés : l’importance de la famine était exagérée, les témoins oculaires mentaient, et les victimes de la faim n’avaient faim que de célébrité. De la même manière, les forces assiégeantes mangeaient et buvaient devant les caméras, près du camp, afin d’humilier et d’insulter plus encore les habitants du camp.

Une des chaînes de télévision libanaise qui soutient le régime syrien à diffusé un reportage sur le Camp de Yarmouk montrant les soldats loyalistes en train de manger avec un des reporters de la chaîne, niant que les habitants du camp soient affamés et imitant les scènes où du lait maternisé était gâché pendant les sièges de Sabra & Shatila et de Burj El-Barajneh (dans les années 80). Le premier, imposé par le Liban et soutenu par Israël, dura trois mois, de juin à septembre 1982. Le second, mis en place par le Liban et soutenu par la Syrie, à duré 4 ans, de 1985 à 1988.

À chaque occasion, le régime syrien s’est justifié en arguant que les Palestiniens entretenaient des opinions radicales, qu’ils étaient des résistants invétérés. Mais Damas ne s’en prit jamais à Israël, même quand l’état hébreu à bombardé Damas. À chaque fois, l’humiliation des Palestiniens relayée par les médias était un élément essentiel de la guerre livrée contre eux. Non content de démoraliser les gens dans les camps et tous ceux qui les défendaient pendant le siège, il fallait aussi salir l’image de la Palestine, des symboles politiques et culturels Palestiniens. Il fallait aussi semer la confusion dans l’opinion publique syrienne et libanaise, dans leur réaction à de telles actions et, enfin, les convaincre de ne rien tenter pour s’opposer au siège des camps de réfugiés.

Refugee camp in Damascus, SyriaLe 9 janvier 2014, le porte parole de l’UNRWA, Christopher Gunness à déclaré que “la profonde souffrance des civils de Yarmouk s’aggrave. Les rapports confirment que la malnutrition est extrêmement répandue, de même que l’absence de soins médicaux, surtout pour ceux qui ont été blessés à cause du conflit, ainsi que les femmes prêtes à accoucher, avec des conséquences fatales pour certaines d’entre elles.”

Le journal britannique The Guardian relate que le même porte-parole de l’UNRWA déclaré, le 9 février 2014 (un mois après sa première déclaration) que le Dr Ibrahim Mohammed, qui travaille au sein de l’UNRWA, à sauvé un bébé de 14 mois appelé Khaled, souffrant de grave malnutrition. Depuis 2 mois, ce bébé ne vivait presqu’exclusivement d’eau. Noor, sa maman de 29 ans, avoua qu’elle n’avait, pour toute nourriture, que des décoctions d’épices. Quand il n’y en eut plus, ils se mirent à manger de l’herbe, mais celle-ci vint aussi à manquer.

Dans un message attesté du Réseau Euro-Méditerranéen pour les Droits de l’Homme (REMDH), une organisation basée à Genève qui collabore avec l’UNRWA pour apporter de la nourriture au camp, le REMDH rapporte qu’une jeune fille de 15 ans, prénommée Heba et son bébé de 5 mois, à raconté au personnel des Nations Unies qui distribuaient la nourriture qu’ils n’avaient pas mangé depuis trois jours, et qu’elle n’avait pas pu donner le sein à son bébé. Quand les infirmiers donnèrent de l’eau au bébé, il se mit à gonfler, n’ayant rien avalé depuis plusieurs jours. Les infirmiers en furent si inquiets qu’un médecin de la Croix Rouge Internationale dut le prendre en charge.

Ces exemples de famine furent accompagnés, dans le passé, par le massacre de quiconque tentait de quitter le camp. Dans le cas de celui de Tel Al-Zaatar, par exemple, après avoir affamé le camp pendant des mois, les Phalangistes, soutenus par le régime syrien [de Hafez al Assad, père de Bashar] annoncèrent qu’ils allaient autoriser les Palestiniens à quitter le camp afin d’être acheminés dans des refuges de la Croix Rouge. Quand les Palestiniens commencèrent à quitter le camp, les miliciens les massacrèrent, comme le raconte Maysa Al Khatib, une des survivantes de la tuerie, dont le témoignage fut, avec celui de Hussain Ayyad, publié dans l’appendice Palestinien du journal libanais Al-Safir du 12 août 2013 et du 15 septembre 2012.

“Tous les hommes de plus de dix ans qui tentaient de quitter le camp, comme de nombreuses jeunes filles, jeunes femmes et femmes âgées furent massacrées. Un des assassins s’approcha d’une jeune femme qui portait son nouveau-né de deux jours. Il empoigna son bébé et le projeta au loin. Celui-ci retomba dans des arbres mais la mère ne put localiser l’endroit où son bébé avait atterri.”

Une jeune femme blessée aux jambes se traînait parmi la foule. Un des meurtriers dit à un autre : “emmène-la donc sous le figuier, pour lui donner un peu de bonheur !” La femme répondit que la mort était mille fois préférable. Il la tua d’un coup de feu en disant : “crève donc !”

“Ghazi, mon cousin, portait ma grand-mère sur ses épaules, pensant que le fait de la porter lui éviterait la mort. Mais ils la tuèrent avant de l’assassiner. Une vieille femme glissa et tomba dans un fossé : comme elle tentait de s’en extraire, un des assassins lui dit : “où vas-tu ? Reste donc là où tu es ! ” Et il lui tira plusieurs balles dans la tête.

Abu Yaseen Freijah, un infirmier de l’UNRWA, vêtu de sa tenue blanche, soutenait sa femme, qui avait reçu une balle à l’épaule. Les meurtriers s’emparèrent d’elle et lièrent ses jambes à deux voitures, qui l’ont écartelée.

Mon cousin Ali, âgé de 17 ans, doux et inoffensif, fut attaché à l’arrière d’une voiture qui démarra en trombe. Abu Akram, un marchand de tissu bien connu, essaya de dissuader les assassins de s’en prendre à son fils en leur offrant tout l’argent qu’il possédait. Ils tuèrent son fils sous ses yeux avant de l’abattre, et de prendre tout son argent.

À ce jour, les coupables du massacre de Tel Al- Zaatar et de la famine organisée imposée pendant la Guerre de Camps n’ont pas été punis. Certains d’entre eux sont même devenus ministres ou responsables de conseils représentatifs, au Liban ou en Syrie. Ces tragédies se répètent dans le Camp de réfugiés de Yarmouk. Bien que le début de la tragédie à Yarmouk soit semblable à celle de Tel Al-Zaatar, nous devons agir pour que tous ces gens-là ne finissent pas de la même manière !

Tamim Al Barghouti est un poète palestinien et un scientifique engagé en politique. Il vient d’une famille lettrée. Son père est le poète palestinien Mourid Barghouti et sa mère, romancière érudite, est Radwa Ashour, d’origine égyptienne. Cet article fut publié en arabe dans le journal Shorouk, le 25 février 2014.