Archive for the ‘Ideas and Projects’ Category

framing 1

WRITTEN BY Mary Rizzo

Framing the debate is about using the best language to draw others into one’s worldview. It is based on values and influenced by a set of assumptions about how the world is and how it works.

Most of us in the Free Syria campaign identify with progressive and nurturing values and believe in the Enlightenment idea that “the truth will set us free”. We tend to consider humans as basically rational beings. This means that our belief is that when people are presented with the facts, they will reach the right conclusions. But this is sadly NOT the case! We’ve seen this time and time again, as we become stupefied that people have reacted in the ways they have, with indifference, hypocritically, with hostility and with their insistent clinging to the negation of facts, even ones that cannot be denied or covered up.

That is because we haven’t realised that people don’t react to facts, but they only accept them if they already fit into their personal worldview, if they fit into their “frame”. Knowing what a frame is and how to use it to promote the Syrian freedom struggle is important, so we shall begin with explaining how this mechanism functions. All people are born into a world where language already exists and serves to maintain the dominant social order or the community, creating a common identity through its use. Because of how the human brain works, based on language-based thought, people are strongly “identity-based” and use automatically and adopt without critical thought, the framing of what they know or accept (or adopt) as their personal identity, as individuals in a common group. The identity can be based on factors such as nationality, sex, political leaning, religious or ethnic belonging, being part of a majority or minority in one’s own environment and notions of the “moral order”, a sociological concept that comprises a body of unwritten social values and conventions which serve to maintain societal order. The hierarchical moral order of value to society that is the dominant one in the US, God is above man, man above nature, adults above children, Western culture above non-Western culture, America above other nations, men above women, whites above non-whites, Christians above non-Christians, is perceived, even if we don’t personally adopt it, particularly in the light of American foreign policy following 9/11, as being the values of America and its people, also because many do adopt it. In a multipolar world, even wanting to have an alternative framing, the dominant hegemonic one cannot be simply brushed off, and therefore, a very different framing evolved in the various peace movements, and many of us have adopted the alternative framing as our own, despite the fact that it is not the model in force when we were brought into the world. So we know we are able to reframe, but the world remains basically what it is.

Framing, particularly when it comes from a strong identity that is reinforced by the media and entertainment industry, has a preference for certain words. It is simply enough to hear the word so that an entire value system is conjured up in the listener, the value system behind that word, so we should know who developed those words and what their goals are, and if they fit into our value system. Every value system is going to have its own framing and it is going to use it during debate or when making points in discussion.

Here we come to a first principle for effectively framing an argument: DO NOT USE THEIR LANGUAGE. Their words are going to draw you and your audience into their worldview. If you keep the language of the adversary or their framing and just argue against it you do not win because you are merely reinforcing their existing frame.

Framing confusion!

Framing confusion!

So, it’s important to know what the adversary thinks and why they believe what they do. We have to try to predict what they will say, but also to understand the reasons why they hold these values. That means you have to plot people on a spectrum. It’s not a case of “we are good and they are bad”. Aside from a minority of truly convinced supporters of totalitarian societies and leadership, most of our adversaries got their opinions on Syria based on what we can even consider as “shared values”. Indeed, while it feels impossible that those defending the Assad regime’s crimes, its attacks on the civilian population and destruction of the country have any shared values, it is not as absurd as we might think. The denial of the genocide of the Syrian people is something that many who share common values with us buy into. Most of those who are currently our adversaries in Answer and Stop the War, advocating for staying out of the Syrian situation and letting it run its course without “us” made their first forays into protests shoulder to shoulder with us, against the Iraq war, in struggles for the end of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and aggression against southern Lebanon. They were our comrades in leftist, progressive and anti-imperialist groups. Like them, we do not accept unilateralism or the violations of the sovereignty of nations. We too adopt the ideas of self-determination of populations. These are some common values that also contained strong and consolidated linguistic framing and slogans such as “not in my name” and “don’t bomb”. The pro-Assad movements co-opted many of these slogans and framing, but they did not adopt the most important frame and slogan, which is our patrimony and our core value, that of “freedom and dignity of the Syrian people”.

There are other common values that the defenders of the regime attempted to co-opt, and we simply cannot allow them to consider the regime as defending the values such as acceptance of diversity, rejection of sectarianism, the co-existence of diverse ethnic and religious groups in a common form of State, the separation of religious and governmental powers, equality of women and men.

CODE-PINK-and-Popular-Resistance-protest-at-Armed-Services-hearing-9-16-14-e1410967258834But there are many other values that are common which have slipped away from the framing of those who once were progressives or, are Progressive Except for Syria, but who have now joined the debate in the defence of Assad. Our framing highlights the principle of protection of the people and of the infrastructure. There is also the idea of the lack of legitimacy of Assad. The idea we have of a revolution that demands the fall of the regime predominates, while our adversaries see the concept of Syrian sovereignty, i.e., the maintenance of the current State apparatus, as the core value. They buy into the view of the Syrian revolution as being just one more “colour revolution”, repeating the Russian framing that it is a form of warfare promoted from Washington and has nothing to do with protests against corrupt leadership or the desire to overthrow a totalitarian authority. Naturally, Russia is against all popular uprisings for their own political reasons, and thus, it is natural that the country that had a revolution as its foundational story, but was actually a new tyranny that still exists in different form today, would promote such a line to maintain their own hegemony. It also stood to reason that persons who wear Che Guevara shirts are unable to recognise an actual revolution when it happens because their fetish about revolution was based on State Capitalism and not true Socialism, and they still follow the dogma of the frames provided by those who promote themselves as the true opposition to American unilateralism.

The protesters in the streets who were shot at, thus in one fell swoop taking away any kind of moral legitimacy of Assad as Syria’s president and driving the country into war, with the soldiers who dissented forming the basis of the Free Syrian Army, were not seen as having their own legitimacy or right to self-determination. They view the Syrian revolution from the previous framing that comes from the post 9/11 policy of the USA, where wars in the Middle East derive from the unilateral American imperialist drive to dominate the area and control the resources. They know the USA lied about basic issues in order to pull the USA into wars against Iraq and Afghanistan. They know they depicted Saddam as an evil man and not the President of a country, so he would have to be fought and the population that died would be “collateral damage”, human blood on the hands of the West. The people who accept this framing do not really care about the facts that make Syria a completely different situation with a totally different scenario. They do not recognise that the people themselves in the Arab Spring were the ones demanding the fall of the regime, not “regime change”, a concept that entails foreign meddling for their own national interest. People who denounce UN Vetos when they are used against actions that defend Palestinians are supportive of them and applaud them when Russia and China use them to prevent actions that defend the Syrian people, protecting Assad from inspections about his chemical weapons, which his supporters first denied, but had to backpedal when Assad admitted having them and a deal was worked out to “hand them over” to the Russians. If there is an imperialist orchestration of the war, facts point out that it is Russia at the conductor’s podium. They aren’t interested, obviously, in overthrowing a regime that serves their interests so well and, but they are interested in providing it with arms to keep it firmly in power.

No-more-war-on-SyriaIn every situation involving a conflict, which we can define as a “story”, there is a crime, a victim, a villain and a hero. The legacy of Iraq plays heavily on the perception of these categories. People are not again willing to be fooled again. They don’t want to be dragged into what they call “oil wars”. Therefore, they don’t want to follow the pattern of the past, but can’t forget it, and the supporters of the regime use this framing to win international support. They don’t want to make Assad another Saddam, they don’t believe he is a true villain, but is instead the victim. His use of chemical weapons was ignored also because consensus in the USA will not “fall for” more frames that include WMDs. Slogans like “Bush lied, millions died” are not going to be forgotten easily. Thus, the crime scenario has changed as well. It is seen by these people not as what evidence and facts show, i.e., a crime against civilians where arbitrary arrest and torture and oppression, that were already the reason for the protests in the first place, were brought to an extreme level and done out in the open because they were framed with a scenario of “self-defence”. The victim shifted from being primarily the Syrian people into the Syrian government, busy defending itself in order to protect its people from foreign intervention and terrorism.

The regime’s justification for openly doing things that international conventions and common ethics do not allow was that they were defending themselves from various nefarious entities. They in fact, didn’t always deny the crimes they were accused of, but downsized them, attempted to put the responsibility for some of them on their opponents and used them in their framing on a continuative basis. The narrative of resistance to the Zionist state was no longer very convincing, as they never lifted a finger to liberate an inch of the occupied Golan, so the villain had to be promoted more fully and was effectively done with those who already have adopted the anti-imperialist narrative and framing. It also roped in the neo-cons and Islamophobes because it claimed that the enemy was more on various fronts, it was the Imperialist West, the Jihadis, Islamic Terrorists, Foreign Agents who trained traitors to overthrow a legitimate government, not respecting the will of the Syrian people to be governed by whoever they wanted, and in this case, by Assad.

Since any narrative functions only when the language can be quickly understood by the listeners, the previous slogans and language of peace movements were used to bolster the power of the regime. Rather than use the language in a reactive way, they used it in an assertive way, with some exceptions such as “Don’t Bomb Syria”. It has worked to depict and sell the war as a heroic struggle of good over evil with Assad and nations outside the unilateral power paradigm fighting those who want to destroy it and make it conform to an evil system. You will see many arguments about it not being in the Rothchilds banking system, about it being part of the Axis of Resistance to Israel, about it being some kind of state with a socialist division of wealth and its refusal to align with Western powers and serve their interests. The regime is depicted as a force against homologation and they are fighting against foreign invasion. The struggle that the regime is fighting is depicted as an existential struggle and he is framed as a good guy… or, if not quite a “good” guy, he’s certainly depicted as the “lesser evil”.

To do this, the regime has to be depicted as “moderate” and opposition to the regime has to be depicted as “extremist”, and the FSA and the many militias that oppose the regime but also oppose the Islamic State and the idea of a Caliphate have been either painted out of the picture, or reframed as belonging to some extremist Jihadi form of warfare that is anti-democratic and against our values that include secularism, pluralism, equality of the sexes, etc. The position and the power of the Islamic State had to be framed as the opposition to the regime, their presence had to be the only one acknowledged, their crimes against minorities had to be highlighted, while the crimes of the regime against the majority had to be ignored for this framing to be complete. The vastness of the regime crimes are nothing, really, if you compare it to what the Islamic State has in store. Thus, if you couldn’t whitewash Assad, you had to at least “admit he was the lesser evil”.

The concept of “lesser evil” should also be rejected as a frame. It somehow seeks to depict all sides as being forces of evil, current or potential, and it allows for the violation of human rights and exceptions to our ethical rules, because there would have to be exceptions made in order for a “greater good”. The violation of basic human rights, arrest of minors, arbitrary arrest of the adult population, disappearances, the suspension of freedom and so forth, have to be tolerated, stretching the moral and ethical standards beyond known acceptable limits. All of these things would never be allowed in democracies such as our own, and if they were, they would be slippery slopes indeed, so people rightfully march in the streets against these violations in their own countries. But when the Syrians marched, their rights did not matter, what mattered was the ideological and dogmatic things activists started to accept as the norm when supporting a “lesser evil” while also believing they were in the right and progressive.

If there are terrorists, it is commonly held that they must be fought and they must not win, by any means necessary, or so goes the narrative. By clumsy or manipulative definition of who the terrorist is, the regime allowed decent human beings to think that it was for a greater good that children and adults are preventively arrested, shot at and their cities even held under siege and arbitrarily bombed, creating what we know of in the West as the “refugee crisis”, but which in fact means that half of the Syrians have been displaced from the country and countless have been killed, arrested and disappeared. The activists in the West who support Assad accept starvation sieges and the suspension of freedom. These people are going to accept forced expulsions and ethnic cleansing of population to be replaced with populations supportive of the regime, because they accept the regime framing of them as “evacuations”: all in the name of their adoption of the “lesser evil” framing, and duly manipulated through the use of the framing they were already using since the Iraq war.

In our framing, rejecting the “lesser evil” framing, we must present the value that any evil is unacceptable. That we operate according to other values and standards and we are not willing to compromise on them. We uphold human life and freedom and we also recognise the manipulative nature of the fallacy of the regime narrative because we witness the effects of his policy. Since he bases his action on a goal of defending his power, but frames it as saving the nation, everything can be sacrifice to preserve the State apparatus as it exists under his control. There never could have been reform, as it would have threatened his power, so the narrative shifted from peaceful protests demanding reform to that of foreign-backed regime change and currently is centred on prevention and defeat of radical Islamic Terrorists.

Protesters use their shoes to hit a defaced poster of Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad during a demonstration to express solidarity with Syria's anti-government protesters in front of the Syrian embassy in Ankara June 10, 2011. The words on the poster read: "Murderer. Go away". REUTERS/Umit Bektas (TURKEY - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Protesters use their shoes to hit a defaced poster of Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad during a demonstration to express solidarity with Syria’s anti-government protesters in front of the Syrian embassy in Ankara June 10, 2011. The words on the poster read: “Murderer. Go away”. REUTERS/Umit Bektas (TURKEY – Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST IMAGES OF THE DAY)

The revolution was reframed as external meddling, with a popular framing being that the Islamic forces, (ignoring the fact that they were often actually fighting against the Islamic State) were all terrorists that were “Al Qaeda affiliates” or they were part of the Islamic State. In some cases, the framing was that both Al Qaeda and ISIS were creations of the CIA, so the full spectrum of the opposition was nothing more than a CIA regime change operation. The Syrian regime was thus justified for almost any crime it committed. The systematic and institutionalised security apparatus that had been used to control the population and punish dissent in order to preserve power had been morphed in the framing into being a tool for prevention and containment of Islamic terrorism. In the framing of the anti-imperialists, he became a heroic defender of his country’s autonomy, sovereignty, and a pillar of secularism and pluralism. To those who  never harboured much affection for him, the  War on Terror narrative meant that he was the lesser evil when put next to Jihadi Terrorism, which basically only becomes problematic to them because it is without distinct boundaries, capable of recruitment, uses unconventional and random attacks more often than war on the battlefield, or it occupies rural areas and roads in faraway places in Africa, the Middle East and Asia but also in the cities of the West such as New York and Paris. Since it can’t be easily contained, but causes fear, it is perceived as a greater threat to the world. New alliances to support this new paradigm have been formed, such as those with Iran and Russia, entering into the framing as actions to “protect the world”.

The principle remains that facts serve the narrative, not the other way around. People will ignore the number of deaths caused by the regime because they feel that its struggle is noble, that it is also THEIR struggle, that he is a lesser evil. The facts that they illustrate are looked at and accepted as long as they fit the pre-existing or predominant frames.

So, how do we overcome this impasse when what is actually an aggressive, destructive, tyrannical force is passed along as the “good guy”? Not by ignoring or abandoning the facts, but by working on our framing. Facts will be ignored, but the frame, if it resonates with the VALUES of the listener, will remain. We have to focus on our shared values, think strategically and with the BIG PICTURE in mind, not moving from crisis to crisis or issue to issue, though at times we need to do that because of the humanitarian emergency that we are dealing with in Syria, and that our adversaries ignore until people land on their shores or cross over their borders.

a Syrian child doing some real-life framing!

a Syrian child doing some real-life framing!

Our enemy is war. Or enemy is terrorism. Assad started the war. Assad enabled terrorism and has used it over and over to stay in power. Assad raised the war to atrocity levels also by violating human rights further than what he has done already in “peacetime” but he now does it openly in the fog of war, where people are ready to suspend their ethics and values for a perceived “greater good”. He brought in foreign fighters to carry out his war, from places such as Russia, Iran and Lebanon, with their militias and their commanders leading battles and carpet bombing entire areas. Assad’s enemy is the Syrian people and their tendency to dissent, as a free people will try to do. He is against their dignity and self-determination. He is willing and able to destroy the people, drive them out of their homes and country, all in the name of holding onto power. His army uses the slogan “Assad or we burn the country”, and this is also their military policy. He allowed forces such as ISIS to develop by freeing the most radical elements from his prisons and replacing them with secular dissenters. He has never actually attacked ISIS and in fact, his army fled from cities they controlled, rather than defend them from ISIS, leaving the population at the mercy of the brutal Islamic State militias. He has labelled all those who oppose him as Islamic Jihadi Terrorists, Saudi or American agents, etc. The point is. Be PROACTIVE, NOT REACTIVE. List what Assad has done, talk about how he has taken advantage of the fear and uncertainty that has been a dominant theme of the world since 9/11 to oppress his people further, to consolidate his power and to create a “Coalition of the Killing” to help him carry out his own agenda, which is totally anti-democratic, not at all moderate, but is blood-drenched and destructive for the entire region and beyond. He created the refugee crisis that is affecting Europe, he is laying the basis for imperialist domination of the Levant. He is following the opposite of the principle of non-interference, as his internal calls for reform were met with violence and the nation’s army, rather than defend the country’s assets and people, was asked to wage war against them. Since they were insufficient for such a task of bringing the whole country under his control once the uprising became a revolution, he called for other armies and militias to do his battles, lead his forces and bomb opposition areas.

Keep the framing on a level of values, then substantiate with facts. Recognise that neutral people may actually be using a language and framing that they don’t fully agree with or adhere to, but that is because they are more familiar with it or have heard it more often Since television and the media focus, both mainstream and alternative, focus on ISIS crimes, the public may not actually be aware of the scope of the crimes of the regime and how it created the war in Syria.

In debates, never answer a question framed from your opponent’s point of view. Always reframe the question to fit YOUR values and frames. Stay away from set-ups where you have no control of your own presentation or language and are forced to conform to a frame you know is a lie. If you can’t participate in events due to their nature as set-ups, CREATE your own opportunities, and be aware that the adversary is just waiting for an opportunity to trap you into his frame. Don’t let that opportunity arise.

framing 3Stay with values that you truly hold, be aware of the values that those in the public hold and frame the shared values. Stay on the offensive, not the defensive. You can actually convince people simply by asserting something, bear that in mind. People do not always know enough about something to fact-check it, but if you know your facts, can assert your frame calmly and rationally, it shows that you are knowledgeable, convinced of the reasonableness of your point of view and it then becomes authoritative.

Reinforce our terminology and framing. We know Assad is not a “President” as the term is understood within a democracy, but instead, he is a “Dictator” and a “Tyrant”, illegitimately holding power by the force of a completely twisted election in which only his supporters were allowed to participate freely. We know his is not a democratic government with a legislative and judiciary branch and a security system that would be tolerated in any normal democracy, but it is a “Regime”. We know he is not a “Moderate”, but an “Extremist” who uses unconventional warfare and has committed crimes against humanity against his people. He routinely uses terrorism. We know he is not “defending” his country, but “attacking” it and has dragged the entire world into his war against the people just to maintain his power, which is also economic. Those countries dragged in are not freedom and sovereignty lovers, but instead are making profits and a killing (literally) through their arms sales and use of their weapons and soldiers. They are interested in their energy deals and the huge reconstruction that they will be paid to do in the post-war period. They have geopolitical designs in the area that go from their own control of a naval base to the re-alignment of the Levant under Iranian/Shi’a predominance. They want to stockpile their arms and forces in the area for expansionist policies.

We will be pulled into issues where we are put on the defensive. A current one is the denial of the starvation policy that the regime uses against opposition-held areas. We are told (in fact) two different narratives, and there are two framings that are used interchangeably. The first is that the “rebels” (which we should call simply “the Opposition”) have kept the food out and that they use the civilians as their hostages and human shields and the second goes that they there is actually no starvation going on, because what we see are pictures from other places and dates that are used in the reports that come out of these places.

We can use and pick apart both of these framing attempts and reframe so as to point out that it is indeed Assad behind the starvation campaign. First of all, we can point out that it is the regime that controls access to the city, which is not a secret to anyone. Nothing goes in or out unless the regime (or its proxy, Hezbollah, in the case of Madaya) lets it. UN and ICRC convoys that officially have delivered the first aid allowed in after six months, as well as independent convoys, all have acknowledged the regime restriction on aid being delivered unless it obtains permission from the regime, which finally gave it after the international outcry. Any other food coming in must be smuggled or bribes paid to the regime soldiers at the roadblocks, which has been how some aid has made it in through even the regime controls. Is it not morally bankrupt for food to have to be smuggled in? Restricting food violates all rules of war and international conventions about those caught in war and how they shall be treated. Secondly, we can point out that people are ethnically cleansed in order that the most ill can be treated and have food, while the word “evacuated” is used. They are not being evacuated from a disaster area, they are being further punished and forced out of their homes as part of a greater plan of ethnic cleansing and replacement of the population with a different one.

Regarding the authenticity of the pictures, reframing here also works to our advantage: we recognise that regular professional journalists are denied entry unless they are embedded by the regime. We also know that independent journalists are killed by the regime and the numbers alone prove that the regime has targeted journalists and hoped it would be a war in the dark, despite the age of internet and cell phones. Individuals who are not journalists smuggle out pictures and videos taken with their phones. Word-of-mouth is used to circulate the pictures and the tam-tam is not always accurate because the profession of journalism has not been allowed to do its work. Citizen journalists may not speak anything but their own language, they do not control the use of their images after they start to circulate and not even taking into account the disinformation campaign the Russians and regime supporters are trained in and practice, it’s not common practice for people to use due diligence and check the photos. And yet, their efforts have been verified by non-political agencies on the ground who have testified that what they had seen when being finally allowed in by the regime were indeed entire areas of forced starvation and siege, the withholding of food and medicine and the survival of the people by resorting to eating grass, leaves and salt. They claim that photos may be from one of the many besieged cities, that it is not just one city, but that this practice is widespread. Covering up crimes and atrocities this outrageous by shifting the focus onto the authenticity of specific pictures when there is ample evidence this is in fact the actual situation is nothing less than genocide denial. We refuse to adopt this as our principle. We do not miss the forest for the trees as the regime defenders do in their pitiful attempts to change the framing into one of “it’s all lies, none of this is true, nothing to look at, move on.”

By predicting what the adversary’s framing is, refusing to use it and thus reinforce it, but using OUR OWN framing in a PROACTIVE way, based on our values, we can draw others into our worldview, which puts the protection of the Syrian people as the priority, as well as the defence of their struggle for freedom, because freedom and justice are our core values, and we will never compromise on these humanitarian and human values.

101677e1441761633o6071WRITTEN BY Mary Rizzo

There are various moments / instances involved in the act of participation in discussions/debates

  • Launching the argument (starting the discourse)
  • Entering into a discussion that is already in course
  • Leaving a discussion (or closing a discussion)

For each of these, there are factors to consider: among which

  • Who is the interlocutor
  • Who is the listening public
  • Preparation of the participants
  • Preparation of the public – present at public events, broadcasts (real) or / Internet, Facebook, comments on articles (virtual)
  • Expectations of the public

Therefore, it is essential to know three things:

  • One’s own level of preparation and that of the interlocutor,
  • Determine the interest that the public has to follow your reasoning (and therefore, to adapt yourself, if necessary, to the climate of the debate and to the new elements that have emerged during the debate),
  • Know exactly what you hope to obtain and also that which you are unwilling to compromise on in terms or conclusion. The public often determines a “winner” of a debate. This is true even regarding interventions that do not include rebuttals, because the listener evaluates whether or not his or her own position has changed as a result of what the speaker has said.

Regarding our own preparedness, we are personally responsible, therefore, we have to keep well-informed of the arguments to handle, do our research, have an archive of facts and information that are easily accessible to us. We also have to be clear and convincing in our presentation of the information. We thus have to believe in what we are saying and also be able to support it with arguments based on reason, logic, supported by data that is as recent, reliable and convincing as possible.

In consideration of the level of preparation of the interlocutor, we also must do our research. Often, it is a person who has expressed his or her positions publicly, therefore, before the encounter, it is necessary to prepare ourselves on the arguments of this person. This means that we should know not only the probable content of her or her interventions, but also the sources he or she uses, the communication style, if in the past he or she has obtained something for supporting a position (we must not forget that almost all of the Assad supporters in Italy and Europe have been guests of the regime in Damascus or they have been paid or remunerated for their interventions, articles and sites in Europe). We have to mentally anticipate the discourse of the interlocutor, know his or her sources and their reliability, and we have to understand where he or she wants to bring the argument, as well as where he or she does not want to be brought by us.

The climate of the debate could also be determined by the moderator, or when there is no moderator, by the persons on the discussion panel. At times the public could also influence the climate, particularly when the debate begins to get heated or during the Q & A. Each interlocutor always tries to have the public on its side, and therefore has to always be aware of the signals it is sending. Sometimes it is possible to know if the public is sympathetic, hostile or neutral. If one does not know, it is a good policy to assume that it is sympathetic, but not too much. The approach in this case is to explain / define some lesser-known points, but assuming that the public has basic notions and also has already formed an opinion. It is also correct to assume that your values and the values of the public are specular or similar. It is a good policy to anticipate (mentally) the questions and the worries of the public and to satisfy their need to obtain answers that are honest, concise and correct. If, during the debate, one finds oneself on the defensive, it is preferable to acts as if the public were neutral and in this case, rather than be argumentative or assuming a defensive attitude (which is not appealing to anyone), it is necessary to take a step back and explain basic concepts in which a common ground can be found once more. In this case, it is also a good practise to assume that the public is in good faith, just as you are in good faith, but only that it does not have some necessary information. Your task is to provide the information they are lacking.

Instances of discussions:  

Launch: When one begins a discourse, it should be clear what he or she hopes to obtain, but it should also be clear to the public. Therefore, decide and express immediately if it is an informational meeting, if the public will be involved in some way, if some kinds of  actions are being asked of them, if there is also going to be the presence and participation of persons with opinions that are in conflict with their own (debate), etc.

The introduction (prior to opening the participation in the debate to others) should also incorporate the point or points that are going to be addressed. It is an ACTION THAT PROPOSES AND SHOULD NOT BE REACTIVE.  It also should not anticipate conflicting opinions (which could emerge during the debate). It is important that if we are the ones to launch the discussion, the evolution of the discussion follows specific paths that we are the ones to direct. Therefore, we have to use the concept of “framing the discourse”, in which we do not allow that the argument is changed into a different argument,  we should avoid becoming distracted or brought too far away from our theme, we should not lose control and ownership of the discourse. Every time it becomes necessary, we have to know how to bring the discourse back on track. In these moments, the adversary could attempt to use various “derailment” strategies, trying to not allow us to conclude our line of reasoning, and to make us feel frustrated. It is important to NOT become frustrated, to not lose patience, but to communicate in a clear and reasonable way that the argument is going to get back on track now. Often we find that the adversary uses “argumentative or logical fallacies” which are violations of the rules of critical discourse, when he or she is unsuccessful in taking down an argument based on merit of logic of with facts. A fundamental resource of the discipline of Pragmatics and with helpful suggestions for persons engaged in public debates is the Journal of Pragmatics: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/03782166

In conclusion, if you are launching the discourse, REMAIN THE OWNER OF THE DISCOURSE.

Argument already begun: This is generally the case during events when you are on the panel but have not organised the event, when you are in the public and have asked a question or “challenge” one of the interlocutors during the Q & A, when you are participating in a radio or television broadcast, when you participate in discussion groups in Internet, when you respond to comments in articles in newspapers or on sites.

Differently from the first instance, you are more REACTIVE and are responding to the points already expressed by others. Your form of response in general would be one of demonstrating the errors (or reasoning, source, data) of the information that’s been presented, or, if it is not a contrasting opinion, but only one that is not complete, to complement the intervention with further information.

It is always important to not deviate from the theme, or you actually CAN deviate the discourse of the others as long as it is logical and correct, but NEVER violating the rules of discussion. Always avoid fallacies: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies

Leaving a discussion or closing a discussion:  If it is an event that we or others have organised, the time limit has generally been established, and we should keep the discussion always within those temporal limits. The organiser has to always advise the public that the event is coming to its closure at around fifteen minutes prior to the end, and during this time will also try to express a conclusion or, if possible, to have the final word. If you are responsible for concluding the meeting, it has to be closed in a climate that is pacific, calm and conciliatory, even if during the event there has been heated debate. Never leave the public with the sensation that you are argumentative and quarrelsome or that you hold grudges. It is equally important to avoid using expressions that are exasperated or excessive.

If it is a virtual intervention, (that is, without a known time limit or the need to bring it to a conclusion) we have to always consider if it is worthwhile to persevere or if it is more beneficial to leave the conversation. Elements to consider: number of participants, if others are influenced/can be persuaded by our intervention, how many colleagues we have to sustain us and contribute or whether we are alone against everyone.

In addition, we have to always keep in mind the type of public that is present, and to choose both the method and the arguments where we can find common ground. There are various ways to convince the public of the correctness of our argument, but it will be more effective if our language, the issues we focus on and our conclusions are easily assimilated. We should participate in debates where we can contribute in a positive way with our knowledge, and we also have to know the terrain in which we are not knowledgeable and to leave the space to colleagues who are more informed than we are or who have particular experiences and information that could reach the public. We have to be aware of our own limits and recognise the merits of others, asking them to contribute in our place when they could communicate the concepts better than we can.

Also in Italian in Le Voci Della Liberta

show_imgReport to the National Conference for Freedom in Syria – 10-11 October, Bologna, Italy

Mary Rizzo

Since the beginning of the revolution, the civil society, in Syria and in the world, has expressed its solidarity or condemnation by means of declarations that were then signed by organisations and individuals, often prominent ones. These declarations are intended to be distributed with the purposed of informing the public about positions regarding principles but also on the policies that are desired but not yet in force. Most of these statements are concentrated in particular periods. Many of them were issued on anniversaries such as 21 August, the anniversary of the massacre of Ghouta. Others were issued after what is perceived as an emergency such as recent arrivals in Europe with the Balkan route.

These declarations fall into different genres and are used for various purposes: short-term and immediate policy declarations, statements of terms to enter a phase of transition and political solution, declarations of long-term policies and recommendations for entities like states, international bodies or political groups.

In statements that express reference to immediate policies, the most frequent requests are for the free passage of humanitarian aid without the authorisation of the regime, which blocks the arrival of aid in areas not under their control, forcing activists and charities to tackle many risks to bring these relief goods, medicines, clothes and products for infants in the first place, to areas where there is need, and denying them any type of protection. The protection of civilians is articulated in particular with requests for humanitarian corridors but especially with the request for the establishment of a No Fly Zone. The request for a No Fly Zone which started already in 2012 by civil society in Syria, initially was only for parts of Syria under the constant bombardment of the regime, but last year this request has been extended (particularly from groups belonging to the left) to all parts of Syria, which is now also under aerial bombardment by the Coalition and more recently, Russia. In one of the statements, by Rethink, Rebuild Society, the request is extended to the British government to support the coalition in the American bombing of ISIS and to extend it to Iraq after the population has been moved to safe places.

The other request of an immediate nature is often directed to foreign countries, and has to do with the policy of management of refugees and expansion of Operation Triton for rescue in the Mediterranean.

manifesto_for_syria_2_740Among the declarations of a more immediate nature is the Manifesto for Syria, written by Syria Solidarity Movement and inspired by the demands of Planet Syria and The Syria Campaign (which includes The White Helmets), grouping more than 150 different groups in Syria and in the diaspora. It is divided into two different proposals, supported by an international campaign of petitions with the titles, “A No Fly Zone for Syria” and “Syrian Refugees Welcome Here”.

Among the statements that express a principled stand for the transition, those standing out are from Syria, in particular the document of the National Coalition for Revolutionary and Opposition Forces in April of 2013 and the Declaration of the Syrian Islamic Council issued a few days ago and called The Five Principles of the Revolution. Both documents (which in fact mirror every single declaration regarding the transition) pose as a principle priority the end of the Assad regime as a prerequisite for any political solution or international initiative. They also exclude the participation of close associates of Assad in the transitional phase and exclude them as part of the solution for Syria. However, the fight is not against the state but against the regime and therefore the structures and state institutions must be preserved and re-organised for the purpose of protecting the state and the people who worked for the State but who are not corrupt or guilty of crimes. The Coalition also includes in military and security personnel the people to protect.

CPMjOpPWoAAS3OVThe document of the Syrian Islamic Council, signed by 74 revolutionary formations and 52 high personalities indicates the other four principles: The dismantling of the security agencies affiliated with the regime; that all foreign forces must leave Syria; the preservation of the unity, territorial integrity and national identity; the refusal to share power based on sectarian criteria.

The Syrian Islamic Council, founded in 2013, consists of 128 delegates, 50 of which in the liberated areas, represents 40 leagues and religious committees that have grown especially in the Diaspora since 2011. It does not include the Islamic Front but consolidates a moderate Islamist axis inside the opposition. The Council has issued a fatwa against Isis in 2014 but also a Fatwa this June, which forbids enlistment in YPG or PKK, who are seen as sectarian forces.

The rejection of sectarianism is a dominant feature of all the statements, and is part of the “Core Values”, in particular the statements offering long-term policies insist that the core values should be integrated in any transition framework or constituent phase. The values ​​are those for which the revolution began in the first place: the desires of equality, rights, representation, freedom of expression, assembly, affiliation, religion, rights for minorities and women and just distribution of the wealth of the state.

A core value of all the statements is territorial integrity and rejection of divisions along ethnic or sectarian lines. The Syrians have always lived as one people and the division would cause great instability.

4dea0958f8d68b45113c0a797d9fa256A declaration of principles that is perhaps the most representative of the aspirations of the Syrian people is The Freedom Charter by the Foundation to Restore Equality and Education in Syria (FREE-Syria), a humanitarian organisation of civil society development founded by people involved with the LCC (Local Coordination Committees). The Freedom Charter, inspired by the South African Freedom Charter, a document of national unity, was based on tens of thousands of face-to-face interviews carried out by a team of more than one hundred activists coordinated by FREE-Syria and the LCC with Syrians in each governate of the country, asking what kind of society they desired to live in. The Charter however reflected the values ​​of the revolution, for a state based on equality, justice and freedom. Aspirations are included in a State based on the rule of law, in which leaders are elected by the people. An independent, sovereign state, within the current UN-recognised borders and that follows and obeys international conventions and treaties. That the assets of the country belong to all of Syria and the Syrian armed forces serve only to protect the borders of the nation and defend its sovereignty without interfering in political, economic or social issues. That courts are independent and not subject to the authority of other government agencies or the pressure of special interest groups. Education shall be free, compulsory and available to all.

Syria_Between_Dictatorship_and_ISISIt is followed by a section that lists the rights, the principles of equality and respect for all cultures and ethnic groups in Syria. The Freedom Charter represents the aspirations of the Syrians, but does not suggest how to achieve these results. Similar to it, but with more concrete proposals is the document called Policy Proposals for the UK, a lengthy document issued by Rethink Rebuild Society, signed by Syria Solidarity Movement, Scotland For Syria, Kurds House, Syrian Association of Yorkshire and Syrian Revolution Committee in Newcastle. It is based on the Core Values of almost all the documents cited so far, but also includes policy suggestions for the United Kingdom in order to help overcome the current situation and rebuild Syria’s future. In its twenty pages, beginning with a brief introduction to the situation and its history, it contains seven wide spectrum proposals and suggestions of policies and strategies for the government to use to implement the proposals.

The basis of the Rethink Rebuild document is for the protection of civilians both inside Syria and in exile. The first step is the establishment of a No Fly Zone over all of Syria followed by British intervention against ISIS extending also to Iraq.

It demands a unified and democratic Syria without Assad. Indeed, the second point mentions the strengthening of Syrian National Coalition (whose document I mentioned earlier) and the Free Syrian Army to facilitate a transition to a post-war Syria. It demands the British government to actively support the emergence of a unitary and democratic Syria which adheres to internationally-recognised human rights standards. As the transition period is expected to be long and very difficult, it asks the British government to support the principles and encourage the incorporation of these ideals in any transitional or constituent phase. The values ​​to be supported are the same as all the documents cited so far and in the Freedom Charter.

The third point asks a guideline for humanitarian aid, both for its collection and its distribution and with the insistence that Britain calls for full implementation of UN resolutions 2165 and 2191 authorising the distribution of humanitarian aid anywhere in Syria, across borders and without the consent or authorisation of the regime.

The last points are more specific to European relations with individual Syrians. Topics include support for refugees and rehabilitation and education of Foreign Fighters and people that have extremist views, but who have not committed crimes. The sixth point is the ability to maintain banking services to Syrian individuals and entities and the last point asks for appropriate treatment to be given to Syrians that are residents in the United Kingdom, equivalent to that of other residents.

373047_313146128710043_1498568290_nThere are two earlier declarations to be considered as important references, and they are the Declaration of Dignity issued in December of 2011 by the LCC and the Declaration signed in Geneva in May of 2012 by the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights in Syria, the World Campaign in Support of the Syrian People and the Syrian National Council. The first announces the values of the revolution, the rights of the people and the rejection of sectarianism and commitment to upholding human dignity. The second is based on defining the Syrian struggle along the lines of the Preamble of the UN Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly in 1948. It is an appeal for a pacific transition in Syria, an immediate end of the violence and repression against civilians, release of political prisoners and reform of the mass media to allow free press. Its crucial point is that the UN Declaration supports the recourse to rebellion against tyranny and oppression and the protection of human rights by rule of law. It calls for a constitutional assembly to be appointed to draft a new constitution that limits the functions of the president, restoring Syria to the people and not allowing it to belong to a single individual, family or party. It requests the recognition of the revolution as legitimate, legal and worthy of support.

syria-istanbul-declaration_403x227The last document that I include in this overview is The Istanbul Declaration, signed this summer by many activists and members of civil society, including some prominent historical Syrian left. It begins with an introduction that identifies the suffering of the people. It declares that Assad oppresses the people strictly to stay in power to protect his interests. Then it talks about the determination of the people in its long and difficult resistance, even moral. It speaks of the institutions that civil society has created, such as the LCCs, but in particular, it cites with admiration the steadfastness of a people who despite everything continue to protest and to do everything possible to communicate their situation through an intense activity in social media.

The declaration continues with a description of all the enemies of the people, the atrocities committed by the reactionary forces and religious extremists and includes a denunciation of the occupation of Syria by foreign forces, naming in particular the massive presence of Iran in support of reactionary forces and the regime.

The statement is divided into seven points.

The first: support of resistance and denunciation of the complicity of the Left with the regime, calling their behaviour betrayal.

The second: rejection of the intervention by anyone who is hostile to the revolution.

The third: condemnation of fundamentalist forces.

The fourth: the belief that there is no political solution that presupposes the existence of the current regime.

The fifth: denunciation of the policies of Fortress Europe.

The sixth: the connection with any popular struggle and solidarity with all oppressed people and those without justice, particularly in the region, citing, Iraq, Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Palestine and any other country in the world oppressed by dictators and imperialists.

The seventh: support to the LCCs, the revolutionary councils and to humanitarian groups in addition to the independent brigades of the FSA fighting against the regime and against ISIS.

Any statements that we Italians and Syrians in Italy write and ask to be disseminated and supported should take into account the content of the existing statements. We can integrate many of their points, but also introduce points particularly relevant to our particular Italian circumstances. I hope that in the working groups we identify requests to our government, to Europe and to the general public, to come together in support of this glorious revolution.

ahwaz2Written by Rahim Hamid

A call by a senior UAE official on Monday for formal recognition of Al-Ahwaz as an occupied Arab country has sparked a rapidly growing pan-Arab media campaign, with over 1,000 prominent Arab figures across the region so far announcing their support of ‘I recognise Al-Ahwaz as an Arab State’.  Despite only being launched a couple of days ago, the campaign is also spreading beyond the Arab world, with the slogan already shared across social media in 16 languages.

Launched in the wake of a statement issued by the influential former Dubai police chief Dahi Khalfan calling on Gulf states to open embassies for Al-Ahwaz and to formally recognise the state, which was renamed ‘Khuzestan province’ in 1936 by Iran following its 1925 annexation, the campaign has continued to gain popularity, winning backing from a wide range of influential Arab figures from all backgrounds across the region.

Among the leading regional figures who have announced their support of the new campaign are Jerry Maher, the founder and director of ‘Radio Swat Beirut International’ and the distinguished and widely respected Kuwaiti academic and analyst Dr. Abdullah Nafisi.  In Egypt, TV show host Hussein Jouli, a moderate and opponent of the Sisi regime, said that he would head an Egyptian campaign for the recognition of Ahwaz as an Arab state. Another leading Kuwaiti figure voicing her support for the campaign was Ayesha Rashid, a liberal writer, journalist and political researcher.

Ahwazi activists hope that the new campaign, which has already been featured on media as diverse as Al Jazeera, CNBC Arabic, Sawa Middle East and even Japanese and Korean news channels, will help to raise awareness of the systemic injustices inflicted on the Ahwazi people by Iran for almost a century in near-complete international silence.

AHW 1Since the initial Iranian occupation in 1925, successive administrations in Tehran, both under the current theocratic regime and the previous rulers, have refused to recognise the most basic rights of the ethnically Arab Ahwazi people numbering around 10 million in total, who are denied not only the right to the same healthcare and education as Persian Iranians, but even the right to wear traditional Arab garments, or to publicly speak or learn their native Arabic  language,  being subjected to what is effectively an apartheid system of rule.

Despite occupied Ahwaz, now a region of south and southeast Iran, being the home to around 95% of Iran’s oil and gas reserves, the vast majority of the Ahwazi population live in medieval poverty and squalor, often without running water, electricity or the most basic sanitation, while the massive wealth from their natural resources is spent on other, non-Arab regions by Tehran.  This openly racist policy means that despite being the most resource-rich region of Iran, Ahwaz – or Khuzestan as Iran insists on calling it – is home to one of the poorest populations per capita on earth.

Anti-Arab racism is endemic in Iran, having been encouraged by successive regimes,  with Ahwazis bearing the brunt of this bigotry, both in formal policies which treat them as second-class citizens,  excluded from property  ownership and all but the most menial jobs,  and denied the most basic rights, as well as through a culture  which glorifies racism and casual violence towards Arabs:  many  of the most celebrated contemporary Iranian poets’ most famous poems are filled with virulently racist anti-Arab imagery and language.  This anti-Arab racism extends to all cultural forms, with   one fairly typical recent hit by a popular Iranian singer entitled ‘Kill An Arab’   issued shortly after a phone app game, ‘Beat An Arab’ in which the object of the game is to force-feed a grotesque caricature of an Arab before beating him unconscious:  both the song and he game were approved  for general release by the Iranian Culture Ministry, which routinely approves such offensive items,  and neither is viewed by  Persian Iranians as being in  any way objectionable.

Al-Ahwaz1Ironically while the theocracy in Tehran is keen to present itself as the champion of Palestinians and arch-foe of Zionist occupation, its own savagely imposed  occupation of Ahwazi Arabs’ land is arguably more brutal and its profound anti-Arab bigotry virtually indistinguishable to that of Zionists.

The similarities can be quite uncanny, with Persian Iranians offered generous incentives to move to the Ahwaz region where they are housed in specially built settlements provided with all the latest amenities, and given well-paid state oil industry jobs not available to Ahwazis or offered further substantial financial inducements by the Tehran administration to set up businesses in these areas. As with the jobs and loans, these settlements are off-limits to Ahwazis who are routinely ethnically cleansed from their homes and lands whenever these are confiscated by the regime, with no compensation or recourse to legal complaint, and are housed in overcrowded shanty towns often located near the region’s oil refineries, where open sewers and atrocious pollution lead to widespread health problems.

There is still no word on the  theocratic regime’s reaction to the new ‘I recognise Ahwaz as an Arab State’ media campaign, although the mullahs, who have long refused to  recognise Ahwazis’ basic humanity, let alone their right to their own lands and sovereignty are, like Queen Victoria, unlikely to be amused.

medico_1219482A word from Rosamaria Vitale, 55, the surgeon who was supposed, until the last moment, to take part in the mission in Syria with the two recently freed Italian girls. She had met the girls in Milan, in the reception center of via Novara, run by the cooperative “Farsi Prossimo” of the Caritas Ambrosiana.

Written by Stefano Pasta, translated by Samantha Falciatori 

These are days of controversy and speculation about the reasons why Vanessa and Greta went to Syria. We talk about it with Rosamaria Vitale, 55, the surgeon who was supposed, until the last moment, to go with them on the same mission to Syria. In the same spirit, and always willingly and unpaid, she worked on the Mare Nostrum ships, in Kenya with the Camilliani Fathers (she has been going there for ten years) and other places of suffering in the world. During the months when she is at home, in Milan, she is one of the many citizens who, in different ways, helps the Syrian and Eritrean refugees (at least 70,000) reach Milan in their journey to Northern Europe. It is here, in the Central Station and in the reception centers activated by the Municipality, that she met the two girls.

Where did you meet them?

In Milan, in the reception center of via Novara, which is run by the cooperative “Farsi Prossimo” (Caritas Ambrosiana). It was October 2013. The Municipality had just decided to accept refugees in transit for a few days and, as it is now, it was cooperating with a very heterogeneous group of Milanese, some belonging to associations, but above all, individuals motivated by solidarity for what these families have suffered. Sometimes it would happen that you would see Syrian children with wounds from firearms. Until last June, “Medici volontari italiani” (“Volunteer Italian Medics”), the association to which I belong, was in charge of the first aid intervention of what was a sort of small refugee camp. Greta and Vanessa, who spoke perfect Arabic [translator’s note, according to the interviewee], helped me with the translation, but they were devoted mainly to entertaining the children, and organizing games and activities. These volunteer “activists” also had other tasks: to welcome the refugees who arrived from Southern Italy to the Central Station, to accompany them to the reception centers, and to help them with train tickets. Then when there was no more room in the reception centers, we turned to private homes (I myself have hosted several Syrians). Now at the Station there is a valuable group of volunteers, but the management of the incoming refugees in the centers is now handled by the Municipality.

What struck you about the two girls?

Their effort, shared also by many activists of all ages: almost daily and always withoutgetting a cent, they came and went from their cities to Milan. Sometimes we left the center together and I gave them a ride to the underground stop next to my house. It was an opportunity to share thoughts about the suffering we had seen during the day. It often happened that the patients let us see the photos of their lives in Syria, some which had fought against the Assad regime. It was clear to us who the weak were: on one side there was Assad who destroyed his people, and on the other side, there was a people of survivors who fled in search of a new life.

Then came the proposal of the trip to Syria…

Greta phoned me asking if I wanted to go to Syria for 5-6 days in the rural area of Idlib, that both girls had already visited in a previous mission. They knew that I already had experience in many countries at war. I immediately said yes, confirming I would willingly collaborate with them. At that time, in the Syrian areas controlled by the rebels,  virtually none of the biggest organizations operated anymore. Only small groups, often self-organized, did it, with a few day-long missions during which they delivered medicines and aid in kind.

slide_396732_4873160_freeWhat was the project of Vanessa and Greta about?

I still have the April email in which they sent me the project. It was a well done project, with objectives developed after careful analysis of the needs of the territory. In the roughly twenty villages in the area, medical facilities had been bombed and there were no doctors (they had fled or had been killed). All the medical assistance was handled by only one veterinarian. In the first mission, Greta and Vanessa had identified the deficits, setting two goals for the next missions. First: to activate a first aid course providing the necessary materials. Second: to ensure the sick of chronic diseases (for example diabetes) access to the right therapies. As far as the first is concerned, we are talking about gauzes, disinfectants, pills, therefore, materials that each family had to keep at home; Greta, a Nursing Sciences student, had all the necessary skills.

But then you did not leave with them…

No, I could not join their second mission due to problems that arose at the last moment. I also couldn’t attend the third, the one in July, because I was called to serve on the Navy ships, in the Mare Nostrum Operation. When I learned about their kidnapping, I was already in Kenya. Before both missions, I had helped them choose and collect the medicines to bring to Syria. During the missions, they used to write me via email and Facebook to ask my opinion by sending me photos of the patients they met.

Were they naïve and inexperienced?

No. For Greta and Vanessa their life was a mission, nothing else. There are people who give top priority to the good of others, even at the cost of their own life.

Original: http://m.famigliacristiana.it/articolo/vanessa.htm

1397298_611763265539907_779226832_oWRITTEN BY ASMAE DACHAN, translated by Mary Rizzo

The news from Syria and Iraq on the persecution of the Christian and Yazidi minorities on behalf of ISIS is shaking world public opinion.

Is not acceptable, either moral nor civilly or religiously, that a person or a group of people are threatened and suffer violence because of their ethnicity and/or religious belonging and any act which is contrary to the universal principle of equality between human beings must be condemned without reservation.

Respect for the sacredness of human life is the basis of every civil society and must be the premise on which to base any reasoning and every action.

Today, dialogue, brotherhood, solidarity, human solidarity are seriously threatened. There is a danger of seeing burned, together with houses, places of worship, monuments and books, even centuries of coexistence, respect, and dialogue.

Syria and Iraq are, in fact, the cradle of the monotheistic religions and civilisation and have always been an example of tolerance, brotherhood, and opening up to the other, with all the difficulties that have been part of such a thing over time. And it is precisely from this point that we need to start: the dramatic events of these days should not obscure the fact that the serene and fraternal coexistence between Christians and Muslims in these two countries has lasted for centuries, since, that is, when these two great civilisations were born and developed.  It is a historical error to give the credit of the constructive and peaceful coexistence to the regimes that govern these two countries. Quite the opposite: their policies have resulted in the growing bitterness of relations between the different communities that make up the respective civil societies, creating a climate of tension that is the outpost of sectarianism.

The situation in Iraq and in Syria in recent years has become dramatic: the war waged against Iraq in 2003 and never finished (the one that was sold to the world as war to export democracy) and the repression of the regime of Damascus against what should be his own people, which began in 2011 after forty years of domination of the Assad dynasty, have caused hundreds of thousands of deaths. They are two different situations, but the consequences on the population and on social equilibria are sadly all too similar.

In fact, the war, the bombings and the rapes, kidnappings, torture, violence is the humus in which they are born and from which grow evil sprouts of terrorism.

There are many who are taking advantage of the situation of general chaos to conduct parallel wars and satisfy their own interests and the interests of those who are pulling their strings. The case of Daesh/ISIS, the infamous Islamic State of Syria and Levant, is proof of that.

Hordes of barbarian mercenaries have been infiltrated into two countries, armed and trained by foreign powers and in fact supported and given free rein by the governments of both countries and, taking advantage of the situation of total anarchy, have themselves become a power.

For more than a year the Syrians have been loudly proclaiming that ISIS is not against Assad, but fights, rapes and kills its opponents and especially blasphemes and slanders Islam saying that it operates in the name of that faith. No one has listened to the Syrians, indeed, part of politics and the press has continued to label ISIS as anti-Assad rebels, it is absolutely false because In Syria ISIS moves and operates only where government troops have withdrawn and opens fire, persecutes and massacres civilians and opponents of the regime.

Today ISIS is a military power that frightens and in the face of the escalation of its violence, which has brought to Iraq its nearing to areas where there are oil reserves, it seems that the world is waking up.  Nobody has moved a finger for the Syrian civilians (more than 80 percent Muslims), killed by these barbarians, and they even deny the massacres that have taken place, but today that the cries against the persecution of minorities are made, in Syria as in Iraq, the alarm is being sounded.

Therefore the message gets out that if to die is the Muslim majority it doesn’t matter, but woe to those who harm others. In doing so it is only playing the game of ISIS that wants to create tension and foment sectarian hatred. In this context, the regimes sing victory, posing as guardians of minorities and the already unacceptable death of innocent people is even hijacked.

It is necessary, therefore, to stop and shed some light on the matter:

1- In Syria the main causes of death is the bombing by air raids by the Syrian regime, affecting in vicious and indiscriminate manner the entire population, destroying and killing regardless of faith and ethnicity; today there have been over 200 thousand victims in 41 months, of which more than 18 thousand are children under 16 years of age. In Syria Christians, Muslims, secular people, atheists, Kurds and Armenians have been dying for over 3 years. It is a genocide that is affecting the entire population.

2- In Iraq even the UN has stopped counting the dead, but now most sources say that there are about a million; Christians are between 5 and 8% of the population, have experienced the sufferings and the atrocities that all of the other social components are undergoing. With the advance of ISIS their situation has even worsened and the threats, the started, the house to house persecutions that totally resembles Nazi style persecution. The persecution of the Yazidi is being given a religious significance, but in reality ISIS is concerned with occupying their lands and putting their hands on the oil fields.

3- ISIS does not represent the feelings, values, principles of Islam, quite the opposite: ISIS must be defined as what it is, a group (even if it defines itself as a nation) of terrorist mercenaries whose work is contrary to Islamic faith. ISIS is killing Muslims in Syria and Iraq and killing with them the other ethnic and religious components. ISIS abuses, mortifies and blasphemes the name of God. The only deity to which ISIS responds to is money. ISIS does not represent Syrians, does not represent the Iraqi people, does not represent Islam.

4- ISIS is comprised of foreign mercenaries that have nothing to do with the cause of the Syrian people who have opposed themselves to almost half a century of tyranny, nor is it with the cause of the Iraqi people who now fight for their survival after years of genocide. ISIS is a creature of international secret services that finds support in different monarchies and were formed for the purpose of “wreaking havoc”, to conduct wars by proxy.

To learn more read these articles (in Italian): http://www.sirialibano.com/tag/isis http://www.pagina99.it/news/mondo/6681/Che-succede-in-Iraq.html http://popoffquotidiano.it/2014/08/11/hillary-clinton-lisil-e-roba-nostra-ma-ci-e-sfuggito-di-mano/ http://megachip.globalist.it/Detail_News_Display?ID=107832&typeb=0

5 – The strategy of false information is harvesting many victims: photos purporting to be what they are not (to follow will be one of my article on the false story of the decapitation of Christian children) are causing reactions even from the top, among the powerful of the world. It would only take a minimum of attention and professionalism to check the origin and the matrix of a photo and a news item, but the media war is one that the regimes and terrorists are fighting – no holds barred – and careless reporting, or even complicit reporting becomes an amplifier.

For those who have faith, for those who believe, for anyone who has a conscience and a minimum of intellectual honesty it seems even superfluous to have to reiterate that there is no war in the name of God, that nothing and no one can justify the persecution, the threat, the offence and the killing of an innocent. Let us not fall into the trap of sectarian hatred, we will never cease to dialogue with each other, let us not allow the sowers of conflict outweigh the bridge builders.

It takes much determination and bravery, especially now, but it is precisely in the face of these difficulties that the world of believers of different religions and the civil society as a whole, secular, atheist, must join hands and feel that the real strength is in dialogue and the commitment to peace. It is not naïve optimism, indeed, it is much more challenging to reiterate the reasons for dialogue and bring ourselves toward the other than to erect walls and close ourselves in the hell of hatred.

If you want to imagine a manifesto of Syrians, Iraqis, of Muslims that at this moment are associated incorrectly and unfairly to terrorism we must repeat indefinitely: “No, not in our name”. Christians are our brothers, the human beings of every religion and ethnicity are our brothers and sisters.

As author of this blog, as Syrian, as Muslim I repeat too and I am proposing the campaign:

“Not_in_our_name”, to say no to persecution, false news, the sowers of hatred.

ORIGINAL http://diariodisiria.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/not_in_our_name-le-guerre-e-il-terrorismo-stanno-uccidendo-il-dialogo/

A Jafra volonteer looks at piles of debris during a cleaning campaign

A Jafra volonteer looks at piles of debris during a cleaning campaign

WRITTEN BY Claudia Avolio

In Yarmouk people are busy cleaning the streets of trash and rubble, Starting from the constant work of the Jafra Foundation in the camp, a dialogue evolves between the protagonists: the trash and a camp scraper.

In Arabic, one of the words describing garbage is zubala and it comes from a verb – zabbala – that means to manure, to fertilise. Cleaning the streets of Yarmouk of garbage and rubble activated in my mind an image of what this Arabic root brings with it: zibl, the manure itself. As if those streets received from the gesture of being unburdened a new substance. Something will allow them to grow better in this return to how they were before, even under this siege. And this happens, for me, in the embrace that the scrapers (which made me think of The Crying of the Excavator by Pier Paolo Pasolini, written in 1956) make in their efforts to attend to garbage and rubble to take them away.

That poem by the Italian poet Pier Paolo Pasolini entitled “The crying of the excavator” (1956) in the incipit of which these verses seem to give no way out: “Only to love, only to know / counts – not having loved, / not having known. It’s anguishing / to live a consummated  / love. The soul stops growing”. This image for me comes now in contact with an opposing, regenerative force, which lies in the way Jafra Foundation constantly renews its efforts in the streets of Yarmouk so that “the soul that stops growing” as mentioned in the poem starts to grow again once it is free from the garbage.

To the youth of Jafra and to the new metaphorical fertiliser its efforts are giving to the streets of Yarmouk goes this short dialogue that hopes to be just a soft countermelody to their amazing work and love for the camp.

volunteers removing rubble and garbage from the devastated camp

volunteers removing rubble and garbage from the devastated camp

“Jafra Foundation has been working in the cleaning of Yarmouk Camp since the municipality stopped functioning at the beginning of 2013. Since that time, the Jafra cleaning team works to clean Yarmouk Camp from the garbage and the rubble that was accumulating in the camp to protect the civilians from all kinds of sickness that they were vulnerable to because of the accumulating garbage in the streets.

Jafra will continue working in Yarmouk Camp to help the people there, as we belong to all the vulnerable people in all the streets.

WHENEVER DEATH SURROUNDS US

WE CHOOSE TO CELEBRATE LIFE

Jafra shall continue to the end.”

(from the video of Jafra Foundation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8Vpy2M3jBo )

“You can dig up anything, time: hopes

passions. But not these pure

forms of life…”

(from “The cry of the excavator” (1956) – by the Italian poet Pier Paolo Pasolini)

the scraper: We must leave now.

the garbage: I am ready.

the scraper: You will not forget.

the garbage: Never. Their gestures have made a cast of this concrete

the scraper: Even after the concrete collapsed.

the garbage: It knows all the names of those who hit it.

the scraper: And the faces of who will take care of its children. Of the walls that will be built.

the garbage: I met the streets. I heard it all. All of it.

the scraper: I must take you away. For their sake.

the garbage: Because you are the soul transforming weight into space. Your arm that raises me is the last accusation. I am your raised hand, asking for permission to speak. For those who lost this right.

the scraper: Taking you away from here is my freedom finding again its way home.

the garbage: From the corners of these sidewalks I desired to be a tree and I couldn’t. With heavy branches made of black bags I stretched to the sky, with the wind. Looking for a passage, saying: “I am here”.

the scraper: Now that you leave, life will try to come closer to the soil.

the garbage: That same life is asking to be heard. And hasn’t got any fear.

the scraper: Only those who chase life must be scared of it.

the garbage: Because life is still here. You give birth to it pushing me faraway.

the scraper: While you are leaving, a trace remains that feeds the seeds. Paths grow up after your departure.

the garbage: Wings of light dust. The fine dust becomes light again and doesn’t make people sick anymore.

the scraper: With the breath of the streets came back to the surface after a long time holding its breath.

the garbage: I was calling you and saw you appear with your youth.

the scraper: Through their efforts, through the contagion of ideas, I realized I wouldn’t stay still. That every street was waiting for me and my youth to be there.

the garbage: They breed these streets with you. In the struggle of the arms that defeat carelessness.

the scraper: The sun will come and sit here, in the place you used to occupy.

the garbage: While you’re taking me away, the space starts to offer an opportunity.

the scraper: In this embrace of ours the street regenerates.

the garbage: The street walked by your youth, the street they will not abandon.

the scraper: Whatever happens, they’ll take care of it.

Click on “Like” on its Facebook page and support Jafra Foundation https://www.facebook.com/Jafra.Foundation?fref=ts

They tend to be motivated by feelings more than facts, by what they want to exist rather than what actually does exist. Extremists do a lot of wishful and fearful thinking.

Activists are bound to be involved (both because they wish to be or because they are dragged into it) in what are most commonly known as “flame wars” between persons who claim to be advocates of the same cause. The flame war is generally within the same “movement” and unfortunately, it sucks up huge amounts of energy from the causes itself. Yet, choosing to participate in these flame wars or choosing to characterise them instead as mechanisms of “Extremist Traits” used in militant political or social groups is essential in order to be able to devote the proper time and energy to what matters, the cause. Here is an outstanding summary by Laird Wilcox that describes the Extremist Traits so that they be identified as what they are and that those who seek truth and justice are never diverted from that course by what instead is the enemy of both of those things.

Robert F. Kennedy wrote:

“What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.”

In analyzing the rhetoric and propaganda of several hundred militant “fringe” political and social groups across the political spectrum, I have identified a number of specific traits or behaviors that tend to represent the extremist “style”…

1. CHARACTER ASSASSINATION.

Extremists often attack the character of an opponent rather than deal with the facts or issues raised. They will question motives, qualifications, past associations, alleged values, personality, looks, mental health, and so on as a diversion from the issues under consideration. Some of these matters are not entirely irrelevant , but they should not serve to avoid the real issues.

Extremists object strenuously when this is done to them, of course!

2. NAME-CALLING AND LABELING.

Extremists are quick to resort to epithets (racist, subversive, pervert, hate monger, nut, crackpot, degenerate, un-American, anti-semite, red, commie, nazi, kook, fink, liar, bigot, and so on) to label and condemn opponents in order to divert attention from their arguments and to discourage others from hearing them out. These epithets don’t have to be proved to be effective; the mere fact that they have been said is often enough.

3. IRRESPONSIBLE SWEEPING GENERALIZATIONS.

Extremists tend to make sweeping claims or judgments on little or no evidence, and they have a tendency to confuse similarity with sameness. That is, they assume that because two (or more) things, events, or persons are alike in some respects, they must be alike in most respects. The sloppy use of analogy is a treacherous form of logic and has a high potential for false conclusions.

4. INADEQUATE PROOF FOR ASSERTIONS.

Extremists tend to be very fuzzy about what constitutes proof, and they also tend to get caught up in logical fallacies, such as post hoc ergo propter hoc  (assuming that a prior event explains a subsequent occurrence simply because of their before and after relationship). They tend to project wished-for conclusions and to exaggerate the significance of information that confirms their beliefs while derogating or ignoring information that contradicts them. They tend to be motivated by feelings more than facts, by what they want to exist rather than what actually does exist. Extremists do a lot of wishful and fearful thinking.

5. ADVOCACY OF DOUBLE STANDARDS.

Extremists generally tend to judge themselves or their interest group in terms of their intentions, which they tend to view very generously, and others by their acts, which they tend to view very critically. They would like you to accept their assertions on faith, but they demand proof for yours. They tend to engage in special pleading on behalf of themselves or their interests, usually because of some alleged special status, past circumstances, or present disadvantage.

6. TENDENCY TO VIEW THEIR OPPONENTS AND CRITICS AS ESSENTIALLY EVIL.

To the extremist, opponents hold opposing positions because they are bad people, immoral, dishonest, unscrupulous, mean-spirited, hateful, cruel, or whatever, not merely because they simply disagree, see the matter differently, have competing interests, or are perhaps even mistaken.

7. MANICHAEAN WORLDVIEW.

Extremists have a tendency to see the world in terms of absolutes of good and evil, for them or against them, with no middle ground or intermediate positions. All issues are ultimately moral issues of right and wrong, with the “right” position coinciding with their interests. Their slogan is often “those who are not with me are against me.”

8. ADVOCACY OF SOME DEGREE OF CENSORSHIP OR REPRESSION OF THEIR OPPONENTS AND/OR CRITICS.

This may include a very active campaign to keep opponents from media access and a public hearing, as in the case of blacklisting, banning or “quarantining” dissident spokespersons. They may actually lobby for legislation against speaking, writing, teaching, or instructing “subversive” or forbidden information or opinions. They may even attempt to keep offending books out of stores or off of library shelves, discourage advertising with threats of reprisals, and keep spokespersons for “offensive” views off the airwaves or certain columnists out of newspapers. In each case the goal is some kind of information control. Extremists would prefer that you listen only to them. They feel threatened when someone talks back or challenges their views.

9. TEND TO IDENTIFY THEMSELVES IN TERMS OF WHO THEIR ENEMIES ARE: WHOM THEY HATE AND WHO HATES THEM.

Accordingly, extremists may become emotionally bound to their opponents, who are often competing extremists themselves. Because they tend to view their enemies as evil and powerful, they tend, perhaps subconsciously, to emulate them, adopting the same tactics to a certain degree. For example, anti-Communist and anti-Nazi groups often behave surprisingly like their opponents. Anti-Klan rallies often take on much of the character of the stereotype of Klan rallies themselves, including the orgy of emotion, bullying, screaming epithets, and even acts of violence. To behave the opposite of someone is to actually surrender your will to them, and “opposites” are often more like mirror images that, although they have “left” and “right” reversed, look and behave amazingly alike.

10. TENDENCY TOWARD ARGUMENT BY INTIMIDATION.

Extremists tend to frame their arguments in such a way as to intimidate others into accepting their premises and conclusions. To disagree with them is to “ally oneself with the devil,” or to give aid and comfort to the enemy. They use a lot of moralizing and pontificating, and tend to be very judgmental. This shrill, harsh rhetorical style allows them to keep their opponents and critics on the defensive, cuts off troublesome lines of argument, and allows them to define the perimeters of debate.

11. USE OF SLOGANS, BUZZWORDS, AND THOUGHT-STOPPING CLICHES.

For many extremists shortcuts in thinking and in reasoning matters out seem to be necessary in order to avoid or evade awareness of troublesome facts and compelling counter-arguments. Extremists generally behave in ways that reinforce their prejudices and alter their own consciousness in a manner that bolsters their false confidence and sense of self-righteousness.

12. ASSUMPTION OF MORAL OR OTHER SUPERIORITY OVER OTHERS.

Most obvious would be claims of general racial or ethnic superiority–a master race, for example. Less obvious are claims of ennoblement because of alleged victimhood, a special relationship with God, membership in a special “elite” or “class,” and a kind of aloof “highminded” snobbishness that accrues because of the weightiness of their preoccupations, their altruism, and their willingness to sacrifice themselves (and others) to their cause. After all, who can bear to deal with common people when one is trying to save the world! Extremists can show great indignation when one is “insensitive” enough to challenge these claims.

13. DOOMSDAY THINKING.

Extremists often predict dire or catastrophic consequences from a situation or from failure to follow a specific course, and they tend to exhibit a kind of “crisis-mindedness.” It can be a Communist takeover, a Nazi revival, nuclear war, earthquakes, floods, or the wrath of God. Whatever it is, it’s just around the corner unless we follow their program and listen to the special insight and wisdom, to which only the truly enlightened have access. For extremists, any setback or defeat is the “beginning of the end!”

14. BELIEF THAT IT’S OKAY TO DO BAD THINGS IN THE SERVICE OF A “GOOD” CAUSE.

Extremists may deliberately lie, distort, misquote, slander, defame, or libel their opponents and/or critics, engage in censorship or repression , or undertake violence in “special cases.” This is done with little or no remorse as long as it’s in the service of defeating the Communists or Fascists or whomever. Defeating an “enemy” becomes an all-encompassing goal to which other values are subordinate. With extremists, the end justifies the means.

15. EMPHASIS ON EMOTIONAL RESPONSES AND, CORRESPONDINGLY, LESS IMPORTANCE ATTACHED TO REASONING AND LOGICAL ANALYSIS.

Extremists have an unspoken reverence for propaganda, which they may call “education” or “consciousness-raising.” Symbolism plays an exaggerated role in their thinking, and they tend to think imprecisely and metamorphically. Harold D. Lasswell, in his book, *Psychopathology and Politics*, says, “The essential mark of the agitator is the high value he places on the emotional response of the public.” Effective extremists tend to be effective propagandists. Propaganda differs from education in that the former teaches one what to think, and the latter teaches one how to think.

16. HYPERSENSITIVITY AND VIGILANCE.

Extremists perceive hostile innuendo in even casual comments; imagine rejection and antagonism concealed in honest disagreement and dissent; see “latent” subversion, anti-semitism, perversion, racism, disloyalty, and so on in innocent gestures and ambiguous behaviors. Although few extremists are clinically paranoid, many of them adopt a paranoid style with its attendant hostility and distrust.

17. USE OF SUPERNATURAL RATIONALE FOR BELIEFS AND ACTIONS.

Some extremists, particularly those involved in “cults” or extreme religious movements, such as fundamentalist Christians, militant Zionist extremists, and members of mystical and metaphysical organizations, claim some kind of supernatural rationale for their beliefs and actions, and that their movement or cause is ordained by God. In this case, stark extremism may become reframed in a “religious” context, which can have a legitimizing effect for some people. It’s surprising how many people are reluctant to challenge religiously motivated extremism because it represents “religious belief” or because of the sacred-cow status of some religions in our culture.

18. PROBLEMS TOLERATING AMBIGUITY AND UNCERTAINTY.

Indeed, the ideologies and belief systems to which extremists tend to attach themselves often represent grasping for certainty in an uncertain world, or an attempt to achieve absolute security in an environment that is naturally unpredictable or perhaps populated by people with interests opposed to their own. Extremists exhibit a kind of risk-aversiveness that compels them to engage in controlling and manipulative behavior, both on a personal level and in a political context, to protect themselves from the unforeseen and unknown. The more laws or “rules” there are that regulate the behavior of others–particular their “enemies”–the more secure extremists feel.

19. INCLINATION TOWARD “GROUPTHINK.”

Extremists, their organizations , and their subcultures are prone to a kind of inward-looking group cohesiveness that leads to what Irving Janis discussed in his excellent book Victims of Groupthink. “Groupthink” involves a tendency to conform to group norms and to preserve solidarity and concurrence at the expense of distorting members’ observations of facts, conflicting evidence, and disquieting observations that would call into question the shared assumptions and beliefs of the group.

Right-wingers (or left-wingers), for example, talk only with one another, read material that reflects their own views, and can be almost phobic about the “propaganda” of the “other side.” The result is a deterioration of reality-testing, rationality, and moral judgment. With groupthink, shared illusions of righteousness, superior morality, persecution, and so on remain intact, and those who challenge them are viewed with skepticism and hostility.

20. TENDENCY TO PERSONALIZE HOSTILITY.

Extremists often wish for the personal bad fortune of their “enemies,” and celebrate when it occurs. When a critic or an adversary dies or has a serious illness, a bad accident, or personal legal problems, extremists often rejoice and chortle about how they “deserved” it. I recall seeing right-wing extremists celebrate the assassination of Martin Luther King and leftists agonizing because George Wallace survived an assassination attempt. In each instance their hatred was not only directed against ideas, but also against individual human beings.

21. EXTREMISTS OFTEN FEEL THAT THE SYSTEM IS NO GOOD UNLESS THEY WIN.

For example, if they lose an election, then it was “rigged.” If public opinion turns against them, it was because of “brainwashing.” If their followers become disillusioned, it’s because of “sabotage.” The test of the rightness or wrongness of the system is how it impacts upon them…

[The Hoaxer Project Report, pp. 39-41]http://www.lairdwilcox.com/news/hoaxerproject.html

WRITTEN BY ANGELA ZURZOLO, translated by Mary Rizzo

ROME – Shady Hamadi is a young Italian-Syrian who was among the first to have openly spoken on the repression that the Bashar al-Assad regime is enacting against the Syrian people. Despite the intimidations, he continued to take to the streets in  protests and to address the mass media in order to raise awareness in the general public. Now, he is asking Italians to not cling to indifference and to join in the “Black Ribbon for Syria” campaign, by wearing a symbol of solidarity to the Syrian people each day.

Q: It has been almost a year of repression and death in the country of your origins, when the drama directly affected your loved ones as well. What happens when history bursts into the life of a family? How has the history of your family changed in two   generations, through the Assad governments?

A: My family’s history is interwoven with the fate of an entire people. The drama of the sudden deaths, of arrests and exile has touched my family as it has the families of millions of other persons. When this happens, the drama begins to be part of daily life, so one simply needs to move forward and never go back, avoiding regrets and second thoughts.

Q: Your family members in Syria have been intimidated due to your activism in Italy. You have decided to continue to speak and put yourself in the public eye, defending the cause of the Syrian opposition even in the Italian and European Parliaments.  What resistance and difficulties have you met since then?

A: I didn’t have any real difficulties myself. At times I felt very much alone, abandoned, but during those moments I thought of my family in Syria and about my father’s example  so that I could carry on.

Q: Tell us about your first travels to Syria. What was happening those years in the capital? Did the Damascus Spring leave any traces of cultural life in the country? What are the “Voices of the Spirits” that you would write about today?

A: In 2009, Damascus was a sleepy city, the times of the Damascus Manifesto were by then far away and certainly no one imagined to be able to muster up so much courage. I remember having met many persons who were literally famished for knowledge, they wanted to know what people from other countries thought on any cultural argument or even wanting to know their simple conception of daily reality.  The Syrian people are not stupid, and they never have been. There are so many voices to talk about today, but one comes to mind in particular, a friend who recited poetry in English in the basement of a hotel on Monday evenings, and we would meet to listen to him.

Q: You have started a campaign called “Black Ribbon for Syria” why did you think of this kind of initiative to involve the Italian public?

A: A symbol is able to raise awareness more than a thousand words. Unfortunately the Italian public is not very aware of the Syrian tragedy, since its beginnings. This initiative, present also in other countries where small committees have been formed, seeks to create a common awareness on what is happening in Syria, bringing people into the street and squares. It is not possible that in Syria even children are executed and the world is not outraged.

Q: What are the greatest fears of those Syrians who live in the cities these days? With the shelling of the cities, the Syrian repression seems to have entered into a new and more terrible phase.

A: There are many kinds of fears: that of ending up in prison, that women in one’s family will be raped, and so forth. The situation is terrible, we are not even able to send medicine from Lebanon to Syria because the Lebanese government collaborates closely with the Damascus regime.

Q:The price that journalists have paid with their blood in Syria has been high. What has been the contribution of journalists to the coverage of information? Some say that they had been silent for too long, others challenge the information that comes out of Syria.

A: I think that more could have been done. Today we celebrate, rightly so, the two western journalists killed but together with them was Rami al Sayd and the hundreds of young people who continue to die for the reasons of uploading their videos on Youtube. Western journalism has to give more credit to the Syrian activist journalists who are in Syria and live there. If a journalist is treated like a hero because he entered into Syria for four days wouldn’t it be right to publicly recognise that there are Syrians who have done this work for eleven months, right in Syrian, in such a risky situation and they have died for this?

Q: During the rebellion of the Muslim Brotherhood, between 1976 nd 1982, one of the accusations raised against Assad and his loyalists was that of belonging to a sect of non-believers, and those most harshly struck by the armed actions of those doing the revolt were not only the government representatives and the Alawite officials of the military, but also ordinary citizens whose only fault was belonging to the same religious group as that of those in the regime. How do you interpret the relationship between Alawits and Sunnis in recent years?

A: There is the false believe that all the Alawites are with the regime and that all of them gain from it. This is untrue. In Syria, coexistence between religions is rooted in the society and has been for millenia, not only since 1963, as the government tries to suggest. Killing persons only because they are Alawites, has had happened in 1982 is wrong, just as it is wrong to kill anyone, if it it might sound merely rhetorical. The Syria of tomorrow will also have Alawites and for this reason work must be done to destroy the culture of the vendetta.

Q: Do you think that the new Constitution could open a margin for reaction to the opposition or do you think that it has definitively handed the keys of the nation over to Bashar?

A: I think that it is a farce. Assad has never recognised that an opposition exists, he has always said they are only a band of salafist terrorists who want to kill the minorities. When he recognises that there is dissent, then maybe one can start thinking about it.

Original:  http://www.ilmediterraneo.it/it/interviste/7570

Shady Hamadi and other Italian Syrians protest against the Assad Regime

WRITTEN BY Monica Ricci Sargentini, translated by Mary Rizzo

In the days in which the city of Homs is under massive shelling by the Assad Regime and there has been a call for the evacuation of Americans from Syria, the writer and activist Shady Hamadi, born in Milan in 1988 from an Italian mother and Syrian father, writes an appeal to the Italian and International Community so that they forcefully condemn the massacre of unarmed people that is happening in his country of origin. His appeal seems to me to be a cry of anguish which we should not ignore. Shady Hamadi (photo) is a son of a leader of the Arab Nationalist Party in the region of Homs who underwent the torture of electrical cattle prods in the regime’s cells and at the end of the 1960s, was able to flee to Italy. A student of Political Sciences, Shady has already exposed himself on many occasions. He has given interviews on TV and web networks (“We can break the wall of fear”), and he is among the members of a Facebook community “Comunità siriana in Italia”. He is in contact with opposition figures in Paris and last year his book Voci di anime was published. It is a spiritual voyage in the search of one’s identity that is divided between two cultures. In the letter that we publish below, he invites us to “not remain in silence” and to set upon the task of “raising awareness” to inform others of the reality of the situation.

“My request of you all,” says Hamadi, “is that of putting a black ribbon around your bags, cases, backpacks, coats, wherever you can. This simple act will allow us, the Syrians who pass by you in public places, to recognise those who have chosen to not abandon the Syrian people, because they believe in the values of freedom and respect for human life.”

A simple act that, for the Syrians, means “solidarity”.

Here is the full letter:  

“I hope that my words will be a shout that comes from the whole of Syria and a kind request to all of you.

For eleven months, the land that has been the cradle of civilisation, is experiencing one of the darkest moments of its history that spans the millennia. Syria is bleeding. There is not a single city that has been able to spare itself from burying the young and old, women and children.

This revolution – different from others by the means and macabre repression it is using – is costing the city of Homs the highest price in human lives.

Hart Safsafi, Bab Sba, Bab Amr, are only some of the neighbourhoods of this audacious city, which have continued to pay a constant price in human lives. In these streets, my family has its origins and its memories, while today, those who live there, are facing a daily challenge against death.

Only in the last week more than 500 persons have lost their lives, due to the constant shelling that is striking their homes. This massacre of human beings must no longer be tolerated by the whole of humanity. There are no excuses, nor can there be any excuses for these actions carried out by the militia of the Syrian regime, with the goal of bending the city of Homs, given its strenuous and indomitable resistance. The people of Syria – Alawites, Sunnis, Shi’as, Christians, the entire enormous puzzle of ethnic and religious groups – has chosen to no longer accept the silence, striving for the breath of freedom that is common to human nature.

The task entrusted to the Syrians abroad and to any person at all, disregarding any differences in faith, nationality, ethnicity, is that of witnessing and being aware of what is happening in Syria.  No one should be silent or observe with indifference the continuation of this drama.

I invite all of you to begin a campaign to raise awareness, with the aim of informing others of what is going on in this nation that is suffering. Talk with your neighbours, your friends, write, protest and learn – from the Syrian tragedy – to love your neighbour, to not forget about his needs.

My request of you all is that of putting a black ribbon around your bags, cases, backpacks, coats, wherever you can. This simple act will allow us, the Syrians who pass by you in public places, to recognise those who have chosen to not abandon the Syrian people, because they believe in the values of freedom and respect for human life.”
Shady Hamadi

Original: http://lepersoneeladignita.corriere.it/2012/02/07/lappello-dello-scrittore-hamadi-un-fiocco-nero-per-salvare-la-siria/

EN FRANCAIS – Traduit par Wassyla Hayat

* Fr. L’écrivain et militant Shady Hamadi, né à Milan en 19…88 d’une mère italienne et d’un père syrien, lance un appel à la communauté italienne et internationale afin que soit énergiquement condamné  le massacre de gens désarmés dans son pays d’origine. Il est le fils d’un chef de file du parti nationaliste arabe de la région de Homs qui a subi la torture des aiguillons électriques pour bovins dans les cellules du régime et à la fin des années 1960, et a réussi à s’enfuir en Italie. Etudiant en Sciences Politiques, Shady a déjà pris position à de nombreuses reprises.

Voici son appel. “J’espère que mes paroles seront un cri qui s’élèvera de la Syrie toute entière et une demande à vous tous. Depuis onze mois, la terre qui a été le berceau de la civilisation, connaît l’un des moments les plus sombres de son histoire qui s’étend sur des millénaires. La Syrie saigne. Pas une seule ville n’a été exempte d’enterrements de jeunes et d’anciens, de femmes et d’enfants. Cette révolution – différente des autres par les moyens et la macabre répression macabre mis en œuvre – coûte à la ville de Homs le prix le plus élevé en vies humaines.

Hart Safsafi, Bab Sba, Bab Amr, ce ne sont que quelques-uns des quartiers de cette ville audacieuse, qui ont continué à payer un prix constant en vies humaines. Dans ces rues, ma famille a ses origines et ses souvenirs, alors qu’aujourd’hui ceux qui y vivent, sont confrontés à un défi quotidien contre la mort.

La semaine dernière seulement plus de 500 personnes ont perdu la vie, en raison du bombardement constant qui  s’abat sur leurs maisons. Ce massacre d’êtres humains ne doit plus être toléré par l’ensemble de l’humanité. Il n’y a pas d’excuses, il ne peut y avoir aucune excuse pour ces actions menées par la milice du régime syrien, dans le but de faire plier la ville de Homs en raison de son énergique et indomptable résistance. Le peuple de Syrie -, sunnites, alaouites chiites,  chrétiens, l’ensemble de l’immense puzzle de groupes ethniques et religieux – a choisi de ne plus accepter le silence, en luttant pour la liberté, aspiration commune à la nature humaine.

La tâche qui incombe aux Syriens vivant à l’étranger et à tous, sans tenir compte des différences de  foi, nationalité, ethnicité, est d’être témoin et conscient de ce qui se passe en Syrie. Personne ne doit se taire ou observer avec indifférence la poursuite de ce drame.

Je vous invite tous à commencer une campagne de sensibilisation, dans le but d’informer de ce qui se passe dans ce pays meurtri. Parlez à vos voisins, vos amis, écrivez, manifestez,  et apprenez – de la tragédie syrienne – à aimer votre voisin, à ne pas oublier ses besoins. Ce que je vous demande, c’est de mettre un ruban noir à vos sacs, mallettes, sacs à dos, manteaux, partout où vous le pouvez. Cet acte simple nous permettra, nous Syriens qui passons parmi vous dans les lieux publics, de reconnaître ceux qui ont choisi de ne pas abandonner le peuple syrien, parce qu’ils croient dans les valeurs de liberté et de respect de la vie humaine.”

Vous pouvez bien sûr rejoindre la page (en anglais pour le moment) “Un ruban noir pour la Syrie, éveiller les consciences” ( le lien figure en haut) et, si vous êtes anglophone, lire l’article https://wewritewhatwelike.com/2012/02/07/an-appeal-by-the-writer-hamadi-a-black-ribbon-for-syria/

Part 1: Who’s afraid of accountability? Getting ethics back on the table

How is it possible that the noble causes of liberation of oppressed peoples has in some ways taken on the connotations of a business venture that has no regard for ethics? Is there even a danger that it is more sinister than that and we are actually witnessing a devastation of the role of activism into actions that resemble pyramid schemes or cons? A closer look at the matter certainly seems like a good idea.

There is a subject of enormous importance in the management of things that are considered to be of “public interest”, be they government, the third sector and companies, and that is the issue of ethics. Ethics has evolved as such a necessary topic even in private industry and corporate management that there is no longer any serious company that has not invested in an approach that makes them “competitive” even regarding ethical conduct, something that mistakenly has at times been considered only a problem for volunteer or non-profit organisations. On the surface ethics may seem abstract and complicated, and thus ignored by the vast public, (allowing the violation of ethical standards to become the norm since they are not even on the table) but ethics are instead really extremely basic and simple to understand and, it goes without saying, essential.

Ethics are not just for philosophy students anymore, they are a fundamental component in any fair social contract, and there are parameters that exist to determine whether or not conduct is ethical or unethical, not only for profit-making activities, but for those involving activism and in those entities that are NGOs. Since we are involved heavily in activities “for causes”, we can’t subtract ourselves from scrutiny regarding ethics.

For a very long time, based on a perceived need to enhance effectiveness regarding causes and mostly in order to remove the governmental (and thus political) interests from things that are considered “charitable” such as environmental and heritage conservation, human and animal rights and global poverty issues, hundreds of thousands of groups have emerged (in fact, given the tax benefits they obtain while collecting money, there is a virtual explosion of them) and set themselves up to accomplish tasks that are separate from governmental control and policy. There is the further advantage in this setup in that they can tap into a greater spectrum of the public (or even a better one) if they are perceived as removed from mainstream political interests, since many people have come to associate politics with special interest groups that seek to obtain power. And again, power itself has the perception as being negative though it is sought fervently. But remember, it is only someone else’s power that is perceived as a threat to the common good.

These charitable groups and NGOs are often run like businesses, and yet, they depend upon private financing or support from foundations without any personal return on investment beyond the image factor in order to administrate and deliver their services, (development programmes, aid and the like). Yet, no matter what it is they do, they would cease to exist without private financing. Usually these services have an aura attached to them that is positive and as such, they are attributed a further layer of values, and it is only with this intangible item (selling power of the idea/value) which they promote heavily that they obtain the private financing necessary for their survival. As an entity that requires money and handles other people’s money, they have to comply with specific standards to be able to operate and also be subject to a different and more favourable tax regime, but they also are expected to adhere to ethical standards that support their mission statement and make whatever is written there as their primary objective. They are “good guys” after all, we believe they are doing charity work with our hard-earned money, money which we freely accept to donate for someone else’s benefit, thus fulfilling various needs, making us feel better that we “save the world” and concretely obtaining material benefit for those who are the beneficiaries. There is an exchange going on that often translates into a kind of symbiotic need for one another and there are thousands of charities that hook us once, but other thousands that have us contributing to them on a regular basis. It can even become an emotional issue and at times we donors identify so deeply with the charity that we buy their stickers to put on our cars, we promote them in social networks and we even start to use their slogans in our speech. We do get a return of sorts from the arrangement, and this is something the charities tap into as part of their campaigns, since group belonging is a timeless social need and doing good for others is a positive human value.

In activism, we can argue back and forth all day about what is ethical and what is not, (some might say that the ends justify any means, but others will disagree) but to cut to the chase, in this paper we are not dealing with the vast and interesting subject of ethics, but simply concentrating on the ethics in the aspect of activism concerning most specifically an economic agreement, determining what is the core of the relationship between the “charitable organisation” and its “lifeblood”, i.e., its donors, and that can be summarised briefly in adherence to several key parameters. These are not in any way based on abstract principles, because if your bank, which is interested in making a profit off of your need to obtain liquidity to live on or loans so that you can develop your own projects (personal or collective) is required to fulfil the obligations of ethical standards, how much more should a charitable organisation be ready and willing to comply with them in order to obtain your support and money with no personal return on your contribution except that feel-good sensation and being able to tell your friends how generous you are!

What are the parameters available for assuring that a charity behaves ethically regarding its donors and members of the organisation? Accountability (being able to justify decisions made, making them in a manner that is in line with core principles and philosophy of the organisation and assuring that the decisions truthfully reflect the adherence to the mission statement or purpose and respect legal and financial norms as well as internal codes of conduct), Transparency (rendering the bookkeeping, organisational structure and purpose available to donors and auditors and even to possible donors so that it is clear how much money is spent where and a level of monitoring and control can be applied), Responsibility (liability towards members, donors, beneficiaries that the work done and the money obtained fulfils the purposes of the mission and responding formally according to statutes and legal norms if there are violations). These principles should be self-evident, but they are far too often lacking in some entities that obtain or spend other people’s money in the name of a cause’s mission statement, (granted that they even have one!). Some leaders of organisations will even insist they are exonerated from meeting these requirements, that they have special status that releases them from compliance to these three core principles, and that is what one can call the idea of exceptionalism, present more often in a cult than in a legitimate charity organisation.  It is logical to assume that this kind of organisation has the tendency of morphing its cause and its actions from one purpose to another, the only consistent element is the leader, and in fact, the leader often finds himself in a no-win confrontation with the members of the organisation, as the “right vs right” dilemma I will describe below does not sublimate into the benefit of the common good but in the predominance of the
individual.

It is obvious that if we are responsible persons, we must be aware and accept that at the basis of those three principles is one core value, honesty. The moment that honesty is lacking or that demands for honesty are met with brutal hostility, one can be certain that ethics are simply not taken into account, or we can assume that they are twisted so that there is no compliance with standards that all can consider obligatory for any social contract, which most of the time is an unspoken (tacit) agreement between parties, but in the case of charity, has a further series of rules and expectations. There is nothing more sickening and disgusting as knowing that money donated to feed the poor is spent in obtaining personal benefits, privileges and power for those who are part of the charity’s organisation. Deviation of resources is the worst possible offense that a charity can commit, and it endangers even “clean”  charities who are painted with the same brush as thieving and unreliable cons. The only way to avoid this charge is full disclosure, as well as it being a legally binding task in most countries, it is also morally necessary to comply with basic ethics.  The charity can only survive as such an entity if it conforms to ethical standards, since we know, the competition for our donations is fierce.

Since I mentioned that we must comply with a social contract, let’s take a step back for one minute and define what a social contract is, and doing that, we need to define what a contract is and realise the vast majority of humanity lives in a contract-based society and that the contracts begin the moment that humans have been weaned, they are not necessarily signed documents, but they are an agreement on the equitability of an exchange (fairness). It is part of our lives and activities on a constant basis. This makes it in our interests to be conscious of what is ethically acceptable in charity which moves dangerously into becoming “the solidarity industry” and what just as dangerously, uses privilege and inequitable contracts as its core value and modus operandi, using outsiders (donors and beneficiaries) as the pawns in a game of profit, and to allow us informed consent before we decide to give to one organisation and not another, conscious of the risks all of this entails.

The basis of social living is the acceptance of transparency of rules and acceptance of the equitableness of agreements made between parties (assuming to live in a society with the rule of law and justice as being fundamental values). In order for people to live in society, they have to know that there is an agreement made for everything, and for the most part, the negotiation of it can be avoided, as the acceptable terms are tacit, but somewhere down the line there are norms and standards that regulate these things. The agreement predates them and almost every single time, it is an agreement that has terms they did not have an active part in establishing.

With free choice, we have continual and constant tacit contracts in all of our activities, and especially those involving money, since they are regulated by law. It is up to us to expect those we are involved with to be legitimate, and to prove that they are legitimate is their moral obligation. There is no exceptionalism where justice is concerned, if there is privilege, we need to be aware of it and then we decide if the privilege can be allowed or not.

If we begin to consider that there are rules for others, but not for us (privilege), we are then indeed not respecting or considering as valid a social contract of equality before the law and society (and these things I am calling laws may only be social mores and values that a certain interest group  considers as essential). If this is the case, we fall on the side of those who are not adhering to ethical standards of justice and equality, and we need to be aware of that. Ethics in anything that seeks consensus or donations in order to exist and function is required to adhere to minimum standards, ones that even businesses for profit have realised they must respect and conform to, since the division between private and public interest has become far less distinct.

It should not surprise us that there are ethics committees for almost all major industries, because not only are they accountable to their shareholders, they are aware that there are laws in the countries they operate in that require disclosure. They also know that internal conflicts, a physiological part of any social construct, which academics categorise as “right versus right” (for instance, in a business ethics situation it is positive to obtain greater profits for their shareholders and have large returns on investments while at the same time it is positive to maintain low prices so that consumers do not abandon their purchasing of these goods and services) can only be resolved by a process known as “entrepreneurial wisdom”, where the “greater good” is striking a balance between the two in the increased perception of one’s own role as party of a “contract” requiring the sublimation of the factional interest. Emerging from these conflicts is the success or failure of what can be considered to be in the end a decisional style that must favour one of the “right” principles at the expense of the other, or instead accepts that there is a benefit in being subject to ethical compliance not only to stay competitive or in business, but because of the acknowledgement of the synthesis between being dependent (part of a system) and independent (individuals and companies). In the end, each party “monitors” the other as well as is affected by the actions of the other, and adjusts behaviour in order to keep the “right vs right” conflict manageable and not destructive.  The rules for this conflict resolution are none other than those basic tools of ethics, accountability, transparency, responsibility. This means that for corporate and commercial society, and even for charities which imply a social contract involving monetary investments or goods and services exchanges of any kind, there should be no question that there is an expectation of compliance with the instruments that are the barometer of ethical conduct in this relationship.

So, that brings us back to the requisites of an ethical charity. Do they comply with the core standards stated earlier? Accountability, transparency and responsibility? How do we check that they are in compliance? By being aware of the levels of disclosure, both internal (within the charity) and external (between the charity and the donors or the charity and the control organisms). If they comply and we agree they are equitable, great, if they do not, they must undergo complete rehaul and assume liablity for damages to trust of donors and beneficiaries, or not continue to exist, taking away vital funding from other legitimate causes and charities and if they do not disclose anything, run for the hills! My conclusions are based on many years of campaigns for fundraising for causes and association with many charitable organisations both in the USA and Europe, with beneficiaries in every continent. I am certain that a legal expert could further explain the basic needs and even add others that I neglect, but in my own experience, these are the requirements to make a group legitimate. It is not like giving money to a friend when we give to a charity, where there is a specific set of minimum standards.

Each organisation or charity that takes collections or accepts donations is bound to draw up a mission statement which defines the entity’s purpose and scope. Those who are part of the organisation will have further contracts or agreements within that organisation which define their roles in within the group in order to obtain the goals of the mission statement. They will determine their limitations, duties, decisional powers as well as entitlements such as compensation (rights and obligations). There is a well-defined organisational structure that is agreed upon, including the
organisation’s terms (until the conclusion of a specific project, until a date, until the collection of a certain amount of donations, forever and ever amen, etc.) and decisional and administration procedures (internal management and accounting up to external auditing procedures which will necessarily mirror the minimum requirements of the laws in force in the country the groups are registered in). They can be compiled in an acts of association or statute, at times they contain annexes laying out the projects clearly with budget estimates and actual feasibility projects with blueprints and the like, but however, they must be explicitly expressed and agreed upon for them to be legally binding in case of dispute, at times they must even cite and reprint the specific legal regulations that support and give legitimacy to the project including obtaining permits and determination of liability for violation of norms. To be clear, having a website may not be considered enough to stipulate a contract of this sort, since sites are subject to change without notice. Organisations and even committees at the very least have an internal organisation that is evident to those within the organisation and may be obtained by external parties upon request if they are in any way public and ask for donations from anyone, and it often would look very boring on a website, but these things should exist. Why? Because shit happens. Money gets diverted, accidents happen, people with power leave organisations and the organisation itself is then challenged as if it is still legitimate or not, organisations change their purpose while maintaining the same name, laws change or there is the violation of laws. Things need to be on paper and it is not a luxury to have them on paper, it is the bare minimum, unless you are a street committee that sells pies to raise funds for someone’s college education.

Those who donate are often unaware of who is behind an organisation, but it has for a long time been established in activist circles that to avoid conflict of interest and association with organisations or donors that could compromise the mission statement, that the body of the organisation is rendered public as well as their compensation. This has now become the norm in charity, and the publication of this information is not a privilege. In fact, it should be expected. Any connection with other organisations is also necessary to obtain for reasons ranging from compliance with local laws to being assured of the validity of the organisation and its track record (if it is able to accomplish the goals of its mission statement or if it is unrealistic and doomed to failure, and thus, to the disintegration of the funds obtained). All of this falls under the concept of ethics and involves the core elements of transparency, accountability and responsibility. So, in addition to being necessary for the needs of activists to be assured that there is correct use of donations, there is a practical basis which makes these things mandatory.

And that is why for years and years, activists are demanding that they obtain accountability. The charismatic leader is no longer enough for most people, unless they have an attraction to the cult of personality, which is how that particular public will be targeted, and especially important in this methodology is assuring that the leader is worthy of such a task. If the leader has a success rate close to zero in fulfilling any of the previous charity purposes his name has been involved in, it might just be a cult and not a bona fide charity.  Success is measured in the cost/expenses vs. gains – in this case the gains are translated in low overhead and maximum use of resources by the beneficiaries. Example, if X amount of money is raised to bring in tonnes of concrete to Gaza, one bag is not going to cut it unless all that was collected was 5 Euros. This is not an acceptable exchange at all, unless all that was raised was 5 Euros, and someone should check if an organisation capable of raising what we spend in coffee each day is worth any investment or if it is a big joke. There are other criteria that are necessary beyond the image of the leader, and they all centre around ethics. There can be bad structures due to inexperience and faulty consulting, there can be deception and mismanagement due to the belief that all that is required is the “I feel good giving my money and you feel good taking it” kind of trust which is an ego-based exchange, but in the middle of it is something as fundamental as the fulfilment of a mission statement that is supposed to benefit the recipients of the charity (the poor or those in need). If they are not the primary and dominant recipients of the donations, it’s time to think really seriously about what is wrong with that charity and ask if it is instead a business using the idea of solidarity to get money.

There is currently a heavy dispute in activism for Palestine where one organisation that has split has been engaged for several months in a battle for legitimacy and donations that were collected by all the people in the organisation. At the end of the day, the only parameter that counts is whether or not there is a legal and ethical basis that will support the claims being made by both sides. That the explosion happened at all was only a matter of time, as this writer and several others were pointing towards the ethical gaps that were not slight cracks but gaping holes in this way of DIY activism that ignores basic rules. If our suggestions and warnings were not heeded, it still might not be too late to rectify for the future and avoid the same errors repeating ad infinitum. Things can be ignored as they have with the other campaigns that never provided accountability and are related in some way by the presence of the same people involved, or it is time that clarity and honesty and truth start to mean something. At this point, the only criteria left is “let’s see the books” for anyone who has donated or anyone who has committed to participating in the charity organisation at any level. Based on transparency, accountability and responsibility, in other words, on ethics, the conflict should be resolved without much room for dispute and in the only way possible, by evidence and adherence to ethics.  There have been some who have been calling the necessary respect of ethics as being “on a witch hunt”, as if there is something wrong in seeking this in actions that are going to have an effect on a cause. This leads this writer to believe that instead of a charity, we are dealing with something that has sinister connotations, a cult, and that will be the topic of the next paper.

Israel has once more sent out a message to the Islamic and Arab world with its onslaught on Gaza that the struggle for the Middle East will be uncompromisingly bloody and violent. It was the same message in the summer of 2006 with the invasion of the Lebanon, with the Qana massacre of 1996, with the invasion and the 18 year occupation of the Lebanon in 1982 to 2000, and all the way back to 1948. For those who abjure violence in their personal lives, and for those, like me, who have never carried or used a gun, the boycott campaign is an important tool of nonviolent struggle against the Occupation of the West Bank, and the racist polity within the ever shifting borders of Israel, the borderless state in Occupied Palestine.

 

I admire Hamas’ and Hezbollah’s armed resistance against overwhelming force, but it should be by now clear after sixty one years that by itself armed resistance to Zionism will not lead to its overthrow. The most these organisations can do to Israel is harass, with as much impact as a wasp stinging a human being. This in itself is not negligible. The main effect of the missiles launched over Israel’s border is psychological terror, and occasional fatalities, against which the fourth most powerful military machine in the world is powerless. Psychological terror may discourage new Jewish immigrants from arriving in Israel, and that is to the good. 

 

However such tactics do not even elicit a pause from Israel’s political leadership, Right and Left, in the ongoing war on the Palestinians, the Zionist project of clearing the land of Arabs, and the continued illegal settlement by Jews of the Palestine’s West Bank. Clearly Hamas and other resistance organizations are quite powerless by themselves to stop Zionism in its tracks. In a defensive struggle the Shi’ite organization Hezbollah did succeed in throwing the IDF out of Lebanon in the year 2000, and successfully frustrated Israel’s attempt to reoccupy the Southern Lebanon in 2006. Israeli expansionism was thus contained.

 

At no point in the last sixty-one years have Arab armies succeeded in crossing Israel’s 1967 borders, or even in invading the annexed West Bank. Israel’s wars, including that of 1948, have been fought on the territory of other countries. The Yom Kippur War of 1973, although a partial defeat for the Arabs, did eventually lead to the return of the Sinai to Egypt (under American pressure) during the Carter administration. The regional military balance has been shifting in Israel’s favour for the last sixty years (Ref. “Plowshares Into Swords: From Zionism to Israel” by Arno J Mayer, Verso, 2008). Talk of Hamas’ “victory” in Gaza in 2009 (http://news.antiwar.com/2009/01/18/hamas-leader-declares-victory-in-gaza-war) is in my view self-deluding and misplaced. An unopposed massacre of over 1,400 civilians is not a victory. 

 

I do not want to see the Palestinian resistance reduced to the equivalent of the Native American “ghost dances” of the 1880s, as the last resistance of the aboriginal inhabitants of Palestine is vanquished. I do not think for a moment that this will happen, because the Palestinian Diaspora now numbers more than 7 million, but the weakness of the opposition to the Zionist colonisation of Palestine within Israel is very concerning, and a helping hand from an international citizens’ boycott of Israeli goods and services is its chief, but not its only hope. Arab resistance and Arab demography are other reasons for hope.

 

Resistance as enshrined in the UN charter is legal; Israel is not, as the renowned Irgun terrorist Menachem Begin and future Israeli Prime Minister remarked the day after the UN vote on the partition of Palestine in November 1947: “The Partition of Palestine is illegal. It will never be recognized …. Jerusalem was and will forever be our capital. Eretz Israel will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And forever.” In order to be accepted as a member state in the United Nations, in 1949, Israel was required to endorse General Assembly Resolution 194, which recognizes the right of return of the Palestinian refugees and commits itself to the return of all “the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours” (700,000 in total at the time), to its sovereign territory. Israel accepted, was made a member state and immediately after announced it had no intention of implementing the UN resolution. Israel thus announced its illegitimacy as a member state of the UN. The Security Council, dominated by the imperialist states of the West, who helped to implant Israel in the Middle East in the first place, went along for the ride.

 

Israel’s key vulnerability lies in its being a trading state with a highly skilled workforce but few natural resources. The boycott of Israeli products, coupled with divestment in Israeli companies and a cultural embargo has to be a key way of supporting the Islamic and secular Palestinian resistance (PFLP), as well as a way of applying pressure to the Zionist establishment to moderate its penchant for atrocities, encouraging dissent within Israel and the deepening of existing fissures within Israeli society. If an international boycott can be linked to the issue of the Right of Return for the Palestinians and the cancellation of the Jewish Right of Return, an uncontroversial strategic goal in support of the Palestinians can be flagged up for the movement.

 

In January 2009 479 Israeli citizens signed a document called “A Call From Israeli Citizens” (at www.kibush.co.il) calling for the boycott of Israeli products, divestment from and sanctions against Israel as the only way forward to begin the Civil-ization (in both senses – demilitarisation as well – Occupied Palestine to become a civilian society once again rather than a garrison state) of the Zionist military machine and stop the ongoing war on the Palestinian population.

 

In the 1980s Meron Benvenisti, an Israeli writer and the ex-deputy mayor of Jerusalem, ran the West Bank Data Project, which analyzed the interaction of the Israeli and Palestinian economies in the Occupation. The resulting study concluded that the West Bank had effectively been annexed by Israel, not merely occupied (Ref: Intimate Enemies, Jews and Arabs in a Shared Land, 1995). As pre-1967 Israel was also an annexation by military force, accompanied by some strong arming of Truman and the infant United Nations by Zionist elements in the American Jewish community, the term “Occupied Palestine” correctly refers to the whole of the land between the river Jordan and the sea.  Any other designation fudges the evidence, which suggests that the military occupation of the West Bank will remain until the post-1948 colonial regime itself is either brought down or collapses under the weight of its own internal contradictions, to be replaced by a non-colonial political order and the re-establishment of political and economic equality between Arab and Jew. 

 

Before 1967, Palestinian civilians of Israel also lived under a military occupation, and were in a similar position politically to those of the West Bank and Gaza now. The Palestinian American writer Rashid Khalidi uses the term “helot” (a term from the Greek of Ancient Greece to designate an indeterminate status between that of a slave and that of a citizen) to designate the position of Palestinian civilians who have neither civil rights nor any political opportunity to influence the behaviour of the state that dominates and controls their lives in endlessly demeaning and demoralising ways. 

 

Those who do not like equality before the law and citizenship for all will leave, just as the Algerian French did together with some of the pieds noirs in 1962, helping to solve the problem of housing some of the Palestinian refugees from Occupied Palestine at a stroke. Frantz Fanon’s two most important books, Black Skin, White Masks, and The Wretched of the Earth, have now been translated into Hebrew (2004). I am sure that they have been available in Arabic for a long time, but the political culture of the Hebrews is backward and inward looking, which is to be expected in a colonial state. Were the champion of the Algerian liberation struggle Fanon alive today (he would be 82 years old) he would certainly support the Palestinians. It is our privilege and duty as free citizens of the international community to do the same.

 

Paul Grenville 1st April 2009.

Gaza is full of stories of brave women, under the Israeli caused rubble there are many stories of women with hopes and great expectations, pioneers in every field.

Being a Palestinian journalist in exile, there was no other way to interview my people and interact with my colleagues in Palestine but through the internet. I have started a feature by interviewing the Palestinian journalist Nelly Ismail Yassin Almasry through the net because Israel’s enforced laws made it difficult for us to meet in person. Our discussions took longer than expected because electricity blackouts happened many times in Gaza where she lives and the internet connection died with it, but I was determined to write about the other side of Gaza, the side that keeps rising from under the ashes like a bird with a thousand wings because its people refuse to surrender to defeat. Nelly is the daughter of Ismail Almasry, the Football Coach of the National Football Team in Gaza and a colleague working as a sport journalist and a member of the first women’s soccer team in Gaza.

The first Palestinian all women’s football team was established in 2003. Even though they had very limited resources, the women kept practicing and playing against other Arab women’s leagues whenever they were allowed to leave Gaza. The Gaza women’s soccer team suffered many difficulties and faced many obstacles because of the limited resources, the absence of properly built stadiums, the absence of security and the continuous closures of checkpoints by the Israeli occupation forces thus hindering them from practicing or travelling to play against other teams, even though the team wanted badly to represent Palestine on an international, level they were deprived of this dream as they were of many other dreams.

The sport movement started to come back to life in 1994, supported by the Palestinian National Authority. Some attention has been directed to develop sport facilities like maintaining sport stadiums. One of such efforts was building a stadium in the city of Jericho, which has encouraged some athletes to set up a female football team for the first time in Palestinian history, but the idea did not receive adequate attention or support because it was novel. Unfortunately that lack of interest eventually lead to freezing the idea for a while.

But again the Arab and International Federation of Football requested activating the Arab women’s football teams in their countries, and encouraged it by allocating 10% of its financial support to the union to support the Palestinian women’s football teams.

The Palestinian union adopted the idea of forming a female soccer team, and assigned this task to Mrs Haniya Albish. This decision was formally adopted by the International Football Federation who sent Mrs Haniya Albish in 2003 to attend a symposium on women’s football in the framework of the World Cup for women in America, thus starting the nucleus of the team at Bethlehem under supervision of Mrs Samar Ala’araj who was in charge of coordinating sports activities at Bethlehem University.

At the same time, Mr Hussein Shakhtour was forming another team in the Directorate of Youth and Sports, the two teams were merged into one sponsored team, supervised and trained by Bethlehem University according to their best of abilities considering the general situation in Palestine.

Then Mrs Haneyeh Albish, a member of the Palestinian union team of soccer, head of women’s football union, along with Mr. Adnan Abu Zayed attended the symposium of women’s football in “West Asia” organized by the International Federation of Football “FIFA” in March 2006 to develop the game in Palestine.

Playing abroad
The Palestinian women’s football team participated for the first time ever in a tournament held in Jordan 2004 along with 10 other Arab women’s teams; the event was organized by the Jordanian Orthodox club. The Palestinian team was formed from a number of players from the teams of Ramallah, the Evangelical Friends, Gaza, and Saryeat Ramallah group. The created team participated again in another event held in April 2005 in Jordan organized by Amman Club playing along other 10 Arab women’s teams.

 

The following participation was in the West Asia Championship for Women’s Football in Jordan held from 23 of September to the 1st of October 2005, during which the Palestinian team played against Jordan, Syria, Iran and Bahrain.

Then the Gaza team participated in the Arab Championship for women’s soccer in Alexandria, Egypt from 14-28 April 2006, playing against Syria, Tunisia and Egypt. Unfortunately all forms of sports in Gaza now are totally paralyzed.

Nelly grew up in a family of sportsmen who understood her passion for sport, her father was the coach of a team, and her brothers were football players who understood that football is just one of her choices.

Before getting involved in sport journalism Nelly played volleyball at AlAhli Palestinian club in Gaza. In 1996 and while she was still a university student, she joined the first football team for women in Gaza. Some families looked with suspicion at women playing football, but Nelly had no problem with that since she was brought up in a family involved with this sport, she was encouraged by her parents, besides the fact that three of her sisters joined the team as well. Her father was always keen to follow his daughter’s progress and used to go to the club to watch them training. They practiced 3 times every week for 18 months.

Nelly’s beginning with sports media goes back to the end of 2001 when she was a trainee at the Voice of Freedom Radio in Gaza, she progressed in her job to become a broadcaster of sports programs, during the same period she joined another media establishment as a supervisor of its website, but her post did not last long for economic reasons leading to the closure of the website.

Nelly confessed, ‘I have started to write sports reports in 2002 but I started playing football earlier, during 1996. Football is considered by many in Gaza as an unusual field for women, but strangely enough, most of the members of the Gaza women’s soccer team came from conservative Palestinian families, the majority of the members lived in the refugee camps, but still they have proved that they are able to commit themselves to this sport in a way that changed the society’s perception of women football players, and accept the idea to a point that the players started to receive support from the International Federation and the Arab federation, besides the FIFA and other unions.

Nelly is not involved in kicking the ball only, but she is a keen football fan as well, she talked to me about watching most matches played around the world and her support for some Arab leagues like the Saudi Arabian team Alhilal Club. She told me that and among her favourite players is Yasser Kahtani the best Arab player during the Asia championships 2007; she is also a fan of Nawwaf Altimyat, and Mohammad Shalhoob.

Many people were enraged that one Israeli player was denied a visa to Dubai to the tennis tournament held lately, claiming sport should be independent of politics, but it seems not many understood how important it is to boycott Israel’s sport to make a point, Israel bombed the Palestinian playing courts, banned Palestinian players from travel or participation, imprisoned and detained Palestinian players, attacked many of them, and these facts can be brought up and made known should Israel be boycotted. Israel’s policies are aimed at killing any hope of Palestinians participating in any sport where they can represent their country on international level.

Nelly finished her comment by saying ‘unfortunately there has been always a negative attitude towards women’s journalistic work in general, let alone working in the sports field where the journalist has to shuttle between clubs and matches. Some Gaza communities were not in favour of women practicing this sport or working in its media field, but we never gave up. All I hope for now is some peace, and to see that our stadiums will be rebuilt again after everything has been destroyed in Gaza by Israel’s attacks…the ball now is in the International court.  

My friends at the Italian-Palestinian youth group “Wael Zuaiter” shared this incredible new creative initiative that was partly organised by the Italian NGO “Vento di Terra” (http://www.ventoditerra.org/). It’s the first Web TV program from the refugee camp of Qalandia and these kids ready to share pieces of their daily experiences with us. Armed with one camera (and they need more, so anyone who can help, please do!) we’ll get a child’s view of things, which is just as important a view as an adult’s if not more important! It just went on line two days ago, a few bugs need to be worked out before it is up and running to full capacity but it looks promising!

http://nuke.kalandiachildren.com/PressKit/tabid/487/Default.aspx


 

http://nuke.kalandiachildren.com/

Thanks to Miguel for forwarding this incredible map. (Strange Maps) The Bible contains at least two stories equating the aquatic with the amoral. As Red Sea pedestrians, Moses and the Israelites didn’t even get their sandals moist, while the Lord did some expert smiting on the pursuing Egyptians, by way of the gurgling waters closing in on them. And a few thousand years earlier, Noah kept his binary boatload afloat while all the rest of humanity (and the now extinct species of the animal kingdom) met their watery grave.

Even though this map of L’archipel de Palestine orientale (‘The Archipelago of Eastern Palestine’) is set in the same area and uses a similar theme, the cartographer behind it refutes any allegation that it is meant to reflect the same Biblical dry = good, wet = bad analogy. “The map is not about ‘drowning’ or ‘flooding’ the Israeli population, nor dividing territories along ethnic lines, even less a suggestion of how to resolve the conflict,” gasps Julien Bousac, the Frenchman who created this map.

A small excerpt of the map (focusing on the Greater Jerusalem area) was published a bit earlier on this blog, but the map in its entirety (sent in by Mr Bousac but also earlier by Baptiste Hautdidier) merits a separate entry, not only because “without a legend, it […] gives ground to various misinterpretations, due to the high sensitivity of the subject,” as Mr Boussac relates – but also because it just looks so nice. And strange, of course.

“Maybe posting the full map would help to take it for what it is, i.e. an illustration of the West Bank’s ongoing fragmentation based on the (originally temporary) A/B/C zoning which came out of the Oslo process, still valid until now. To make things clear, areas ‘under water’ strictly reflect C zones, plus the East Jerusalem area, i.e. areas that have officially remained under full Israeli control and occupation following the Agreements. These include all Israeli settlements and outposts as well as Palestinian populated areas.”

Mr Boussac took advantage of the resulting archipelago effect “to use typical tourist maps codes (mainly icons) to sharpen the contrast between the fantasies raised by seemingly paradise-like islands and the Palestinian Territories grim reality.” The map does have a strong vacationy vibe to it – but whether that is because of the archipelago-shaped subject matter, or due to the cheerful colour scheme is a matter for debate.

Those colours, incidentally, denote urban areas (orange), nature reserves (shaded), zones of partial autonomy (dark green) and of total autonomy (light green). Totally fanciful are of course the dotted lines symbolising shipping links, the palm trees signifying protected beachland, and the purple symbols representing various aspects of seaside pleasure. The blue icon, labelled Zone sous surveillance (‘Zone under surveillance’) has some bearing on reality, as the locations of the warships match those of permanent Israeli checkpoints.

Some of the paradisiacally named islands include Ile au Miel (Honey Island), Ile aux Oliviers (Isle of the Olive Trees), Ile Sainte (Holy Island) and Ile aux Moutons (Sheep Island), although the naming of Ile sous le Mur (Island beneath the Wall) constitutes a relapse into the grimness of the area’s reality.

SOURCE: http://strangemaps.wordpress.com/2009/03/30/270-palestines-island-paradise-now-with-a-word-from-its-creator/

(thanks to Richard for the forward!) The Tesco 2 are Dee Murphy and Greg Wilkinson who kicked off a campaign to boycott Israeli goods by going into their local Tesco store, filling a trolley with dates produced on illegal Zionist settlements on the West Bank, taking them out without paying, tipping the dates on the ground and spraying them with red dye, then waiting for the police to arrest them. Dee is in court in early April. The police did not, for some unknown reason arrest Greg, but things have taken a turn for the worse as the following message I received from Greg last night shows…..

WASTING POLICE TIME
Police raided three houses yesterday and arrested two people – including me – on suspicion of ‘conspiring to commit racially aggravated criminal damage.’ They seized three computers and a lot of papers relating to Palestine/Israel affairs. They’ve kept my computer, which may mean they pick up some email addresses. Luckily the papers with addresses and phone numbers were out of the house by the time they searched it.

So what was all that about? It took us some time to realise that the police, in several vans and cars, were from Bridgend, not Swansea. Apparently there was a minor incursion at the Bridgend Sainsburys, during which a couple of boxes of Israeli peppers were sprayed with red paint and a ‘Boycott Israel’ slogan spray-stencilled on the floor. The police, or whoever set them up, took the word ‘Israel’ as racist, and it was assumed that the Bridgend and Swansea actions were co-ordinated, or conspired, by some sort of organisation or command.

I’m angry, as is my wife, at the racist slurs, because about ten policemen and women spent a couple of hours going through every nook and cranny of our house, and because I was arrested and whisked away to a police cell in Bridgend – as was a woman who was with me leafletting outside the Swansea Sainsburys last Saturday. D Murphy, already charged over an earlier acton at Swansea Tescos, had her house raided, but happened to be out. The police sent to her house then came on to ours – nowhere else to go in Swansea and nothing else to do – which was why we had about ten of them bustling through our rooms and, protected by their little disposable blue rubber gloves, through our drawers,bookcases, filing cabinets etc. They took away Ada’s craftknives and cutting boards, in case they might have been used in cutting stencils and seemed very interested in red paint – though the only red paint we had was emulsion, not much good for spraying. They also asked me about what they described as a ‘list of chants’ which they assumed I had composed. At first I couldn’t think what they were talking about, but later remembered that I’d jotted down some of the rhymes being shouted by a little group of Muslim schoolgirls at a Gaza protest demonstration in Swansea: ‘Stop the killing, stop the crime, free, free Palestine…. From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.’

Other things that annoyed us: a policewoman running into the house without so much as a knock or introduction and asking ‘Can I use your toilet,’ but seeming quite put out when I answered ‘Yes, if you get my computer back.’ Now we have no list of what has been taken away, and will only find out as we come to look for this or that. And the police at Bridgend who offered me a phone call to my wife, to say where I was and when I might be back, but then refused to let me ring her, because they were too busy. They also failed to tell me that my solicitor had rung, so when it came to my recorded interview, and they asked if I wanted a solicitor, I said not unless I was charged: I was anxious to save time and not bring the man all the way from Cardiff. When I was asked about medical complaints and drugs, I mentioned a muscular condition, and a detective sergeant I’d talked to earlier said ‘muscular stiffness’. ‘Viagra, is it then?’ quipped the desk sergeant. All I said at the time was ‘Nothing that localised, I’m afraid.’ But now it seems to me that sort of crack might have been uncalled for from a position of power.

Most of all I’m angry because I’ve lost my computer and everything on it for what could be months – we’re bailed until June 4th – and because all that waste of time and energy could have been saved if one or two CID people had come to the house and asked the obvious questions. We could have established in a few minutes

1. That the use of the words ‘Israel’ and ‘Israeli’ is no more racist than the use of, say, British, in relaton to invasion of Iraq or Aghanistant;
2. that no conspiracy exists or is needed to explain the use of red paint in boycott gestures here and there in South Wales – especially since the Swansea action was so widely publicised in local press and online;
3. That raids and searches, involving at least 20 police and guards on that one day alone, were a gross waste of police time and public money, not to mention infringement on civil liberties.
On the other hand, most of the police and Group4 guards were friendly enough, and the house was left more or less tidy – not like the trashed interiors of Palestinian homes after raids by the IDF.
Still, question remains who authorised this disproportionate use of police power and numbers – thousands of pound worth of public money to get to the bottom of a box of Israeli peppers and some graffiti on a Bridgend floor?
This development shows two things:
1. the campaign to boycott is beginning to bite and the Zionists have been panicked into a hasty and counterproductive response.
2. Things are going to get much rougher from now on.
Now is the time to re-double our efforts.
and, see what Richard’s written on his wonderful site.
2008 marked the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel and the simultaneous destruction of Palestinian civil and political society. The two events are as intimately connected as two sides of a coin, yet each side offers a distinct narrative that remains at odds with the accounts of the other. Feelings of belonging and claims of ownership irrevocably separate, yet permanently connect Arabs and Jews in their struggle for a land that is called Palestine by one group and Israel by the other.  Each of the two cultures wants to hold on to every inch of land claimed by its opponent. The Palestinians strongly feel that they belong to the land, while the Israelis insist that the land belongs to them.

The narrative of displacement and experiences in exile of the modern Palestinians remains relatively unfamiliar to most Westerners and especially to the majority of Americans. By contrast, Israel’s narrative of rebuilding a homeland for the Jews has been deeply imbedded in the Western psyche and continues to dominate the political discourse regarding the Palestinian / Israeli conflict. The documentary films we create at SittingCrow Productions explore the personal narratives and artistic expressions of Palestinians. 

Some of the films that we have completed, as well as others that are currently in progress, present the memories of a small group of men and women selected from an aging and rapidly dying generation of Palestinians who directly experienced the catastrophic ethnic cleansing of their homeland in 1948. They are referred to as the generation of the Nakba (the Arabic term for the Great Catastrophe that began in 1948) and are the men and women who directly experienced the destruction of Palestinian civil and political society as well as the ethnic cleansing of 85% of the Palestinian population from the land that became Israel in 1948. The survivors of that generation are now in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Many still live in refugee camps in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and neighboring Arab countries, while those who were not expelled in 1948, or managed to return to their homeland, live in Israel as Arab citizens of the Jewish State. Their stories have seldom been recorded, and their experiences and memories of life before, during and since 1948 are rapidly disappearing as that generation ages and dies.

Other films that we are producing at SittingCrow look at Palestinian men and women who use art, poetry and dance as a way to rejuvenate the traditions of a shattered culture and to revive a history that has long been suppressed and denied. Their art bridges the shattered past of Palestinian society with the tragic present of life under occupation and reaches for a desired future of peaceful existence. 

During periods of extended political conflict, art can often be the best way for a society under the stress of cultural annihilation to sustain itself, critique its attackers and project its historical identity to the world. This is very much the case in Palestine today, where art is seen and used as a tool of cultural survival. Driven by a desire to persevere as a historical culture in the face of an extended military occupation, the visual, literary and performing arts are flourishing in complex ways in Palestine. 

The recent and current projects at SittingCrow Productions are a continuation of the focus on displacement, exile and identity construction that have been at the core of my artwork over the past two and a half decades. During the past two years, those topics have been developed and presented in the form of documentary films. Prior to that, these issues were explored and continue to be presented in the form of paintings and drawings. My name is John Halaka, I am a Visual Artist and the founder, creative director and producer of the work that comes out of SittingCrow Productions. I am also a Professor of Visual Arts at the University of San Diego. As an activist artist, my creative work serves as a vehicle for meditation on personal, cultural and political concerns. I present personal narratives in my films and create allegorical images in my paintings in order to raise questions, for myself as well as for the viewer, about some of the pressing issues of our time. Our goal at SittingCrow is to present the viewer with complex and seldom heard narratives that compel her/him to reflect on their relationship to the cultural, political, historical and emotional issues presented.

Our films are designed and intended to be screened at community forums, universities, schools and religious centers, where they can provoke discussion and reflection regarding the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. If you would like to screen one of our films and invite me lead a discussion regarding the past, present and future of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict as well as our relationship to that conflict, you can e-mail me at sittingcrowproductions@gmail.com or call me at 619.260.4107. I welcome your comments and feedback regarding the films and this website. Please feel free to email me with your comments and questions.

Our projects at SittingCrow Productions have been funded through small grants and community contributions. We greatly welcome and need financial support from the community. If you would lilke to contribute to one of our current productions please contact me at sittingcrowproductions@gmail.com or call me at 619.260.4107.

For additional information about my painting and drawing projects please visit my other web site at www.johnhalaka.com.

Thank you for your interest and your support.

John Halaka
SittingCrow Productions

 

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel has this to say about Mira Awad, the Palestinian-Israeli artist performing with Noa at the Eurovision Song Contest:

PACBI — Ramallah, Occupied Palestine, March 8, 2009

Palestinian artists and intellectuals in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip are disappointed by the news of your intention to represent Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) is writing to urge you not to participate on behalf of Israel in this contest.

To represent Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest will serve to polish the international image of an aggressive occupying state that has long been engaged in ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. It will communicate to the rest of the world that Israel’s war crimes and violations of international law are acceptable to us as Palestinians! May we remind you of some of the actions of the state you will be representing: the ethnic cleansing of more than 750,000 Palestinians in 1948; the subjugation of 3.6 million Palestinians to a system of occupation and apartheid in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1967; the long history of extra-judicial killing of Palestinian leaders and activists; the imprisonment of tens of thousands of Palestinians since 1948; the building of the apartheid wall; the recent vicious attack on occupied Gaza and the murder of more than 1,440 people (of whom at least 400 were children).

Your performance in this contest will be telling Palestinians that their suffering – the product of colonialism and racism – doesn‘t matter. You will be giving a slap in the face to each and every Palestinian singer, musician, artist, filmmaker, writer, poet, as well as regular Palestinians, who have to struggle to overcome Israel’s deliberate efforts to silence their voice.

You may feel that it is important for you to represent Israel to demonstrate the full spectrum of Israeli society, which includes Palestinians living in Israel. This is utterly misguided. Until Palestinians living within Israel have full rights and do not suffer systemic discrimination and violation of their human and political rights, Israel has no right to portray itself as a healthy, multicultural society. And until it ends its occupation of Palestinian lands and complies with international law, it should be boycotted by all artists. You must realise that if you participate in such a high-profile event you will be seen not only as an individual singer, but as the representative of other Palestinian artists as well as Palestinians at large. Can you not see that by representing both occupier and occupied you will shatter the Palestinian message to the rest of the world?

It is also particularly appalling to us that you plan to perform alongside the singer Achinoam Nini, who has issued a letter blaming Israel’s brutal attack on the Gaza Strip on Hamas. She wrote: “I can only wish for you that Israel will do the job we all know needs to be done, and finally RID YOU of this cancer, this virus, this monster called fanaticism, today, called Hamas.” These words demonstrate that Nini expresses the colonial attitude of the occupier; she blames the victims for trying to defend themselves and she thinks she knows what is better for the victims than they do themselves – even if this means killing 1,440 and injuring more than 5,300 people.

The small Israeli minority who truly understands the colonial nature of Israel and its actions could not remain silent. Udi Aloni, Israeli film director replied to her: “You use your loving words in the service of your conquering people and call upon the Palestinians to surrender in a tender voice. You bestow upon Israel the role of liberator. Upon Israel – that for over 60 years has been occupying and humiliating them.”

Your singing partner has justified the indiscriminate killing of Palestinians, actions which led the UN agencies and human rights organizations to call for war crimes investigations. What is worse, now you will be a partner in this justification, in front of the entire world. Whether you like it or not, your performance will be used to help Israel whitewash its atrocities in the Gaza Strip.

As you may know, virtually all Palestinian filmmakers, artists and cultural figures have called on their colleagues worldwide to boycott Israeli cultural and arts institutions due to their complicity in perpetuating Israel‘s occupation and other forms of oppression against the Palestinian people. In response, in the past months, throughout the world, groups of artists, singers, film-makers, students and academics, have consolidated their efforts to show solidarity with the occupied Palestinians, to condemn Israel‘s war crimes and its apartheid regime, and to call for effective political action such as boycotts, divestment drives, and sanctions (BDS).
We call upon you, as a Palestinian, to at least emulate the actions of artists, including Bono, Snoop Dogg, Bjork and Jean-Luc Godard, who have taken action to ensure they are not perceived to support Israel’s actions until it fulfils its obligations under international law and fully recognizes Palestinian rights.

Palestinian artists have also written to you urging you not to participate in this event. They note: ‘Israel‘s image as a ‘democratic‘, ‘enlightened‘ and ‘peace loving‘ state is what allows the international community to support it. Your participation in the Eurovision is participation in the Israeli propaganda machine. Every brick in the wall of this phony image allows the Israeli army to throw 10 more tons of explosives and more phosphorus bombs. We are sure that you also see these images and cry…. Please Mira, for the children of Gaza and for the future of every child in this land – Arabs and Jews – don‘t be an accomplice to the killing machine.”

We add our voice to theirs and are hopeful that you will decide not to take part in this contest. We trust you are able to understand that your contribution will be used to endorse and justify the actions of the colonial Israeli government and army in the Gaza Strip. We hope that a decision based on principles will override professional advancement and career considerations.

Yours truly,

PACBI
http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=966
info@boycottisrael.ps
www.pacbi.org

 

Posted on 08-03-2009

Thanks to Artists Against Apartheid http://www.artistsagainstapartheid.org/?p=53

Since its first days, Palestine Think Tank has been supported by a wonderful site and by the truly dedicated activists there. Alter Info has been under a lot of pressure from the usual Israeli Lobby organisations, this time in France. We wish to express our support of Alter Info, to hope that they are able to win this case, and that some benefactors are able to help them with the growing legal costs. Please read their press communiqué and, if you are able to, show your support of those who provide information so that the lies and propaganda will not win, and that peace and justice will prevail.
Dear friends, Alter Info readers,

Since the beginning of our legal issues, many have supported us and showed their solidarity. Thanks to you, we managed to face adversity with dignity and honour. Therefore it is natural that I keep you informed of the legal outcomes and political games around this case in order that each of you realizes to what great extent not only this website but more generally freedom of speech and particularly individual freedoms are under attack.

In addition to the two complaints filed by UEJF & J’Accuse, I’ve been called up one more time by the police because a second complaint was filed against me; this time owing to the apparent transgressions of Ginette Hess Skandrani, an old lady and sincere militant that we know only through her writings. Nevertheless her fight was honourable and we felt that she deserved to be heard through our website. However this second complaint is unlikely to lead to legal prosecutions, which is not the case with our detractors from UEJF & J’Accuse. It’s as if their power goes beyond what the Law permits to such non-profit organisations, such that it seems like “human courts acquit the strong, and doom the weak, as therefore wrong.”**
Of the various accusations of defamation I received, death threats have had less of an effect on me than the cases filed by l’UEJF & J’Accuse; apparently being threatened with death and slandered is less important than being accused of “hate incitement” and so-called “denial of crime against humanity.” It’s unfair that in a nation under the Rule of Law the strongest is always right. Yet “power is not revealed by striking hard or often, but by striking true.”*

At the end of December 2007, we received a letter from Mr Lilti, attorney for the UEJF & J’Accuse organisations, formal notification asking for the removal of a translated article by Henry Makow entitled Capital Imperialism and published in September 2007. In this letter, Mr Lilti, among the usual clichés and predictable accusations of anti-Semitism, declared that even if we removed Ms Skandrani’s article, he would nevertheless file a case against me for “hate incitement.” What I find a little bit puzzling is that the Attorney General added a “crime against humanity” charge to the other insanities my detractors are accusing me of.

After the first provisional order, a second one was canceled thanks to the perspicacity of the President of the High Court: I had sent a letter to the President of the Paris court and tried to show good faith by removing the offending article before a second provisional order could be issued. I told him about the nefarious plot of our detractors and the fallacious reasons brought up just to harm us financially and shut us up. For reasons unknown to me, the Attorney General of Mulhouse proceeded nonetheless to quote from the second provisional order in order to accuse me of “denial of crime against humanity.” Despite the lucid decision of the President of the Paris court, UEJF & J’accuse intend to use the second provisional order as a new tool of censorship and coercion. Having failed miserably in their provisional order attempt, they still managed to coerce the Mulhouse Attorney General to hear their complaint.

The provisional order requires us to remove the article and pay damages to the two plaintiffs. It galls me to submit to this insidious blackmailing, especially as we had taken precautions before publishing the article. We included a preamble forewarning the reader of the article’s tendentious words. I naively thought that the Court of Appeals would analyze the substance rather than the form of the case – normal procedure during provisional orders – so we decided to appeal its decision. We were amazed that despite having proven the dishonesty of our detractors – who drew analogies and comparisons between our case and the Muhammad drawings case (for which precedents would have favoured our case), the Court of Appeals nevertheless sided with UEJF & J’accuse.

“Noble passions are like vices; the more they are satisfied, the greater they grow.”*

So, according to our attorney, on May 17th 2008, the appeal judge confirmed the provisional order conclusions. In addition, he doubled the damages. Though we have not yet received legal notice of the appeal judgment, the attorneys and solicitors of the plaintiffs are rushing us to pay for their fees and the costs we are also liable to. However, not having received a legal notice of the appeal judgment, we can still lodge an appeal with the Supreme Court – for up to 30 days after receiving this document.

Since December 2007, our detractors have induced financial costs exceeding more than 5 times the yearly operating budget of our association i.e. more than 20,000 euros.

UEJF & J’Accuse, two so-called anti-racism organisations, are sub-agencies of CRIF (Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions). This self-proclaimed institution assumes the right to speak and act in the name of all French Israelites and Jews. At annual dinners, the leaders of this organization don’t hesitate to lecture our political and media elites, “suggesting” legislation, even humiliating some attendants. We don’t know which legal or moral right, which values allow this organization to hold such strong political influence and to hijack the voice of all French Israelites, given that less than 4% of this population are members of CRIF.

The deeds of organisations whose methods are similar to those of CRIF sub-agencies UEJF & J’accuse are not democratic at all and are in fact contrary to any republican principle. Indeed, lobbying is a common and legal activity amongst Anglo-Saxon societies, and even if European Union institutions are trying to integrate lobbying into their governance model, the French Constitution does not allow lobbying. Their constitutionality notwithstanding, some lobbies have greater political influence than others and often they are the ones responsible for instigating social tension.

If the CRIF and its sub-agencies were only lobbying on behalf their members (which is after all their raison d’etre), even though morally reprehensible, it would be acceptable to a certain extent. The trouble is that CRIF is more likely to fight for the interests of Israel than to address the problems faced by its members or the rights of the community it’s meant to defend. While the CRIF is trying to take all French Jews hostage, see what some anti-Zionist associations like the UFJP (French Jewish Union for Peace) think of the CRIF in the open letter below:

Letter from the UJFP to the CRIF
Sunday, February 8th 2009
French Jewish Union for Peace (UJFP)

Open letter to the leaders of the CRIF

The masks have fallen and that’s enough for now!

You have absolutely no right to speak neither in our name nor in the name of our own who were penned in ghettos, murdered in pogroms, killed in death camps, but who were also part of all the struggles, from the International for a better world to the Resistance against the Nazi intruder, against colonialism and for freedom, justice, dignity and equality of rights.

You cheered and supported the crimes of the IDF, crushing under its bombs the population you call “a hostile entity”, bringing down houses, devastating crops, targeting schools, mosques, hospitals, emergency cars and even a graveyard … Now you are on the side of the Apartheid supporters, oppressors and modern barbarians, and the blood of their victims is spilling on you.

Meanwhile, you lost all human sentiment, all compassion in front of this distress, you’ve outraged and soiled us by assimilating all the Jews to the supporters of a bunch of war criminals in the same way you soiled the memory of Rachi, Edmond Fleg, Emmanuel Levinas and many others – all that French Judaism was carrying in terms of human worth, intelligence and light.

You’ve tried to transform a colonial and geopolitical conflict into a communitarian conflict and by pretending that “95% of the French Jews support the Israeli invasion”, you stir up anti-Semitism while claiming to be concerned with its return, like pyromaniac firemen. No, Ladies and Gentlemen who are leading the so-called “representative” council of the French Jewish Institutions, in our eyes you represent nothing except the zelators of an abject slaughter.

UJFP national office on 02-07-2009 Union Juive Française pour la Paix (UJFP) – 21 ter rue Voltaire, 75011 Paris. Phone: 06 61 33 48 22. E-mail: contact@ujfp.org. Website: www.ujfp.org

Following the Zionist entity’s attack against Lebanon in 2006 and more recently against the martyred people of Gaza, the CRIF can no longer hide its real nature. By the way, the UEJF, one of the associations who initiated legal proceedings against us, was leading the demonstrations supporting the IDF while it was committing atrocious crimes against children, women, poor and elderly – already exhausted from hunger and misery.

For any political leader to explicitly and cynically support a foreign power by accepting CRIF directives that are detrimental to the interests of his nation is not only morally reprehensible, it’s high treason.

Israel is more than a morally illegitimate state; it’s the fruit of an abject colonialism under the guise of an heroic and romantic epic, cleared by the myth of the wandering people, oppressed for more than 2,000 years. Oppressed yes, wandering no!

In addition their oppressors have always been Europeans; never in the territory of Islam did Jews experience pogroms or mass crimes. On the contrary, each time Jewish communities were oppressed they always found shelter in the territory of Islam.

However, Zionist propaganda takes effect insidiously and stirs up anti-Muslim racism. The CRIF has several masks; a public one that allows this organization to maintain the illusion of inclusiveness within inter-faith and inter-community dialogues; and a more hideous, insidious one serving dark schemes that seed hate and fear between communities and try to muzzle any criticism of Zionism and Israel.

The story of the “wandering People” is just an historic myth serving an ideology, a biblical alteration, a mythology that justifies the application of so-called “divine right” that supersedes even international right. We can’t fix an injustice by creating a greater one. This is however the role these self-proclaimed organizations are limited to; monopolizing noble causes like the fight against racism, while diverting them from their original goal in order to benefit the Zionist ideology.

These details about the CRIF are important since they help us understand the abject methods this multifaceted organization uses in serving one single goal: to defend Israeli policy at all cost. It uses front agencies like UEJF in order to maintain its status as an honorable organization. By the way, Marc Knobel, President of the J’Accuse organisation, and co-plaintiff, is one of its active members.

*Honoré de Balzac
**Jean de la Fontaine
Traduit par
http://www.sott.net/

WRITTEN By Stephen Lendman
Enough is enough. After 61 years of Palestinian slaughter, displacement,
occupation, oppression, and international dismissiveness and complicity, global action is essential. Israel must be held accountable. World leaders won’t do it, so grassroots movements must lead the way.
 
In 2004, Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote:
“The end of apartheid stands as one of the crowning accomplishments of the past century, but we would not have succeeded without the help of international pressure – in particular the divestment movement of the 1980s. Over the past six months, a similar movement has taken shape, this time aiming at an end to the Israeli occupation.”
 
In July 2008, 21 South African activists, including ANC members, visited Israel and Occupied Palestine. Their conclusion was unanimous. Israel is far worse than apartheid as former Deputy Minister of Health and current MP Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge explained:
 
“What I see here is worse than what we experienced – the absolute control of people’s lives, the lack of freedom of movement, the army presence everywhere, the total separation and the extensive destruction we saw….racist ideology is also reinforced by religion, which was not the case in South Africa.”
 
Sunday Times editor, Mondli Makhanya, went further: “When you observe
From afar you know that things are bad, but you do not know how bad. Nothing can prepare you for the evil we have seen here. It is worse, worse, worse than everything we endured. The level of apartheid, the racism and the brutality are worse than the worst period of apartheid.”
 
Activist Opposition to a Fundamentally Evil Occupation

In July 2005, a coalition of 171 Palestinian Civil Society organizations created the global BDS movement – for “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights” for Occupied Palestinians, Israeli Arabs, and Palestinian diaspora refugees. 

Since 1948, hundreds of UN resolutions condemned Israel’s colonialoccupation, its decades of discriminatory policies, illegal land
seizures and settlements, international law violations, and oppression of a civilian population, and called for remedial action.
 
Nothing so far has worked. Palestine remains occupied. Its people continue to suffer. Their human rights are denied. These abuses no longer can be tolerated. In solidarity, people of conscience demand justice and “call upon international civil society organizations and (supporters everywhere) to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to (apartheid) South Africa.” Pressure is needed for “embargoes and sanctions….for the sake of justice and genuine peace.”
 
Nonviolent punitive measures should continue until Israel: 
— recognizes Palestinian rights to self-determination; 
— respects international law; 
— ends its illegal occupation; 
— dismantles its Separation Wall; 
— grants Israeli Arabs equal rights as Jews; and 
— complies with UN resolution 194 affirming the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and property or be fully compensated for loss or damage if they prefer.
 
Dozens of Palestinian political parties, organizations, associations,
coalitions, campaigns, and unions endorse the project, including:  
— the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine; 
— the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizen’s Rights (PICCR); 
— the Consortium of Professional Associations; 
— the Lawyers Association; 
— the Network of Christian Organizations; 
— the Palestinian Council for Justice and Peace; 
— the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI); and  
— the US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel.
 
PACBI 
In April 2004 in Ramallah, Palestinian academics and intellectuals launched it by “buil(ding) on the Palestinian call for a comprehensive economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel issued in August 2002 (followed by further calls) in October 2003.”
 
In July 2004, its statement of principles read: 
— “to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions until Israel withdraws from all lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem;  
— removes all its colonies in those lands;  
— agrees to United Nations resolutions relevant to the restitution of
Palestinian refugee rights; and  
— dismantles its system of apartheid.”
 
PACBI states: 
“Boycotting Israeli academic and cultural institutions is an urgently needed form of pressure against Israel that can bring about its compliance with international law and the requirements for a just peace.” Israel won’t comply. Why should it when world governments are supportive and complicit and offer Palestinians no relief. Thus, grassroots pressure is crucial. That’s why organizations like PACBI are essential.
 
So is the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (CACBI). It’s comprised of US academics, “educators of conscience….unable to stand by and watch in silence Israel’s indiscriminate assault on the Gaza Strip and its educational institutions.” They call for:
 
(1) boycotting all “academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions” not opposed to their government’s policies towards Palestinians;  
(2) “a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels (including) all forms of funding and subsidies….;” 
(3) divestment and disinvestment from Israel;  
(4) academic, professional, and cultural groups condemnation of Israel; and 
(5) support for Palestinian academic and cultural institutions.
 
Israel flaunts the rule of law, pursues violence, not peace, and discriminates against everyone not Jewish. Terror bombing Gaza and daily West Bank incursions illustrate its arrogance and intentions. CACBI “believe(s) that non-violent external pressure (through) academic, cultural and economic boycott” are crucial. Worldwide support and unwavering pressure must  happen as well.
 
In solidarity with PACBI, CACBI, and non-academic bodies globally, Australian academics issued their own mission statement, calling on like-minded activists to join them. Others elsewhere have done the same. 
 
Inception of the Academic Boycott Idea 
On April 6, 2002, UK professors Steven and Hilary Rose first presented the idea in an open letter to the London Guardian. They wrote:  
“Despite widespread international condemnation for its policy of violent repression against the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories, the Israel government appears impervious to moral appeals from world leaders.” For its part, America “seems reluctant to act. However, there are ways of exerting pressure from within Europe….many national and European cultural and research institutions….regard Israel (alone in the Middle East) as a European state for the purposes of awarding grants and contracts. Would it not therefore be timely” for a pan-European moratorium of all further support “unless and until Israel abides by UN resolutions and opens serious peace negotiations with the Palestinans” along the lines of proposed “peace plans.”
 
By July, 700 signatures were registered, including from 10 Israeli academics, but not without controversy and opposition. Questions of ethics and effectiveness were raised. Academic freedom, anti-Semitism, and unfairly singling out Israel as well. 
 
On April 22, 2005, the UK Council of Association of University Teachers (AUT – with support from 60 Palestinian academics) voted to boycott two Israeli universities – Haifa and Bar-Ilan. Haifa for wrongly disciplining a lecturer who supported a student’s writing about 1948 Israeli attacks on Palestinians and Bar-Ilan for conducting courses in the West Bank, complicit with the occupation. 
 
Criticism of the AUT was immediate and harsh by Jewish groups and its own members. Zvi Ravner, Israel’s deputy ambassador in London, said the “last time Jews were boycotted in universities was in 1930s Germany.” By May, pressure was intense, forcing AUT to cancel its boycott, but the idea stayed viable.
 
In May 2006, the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) passed motion 198C, a call to boycott Israeli academics who refused to speak out against their government. As expected, criticism again was intense but those in support stayed firm. 
 
On May 30, 2007, the congress of the University and College Union (UCU – created by AUT and NATFHE’s merger) voted 158 – 99 on Motion 30 for a Palestinian trade unions boycott petition. It asked lecturers to “consider the moral implications of existing and proposed links with Israeli academic institutions.”
 
On September 28, after considerable opposition, UCU abandoned its effort in a press release stating that lawyers advised that “an academic boycott of Israel would be unlawful and cannot be implemented.” 
 
Nonetheless, despite start-and-stop efforts and enormous opposition, the BDS movement remains viable and has taken root globally. In January 2009, the Ontario branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) proposed banning Israeli academics from teaching, speaking at, or doing research at Ontario universities unless they condemn Israel’s war on Gaza. After CUPE national president’s opposition, local branch officials removed the proposal from its web site but replaced it with a statement calling for a boycott “aimed at academic institutions and the institutional connections that exist between universities here and those in Israel.” It will also  introduce a resolution on the ban.
 
On January 31, hundreds of Irish activists ran a full page ad in The Irish Times condemning decades of Israeli militarism, oppression, occupation, and violations of international law. They called for the Irish government to: 
— “cease its purchase of Israeli military products and services and call publicly for an arms embargo against Israel;  
— demand publicly that Israel reverse its settlement construction, illegal occupation and annexation of land in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions and to use its influence” to achieve this;  
— “demand publicly that the Euro-Med Agreement under which Israel has privileged access to the EU market be suspended until Israel complies with international law;  
— veto any proposed upgrade in EU relations with Israel; (and for)  
— The Irish people to boycott all Israeli goods and services until Israel abides by international law.” 
 
On February 1, a new alliance of American Jews for a Just Peace issued this statement against Israel’s war on Palestine:  
“Israel recent War on Gaza resulted in worldwide popular condemnation. Perhaps this marks an important turning point in the relationship between Israel and the world community. We will not stand by while Israel instigates a war, annihilates civilian infrastructure, targets civilian shelters, blocks medical teams from reaching victims, uses chemical weapons,” and commits various other atrocities and illegal acts. This isn’t how a democratic state functions, one that respects international laws and norms. “On the contrary, they are actions of a rogue state….fully supported by the US government.”
 
“American Jews for a Just Peace calls for: 
— immediate suspension of all US military aid to Israel pursuant to the Arms Export Control Act;  
— the US Congress to open an investigation into possible war crimes as violations of the Arms Export Control and Foreign Assistance Acts in the war on Gaza;  
— businesses and individuals to refuse to purchase Israeli-made products that originate in or support Jewish settlements in Occupied Palestine and the apartheid system of racial separation and oppression in Israel/Palestine; 
— the Israeli government to sign the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid that was adopted by the United Nations in 1973…; 
— the Israeli government to end the blockade and siege of Gaza and allow unhindered access to all humanitarian aid organizations as well as international journalists; and  
— efforts by all activists to promote awareness of and resistance to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, which continues through the ongoing blockade, siege, displacement, annexation, and Israeli state-sponsored terror.” 
 
On February 3, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that “The only Palestinian university (Al Quds) to maintain ties with Israeli colleges and oppose international calls for an (academic) boycott….suspended contacts with Israeli universities in the wake of the war in Gaza.” 
 
Al Quds has 10,000 students on three West Bank campuses – in El Bireh, Abu Dis, and East Jerusalem. By unanimous decision of its board on February 1, it froze (but didn’t end) 60 joint projects for six months, pending a policy review and possible change. Its statement cited no justification for  continued ties and that cutting them “is aimed at pressuring Israel to abide by a solution that ends the occupation, a solution that has been needed for far too long and that the international community has stopped demanding.”
 
Al Quds’ board called on local, regional, and international academics to support its position by halting their own cooperation with Israeli universities.
 
On February 5, Durban, South African dock workers refused to offload an Israeli ship docked in the city’s harbor. At the same time, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) called on “workers and activists for justice and peace to join the ever growing movement of people in solidarity with the suffering masses of Palestine.” COSATU asked workers globally to follow their lead not to offload Israeli ships or handle Israeli goods in retail stores. It also affirmed its stand to “strengthen the campaign in South Africa for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against apartheid Israel.” 
 
Despite its efforts, the Port of Durban used non-union workers to offload the Israeli ship on February 6. On the same day, COSATU and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign affirmed their boycott initiative by protesting in front of the South African Zionist Federation offices in Johannesburg.
 
On February 6, stopwar.org.uk reported a “Wave of Gaza solidarity action on UK campuses” over the past two weeks at 22 universities and colleges so far. Student demands include:  
— providing scholarships for Palestinian students;  
— sending books and computers to Occupied Palestine;  
— condemning Israeli attacks on Gaza; and  
— divesting from Israel and BAE Systems that supplies Israel with arms.  
 
On February 7, the Church of England announced that late last year it divested over 2.2 million British pounds from Caterpillar, a company whose bulldozers and equipment is used to demolish Palestinian homes. It’s a small step but an important one, given the Church’s importance. Hopefully it will inspire others to take similar steps and divest entirely from Israel and companies with which it does business. 
 
On February 9, Hampshire College in Amherst, MA became the first one in America to divest from companies involved in Israel’s occupation of Palestine. It marked a successful outcome of an intensive two-year Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) campaign that pressured the school’s Board of Trustees to act. Over 800 students, faculty and alumni were involved. Their efforts worked and shows that other campus campaigns nationwide and globally may as well. This is an important first step.
 
On February 10, the Belfast Telegraph reported that the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) “launch(ed) a boycott of Israeli goods as part of a major campaign to secure a peaceful settlement in the Middle East.” 
 
Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) dismissed the idea but Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams expressed support in saying:….”Gaza has been the target of an all-out military assault by Israeli forces. Over 1300 people were killed, many of them children.” 
 
Northern Ireland’s Social Democratic and Labour Party’s (SDLP) Carmel Hanna said that her country’s experience with the “Troubles” should inspire support for Middle East peace. “We have learned from the conflict here that violence does not work and creates bitterness.” 
 
On February 19, the Secretariat of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee called on “all (globally) to unite our different capacities and struggles in a Global Day of Action in Solidarity with the Palestinian people and for a (BDS action) against Israel on 30 March 2009” – as part of a “Global Week of Action against the Crises and War from 28 March to 4 April.” 
 
March 30 actions will focus on: 
— “Boycotts and divestment from Israeli corporations and international (ones) that sustain Israeli apartheid and occupation.  
— Legal action to end Israel’s impunity and prosecute its war criminals through national court cases and international tribunals.  
— Canceling and blocking free trade and other preferential agreements with Israel and imposing an arms embargo as the first steps towards fully fledged sanctions against Israel.” 
 
The time for these actions is now. It must be sustained until Gaza is free, the occupation of all Arab lands ends, the Separation Wall is demolished, Israeli Arabs have equal rights as Jews, and Palestinian refugees get their international law right to return to their homes and property or receive full compensation for loss or damage if they prefer. 
 
On February 23, Amnesty International (AI) issued a press release headlined: “Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories – Evidence of Misuse of US-Weapons Reinforces Need for Arms Embargo.” 
 
AI found evidence of US-supplied weapons and munitions and “called on the UN to impose a comprehensive arms embargo.” It also accused Israel of using “white phosphorous and other weapons supplied by the USA to carry out serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes. Their attacks resulted in the death of hundreds of children and other civilians and massive destruction of homes and infrastructure,” according to Donatella Rovera, head of AI’s Gaza and southern Israel fact-finding  mission.
 
“As the major supplier of weapons to Israel, the USA has a particular
obligation to stop any supply that contributes to gross violations of the laws of war and of human rights. The Obama administration should immediately suspend US military aid to Israel.” 
 
During the week of March 1 – 8, the fifth annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) will be held – last year in over 25 cities and this year likely many more in the wake of the Gaza war and subsequent world outrage. IAW is part of the growing global BDS movement – from Abu Dis to Atlanta, Barcelona to Bethlehem, Chicago to Copenhagen, Halifax to Hebron, New York to Nablus, Washington to Waterloo, and on and on in an effort to make it unstoppable. 
 
Background Information and Member Global BDS Movement Countries 
Organizations in 20 countries participate under the banner of the International Coordinating Network on Palestine (ICNP). Formed in 2002, it calls itself “a body of civil society organizations….under the auspices of the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.”
 
Its mission “is to strengthen the role of civil society in supporting and demanding, of governments and international institutions, the full implementation” of all Palestinian rights under international law, including to self-determination, national independence, and sovereignty.   ICNP coordinates global campaigns; facilitates communication; aids local organizations; plans civil society conferences; and mobilizes global BDS support. In the spirit of internationalism, it strives for representation on every continent in many more nations than now. 
 
Participating organizations are currently in the following countries:  
— Australia;  
— Belgium; 
— Canada; 
— the autonomous Catalonian northeast Spanish community and its capital, Barcelona;  
— Denmark; 
— France; 
— Egypt; 
— Greece; 
— Iceland; 
— Italy; 
— Netherlands; 
— Norway; 
— Scotland; 
— South Africa; 
— Spain; 
— Sweden; 
— United Kingdom; and 
— United States.
 
Formal Asian and Latin American representation is noticeably absent, but BDS leaders look for change. They also promote broad international BDS initiatives:
 
— academic and cultural boycotts by “refusing to participate in cultural exchange, artists, and cultural institutions” to tell Israel that its “occupation and discrimination against Palestinians is unacceptable;” Israel promotes apartheid; non-Jewish voices are excluded; Israeli children are taught to deny a Palestinian identity; Israel monitors this closely and cracks down hard on non-compliers; 
— consumer boycotts of Israeli products and services through public awareness, bad publicity, pressuring stores to remove merchandise denoting Israeli origin, and encouraging companies to stop buying Israeli technology; overall, to create an inhospitable climate for Israeli commerce;  
— a sports boycott to highlight Israeli oppression and discrimination and to stop its self-promotion as a “fair player” by participating in bilateral and international competition; at the same time, to promote a Palestinian presence in these events to support their right to identity and self-determination; 
— divestment/disinvestment in Israel and companies globally that support its occupation and oppression; encourage and pressure individuals,  businesses, organizations, universities, pension funds, and governments to shed their Israeli investments to provide pressure for change; 
— sanctions – starting with open debate and raising awareness on applying them; followed by implementing comprehensive economic, political, and military measures to isolate the Jewish state; ending Israel’s membership in economic and political bodies like the UN, WHO, Red Cross, WTO, and OECD; 
— end cooperation agreements under which Israel gets preferential treatment on trade, joint research and development, and various other projects; Israel’s Export and International Cooperation Institute reported in 2006 that participation of its companies in international projects in 2005 grew by 150% – from $600 million in 2004 to $1.5 billion in 2005; Israel is the only non-European country participating in the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme for R & D and gets preferential treatment as a member; many international agreements have clauses that bind participating countries to human rights, international law, and democratic standards; Israel disdains them; it must be challenged and excluded as a result; 
— efforts at the local, regional, and institutional levels to build greater individual awareness and support; 
— ending military ties is also vital; Israel is a serial aggressor; militarism defines its culture and existence; despite its own technology, it’s heavily dependent on America and other nations for hardware and munitions supplies; breaking that connection can curb its crimes of war and against humanity; raising public awareness is crucial toward accomplishing this goal; 
— involve faith-based bodies and institutions in the campaign; explain religion isn’t the issue; morality and human rights are at stake; religious leaders can be enormously influential in building BDS support and enhancing its legitimacy; and  
— work cooperatively with trade unions; Palestinian ones faced Zionist attacks since the 1920s, especially from the Histradrut General Federation of Laborers in the Land of Israel; it’s replaced Arab workers with Jewish ones; in 1965, the General Union of Palestinian Workers (GUPW) was founded to organize West Bank, Gaza and diaspora labor; in 1986, the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) grew out of Occupied Palestine’s labor movement; today it’s ineffective given conditions in the Territories and Israeli discrimination against its Arab citizens, consigning them to low wage, few or no benefit jobs; Histadrut represents Jews alone. 
 
The Global BDS movement seeks worldwide support for Palestinian liberation and self-determination. Its campaign continues to grow. 
 
Calls for Prosecuting Israeli Officials for Crimes of War, Against Humanity, and Genocide
 
For over six decades, Israel has tried to eliminate a Palestinian presence throughout Greater Israel – through occupation, oppression, impoverishment, discrimination, isolation, displacement, aggression, and genocide. The time for  accountability is now. Efforts are going forward and were pursued earlier.
 
On February 3, the Australian Sun reported that International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo “was conducting a preliminary analysis of alleged (Israeli) crimes during (its) recent (Gaza) offensive….” He received communications from the Palestinian justice minister, Ali Kashan, the PA, and over 200 from others, including NGOs. 
 
He wasn’t encouraging in saying that he’ll “examine all relevant issues, including on jurisdiction,” (but) preliminary analysis….is not indicative that an investigation will be opened.” Earlier, his office stated that the ICC “had no competence over the Gaza situation.” The court can only try individuals for crimes committed by a signatory to the Rome Statute. Israel is not. The prosecutor may also investigate at the behest of the Security Council or if a non-party state accepts court jurisdiction. A guaranteed US veto rules out the former. The PA is pursuing the latter even though Palestine is not an independent state. 
 
Earlier in September 2006, Al Jazeera reported that “Three Moroccan lawyers said last month they were suing (then) Israeli defence minister, Amir Peretz, over the recent (Lebanon and Gaza) offensives. Israel Radio reported that a Danish politician also tried to have (foreign minister) Tzipi Livni detained and prosecuted during a recent visit to Copenhagen but the request for an arrest warrant was” denied. 
 
On January 24, Iran Daily reported that 30 “International attorneys have filed war crime charges against 15 Israeli political and military officials including Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak.” The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) believes the evidence is compelling, including IDF use of illegal weapons and large-scale atrocities in Gaza. 
 
Names of those accused were submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, even though Israel isn’t a member. Nonetheless, Israelis have been warned to check before traveling abroad to be sure no arrest warrants for them were issued. 
 
French lawyer Gilles Dovers is involved and called for an “open investigation into war crimes” committed by Israeli forces in Gaza. He said 500 complaints were submitted by Arab, European and Latin American officials. Venezuela and Bolivia are preparing their own cases. 
 
Iran Daily said “a group of French lawyers (intend) to file a complaint on behalf of French citizens of Palestinian origin to the French courts against Israeli officials,” and this effort “is gaining attention” in Paris and eastern France.
 
“Coordination with other lawyers in Belgium and Spain is (also) underway….in Brussels and Madrid.” 
 
On February 6, AP reported that a Turkish prosecutor “launched a probe into whether Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip counts as genocide, torture and crimes against humanity.” The prosecutor’s office proceeded after an Islamic human rights group filed an official complaint naming Shimon Peres, Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni. Turkish laws allow for trials against persons accused of genocide and crimes against humanity. 
 
Other efforts are proceeding as well. The Sabra Shatila Foundation issued a petition to hold Israel accountable for war crimes in Gaza and urged people of conscience to sign it. The International Organization for the elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD), Tlaxcala Universal Petition, and International Lawyers without Borders also advocate Israeli war criminal prosecutions. 
 
On December 31 in Global Research.ca, international law expert Francis Boyle called for “An Israeli War Crimes Tribunal (ICTI as) the Only Deterrent to a Global War.” He asked the UN General Assembly to “immediately establish an (ICTI) as a ‘subsidiary organ’ under UN Charter Article 22” similar to the Security Council’s ICTY for Yugoslavia. Its purpose “would be to investigate and prosecute Israeli war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against the Peoples of Lebanon and Palestine.” 
 
It would provide “some degree of justice” and serve as a deterrent to future regional aggression and a potential “global catastrophe.” Boyle also accused Washington of aiding and abetting Israeli genocide against the Palestinians. Instead of “rein(ing) in the Israelis (by cutting off all funding), the United States government, the US Congress, and US taxpayers instead support the ‘Jewish’ state to the tune of about 4 billion dollars per year….” He calls it “dishumanitarian intervention (or) humanitarian extermination” by both countries “against the Palestinians and Palestine.” 
 
“In today’s world, genocide pays so long as it is done at the behest of the United States and its de jure or de facto allies such as Israel.” Boyle wants Israel’s UN General Assembly and entire UN System membership suspended. He also proposes imposing economic, diplomatic and travel sanctions and for “the Provisional Government of the State of Palestine to sue Israel in the International Court of Justice (ICJ)” for committing genocide in violation of the 1948 Geneva Convention. 
 
In his 2003 book, “Palestine, Palestinians, and International Law,” Boyle states that world governments and people of conscience should organize a comprehensive economic divestment/disinvestment campaign against Israel. It can be modeled after the successful South African anti-apartheid one. The 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid is the standard. It applies to Israel, defines apartheid as a “crime against humanity,” and calls guilty parties international criminals. 
 
In a May 20, 2002 Counterpunch article, Boyle wrote “In Defense of a Divestment Campaign Against Israel” and based it on his November 30, 2000 Illinois State University public lecture calling for a nationwide campaign. UC Berkeley Students for Justice in Palestine responded with their own. Others followed, including Palestinian students at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where Boyle teaches. Soon after, over 30 US campuses joined the effort and others later on. 
 
Faculties as well, including at the University of California where 143 professors petitioned the UC system “to use its influence – political and financial – to encourage the United States government and the government of Israel to respect human rights of the Palestinian people” and for divestment until Israel complies with international law. 
 
Last February, the London School of Economics Students Union (LSESU) voted overwhelmingly for its university and the National Union of Students (NUS) to divest from companies that have commercial and military ties to Israel.
 
On January 18 in the Electronic Intifada, Elna Sondergaard, Director of the Human Rights Program and American University (Cairo) Law Professor, said it’s “Time for Israel to be put on trial.” In the wake of the Gaza war, she cited atrocities and grievous crimes of war and against humanity that must not go unpunished.
 
“The crucial question is: To which courts of justice can Palestinian victims bring their claims?” Palestinian courts have no jurisdiction over Israeli crimes, and as stateless people can’t adjudicate before the ICC. They’re also denied “legal protection offered by classic interstate diplomacy,” and pursuing claims in Israeli courts is fruitless.
 
Sondergaard suggests doing it in other countries on the basis of universal jurisdiction, even though past efforts in Belgium, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, the UK and America were unsuccessful. She also suggests an “ad-hoc tribunal,” similar to what Boyle proposes, and said doing so “would cost the international community nothing.” Abstaining, however, would leave Gazans “without remedies and hope” and would encourage politicians and soldiers to think they’re immune and can get away with anything. “Thus,” she concludes, “we cannot allow these crimes to remain untried.” 
 
Nor can we abstain from boycotting, divesting, sanctioning, and expelling Israel from the UN System until it complies with international law, recognizes Palestinian self-determination, ends its illegal occupation, disbands its settlements, dismantles its Separation Wall, grants Israeli Arabs equal rights as Jews, and lets Palestinian refugees return home to their property or be paid just compensation if they prefer. A vibrant, committed, grassroots global BDS movement is crucial to achieving these goals.
 
Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net 
Also visit his blog site at http://sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on www.RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday through Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with
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http://www.countercurrents.org/lendman250209.htm