Archive for the ‘“Israel”’ Category

Some of the victims of the massacre of civilians in the 1976 Tal al Zaatar Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon by Assad's forces and Maronite Lebanese troops

Some of the victims of the massacre of civilians in the 1976 Tal al Zaatar Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon by Assad’s forces and Maronite Lebanese troops

Written by Ruth Riegler
Since the 1948 Nakba, association with the cause of Palestinian freedom has been endlessly useful.
It hasn’t been useful in any way, of course, for the vast majority of Palestinians, who continue to languish in disempowered internal or external exile from their lands, now occupied for over 67 years and counting. But for generations of regional and other leaders, totalitarian regimes, pundits, activists and anyone else fancying a bit of easy reflected glory, Palestine has provided an invaluable patina of revolutionary kudos by association.

Every government in the Middle East and a good few elsewhere, more particularly the nominally anti-imperialist regimes and dictators, plays the ‘anti-zionist’ card professionally: the Assads, father and son, have been adept exploiters of Palestine since Hafez al-Assad first seized power. The regime has relied heavily on its ‘heroic resistance’ reputation, winning admiration and praise worldwide. The most cursory analysis of the regime’s actual ‘resistance’ shows a long track record of cynical exploitation, betrayal and oppression of Palestinians since Hafez first seized power right up to the modern day, ranging from its attempts to hobble the PLO and complicity in the massacre in Lebanon’s Tel al Zaatar camp to the current ongoing ‘Second Nakba’, demonstrating the Assads’ true distaste for freedom, for Palestinians as for Syrians, Lebanese or anyone else who stands in their way.

Some of the residents of Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus who have starved to death under the continuing regime siege on the camp, much of which has been destroyed by two years of regime aerial and heavy artillery bombardment.

Some of the residents of Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus who have starved to death under the continuing regime siege on the camp, much of which has been destroyed by two years of regime aerial and heavy artillery bombardment.

Should Palestine actually be liberated or Zionism be dismantled, as the Assads have always been fully aware, the regime would need to find new excuses for its savage domestic repression. But as the Assads and the other ‘axis of resistance’ leaders are well aware, people will always prefer the reassuring lie of jam tomorrow to the dark reality of totalitarianism today.

Indeed, that bleakly ironic dependence on exploiting the cause of Palestinian freedom to justify brutal domestic oppression is a common feature to all the ‘axis of resistance’ members. Any demands for greater freedom, investment in infrastructure, more schools or anything else can quickly be dismissed with accusations of those behind them being Zionist agitators attempting to derail the always-imminent glorious liberation. Any questioning of the Assads’ expenditure of 90 percent of GDP on the military for decades has been quickly countered with the insistence that this is essential both to defend the homeland from Zionist expansionism and for that same ever-imminent liberation. In reality, as we continue to see, the regime’s military juggernaut, like that of the Assads’ ‘anti-imperialist’ allies, has been reserved exclusively for use against Syrian and Palestinians in Syria, but small details like this don’t stop the regime’s hot air emissions about “opposing Zionism.”

The Iranian regime, the fulcrum of the ‘resistance’ axis, is even more adept in and reliant on its exploitation of the cause of Palestinian freedom. Having sold itself as the great saviour of Palestine, prevented from triumphant liberation of Al Quds only by fiendish Zionist plots for 36 years to date, Tehran is wholly dependent on Israel’s continuing occupation to justify its own domestic totalitarianism and more recently its own colonialist regional empire (re) building and occupation. As Ahwazi Arabs have known for a very long time, of course, the Iranian regime is little different in supremacist essence and bone-deep racism to its counterpart in Tel Aviv; indeed, it’s one more bitter irony that the Israeli occupation is less savage overall than that imposed by the ‘great liberators’ in Tehran, both domestically and regionally.

With the regional regimes and tyrants, however, their lie of support for Palestinian freedom at least has the excuse, however pathetic and contemptible it is, of being essential to their own survival. Those in the West who continue to cynically abuse the cause of Palestinian freedom to support, justify and/or deny Assad’s and Tehran’s genocidal oppression lack even that despicable and threadbare figleaf of justification. George Galloway, ‘Stop the War’, Cynthia McKinney and countless other prominent Western activists for Palestinian freedom (or for the freedom of those Palestinians under Israeli occupation, with other Palestinians being considered unworthy of liberation) lack even that miserable semi-excuse. Indeed, they continue to parrot Assad’s and Tehran’s now surreally obscene and utterly discredited script of anti-zionist, anti-imperialist revolutionary zeal to justify another, ongoing Nakba and regional occupation.
Even more ironically, the language of the selective Western supporters of (some) Palestinians’ freedom, like that of Assad and Iran, is now largely indistinguishable from that of the devoted Zionists and neocons who they claim are their sworn enemies; any barbarism, any crime against humanity, no matter how monstrous, up to and including ethno-sectarian cleansing and genocide, can be justified or mitigated as being part of a valiant battle against Islamist terrorism to protect the state, and those crimes which can’t be manipulated can be simply denied or ignored.

The nobility and rightness of the cause of Palestinian freedom, of Syrian freedom, of freedom as the right of all peoples, are unsullied by those who exploit others’ suffering to justify their own vast inhumanity. All that the exploiters reveal and emphasize is their own profound and utterly shameless moral bankruptcy.

from Radio Free Syria 

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pes 3WRITTEN BY Mary Rizzo.
We have all already heard of the phenomenon of PEP (Progressive Except on Palestine), in which those who consider themselves progressives (liberals in the USA) or leftists are pretty liberal on every single issue except the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But, their syndrome has been pointed out and diagnosed fully. A lot of them justify this position by saying that supporting the government of Israel is a liberal position. Their problems are not our problem… they need help that we surely can’t provide.

However, there is another phenomenon far more worrisome because it involves those who are Progressive ALSO for Palestine, and that is the case of PES (Progressive Except on Syria). Those who are afflicted by this malady feel safety in numbers, because they are in fact the majority of non-Palestinian supporters of Palestine. They will actually USE the argument of Palestine as justification of their support of Assad, even though his regime has a terrible record regarding Palestinians, (as did that of his father).  They will argue that support of Assad is a progressive (liberal) leftist value. Whether it’s called “selective humanitarianism” “double standards” or “hypocrisy”, it is a dangerous and insidious disease and should be cured. Here is a little test to discover if perhaps YOU are afflicted with this mental illness.

pes 2Do you perhaps suffer from PES without being aware of it? Fear no more! We’re happy to provide you a self-diagnosis test with simple YES / NO replies so that you can discover your own hypocritical stance, and hopefully, be on the path to the cure.

  1. Did you protest or complain about the unfairness of the USA elections for any reason but believe that Assad won a landslide victory in free and fair elections?
  2. Do you think that Assad is fighting terrorism?
  3. Do you think that the Palestinian cause is being defended by Assad?
  4. Do you believe that the war in Syria is all about foreign aggressiondue to their national and pan-Arab stances” and is not a people’s uprising? In fact, you think the whole Arab Spring has got to be “exposed” as an imperialist, western plot.
  5. Do you think that the Intifada in Palestine is legitimate and that the uprising in Syria is manufactured (while of course saying so having been paid guest to Assad’s presidential palace)?
  6. Do you think that the Palestinian cause is being defended by Hezbollah even when they target and kill Palestinian refugees and ignore the growing tensions between Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Hezbollah?
  7. Do you condemn religiously-inspired militias such as ISIS and Al Nusra when they commit murder and use violence against civilians but have not condemned Hezbollah when it commits murder and uses violence against civilians?
  8. Do you think that it was a good idea for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) to shoot on the Palestinians who mourned those killed on Naksa Day 2011?
  9. Have you called Gaza “the world’s largest open-air prison” but don’t agree with the UNHCR claim that Syria’s war “is more brutal and destructive than the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has turned into the worst humanitarian disaster since the end of the cold war.”?
  10. Have you endorsed or thought a No Fly Zone was a good idea for Gaza but reject it as Imperialist meddling or a bid to save Al Qaeda if it’s done in Syria?
  11. Do you condemn the Palestinians tortured to death in Israeli prisons (since 1967, a total of 72 Palestinians have been tortured to death) but have not condemned the 200 Palestinians tortured to death in Syrian prisons since 2011? You naturally probably don’t know about the at least 11.000 Syrians who were tortured to death inside these prisons.
  12. Do the at least 10,000 bodies of prisoners in Syrian regime prisons that were ordered to be catalogued by the regime mean nothing to you since you don’t have details on what the reasons for their deaths could be?
  13. Do you call for release of political prisoners from Israeli jails but do not call for the release of the tens of thousands of political prisoners in Syrian jails?
  14. Have you actually asked for money to bring Gazan children to make a protest for the NFZ but think that asking for a NFZ in Syria is a bid to help Al Qaeda?
  15. Do you think Al Qaeda and ISIS are Mossad / CIA inventions?
  16. Do you protest against the death penalty in the USA: Executions in 2014, 35, but don’t do the same for Iran: executions in 2014, Between 721 and 801 at least.
  17. Do you think it is wrong for the US to provide Israel with armaments because it engages in war crimes but at the same time, think it is justified for Russia to provide the Syrian regime with armaments and military experts because “it’s war against NATO”?
  18. Do you condemn Israel’s “extra judicial killing” but claim that Assad must do everything he needs to maintain power because blocking his actions in any way, even by condemning them “… could end up ousting Assad. It would mean replacing him with pro-Western stooge governance. It would eliminate another Israeli rival. It would isolate Iran. It would be disastrous for ordinary Syrians.”
  19. Have you ever praised Assad’s government because it is secular, or “fighting the enemy of the West”: because after all, you only see the alternatives being Assad or the “Islamic Fundamentalists”?
  20. Did you support Haniyeh and Meshaal until they started waving the Syrian revolution flag?
  21. Do you erroneously refer to the Syrian revolution flag as the “French Mandate Flag” ignoring that even the Assad regime celebrated it as the Independence flag each “Evacuation (Independence) Day on 17 April to celebrate the resistance against the French colonialists?
  22. Do you know the names of at least one Palestinian dissident/political writer but don’t know any Syrian ones?
  23. Do you call the opposition to Assad “Western-backed rebels” either from a Pro-Israel or Pro-Iran standpoint?
  24. Did you protest for Palestinian detainees and even know their names but not do the same for Palestinian detainees in Syrian’s prisons?
  25. Do you know the name of at least one minor arrested or killed by Israel but don’t know the name of at least one minor arrested or killed by the Assad regime?
  26. You have protested against the racist and discriminatory Apartheid Wall and checkpoints in Israel/Palestine but you have nothing much to say about Syrian military checkpoints and sniper-lined checkpoints?
  27. Did you get angry when a US newspaper used a photo of Iraqi deaths, claiming they were Syrian, but when Palestinian supporters use Syrian ones, it’s “illustrating the suffering in Gaza”?
  28. You have protested against Israeli use of phosphorus bombs but you have nothing much to say about the unconventional weapons use by Assad against both opposition fighters and civilians such as barrel bombs and chemical weapons?
  29. Are you critical of the US for intervening in affairs of other countries but think it’s normal for Iran and Russia to be sending troops into Syria to help the regime?
  30. You would never consider Palestine compromising with Israel but you believe that the opposition must compromise with the regime in Syria.
  31. Do you condemn the Saudi monarchy and refer to them as Wahhabis, Salafis, etc., but refuse to recognise that Iran is a theocracy?
  32. Do you think that Assad is simply doing everything he can to protect the minorities in his country?
  33. Do you call the Israeli occupation of Palestine ethnic cleansing but do not speak out against the regime-driven massacres in Syria that are ethnically based?
  34. Do you refer to the Assad regime, Hezbollah and Iran as the “Axis of Resistance” even when they don’t react to Israeli attacks on them?
  35. Do you think the following two statements are both true?
    a. Dissent in the United States is patriotic.
    b. Protesting in Syria is an assault on the State and needs to be quelled.
  36. Do you think the following two statements are true?
    a. Pepper spraying protesters in the USA is a violation of human rights.
    b. The Syrian regime has to use whatever force it deems necessary against protesters, because they protesters have violent intentions.
  37. Do you think that Israel must be brought to the ICC for crimes against humanity but think that the Syrian regime should not?
  38. Do you condemn the USA vetoes on the UN Security Council in favour of Israel but praise the Russian and Chinese ones in favour of Assad both to stop sanctions and to prohibit ICC investigation including three Chinese vetoes on Syria alone out of eight total vetoes in their history?
  39. Do you think the following statements are both true?
    a.Calling a U.S. citizen anti-American or un-American for being critical of the US government is ridiculous, knee-jerk, unintelligent and actually incorrect.
    b.People who are critical of Assad are closet or overt imperialists and want US control over the region.
  40. You do not believe that Russia is an imperialist state while you are certain that Syria is an anti-imperialist state defending itself against imperialist onslaught.
  41. Do you think that Erdogan is seeking to dominate politics in the region in an attempt to restore what was once the Ottoman Empire or even think the US is trying to establish an Islamic State but support Iranian domination and the Shi’a Crescent?
  42. Have you signed petitions against companies such as Soda Stream and Coca-cola but not against weapons provider, the Russian monopoly Rosoboronexport or even the western companies providing the Syrian and Iranian regimes with surveillance equipment that they use against dissidents and opposition?
  43. Do you call innocent victims killed by American drones or victims of war crimes but consider the Syrians and Palestinians killed by Syrian bombs and chemical weapons collateral damage?
  44. Do you reject the USA/UK “War on Terror” but believe that Assad has a right to use whatever means possible to kill whoever he considers as a terrorist in Syria and that Syria is a sovereign nation fighting Al Qaeda?
  45. Have you mentioned the Blockade on Gaza in conversations and know it is illegal and a crime against humanity but don’t feel the same about the Blockade on Yarmouk?
  46. Do you respond to criticism of Assad by pointing out USA human rights violations?
  47. You know the name of USA civilians killed by cops or vigilantes, but you don’t know the name of a single Syrian victim of torture in the Assad prisons.
  48. You have protested for the closure of Gitmo, but you don’t raise your voice or even one eyebrow over the Syrian Torture Archipelago in which “The systematic patterns of ill-treatment and torture [in the 27 detention facilities run by Syrian Intelligence] that Human Rights Watch documented clearly point to a state policy of torture and ill-treatment and therefore constitute a crime against humanity.” Moreover, you don’t want to notice that Syria’s government has been cooperating with the CIA extensively in renditions and the torture programme.
  49. You think that Israel should not have nuclear capacity but that Iran should have nuclear capacity. Extra points if you support Non-Proliferation. Super extra points if you participated in any No Nukes events in the West or signed any such petitions, super extra and mega extra points if you are against nuclear power.
  50. You believe that the Palestinian struggle is about human rights but the Syrian protests were sectarian and religious-oriented, driven by people who wanted to overthrow and overtake power illegitimately if not in fact manufactured by the West?
  51. Do you believe it’s normal for the Syrian constitution to be amended every time that it serves the Assad family but the US Constitution is sacred and especially no amendments should be made to limit gun possession whether you detest the US government or think it should basically call all the shots around the world?
  52. Do you think that Jews protesting the Israel government are noble people who are fighting for human rights and justice while any Syrian protesting the Assad regime are in cahoots with the Israeli government.
  53. Do you believe that, “We must not in any way call for the removal of President Assad unless he commits acts of terror against us. Assad’s government has committed no such act, thus rendering it criminal for foreign governments to undermine the Syrian regime. You either stand for national sovereignty, or against it. The choice is yours.” While at the same time have supported efforts from the liberals or conservatives to have Obama impeached?
  54. Do you believe that foreign countries helping the Palestinians militarily to win against Israel is legitimate but helping Syrians win against Assad is meddling and think that “any further intervention in Syria would be for U.S. interests, like weakening an ally of Iran, and would encourage Assad’s allies to step up their armament shipments. The carnage would continue, and perhaps increase.”?
  55. Do you reject claims that the involvement of Iran and Russia in favour of Assad is meddling?
  56. Do you think that the entire Syrian war is for the purpose of the US weakening Syria so that it can pursue its own interests in the region but ignore the fact that Russia has enormous interests in Syria that are far more evident?
  57. Have you ever found yourself denying Assad had chemical weapons but also applauding the Syrian regime’s decision to hand them over to Russia as a strong gesture towards peace?

pes 1

How many questions did you answer YES to?

Between 1 and 5? You are headed towards selective humanitarianism, or even are afflicted with Western Privilege Syndrome!

Between 6 and 10? You are dangerously using double standards and believe that human rights aren’t something universal, but allow your ideological or dogmatic prejudices to influence your ethical judgement!

Over 10? You are a dyed in the wool Hypocrite! Maybe you should avoid “current events” altogether, you have no understanding of what human rights and justice mean, you should wash your mouth out before you ever speak about human rights for Palestinians or anyone.

GAZA MS 1WRITTEN BY FIDA SHURRAB, PHOTOGRAPHS BY MOHAMMED HASSAN SHURRAB

Wars are always classified within historical eras with a start and end dates. However, do wars really have an end? Do wars end when bombings and strikes stop? Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, have witnessed three wars within six years, each war ended leaving a mass of destruction at all levels, and none of them has really ended. When the people in the Gaza Strip speak of the memories they have of the wars, all of a sudden, memories turn to be very alive scenes, as if the wars have taken a place in their hearts and souls.

Do we, in Gaza, overcome the trauma? Psychologists have to expand their theories in the post traumatic disorder interventions when it comes to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Living and surviving three wars is not an easy life story. Damages have occurred in our life system. In what way in the whole world can people get used to the sounds of bombs, because people in Gaza did? This needs to be brought to the attention of the whole world, the people in Gaza Strip lost their lives during the past three wars, they are alive but without souls, their humanity has been easily raped by the silence of the international world watching genocide taking place.

GAZA MS 2We gained nothing from wars! An old woman once said, as a survivor of three wars: “In the 2008 war, I lost my eyes, and in the 2014 war, I lost my home. Loss is all I’ve gained”. In wars, we harvest loss and pain. A child, 4 years old, keeps repeating: “Every time I go to sleep, I hear loud explosions, and I cover my face with a blanket to hide from the rockets. I am afraid of sleeping”. The war visits the people every night in their dreams. People, during the war, run under heavy shelling looking for a safe place, leaving their houses, people were displaced in the schools and the streets. Many of them lost their children when they were running. A young man, from Al Shejeaya, was holding his son in his hands while running looking for a shelter, when shrapnel hit his child, cutting him into pieces. This man has nothing to speak about except the moment of his biggest loss, he says: “Why live?! I lost my pregnant wife, and I could not protect my child, he died in my hands. All of my life was snatched away in a matter of seconds”.

We need to live without remembering the scenes of the massacres, we want to stop expecting wars at every second, is that a too much for a human being?

Having a tour of the massively destroyed neighborhoods in the Gaza Strip is not easy. The rubbles of thousands of houses are not only a pile of stones, those rubbles are huge amounts of stories, memories, dreams and hopes which all have been brutally scattered.

Meeting a mother who has lost a child in the war is like meeting a mountain dipped with anguish. All she can talk about is her child whom she lost, she does not speak of his/her death but rather of his/her life, hobbies, things they hated and things they loved, as if she denies the fact that she lost him/her forever; and telling her the truth is like committing a crime. Forgetting is impossible, but death has become a habit. Losing the souls of the beloved ones can take the lives of the survivors with them in the graves, this leads us to the fact that we are also buried in life.

GAZA MS3The war has done a hellish job in the Gaza Strip, the war did not end, people are still suffering its severe consequences, the only different thing is that the explosions have stopped; otherwise, the stories of pain and loss continue to be our antagonists in the Gaza Strip.

We Shall Not Forgive nor Forget!!!!

According to the UN reports:

  • 2,127 Palestinian citizens were killed during the 51 days of war. The number of deaths included 544 children and 302 women.
  • The number of wounded is 10,744, including 3,258 children and 2,089 women. About 3,000 wounded are expected to have lifelong disabilities.
  • About the Israeli attacks, the Israeli occupation carried out 60,664 attacks, including 8,210 airstrikes, 36,718 tank and artillery shells and 15,736 naval strikes.
  • The number of houses targeted by the occupation is 16,002, including 2,358 completely destroyed and 13,644 partially destroyed.

WRITTEN BY MARY RIZZO

What precisely is the USA doing regarding Syria? Has it changed its policy over the course of the years since the start of the protests in Syria in 2011? Are the events at the confines of Europe enough to bring a return of multilateralism in response to global crises or even a change in command? To answer the first two questions, it’s a good idea to understand what the USA has had as its goal regarding Syria. It would be too elementary to state simply that they are “looking after their own interests” and defining those interests only in two traditional compartments: control of energy and resources and management of Israel. The first compartment demands no explanation, the second is heavily tied in with maintaining the regional “instability” (not stability, as one might think) because as long as there is an illegal occupation that the USA traditionally supports economically and diplomatically, creating tensions internationally and allowing the USA and its allies to determine a military presence and accept that there is nuclear proliferation in the area, despite having themselves signed the NPT, they can continue to influence events and policies, thus making the control of energy and resources more successful.

everyone in power gets what they want.

everyone in power gets what they want.

However, it is not really either of those two issues that may be the driving interest of the USA regarding Syria. The USA, like any other country, naturally has to have an interest in order for them to do any kind of action, and refraining from an action while stating that actions could be taken is also an action. The USA has been very vocal regarding Syria and they have done specific actions since the start of the uprising, most of them, however, detrimental to Syrian people. The interest they have is to re-establish authority and influence with smaller countries within the new global situation where the relationship between the West and the East has changed. Oddly enough, this is the same problem that Russia has, left as it is without the clearly established balance of power and satellite states, and it seems that the arena for this to play out is Syria.

For a very long time some have attempted to deny that the Syrian people had ever risen up themselves. “Conspiracy buffs” as well as reactionary thinkers of every colour of the political spectrum, believed that it was not possible that civilians could continue to protest against their government even after the government reacted brutally to repress the protests, promising only more blood and destruction. Nor could these “thought leaders” or “vanguards of anti-imperialism” believe that there could be defections from the Syrian Army, where they formed a defensive army that later had the stated goal of overthrowing the government if the government would not step down. The government, naturally, had no intentions whatsoever to step down, and used the smokescreen of “sovereignty” in order to pursue its policy of using brutality to repress the protests and stay in power.

There are conditions both in international law and in what is established by customary international law where sovereignty is considered to be a lesser “right” than the right of protection of human life. In 1999, even without a UN mandate, customary international law permitted international intervention in Kosovo and it went under the journalistic name of “humanitarian war”, surprisingly, having as some of its supporters persons considered within the vanguard of humanitarianism such as Vaclav Havel who stated:

“I believe that during intervention of NATO in Kosovo there is an element nobody can question: the air attacks, the bombs, are not caused by a material interest. Their character is exclusively humanitarian: What is at stake here are the principles, human rights which are accorded priority that surpasses even state sovereignty. This makes attacking the Yugoslav Federation legitimate, even without the United Nations mandate.”

Right on the heels of the moral and practical questions regarding the appropriateness and feasibility of “humanitarian intervention”, scorned by some humanitarians and endorsed by others, comes the other pressing issue concerning intervention, no less bitterly disputed by humanitarians, that of “regime change”. The Syrian people, when they took to the streets to protest, as is now understood by even the staunchest defender of Assad, were not demanding a regime change. They were making explicit demands for reforms and against corruption and what was widely regarded as a governmental policy where privileges, opportunities and development were handed out or withheld along sectarian lines. Those closest to the regime had less trouble advancing and the average citizen was excluded from progress or actually discriminated against on a daily basis according to his or her religious or ethnic belonging. It didn’t take long for the demand for reforms to turn into a demand for Assad to give up his power, because no longer was it considered as legitimate. Not only for the not-insignificant matter that he basically inherited the power, for the leadership of Syria, following the coup of Bashar al-Assad’s father, was simply autocratic rule of a family dynasty with the Ba’ath party providing a way for non-family members to obtain some power.

SAVING ASSADThe uprising had all the aspects of a revolution, including mass defections of the regular army into a people’s army with the goal of overthrowing the government in power. The problem, however, is: once the government goes, something else is going to have to come after it, and neither the US administration nor the apologists in the west who go under the code name of “anti-imperialists” were willing to see some kind of self-determination of the people, since they had not been either groomed for democracy nor were the ideologically prepared to set up a state that would cater to the agendas of the anti-imperialists.

Can a people who are demanding the end of an illegitimate government (and the government did not gain in legitimacy simply by staging sham elections) have conditions put on them externally as well as the internal violence used by them so that they cease and desist? Is any assistance given so that they obtain their goal deemed as intervention? We’ve seen how the anti-imperialists aren’t against foreign intervention, since they strongly support that of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah in favour of the upholding of the regime, but they simply do not want US intervention, because they have “interests and an agenda”. Seeming to wish to appease this faction, though not wanting to close off future options, The US Administration used a non-interventionist approach, hoping that Assad would simply leave, or that there could be a political solution, because he had to know, he was a very, very bad man and the USA was going to verbally condemn him for as long as it took! The records are full of scores of condemnations from the Commander in Chief, the Secretary of State, the Spokesman for the White House and the UN representative. Obama has gone on record with a powerful statement of condemnation in February 2012, following the Homs Massacre:

“I strongly condemn the Syrian government’s unspeakable assault against the people of Homs, and I offer my deepest sympathy to those who have lost loved ones.  Assad must halt his campaign of killing and crimes against his own people now.  He must step aside and allow a democratic transition to proceed immediately. Thirty years after his father massacred tens of thousands of innocent Syrian men, women, and children in Hama, Bashar al-Assad has demonstrated a similar disdain for human life and dignity. Yesterday, the Syrian government murdered hundreds of Syrian citizens, including women and children, in Homs through shelling and other indiscriminate violence, and Syrian forces continue to prevent hundreds of injured civilians from seeking medical help.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton still thought there was a diplomatic solution to get Assad to step down, or simply “goes”, as she had said at the heels of the Hama Massacre in June 2012.

 “We’re disgusted by what we see happening. The regime-sponsored violence that we witnessed again in Hama yesterday is simply unconscionable,” she said. “Assad has doubled down on his brutality and duplicity, and Syria will not, cannot be peaceful, stable or democratic until Assad goes.”

Then a year and a half later, when the more crude massacres were being replaced by a seemingly endless, and still ongoing, campaign of barrel bombing on civilian areas outside of regime control, the White House continued to condemn the regime. Press secretary Jay Carney said:

“The United States condemns the ongoing air assault by Syrian government forces on civilians, including the indiscriminate use of SCUD missiles and barrel bombs in and around Aleppo over the last week.” Yet, he still believed that in spite of the policy of repeated air raids using SCUD missiles against civilians, he called on all parties in the Syrian conflict to “reach a comprehensive and durable political solution to end the crisis in Syria.”

Yeah, that usually works.

To not seem like they were just good at words but short on deeds, the US also supplied some forms of military aid and training. To a very select few, almost never providing them with what they asked for according to their needs, and absolutely not anything that might involve direct intervention or even the request for a No Fly Zone, a demilitarised zone in the sky that perhaps could not be properly enforced, but at least points in the right direction at the ending of aerial attacks. This aid had the characteristic of being just enough assistance to keep some pressure on Assad, but not enough assistance to remove him. Apparently, the US strategy is to wait for Assad to “step aside”, “go” or even be one of the parties to “reach a solution”. The way things are going the only Assad solution looks a lot like the final solution.

Is there still any doubt that the longer this regime stays in place, the worse things will be?

RED LINECould that truly abhorrent policy of “the worse things are, the better they are” be the endgame in the plans of the US? Is their current intervention – one that leaves Assad unharmed, allows his army to concentrate on fighting the “rebels” while others fight it out in the areas where the risks of loss of crucial air power are greater, allowing Assad to be constantly armed by Russia – a deliberate policy? The morphing into a War on Terrorism has become the excuse to intervene selectively while allowing the regime to remain in power. Despite the focus of the US solely on ISIS, it is clear that the only way to save whatever remains of Syria and stop the suffering of the Syrian people is to remove the regime by any means possible in the shortest time possible. To leave the regime in place is to allow a murderous dictator to continue his policy of mass destruction of the assets of the nation and genocide of the population. Therefore, the US solution is not a solution and it can’t be accepted. Stopping a dictator of this sort is one of the reasons that international law is granted legitimacy to intervene, taking precedence over any reasons of sovereignty, which have been violated at any rate by the Russian and Iranian contributions since the very beginning of the war.

There is and has been more than enough evidence, directly presented to the USA administration as well as available to the international community and even to private citizens to verify for themselves and that prove without the slightest doubt that the regime has engaged in actions within its own territory that are in violation of human rights. There is clear evidence that the regime is the perpetrator of massacres, including those deemed even more serious than massacres with conventional weapons because they involved use of weapons of mass destruction (chemical weapons). The western apologists repeated the regime line at first, denying that the regime even had any such things and that the massacres of civilians in opposition areas was work of the opposition itself so that they could frame Assad with crimes he did not commit, but Bashar al-Assad himself threw them all for a loop, finally making an “executive decision” to save his skin. He debunked many of these feckless supporters by agreeing to “surrender the chemical stockpiles” to an international body so that they could be destroyed as part of the reassuring deal that the US would refrain from military intervention as a result of the regime turning over its enormous stock of WMDs, including of course, the very Sarin gas that the Assad supporters claimed did not exist.

Where the USA was willing to appease and be appeased, assured that if they intervened, it would never be enough to change the game, or upset their “rival” Russia, and surely not have the aim of regime change, the European Council, in its Foreign Affairs meeting press release stated:

“Non-inclusive policies in Iraq, and instability in Syria caused by the Assad regime’s brutal war against its own people, massive human rights violations and systematic obstruction against democratic reforms, have allowed ISIL /Da’esh to flourish. As a consequence of its policies and actions, the Assad regime cannot be a partner in the fight against ISIL /Da’esh.”

And further:

“The EU is seriously concerned about the humanitarian and security situation in Syria and Iraq and condemns unreservedly the attacks, atrocities, killings and abuses of human rights perpetrated by ISIL / Da’esh and other terrorist groups in both countries as well as by the Assad regime in Syria. The EU is determined to contribute to the international endeavour to defeat those terrorist groups. A Syrian led political transition and inclusive political governance in Iraq are crucial to sustainable peace and stability in the region.”

The question comes naturally, has the USA unequivocally condemned the Assad regime in such clear terms, even attributing to his regime “allowing ISIL/Da’esh to flourish”? The answer is, “No”.

The US is aware that the EU collectively does not possess its own army to enforce the military policies that might derive from Foreign Affairs directives. It does not have the unified military might to actually “contribute” to defeating terrorist groups, though, differently from the “Coalition intervention”, the EU has officially rejected having Assad as a partner in defeating them. In fact, it implicates that the transition to follow the war will be Syrian in Syria and Iraqi in Iraq. It envisions victory in the “war on terror”, but it also rejects what is so far the Russian paradigm of support of the regime and the US one of tolerance of it. The US however, isn’t that concerned about what the EU will or will not do or want, because while they prefer multilateralism, if their allies don’t have the same plans, the US will carry on without any problems in unilateralism.

Tensions are increasing in the Eastern European countries that see the return of Russian expansionism.

Tensions are increasing in the Eastern European countries that see the return of Russian expansionism.

Now that Russia has also returned to its tendencies of expansionism, States under its influence and economically tied to it are undergoing dramatic events so as to get closer to Europe. This increased tension in the area, the blurred line between West and East, is going to contribute to just how far Russia is willing to go for broke with its own interests. Is Russia powerful enough and interested enough to face down both the US and the EU in a power battle that is playing out in Syria and the Ukraine? The veto power in the Security Council only goes so far, at the end of the day, wars are fought on the battlefield. The US is willing to flex its muscles, but not upset the balance too much. The EU would be in a unique position of bringing the war to a quicker end if they are serious and not just using the “condemning” in the traditional way, but they would need to enlist individual armies in the effort, something that is highly unlikely. The vast military spending each nation has, while paling in comparison to other countries, still has provided most of Europe with the most advanced systems on the market. Many of the air forces in Europe are equipped not only with a substantial amount of extremely costly F35s of dubious quality, but also with scores of Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoons and other advanced fighter planes. These aircraft must have been placed into the budgets of these nations not only to decorate the hangars and give pilots something to practice on. It would be feasible for several air forces alone to enforce a No Fly Zone if there is political will to do so. There already is more than enough legal justification for such action. So not acting militarily, even taking into account the difficulty of such a thing, seems to be a matter of choice. All of that will turn what was a revolution indeed into a proxy war, at the expense of the Syrian people. There are better choices to be made, and they have to be made before it is too late. If the US is unwilling to do what is necessary to stop a genocide, Europe should take the lead in international affairs. Not only will it help save Syria and its people, but it will establish multilateralism, which itself is a requirement for self-determination in post war transitional periods.

Against war and imperialism. Now and forever Resistance.

WRIT Against war and imperialism. Now and forever Resistance.

WRITTEN BY FOUAD ROUEIHA, translated by Mary Rizzo

I keep on seeing photos and videos that come out of Syria passed off as if proof of the atrocities committed by the Israelis in Palestine… but with everything the Zionists are doing, is there really any need to turn to these falsifications to make the point?

Moreover, I see these images on the pages of people who for over three years have not given a damn about what is happening in Syria, that is, in the instances when some of them were not rooting for the criminal Assad and his disgusting allies.

When faced with the same images (with the sole difference being the caption, which indicates Palestinians as the victims and Israelis as the perpetrators) there is today those who “shout” their protest and indignation on the social networks while seeing them in action for the past 3 years, they never did anything for Syria but repeat that the situation was “too complex for me to take sides on” or that “Assad’s surely no saint, but at least he is secular” (as if Hamas, which today will get their support because they deem it the legitimate resistance, was a secular movement).

The latest example? The video in the link below in which Assad soldiers are torturing a misfortunate soul while continuing to repeat to him in Arabic, with a clear inflection common to Alawite speech, “So you want freedom?” … a phrase that is sadly known among Syrian activists:
https://www.facebook.com/magarimuori/posts/837975529547680

But there is an abundance of examples, in recent days I have seen the famous (for us Syrians) video of the Syrian refugee boy who was beaten by a Lebanese boy upon incitement of his  family, also this was passed off as “”Israeli boy who beats a Palestinian boy in the West Bank”… when I mentioned it to the random “know-it-all” (who from his profile boasts Iraqi origins and is always posting the Qu’ran in transliteration and translation) he answered, “In fact, the dialect seems Lebanese, but I can assure you that in Israel much worse things happen”… So, someone who doesn’t know that in Israel Hebrew is spoken and not Arabic, and then claiming to recognise the Arabic dialects when in actuality the distinction between the dialect of northern Palestine and southern Lebanon is so slight that it would not be able to be detected unless by a highly trained ear.

If the solidarity between ourselves and the Palestinian people wasn’t written in our history, our soul and our culture, these disgusting propagandists that once again humiliate our dead by taking advantage of the documentation of their suffering for their own purposes would have been enough to break our connections.

But luckily, they won’t be able to do that. The pro-Palestinian movement however, which for decades I felt part of, appears to me to be more of a shadow, a tradition. The support for Palestine is an indispensable trendy position of the “leftist” groups, including those who are nostalgic for Stalinism, and instead of being a true desire of solidarity and support FOR the Palestinians, it is a movement AGAINST Israel and the United States (and make no mistake, their policies make me sick as well) in an aprioristic manner and not limited to healthy anti-zionism or anti-capitalism.

Speaking with Palestinians who live in Palestine and not connected to political movements (and therefore, excluded from the élite of Ramallah or Gaza) the reciprocity of solidarity between us Syrians and them is more than evident, in addition to the historical reasons that unite us there is also the deep reciprocal understanding of our suffering. But Palestinians abroad that talk are especially those who are close to the dominant groups, those who don’t accept the criticisms of the Oslo Accords or the Palestinian National Authority, or classic case, those people who support Assad and yet never talk about the Palestinians persecuted by him in Syria or in the siege of Yarmouk.

palestina_liberaIn particular, the “pro-Palestinians” who stand by Assad are in general the same ones who chant “Free Palestine, Red Palestine” in the protests, leaving out the fact that for Palestine to be truly free it has to be the Palestinians alone who decide if it should be red or yellow or purple or anything else… otherwise we will act just like the governments that we have criticised when they isolated the Palestinian government the day after Hamas won them in what were considered fair elections, in those days we said: “We aren’t fond of Hamas, but democracy means also letting those we don’t like govern when they win.”

These characters talk of international interests, regional equilibrium, energy market, areas of influence, national sovereignty… but never once have be heard them talk about popular sovereignty, will of the people, of the reasons that brought the Arab masses to fearlessly stand before bullets.

They assume that the people who have filled the streets and squares in protest don’t have their own will, their own personal reasons or agency, but that instead they follow the designs or interests that manoeuvre every event like demiurges, with the amazing capacity to control to the smallest detail complex dynamics in which the number of variables is incalculable and among them, the illogical way that humans sometimes act, which social sciences only are able to forecast according to probability, getting their forecast wrong most of the time.

There is a subtle (but not even too much) racism in the incredulity of those who don’t think that the Arab populations desire freedom and dignity, desires that evidently can only be born from mature societies like the western ones, countries that have obtained democracy in spite of the fact that 3 days before the hanging of the corpse of Mussolini in Piazzale Loreto they were hailing the dictator or who had democratically elected Hitler. Those who say that Arab societies are primordial and tribal, used to a perpetual state of conflict and fatalist to the point of not giving value to the lives of individuals. Societies permeated by superstition and an invasive religion, populations that need a strong leader to prevent them from self-destructing, winding themselves into a spiral of barbarity that is comprised of throat-cutters, decapitation, stoning, flagellation and infibulation.

That the dictatorships (illuminated? Benevolent?) are the best instrument for preparing a society for a democratic evolution is just one of their pet concepts…

There is not much difference in this from the racism of those who insist that the populations of the Middle East are angelic: the Arabs are fearless revolutionaries, incorruptible, willing to become martyrs at all costs to defend their cause and their land. The Arab culture is that of hospitality, tolerance and friendship, not yet exposed to the defects of capitalism and materialism.

Ladies and gentlemen, it might seem strange to you, but the Arabs are simply persons, who suffer for their dead and cry for their children when they know they are going to be tortured. Among the Arabs are people who take advantage of the gaps in power caused by the revolution so that they can create their own little empires or for their own personal gain. There are noble heroes and scum of the Earth, fine thinkers and hopeless bigots. Just like some criminals managed to sneak themselves in with the resistance fighters against Fascism, there are some who let themselves go to personal vendettas, looting and taking advantage of the situation, in the exact same way that there is “among us”. Just like there are those who sacrificed their own lives, those who divide their pitiful crumbs of bread with their brothers in arms, but also with their enemies, there are shining examples among the revolutionaries but there are also among the supporters of the Ba’ath regime decent persons who take no part in the crimes of Assad, while all the same preferring his regime to uncertain alternatives that risk to become the caliphate of Baghdadi… a black and white world does not exist, let’s leave the die-hard fan where he belongs, in the stadium.

Do we want to do activism? Let’s do it for human rights, for self-determination of peoples, let’s do it listening to the people and not who claims to represent them. Let’s do it asking ourselves questions without thinking that we have simple, final or complete answers, leaving everyone the benefit of the doubt. Let’s do it with humility and without paternalism or idolatry of those we support.

20.000 - 30.000 civils sont toujours pris au piège à l'intérieur du camp.   #SaveYarmoukCamp  Les souffrances continuent sans répit dans le camp de réfugiés de Yarmouk.

20.000 – 30.000 civils sont toujours pris au piège à l’intérieur du camp.
#SaveYarmoukCamp
Les souffrances continuent sans répit dans le camp de réfugiés de Yarmouk.

Wesam est un jeune palestinien qui milite au sein de “JAFRA”, une organisation communautaire qui aide la population de Yarmouk, en Syrie. Il a très gentillement accepté de répondre à nos questions, pour le public italien, mais pas seulement celui destiné à la Péninsule, puisqu’aussi bien Wesam aurait pu s’exprimer en anglais si son interviewer n’avait pas été arabophone. Cet entretien est la traduction anglaise de la version italienne tirée de l’arabe d’origine. (Interview & traduction italienne de Fouad Rouieha, traduction anglaise de Mary Rizzo, traduction française de Eric Lamy). 

Commençons par décrire Yarmouk.

Le camp de réfugiés de Yarmouk est situé au sud de Damas. Il s’étend sur plus de sept kilomètres carrés, juste à côté des districts du centre, tel celui de Midan Zahir. Pour faire court, le camp fait partie du tissu urbain de Damas. Avant le début de la révolte, il comptait 700.000 âmes, dont 220.000 palestiniens d’origine, le reste étant des syriens. Le camp de Yarmouk fut établi en 1957 : la majorité des palestiniens qui y vivent sont des fils de réfugiés de 48, principalement originaires du nord de la Palestine auxquels s’ajoutèrent ceux qui vinrent de Jordanie en 67 et 70. Avant la révolution en Syrie, Yarmouk était une zone économique florissante, considérée comme la capitale de la diaspora palestinienne. Il s’y tenait un marché considérable, le commerce y prospérait. Une véritable ferveur pour les questions sociales et politiques y prévalait, sans oublier ce dynamisme culturel qui faisait de Yarmouk le centre culturel de Damas, le lieu où il se passait quelque chose, où des festivals étaient organisés. Un grand nombre d’artistes célèbres sont originaires de Yarmouk. Pareil à d’autres quartiers, mais plus particulièrement animé, les rues étaient peuplées de boutiques et de restaurants que fréquentaient tous les damascènes. Le weekend, ou pendant les congés, les rues étaient si populeuses qu’on avait du mal à y circuler ; c’était un quartier très peuplé mais également réputé pour la sécurité qu’il offrait.

Vous parlez de l’existence d’un activisme politique, mais être militant, en Syrie, était complètement tabou à cause de la surveillance policière et de la répression toujours possible. Était-ce différent pour les palestiniens ?

J’ai mentionné l’activisme politique en rapport avec la Cause Palestinienne, qui n’avait pas de lien avec la situation syrienne. Yarmouk était une des bases pour les factions palestiniennes : le Front Populaire, le Hamas, le Front Populaire-Commandement Général, le Jihad Islamique, le Fatah… l’activité politique autorisée impliquait le camp de Yarmouk et la Palestine, mais rien qui pût se rapporter directement à la Syrie. Les syriens vivant à l’extérieur du camp assistaient à nos discussions, mais tant qu’il n’était question que de Palestine, tant que la politique syrienne n’était pas évoquée, il n’y avait aucun problème.

Une rue de Yarmouk.

Une rue de Yarmouk.

Parlez-nous de la cohabitation entre syriens et palestiniens-syriens. Peut-on parler d’intégration réussie ou, au contraire, a-t-on assisté à la création d’une sorte de ghetto ?

Entre nous, personne ne faisait de différence. À Yarmouk, nous avons vécu ensemble pendant 50 à 60 ans. Les mariages mixtes sont monnaie courante et nous sommes tous mélangés. Il faut dire que parfois une même famille est partagée entre les deux nations (la Palestine du Nord et la Syrie méridionale n’étant pas séparées à l’époque qui a précédé l’exil palestinien ; des familles et des clans étaient établis de chaque côté de la frontière. Il n’y a pas de différence entre syriens, palestiniens, libanais et jordaniens car des relations d’amitié et de parenté ont toujours existé.

On dit qu’au début de la révolution les palestiniens-syriens du camp ont tenté de se démarquer du conflit.

Non, nous n’avons pas tenté de nous en affranchir : il y a eu un débat considérable pour déterminer si le camp devait s’investir dans la confrontation. Une partie d’entre nous pensait que les militants de Yarmouk qui voulaient se joindre à la révolution devaient s’engager en dehors du camp, sans l’impliquer. Nous savions que si Yarmouk était visé par des représailles, elles seraient extrêmement violentes : c’est malheureusement ce qui est arrivé. Ensuite, l’idée à circulé selon laquelle Yarmouk pourrait être un lieu de repli sûr pour les syriens déplacés, pour les blessés, afin de leur permettre d’accéder aux soins médicaux et au ravitaillement. Au cours des deux premières années, Yarmouk à rempli ce rôle. Quand les affrontements ont éclaté dans les zones de Al Hajar Aswad ou de Tadamon, Yarmouk était un centre de distribution de produits médicaux et d’entraide. Nous accueillions les réfugiés. Avant eux, nous avions déjà recueilli les réfugiés de Homs : il y avait là tant de familles ! Pour eux, nous avons ouverts des refuges, profitant des écoles de l’UNRWA (agence de Nations Unies pour les Réfugiés Palestiniens, n.d.l.t.) et de celles de l’état. C’était des refuges protégés pour ces gens où ils furent accueillis, nourris et logés. Lorsque le Commandement Général à incité certains d’entre nous à prendre les armes contre l’Armée Syrienne Libre, Yarmouk a été directement impliqué dans les combats : l’ASL est entrée dans le camp et il devint, comme les autres districts de Damas, la cible du régime syrien.

On nous a rapporté des abus commis par l’ASL…

Ceux qui sont entrés dans Yarmouk n’étaient pas tous de même obédience : il y avait là des tas de gens différents et, parmi eux, des criminels de droit commun déguisés en révolutionnaires, comme cette “Brigade des Fils du Golan” qui était, en fait, un gang de kidnappeurs et de voyous. Ils ont incendié des maisons et en ont pillé d’autres. Cela a duré 6 mois, puis l’ASL, constituée de palestiniens et de syriens, les à délogés du camp.

 Concernant la révolution syrienne, qu’elle est la position des factions palestiniennes à l’intérieur du camp ?

Elle est contradictoire : d’un côté, les partisans du FPLP-GC, du Fatah Al Intifada qui combattaient aux côtés des loyalistes. Les proches du Hamas ainsi que des groupes indépendants se battaient contre le régime. La division qui existe dans la population syrienne est la même qui affecte la société syro-palestinienne.

une victime de la famine.

Une victime de la famine.

Pouvez-vous chiffrer la population vivant à l’intérieur du camp ?

Nos données diffèrent de celles de l’UNRWA : nous sommes sur une base de 25 à 30.000 personnes, dont 5000 syriens, le reste des résidents étant palestiniens. Ceux qui sont restés n’ont nulle part où aller et il n’y a plus de place dans les refuges. Pauvres d’entre les pauvres, ces palestiniens et ces syriens n’ont pas d’argent pour louer une maison et ils n’ont pu trouver de place dans les dispensaires du camp. Certains d’entre eux ont pu, un temps, s’installer dans les différents jardins publics de Damas, mais ils en sont revenus. Il y a aussi ceux qui n’ont pu fuir de peur que leur fils soit enrôlé de force dans l’armée. Il y a là des gens qui n’ont pas de papiers, pas de carte d’identité et ne peuvent donc pas sortir du camp. Soyons un peu logiques : il y a 30.000 civils à Yarmouk. S’ils avaient vraiment été des combattants, Damas serait tombée en 2 jours ! Parmi les hommes en armes à l’intérieur du camp, on compte environ 1000 palestiniens et 500 syriens : voilà tous les combattants du camp. Ces palestiniens sont natifs de Yarmouk. Ils ont formé des comités de dėfense, pas seulement contre le régime mais pour des raisons de sécurité interne : les institutions ont volė en éclat, l’anarchie est partout. Il fallait protéger les résidents des voleurs, des kidnappeurs. Ces comités de défense remplissent, en fait, une fonction de police. Il leur arrive même de régler des problèmes familiaux.

Aujourd’hui, comment décririez-vous la situation humanitaire ?

Yarmouk vit sous siège partiel depuis décembre 2012. Cela signifie que les civils peuvent entrer et sortir avec ce qu’ils peuvent transporter. Bien sûr, les camions chargés de nourriture sont interdits. Depuis le début du siège, nous n’avons réussi qu’à faire entrer 4 camions, ce qui a entraîné l’arrestation de quelques volontaires et la mort de Khaled Bakrawi. En juin 2013, le siège à été complètement fermé : plus personne ne put entrer ou sortir, plus de nourriture, plus de produits médicaux, plus aucun bien de consommation ne furent autorisés à pénétrer à l’intérieur du camp. Au bout de 4 mois sont apparus des cas extrêmes de malnutrition et les gens ont commencé à mourir. À ce jour, nous avons répertorié 154 cas de décès dûs à la faim, sans parler des cas où la faim n’est qu’un facteur du de la mort. La nourriture continue de manquer ; il y a bien eu des tentatives diplomatiques ces deux derniers mois qui n’ont abouti qu’à la livraison de 12000 paniers-repas qui ne permettent chacun que d’assurer la subsistance d’une famille de 4 personnes pendant 10 jours. Quiconque en a reçu un n’a plus rien aujourd’hui. Plus tard, 5000 paniers contenant de la confiture, des dattes et un peu de pain furent distribués. Cette dernière livraison fut assurée par l’UNRWA, tandis que nous avons réussi à en distribuer entre 4 à 5000.

Des volontaires de JAFRA distribuent des sacs de nourriture.

Des volontaires de JAFRA distribuent des sacs de nourriture.

La situation médicale et sanitaire : il n’y avait qu’un seul hôpital en activité à Yarmouk, l’Hôpital de Palestine, qui a été fermé par suite du manque de carburant (“mazot”, une sorte de fioul utilisé pour les groupes électrogènes et les stérilisateurs, ndlt). Comme l’électricité a été coupée dans le camp il y a treize mois, l’hôpital ne peut plus compter que sur les générateurs. Il n’y a plus de produits médicaux dans le camp et le seul médecin présent à Yarmouk a été tué il y a 6 mois, comme il sortait de l’hôpital, au cours d’un bombardement. Le personnel médical ne se compose plus que d’infirmières ; leur travail est guidé par l’expérience, mais ils ne sont ni médecins, ni spécialistes. Le mois dernier, nous avons pu exfiltrer 400 cas graves hors du camp. Au cours de l’évacuation, certains ont pourtant été arrêtés par les forces de sécurité du régime. À ce jour, nous avons des cas de malades qui réclament leur évacuation, mais il est absolument impossible aux civils de quitter le camp.

Parlez-nous de la vie quotidienne d’un résident de Yarmouk. J’imagine qu’il est peu probable qu’il puisse y travailler ?

Il n’y a plus de travail à l’intérieur du camp. Les routes sont fermées : pas de déplacement, pas de commerce possible. Le problème majeur est le prix élevé de la nourriture, car la contrebande de denrées est apparue. Il y a un mois et demi, un kilo de riz coûtait environ 12.000 livres syriennes (LS), l’équivalent d’à peu près 70$. Le tarif a baissé légèrement le mois dernier, mais il faut se dire qu’il coûtait 1$ voici trois ans, qu’il coûte 1$ dans les zones qui entourent le camp, soit soixante-dix fois moins ! Un litre de fioul pour groupe électrogène revient à environ 600/700 LS et coûte seulement 100 LS dans Damas. De toutes façons, il n’en reste presque plus à l’intérieur du camp. Certaines ONG – dont notre Fondation JAFRA – ont mis en place des projets agricoles d’auto-suffisance à l’intérieur du camp. Cela n’a pas trop bien marché l’hiver dernier à causes du temps, mais cela va beaucoup mieux. Il y a ceux qui ramassent de l’herbe dans les prés, et nous avons recensé 5 morts dûs aux snipers du régime qui surveillent ces prés. Les autres se contentent d’exister à l’intérieur de Yarmouk, fouillent les maisons abandonnées à la recherche de nourriture, une poignée de riz ou de farine, quelques épices, n’importe quoi qui puisse se manger. Voilà comment vivent ces gens…

Au cours des mois écoulés, lors de tentatives d’introduire des convois d’aide humanitaire, des attaques ont eu lieu : le régime en a rejeté la responsabilité sur les rebelles.

Il ne s’agissait pas d’attaques directes, bien qu’il y ait eu des tirs dont nous n’avons pas pu établir l’origine. Les deux parties s’accusent mutuellement. La milice accuse le Commandement Général, et celui-ci dénonce les islamistes armés. En réalité, des tirs de la milice ont empêché la distribution mais, franchement, je ne pense pas que l’intention était délibérée. Ils souffrent du siège comme les autres et sont logés à la même enseigne. Je crois plutôt qu’au cours d’un engagement avec les forces loyalistes les convois ont été pris entre deux feux.

 Pour finir, avez-vous un message à faire passer à la société italienne ?

Il y a à peu près 30.000 personnes dans le camp de Yarmouk, dont 1200 enfants. Beaucoup sont nés pendant le siège. J’y étais il y a trois mois : ces enfants ne savent plus le goût de la nourriture. L’un d’entre eux rêve de déguster une simple pomme de terre, de manger quelque chose de bon, quelque chose de sucré. Des personnes âgées ont besoin de remèdes pour leur tension artérielle, leurs problèmes cardiaques, leur diabète, tous les traitements simples et basiques dont le manque total cause leur décès. Les blessés sont contraints à l’amputation par faute de simple traitement. Pas de médicament, pas de médecin ! Nous avons besoin de vaccins pour nos enfants. Les problèmes sont immenses : ils n’ont plus la moindre idée de ce qu’est une vie normale et n’imaginent même plus comment est-ce en dehors du camp. Quelle faute ont donc commis ces enfants et ces civils pour souffrir autant ? Ce qui se passe à Yarmouk est contraire à tout principe d’humanité, contraire à toute notion de patrie, contraire à toute idée de panarabisme, toutes choses pour lesquelles le régime syrien se targue d’être en première ligne !

English: http://radiofreesyria1.wordpress.com/2014/05/06/extreme-suffering-in-yarmouk-camp-interview-with-wesam-sabaaneh/

WRITTEN BY NICOLE MAGNOONA GERVITZ

Hafez al-Assad (second from left) is briefed by one of his officers in a reserve trench. Next to Hafez al-Assad is Defense Minister Mustafa Tlas, and next to Tlas is Rifaat al-Assad, 1973.

Hafez al-Assad (second from left) is briefed by one of his officers in a reserve trench.
Next to Hafez al-Assad is Defense Minister Mustafa Tlas, and next to Tlas is Rifaat al-Assad, 1973.

Black September 1970: Hafez al Assad made the decision to send tanks into Jordan to support the Palestinians against Hashemite King Hussein. The PLO won popular support amongst the Arab masses after the regimes were thoroughly discredited in the 1967 humiliation at the hands of Israel. King Hussein ordered his Jordanian military to attack the PLO forces in Jordan because of their declared policy to overthrow him. Assad refused to send any major Syrian military support because he feared another war with Israel would erupt. He refused to provide air cover to the Syrian tanks and they were forced to withdraw following the bombardment by the Jordanians. This left the Palestinians isolated, abandoned, and several thousand of them were massacred by Hussein’s Jordanian military. Only a few weeks after Black September is when Hafez al Assad led his military coup in Damascus.

1973: Syria attempted to regain control of the Golan Heights and it was another failure. Hafez al Assad found himself becoming the security guard for Israel’s northern border. Colonel Rafik Halawi, the Druze commander of the infantry brigade that was destroyed by the Israelis in the Golan, was executed under the orders of Hafez before the war even came to an official close. The Syrian regime claimed he was killed in battle with Israel and anyone who was caught saying anything otherwise was threatened with torture and imprisonment.

Palestinian soldiers in Lebanon, 1976

Palestinian soldiers in Lebanon, 1976

1976: Hafez al Assad supported the Lebanese Christian fascist Phalangists against the Lebanese Communist-PLO alliance that had formed in opposition to both Phalangist and Ba’athist tyranny. The Syrian military’s invasion of Lebanon in 1976 was approved by the US. However, the Lebanese Communist-PLO alliance wiped the floor with the Syrian occupation forces in June of that year. Two months later Hafez al Assad made an example out of such resistance. The Phalangists, backed by Hafez al Assad, committed a massacre of Palestinian people at the Tal al Zaatar refugee camp. With the blessing of the Arab League the Syrian government decided to ally itself with Israel to prevent the defeat of the Phalangists. They besieged the Palestinian camps of both Karantina and Tel al Zaatar with Syrian weaponry and 2,000 Palestinian people were slaughtered. An open letter from the Palestinian resistance within the camps was released that summer;

“Syrian weapons are being used – most unfortunately – against our camp, while the rulers of Damascus continue to repeat that they are here in Lebanon in order to defend our camp. This is a murderous lie, a lie which pains us more than anyone else… But we wish to inform you that we will fight in defense of this camp with our bare hands if all our ammunition is spent and all our weapons are gone, and that we will tighten our belts so that hunger will not kill us. For we have taken a decision not to surrender and we shall not surrender…”

Palestinian refugees fleeing Tel al Zataar refugee camp. Merit goes also to Hafez Al-Assad

Palestinian refugees fleeing Tel al Zataar refugee camp. Merit goes also to Hafez Al-Assad

 

Photographs of a few of the tens of thousands of Syrians massacred in Hama in 1982.

Photographs of a few of the tens of thousands of Syrians massacred in Hama in 1982.

1980’s: As part of its vicious crackdown against leftist dissidents during the 1980’s Hafez al Assad’s regime arrested hundreds of activists from both the Party for Communist Action and the Syrian Communist Party in an attempt to smother the last remaining voices of dissent after it had crushed the Muslim Brotherhood. It was the Syrian Communists who worked with a group of Palestinian dissidents called the Palestinian Popular Committee in the Yarmouk refugee camp in the Damascus governate. The Palestinian Popular Committee was founded in 1983 but was forced to dissolve two years later as a result of Hafez al Assad’s campaign of arrests. 200 members of the Party for Communist Action were arrested by the Syrian security forces in 1986.

The PLO began to splinter in 1983. Colonel Saed Abu Musa was Arafat’s rival and he led a rebellion amongst al Fatah in the Bekaa Valley. Abu Musa had been a professional soldier in the Jordanian army before joining the PLO. The Syrian regime supported him and assisted in supplying him with weapons. Abu Musa and his followers ran Arafat’s men out of Tripoli that summer. When a reporter from Newsweek asked Yasir Arafat for a comment regarding this mutiny he responded with, “Don’t ask me about the puppets and the horses of Troy… Assad wants my pen. He wants the Palestinian decision, and I won’t give it to him.” Most of the Palestinian refugees chose Arafat over a Syrian puppet, but as a result of Hafez’s meddling Arafat’s men were forced out of Tripoli and the Palestinian resistance was disempowered.

In the “War of the Camps” between 1985 and 1988 Hafez al Assad recruited the Shia Lebanese Amal Movement. It was in armed conflict with Hezbollah at the time and it opened fire on the Palestinians and Hezbollah simultaneously.

Lebanon: Tripoli is a Sunni majority city with an Alawite minority that is given financial support by Syrian government. Syrian Alawites are placed in the Lebanese Parliament entirely due to pressure from Damascus. Lebanon’s naturalization laws are also completely subverted. Palestinian refugees who have lived in the impoverished refugee camps since the Nakba of 1948 and its sequel in 1967 cannot attain Lebanese citizenship whatsoever, but Syrian Alawites can at any time.

a scene from within the Tadmur prison, where many political dissidents were tortured to death.

a scene from within the Tadmur prison, where many political dissidents were tortured to death.

2000: While Bashar al Assad was praising the second intifada hundreds of Palestinians were languishing in his jails. Attieyeh Dhiab Attieyeh, a Palestinian in his early 30’s, died in Tadmur prison in early 2000 due to medical neglect. He was already very ill when he was transferred in Tadmur in 1996. Attieyeh was a member of Fatah, the faction led by Yasser Arafat, and had been arrested in 1989 in south Lebanon before being sent to Syria.

2008: There is a similarity between the Hama massacre of 1982 and Cast Lead. In both massacres the minarets of the mosques were destroyed by the invading occupation forces. They claimed that the minarets were being used by Islamist snipers. There’s no evidence of that in either situation, but there is evidence of the distaste for orthodox Islam expressed by both sets of perpetrators.

May 2011: A few Palestinians from the Yarmouk camp managed to break the siege on Deraa and deliver some desperately needed medical supplies.

Sending Palestinians directly into the line of fire.

Sending Palestinians directly into the line of fire.

Nakba Day 2011: Hundreds of Palestinians from the refugee camps in and around Damascus were bused to the demilitarized zone that separates Syria from the Golan Heights. The safety of the Palestinian civilians was not prioritized. The fence was breached and Israeli occupation forces opened fire and a dozen Palestinian people were killed. There was a repeat of this bloodshed in June on Naksa Day; the anniversary of the outbreak of the June War in 1967. Another dozen Palestinians were shot and killed. This was unprecedented because never before had the Syrian government bused hundreds of Palestinian people to the Golan on either anniversary. Why 2011? To deflect attention from the ongoing slaughter in the streets. One of the main intelligence branches in Syria deals only with Palestine-related issues. It’s impossible for the Syrian government to not have known that a breach of the fence in the Golan would’ve cost Palestinian lives.

images (6)Fall 2011: Ghiyath Matar, a young man with Palestinian origins living in the Daraya suburbs of Damascus, pioneered the tactic of handing out roses and water to the Alawite security forces sent to shoot demonstrators. By early September of 2011 he was dead. His mangled corpse was delivered to his family four days after his arrest. Several US envoys attended his funeral. The spokespeople for the Assad regime said an armed gang was responsible for Ghiyath’s torture and death, and that is half true because, after all, there was an armed gang running the government.

As a result of Bashar al Assad’s genocidal campaign of government repression Yarmouk became a home for one million internally displaced Syrian refugees by the end of 2011. When the Free Syrian Army gained ground in the southern suburbs of Damascus the Syrian military began to shell the camp while, at the same time, arming the pro-regime PFLP-GC. Mortars were fired at the camp by Assad’s forces before the FSA ever stepped foot in it.

victims of the mosque massacre in central Yarmouk, from Syrian Air Force bomb raids

victims of the mosque massacre in central Yarmouk, from Syrian Air Force bomb raids

Summer 2012: Alawite para-militaries who lived in Nisreen street, close to Yarmouk, opened fire on a massive anti-government demonstration. They killed ten Palestinians, including a little boy.

Fall 2012: The FSA set up a supply line through Yarmouk, and massive collective punishment at the hands of the regime ensued. Syrian government forces and Alawite militias encircled Yarmouk and by October of 2012 the entrances to the camp were only open two or three days a week. The civilians bore the brunt of the violence; starvation, disease, and random shelling.

December 2012: Syrian regime warplanes bombed a mosque in Yarmouk that was housing internally displaced Syrian refugees. Dozens were killed. The excuse for such an atrocity was that the FSA had hidden some weapons in the basement of the mosque. 

2013: Khaled Bakrawi, a young Palestinian-Syrian community organizer and founding member of the Jafra Foundation for Relief and Youth Development, was arrested by Alawite state security forces in January of 2013 for his leading role in carrying out humanitarian and aid work in Yarmouk. By September the Palestinians of Yarmouk learned that Khaled was killed under torture in a detention center in Damascus.

Khaled Bakrawi  and Hassan Hassan, two Palestinians active in community services both tortured to death in Assad regime prisons.

Khaled Bakrawi and Hassan Hassan, two Palestinians active in community services both tortured to death in Assad regime prisons.

Khaled Bakrawi took part in the June march into the Golan. He witnessed the leader of the PFLP, Ahmad Jibril, lead the people into the Israeli-occupied cease-fire zone. Knowing what was going to happen he tried to dissuade his fellow Palestinians from following Ahmad Jibril’s orders, but to no avail. Khaled was forced to watch Alawite state security forces relax and drink tea while Israeli occupation soldiers rained bullets down on his neighbors. Khaled took two bullets in his leg. The young man who was labeled a hero for taking a few Zionist bullets would later fade away into obscurity following his murder at the hands of Bashar al Assad’s security forces.

Palestinians in Yarmouk are also sometimes murdered by other Palestinians. The Russian BM-21 Grad Rocket was used to attack Yarmouk in July of 2013. Two grad missiles were fired onto the Hamdan bakery on July 24th, killing fifteen civilians. It was reported by both Reuters and the Yarmouk Camp Coordination Committee that this attack was carried out by the PFLP. Fifteen Palestinians in Yarmouk died of starvation between September and December of 2013. The number of Palestinian refugees killed since 2011 in Syria has reached 1,597, in addition to 651 others lost or imprisoned, and 74 tortured to death in regime detention centers by the fall of 2013.

The Assad regime’s annihilation of the country is good for Israel: – An Arab despot who crushes his own people always has a special place in the Zionist heart. Israel has always relied on corrupt Arab despots like Bashar al Assad to put down the masses for them,- An anti-Iranian sentiment is being sown in the Arab world as a result of its colonization of Syria. – Hezbollah is too busy murdering Syrians to cause Israel much trouble. – Israel no longer faces any pressure to give up the Golan Heights.

 

You can take your neutrality and hang yourself with it. 

If you are interested in the sources, feel free to message me and I will send you 583736648728255485947476 books, articles, videos, photos, more books, human rights reports, and advocacy organizations.

SEE: http://www.scribd.com/doc/220568814/Understanding-a-Revolutionary-Syria-Rebellions-Uprisings-and-the-Persistence-of-Tyranny

 

 

The Third Way march, with their Icons in "yes we can" Shepard Fairey style!

The Third Way march, with their Icons in “yes we can” Shepard Fairey style!

WRITTEN BY HISAM ASHKAR, translated by Laila Attar and Ubiydah Mobarak

News of the visits of fascist and far-right groups to Syria, to show solidarity with the regime, have recently started to emerge, especially with the beginning of the revolutionary process in the Arab region. It seems that the Syrian issue ranks highly on the agenda of the European far-right. So, is it axiomatic to say that the majority of the European far-right supports Assad’s regime and stands against the revolution in Syria?

Nearly two decades ago, several parties and far-right groups started to weave relations with the Syrian regime. For example, communications began between some of the French right in France and the Syrian regime, since the nineties. Many visits then followed. Most notable was that of “Frederic Chatillon“, the president of the extreme student group (Groupe Union Défense), who is very close now to “Marine Le Pen”, the current President of the French party «National Front» (Front National). During his visit in 1994, he met the Syrian Defense Minister at the time “Mustafa Tlass”.

In the first decade of this century, especially since 2006, the visits increased. Most of them took place in Lebanon, the usual place to hold meetings between visitors and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party which is an ally of the Syrian regime. Frederic Chatillon with Alain Sorel were some of the most prominent visitors. This relation was not limited to the official visits and political discussions, it extended to business. For example, the company (Riwal) which is owned by Chatillon, founded the company (Riwal-Syria) to develop economic relations between Syrian and French companies in 2009.

Chatillon, Tlass, Dieudonnè, oh those happy days!

Chatillon, Tlass, Dieudonnè, oh those happy days!

By the start of the uprising in Syria in March 2011, the far-right began to support the Syrian regime in various ways. Frederic Chatillon was the first to support Assad. Since the early days of the revolution, Chatillon accused all those who took part in the demonstrations of the opposition of being partners to the Zionist lobby, which wants to destabilize Syria. Chatillon went even further to organise a demonstration in Paris to support Assad in October of the same year. Chatillon’s company «Riwal» still perseveres to support the news website (InfoSyrie) which is campaigning for the Assad regime.

With time, far-right demonstrations supporting the regime were organised in many European cities, from Rome to Warsaw and Geneva. At the same time, several visits to show support were organized, notably the «fact-finding mission» in June 2013. Several European far-right personalities took part in this visit like Nick Griffin “MP in the House of Commons”, Philip Dewinter “deputy in the Flemish parliament in Belgium”. This extent of the support reached the level of going to Syria to fight along side Assad forces in some cases, as the New-Nazi Greek organization «black tulip» (Mavros Krinos) declared. There were also many meetings held by the far-right which aimed to discuss the Syrian situation and how to support Assad’s regime. The most notable was the Boreal Festival which was held in Kanto in Italy on the 12th of September 2013 in the presence of a large number of European fascists. Paradoxically, the Mayor of Kanto, who was hosting that event, began his speech with words by Rosa Luxemburg!

Why does the European far-right back the Syrian regime?

In her thorough article, “Who are Assad’s fascist supporters?” Leila Shrooms attributes this support to:

“Anti-imperialist/anti-globalism sentiment with a strong focus on national states (they believe the Assad regime protects the Syrian state against US imperialism), Islamophobia (they believe the Assad regime fights Islamic extremists), anti-semitism (they believe Assad’s regime acts as resistance to Israel).”

3 way

As for Serge Ayoub, leader of the far-right organization Third way, Troisieme Voie, banned since the summer of 2013, he organized on the 2nd of February 2013 a march in support of the Syrian Assad regime. The reason for his support becomes clear in his answer to the following question, “why are Syrian supporters of the Assad regime participating in this demonstration?” Ayoub replies, “Why are the Syrians with us? Of course, it is our duty to support their cause! Syria is a nation, a homeland, a socialist country with national supremacy. They are fighting for secularism, and they are subject to an attack by imperialist America, globalization and its salafist servants and Qatari and Saudi mercenaries. The purpose is to destroy the state.”

We find in Ayoub’s narrative all the reasons presented by Leila Shrooms, except for Israeli resistance. The far-right does not hide its aversion to Israel, as we have seen in Chatillon. Paradoxically, Ayoub’s supporters who describe themselves as French revolutionary nationalists, and who gained the support of many French and European Fascist organizations, brandished the photographs of five personalities in the demonstration: Bashar Al Assad’s, next to it that of the Russian president Putin, the Belarusian president Lukashenko, the Venezuelan Ex-president Chavez and the national Serb Draga Mihailovič. Many flags were also lifted, among them the Syrian, French, Russian, Venezuelan and Cuban flags.

The grounds for this support presented by all the far-right organizations on the one hand and the organizations who criticize them on the other, stir many questions such as, “Why didn’t this right ally itself with Syria against Israel before the decade of the nineties? Why did this right stand against the Syrian revolution since its beginnings before the rise of the armed extremist Islamic movements? And what is the truth of this anti-imperialist anti-globalization stance of the right?

To demonstrate the background and logic of the right’s position with regards to what is happening in Syria, we have to go back in time 25 years, to a new historical phase that started with the fall of the Berlin wall.

Redefining the enemy: from the communist threat to the threat of the American model.

In his book “The anatomy of Fascism”, Paxton says that Fascist movements are always in need of an enemy that symbolises the overwhelming crises that’s taking society by storm, and who pushes the mass to unite under the flag of the saviour leader. Towards the end of the cold war, most far-right movements in northern Europe considered The Soviet Union to be that enemy-symbol, to the extent that Jean Marie le Pen, the leader of the far-right French party, The National Front, alleged that he carried the legacies of Winston Churchill, Douglas McArthur and Ronald Regan[1], not just in the political arena, but also in the field of Economy. For until the end of the eighties, the National Front was glorifying and defending liberal Economy.[2]

In this context, the fall of communism did not just cause a crisis in the left, rather it went beyond it to reach the far-right, who lost over night its main enemy and one of the basis of its politics. The reconsideration done by some of the members of the right led to adopting ideas of ideological groups such as GRECE, which started since the sixties developing the theory of cultural difference, which opposes racial mixing because it represents a danger for the identity of nations. Hence the United States became the enemy – the new symbol, for various reasons:

1-      Cultural and political American dominance represents a threat to national identities.

2-      The American model reflects a presence and mix between various races and cultures, regardless of the racism and inequality that are rooted in this model.

Redefining the enemy has forced these right wing forces to reconsider many of their political and economic stances to fit with their new ideological position. It is worth remembering here that far-right and main fascist parties are pragmatic parties which don’t hesitate in redefining their main positions (especially concerning the economy, because they do not rely on a fixed line or position in this field, rather they fluctuate according to the political variables.)[3] In order to achieve their goal: success and power.[4] Hence this Right raised the bar of its animosity towards the USA and the new political order, such as economic neo-liberalism and globalization, and establishing relations with those they consider as enemies of this political order. For example, Jean Marie le Pen is the ally of the Lebanese far-right Phalange party since the mid-seventies, and on his visit to Beirut in 2002, he tried to no avail to meet with Ayatullah Fadlallah, who has close relations with Hezbollah. This redefinition of the enemy is what explains the rapprochement between Hizbollah and the Syrian regime, which started in a shy way in the nineties to become more solid and entrenched in the last ten years.

The new far right: “left wing in its work, right wing in its values”!?…

European delegation in support of Assad, containing members of the extreme right, Zenit, Casa Pound, Stato e Potenza, Fascisti del III Milennio,  Partito dei Comunisti Italiani. When Black and Red go to Bed together.

European delegation in support of Assad, containing members of the extreme right, Zenit, Casa Pound, Stato e Potenza, Fascisti del III Milennio, Partito dei Comunisti Italiani. When Black and Red go to Bed together.

The transformation undergone by the Right because of the redefinition of the enemy on one hand and reprioritization on the other, has led to adopting and overtaking some of the leftist ideas in order to empower this new intellectual orientation. For example, we see that the campaign of Marine le Pen in the French presidential elections of 2012 was based on social and economic issues, to the extent that it almost failed to mention some of the favourite topics of the far-right such as banning migrants. The far-right’s adoption of some of the leftist and Marxist rhetoric is not new; this was clear since the birth of fascism as Mussolini used to address the proletariat and fascists alike with his radical, nationalistic, anti-capitalist speeches. Of course, this was to a great extent a selective and manipulative manoeuvre, because the enemy was foreign capitalism and not the national one, and some of the aims of these speeches were the conciliation between the work force and the nationalistic business owners. [5]

In this context, the reliance of the new right on leftist ideas is nothing but that populist national communism, in other words, a return to the classical Fascist speech like in the twenties, and in one of the most important European capitalist crisis at the time. This return is apparent in the National Front’s adoption of the slogan “No Right and no Left” in a clear reiteration of the saying of the founder of the fascist Spanish Phalange Party (Falange Española de las JONS), Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera), that his movement was neither of the right nor the left.

National Front event, all together now! Zenith, December 2006: A. Soral, JM Dubois, B. Gollnish, D. Joly, Jany Le Pen, F. Chatillon, G. Mahé, Dieudonné and others...

National Front event, all together now! Zenith, December 2006: A. Soral, JM Dubois, B. Gollnish, D. Joly, Jany Le Pen, F. Chatillon, G. Mahé, Dieudonné and others…

However the current rhetoric and orientation of this Right differs from its 80 year old predecessor in many details. This right does not stop at adopting leftist slogans and headings, it also partially takes from its ideology to add it to its heritage.  We see Marine le Pen in her book “For France to live” (Pour que vive la France)[6], relying on sayings by many thinkers, politicians, writers and others from the Left, from George Aurel, to Bertlot Brecht and even Karl Marx himself, praising the beginnings of this Left that she considers to have later on betrayed its principles, insisting that it is now the National Front that carries these objectives. Some far-right thinkers such as Alain Soral have even gone a step further, rather than repudiating the left and the right, they try to bring them together. Soral, the ex member of the French communist party and then the National Front looks at the union of the ethical right with the economic social left against the unethical left that compliments the economic right. In form, on his online political group Egalite et Reconciliation, Soral puts together the photos of Che Guevara, Gaddafi, Mahmood Ahmadi Najad, Vladimir Putin and the far-right French icon Jeanne d’Arc. Alain Soral attacks the global political system represented by the USA and Israel and talks about social justice, and the exploitation of the social classes. He denounces imperialism and demands a real left.

In context, he does not suggest anything new apart from the reconciliation between workers and business owners, with full emphasis on the conservative principles and values which lead to the salvation of the French nation.

ayoub 3

Soral might seem like an entertainer mixing economy theology and the conspiracy theory, but his page attracts many visitors and followers, especially youth. The ideas people like Soral promote are translated in the streets, such as members from the Third Way brandishing pictures of personalities and flags as mentioned above. That could sometimes be understood as a communication and coalition between the right and some extreme nationalist left movements, such as the Polish fascist organization (Falanga) which is establishing connections with the Mauis and nationalist Bolsheviks.

 

The extreme right Italian movement Casa Pound mixes Right, Left and Nationalism all in this poster, Fatherland, Socialism or Death. Honour to Hugo Chavez

The extreme right Italian movement Casa Pound mixes Right, Left and Nationalism all in this poster, Fatherland, Socialism or Death. Honour to Hugo Chavez

This ideological change, even if directed solely at the national internal interest of these parties, carries in its folds the support of this right for the Syrian regime. Theorists such as Soral, consider Bashar Al-Assad to be one of the characters standing in the face of the global system. Moreover, the Syrian regime is the example, even if not ideal, for their slogan, “left wing in terms of work, Right wing in terms of values”. Emphasising that this system is not applicable in Europe rather suitable for “the political idiosyncrasies of the Middle East, where it is important to have a strong leader to control the ethnic sectarian cohesion with a firm hand, and that is usually acceptable by all clans… As was the case in the past [in Europe]”

The limits of the hatred of the far-right for the “Foreigner”

In addition to the excuse of the “pressing foreign danger”, the far-right parties also need and internal enemy that can be a factor in the demise of the mass, and that prevents the achievement of a more comprehensive and stronger society. [7] Among the internal enemies of this Right is the “foreigner”, and in Europe the two main “foreigners” in the eyes of the far-right are the Jews and recently the Muslims. However the anti-Semitism of this Right does not always translate into animosity towards Israel. In the era of the cold war, most of the far-right considered Israel as the fortress of the west in the face of the Soviet Union. However this rapprochement was always hindered by the position of the far-right with regards to the holocaust. With the end of the cold war, and the redefining of the enemy, Israel moved from the impervious fortress in the face of the communist danger to the strongest ally of the new American enemy. This development was accompanied by a change in the perception of some of this right and their rapprochement to some of the European groups, in a step some researchers attribute to the appearance of a new danger for this Right in Europe, namely the Muslims.

This comparison remains somehow simplistic, for Islamophobia can represent an incentive for this rapprochement, however it does not explain the radical change in the perception of the far-right towards the foreigner. A few decade ago, we find that some of the prominent faces of the far-right were either Jewish or of Jewish origins, one of the most eminent examples is the vice-president of the National Front and life partner of Marine Le Pen, Louis Aliot, who has Jewish Algerian roots. Moreover, in the French parliamentary elections of 2012, the national front nominated the Jewish Michel Toris for one of the seats in Paris. Also, Far-right Jewish organizations such as the Jewish Defence League, were always close to the far-right, first to the (Bloc identitaire) then to the National Front. If we go back in time to the early nineteen twenties, we find that Mussolini’s fascist party included many Jews.[8] Hence we see that the far-right antagonizes the “foreigner” who tries to hold on to his idiosyncrasies and characteristics, while accepting the “foreigner” who adopts the values and principles of this Right – or in other words, who fuses nationally, according to the fascist expressions – then this foreigner becomes a part of that right, in that case he can assume leading positions such as Serge Ayoub who is from Lebanese origins. Therefore it will be no surprise to find Muslims among the electoral list of some of the far-right parties in Europe, and that’s in the near future.

This is with regards of the internal foreigner so what about the external one? From the unstable relationship between the Far-right and the Jews and Israel, and despite the recent antagonism with Israel, some of this right such as the National Front is trying to restore what was severed for internal electoral reasons. In this context, Marine Le Pen has declared to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in 2011 that “The National Front was a constant supporter of the Zionist movement and a constant defender of Israel’s right to exist.”

However, we would be mistaken to think of this speech just as an electoral campaign, it has to be considered carefully and seriously. Defending Israel’s right to exist does not necessarily mean supporting it, the support is for the Zionist movement, i.e. for another far-right nationalist ideology, that decided to create an entity outside the European Nationalistic movements. The far-right parties while denying foreigners the right to be within its national and geographical borders, do not deny it the right to exist within its own geographical borders, as long as it does not clash with its own sphere. This explains the cooperation and communication between the far-right parties internationally.

Hezbollah, what a group salute that is!

Hezbollah, what a group salute that is!

This clarifies the original seeming paradox. There is no contradiction in the support of the Far-right for the Syrian regime, and their animosity towards the Syrian refugees in their countries even if they were pro-regime. Moreover, animosity towards Islam becomes a secondary reason to back Assad. We mustn’t forget that this Right supports, even boasts about fighting side to side with an Islamic party, Hizbollah, as declared by the organization “Black Tulip”. One can also see clearly the pivotal role of the far-right parties that are Assad’s regime’s allies, in forming and strengthening this relationship and what that entails. This explains the regular visits of this European right to Beirut to meet parties such as the Syrian National Social party. The role of this party in particular and its network with the European Far-right deserves deeper consideration, to achieve a more comprehensive understanding of the topic.

Conclusion

This article has attempted to look at the Far-right in general, while in reality this right has various ideologies. This difference takes many forms according to the type and volume of these groups, from the bigger more pragmatic parties to the intellectual circles and the more radical paramilitary groups. Nonetheless, the general principles are the same, even if the difference in form seems radical, this remains particular and not essential. As we have seen in this article, any reading or analysis of the Right’s position has to take into consideration that the ideology that this right portrays is moving and constantly changing. One of the important tools for analysis and rapprochement is the basis that Paxton deduced such as to feel the crushing burden of a crisis that cannot be solved in a traditional way, priority of the group over the individual, considering the mass as victim and fearing for its demise. There is a need for a closer-knitted purer society, etc…

the Far Left sure looks like the Far Right, Good thing there is the hammer and sickle to remind us!

the Far Left sure looks like the Far Right, Good thing there is the hammer and sickle to remind us!

Hands off Syria, Love to Assad

Hands off Syria, Love to Assad

As for why does the far-right support the Syrian regime? The main reason is that the ideological crossing between the right and what it represents and what the Syrian regime represents has happened at this historical moment. For this Right, this represents one of the aspects of its advertising campaign with the enemy – the new symbol. This support also represents its difference from the other European political parties and movements, which he accuses of being a toy in the hand of this enemy. Although this Right knows that it is not possible to exploit this support internally, because of the bad reputation and violence of the Syrian regime, the development of events in Syria allows it to exploit European public opinion through sympathizing with the situation of the Christians in the east for example, or through the topic of European Jihadists in Syria. This matter requires further investigation to reveal the extent and ramification of these relations.

Most importantly, one of the main incentives behind these reasons is the inherent opportunism of the Far-right’s ideology that will not hesitate in taking whatever stance or doing whatever it takes to get even a little closer to power.

[1]                      Ariane Chebel d’Appolonia, L’Extrême droite en France. De Maurras à Le Pen, Bruxelles: Editions Complexe et PUF, 1987.

[2]                      Sylvain Crépon, La nouvelle extrême droite: Enquête sur les jeunes militants du front National, Paris: L’Harmattan, 2006.

[3]                      Local examples for this: the rapprochement of the National Social Syrian Party in Lebanon to the Marxist propositions in the sixties, after a failed coup on New Year’s Eve 1962.

[4]                      Robert Paxton, the Anatomy of Fascism, New York: Knopf, 2004.

[5]                      Paxton, 2004

[6]                      Marine Le Pen, Pour que vive la Farnce, Paris: Grancher, 2012

[7]                      Paxton, 2004

[8]                      Paxton, 2004

Translated by Laila Attar and Ubiydah Mobarak from Arabic ORIGINAL http://al-manshour.org/node/4904&usg=ALkJrhjqYVOhwg5JmixoJ5kn2QJQJfWlMA 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Read “In Bed With Bibi by Gilad Atzmon

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

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

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

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

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

This is a transcript of a presentation given by Palestinian anarchist Budour Hassan on 17 November 2013 at a Teach in on Syria in New York organized by the MENA Solidarity Newtork US . There is a link to the video of the presentation below.

*******

In April of 2011 a famous megastar Egyptian blogger told Syrian revolutionaries that they needed to raise Palestinian flags during the demonstrations on Friday just to prove that they support the Palestinian resistance and to deny the narrative by the regime that the regime supports the Palestinian cause.

Now I asked myself then, do Syrians have to do that? Do Syrians have to raise the Palestinian flag just to prove that they support Palestine? Do Syrians have to show their nationalist credentials so the world supports their cause? And the answer was clear to me then: No, Syrians do not have to do that. Now a Syrian friend told me at the start of the uprising that we avoided raising Palestinian flags and talking about Palestine not because we don’t support the Palestinian cause, but because this cause was exploited by the regime to a degree that turned it into just a political tool, and we love Palestine so much that we don’t agree to turn the cause into a political tool, and this is why we avoided using it. And I think that Syrians do not have to do this, Syrians do not have to wave a Palestinian flag to prove that they support us. Because Palestine is not a flag. Definitely Palestine is much more than that.

Palestine is the refugees in Yarmouk camp who supported the revolution from the first day, who aided displaced Syrians and who participated in protests, documented the uprising, and helped as much as they could. The revolution is also the Palestinian refugees in al Raml refugee camp in Latakia who took a hard beating by the regime and had to deal with a heavy crackdown starting from July 2011. And the revolution lives not in the palaces of the regime, nor in the speeches of a resistance leader who thinks that just because he leads a resistance movement this gives him the right to speak in the name of Palestinians, and to kill innocent people in Syria not just in the name of resistance but also in the name of Palestine. So this is why I think that Syrians do not have to prove anything to anyone.

Secondly, even though if we suppose that the Syrian regime does in fact support the Palestinian resistance, does it mean that this allows the Syrian regime to control Syria, to prevent people from expressing their opinions, to kill and torture hundreds of thousands of Syrians just because they dare say no to more than 40 years of oppression, to more than 40 years of injustice? Of course not. Even if Bashar al Assad was the only person capable of liberating Palestine I would not support him, and I’m sure that many Palestinians would not do so either. Because our liberation cannot be established on the enslavement of another people, particularly when this enslavement is an enslavement of our sisters and brothers in Syria.

And in fact the truth is that the Syrian regime has never truly supported Palestine; for the Syrian regime, Palestine has always been a fig leaf and always been a political tool. And it started from the 1970s when the Syrian regime helped other militias in Lebanon to crack down on the refugees in Tel al-Zaatar. The siege and massacre in Tel al-Zaatar cannot be forgotten. And the massacres that the regime helped the Amal party in Lebanon commit in the 1980s also against refugees in Lebanon and against the PLO cannot be forgotten either. And the siege the regime is imposing in Yarmouk refugee camp, preventing people from getting medical aid or baby milk, preventing people from going in and out of the refugee camp, cannot be tolerated and cannot be just ignored, as many are doing unfortunately just because they think that this regime is for resistance, and that this regime is for the human rights of Palestinians.

Now the thing is that me as a Palestinian, I don’t need to say this for many people just to convince them about the justice of the Syrian cause. Because in my opinion it is very clear that this revolution was a revolution for freedom and dignity. But unfortunately for many of us here in Palestine, because there is a polarization among Palestinians, as is the case in many other Arab countries, about the Syrian regime, we had to say it over and over again and to try to convince our comrades — or our former comrades – that they need to stop supporting the Syrian regime, that all we hear about the Syrian regime’s support of resistance is nothing but propaganda.

Now unfortunately it didn’t really help. People mostly stick to their opinions regarding the regime. If we want to talk about what the reaction of Palestinians toward the Syrian revolution is, it varies. Unfortunately the left, mostly the mainstream left, supports the Assad regime. And here lies the irony, because one of the most supportive parties of the regime is called the Israeli Communist Party, and it supports the regime because, it says, “Well, this regime is against imperialism.” But at the same time these people had absolutely no problem in participating in protests alongside Zionists in Tel Aviv, liberal Zionists for instance. So how can you say that you support the Syrian regime because it is against imperialism and on the other hand participate in protests with Zionists?

And also there are others who say that we supported the Syrian Revolution when it was nonviolent, but then after it got violent we couldn’t support it anymore, and it was hijacked. So yes, the Syrian Revolution was indeed hijacked, and we know that there are many Salafis, many jihadists and many other groups, and many pro-America and pro-imperialist groups that tried to hijack the Syrian Revolution. But that does not by any means tarnish the Syrian Revolution, and it also doesn’t mean that just because a revolutionary movement was hijacked that we should stand on the sidelines and stop supporting it.

Of course there are still so many revolutionaries working on the ground, many of them are nonviolent, and there are even many nonsectarian armed brigades that we cannot ignore. If the revolution was hijacked we don’t just go and start blaming the people for it being hijacked. We actually do everything to side with the people in order to get the revolution back on the right track. And this is what many leftists couldn’t understand.

Now on the other side of the spectrum you have the right wingers and the Islamists who support the Syrian Revolution but not truly because they believe in the right of freedom and dignity, but because they think that it is a Sunni uprising against an Alawite regime. Now this is why it was for me very hard to participate in protests organized by Islamists in support of the Revolution, because for me, although of course there are religious movements inside the Revolution, it still a Revolution for freedom, equality, social justice and dignity. And this is why I cannot agree with the line of the Islamists here in Palestine who support the Revolution just because they see it as Sunni versus Alawite.

Now there is a small section among the Palestinian left that supports the Syrian Revolution that doesn’t lecture Syrians about what they have to do, and how they failed. And we managed to organize a few protests, in Haifa for instance, in Jeruslaem, and in other places in Palestine. Although they were small protests I think it meant a lot for us to show the Syrian people that yes there are people in Palestine who stand with you, and there are people who don’t buy into the regime propaganda.

I mean it says a lot that in Syria right now there is an intelligence branch, one of the most notorious intelligence branches in Syria, it’s called “Palestine.” That means that there are people being tortured, including Palestinans, by the way, that are being tortured in the name of Palestine, in the name of our country, in the name of our cause, because we believe it is a cause for freedom.

Now to those Palestinians and to those people who believe that the Syrian regime is truly supportive of Palestine, and who do not support the Revolution, who stand on the side and say “no, we don’t want to support the Revolution, or who remain neutral: I say you have a Palestine and I have my own.

Your Palestine is an intelligence branch in Damascus that kills and tortures people, while my Palestine is Khaled Bakrawi, the martyr from the Yarmouk refugee camp, who was arrested and tortured to death. Your Palestine is a speech by Bashar al-Assad, while my Palestine is the chants of Syrian freedom fighters in Hama. Your Palestine is just empty rhetoric, while my Palestine is people in Bustan al-Qasr raising the picture of Samer Assawi, the hunger-striking prisoner.

My Palestine is people from the north to the south chanting in solidarity with Gaza during the recent war on Gaza last year and saying “Oh Gaza, we are with you ‘til death.” They did it when they were bombarded by the Assad regime and they were shelled. My Palestine is that of the Syrian Revolutionary Youth in Damascus who raised a pamphlet in solidarity with the Palestinians in the Nakab and said “Prawer shall not pass!”

So Syrian revolutionaries, even when they face the most terrible cases of torture, of persecution, and of crackdown, they still remember their sisters and brothers in Palestine, they still chant in solidarity with them and do not forget about the prisoners.

So I think it is very important to remember that, and to remember the hundreds of thousands of Syrians and Palestinian prisoners who still languish in regime jails, for example Ali Shihabi, the communist Palestinian who has been detained in Syrian regime jails for almost a year, and Maher al-Jajeh also, another youth activist from Yarmouk refugee camp, who has been detained by the Syrian regime for more than a year and no one knows what is going on with his case now.

Also we will not forget the martyr Anas Amara, who was murdered simply because he was trying to get aid into Yarmouk refugee camp and trying to break the siege. And my Palestine is that also of Jihad Asad Muhammad, the Syrian journalist who even prior to the Syrian Revolution was always writing in solidarity with Palestine, and who like many others did not believe that this Palestine is Bashar al-Assad’s Palestine, but this is a cause that interests all Arabs.

So I just ask one last thing: I ask people who think that Bashar al-Assad supports Palestine or still believe his propaganda, just go over history a little bit, read more about what he and his father did to Palestine and to the Palestinian camps. And even if you are not convinced, don’t let this fact, don’t let political gains affect your support of the Syrian revolution. Because it is obviously not about geopolitics. We do not know whether if the revolution wins in Syria how will that affect the Palestinian cause. It might indeed damage us, I do not know. But I do not care on the other hand. Because my support of the Syrian Revolution is unconditional.

And I do believe that even though it is getting more and more complicated, and despite all the terrible groups that are trying to hijack the Syrian Revolution, especially the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq, which we obviously oppose like so many Syrians, the same Syrians who started protest against the regime and are also protesting against the Islamic State, so I have faith in these people. I have faith in a woman like Souad Nofal, I have faith in those who are so resilient and steadfast in Damascus and in Daraa, birthplace of the Revolution, and in Aleppo and in Salamieh, the fantastic city that has been protesting since the first days of the uprising.

So I have faith in these people, that even though things are getting more and more complicated, that they can manage to keep the uprising going, and even if this means bad things for my cause I really do not care. What I care about is the freedom and dignity of my Syrian sisters and brothers, and to reject that my name or my country or my cause be used or coopted by the Syrian regime to kill and persecute my sisters and brothers in Syria.

A Call to Save Khan Al-Umdan, Acre, Palestine

A Call to Save Khan Al-Umdan, Acre, Palestine

Khan Al-Umdan was built in 1874 and is one of the largest and best preserved Khans in Palestine. It sits in the centre of the coastal city of Akka which is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre designated as such in 2001. The proposals by the Israel Land Authority (ILA) and the Israel Ministry of Tourism to issue a commercial tender to convert Khan Al-Umdan into a 200 room luxury hotel (under the guise of maintaining and conserving the site) is but a slap in the face of heritage conservation in Akka.

The call for Tenders was dated 7 October, 2013 and the deadline for submission of all commercial bids is 6 January 2014.

Khan Al-Umdan must be maintained, preserved and left untouched by greedy commercial development plans.

We call upon all responsible people and conservationists to raise their voice and to demand a stop to this land grab.

PLEASE SIGN HERE:

see also: www.1948.org.uk
Some of the hundreds of civilian victims of the Sarin Nerve Gas massacre in Ghouta. Gassed in their beds by the Syrian regime.

Some of the hundreds of civilian victims of the Sarin Nerve Gas massacre in Ghouta. Gassed in their beds by the Syrian regime.

WRITTEN BY Amr Salahi
A green light to Assad

Ever since the Syrian regime gassed its own citizens in the Damascus suburbs in a chemical attack on August 21, the issue has rarely been out of the Western news media. However, the debate has been very simplistic. Any observer would be forgiven for thinking that the only crime committed in Syria was this chemical attack, and that the Syrian people had not been subjected to a genocidal war at the hands of a ruthless sectarian dictatorship for two and a half years.

Of course, the original cause of the conflict has been largely forgotten. Outside Syria, not many people remember the peaceful protests calling for freedom and democracy that began the Syrian revolution in March 2011, and how those protests were met by the Assad regime, with unarmed protesters being slaughtered in the streets and children who wrote slogans on walls or took part in the protests tortured, on many occasions to death, in the regime’s jails. It was only after many long months of killing and oppression that defecting soldiers from the regime’s army formed the Free Syrian Army, to defend peaceful protesters as well as ordinary citizens from government attacks.

An observer of the debate would also be forgiven for thinking that the countries of the world are divided on Syria. The received wisdom on the Syrian conflict is that the United States, its allies in NATO and the Gulf States are offering support to the rebels while Russia, China, Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah are supporting the regime. Bashar Al-Assad’s regime likes to paint itself as part of an “axis of resistance” against US and Israeli imperialism which includes Iran and Hezbollah and is supported by Russia; this is why it has gained support from the anti-imperialist left in Western countries. A closer look at the support the regime is receiving vis-a-vis the “support” the rebels are receiving from their supposed allies shows that there is in fact little difference between the major powers on the Syrian issue. Russian ships carrying weapons, including aircraft, dock regularly in Latakia and Tartus, ensuring that the regime remains armed to the teeth and able to fight on despite the military setbacks inflicted on it by the rebels. Iran has not only sent weapons to the regime but also troops and advisers. It is believed widely in Syria that these advisers are the real rulers of the country. Hezbollah was instrumental in the regime’s ruthless bombardment and capture of Qusair, and its fighters now line up alongside the regime in Deraa and Aleppo.

On the other hand, the United States and the European countries have given rhetorical support to the Syrian opposition while making sure that the Free Syrian Army remains unable to defeat the government’s forces by imposing a strict arms embargo. For example, last year the Free Syrian Army managed to acquire anti-aircraft weapons but the United States and NATO refused to allow them to be transported to Syria and they remained in storage in Turkey. In June this year, following a regime chemical attack on the town of Saraqeb, the Obama administration announced that it would arm the Syrian rebels. To-date they have not received a single bullet from the United States or from any of its European allies. The FSA’s main source of weapons remains those captured from the regime or those sold to it by corrupt regime officers. It is thought that Gulf countries have supplied weapons but not on a scale that would tip the balance of the conflict. The main factor ensuring that the conflict and genocide continue, and the Assad regime stays in power, is the continuing embargo on weapons to the Free Syrian Army, which lacks the heavy weapons needed to defeat the state’s armed forces.

In order to understand the position of the United States and its European allies, it is helpful to look at the statements of Israeli officials. While the main pro-Israel lobby group in the United States, AIPAC, publicly declared its support for strikes against the Syrian regime following the most recent chemical weapons attack, it is much more evident that Israel would in fact prefer Bashar Al-Assad to remain in power. The Wall Street Journal reported recently that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged US Secretary of State Kerry to reach a deal with Russia that would avoid a military strike on Syria, expressing fears that a US strike would strengthen the Syrian opposition and allow it to gain control of Assad’s chemical weapons. Netanyahu’s office later issued a denial that any such exchange took place.

In November 2011, relatively early in the Syrian revolution when there was no serious talk of an Islamic extremist presence in Syria, Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli defence ministry official, said that Assad’s removal from power would be “devastating for Israel”; the Zionist state, he added, would then face an “Islamic Empire” encompassing Syria, Jordan and Egypt run by the Muslim Brotherhood and committed to its destruction. In May 2013, shortly after an Israeli strike on Damascus, Ephraim Halevy, a former director of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, went much further in an article in the American journal Foreign Affairs. Calling Assad “Israel’s Man in Damascus” he spelt out the reason why: for the past 40 years Assad has kept Israel’s “border” with Syria quiet and guaranteed its security. What Halevy means is that Assad has allowed Israel to occupy the Golan Heights, undisturbed by any resistance. Another Israeli intelligence official summed up the Israeli position towards the conflict in Syria thus: “Our ‘best-case scenario’ is that they continue to busy themselves fighting each other and don’t turn their attention to us.”

Israel’s attitude to the Syrian conflict allows us to consider the developments that have taken place since the chemical attack in a new light. After President Obama announced that the US would strike Syria, anti-war activists and left-wing “anti-imperialists” were up in arms, as were right-wing pro-Israel Republicans in the United States. There was much comment that the rebels fighting against Assad were sectarian extremists with links to Al-Qaeda, who posed a threat to Syria’s minorities, especially its Christian community, and that they were just as brutal as Assad. Conspiracy theories without any evidence which blamed the rebels for the sarin attack received mainstream coverage and were used to argue that the US and its allies were being dragged into an Iraq-style war.

Sadly for the conspiracy theorists, the evidence that the Syrian regime carried out the attack is incontrovertible. The United Nations report on the attack published on Tuesday, which does not assign blame, nevertheless concludes that it was launched from Mount Qassioun, a major government military base outside Damascus from which attacks against the Damascus suburbs are launched regularly. The report also concluded that the attack was launched using M14 rockets, which only the regime possesses, and that the sarin used was of a quality that could only be produced on an industrial scale using the resources of a government. The Assad regime’s own reaction to the attack points to its responsibility, and to its sectarian character. First, it denied that any such attack took place; then it conceded that the attack happened but blamed the rebels; then a few days later the world was treated to the bizarre spectacle of Syrian government spokeswoman Buthaina Shaaban appearing on Sky News to claim that the child victims of the attack were in fact brought to the Ghouta area from Latakia province (an Alawite-majority area 300 miles away) by “terrorists” and then killed. The government did not declare any period of mourning for the 1,429 victims of the attack and, in fact, its supporters were seen celebrating and handing out sweets on the streets of Damascus in its immediate aftermath.

The anti-war activists and their new-found allies the Assad supporters and right-wing Republicans need not have worried. Despite a great deal of emotional language from John Kerry about the use of chemical weapons and the 426 children who died as a result, Obama’s strike threat dwindled away to nothing. From being a “limited” attack to punish Assad, but not tip the balance in favour of the rebels, it became an “unbelievably small” one, as Kerry called it on his visit to London, to a non-existent one, when Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov agreed to a deal which would allow Assad to keep his conventional weapons and continue using them to kill his own people, but oblige him to give up his chemical weapons. It is doubtful whether the deal will be backed by a binding Security Council resolution, and it is estimated that it will take until the middle of 2014 to destroy the chemical weapons. This is probably the first time in history that a criminal is to be punished simply by taking away one of his weapons.

The deal struck between Kerry and Lavrov makes almost everyone a winner. The United States can continue posing as a supporter of the Syrian people; Israel is satisfied that “their man in Damascus” is still in place; Russia can continue arming Assad and today appears to have stood up to the United States, when in reality there is little difference between the positions of these two nations on the Syrian issue; and Iran can continue to participate actively in Assad’s sectarian war while pretending that it is standing up to the United States and Israel. The anti-war campaigners are in ignorant bliss because they believe that they have stopped a war on Syria, not knowing or caring that Syrians are still enduring the most horrific war since the genocide in Rwanda. The only losers are the Syrian people.

For two and a half years, they have been pleading with the world to stop Assad’s war against them but to no avail. The chemical attack is only the latest chapter in this genocide. Constant efforts have been made in both the mainstream and alternative media to belittle the suffering in Syria, discredit the casualty figures and assign blame to the opposition for the regime’s crimes but what is happening is genocide by any standard. United Nations figures reveal that 110,000 people have been killed since the Syrian revolution broke out in March 2011. Seven million people have been displaced and the death rate is approximately 5,000 people per month. Only the regime has the capacity to kill and displace people on this scale and it has now received a green light to continue killing its own citizens, as long as it doesn’t use chemical weapons.

The suffering and the genocide of the Syrian people will be detailed in the part 2 of this article.

http://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/7448-syria-genocide-by-international-consensus-

Sryrian Children. Worth more than all the "pundits" put together. They should be seen AND heard.

Sryrian Children. Worth more than all the “pundits” put together. They should be seen AND heard.

Written by Mary Rizzo
For well over two and a half years, there has been a war in Syria. Some will call it a Civil War, and yet… these same people who call it a civil war (despite having been repeatedly corrected by fighters on the ground that it is an Intifada, an uprising and a revolution) are now finally taking to the  streets to chant, “No War – Hands off Syria” as if it is currently waiting for a war to start and are simply being targeted by the West for imperial expansionism. A variant on the theme, they shout, “Stop the War” and again, they don’t mean to in any way address the bombing that has destroyed most of Syria, they mean the air strikes that a very few Western leaders are threatening to do to a very limited amount of targets inside Syria. Why on earth would the Western leaders do something like this when for two and a half years they have not done anything more severe than “deplore” the use of barrel bombs and carpet bombing of residential areas? Because they had to in some way establish a point of no return and it randomly fell on the use of Chemical Weapons.

It is beyond all reasonable doubt that the Syrian regime (which had admitted they possessed these weapons and have the only means to have implemented their use on a massive scale this August, exposing 15,000 people, including the elderly, women and children, to lethal nerve gas while in their beds) used Sarin Gas against its own people. Many more details about its acquisition will come out in the future, but at the current moment, over 1,500 have succumbed to it immediately (including hundreds of infants and children) and thousands more who have been exposed have had to deal with its very dangerous effects. So, I would think that any human being would be against the use of this weapon, considering it to be an atrocity that should not be ignored or even in the slightest way defended.

But what has instead happened? After the international news agencies, refusing to support the revolution also due to the fear that the western public has of any change of regime in the Arab world and an allergy to revolutions in general, finally displayed a fragment of the visual evidence of people suffocating to their deaths, their bodies writhing in pain or struck by uncontrollable spasms, the solidarity world started to move. But how did it happen that instead of condemning the atrocity, they are rallying around the Syrian regime and demanding the contradictory “no war” and “stop the war”. It seems that the western solidarity industry (yes, that part where people make a living as “activists”) again has been working overtime to keep its overwhelmingly white, male, western and older pundits on their pedestals. From these pedestals, they lament of the terrible hypocrisy of the very West (where most of them thrive and are “alternative media stars”. (Hint: the Syrian people sure have very little use for them, if they even know who they are).

The Western activists who have not opened their mouths in support of the popular revolution that they have pretended to have supported for the Palestinians but when push comes to shove, even over 1,600 Palestinians murdered by the Assad regime and tens of thousands sent into further exile, have been silent and uncaring, are disgusted by the hypocrisy of their own leaders. This is the argument they use: The West didn’t come in and in any way strike those who were using chemical weapons against the Palestinians, so the West is comprised of freedom hating hypocrites.  And this position begs the question: does this mean that if the US and the West had acted in this way for Palestine, it would not have been intervention, but something else instead? And if it is something else, what would they classify it as? Could it be exactly what the Syrians who are besieged in many parts of Syria and subject to ethnic cleansing and massacres have been begging for?  This seemingly contradictory stance (intervention for Palestine is considered as “good”, intervention for Syria is considered as “evil”) is at the core of what I will call “the Waffle Syndrome”. Waffling on a position and changing it according to a specific point of view fuelled not by a revolutionary vision of liberation and freedom, but by an ideological position of “anti-west” activism and money to be made in a cause that has long ago entered into the discourse thanks to the hard work of many activists (in primis Palestinians and Arabs, with the support of some Westerners who run the gamut from pan-arabists to anarchists, Marxists and anti-imperialists).

If the sudden interest in the death of Syrians (which of course, if you follow the discourse of these pundits, will only start when NATO bombs the living daylights out of Syria, so the “humanitarian” thing to do is to wash “our dirty hands that have always been evil” of it and stay out now… in stark contrast with the calls to support the Intifada and Arabs that were part of the discourse until the Arab Spring actually happened!) is going to do anything for Arab-Western relations, it is going to heighten the distrust not only of the West, which never does what it says it will, or which uses the pain of other people as a means to get involved in international disputes, but it is going to bring the level of hatred for western ACTIVISTS who are showing now, like never before, that they have not got a grasp on even the very basic and core ideals of revolution or struggles to liberate oneself from an oppressor.

sarinWhen push comes to shove, when the most widely condemned atrocities are added to atrocities that started from shooting peaceful protesters and arbitrary arrest and torture of civilian political opposition and even of children, leading up to the absolute destruction of most of Syria where the majority live (leaving the minority who sustain the bombing of their own country by their own leader unscathed because it maintains their privilege- similar to the theory of “if you want an omelette, you have to break a few eggs” of imperialist memory) it is clear that the bulk of the activists stand by the perpetrator of the crimes and against the common people, the refugees and the unarmed. They are following the hasbara (Israeli propaganda that knows it is propaganda and a narrative) tricks used against the Palestinians, accusing them of using their homes and people as human shields for terrorists. It is a new version of hasbara, but applied to the Syrian people: claiming to be with the Syrian people but selectively ignoring any crimes against them except for the few that the Syrian regime and propaganda machine want them to be scandalised by, specifically if they are backed by flags with Islamic or Islamist slogans. The problem is not that Assad is bombing the Syrian country into oblivion and driving one quarter of its population into refugee status. The problem is that there are evil foreign agents who will impose their will on Syria. They are imperialists and Islamists, and in a three-card-shuffle, these two diametrically opposed entities are scratching one another’s back, as if they have the same goal and interests. As far as the Wafflers are concerned, they are the same, and they use the same reactionary rhetoric that the hasbarists use against the Palestinian struggle for liberation.

But what is worse than the lack of interest of the “activists” and their support of the regime “because the alternative is worse FOR THE SYRIANS”, if you follow their rhetoric? It is the hypocrisy they have regarding the very issue of intervention and the role of the international community.

They have not seemed to have ever taken the streets or set the internet on fire with their calls against intervention in Syria before. They seem to ignore that for years there has been foreign intervention in Syria, that Russian weapons and experts, troops from Iran and Hezbollah, have been waging the war already, fuelling it and at times even bringing their own soldiers home in flag draped boxes. Are they unaware that Russian intervention has also used the tool to advance their personal agenda and interests, the tool that every single one of us for years had believed was the “original sin”: the UN Veto of a resolution condemning an act of war or imposing a restriction on intervention. It seems that the arms embargo against the revolutionary Free Syrian Army has been in force while there has been no such restriction in arming the regime. If it is a civil war, it is indeed alimented with great gusto by the Russians by means of the unethical tool of their power to impose their will by means of a veto.  It is this waffling and hypocrisy that will deepen the gulf of “misunderstanding” between the people of the Arab world and the “caring” West, which is represented by impotent leaders or reactionary, counter-revolutionary activists who are expert navel-gazers.

PLEASE don't tell the Syrians things will get bad once they start getting bombed. They might think you are insane.

PLEASE don’t tell the Syrians things will get bad once they start getting bombed. They might think you are insane.

Because, when it comes down to it, the counter-revolutionaries are going to scream bloody murder when a protester in Berkeley gets pepper spray in her eyes by the cops and at the same time defend the ruler in a regime where rule of law and democracy has never been in force, there is some heavy-duty orientalism/superior thinking going on. Evidently, a single protester in the USA is worth more, or the belief that Americans deserve full rule of law and justice but Syrians just must persevere because they have to resist “Western Imperialism” is rife. And why is this idea so common? Because (as usual) the Western activists have a great deal of trouble accepting that maybe they don’t know better than “the other” what’s better for them. They impose their fears on them, their ideology is naturally “revolutionary” but it does nothing in the slightest to back the revolution, and in fact, uses the terminology that the reactionary right/hasbarists have been using against the Palestinians for decades. They say that they would really support the Syrians, but they “know” that the Islamists are worse than Assad. How do they know this? Because they watch Press TV (run by an Islamic Theocratic state that incidentally finances Assad’s regime because it is holding back the majority rule in Syria, which would likely be democratic or in the lack of that, Sunni dominated) and they read who I have been referring to for years as the “fat white male western pundits”.

For years, I have managed and run various sites for Arab freedom causes, and for years, I have placed at the top of those sites articles and commentary written by Arabs. I believe that if you are able to serve a cause, the first task is to listen, then if you can, amplify the voice of the oppressed. But, while the names I published and translated on my site were overwhelmingly Arab, the names getting the big circulation on the web and doing the well-paid speaking tours were non-Arab, many times they were actually Israelis (ostensibly speaking “for” the Palestinians), almost all the time they were male, the educated élite of punditry and most of them were at least a generation older than those who were marching in the streets for their own rights. It was a rare thing to see the actual protagonists saying, “this is what I think, this is what I want, this is what I want from you”.

All of that has changed so much recently. There is a vast range of articles written by Syrians about their situation, by Palestinians about their situation as “double refugees” and by Arabs around the world who want to express solidarity with those of their language/culture and often religious affiliation. More than that, any week of the year, you can see the posters from the marches INSIDE Syria. Yes. After two and a half years, they are still marching in their streets and expressing what they want. They are not props set up by anyone, they are not the pawns of someone else’s interests, they are THOSE WE ARE SUPPOSED TO LISTEN TO AND EXPRESS SOLIDARITY WITH. What are they saying? Are they begging for the world to ignore them and let them sort it out on their own? No. In fact they are saying what they have been saying since the beginning, “if you don’t help us, we will be killed”.

Can the message get any clearer?

Can the message get any clearer?

Are you prepared to understand what kind of help they have been begging for from the start? They have been first of all asking for protection from the bombs. That means that those who are in the streets in the West have ignored for two and a half years that an entire population has been bombed night and day and that hundreds of thousands of them have lost everything they had. How could the “No War” people have missed this? Oh, that’s right, they have been listening only to the well-paid, popular, fat, white, western guys who get money from Press TV or Al Manar to tell them what is happening in Syria. They don’t actually have to LISTEN to Syrians or watch their videos that they load with constancy despite the difficulties, because they WANT us to know and to do something. They have been asking for the lifting of the arms embargo against the Free Syrian Army, which they recognise as their liberation force. The first commander of the FSA said (two years ago) that if the FSA were armed adequately, they would finish the revolution in a matter of weeks with no direct foreign intervention. He also said that if this did not happen, there would be other forces around who would not wait to form militias and enter into Syria, without the same revolutionary goals, and definitely not with an interest in a Syria for all of its people, even those who currently support Assad.

I suppose the most ironic part of the waffling hypocritical “activism” world that woke up now to “stop a war” that they aren’t even sure exists or not, and if it does, what kind of war it is, is that they claim to be anti-Zionist, but when for the first time a true threat to the Zionist state has been uttered by the regime and some of its supporters (Iran and Hezbollah) as the Syrian regime Army Generals warned “in case of attacks on Syria, ‘Israel will burn’ and that if Syria weakens, ‘certain irresponsible groups’ will be formed that would endanger Israel,” they don’t seem to understand the actual regional dynamics – or else they really don’t want anything to threaten Israel, whose own “security” has always trumped Arab rights and Arab lives.

Now, here is the core of the hypocrisy. Evidently, a Syria that accepts the provocations of Israel without responding, that accepts for decades the occupation of Syrian soil and helps to actually displace once again more Palestinians and to engage in a “scorched earth” policy with regard to what is supposed to be a threat to Israel (Syria itself), is considered as “resistant”. It is considered as an idea that is beyond the pale to bring Israel into any kind of conflict, and if there is such a thing, it can only be considered “irresponsible”. Israel has got to be left alone, not even a slap on the wrist, the Syrian regime is the one that sees to their protection, they are their border guardian not only throughout the decades, but more than ever now that Syria might actually lose Assad as its leader.

The expansion of the conflict is not what anyone wants, and in fact, Assad has seen to it to be the exact party not only to maintain the Israeli status quo, but to also keep any kind of anti-west or anti-pluralism elements at arm’s reach. If nothing else, this statement alone shows the fundamental flaw of the reasoning of at least a portion of the “solidarity activists against the war”. Now, not only will they be used to enhance the totalitarian, Arab-hating and Islamophobic forces in the area, but they will be given the legitimacy that they don’t get from their own people. Once again, Imperialism Wins! The Westerners know BETTER! And there is an important lesson to be learned, and repeated by any kind of “oriental despot”: massacre your own people in their sleep and the “solidarity” champions will make a hero of you.

 

No "more" bombs...the ones from Russia and Iran dropped by Assad's army can keep coming though... there are terrorists, you know.

No “more” bombs…the ones from Russia and Iran dropped by Assad’s army can keep coming though… there are terrorists, you know.

RE: Stop the War in Syria

Hello Antiwar Activist,

How are you? It’s been 2 and half years. I’ve missed you. I hope all is well. Thank you for writing back. Yes you’re right, we have to stop this war!

I am glad you are here now. We can use your help. You are against war, right? So you must really care about the Syrian people and want to help save them from the tragedies they have endured for far too long. Let me catch you up to speed so you can join the effort to help end this war.

The media is telling us that the West is about to attack Syria. You seem concerned. Just a heads up, Israel attacked Syria a month ago. The West attacked Mali last year, Libya the year before that, and continues to use drones worldwide every day. I didn’t hear from you then so you probably just didn’t get the memo. The war isn’t just about to start. It’s actually been going on for 2 and half years. 100,000 people are dead. 1 out of every three people is displaced. 1 out of every 3 people needs humanitarian assistance. The medical system has collapsed. And third of the country is in rubble because conventional weapons are being used indiscriminately every day.

So, the West is about to attack. We don’t want foreign military intervention right? Oh but Iranian and Lebanese forces have been there for some time now fighting with The Government’s army, and along with Russia have been arming them with sophisticated weapons. I guess that doesn’t count as foreign because those are not western countries. Israel attacked Syria a few times too but they are not Western so let’s forget about that too.

What’s important now is to stop the West. They’re always looking to start wars. They are the bad guy. So that means Syria must be the good guy. Oh you don’t know much about them. Let me fill you in. There is a dictatorship there. It’s been about 40 years. It comes with all the stuff you expect from good guys, no freedom of expression, no democracy, gross human rights violations, political prisoners, and complete theft of the economy. In fact one guy owns 60% of the entire Syrian economy! Hmm, let me see what else. Oh yeah they were responsible for the killing of an entire city of Hama killing over 20,000 people in 1982 and are a designated a state sponsor of terrorism since 1979. And in case you forgot they attacked, kidnapped, tortured, and killed peaceful protesters for the first 6 months of the conflict while people asked for their basic rights and freedoms. Most recently chemical attacks were used against people while they slept killing over a thousand men, women, and children. In case you were wondering, Syria has the largest stockpile of chemical weapons in the world.

But they are not the bad guys, right? It’s more important to stop the West because they cause collateral damage. Never mind the existing collateral damage caused by The Government that has reduced a third of the country to rubble and killed tens of thousands in the process. No need to protest against the daily indiscriminate missile strikes being used by Syria’s military because the 3 days of missile strikes by the West will be much worse for the people of Syria.

I mean who does the West think its fooling? After their claims about Iraq, who can believe them? There is no proof that a war exists in Syria and that The Government is responsible for anything. Maybe we should check with someone else who we can really trust. Let’s see what AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, UN-OCHA, INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS, AND REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS have to say. What? You’re kidding me? There actually IS a war going on and The Government IS responsible for the vast majority of crimes against humanity. You mean they have been using tanks, airplanes, helicopters and snipers indiscriminately against the population? You know, I don’t think I have heard you mention this war. Maybe you believe that war is only bad when other countries get involved, and that it is not a war when the government attacks its own people?

Let us be clear. When you say stop the war, you don’t just mean that West should not attack? You also mean that The Government should stop indiscriminately attacking its own population? I don’t think those countless reliable sources are wrong when they have repeatedly documented that a war has been going on, that The Government is largely responsible, and that this is not acceptable? You are against war, right? Or maybe it’s okay if the war is just inside the country itself? I mean the government’s crimes against humanity are needed because their enemy is foreign jihads who eat human hearts. That’s the real bad guy. Oh didn’t you know? The foreign jihadis have always been there. They have been there for 40 years so that’s why it was okay to have a dictatorship that trampled people’s freedom for decades. They were there during the peaceful protests, that’s why The Government had to attack and kill peaceful protestors for 6 months. And they are everywhere now. No Syrian has ever picked up a gun to defend himself after seeing his wife raped, his children slaughtered, and his home razed. The 100 000 people killed and 6 million people displaced are all foreign jihadis.

Don’t you know that dictatorship, oppression, waging war, and committing crimes against humanity does not cause a local population to resist? This is all just one big conspiracy by the West. Syrians don’t have a problem from 40 years of oppression. The scenes of millions of people across the entire country protesting peacefully for the human rights were all faked. And if they weren’t, well they must have been orchestrated by the West. I mean any human rights activist can tell you how easy it is to mobilize nationwide protests in the millions for 6 months. Even in the face of torture and death, they continued to protest because the West wanted them to. It had nothing to do with any internal desire for their own basic rights. We all know how easy it is to brainwash millions of people to go in the street and protest day after day when you’re facing possible death.

I mean in the end, it’s the people you care about right? That’s why you don’t want the West to attack. Protesting against a limited Western attack will help the people much more protesting against a war that has destroyed the country for 2 and half years, calling for more help in the largest humanitarian operation in the history of the UN, or demanding our governments do something, anything REAL to stop the bloodshed. Protesting against a limited Western attack will help the people by stopping the war all together. That’s what you really care about after all, the people. It has nothing to do with protesting yet another American foreign attack. You are there to protest because you truly care about the people.

Hmmm but where have you been. I haven’t seen you protesting and lobbying your government to increase humanitarian aid to the people of Syria. You do know it’s the largest humanitarian disaster of the century? That there are over 7 million people who need humanitarian assistance? I haven’t seen you asking for more pressure on the Syrian government to stop attacking civilians indiscriminately. You do know not a single UN Security Council on Syria has been passed?

Well you are here now. Nice to have you. I hope I can count on you to help the people of Syria. We need all the help we can get. We need to stop this war. We need to help the people. Let us stand together in solidarity and call for an end to the war in Syria. Let us stand together and demand protection and aid for the people of Syria. That’s why we are here right. It’s not just about stopping a small scale limited Western military intervention. It’s about ENDING THE WAR! It’s about helping the people of Syria. We are activists for a reason, right? Stopping wars is not our end goal, it’s just a means to saving our fellow man from oppression.

I have been here for some time now. I am exhausted. It’s nice to have you next to me. This war will likely not end anytime soon. I hope you will stay for the long haul.

Thank you,
A Human rights Activist

refugee camp of the Palestinian Nakba, 1948

refugee camp of the Palestinian Nakba, 1948

Commemoration Day of the Nakba is approaching. It is an important date that we must never ignore. All who know me are aware that my major interest for the past 3 decades has been to raise awareness of the Palestinian struggle and for those people to obtain their rights and justice, and for this reason, I have operated sites and written, translated, edited and shared articles on the issue, hoping to always allow the voices of the oppressed to have a venue to be heard. This Nakba day feels different from the others, though. For the first time, I feel that I am on the opposite side of the fence of many with whom I’ve campaigned for decades. I’m not talking about the Palestinians, who, by and large share the same views I do on the events of the Middle East, but I’m talking about the activism community in the West, the Left and those who consider themselves anti-imperialists.

What is the problem? The problem is that the focus in not at all about the plight of refugees and humans who are subjected to the greatest loss of all, especially in the moments of war or invasion, it is only about repeating a mantra that Israel and the West are the only enemies and anyone who is “VERBAL” about that, (it’s not required to actually DO anything to liberate occupied lands or to bring refugees back home!) has got to be backed and helped out no matter what any other policy is, particularly those internal policies that involve ethnic cleansing, oppression of part of the population, violence, arrest of any opposition, no matter if they are political or just average people on the street, extra-judicial killings and a vast list of crimes against humanity.

We have seen those who have fought for the rights of the Palestinians completely back the policy of genocide and ethnic cleansing carried out by Assad. All of this not based on his deeds, which include the active participation in the massacres and exile of Palestinians in Syria and prior to that in Lebanon.

refugee camp for Syrians in Turkey, 2013. Photo by Rana Sammani

refugee camp for internally displaced Syrians, 2013. Photo by Rana Sammani

We are seeing them deny the Nakba of the Syrian people because they are more convinced by fiery speeches than by a true liberation position that vows to protect the lives of Palestinians and at the same time mows them down along with the Syrians, because they dared to not take an active role in support of the regime or if they openly support the opposition. That is enough for the Palestinian camps inside Syria to be subjected to sieges worse than those in Gaza, carpet bombing, checkpoints, massacres and starvation, along with the destruction of their homes and exile, refugees once more, but this time with the denial of the proper documents by Syria so that they can register as refugees where they escaped to, a perverse strategy the Syrian regime uses to prevent them from obtaining their rights. The same fate of collective punishment of the Syrians. This alone should alarm ANY human rights activist, and even more so, those who campaign for Palestinian rights.

Shall we compare the numbers of the victims of these two crimes of displacement and forced exile?

During the 1948 Palestine War, an estimated 700,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled, and hundreds of Palestinian villages were depopulated and destroyed. (sources agree on this, from Benny Morris to Walid Khalidi)

Palestinian refugees in 1948

These refugees and their descendants number several million people today, divided between Jordan (2 million), Lebanon (427,057), Syria (477,700), the West Bank (788,108) and the Gaza Strip (1.1 million), with at least another quarter of a million internally displaced Palestinians in Israel. The displacement, dispossession and dispersal of the Palestinian people is known to them as an-Nakba, meaning “catastrophe” or “disaster”.

Syria (since the start of the uprising in 2011)

In August 2012, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that the number of registered Syrian refugees had reached over 200,000, exceeding the UNHCR estimate of 185,000 for the entire year. Also according to the United Nations, 6 million people inside Syria needed help and about 4 million Syrians were internally displaced because of the Syrian civil war.

By the early months of 2013 the UNCHR announced that the number of refugees had topped 1 million, and by March 2013 had risen to 1,204,707 people. A spokeswoman for UNHCR, Sybilla Wilkes, also reported that the rate of flight from Syria was increasing. “In March an average of 10,000 people crossing per day. In February it was 8,000. In January it was 5,000. The numbers keep going up and up.” It has been estimated that by the summer, the number of refugees will be 4.25 MILLION, only some of them registered with the agency because they have found refuge with families living abroad or are internally displaced, which does not record them at all.

700,000 is a lot of people displaced. It is a crime against humanity.

4.25 million is an astronomical number that barely is able to be imagined. The crimes against these people are also crimes against humanity.

If supporters of Human Rights for Palestinians ignore the displacement of Arabs, it is because they are in bad faith, ill-informed, or they do not have human rights as their core agenda. They hate the West (which most of them live in quite comfortably) much much more than they love the people who are subjected to oppression, and seek that they are not denied safety and rights. Justice and dignity are not what they care about, it is something else, and the sacrifice of the Syrian people and the Palestinians inside Syria has exposed all of this.

But, to be completely fair, it is not the concern of the Syrians themselves what the activists out here think. Many of them tell me they do not care about what the activists think and they no longer are interested in their support. They have shown their suffering to the world, they do not need the approval of anyone out of Syria. Even the hypocrisy does not faze them. They basically ignore what those people think, as it has no bearing on their lives. A just cause is a just cause, and the causes of Palestinian and Syrian people are just causes, and they do not get diminished by the neglect or double standards of activists. It is the luxury of activists like me, out here, safe and comfortable, to despise the hypocrisy and hope that this vile thing would change over time, as more and more people regain their reason and reject the empty rhetoric that for decades fooled a lot of us, and still does fool some. The Syrians have the conviction that victory will come to the righteous, that God will not allow them to lose, and that it is only a matter of time, but justice will come. This is why they are so much better than I will ever be, they do not waste energy on the useless emotions, they know the battle is where they live, fought on their soil, and they strive towards their goal.

the "enemy" bombs... but you of course, don't react, do you?

the “enemy” bombs… but you of course, don’t react, do you?

WRITTEN BY LORENZO TROMBETTA, translated by Mary Rizzo

No open warfare is about to break out in the Middle East. And no balance status quo in place for decades is about to get off kilter. The Syrian regime has no intention of responding militarily to the alleged air raid carried out by Israeli fighter jets just two steps away from Damascus against a target, the nature of which is still uncertain. The Israeli action is only indirectly linked to the dynamics of the ongoing internal conflict in Syria and is not intended to be followed by any other actions in the short term.

In the night between Tuesday 29 and Wednesday 30 January, an “unprecedented explosion” was heard by the inhabitants of Jamraya and Hamma, located halfway between Damascus and the Lebanese border. The sources speak of a blast that was “much more powerful than those heard in the past” and a fire broke out inside the Science and Research Centre, protected on three sides by land controlled by the armed forces.

Israeli press sources indicated in that same area the target of the raid. But diplomats and intelligence (anonymous) affirm that what had been struck was a convoy of missiles destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon, the allies of Damascus who effectively control large portions of territory across the border.

In a statement, the Syrian government has admitted the Israeli bombing, saying it targeted a research centre and in the attack and two employees died. At this point, there is insufficient information available and provided by unidentified sources, the reconstructions are biased and contradictory.

What is certain is that for days the Israeli air force had stepped up patrols over the skies of Lebanon. A fact confirmed by the Ministry of Defence in Beirut and the UN force deployed in southern Lebanon.

The rise of the Israeli security measures was a result of the claims made by the authorities of the Jewish State about the danger of the chemical weapons in the possession of the Syrian regime possibly falling into the hands of its allies, Hezbollah. For Israel, they are the real enemy at the gates.

The Syria of the Assads for decades has not constituted a real threat to Israel’s security. Indeed, as has been repeatedly stated in a direct and an indirect way by Israeli politicians, the permanence in power of President Bashar al Assad is a guarantee and not a danger to the Jewish state. Which has never hidden the fact that it prefers its best enemy to the unknown.

Signals that no war is about to break out in the region also come from the two main allies of Damascus: Hezbollah verbally condemned the raid yet,  in spite of having ample means to do so, it did nothing to prevent the Israeli fighter jets from bombing a target just miles away from the Syrian capital.

Israeli planes went in – confirmed the defense ministry in Beirut – by Naqura, on the sea, and in a north-easternly direction, have gone through almost all of the Beqaa valley passing right over the inner defense lines, deposits and training camps of the Shiite militia. If Hezbollah really wanted to protect its ally – and unleash a new war with Israel – it could use at least one of the twenty thousand missiles said to be in possession of the pro-Iranian movement.

And if Israel wanted to support the Syrian anti-regime rebels – which is the argument of the supporters of Assad, raising hue and cry of a foreign conspiracy led by the Zionists – they not merely would bomb a sole objective, and almost two years after the start of the uprising, but they would have long ago started a campaign on several fronts to accelerate the fall of Assad

Iran, for its part, had in recent days said that “any attack on Syria will be considered an attack on Iran.” But from the declaration of condemnation in the latest hours from Tehran – by the Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defense – it is clear that the Islamic Republic will not act militarily in the rescue of its historic Arab ally.

The Syrian government – through the ambassador in Beirut, not the president Assad says that it reserves the right to respond to the vile aggression, but it will do it by way of surprise. As if the surprise effect was an exception in this type of action and not the norm.

The difficult position of the Syrian regime is put in these hours is further laid bare by the finding – reported not only by expert analysts but by the simplest of men in the street in Syria – that no Syrian military aircraft rose in the air to protect the country from an Israeli raid.

And that the Damascys avatiation  will not be used against the “enemy” but will continue to be used against field hospitals where injured are crowded beyond belief, bakeries before which stretch lines of women and children, and mosques which are the refuges of displaced families. (Limesonline, January 31, 2013).

http://www.sirialibano.com/short-news/siria-israele-business-as-usual.html

SCRITTO DA Iyad Abou-Rabii
Tradotto da Mary Rizzo
Torniamo indietro fino al 1967 quando Hafez Al-Assad era il Ministro della Difesa siriana. Era considerato come direttamente responsabile per la sconfitta nella Guerra di Sei Giorni nel 1967.

Il 15 settembre 1970, King Hussein dichierò la legge marziale. Il giorno seguente, carri armati giordani (La Brigata 60° dell’Esercito Giordano) attaccarono la sede delle organizzazioni palestinesi ad Amman; l’esercito ha anche attaccato campi in Irbid, Salt, Sweileh, Baq’aa, Wehdat e Zarqa. Quando una parte dell’esercito siriano sotto il commando della divione siriana dell’Esercito per la Liberazione della Palestina (PLA), decise di assistere i loro fratelli palestinesi, trovarono con loro la 40° Brigata dell’Esercito Giordano. L’Aeronautica Militare Siriana, sotto gli ordini di Assad, non entrò mai nella battaglia. C’erano tra i tremila e i cinquemila soldati palestinesi uccisi.

Dopo il danno d’immagine causato dal totale fallimento dell’Esercito siriano di prendere parte nella Guerra dei Sei Giorni nel 1967, e iracondo dopo l’abortito intervento nella guerra Giordana-Palestinese di settembre, all’interno del governo iniziò un conflitto tra le varie posizioni. Quando il Presidente Nureddin al-Atassi ed il leader de facto, il Vice Segretario Generale del partito Ba’ath Jadid, si resero conto della situazione, ordinarono che Assad e Tlass fossero privati di ogni potere di partito e di governo; ma era troppo tardi. Assad iniziò velocemente un golpe intra-partito senza spargimento di sangue, la Rivoluzione Correttiva di 1970. Il partito fu epurato, Atassi e Jadid imprigionati ed i lealisti di Assad si istaurarono nelle posizioni chiave in ogni settore del governo.

La guerra con Israele nel ottobre 1973 (per me è la “Recita d’ottobre” e non la Guerra d’ottobre) che era stata presentata dal governo siriano come una vittoria, fu in realtà un disastro, poichè alla fine della guerra l’esercito israeliano aveva invaso grandi porzioni della Siria, con posizioni fino a 40 km da Damasco. Dopo questa data, fino ad oggi, il confine siriana con Israele è stato il più sicuro, calmo e silenzioso di tutti.

Il 12 agosto, 1976, l’esercito di Assad con alcune fazioni libanesi (Phalange, Guardiani dei Cedri e Tigre forze di milizia) attaccò il più grande assembramento di soldati palestinesi nel campo di Tel al-Zaatar. Fu un massacro; il campo ospitava oltre 60.000 rifugiati palestinesi, più 2.500 soldati del OLP. Furono uccisi 1.500 palestinesi, (1.200 di essi civili), tra i leader della fazione armata libanese (Michel Aoun), l’attuale amico del regime siriano.

Un’altro colpo duro inferto ai palestinesi dopo il suo ruolo nel Settembre Nero fu il 19 maggio, 1985 quando scontri pesanti si sviluparono tra Amal e la milizia del campo rifugiati palestinese per il controllo dei campi di Sabra, Shatila e Burj el-Barajneh a Beirut. Amal, era sostenuta prevalentamente dagli sciiti della 6° Brigata dell’Esercito Libanese. Essa a sua volta si trovava sotto il comando di alcune divisioni dell’ 8° Brigata, prevalentemente cristiana, fedele al Generale Michel Aoum (di nuovo), il quale era stazionato a Beirut est. Praticamente tutte le case nei campi furono ridotto a macerie.

Amal fu supportato fortemente dalla Siria e sostenuto indirettamente da Israele (Sì, Israele), mentre l’OLP non ha goduto di molto sostegno dall’estero. Amal ebbe anche il vantaggio sull’OLP per quanto riguardava equipaggiamento, soprattuto veicoli corazzati (forniti direttamente dall’Esercito siriano); Amal fu inoltre sostenuto dall’Aeronautica Militare dell’Israele (IAF) che lanciò alcuni raid aerei contro postazioni palestinesi (Saidon 1986).

Questa guerra (La Guerra dei Campi) finì con l’espulsione di ogni militante palestinese dal Libano (un’altro ruolo sporco giocato da Assad contro la resistenza palestinese).

Ecco il sostegno che il regime degli Al-Assad ha dato alla resistenza palestinese! E ancora volete considerarlo un’eroe che sostiene la resistenza contro i sionisti?!

Ecco suo figlio

In 2000, quando Bashar andrò al potere, tutta la popolazione siriana lo sostenne, anche se non fu eletto democraticamente, ma per il popolo – che a questo punto pensò con un po’ d’amnesia –cambiamenti radicali avrebbero potuto portare il Paese al caos, e preferì accettare Bashar, che promisse loro cambiamenti politici ed economici di grande portata. Fu quindi creduto da tutti, me compreso.

Infatti, moltissime persone avevano creduto in lui, come Aref Dalila che nel 2001 fu tra gli attivisti incoraggiati dal senso di ottimismo mentre Bashar al-Assad, il giovane nuovo presidente stava facendo i suoi primi passi come capo dello Stato. Ecco quale fu lo spirito del periodo che fu chiamato la “Primavera di Damasco”.

Ma una dura presa di coscienza con la realtà fu necessaria nel settembre di quell’anno, quando Sig. Dalila e nove altri furono rastrellati ed arrestati in una repressione governativa. Il suo crimine? Promuovere l’idea di riforme e di parlare contro la corruzione ad ogni livello – una questione in cui senza dubbio poteva dire di avere possedere autorevolezza, essendo stato uno dei principali economisti del Paese che servì come professore alle Università di Aleppo e Damasco. Alcuni fanno menzione di come lui fu un caso davvero particolare, essendo una rara voce critica dalla setta Alawita, la minoranza cui appartiene il presidente e quello che ha sempre dominato il potere dal momento che Hafez al-Assad prese il potere in 1970.

E mentre il governo siriano ebbe goduto di una considerevole rivalutazione diplomatica, gli attivisti per i diritti umani sostennero sempre che pochissimo cambiò in questo campo dal momento che Sig. Dalili fu sequestrato dalla sua casa dagli agenti della sicurezza in borghese. Un numero di attivisti molto conosciuti furono arrestati con Sig. Dalila e poi rilasciati e ora sono di nuovo sono dietro le sbarre, insieme con decine di altre persone che sono detenuti per motivi politici.

Pochissimi attivisti pensano che la situazione potrebbe migliorare, a dispetto del miglioramento dei rapporti internazionali.

14 rami dei servizi segreti erano attivi, mentre solo 5 università funzionavano, facendo si che fosse molto più facile per i cittadini siriani di essere arrestati o cominciare a lavorare per uno di questi servizi piuttosto che fare gli studi universitari.

In 11 anni, nulla è cambiato, se non in peggio. La corruzione è il pane quotidianno di ogni siriano, la disoccupazione è al 20%, il capitalismo si è lentamente istaurato in Siria, e non esiste più nulla del socialismo, se non un nome senza significato sui testi ufficiali.

Perché scrivo questo?

Perché vedo che ci sono persone che non conoscono affatto la faccia vera del regime degli Al-Assad, e il loro scopo nella vita è di andare dove nessun imperialista o politico americana mette piede, quindi, vedono nel (non esistente) sostegno degli USA alla siriani che protestano un’indicazione che la loro rivolta non è niente altro che una aspirazione occidentale.

Questo è assolutamente e totalmente sbagliato….

Sbagliato perché gli Usa e i sue alleati non stanno sostenendo il popolo siriano, regalando a Bashar tutto il tempo necessario di mettere la parola “fine” alla loro rivolta (ma loro mantengono nelle dichiarazioni pubbliche parole di sostengo verso il popolo siriano, per il motivo di continuare di tenere il bastone al centro.)

Abbiamo visto gli USA che invadono Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Iraq, Groenlandia e altri Paesi senza ascoltare l’opinione russa o cinese o cercando di ottenere il loro consenso, perché proprio ora stiamo talmente interessati in quello che pensano e di quello che faranno con la risoluzione all’ONU?

Stiamo ora vivendo questa repressione brutale in Siria. Che cosa è la risposta adeguata quando l’impulso democratico di un qualsiasi Paese è calpestato dall’ecessivo e disumano uso di forza dello Stato?

Alcuni parlano ancora di una transizione pacifica e democratica! Non è crudele di occupare la mente con fantasie di trasformazioni democratiche di fronte a uccisioni di massa? Quando la gente mette la sua vita in pericolo ogni giorno per gli ideali rivoluzionari, non è quello dei critici solamente un gioco intelletuali irrilevante? Noi, progressisti o gente di sinistra, non dobbiamo comunque dubitare la paradigma di una trasformazione in ogni caso?

Poi, ci sono i fatti. Uno di questi fatti è che il regime siriano ha da molto tempo posseduto uno dei più brutali meccanismi di controllo nella regione. E mentre i massacri indiscriminati piovano sulle teste dei civili, gli studiosi della storia non possono non vedere gli echi del massacro sanguinoso in 1982 a Hama.

Quello che serve al popolo siriano è solamente l’umanità con la sua coscienza.

Io continuo a credere, come è stato detto da Martin Luther King Jr, che “l’arco della storia va verso la direzione della giustizia.”

Originale: http://iyadabourabii.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/al-assad-story/
GRAZIE Eugenio Dacrema per l’aiuto.

Israeli drilling plans

As a little flotilla passes overhead, the Leviathan Reservoir slumbers deep below. A vast oil and gas deposit, little has been said about it in the American press since its existence was confirmed in 2010. But Israel is ecstatic, Lebanon is vigilant and Gaza is getting screwed.

Job 3:8 “Let them curse it …who are ready to raise up a leviathan,” i.e. necromancers who rouse and control wild beasts at will… In Isaiah 27:1; “leviathan  the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked (wriggling) serpent,” (Gleaned from Bible-history.com.)

“In Israel’s deep waters, in virgin territory, a monster natural gas discovery has been made.” Noble Energy CEO Charles Davidson.

“With Israel suddenly awash in gas… the discoveries put Israel on the global energy map long dominated by oil-rich nations in the Middle East.” Houston Chronicle  Jan. 5, 2010.

According to Press TV (June 18,) Noble Energy was granted permission by Israeli officials to begin developing a natural gas field off the Gaza Strip coastline. Israel’s Ministry of National Infrastructure is claiming the shortage/disruption of natural gas from Egypt is the reason it granted approval.

That Israel has any right to Palestine’s resources is negated by UN Resolution 3005 states clearly that the natural wealth and resources of the Gaza Strip are to be controlled by the citizens of Gaza.

Kanan Pbeid, a Gaza Energy expert was quoted in the Press TV article saying: “This is nothing but theft of Palestinian’s natural resources. Palestinians are the only ones who should benefit from natural gas reserves.”

But the Gaza deposits are only part of a huge gas and oil reservoir that Israel is trying to claim as its own.

The Leviathan Reservoir lies within the Levant Basin Province (LBP), which itself lies under the continental shelf off the eastern Mediterranean coast. Estimates of the gas deposits within the LBP run to 16 trillion cubic feet and are worth an approximately $95 billion. It’s the largest natural gas discovery anywhere in the last ten years.

The Israelis already have, among others, an active drill site located 129 kilometers (80 miles) off Haifa. It dwarfs the discovery of the Tamar 1 drill site 47 kilometers (29 miles) to the southeast. That reserve is estimated to be worth US $15 billion.

These realities may also explain why Israel is attempting to keep prying eyes away from the deep-water sites. Is that one reason why the IDF boarded the Free Gaza flotilla in international waters, waters it’s trying to claim according to its interpretation of International Maritime Law? Does a closer inspection show that Israel is also disregarding International Maritime borders on top of those it’s ignoring in Palestine?

there's gas in them thar waters....

The accompanying United States Geological Survey (USGS) map shows the Levant Basin Province layout published Dec. 29, 2010. To access the full report look for “Assessment of Undiscovered Oil and Gas Resources of the Levant Basin Province, Eastern Mediterranean” at the USGS site. A rough triangle, LBP is divided into three groups of subterranean rock and encompasses 83,000 square kilometers or 51,573 square miles.

The USGS actually discovered the untapped field before 2008, but it was the publication of the above Assessment and the “simultaneous discovery” of productive drill sites that caused the excitement in 2010. Because the drill sites are off the Israeli coast, Israel and the funding consortium are acting on the assumption that Israel has pretty much exclusive access to the shelf’s resources. They point to Israeli-issued extraction licenses granted to the Matan and Dalit /Michal drill sites as their legal basis to develop and drill. Israel and Cyprus are also in talks about development rights.

The Leviathan consortium is a joint venture between the Houston based Noble Energy Inc. and the Israeli companies Delek Group Ltd. Isramco, Dor Oil, Avner Oil and Ratio Oil Exploration. With certain stipulations, this consortium already accounts for approximately half of Israel’s oil and gas recovery activity. Other Israeli companies, such as Zion Oil, are also players with drill sites near the Dead Sea among others.

Some of the CEOs of these companies have strong fundamentalist Christians and Hassidic views. Devoutly religious, they readily admit applying their religious views to their work, viewing the discoveries as Yahweh’s “Blessing on Israel” to allow it to be energy independent. Others are more business oriented and plan on exporting to Europe and/or Asian.

What the Leviathan reserve will eventually yield in benefits to Israeli is being furiously debated. The Tamar gas site alone could generate annual revenues of NIS 2-3 billion in the next 30 years. The Israeli government commissioned Sheshinski Committee recommended the income be used to retire Israel’s external debt.

However! Despite the jubilation in Israeli financial markets over the country’s future prosperity, there are a couple flies in the ointment.

Within a week of the announcement in 2010, Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Aki al-Shami asked U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to “exert every possible effort to prevent Israel exploiting Lebanon’s maritime hydrocarbon resources, which fall within its exclusive economic zone.”

The United Nations rejected this appeal not on lack of merit but because the UNIFIL’s mandate under resolution 1701: “does not include the demarcation of maritime borders. National conflicts and maritime conflicts are two separate things.”

That means the case passes to the appropriate commission, perhaps the International Maritime Organization, which is mandated by the UN to handle legal matters pertaining to international shipping or perhaps under a wing of the courts in The Hague. There are legal avenues.

The Levant Basin Province situated on the Eurasian-Arabian-African continental plate intersection is 51,573 square miles, hardly within the internationally recognized maritime borders of 12 miles from the shore of any country. There was an effort in the late 20th century to extent this maritime border to 400 miles but was never adopted due to problems related to contiguous national borders in Europe and the like.

According the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and using its map as a visualization tool, the Levant Basin Province starts in a sharp point under the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula close to the Israeli border and runs up the Levant Transform Zone through Israel, Lebanon and Syria as it bumps against the Jordan Rift Valley on the east. It ends inland from the Turkish coast then juts out in a triangle reaching into the Mediterranean and into Cyprus’ territorial island waters. The last leg of the triangle shoots south in a wide curve under the Mediterranean until it rejoins the Sinai point. It’s divided into three sub-strata reserves.

The Levant Margin Reservoirs western edge runs north/south a mile or so off the shores of Israel, Lebanon and Syria. Its land mass is pushed upward causing the ripples that form the hills of Jerusalem and the Lebanon Mountains until they bump into the Jordan Valley It contains mostly natural gas and some oil.

The Levant Sub-salt Reservoirs are under deep water and abuts the Levant Margin Reservoir off the Lebanese, Syrian and Turkish shores then fans west to Cyprus. It holds the best oil and much of the natural gas of the entire Levant Reservoirs.

Adjoining it and formed by the rising seabed and shallower waters, the Plio-Pleistocene Reservoir begins at the Lebanon/Israeli border, reaches west to the Eratosthemes Seamount south of Cyprus then turns southeast to travel the Nile Delta Cone to the Sinai Peninsula. In shallow waters, it contains mostly gas and some oil. The Levant Margin Reservoirs contains oil and gas fields. The Plio-Pleistocene Reservoirs includes eight gas fields, and the Levant Sub-Salt Reservoirs have two discoveries (Tamar, Datil). This accounting does not include development sites at the proposed Leviathan drill site or elsewhere.

Israel claims the Tamar and Leviathan drill sites are within Israel’s coastal territory and therefore theirs to exploit. However a look at the USGS map shows a roughly even split at the Lebanon/Israeli border of the Plio-Pleistocene and Levant Sub-Salt Reservoir vast amount of coastal territory belongs to Lebanon.

Then there’s Palestine. For years Israel has tapped into the oil/gas reserves off the northeast tip of Gaza and which were once part of the Palestinian territories. British Gas drilled two wells: the Gaza Marine-1 and Gaza Marine-2. These fields are estimated to be worth at $4 billion.

“I think,” Haidar Eid, a political analyst said in the Press TV article, “this comes in line with Israel’s consistent policy of stealing Palestinian’s land,
stealing natural resources and I think that Israel knows very well that it can get away with murder due to an international conspiracy of silence.”

The truth is, according to epalestine.com, Gaza is sitting on a major gas field contain an estimated 1.4 trillion cubic feet of gas. In addition Palestine has an oil reserve 22 miles off the Gaza Strip. There is no reason, except for Israeli greed, that Palestine couldn’t achieve self-sufficiency when it is recognized as an independent state.

www.presstv.ir/detail/184762.html

USGS/ Assessment of Undiscovered
Oil/Levant Basin Province

World Petroleum
Resources Project

Funeral in Gaza City

GAZA, TWO MONTHS AFTER THE ASSASSINATION: Two months with Vittorio Arrigoni

By Michele Giorgio
in Gaza City (from il manifesto, 15 June 2011) www.ilmanifesto.it
translated from Italian by Mary Rizzo

“Children will be playing in these spaces, we have renovated the bathroom and the kitchen will be here,” Saber Zanin moves quickly from one  room to another in the “Forsan al Ghad for Youth Association” of Beit Hanoun.

Just a short time before, he led a demonstration of about thirty Western volunteers from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) at the margins of the “buffer zone”, the most fertile agricultural lands of Gaza.

It is in those areas where “for security reasons” the Israeli army does not allow Palestinians to gain access, not even those who own property there. It is a measure that is accompanied by the fire of automatic weapons against whoever dares to violate that prohibition that has brought starvation  to hundreds of families who live by means of family farming. “Vittorio struggled with us. We have had so many marches along the buffer zone together, he was a brother to me,” Saber muses, showing us some photos of Vittorio that had been taken in recent months on his laptop. Today in memory of the Italian activist that was kidnapped and killed two months ago in Gaza, the summer camp “Stay Human, Restiamo Umani” will have its inauguration. “We will welcome 60 children and teens between 6 and 16 years of age,” Saber explains, “and in addition to them being able to play and have fun, they will also learn about the political and human story of Vittorio. Not only that, they will learn principles of humanitarian rights, preparing them to follow in the footsteps of our fallen brother.” Sponsoring the summer camp are a dozen or so Italian NGOs that work in the Gaza Strip. Saber has the possibility of making a dream come true. “Vittorio protected Palestinian children, he would be happy that this initiative is being dedicated to him.”

Two months without Vik. On the contrary, two months always with Vik because in Gaza, friends and comrades haven’t forgotten him. His words  are like stones, his image is part of the collective memory. Daniela Riva, a volunteer in the GVC of Bologna spent the last several years in the Strip,  working on development projects. Vittorio was a close friend of hers. “When I used to break down in front of whoever could not understand my involvement with Gaza,” Daniela says, “Vik would repeat to me that I had to answer that being involved in a struggle for justice and freedom means being alive, is there anything worth living or dying for that has more value than that?… when months ago (the shootings from Israeli soldiers) a farmer was killed, one who I’d only met with a few minutes prior, Vittorio told me to try hard to cry no tears at that funeral, but to keep my head held high. One does not cry for martyrs. I did it. I tried to do the same at his funeral too, but the tears fell despite my efforts…”

Memories, intense moments of emotion for a young man whose life was taken at only 36 years of age, who with honesty and constancy, through  the Internet, had for years sent out daily information on Gaza under the Israeli siege.  Not omitting the economic or social aspects of the situation. News that yesterday had once more been confirmed. An UNRWA report records that in the second half of 2010 the unemployment rate of Gaza is at 45.2%, one of the world’s highest. On the other hand, the level of salaries keeps sinking. “This is an alarming trend,” the spokesman of the UNRWA Chris Gunness says. “It is difficult to understand the logic of a policy that was carefully planned (by Israel, author’s note) to deliberately impoverish and that has condemned hundreds of thousands of persons to a life of abject misery. If the purpose of the policy of the closure of Gaza  was to weaken Hamas,” he continues, “these numbers show that they have failed, while at the same time there has been massive success in punishing whoever can be counted among the poorest of the poor in the Middle East.”

Vittorio’s parents, his sister, his friends, everyone who knew him personally or who had met him through Internet, those who had listened  intently while he spoke in tours throughout Italy, all of them are impatiently waiting to know the truth about his assassination. That moment could be near. Authoritative sources of the Ministry of Justice and of the Security Services of the Hamas government – who have asked to remain anonymous – have told il manifesto that the Military Court will issue an official communiqué at the end of June on the course of the investigations and it will bring to trial at least two persons involved in various levels in the kidnapping and assassination of Vittorio. One of these is Mahmoud al Salfiti, the only survivor of the three members of the self-proclaimed Salafite cell (who had left the Tawhid wal Jihad group) responsible for the kidnapping. The other two, the Jordanian Abdel Rahman Breizat and Bilal Omari were killed in the armed clash at Nuseriat with a special forces team of Hamas several days after the having killed the Italian activist.

Sources of the Ministry of Justice have explained that the investigations that had closed in mid-May had been reopened following another two failed kidnap attempts of two young American citizens: a cooperation worker (long-time resident in the Strip) and an activist of the ISM (the latter near the “Gallery”, the coffeehouse that Vittorio frequented along with various local and international activists). The mind behind the kidnapping was the Jordanian Breizat, who had prepared the plan about a month and a half earlier, using the help of various inhabitants of Gaza who were close to Vittorio, most of them unaware of his intentions. At the start, the sources add, the plan didn’t include the killing of the Italian. However, when the kidnappers were aware that they would have been discovered in a matter of hours, they decided to make a run for it and cover their tracks. It was Breizat who had killed Vittorio, because he was convinced that by leaving the kidnapped man alive they would have been discovered immediately (Vik personally knew at least two of the kidnappers, in particular Bilal Omari, who went to the same gym he frequented in Gaza City).

For the confirmation of this information, there is nothing to do but await the start of the trial. In that moment the acts can be consulted and we can finally know the declarations made during the interrogations of the accused parties. In the meantime, mystery reigns over the eight objects  belonging to Vittorio that disappeared after the kidnapping, in particular, his laptop. The Hamas authorities have referred in an earlier moment that they had been recovered and were being held at the central command of the Police. Now, they deny this.

scene from a big fish story

This article was one of the most popular on Palestine Think Tank, and one of the most controversial. It examined “our” world of activism, and how the claims of an “alarm and emergency”, unchecked and unverified, lead to an incident that cast a negative light on all the hard work that many people around the world are doing, and worse, putting the true victims of Zionism, the Palestinians, in the shadows. We reprint it due to great request (the photos and comments from the original site shall follow), as members of the community are once again unsuspecting protagonists in another “big fish story” with a different tack of obtaining attention and accolades. Within the coming weeks, the entire PTT archives will be transferred here. We must inform our readers that since this, Ken O’Keefe has finally admitted that he is indeed NOT a former US citizen, but that yes, he does travel on a valid USA passport. So, his top claim to integrity finally has been shown for what it is, nothing! If Truth matters, one must be truthful. Facts have an odd way of always coming to the surface.

Recent events regarding the setbacks that involved the Road to Hope convoy had made an impact on the activist world in an extremely negative way. That the mission was (finally) successful after such dramatic events is positive and undeniable, yet in light of information that had been gathered from as many sources as possible, a picture emerged which may change the interpretation of what it is that we are witnessing and make us question the utilisation of our activists in disseminating unverified information which, when held up to scrutiny, reveals a totally different set of affairs. One where what actually happened was that those who had initially been accused of the worst deeds had done everything necessary to avoid the real risk of a major international crisis due to the recklessness of some, and those who many judge as heroic instead might actually have been the cause of a series of events that would have been the centre of a lengthy diplomatic crisis and possibly extensive time in detention for many, with Gaza being pushed to the corner, had things taken a different turn and other decisions made.

This report of the RTH “boat incident” attempts to shed light on what was a nebulous situation, full of contradiction, disinformation, erroneous information, extensive calls for sending money to places that were not the organisation itself and now it has become a penal case that will unfold in due time. This report is in no way attempting to represent any party directly involved, and as a matter of fact, it was made possible by means of contributions from very many parties and from the information that was freely shared on several social networks (in the public domain). There was no pressure to publish or withhold information, and as will become evident, some parties were generous in making themselves available, and others refused to do so unless their unacceptable conditions were met. Even the matter of asking the “other side” for their version was treated as if it were a betrayal to truth, and efforts were made by some to stop this from even happening by spreading the most vile and insulting lies regarding this writer and anyone at all who dared to want to know information. (This writer and anyone else who dared to question were accused without the slightest moment of pause as being “paid agents for the CIA, the Mossad or the MI5”. Yeah, sure!)

Every party involved was given the same opportunity to be interviewed under the same conditions and no preference was given to anyone who might then in some way control or limit our freedom in objectively assessing the event and its aftermath. It is our hope to shed light on a very crucial matter concerning all of us, and which has involved many in an emotional, economic and political way and which may bear repercussions on future interventions in favour of Palestine.

When a project fails or flounders, analysis for correction and re-planning is the obvious course. Possibly, bringing a humanitarian convoy to Gaza by means of a land transfer via Egypt was doomed to failure from the outset. Road to Hope’s purpose is admirable, but a lack of logistic intelligence combined with other factors undermined the entire enterprise. Currently, in practice, flotillas are organised precisely because of the existence of Egyptian protocol that allows goods to arrive exclusively in its port at Al Arish, where, with Egypt’s good offices and the correct documentation, the delivery of the materials will be completed. There is a total block on entry via land. Every successful mission so far has had this as the leitmotif, a recognition of what the “rules” are and have been logistically organised with that in mind.

It had been suggested in the calls for participation by RTH, implicitly or explicitly, that all the arrangements were in place to make the trip by land. Further, calls to join the convoy, which arrived in many of our email boxes, stated that all that was needed were vehicles to take part. “Paperwork” would be left to the organisation. If the original organisers were aware or not of the Egyptian position, that pales with what seems to have struck the organisation since control of it was assumed by activist, Ken O’Keefe.

This overview of events, not all-encompassing, attempts, paramountly, to be objective, highlighting several vital points. The first, that the just and honourable purpose of Road to Hope should not be tarnished by the recklessness of a few, and that there still may be time for the organisation to re-assess and regain self-responsibility. Secondly, plans and efforts made in activism, should also be backed by clear strategic thinking, encompassing areas such as coordination of fundraising, public relations, logistics and, though possibly secondary, a unified, identifiable political strategy. Time spent in “damage control” and “contingency and emergency” is time wasted, to be used sparingly, if at all.

Fundamentally vital is assuring public support and positive media attention by commitment to transparency and accountability. Activists must be serious, reliable and transparent. They also must maintain their actions within international law.

All who are passionately concerned wish to be involved in some way, but most do not have the “chance” to actively take part. If you are in Australia or Japan, caring deeply about Palestine, without the possibility or power to participate personally, you know that you CAN do something, you can join the “information war”, you can contribute economically to the initiatives of others. You can fundraise locally, give talks, knowing your funds will be directed into something “practical.” In this case, a convoy that will seek to break the siege against Gaza.

Since few activists are full-time (like any other “job”, it requires financing) the majority donate energies, money and time. Those who took part in the convoy raised funds, left families, homes and jobs for an unspecified period of time and entrusted the logistics of the mission to a leader or leaders. Those remaining home, contributed by following the news and making calls necessary to further the convoy’s journey. Thus, there is a responsibility by both groups of activists, those able to make themselves available personally, and those who are unable, but who also have a role to play in the success of the enterprise.

It should be mentioned here that RTH did not have the same leader from its inception. At a certain point, it simply changed leadership. How did Ken O’Keefe take part in this convoy? From his site http://kenokeefe.wordpress.com/2010/11/18/road-to-hope-convoy-kidnapping-statement-of-events-by-ken-okeefe/ we read this excerpt (complete quote in footnote)
****
“Whatever people may believe, I did not want nor ask for this position, nonetheless I accepted it and have done my best to help keep this convoy together and to ensure its success. Having taken this role as late as I did I fully realised that it was impossible to undo past mistakes, so moving forward I have done my best to see the convoy reach Gaza, with or without me.”[i]
*****
Leaders are not dictators nor are they the purpose of any organisation. If they make decisions or undertake actions contrary to the purposes of the organisation, if they bring the project to ridicule or needless waste, they should, arguably, be held accountable.

Whether decisions are by consensus or delegated to a leader/leaders, is a question that arises within activism. Consensus can be granted or denied. It is up to RTH as an organisation to judge their personal balance sheet of gains/losses in terms of image, money, reliability, effectiveness. That said, Ken O’Keefe and others had flown directly to Libya and were not part of the land convoy up until arriving at the termination of the land journey, thus had not shared the experiences of the core group.

The first alarm bells for those who were unaware of the “internal crisis” started to ring when the convoy was being held for a particularly lengthy period of time in Libya. Apparently, the guaranteed passage was not happening, so activists were instructed to call and write the Egyptian Embassy to demand (those were the words) the convoy’s passage. In the appeal http://www.facebook.cDemand-Egypt-let-the-Road-to-Hope-convoy-through/163486290350119?ref=mf, which had appeared multiple times in the inbox of almost every activist on Facebook, we were asked to inform Egypt that we would start campaigns to boycott Egyptian tourism if the demand was not met. Aside from the fact that this would punish the Egyptian people and not the regime, it has never been a demand by any Egyptian activist for Palestine, because they are aware it would only weaken them in an already difficult situation where they are prohibited from personally being as active in support to their neighbours in Gaza as they would like to be. Nor is it a feasible strategy when we cannot even get the boycott against Israel to have global relevance. It would be aiming and shooting at our best allies, the Arab people who are the most sympathetic to the cause. Strategically, in our view, this is unwise. Also to the point, Gazans themselves do not want to bring any negative actions against Egyptians. The political leader of Hamas himself has stated:

*****
“We have limited our resistance to be in opposition to the Israeli occupation alone. Our resistance is against the enemy occupying our land and encroaching on our people and holy sites, and not against anyone else.” Khaled Meshaal.[ii]

*****

So, not only can this position be considered as ineffective, it also clashes with demands of those directly interested.

Ken O’Keefe had something to say about the stall.[iii] It seems the “understanding” of passage was not what was reality held in store, and Convoy Leader Keiran Turner had a plan, to press on without permission or deliver aid by sea.[iv]

Every activist agrees that the policy of closure to Gaza is wrong, and if it was understood that there was going to be a policy change of some sort, all of this should be taken into consideration for future actions and in the RTH assessment of their route. If they were mislead that there was going to be an exception to the rule, they should hold the persons accountable for having lead them down the garden path and into the Libyan desert. However, as wrong as the closure is, crossing a border without permission is not an act of civil disobedience, it is violation of an international law and there would be consequences that perhaps those who first began RTH were not seeking, which would entail violating the law in a foreign country while there on a temporary visa for passage purposes. It is certainly not a situation that anyone setting out had added into their calculations. The organisation itself emphasised the need to maintain outstanding relations as temporary guests:

“It has always been a central aspect of the Road to Hope convoy that it acts in a non-political, non-confrontational manner. To work with and cooperate with every government in every country through which it travelled.”[v]

When all seemed to be lost, messages became more and more frequent from the leaders of the convoy who were in Libya and they were specifying the arrival of something they called “confrontation time”[vi]. I leave it up to you to define the term, but let it be said that many activists were wondering how this was going to be carried out, by whom, against whom and what the effects would be. A video is also available which alludes several times to the “hope” that there would not be confrontation, not the guarantee of that, as well as suggesting that the convoy now was going to become “political”.

One note circulating on Facebook (which seems to be the modern day Tam-Tam and will be referred to frequently as the primary means of communication in this account) was practically claiming that there would be blood if the Egyptians did not open the border. Many had asked for clarifications here, and there were many speculations on this phrasing, which was from Ken O’Keefe and circulated by what his most active friends were calling “Ken’s FB Army”. However, whether or not it was just bluster and bravado, it was certainly not in line with the Road to Hope purpose, which was to be an ecumenical, humanitarian mission that was non-confrontational and non-political body joining together individuals to carry out the purpose of providing Gaza with aid and breaking the siege. It would be ludicrous to assume that anyone finding fault with the mismanagement which possibly crossed the line from error to extreme lack of solid strategy is in favour of the siege against Gaza or if they in any way “accept” blockage of aid. Realism and experience however can’t be left on the shelf just when they are the most needed.

Ken O’Keefe We continue to wait, there is some reason to believe a ship will be provided in the next few days, again we shall see. There is a limit to how long we can play this sit and wait game before the convoy members will go straight to the border. I would ask that everyone be ready to turn the pressure on big time if we are forced to do this.e ready to turn the pressure on big time if we are forced to do this.

Be ready to turn the pressure on big time if we are forced to do this.
*****

In the midst of the discussion on what “confrontation time” was supposed to mean, we learned that it was indeed necessary to hire a cargo ship, as per Egyptian protocol dictates. A letter was sent back from the Egyptian Embassy to those making the “demand” and it is printed in its entirety in these footnotes, though a portion is reprinted here.[vii]

*****
In light of the above mentioned, it is quite regrettable that organizers of the Road to Hope convoy have failed to liaise with the Egyptian side at any stage regarding the delivery of the aid directed to Gaza, where they choose to cross over from the most remote point on the western borders of Egypt to get to Gaza on the far eastern borders rather than going directly to El-Arish, only half an hour from Gaza. They even ignored any visa requirements that are necessary to enter Egypt, where they would have been welcomed and granted the required visas had they arranged for that prior to their departure.
*****

While hiring a ship to deliver the aid by sea may look as if it is capitulation, in light of the amount of time and money already invested, the nearing of Eid, when the entry to Gaza of outsiders would be closed to permit the pilgrims to travel, it may have been in actuality, the only way to make the best of a deteriorating situation, as well, this was the second option that RTH had voiced in the face of denial of land passage. The only problem was the cost, which was (as per an email sent to me from RTH) equivalent to the amount of money already spent for the convoy to travel in over a month from its London base. Also unclear, despite several questions seeking information, was the quantity of aid. It was stated in generic terms as medical aid, humanitarian aid and toys.

Accounts were set up to cover the need to hire a cargo ship, not in the name of RTH though, but something called Human Aid, and somehow, in a very short amount of time, the money apparently was raised, as we had then learned that the ship was hired and that the convoy would continue. It is not clear how much money was raised, and not all of it came from donations sent to this place, as it later turns out that there had been significant Libyan donations, though I would imagine that this should all be recapped in the closing assessment of Road to Hope and that all monies collected would be directed into the specific cause though they were not going to RTH, but to other beneficiaries.

KEN O’KEEFE. “55,000 dollars have been transferred for ship payment, despite this the Greekowner of the ship (the Strofades IV, Malta flagged) is currently refusing us. Call Egyptian officials and embassies and urge them to confirm our right to travel with this ship.”

So, despite all odds, lack of having followed the standard procedure which in the past had proved effective, and a miraculously rapid fund-raising, you have a boat, you communicate to your group and to anyone listening that you have obtained the “right to travel with this ship”, you are ending the stalemate and you can finally look forward to the beautiful release of the convoy and aid landing in Al Arish and the short travel to Gaza as was the sequence for the highly successful Viva Palestina 5 convoy. You would think so, but instead all hell broke loose. If you happened to be sitting at your computer the evening of 10 November, you may have received a quantity of tweets, Facebook notices or emails. Something happened to the convoy, and it was terrible. Things were going from bad to strange, and these were the tweets, notices and emails you were starting to get:

Ken O’Keefe Now the captain is threatening to leave without us despite 75,000 dollars being paid to his agent for the charter of this ship. We are on the verge of a standoff using our bodies on the back of the ship. (10 November)

Ken O’Keefe We are being forcefully taken out of the harbour with the captain going crazy ordering the ship to leave!!!

Ellie Merton “EMERGENCY – the Greek ship Captain’s gone nuts. He’s had a row with the Egyptian agent who was passing over the charter payment. Instead of waiting till morning, the Greek Captain has yanked the ship off moorings, with 10 convoyers and some Libyan police on board. Captain ploughing on out of Derna port. Very dangerous.”

*****
Then the REAL madness began.

Messages came to activists including this press release:

PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – PLEASE CIRCULATE WIDELY

Wednesday 10th November, 2010 23.15 GMT – LONDON

UK AID WORKERS (INCLUDING 2 MAVI MARMARA SURVIVORS) HELD HOSTAGE ON GREEK-OWNED SHIP, AFTER SHIP OWNER ARGUES WITH EGYPTIAN BROKERDERNA PORT, LIBYA

“Strofades IV” has broken its moorings, without port permission, and is heading out of Derna Harbour.The rear door of the ship is half closed, with convoy vehicle B7 stuck on it precariously. It is extremely dangerous.

In the lower deck of the Ro-Ro (rollon rolloff) ship are held hostage:

3 Libyans – (2 port authority policemen, with Colonel Salahuddin Rashin, Manager of Derna Port)
1 Moroccan
1 Algerian
2 Irish
6 UK nationals

The violent Greek owner who is also its captain of “Strofades IV” has just disembarked (as at 22.50 GMT) through a side door of the ship, onto a speed boat. His speed boat has made for another cargo vessel in Derna the harbour – “Odin Finder”.

None of our guys now know who is in charge of Strofades IV, or where it is destined to go.The ship is empty, apart from the hostages and single convoy vehicle jammed in the doorway. It is making rapid headway to get out to sea.The matter is a serious breach of every maritime law possible.

We have asked all relevant Embassies to supply urgent, immediate, consular assistance.We are EXTREMELY concerned for the safety of all the nationals on board.

Ken O’Keefe “Captain still crazy, has rammed the dock and nearly another ship. Call the media, have them call my Libya mobile 0020918020981”

Obviously, if you see this message, it is practically an SOS, sent by the members of the convoy on board and they have already asked for consular assistance, but they are insisting that the readers call the media and have them directly contact Ken O’Keefe. The tone is such to urge immediate action. It contains information that indicates the actions of the Captain/Owner, (identified at this point as the same person) and suggesting that these actions are a “serious breach of every maritime law possible.” It states that the passengers (including two who are identified as Mavi Marmara “Survivors” are held hostage, and it expresses alarm for the danger of the situation in that the “rear door” is in an extremely dangerous position. Add to that the further depiction of a violent Greek captain who then jumps ship and goes in a speedboat to another ship in the harbour.

Messaging between activists was underway containing all these details with a variety of subtexts to accompany them, including an exchange one of our editors had with a concerned activist who was circulating the information on Facebook.[viii] The sense of this exchange can be summarised as follows, and a longer excerpt is in footnotes:
*****
FB friend: Mary, the captain has abandoned the ship and it is heading out of port unpiloted. This is giving me shivers, how about you?

Mary: Mary Rizzo this also does not sound realistic! I am sorry, but it sounds fake.. sorry. ships are a gigantic investment. they do not just leave a dock unmanned in the dead of night. I really can’t see that happening. It is not Israel jumping a ship, we are talking about a guy entrusted to a company abandoning the vessel.. why would anyone do that???

FB friend: Guy captains and owns the vessel. I’d do it if I was paid to do so, if my life or my family was threatened, if I was drunk, or if I was a hotheaded idiot with a history of erratic behaviour … Yes, who could possibly threaten a Greek (not Egyptian) captain chartering to delivery a supply convoy to Gaza. Who would do that? Clue: who would get on board a boat in Cyprus, also chartered to Gaza, and sabotage it?
And indeed why threaten. Cajoling is also possible. Money is its own reward.

*****
So, it’s clear here that in a short time, the Tam-Tam had started and the precise words “hostage”, “abduction” and “kidnapping” were starting to circulate, without any counter-checking on that though, and it even being admitted that the captain did not want them to board and that they would physically impede this by using their bodies on the back of the ship! Intent is clearly stated by Ken regarding both parties, and this, minutes before the “kidnapping”. Stories had circulated that it was really about a payment dispute and it was taken for granted that the owner had changed his terms once the agreement was made, and an argument broke out to avoid paying extra money than what was agreed upon. It became an issue of the greed of the Greek owner and the madness of the Greek Captain. There were theories that not only did he get the RTH money, but was also gone with Israeli money and left the boat and passengers to their own fate. Money was the factor always mentioned. And no matter how wild some of these accounts would seem to be, people were a-buzz in disseminating this information, for anyone in the world to read, without verifying if it was true or false.

Some might ask, “our activists are trustworthy, why do we need to check the other side?”. Well, there is a need in activism circles, when dealing with the press to have reliability. If we are giving information to people, perhaps we can’t check it out ourselves, but we have to also bear in mind, our enemies, who have formidable economic and political power, WILL check it. If they find elements that are wrong, they will do the same thing we do to them, make the adversary face the contradictions. There should NEVER be contradictions in our reports, even if it means delaying the information, we have to be careful.

It was stated by Ken that the consular bodies were contacted, and he was insisting that activists contact THE MASS MEDIA, which he later refers to as prostitutes if they dare to question the validity of statements he’s issued. It is additionally crucial and problematic if this same media (which we may not like, but which maintains some power) depicts us as lunatics if we are making statements that will reflect badly upon us for “sins” going from exaggeration to contradictory messages to bald-faced lying, which, to the more conspiratorial minded persons, is the way that false flag operations all work. You have enough information that is legitimate and it is embedded in a quantity of false information. The legitimacy of something is completely at odds and we are involved and so is the cause we work for. Truth, accuracy, even the elementary need of reservation and discretion are all shot to the wind if we are unable to communicate a completely reliable, sound, unified message about a particular event or question. We are being used, but we have to question ourselves if we are also being manipulated. Some media sources will never again trust someone who gave them bad information, some of us would never work again with persons who have a bad track record of reliability. Not to mention, if we need future travel visas to some of these States, complaints that turn out to be calumny and unnecessary alarm may endanger that.

And this is when persons who have worked very closely with Ken in the past began stepping out of the shadows. They were writing to some of us and in other cases they were posting their thoughts on Facebook. This began the moment of the claims of being “kidnapped” and not earlier, and it seems to be a flood that was frankly, very unexpected. However, if one starts to look into the person, and not in the hundreds of his own posts bragging about his exploits, one finds that he has a very negative track record with other activists. The Human Shields certainly was initially lead by him, but his style of “command” had driven all but the most personally loyal very far away from him. His feelings of superiority to others in the cause drive him to accuse those who do not bend to his orders of the worst affiliations, and declares they work as spies, today he adds in that they are working directly for Israel:

*****
“My experience with the Human Shield Movement I created in 2002 made painfully clear that “volunteers” are all too often agents of the enemies of justice, specifically working for the CIA, MI6 and other such government agencies who deal in the business of deception masqueraded as “national security”. So I supplied all the information requested and although my name has been stained to a degree by those within the Human Shield Movement who consider me the devil incarnate, my record of activism and thoughtful response won out and I was accepted as a volunteer for the Free Gaza Movement” http://ken-okeefe.net/?paged=2

*****
In the footnotes are excerpts of three brief statements from persons who had known Ken, not when he was in the USA Marines, (which often has discipline where the entire troop “pays for” the mistakes or disobedience of one soldier, but he is no longer in the military). The first is Greta Berlin, who worked with him on one of the first (successful) flotillas to Gaza. The second is from an activist who came into contact with him while volunteering in the Human Shields project to prevent the Coalition bombing of places in Iraq. The third is from Felicity Arbuthnot, human rights worker and unembedded journalist specialised in the Middle East who was in Iraq at the time. These are statements from activists who know him well by firsthand experience on the ground (and not on tours speaking about himself). In the footnotes are the extended statements. All are worth reading to understand the “reputation” with persons involved in concrete organisation of actions, but here is reprinted only an excerpt.[ix]

*****
Greta Berlin: Ken was on our first trip (FGM) in August, 2008 … During the entire voyage, he was obstreperous, obnoxious and, finally, dangerous to all of us. He threatened some of the activists with bodily damage. If you’ve seen him, you know he is capable. Finally, he tried to commit mutiny on the Free Gaza during the night we were traveling to Gaza with no outside communication and our ship’s captain sick.

Two or three of us put our feet down and said ‘no’. He did not have paperwork to be a captain, and he is not a captain of anything except a small fishing boat once in Hawaii. He did not seem to comprehend that, if Israel had stopped us, and we had no real captain with papers proving that, he would put us all at risk. Instead he screamed obscenities, threatened several men on board and told me he’d get even with me.

Once we arrived in Gaza, we were relieved that he was not coming back with us. We have had nothing to do with him since.
*****

Unlike the three human rights activists above, the vast majority of people, including this writer, came to learn about Ken O’Keefe for the first time after the Israeli Massacre on the Mavi Marmara, part of the Freedom Flotilla at the end of May 2010. Many of us had seen his Internet reports of the brutal beating he receieved by the Israeli police in detention, along with photos of a badly bloodied face and refusal to wash himself. Those of us who know Israeli officers and soldiers beat Palestinians and do not reserve particular care for activists either were once again thoroughly disgusted, and did not for a moment doubt the account. However, it does appear peculiar that this is the only activist who had the same thing happen, head-bashing, TWICE. As a matter of fact, it is almost gleaned fact for fact by a similar account of his, with frontal wound, reported in 2004, but never mentioned successively.

O’Keefe said: “I was beaten and put in shackles and then had my head bashed into the wall which caused a concussion and brusing. I responded by saying to him, ‘makes you feel big does it, little man?’ He retaliated by pulling out his penis.” http://www.beirut.indymedia.org/ar/2004/06/1426.shtml

Yet, there were odd inconsistencies about his treatment at the hands of the Israelis that this paper (already quite long, and not even halfway through the account) cannot properly address. Why did he not have a bruised or cut face in the Al Jazeera video a few days later and where did he get that powerful shout if two days before his wife wrote a press statement claiming that he could only speak in a whisper due to the pressure on his throat? In the same letter we see that he was denied a laywer but a few paragraphs down we are hearing about his lawyer’s advice?

How come the IHH report of the raid does not mention his name and its accounts of the disarming of weapons does not match his own in any way? How come no one has come forward to state that they were the brother who had assisted in his heroic deed? Why does the number of Israelis he managed to disarm levitate (in Salem-News, this week we find out it was not two but three)? Why was he not called by any investigative commission by any side at all to testify, if his involvement was so important and he directly had handled Israeli commandos? Why did he respond to the BBC Hardtalk journalist that the deaths on the Mavi Marmara were definitely “worth it” and why does the discourse of it always centre around his deeds and the martyrs themselves are never mentioned by name but are part of his storytelling to prove that he “saw” so many things in great detail with his own eyes? We invite people to look at all of those things and see if it was the beginning of a “survivor” branding which would be a desirable thing to earn the quick adulation and donations of others who share the same outrage at the atrocity of the massacre. And, as you will see, donations towards his own projects and personal needs become a big part of his activism, indeed, currently, a “free trade” company with Gaza (as if they can actually compete in the market!) accompanied by a resistance flotilla all run by him is the new way for activists take part economically. He is asking for large 3 BR or more flats in London for its operation, for attorneys, accountants, marketing experts… all of them free or pro-bono of course (though he states it is about free trade, not charity or even fair trade, and the call is for “investments” he seeks everything free of charge as if he himself is a Gazan). He does this based on his reputation as a survivor. It should be mentioned that Turkish friends of mine also on the Mavi Marmara ship and who were raising funds for it for many months, have written to me about it and refer to themselves as “passengers”, not heroes or survivors.

And then we would also ask people to question why on one of his many autobiographies we see him describe himself this way: “Ex US Marine who renounced US citizenship on March 1 2001. Now holding Irish, Hawaiian and Palestinian citizenship.” Despite the fact that Hawaii is in the USA and the current USA President was born there, it is simply untrue. He did not renounce his citizenship, at least, his request was never fulfilled and he in fact utilises the primary US document, its passport. As a matter of fact, being a US citizen (whether he likes it or not), allows him travel privileges which he absolutely takes advantage of, including “rights” to travel in occupied Iraq. And thus, he finds it useful to continue to possess it.

[Ken O’Keefe] was forced under duress, to request a U.S. passport at the American Consulate in Rome on February 12, 2003. This request became necessary after the Turkish Government unlawfully deported of Mr. O’Keefe and thus prevented his peaceful transport through Turkey, on his way to Iraq to act as a Human Shield. Had Mr. O’Keefe not made his reluctant request he could have been denied the inherent right to travel to Iraq. [x]

Despite this being the most oft-repeated claim to his fame, only after his title as a “Mavi Marmara Survivor”, it is a lie. He is currently a US citizen and though we have seen videos of him burning US passports on several occasions (that is, he had more than one to burn, so he renews them), and as recently as September 2010 he was doing a self-promotional tour in the USA, in which he was travelling on his US passport, where activists had said part of these meetings involved money being collected for his “expenses”. It does appear, as a bare minimum, that declaring himself as having renounced his citizenship is outright misleading. At any rate, this “calling card” that differentiates him from all those who for some reason don’t disassociate themselves with the USA seems to attract people for some kind of appeal it undoubtably possesses, though this writer still has to figure out what that appeal might be. Also, being an ex-Marine (with an Other Than Honorable Discharge for steroids use), while not earning exciting acclaim in most of the world, is considered at least by other ex-Marines as a “plus” in activism, and this was the point made also in a video interview of Ken’s mother (yes, his mother) made by former embedded journalist in imperialist wars in the Middle East, another ex-Marine, Tim King of Salem-News, to which Ken contributes.

We also would see, once we start moving around in the world that blossomed around him after the Mavi Marmara raid, lots of commentary as a political leader. He issued a document titled “The Freedom Charter” (http://kenokeefe.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/the-freedom-charter-or-the-second-nakba/), which is his own idea of how the situation of Palestine/Israel should be resolved. Though it never once mentions the Right of Return, it does talk a lot about sharing things equally. Despite the fact that he’s not an elected Palestinian leader, he took it quite seriously and stated it there was a choice between his solution or Palestinian Nakba. Many activists and Palestinians saw the document as a “light Zionist” attempt to overtake their cause by already giving away 50% too much when the problem is not lack of peace, but an illegitimate military occupation of Palestine and a constant selling out of the legitimate Palestinian cause.

While understanding the way that Ken presents himself, since the bulk of his material, video and written, has Ken O’Keefe as its central theme, may be important – as he bases much on the amount of trust people put in his leadership role, and it was in this role that decisions were no longer done by consensus, but were left to the leader – it does seem to be taking the issue too far from our basic argument: that there was a grave management problem affecting the RTH convoy, and as a result of that, a Pandora’s box of trouble opened up.

We were receiving alarming messages from Ken’s contacts such as this one:

LATEST – 11/11/2010 10.50AM GMT – reports of 4 Libyan navy vessels & two fighter jets surrounding ship, attempting to bring the vessel back to harbour safely. Attempts to ensure 10 kidnapped convoyers & 3 libyans safely transferred to Libyan ships, to return to Derna. No force being used – only verbal reasoning applied to Strofades IV captain.

In time of peace, this kind of message is not reassuring. The Maltese vessel was in international waters, and a Navy is not a Coast Guard, it cannot attempt to change the route of a commercial ship without causing a potential international crisis.

Then we got further messages about Greek Commandos being involved. A new press release which turned into an instant piece by the previously mentioned Tim King stated: Gaza Activists Taken to Sea Against Their Will Now Held at Gunpoint in Greece – Salem-News.Com

But the misinformation had by now reached epic proportions, and without precise clarification of the various and contradictory claims, false narratives would circulate for days, an example is this article appearing on 24 November: 

The ship captain, who kept raising the price while en route to Egypt, abandoned ship in open waters. The convoy members were lost at sea for 36 hours until they managed to send a distress signal, which was picked up by Greek forces that rescued them. http://www.gcbs.gov.ps/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=149:road-tohope-gaza-aid-convoy-arrives-at-al-arish-port-

All of this is quite alarming and it is logical that the event was becoming much different than an Aid Convoy hiring a ship and delivering persons and material to Gaza. It became a personal drama involving the activist world. It was not getting very much press coverage, actually, but in “our” circle, it was enormously dramatic as these were “our” people. A Mavi Marmara survivor a victim of kidnapping, abduction, being surrounded by Libyan military vessels and planes, being held at gunpoint by Greek Commandos. Very dramatic stuff.

Then we were able to see the reports by the Convoy members, who at this time had named themselves “The Convoy Ten”, later to be changed into “The Gaza Ten”. It is assumed that all of this time, they were sending information through their mobile phones, as informtion streamed in continually, and this alone is strange that kidnapped persons are allowed to maintain their communication devices. http://gazafreedommarch.org/cms/en/News/View/10-11-11/KIDNAPPED_AID-WORKERS_SPEAK_OF_CONTINUING_ORDEAL_ABOARD_ABSCONDING_GREEK_SHIP.aspx shows where they lamented of being severely restricted in their movement, denial of water (which they later stated was “from the toilet”, hardly any food and no life jackets, “managing to get a hold of” a radio on the ship to make SOS calls which reached a “NATO warship” which “said it would help”, but no one actually rescued them. In the two days of this drama, none of these messages towards the activists in Libya or others “participating” vicariously, contained any call to continue to find a ship to bring the aid in or move the Convoy along (which was now down to 50 people who were, by their own admission, stranded in precarious state and in extreme distress, in the Libyan desert) or find storage for the material. All communications by the leader only concerned his own situation and those of the others who had been “kidnapped”.

But there were other reports stating something different:

Gaza activists willingly on ship from Libya-ship manager | World | Reuters

Needless to say, it was thoroughly confusing for anyone watching, and the contradictions of the Captain escaping off the side of the boat on a speedboat had been forgotten (and later, in an ironic turn of events, the mad escape was vehemently denied by one who was on the dock, claiming that there was no speedboat whatsoever, and when shown the RTH press release, asked who was infiltrated to insert that kind of message), as the Captain began being present everywhere, magically reappearing in every account. There were legitimate reasons to doubt that there was more than one area of inaccurate reporting and the use of the terminology that was always extremely dramatic began to be questioned by quite a few as the ship was located closer to its destination, which at this time was localised clearly as Greece.

And at this point, naturally, regarding the “hijacking”, the voices from “the other side” were coming in. No, not the Zionists, who had not been paying attention, but those who were considered to be involved with the Greek ship. This same ship that had taken the aid from Viva Palestina 5 to Al Arish only a month earlier, so evidently, with direct experience in precisely what had been asked by RTH and a positive outcome.

The Road To Hope opened a Facebook page where a person named Christina Baseos began providing live information about the persons involved. She claimed to be affiliated in some way with the ship and answered all the various questions about the conditions of the convoy members, even handing her own phone to at least one person so he could speak with a relative. She appeared from out of nowhere, and was able to provide quite a few details. Some had immediately insulted her, but not everyone, and she persisted in contributing to reassure everyone that people were safe and that the situation was not critical. She however continued to deny that there had been any kidnapping and instead, what had happened was that the convoy members boarded the ship without permission, without the shipowner ever having reached an agreement with them and their broker and that he was in possession of permission to leave the port. The convoy members were disobeying the orders to immediately leave the ship which was not going to take them anywhere and to remove the van they parked on the shore-based ramp. Not only that, after the ship began moving, more jumped aboard, in an attempt to prohibit it from leaving the port, thus obstructing its right, which is a violation of Maritime law and an imposition.

In the posts to this group, the tension was very high and “the Greeks” were accused of everything from depriving the convoyers of sleep, food and water to physical assault. There were constant references made to the recklessness of a captain unable to control the vessel, destroying the harbour on the mad dash out, endangering life and property and needing to have his license immediately revoked for this. Persons asking information were thankful to receive it, but others were also extremely hostile with Ms.Baseos, including the London office manager of RTH, Ellie Merton who left a message – 10 times within 2 minutes – in all caps for people to not engage with Ms. Baseos, and then, in total disregard for her freedom of speech, she was completely censored, as she was banned from the group, though she had been the only one able to provide valuable detailed information for the family members to reassure them of the conditions of their loved ones.

URGENT URGENT URGENT –

YOU MUST NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT LIAISE ON THIS GROUP WITH CHRISTINA BASEOS, WHO IS LEGAL COUNSEL FOR CRIMINAL GREEK SHIP’S CAPTAIN.

SHE IS ATTEMPTING TO GATHER EVIDENCE TO TRY TO PRETEND HER CAPTAIN IS NEITHER MAD NOR CRIMINAL. DO NOT, REPEAT DO NOT INTERACT WITH HER, FOR THE SAFETY OF THE ROAD TO HOPE MEMBERS WHOM SHE IS TARGETTING, ALONGSIDE THE CAPTAIN WHO IS ALSO TARGETTING THEM.

THANK YOU. ELLIE MERTON, ROAD TO HOPE, LONDON LIAISON

In the meantime, the situation had continued to be dramatic. One incoming message talked about the convoyers being arrested, another denied that. Then the Captain was arrested, that was then denied, and so on. The only thing missing in all of this was any sort of indication as to what would need to be done with the aid and the persons because the closure of Al Arish was fast approaching. What should have been the priority was then changed into the situation of Ken and the group. It was really strange, considering these were people who knew there were others in their convoy in extremely precarious situations and considering they were on their way to Gaza, to read the disappointed tone of being taken to “a ghetto hotel” in Athens, having to obtain once again their passports which were in Libya, becoming the activist priority, and finally, action calls were made with enormous insistence for a new call to action: the donation drive was on so that Ken O’Keefe could have the money to fly back to Libya, despite the Irish embassy assuring him return to Ireland (he lives in the UK). Another paypal account was announced, leading directly to his personal account, as well as his Western Union location for wires transfers. The mission was now focused on Ken’s logistics and personal needs.

Unable to comprehend the situation and its enormous contradictions and question marks, our site announced we would do a completely objective report on what had happened, since some voices had been totally silenced and censored and others were reporting a fact and then denying it. Aware that the entire situation was already a disaster, but not at this point hopeless, we invited those involved to contribute to clarification and we would conclude our work after the convoy had achieved its mission. The immediate response to this was that the person doing the report was not “objective” (i.e., not biased in Ken’s favour). This writer was censored from an ad hoc emergency group she was invited to, as it was considered as hindering the mission that she was advising others to be prudent before informing the media of information that we did not get verification of to protect our reliability and also to not create undue panic or disseminate false information. Then being labelled a Zionist started, since for some it is inconceivable that one could feel very uncomfortable with contradictions and seek clarity, so this tactic was used to stop the questions. The leap of faith towards Ken seemed to be the priority, and other attempts to quelch the entire “investigation” by character assassination that was aimed at frightening me off and damaging me had begun.

Besides being utterly inappropriate and infantile, it simply made no sense, since we are there to serve Palestinian interests, we need to be accountable to them, to each other and safeguard the entire cause from abuse, including accusations of anyone seeking accountability as being “paid by Israel”. If it were indeed factual that there was a kidnapping, it would benefit only the RTH to collaborate in a positive way and provide any information that would demonstrate their claim once more, and to a sympathetic public, since the doubts were growing and there was no reason to keep on believing the things being told to us. Several parties agreed to be interviewed for this report, in fact, they were anxious to do so. The only party that was against it was Ken O’Keefe, after an initial claim that he is “happy to share the truth, always”. The exchange concerning that is quite interesting and is integrally shown in the footnotes and well worth the read to understand that if someone asks for information by others who have a different side to tell, (though in the past they have been even the logistics specialist for the charter company of the previous successful flotilla!) in Ken O’Keefe’s world, they are affiliated with Zionists or stupid: no one is supposed to know any truth but “Ken’s Truth”, but here we can see also his attitude of superiority and the verbal abuse that had been alluded to over and over again by those who had known him and were refusing to “obey his orders”.

*****
Ken O’Keefe 19 November at 12:33 Mary, I decline to be interviewed and I will post this exchange on my blog as an illustration of the self-righteous, holier than thou attitude that exudes from you and which is injurious to unity and respect within the Palestinian justice movement. For my part I do not recognise you as the authority you claim to be and I will not feed your delusions by doing any interview with you. [xi]

*****
At this point, the resources that remain are the Statement by Ken O’Keefe and all the various materials available in the public domain. I refer to them for Ken’s contributions, and the “other side’s view” is represented primarily by Christina Baseos, who kindly responded to all of my questions and not only that, provided me with an extremely detailed document and other documents, one of which was identical to a document Ken O’Keefe sent me, before he realised PTT is not a bulletin board, but a site where our writers research and write our own assessments based on the information we obtain. Her document also included photographs that had been taken from Ken’s site, as well as original photographs to document the claims made and verify if they were true or false.

I also had spoken to two persons who were in Libya waiting to get into Gaza, who gave me general information and encouragement. I had a Facebook exchange with one convoy member in Libya who only intended to defend Ken and attack me, but her information about the denial of the speedboat only added to the picture that there had been no debriefing, and the same story by the same side was looking like Rashoman, and the claims were still all over the place. In the light of this, I am attempting to be as objective as possible to present the actual events that took place, and which are the core of the situation that will have repercussions for some time: The Kidnapping / Hijacking on the MV STROFADES IV.

The elements to consider are the following:

  • The request for a ship was made by RTH who contacted a broker.
  • All transactions regarding hiring of the ship involved two distinct relationships: the Client (RTH) and the Broker (Messrs. El Reedy Shipping Agency, Damietta-Egypt) and the Broker and the Ship-owner (Greek owner of MV Strofades IV, flying Maltese Flag).
  • There is no “set price” for a shipment. There are variables which are taken into account and terms are arranged that should satisfy the needs of both parties. A phase of negotiations is underway so that at the conclusion of which, both parties are able to conclude the deal to their satisfaction.
  • The negotiation includes the terms (type of cargo, amount of passengers, dates required, commissions, method of payment) and both parties contribute to this phase, each with their own relationship to the broker, and not with one another.
  • Included in these negotiations are elements that do not directly concern the other party, and as we shall see, had not been fully disclosed. For RTH, that the funding was coming through private donations and was for humanitarian aid, and for the ship, that their ability to conclude the deal at a specific price with this client depended upon the cargo ship also concluding another deal with a different client to occupy part of the vessel, which would of course reduce the expenses for RTH, because the objective costs (which have been itemised and are in footnotes[xii]) of a charter would be divided between two clients. It should be noted that during RTH’s negotiations with the broker, other negotiations were ongoing with another client from the Greek office for a shipment it would be hired to do involving Syria which would impact the amount charged.
  • The decision to charter the ship or not is in the final analysis the sole prerogative of the ship-owner. He is entitled to conclude the negotiations positively or negatively. In the case he does not conclude with the broker, no contract is signed and the ship is considered free to conduct its other business without any obligation to the broker’s client for lack of conclusion.

Bearing in mind the above, the negotiations were proceeding with an initial offer of 50,000 USD should there be the cargo still in negotiation from Syria and 75,000 USD if the client at Derna was to be the only group chartered. All along the contracting, this was done under the name of the broker, and not RTH. The terms were for a cargo of exclusively 30 vehicles and 30 drivers, which was in the final version of the “recapitulation of the fixing terms”, a pre-contract statement of what would be on the contract should it be signed. This same identical document was sent to me by both Ken O’Keefe with the title “Contract” and by Christina Baseos. It is clear at this point that what the logistics personnel was aware was the basis upon which to draw up a contract only in the case the negotiations were resolved positively, in the eyes of Ken O’Keefe, was indeed a contract! It does seem incredible to even consider that he would be unable to differentiate between the two, but his insistence, and his claim to legitimacy rest on the fact that he is informing one and all that he had been invited to begin loading – never by the Captain or Ship-owner in his account, but by the Libyan officers – and that was because everything was in place to do so, payment and paperwork. It was only being blocked by someone’s “greed” or perhaps even something more sinister.

It is essential to note that the number of passengers was limited and at no time included the entire convoy. It was clearly indicated that the number of passengers would in no way exceed 30. Also fundamental to the outcome was the fact that during the negotiations, the name of the organisation Road To Hope was never nominated to the owners, and indeed, the correpsondence between the broker and the owner during the phases of negotiation which was forwarded never mention the name or the purpose of the humanitarian organisation. I also was forwarded the emails between the London RTH office and the broker. It is clear that the businessmen were conducting their business and while both wanted to conclude the deal according to praxis, RTH was sending public messages that all would board the vessel, despite the fact that they were aware some people would never be allowed to board, and not informing any of them of this. Indeed, the entire convoy had left Tobruk for Derna, though more than half would not ever have been allowed to board. The lack of transparency or even misleading communication between the leader and the members of his own convoy, persons directly affected, is another element which must be analysed by the RTH organisation.

After a final series of negotiations between the broker and the owner, it was agreed upon to proceed under specific conditions. Not having fixed the Syrian cargo, the amount due would be 75,000 USD, as well, at this point, the broker changed several elements that were not in previous agreements. In addition to these negotiations involving the head office in Greece and the Egyptian broker, at a certain point, four persons claiming to be part of the group that wanted to charter the ship began attempting live negotiations with the owner. The document given to me by Ken O’Keefe includes an email from the broker which states to them that they should try to negotiate on their own, as he had not successfully concluded. Though they insisted to him that they had given him 75,000 USD, he indicated he would return the entire 55,000 USD, the complete sum that he had received from RTH.

The ship had its shore-based ramp lowered on to the deck as it was discharging another shipment. One of these persons who boarded asked when loading would begin and the owner of the ship said it would not begin because no agreement had been reached. That, in effect, was the negotiation, that there would be no cargo shipment and that the ship was headed out to effect other work.

Why had no agreement been reached, even if the sum of 75,000 could be delivered in the manner required by the shipper? This is dependent upon the broker asking the owner to change the name of the charterers from “Messrs. El Reedy Shipping Agency” to “Messers. El Reedy Shipping Agency ON ((BEHALF OF CHARTERERS)). In essence, the charterers had not been named and only days after the negotiations initiated was it even made known to the shipping company that the charterer was a non-profit organisation. Also lacking was a necessary proof of authorisation vested to the broker. To be specific, these are the words regarding the matter: “The ship-owners reiterated their offer of November 6th, requesting a lump sum freight of USD 75.000 together with charterers’ full style (this includes address, contact numbers, background and references). Anyone involved in shipping is fully aware that full details of a charterer are requested in order for the ship-owners to have the chance to consider, evaluate and eventually either accept or reject them. This is a due diligence standard procedure in shipping.”

That details of the charterer were not provided (and why they were not provided remains a mystery) was one of the motivations for which the shipping company considered not in its interests to conclude the negotiation positively. Other reasons were other terms being changed by the broker (time allowed for loading / discharging operations to be changed from 2 days to 3 days, payment of the docking expenses, commission and other things). Not accepting the terms, the owner informed the broker that no business could be developed on that basis and all previous negotiations were null and void and the vessel was not chartered, thus free to work elsewhere. The head office informed the owner on board the ship about the latest developments, and this was what he indicated to the convoyers who were on the ramp. This is verified by Ken O’Keefe when he took the time to inform everyone that the owner was “threatening to leave without us”.

As per praxis, the owner contacted the Greek office to say that no offer was concluded and that they would depart. The Master (this is what the Captain is called) instructed the vessel’s agent to make all necessary arrangements with the Port Authorities in order for port clearance to be issued and enable the vessel to sail. The agent complied with the Master’s instructions and informed him that from the moment the Port Clearance is issued the vessel must sail from Derna by 24:00hrs in order to avoid port charges for another extra day in relation to berth occupation.

What happens next is the account detailed by Ms. Baseos, and it indicates what had occurred not from the point of view of the shipping company, as the portion of the business transaction was concluded, but what the point of view of the crew was. It merits being given in full:

*****
In Derna, a couple of the aid workers (namely Mr. Kenneth O’Keefe and Mr. Saeb Shaath) still remained on the ship’s stern ramp. They had been asked by the Master to get off the ramp but they disobeyed his orders.

While the vessel waited for the Port Pilot (official employee of the Port Authorities, whose duty is to assist any vessel’s entrance – exit to/from the port) to hand over to the Master the port clearance, the situation with the aid workers who remained in the pier was getting intense. Rumors were going around since early that evening that all members of the convoy (in excess of 100 persons) intended to board the vessel, despite the fact that the whole time during the negotiations (from day 1) the owners had made it clear that the vessel can accommodate only 30 drivers (one driver per vehicle). Why were there more than 100 persons in the pier waiting for more than 5 hours? Why had they been allowed to enter the port in the first place if they never intended to board the vessel? What were they waiting for? It was more than obvious that the rumors were about to become an actual fact! The Master’s suspicions were confirmed when the head-office contacted him and informed him that some members of the convoy were uploading messages in the internet via their mobiles, leaving innuendo that they were determined not to allow the vessel sail, unless all of them were boarded, no matter what!

In addition to that, the fact that Mr. O’Keefe and Mr.Turner remained on the vessel’s ramp, refusing to disembark was another clear sign that the aid workers were not going to allow the vessel to sail at all. The icing on the cake was the information that was conveyed to the Master by an Egyptian member of the vessel’s crew that outside in the pier there were some sort of discussions about taking the vessel directly to Gaza and not El-Arish!!!

Whilst all above were taking place in Derna, (around 22:00- 23:00hrs), the head-office received another message from the charterers’ broker, despite the fact that the owners had already officially informed him that the negotiations had terminated and there was no fixture whatsoever, saying that he confirms on behalf of the charterers the recap of terms sent by the ship-owning company earlier; only this time instead of “Messrs El Reedy Shipping Agency” shown as charterers, a private company in Tobruk was given, namely “Messrs c/o Butnan Investment & Development Company, Alkarwarismy St, Tobruk, Libya, Tel: 00 218 62 762 4978, Fax: 00218 62 762 1859”.

The broker was asking the head-office to confirm it by return and urgently instruct the Master to proceed with loading of the cargo.

Ten minutes later, the office reverted to the broker’s last and once more declined without counter. The office informed the broker that there is no way that they will reach an agreement, whatsoever, since the owners were once more given a name of a completely unknown company to them, as the charterers, ergo the case was from then on considered closed. The head-office reiterated that the vessel is not chartered, that no fixture had been confirmed and that the vessel is free to work elsewhere. 

In the meantime, the situation in Derna was heated. Around 23:30, the pilot boarded the vessel to hand over the sailing permit, only for him & the Master to realize that four members of the convoy had driven two vehicles on the stern ramp, against the orders of the Master. At that time, 6-7 Port Police Officers were also on the ramp of the ship. The officers boarded the vessel to enforce the order.

The Master ordered for the vehicles to be driven off the ramp, as well as all convoy members to disembark immediately. One of the vans was removed, however the convoy members declined to remove the other van and to disembark.

The rest of the aid workers in the pier were getting more ill at ease minute by minute and it was crystal clear that things wouldn’t calm down, on the contrary they were about to get worse.

It was now about 23:50pm and the Master ordered the crew to slowly lift the ramp and initiate unberthing maneuverings. At that time and while the ramp was being lifted, more members of the convoy literally jumped onto the ramp and boarded the vessel.

The pilot, who was still on board and was caught by surprise from the R2H members jumping onto the vessel, disembarked using the pilot ladder and hopped onto the pilot boat, which was next to the MV Strofades IV.

Meantime, the Master ordered (ordered, not forced as Mr. O’Keefe claims) the engine-room crew to prepare the engine and the deck crew to cut the lines (mooring ropes) in order to release the vessel from the dock, as no mooring men were available to unfasten the lines from the bollards (shore side). The lines were cut (not snapped as Mr. O’Keefe claims) by using an electric cutting wheel and this is clearly shown in the video uploaded on YouTube by Mr. O’Keefe (in 2:26). The adverse weather conditions prevailing in the area at the time had made the vessel’s maneuverings a very difficult task.

The vessel drew away and stopped about 0.3 nautical miles (about 500 meters) off the port’s entrance.

*****(end)

The above is illuminating in many ways. It indicates that despite the terms of negotiation being restrictive of passengers, the convoy either had no idea it was going to be denied entry aside from approximately one third of the members, or that there was still discussion about alternatives to the arrangements such as taking the boat directly to Gaza. At any rate, combined with the refusal to disembark despite the absence of any contract concluded with the shipper and his orders for them to leave his ship, there was no legitimate reason for members of the RTH to remain on board and there was furthermore no reason for them to drive vehicles onto the ramp, especially when the pilot had handed over the official port clearance document, authorising the vessel to leave. Libyan officials entered of their own free will and rights and remained on board to maintain the order.

The next passage is crucial and I ask everyone to read it carefully:

*****
The Master contacted the Port Authorities via radio and asked them to send a launch boat to pick up the 10 convoy members and the 7 Libyan Officers.

The 10 activists refused to be picked up and the 7 Libyan officers said that they also do not wish to disembark without the activists.

*****
It begs the question: in the light of the above, can the presence of Ken O’Keefe and the other convoyers be considered even remotely as a kidnapping?

Ask yourself these questions: if you have official written authorisation to leave, if you have no contract, thus, are in no way obligated to board the passengers or cargo of a failed negotiation, if you have none of their money since the transactions were only ever between RTH and the broker or some other party and the broker, but never between RTH and the ship-owner, if you have ordered them to leave, and after you have begun operations to leave, MORE persons jump onboard, if you have not tried to extort money or anything from them, can you be kidnapping them? Is their presence against the will of the ship-owner? YES. Is the presence on that ship against the will of the convoyers? NO. As a matter of fact, it bears repeating: THE ACTIVISTS REFUSED TO BE PICKED UP WHEN THE BOAT WAS LEAVING THE HARBOUR. The Officers as well remained as they did not want to leave the activists on the ship, though their motivations are not stated, one can imagine what they would be since they were aware that the activists jumped on the boat without permission.

The Libyans instructed the ship to remain in Libyan waters, with no justification or explanation. However, since there was no court order to do so, (which is the praxis), and in fact, the owner was in possession of the document permitting his departure, this instruction was not legally binding. Again, the elements that follow are important:

*****
Upon entering international waters the Master contacted via radio the Search and Rescue Coordination Centre (SRCC) of the Greek Ministry of Maritime Affairs and informed them both of position and the incident. The Maltese Authorities were contacted as well as the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the SRCC of the Greek Ministry of Maritime Affairs and the Libyan Authorities. During the communications, the Libyan Authorities asked the Master to proceed towards Benghazi (Libya) in order to meet with a corvette of the Libyan Navy. The Master refused entering into Libyan waters again, as he was bound to ensure the safety of the vessel and her crew. He requested for all 17 persons to be picked up in international waters by a conventional vessel. He reported that the incident should & could be resolved in an amicable way without the intervention of the Navy.
*****

It is necessary to stress here that in time of peace, it is the Coast Guard and not the Navy of a sovereign nation that can board “foreign soil”, which is what the MV Strofades IV is while sailing in international waters. The Master’s request to have the Libyans once again collect the persons on board and avoid an international dispute since Greece and Malta had already taken charge of the situation was actually far-sighted, as will be clear in a moment. The account continues:

*****
Around 17:00hrs and while the vessel was some 75-80 miles away from the Libyan waters (between Libya and Crete island in Southern Greece), The Master was called via VHF by a Libyan navy ship. The navy ship asked for the Master’s consent to approach the vessel in the international waters in order to pick up the 17 persons on board. The Master posed no objection to this proposal and agreed to stop the ships’ course and wait for the warship to arrive. The warship advised that it would approach in about 5 hours. The Master contacted the SRCC of the Greek Ministry of Maritime Affairs immediately to update them on the situation and to advise them that the vessel will remain idle for about 5 hours, when a Libyan navy ship would approach them to pick the activists & the Libyan officers. He also stated that in an effort for this incident to end in an amicable way, he had no objection in waiting for the warship in international waters.

The Libyan navy ship then asked from the Master to allow the Libyan high rank officer, who was on board, to talk with them via VHF. The Libyan officer was allowed entrance to the bridge (navigation/control room), the vessel’s communication means were made available to him and the officer communicated in Arabic with the Libyan warship.

The Master asked the helmsman on duty, an Egyptian member of the vessel’s crew who was in the bridge at that time, to translate to him in English the communication the Officer had with the warship. The helmsman told the Master that the Libyan officer asked the warship to “come as quick as possible, we have to arrest them and hold them in detention”. The warship’s reply was “just wait there, we are coming”.

Further to this turn of events and as it was clear that there was no intention whatsoever for an amicable resolution of the incident, the Master immediately contacted the SRCC of the Greek Ministry of Marine Affairs, as well as, the Maltese Authorities, updating them on the developments and informing them that he will now continue his course and head to Neapolis port in Southern Greece. The SRCC suggested for the vessel to proceed directly to Piraeus port in Greece, because in Piraeus the coordination & communications of the involved Authorities would be much easier and more effective. The Master confirmed the SRCC’s suggestion and headed straight to Piraeus port. Upon taking this decision, the Master informed all crew members, the 10 activists and the Libyan officers of the final destination.
****

It should be clear to anyone reading this far that had the Libyan Navy been allowed to intervene in international waters, they would have created a situation which is impossible to know the outcome of. A crisis of this type is a common occurrence, and it is always extremely alarming for ships to be directed towards Libya with the passengers on board, (indeed at the day of this writing, another Italian civilian vessel sailing in International waters has been brought to Benghazi by Libyan forces). That all aboard the ship would have been arrested was an evident danger that the Master was not willing to allow, and thus, as much as he is accused of all and sundry, we must acknowledge that the freedom of all of the persons on board, the crew and the activists, was safeguarded by the decisions of the Master, who was willing to collaborate in an amicable way with the Libyans, but not willing to surrender his legal right to not have a foreign military body board and arrest persons on his vessel.

Any person, activists included, will recognise that no precedents should be set of encouraging foreign military to enter civilian ships in international waters in peace time. The Israelis did such a thing, and it was rightly condemned in the loudest possible terms.

The next event was the arrival of the Special Forces of the Greek Coast Guard approaching in a Zodiac boat. It was stated by Ken that the Master had instructed the crew to not allow them on board (to not drop the ladder), but this again is untrue. The crew members had instructions to make the necessary arrangements, and the movements depended on the conditions of the sea and assuring safety, which is not something the activists would even be able to know, so the activists pushing the crew members away from a task they alone were able and authorised to do, as they forcefully took the ladder themselves is an act that has no explanation whatsoever. The Greek Coast Guard embarked, ascertained that the situation was under control and all 17 persons remained under custody of the Port Police and their Special Forces until they were allowed to disembark.

Following the events, Ken O’Keefe issued on 18 November his previously cited “Statement of Facts” (Nota Bene: RTH did not issue a statement in its name) which was meant to be the definitive truth about the incident. Reading it, and being aware of events, one is allowed to analyse it properly.

“At this point myself and Kieran Turner were standing at the back of the ship and when the owner ordered the ramp up, instinctively some of the convoy members boarded the ship. They did so of their own volition, they were not asked or ordered to do so, and I agree 100% with what they did. Youtube videos show this clearly, as does the testimony of the Libyan police. Keep in mind we knew of the rumblings of the owner wanting to leave, we all knew the payments had been made, and we also had one vehicle on the ship along with two leaders (including myself) onboard; it was only natural to at least retain our property and get our payment back if indeed this ship was not available to us.”

*****
The above statement is a confession of willful navigation obstruction, which by the way is an offence. A “captain” should know better than that!

There was no excuse whatsoever for anyone to board the vessel, even if they thought that this way they would “retain property” and “ensure getting back the payment”. If they believed that there was a breach of contract (provided that a contract existed in the first place), they could find justice in the Courts but certainly not on the RAMP of a vessel, and especially since they very well knew that the money was not in the Master’s possession, but in RTH’s broker’s possession.

The legal definition of “kidnapping” is: “It refers to forceful abduction of a human being with the intention to hold them for ransom, or seize them away for the motive of harassment (physically or mentally or sexually), taking them hostage and various other motives. It is done by the way of taking the kidnapped person to a place where they are unlikely to be found and is unlikely to be released till abductors demands are satisfied.”

(http://www.legal-explanations.com/definitions/kidnapping.htm)

Further to that, one must keep in mind that the burden of proof always lies with the person who lays the charges, therefore the following have first to be established for the “kidnapping” charges to stand:

a) Ransom: What was the amount of ransom requested by the “kidnappers”?

b) Motive: What was the ultimate motive of the alleged “kidnappers”?

c) Benefit: What was the benefit pursued by the alleged “kidnappers”?

d) Unknown destination: Why would the alleged “kidnappers” inform the abductees, while still on board, of their destination (i.e. Greece)? Why would the alleged “kidnappers” inform all relevant Authorities after the vessel had sailed from Libya about the incident? Why would the alleged “kidnappers” have been in continuous contact with the Libyan Authorities, the Greek Ministry of Marine Affairs, the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs seeking protection and resolution? Why would the alleged “kidnappers” require from the above Authorities to immediately contact and inform the Embassies and Ministries of Foreign Affairs of all the countries involved directly or indirectly to this incident? An indicative example proving that the relevant Authorities had been duly informed from the beginning of the incident is the statement of Britain’s Foreign Ministry on 11th November: …“Our Embassy in Athens has spoken to the shipping company and is also in close contact with the Greek authorities. Our priority remains that there be a safe resolution to this incident”…

(http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6AA4EW20101111).

O’Keefe continues and states that ….“From what I saw more than one of the police did urge the owner and captain to cease and desist their dangerous behavior.”

One can see from their footage the Libyan officers pushing-away the 10 RTH members, who boarded without the Master’s consent and chasing after them to prevent them from entering into the cargo hold (0:14-0:35) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRceo_mdM8k&feature=related)

Once the RTH members embarked, without permission, the Master was duty bound to take all precautionary measures, for the safety of the crew and the ship, as outlined in various emergency guidelines and rules imposed by SOLAS (international convention for Safety Of Life At Sea) and the IMO (International Maritime Organisation). Therefore, in compliance with the safety manual, instructions were given for the engine-room crew to secure the engine room and the deck-crew to secure the bridge. At no time were the engine-room and the bridge to be left unlocked.

While the vessel’s engine-crew was isolated in the engine-room and the deck-crew in the bridge, the RTH’s members were freely wandering all over the ship, from lower decks to upper decks and from fore to aft. The contradictions in the statements, from the very same persons, are quite noticeable:

Facebook post:

Ken O’Keefe The captain has left the harbour, we are 10 captives.

November 11 at 3:02am via Text Message

Release posted on Facebook:

PRESS RELEASE – ROAD TO HOPE, CONVOY TO GAZA

THURSDAY 11/11/2010 – 22.30 GMT

Ellie Merton “ I am also disappointed to hear the ship owner and his assistant are armed, and refuse to give the convoyers freedom of movement around the ship. The aid workers are genuine hostages. It is still deeply worrying…..

…..Kieran further adds: “At first we were made to stay in the loading bay area at the rear of the ship, which was really dangerous once the ship got out to sea”….

….. They didn’t give us any life jackets…

….Kieran adds: “Initially we were stopped from moving around the ship and had to stay in the bottom of the lower deck. Eventually we just walked through to the crew quarters, and they’ve let us occupy their small smoking room. At least we are safe and in the dry, and it has a couch so we can try to sleep. We’ve been given one meal, of sorts, since the ship left Derna. We’ve got access to water, but it’s not drinking water.”…..

*****
Ms. Merton says that freedom of movement on the ship was denied, while the leaders claim that they were initially “MADE” to stay in the loading area and “STOPPED” from moving around the ship. What they all have failed to mention is HOW were they MADE and STOPPED from moving around the ship and by WHOM?

Then again, the pictures that have been shot, uploaded and posted all over the internet by Ken O’Keefe are worth a thousand words. They show the convoyers in various parts of the ship at the same moment (some shooting those below from above), some with groups of them together on various parts of the ship, with almost complete access to it and none of them being confined or in any other way lacking freedom of movement, (admitted as much by Kieran who adds that they just walked through to the crew quarters).

Other wild claims were regarded their treatment by the Greek Authorities:

Anna O’Leary URGENT….STATEMENT FROM HOSTAGES ON BOARD STROPHADES IV….. We have been kidnapped at the Libyan port of Derna, by the Captain and crew of the Straphades IV. The Captain and crew have since left and the Greek authorities are now holding us hostage on board the Strophades IV.

Ten of us are being held …at gunpoint by a Greek SWAT team, in a small room 8×8ft. We have been told if we move we will be shot. We have requested sleeping facilities, showering facilities, access to telephones/internet and consular assistance – all have been denied. In the last 48 hours we have had one tin of coke and one sandwich to eat. We have had no access to water other than that in the toilets. We have to ask permission to do anything, including using toilets. We have no status. We do not know the nature of the charges we are being held under and feel extremely vulnerable. We ask that everyone please put pressure on the Greek government and demand that they end this nightmare. We want the Greek authorities to release us and allow us safe passage to Libya, where we can join the remaining members of the Road to hope convoy and proceed with humanitarian aid to Palestine. Message ends…..November 13 at 2:25am

But then, to follow the trend, the contradiction couldn’t be trailing far behind, if someone bothered to wait for it:

Posted by Ken O’Keefe on:

http://www.veteranstoday.com/2010/11/14/road-to-hope-convoy-to-gaza-memberskidnapped/

“…the Greek commandos were professional, moral and humane. This runs in stark contrast to the brutal and murderous treatment we received from the Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara.”

Despite the odd internal contradiction that one was sending communication stating that they were denied access to telephones and internet, what seems to happen is that we are expected to believe the worst case scenario, including being told that they will be shot if they so much as move, and expected to DO SOMETHING. In this case, the Greeks become the enemy. Below is a sampling of the dozens and dozens of communications demanding our activists to change the nature of their involvement and focus on Libya and Greece. Ken O’Keefe Please demand that the Greek government release us at least to accommodation off the ship. Preferably to a hotel where can make calls freely and have access to the Internet. Perhaps demos at Greek embassies in order.
November 12 at 11:14pm via Text Message

Ken O’Keefe Please urge the Libyan government to approve our immediate travel back to Libya so we can fulfil our mission.
November 12 at 11:18pm via Text Message

Pol Mac Adaim 10.55pm Just spoke to Ken. Our comrades have requested accommodation, showering facilities, bedding, access to telephone and internet – all of which has been refused.

WE CANNOT ALLOW THE GREEK AUTHORITIES TO TREAT OUR COMRADES THIS WAY.

They have decided that if they aren’t permitted to travel to Libya that they would rather go to jail. They have asked that we put pressure on the Greek government and demand that our comrades are released and granted safe passage to Libya, where they can join the convoy and proceed to Palestine. We have to send emails and call the Greek embassies. demand their release and that they have safe passage to Libya, then we have to organize demonstrations at these embassies. So…… Who’s up for a demo?? Spread the word…….November 13 at 1:13am

Anna O’Leary URGENT. Tauqir Tox Sharif:

HELP!!! I have been arrested and detained along with the other 9 convoy members on the Boat. We need every1’s help plz contact all media sources and let them know that the greek authorities are trying to charge us for illegally occupying the boat when we were the Kidnapped. We are being treated very badly by the greek authorities. We are being held HOSTAGE! November 13 at 3:35am

Ellie Merton URGENT – Lobby Greek Government to release 10 Road to Hope humanitarian aid workers, urgently. MSM Spin: Gaza Aid Workers Labeled as Terrorists and Hijackers | Irritate The State irritatethestate.net

In an attempt to discredit the works of humanitarian aid efforts on the part of the “Road to Hope” convoy, the “lame-stream” media has attempted to put its own spin on a story some three days in the making.

*****
Well, one can’t really be blamed for putting its own spin on something with the paradox of a telephone call to someone telling them that they were being denied making calls! People might be gullible, but that level of stupidity would set off any kind of alarm bells.

Ken O’Keefe’s own report changes the “toilet water” to “tap water”, which they refused to drink, despite that fact that on board are water coolers (photos had been sent to me) and the tap water is treated water that everyone on board drinks. According to Christina Baseos:

“Before the Coast Guard’s Special Forces embarked and during the voyage from Libya to Greece, the Master had given direct orders to the cook to prepare meals for all persons on board, not only for the crew. That included the R2H group and the Libyan officers.

Mr. O’Keefe and Mr. Turner have admitted themselves during interviews that they had been offered meals during the voyage. With regards to the water, Mr. O’Keefe states “while we were at sea for two days we had almost no fresh water, instead we only had access to ship tap water, which we did not trust.” The “toilet” water has now become tap water. By the way, all members of the crew drink from that tap water. The ship has water desalination facilities and also water tanks that are filled with potable water delivered by ships chandlers in the various ports of call. So, it was really their decision to choose not to drink from the tap water but that is totally different than saying that they were only offered water from the toilets!”

Continuing O’Keefe’s account:

“Understanding the potential danger and feeling ourselves getting further and further away from our convoy, roughly 14 hours into our abduction we managed to commandeer a handheld VHF radio and use this to make distress calls for immediate rescue. This message was received by the OOCL Oakland and apparently relayed to a “NATO warship” that said it would come to our aid… but it never did. The OOCL Oakland was able to track our heading, speed and location and relayed all of this to the useless warship.”

The response to this by Ms Baseos is long, but necessary to understand the context and the situation in its REALITY, not in its shock value.
*****
Definition: “A distress signal indicates that a person or group of people, ship, aircraft, or other vehicle is threatened by grave and imminent danger and requests immediate assistance. Use of distress signals in other circumstances may be against local or international law.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distress_signal

The use of “distress signals” is a very sensitive issue in the shipping community and especially for seamen. Lots of lives have been lost in sea, due to various reasons, and therefore the “distress signal” causes shipmen extreme anxiety.

A vessel receiving a distress signal is bound by Maritime Law, first to immediately inform the nearest Coast Guard & Authorities and second to immediately proceed to the rescue of the vessel, even if that means deviating a great deal from her course and cause serious economical damage to the ship-owning company by doing so. But LIFE ALWAYS comes first no matter what.

Apart from just being bound heading to the rescue of a vessel, it is also a sacrosanct duty of all seamen to do so. By sending distress signals, numerous Authorities, Ministries, Governments are immediately alerted and rescue plans are immediately activated.

Sending distress signals when there is no imminent danger and alerting purposelessly the Authorities is against the Maritime & International Law and it is punishable.

Moreover, it is an action highly condemned by all shipmen of the world. It is an unethical act to cause stress and anxiety to the shipping community without reason. A purposeless “signal distress” for the seamen is simply a sacrilege.

A “captain” should have known that.

If the neighboring vessels had responded to this “distress call” only to realize that there was no emergency at all, the person who actually made the “distress signal” would surely face claims of hundreds of thousand dollars by the ship-owning companies of these vessels for unreasonably alerting neighboring ships for a non-emergency situation.

Video uploaded by Mr. O’Keefe on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71AARnihrsQ

In 10:14 of the video: Mr. O’Keefe making a “distress signal”

++++

In 10:14 of the above video we see Mr. O’Keefe making a “distress signal” and his communication with the neighboring vessel MV OOCL Oakland.

However, in 10:34 of the video it is obvious that one or more pieces of the footage have been cut. Why would Mr. O’Keefe extract pieces of the original raw footage?

Furthermore, the OOCL Oakland after receiving the “distress signal” informs the “abductees” that they have given the MV Strofades’ coordinates to a NATO warship. One would expect to hear the rest of the communication but that was not the case. Mr. O’Keefe inadvertently cut from his video the rest of the communication.

It would be interesting to hear / see what was next told by the OOCL Oakland and the NATO warship. A warship does not need information on a vessel’s position to be given by any merchant ship. God forbid a warship not having the necessary means to locate any vessel at sea and rely on information given by other vessels in the area.

Why would a NATO warship not come to the “kidnapped” aid as per Mr. O’Keefe’s statement?

Because the NATO warship acted as obliged. The warship contacted the SRCC of the Greek Ministry of Marine Affairs for an update of the situation. The SRCC informed the warship that her intervention is not necessary as the matter is under control and that there is no “kidnapping” emergency and that the incident lies under “commercial dispute”.

Furthermore, wouldn’t an intervention of a NATO warship, whilst in international waters, in a non-emergency incident be frowned upon and condemned, as the intervention / attack of the Israeli warship at the Mavi Marmara incident was RIGHTFULLY condemned? Of course cutting the footage at will “supports” Mr. O’Keefe’s following statement:

FROM THE STATEMENT OF FACTS ISSUED BY Mr. O’Keefe on November, 18th: …” Having made a distress call for a NATO warship that never showed up, we were happy to see the Greek warships and commandos off the coast of Greece.”

It is common knowledge that in democracies, in times of peace the only duty of the Army, Navy & Air Forces of a country are to guard the country’s borders, and they take action or interfere only in war or warlike situations.
*****

Indeed, it was the Greek Coast Guard, and NOT warships or commandos that were responding! More contradictions emerge regarding the amounts paid. It is clear that the numbers were flying, leading to legitimate doubt.

From O’Keefe interview on PressTV, on 14 November:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNrnDovmj7E

In 0:28 of the video, he claims that freight paid was $75.000

From O’Keefe’s interview in Athens, on 15 November:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obgIVwF_Yp8

In 1:19 of the video, the convoy’s leader claims that freight paid was $75,000. At 5:58 of the same interview, he claims that freight paid was “$75,000 at that point and then another $7,500 so a total of $82,500”. At 5:40 he brags, “If we wanted to, we could have taken control, we did not. I’m sure we could have managed”.

What we have, dear readers, is a lesson and we better be ready to learn it or risk it being repeated. We witness an act to be condemned, yes. This is the conclusion. There is no excuse for this turn of events and it is clear that what happened was never in the interests of Palestinians, but it involved the Pro-Palestinian community in a way that they could not subtract themselves from. In the midst of all the contradictions of those releasing statements and emergency messages, in the presence of all the outright lies causing distress to the loved ones of those involved, totally ignoring the actual purpose of the convoy and putting the spotlight onto themselves and not on Gaza, we see the situation clearly. Having spared no effort to draw the world’s attention to themselves and promoting their “media image”, spreading panic in the media and provoking diplomatic irritation between six countries, all of this in the name of GAZA, a few persons changed the course of a legitimate and ethical effort to relieve Gaza and change the situation for the better, and this is nothing less than scandalous. We were manipulated, the facts withheld or distorted and urged to “SPREAD” “EMERGENCY NEWS” and to contact every possible embassy, consulate, diplomatic authority, ministry, Members of the EU Parliament, the European Commission, the Press, even to organise Demonstrations for the “Gaza Ten”. Rather than depending upon precise logistics, including chartering the air travel for the over 50 persons who would NOT board the ship that fateful night, thus leaving them in constant state of emergency actions, as they were suddenly left to figure out how to get to Gaza, though the aid was eventually carried on another ship, we see calls to divert money into the travel of activists, and star activists get the priority and special private accounts urged to be donated to publicly.

All of this, solely due to an incident caused by the irresponsibility of a few. Dragging more and more people into a power game and using political propaganda, censorship, gatekeeping, lies and insinuation and all of this, for the sake of a few people, and none of it to do with GAZA!

It may be looked down negatively by some that this report closes with the words of one of those interviewed, Christina Baseos. However, this writer could not find better words of her own:
*****
Has it never crossed their minds that should they be “forced”, for whatever reasons, to manipulate the media, that they have to manipulate them in such way that this will raise awareness to the world about Gaza / Palestine and the actual ORDEAL these people are going through? Has it never crossed their minds, instead of manipulating the media for defamatory purposes only, to manipulate them in such way, that in the long run, will help them recruit more & more people to contribute to their humanitarian missions, by raising money, collecting donations, receiving offers from people willing to voluntarily participate in the convoys ?

Isn’t Gaza worth all of that? Isn’t Palestine worth all of that?

*****


[i] “Before my statement I feel compelled to clear up a misunderstanding about my role in the Road to Hope Convoy. I am not an organizer nor an original leader of the convoy. I became a leader shortly after joining the convoy on October 23rd (three weeks after it departed London). This became necessary due to the convoy reaching significant levels of internal crisis. Whatever people may believe, I did not want nor ask for this position, nonetheless I accepted it and have done my best to help keep this convoy together and to ensure its success. Having taken this role as late as I did I fully realised that it was impossible to undo past mistakes, so moving forward I have done my best to see the convoy reach Gaza, with or without me.”

[ii] We have limited our resistance to be in opposition to the Israeli occupation alone. Our resistance is against the enemy occupying our land and encroaching on our people and holy sites, and not against anyone else. We did not use resistance even against those who supported our enemies and provided them with all the means of force and the deadly weapons which kill our people. We also adopted the policy of confining the resistance to Palestine and not conducting it outside Palestine. This was done not out of powerlessness, but on account of an accurate estimation of interest, and a balancing of various considerations.” Khaled Meshaal. http://palestinethinktank.com/2010/10/19/meshaal-interview-on-hamas-policy-a-must-read/

[iii] Ken O’Keefe: “Now we find ourselves in our third day at the Libyan / Egyptian border and we remain hopeful that the land route will be opened to us in the coming days”. The convoy departed from London with the understanding that the land crossing through Egypt had not been closed to it. Convoy leader, Kieran Turner: “One reason for our optimism that we will travel the land route is the fact that the Al Quds convoy, a Libyan convoy also delivering aid to Gaza, is set to travel the land route in the coming days. For several weeks we have hoped to join our convoys and travel together.” However, the convoy is awaiting permission from the Egyptian authorities to pass through Egypt in this way.

[iv] Mr. Turner understands that there is a possibility the Egyptian government will deny the convoy the land route, in which case they will have only two acceptable options –

1) To press on via the land border without permission, at which time our only chance of success will be by way of significant international pressure and a reversal of a policy which tacitly supports the illegal siege of Gaza.

2) If the land route is denied the only remaining option is to deliver our aid by sea. This option inherently requires significant increases in the cost of our mission, and importantly to all subsequent aid missions. The end result of this policy is a reduction of the already limited resources that can be brought to bear for the people of Palestine.

http://kenokeefe.wordpress.com/2010/10/31/road-to-hope-convoy-stalled-at-egyptian-border/

[v] “It has always been a central aspect of the Road to Hope convoy that it acts in a non-political, non-confrontational manner. To work with and cooperate with every government in every country through which it travelled. Thus far this approach has rewarded it with exceptional receptions in every nation. All of the North African governments have been extremely accommodating and the people of each nation even more so. We must give special praise to the Libyan government for its constant support; when the convoy have had challenges, including breakdowns of vehicles, the authorities here have provided the means to repair those vehicles and continue our mission.”

[vi] Ken O’Keefe: “We are getting close to confrontation time. When tourists can travel by car freely through Egypt and a humanitarian aid convoy is blocked, it pretty much says it all. The blockade of Gaza is in a word, unacceptable”. (http://akashma.wordpress.com/2010/10/31/road-to-hope-convoy-stalled-at-egyptian-border/)

[vii] Dear Sir/Madam
In reference to your email supporting the humanitarian mission “Road to Hope” and your concern towards Palestinians’ plight in Gaza, first of all let me thank you for the concern and interest you are showing, and allow me then to draw yourattention to a number of facts regarding this issue.

In line with Egypt’s continued efforts to alleviatePalestinian sufferings in Gaza due to the Israeli blockade, a mechanism has been put in place since last year to ease the passage of international humanitarian aid into Gaza. This mechanism aimed at channeling all aid to Gaza via the port of El-Arish which is only 40 km from the Rafah crossing to Gaza.El-Arish has been dedicated for receiving humanitarian and medical aid equipment and materials from all over the world, whereby aid consignments have been welcomed to pass through so as to ensure a speedy delivery to its beneficiaries in Gaza.

Accordingly, all aid convoys throughout the past year and this year have been liaising with Egyptian authorities to deliver their aid convoys to Gaza, which has successfully taken place, most notably the last Viva Palestinian Lifeline 4 convoy in October 2010. As well, the Rafah crossing has been continuously open for almost six months now where thousands of Palestinians have enjoyed free passage in both directions.

In light of the above mentioned, it is quite regrettable that organizers of the Road to Hope convoy have failed to liaise with the Egyptian side at any stage regarding the delivery of the aid directed to Gaza, where they choose to cross over from the most remote point on the western borders of Egypt to get to Gaza on the far eastern borders rather than going directly to El-Arish, only half an hour from Gaza. They even ignored any visa requirements that are necessary to enter Egypt, where they would have been welcomed and granted the required visas had they arranged for that prior to their departure.

An additional constraining factor is due to the current holy days, where the Rafah crossing is completely devoted to the thousands of Palestinian pilgrims who are heading to and from the holy lands in Saudi Arabia.

I once again express our appreciation for your concern towards the Palestinians and their suffering, and would like to stress that both the Egyptian Government and people will always uphold the best interests of the Palestinians and their just cause. I trust that this explanation will help in clarifying the facts of the situation at hand.

Best regards, Embassy of Egypt in [omissis].

[viii] It is a “Wall Post” by one of my FB friends (whose name I am omitting) and the discussion that went on over the course of 50 minutes with him. An edited excerpt is included here to demonstrate that theories were already beginning to formulate.

Update: Ken O’Keefe and the Road to Hope http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=125051327525642 convoy are in a significantly tricky situation. Captain hired to take the whole convoy to El Arish has panicked and sailed out of port early with some of the vehicles and supplies and convoy on board as virtual hostages. Bulk of the convoy being forcibly detained in port (Tobruk) despite having paid for a legitimate charter. Updates coming live.
If you have any expertise to offer in this situation (maritime law, or coverage for this story), please Ken directly at 00218918020981. More contact details as I get them

http://theroadtohope.org/convoy

Mary RizzoMary: …

careful to not toss around words like HOSTAGES and stuff. this is international law and do they want an unneeded international incident simply becuase they don’t like or understand maritime law?

FB friend: They paid for transportation of the cargo and all convoy members – on deck would be the assumption. Alan PritchardHostage term was being used by convoy members themselves – Captain panicking, throwing his chartees off the boat in an extremely dangerous manner, preventing others from leaving

Mary: it sounds just hoaky to me to leave with a ramp up?! I see docking every single day of my life (though not many ferries, to be honest) and NO captain is going to ruin his boat or lose his license by not following the safety provisions for entry and exit from harbour. What language were they doing this in, was there a proper interpreter. Not to sound nitpicky, but tell your friends THEY OUGHT TO DESIST from utilising words that can be construed in such a way as to accuse others of crimes. There is a crime of calumny and also of undue alarm and if they are filming all of this and have proof of what they say, it might help them, but going on a humanitarian mission doesn’t need the ruckus. so, who is hostage, those on board who asked to be on board or those on the dock who are not on board?

FB friend: Understand your position. Either of my brothers in the merchant navy could tell you stories about this sort of thing happening however, especially away from the better regulated ports, but even in Europort itself…In this case it’s a Greek captain, known for hoakiness, seemingly not acting rationally. Any number of potential reasons for this.
See status update which includes press release on situation which answers some of your questions.

Mary: Mary Rizzo ok, thanks for your response. I personally don’t understand what advantage the ship could have to not deliver its cargo, especially if there was a contract.

FB friend: Mary, the captain has abandoned the ship and it is heading out of port unpiloted. This is giving me shivers, how about you?

Mary: Mary Rizzo this also does not sound realistic! I am sorry, but it sounds fake.. sorry. ships are a gigantic investment. they do not just leave a dock unmanned in the dead of night. I really can’t see that happening. It is not Israel jumping a ship, we are talking about a guy entrusted to a company abandoning the vessel.. why would anyone do that???

FB friend: Guy captains and owns the vessel. I’d do it if I was paid to do so, if my life or my family was threatened, if I was drunk, or if I was a hotheaded idiot with a history of erratic behaviour … Yes, who could possibly threaten a Greek (not Egyptian) captain chartering to delivery a supply convoy to Gaza. Who would do that? Clue: who would get on board a boat in Cyprus, also chartered to Gaza, and sabotage it?
And indeed why threaten. Cajoling is also possible. Money is its own reward.

Mary:Mary Rizzo if this is the same boat that went last month, why the problems now? I will withhold my thoughts on this until there is more clarity. the presence of the port authority officers on board also seems a bit out of the ordinary.

[ix] Greta Berlin: Ken is a loose cannon with the real potential of hurting Palestine more than helping it. He has no clue that his actions with the Greek captain could have and may have put the entire flotilla at risk of being able to leave from Greece, something Ken does not ever think about, since it is always all about Ken. … Flotilla One and soon Flotilla Two have very few places we can leave from, Cyprus is closed to us, both North and South. Turkey we can leave from but is not in the EU. Only Greece offered us the chance to leave from its ports. Now, thanks to Ken and his utter disregard for anyone except himself, he may have jeopardized that. All of the strategy of going to Gaza and NOT going through Egypt, of breaking the Israeli siege and not taking attention off Israel… Ken has managed to complicate.

Breaking Israel’s draconian siege of the people of Gaza is not about Ken. It’s about focusing our time and talents and determination on Israel. It’s about human rights, not delivering humanitarian supplies (although that is a lovely thing to do). The Palestinians don’t need handouts, they need their freedom All of this energy on one man with stupid actions is a terrible waste. Thanks Mary for being so determined, but I am so sorry he wasted your time.

Ken was on our first trip in August, 2008. He was on that trip, because I recommended him (that’s what happens at first). During the entire voyage, he was obstreperous, obnoxious and, finally, dangerous to all of us. He threatened some of the activists with bodily damage. If you’ve seen him, you know he is capable. Finally, he tried to commit mutiny on the Free Gaza during the night we were traveling to Gaza with no outside communication and our ship’s captain sick.

Two or three of us put our feet down and said ‘no’. He did not have paperwork to be a captain, and he is not a captain of anything except a small fishing boat once in Hawaii. He did not seem to comprehend that, if Israel had stopped us, and we had no real captain with papers proving that, he would put us all at risk. Instead he screamed obscenities, threatened several men on board and told me he’d get even with me.

Once we arrived in Gaza, we were relieved that he was not coming back with us. We have had nothing to do with him since.

Many of the passengers on board that night would not say anything in writing or in public against Ken, in part because we all hate that activists are such anarchists, that we often can’t get along. I had no such qualms. Which is why he made the cryptic remark about me. He is a dangerous man. Like you, Mary, I don’t think he’s a paid provocateur. He’s too much of a loud mouth.

He has left a trail of disasters, including this one. The good people in charge of the Hope trip now pretty much want nothing to do with him.

ACTIVIST who requested anonymity: My past experiences with him made it not a stretch to consider that he was acting true to form – a center-stage maverick, disregardful of the mission as a whole, those carrying it out, and those it intends to benefit. My past experiences with him made it not a stretch to consider that he was acting true to form – a center-stage maverick, disregardful of the mission as a whole, those carrying it out, and those it intends to benefit.My past experiences with him made it not a stretch to consider that he was acting true to form – a center-stage maverick, disregardful of the mission as a whole, those carrying it out, and those it intends to benefit.my encounters with Ken were in Baghdad and Jordan as “human shields” – he manifested the same sorts of behaviors then, presenting himself as the super-star while, at the same time, using divisionary tactics and engaging in confrontational manner with the Iraqi government (former) at a time when tensions were high and we felt potentially putting us at risk. We kept our mouths shut because we did not want our efforts any further discredited than they already were being made out to be by much of the mainstream press and by Rumsfeld, also. We wanted to maintain attention on preventing the invasion and the safety of both Iraqis and of shields who courageously remained in Baghdad under shock and awe.

….I woke one morning and when I entered the office, Ken was behind the desk and told me (TOLD me) he was taking over things. He then called a meeting of those of us who had been manning the office and accused our press officer of being “M16″ — I had been working with this woman nearly 24 hours per day for a couple of weeks, shared a room with her and always had found her impeccable in her judgement and admirable in her work, always putting the concerns of the effort and those participating at top priority. I stated this to Ken. He then told me I had a choice; I could believe him or take her side and leave. I told him I didn’t have to hesitate in making my choice.

Felicity Arbuthnot: For me, I was not, frankly pro or anti regime – it was for Iraq to sort out should they wish – but I was outraged at the embargo – beyond outraged. Saddam never killed an average of 7,000 children a month, whatever his undoubted other actions. In to this tinterbox of fear, paranoia, walked Mr O’Keefe. He seemed unaware of any of the atmosphere, people who had been bombed often daily, for twelve years, now facing the unimaginable. Every evening, he would stand, in a dish dasha, in the Palestine, in the centre of the lobby, barking orders, ambushing Shields, creating waves like you cannot imagine.”Who is he, why does he behave like this, what should we do …?” asked the men from the Ministry. I had not a clue about him, but I cringed and realised the whole Shield movement was being tarred with his brush. I felt he might actually get a whole lot of them accused of being more Farzad Bazoft’s – the journalist who was hung for alleged spying. Finally he was slung out and has subsequently made it sound as if it was the wicked Saddam regime and he the victim. He scared them to bits. So another initiative for peace, of huge and desperate (literally) importance which was nearly destroyed. One could not possibly comment as to why this keeps happening, but it does seem like controversies dog all he is involved in. Having also been only an “armchair” watcher re the latest debacle, what does stick in my mind is the, number of times before it happened, how he wrote of the time for confrontation drawing near.

[x] Background – In what is a monumental irony Ken Nichols O’Keefe, the initiator or the Human Shield Action to Iraq that attracted the attention of world leaders and more importantly people around the globe, was forced under duress, to request a U.S. passport at the American Consulate in Rome on February 12, 2003. This request became necessary after the Turkish Government unlawfully deported of Mr. O’Keefe and thus prevented his peaceful transport through Turkey, on his way to Iraq to act as a Human Shield. Had Mr. O’Keefe not made his reluctant request he could have been denied the inherent right to travel to Iraq (UDHR – Article 13 sec. 2) stand with the Iraqi people in defiance of America’s subsequent invasion. http://www.indymedia.ie/article/62866?author_name=Ken&comment_order=asc&condense_comments=true

[xi] This is the private message exchange between myself and Ken O’Keefe. He is also going to be publishing it on his blog.

Mary Rizzo 16 November at 18:35

Palestine Think Tank has as yet not reported or in any way analysed the recent incidents with the Road to Hope Convoy. PTT has in its history supported and followed most of the many campaigns for Palestine, expressing our critique where we deemed necessary as well as our praise where merited. We have a sole objective and single goal: what is beneficial to the freedom of the Palestinians and what will enable the quickest end to the military occupation of Palestine and the oppression of its people. It had been our wish to begin to see very clearly the truth of the situation, in order to have a clear and solid view on things so that our many readers would be able to be informed of this campaign.

We also had hoped that after the initial confused moments, clarity would emerge. This has not been the case. So, we would be willing to listen to and interview any of those involved who would like to state their case. To write our analysis/overview, we will be utilising material readily available on internet. If there are any who would also like to integrate this with their own comment or submit to an interview, please put yourself in contact with us. Upon verification of your affiliation or credential to speak on behalf of a collectivity or in an independent nature, we shall provide contact information where you will be able to call us or write to us.http://www.palestinethinktank.com/

Ken O’Keefe 17 November at 22:55

I am happy to share the truth, always.TJP

Mary Rizzo 18 November at 09:30

very well then. How shall we go about this interview? Shall I give you my phone number or would you prefer a written interview so that your own words will be quoted directly?

Ken O’Keefe 19 November at 09:49

Here you Mary, if you give me your email I can also send you a couple of useful documents that are not for public consumption at this point.http://kenokeefe.wordpress.com/2010/11/18/road-to-hope-convoy-kidnapping-statement-of-events-by-ken-okeefe/

TJP Road to Hope Kidnapping Statement of Events by Ken O’Keefe « Ken O’Keefe

kenokeefe.wordpress.com

Mary Rizzo 19 November at 10:05

XXXXXXXXXX is my mail. Yes, I would appreciate that, as these are some of the problems in being able to have clarity, that there is little in the way of paperwork and in things of this sort, paperwork is no small matter. yes, I read that report, and have some questions I would like you to answer. Are you willing to do an interview? If it is more convenient to you, I can simply write out the questions that I have and you can take a day or so to reflect on them and answer them. That would probably allow you to also be certain that any statements you make are your direct quotes, stated as you choose and viewed by those you trust if you deem that necessary for you, and not a transcription of a recording which could result in bad audio of erroneous transcription. Other persons have wanted to have their statements being direct quotes and thus, to give everyone the same instrument, where they can edit themselves correctly, this may be the way to go. If you do not wish to, and would rather do a phone interview, please let me know, as I need to get together my recording device and then the transcription one.

Ken O’Keefe 19 November at 10:09

Depends on how many questions, give me the list and if it will take too long we will have to look at another time.TJP

Mary Rizzo 19 November at 10:14

well, Ken, send me what you have so far, and the questions might depend on that. All those who committed to being part of this overview have asked me what my time concerns were and I said that I would be publishing in a week or so, they feel it is in their interests to also respect my time constraints. the site I run with others is not a small site and it would not be a bad investment of time to be able to present your answers to questions, however, generally, a person who is interviewed as often as you are should not really worry about the quantity of questions, as the more questions there are, the easier it is for you to clarify any points that are unclear. If however, you honestly do not have intentions of responding, since if i send you the questions, I would like an answer to them, let me know now and I will mention in the overview that you could not respond becuase the questions were too many. So, you must decide a priori whether you want to be interviewed or not. mary

Ken O’Keefe 19 November at 10:34

Mary what I asked for was a list of questions to see if I had time to write the answers or not. Without having the questions I cannot know if I have the time to write the answers.

Let me say this as well Mary, if I recall you seem to have a rather cozy relationship with Mary Woodward and possibly Christina Baseos. Now I reaslise the job of a journalist, more than most, but these people are beyond any doubt from my point of view poisonous. In the case of Mary she has a personal vendetta against me. Christina is friends with a captain and owner who are flat out crazy and quite likely tied to Zionism in one way or the other.

Now I could care less about the defaming going on, I see this all as par for the course. And when you do things as I do, pure of heart, with genuine intent, you can accept anything at all being said of you. But I care not to feed into entities that have intimicies with those so lost that they would make an enemy of me or other good people. Such people are either stupid or agents of the enemy. So let me ask, what is your relationship with these two people in particular.

For me this whole inquiry of yours just seems a bit self-appointed and a little to cozy with other elements. I have given you a lot, but you seem to need more. Can you write a list of questions or not? I have already submitted damning video evidence, a personal statement and I will release more, including documents that will earn convictions, this is more than cooperative. So maybe you can give me a list of questions and I will see if I have the time to write out the answers.

TJP

Mary Rizzo 19 November at 11:13

Ken O’Keefe 19 November at 10:34 Mary what I asked for was a list of questions to see if I had time to write the answers or not. Without having the questions I cannot know if I have the time to write the answers.
M: I do interviews all the time, and if the person is interested in it, they accept to do it, without seeing the questions and then deciding if they have time. I could ask you 10 questions and it could take you 10 minutes to reply, just as I could ask you 1 and it could take you an hour. I have never had to submit questions to anyone. they agree to the condition of being interviewed and then they respond to the questions that I have for them, without this condition. We are all busy persons, myself included. So, try to decide whether you want to take the necessary time whatever it will be or not!

K: Let me say this as well Mary, if I recall you seem to have a rather cozy relationship with Mary Woodward and possibly Christina Baseos.

Mary: absolutely yes with Mary Woodward. She is a longtime activist who I respect for her determination to always look into the details and to not be afraid of persons who insult her for that. She has her points of view, and I respect them. She has been a longtime fundraiser as well, and she is a local leader in activism who has been successful in her part of the organising for the upcoming flotillas, so I absolutely like and respect her. I know Christina Baseos like i know you, ie, not at all, and all of my interactions have been exclusively about this incident and seeking to understand the actual facts. She has been very cooperative providing information from the other party in this. I appreciate that.

K: Now I reaslise the job of a journalist, more than most, but these people are beyond any doubt from my point of view poisonous. In the case of Mary she has a personal vendetta against me. Christina is friends with a captain and owner who are flat out crazy and quite likely tied to Zionism in one way or the other.

M: I never detected any personal vendetta against you. I have seen her interactions where she asks you questions and rather than respond, you go pouty or disappear. So, obviously, that causes inquisitive persons to insist. Christina is a logistics professional who has also been behind the successful Viva Palestina 5 mission. Her duties are to facilitate freight on the companies that she works for or in some way lends her services to. I also understand it that the captain and owner had been the very same vessel for VP5. I do not understand the zionist connection. Though, i know it is easy to label anyone who does not agree with someone a zionist.

K: Now I could care less about the defaming going on, I see this all as par for the course. And when you do things as I do, pure of heart, with genuine intent, you can accept anything at all being said of you. But I care not to feed into entities that have intimicies with those so lost that they would make an enemy of me or other good people. Such people are either stupid or agents of the enemy. So let me ask, what is your relationship with these two people in particular.

M: I told you. And I will go further: I am loyal to one single thing and that is to the Palestinian people. I have been involved in activism for them while you were probably following orders in Iraq or cleaning your rifle. I have been also involved publicly in activism for 30 years, and if you have some sort of doubt as to my position, you should quelch it. Anyone who I believe abuses or undermines the cause of the Palestinian people, and that means ANYONE is held up to scrutiny by me and I am not afraid to express it. Long ago I stopped caring about what others think of me, and given that I know my place, I have really no doubts about my services and who I am serving. I also do not have such a black/white image of the world. Those who disagree with me are not necessarily serving the enemy.

K: For me this whole inquiry of yours just seems a bit self-appointed and a little to cozy with other elements.

M: of course it is self-appointed! I happen to have abstained throughout from expressing myself on my site. Many have asked for our view since we are a rather big site and also one of the few crawled on Google News. The lack of our reporting on this was due to our confusion, and while not seeing it being cleared up, we started asking questions and the more we asked, the more questions we have. (by we, I mean my site, which is me and 3 other Palestinians and an Iraqi). There are some who have objected to this, but they all defend you without having all the information from those who do not share your narrative.

K: I have given you a lot, but you seem to need more. Can you write a list of questions or not? I have already submitted damning video evidence, a personal statement and I will release more, including documents that will earn convictions, this is more than cooperative. So maybe you can give me a list of questions and I will see if I have the time to write out the answers.

M: have already stated myself on this, and taking all of this time has already been time taken away from a proper interview!

Ken O’Keefe 19 November at 11:22

No, I am good. Thanks anyway.

Mary Rizzo 19 November at 11:31

so, you decline to be interviewed? Can i have a confirmation or denial of that please rather than No, I am good, thanks anyway. I have not spoken USA slang for 25 years now, and am not up to date on what I am good means.

Ken O’Keefe 19 November at 12:33

Mary, I decline to be interviewed and I will post this exchange on my blog as an illustration of the self-righteous, holier than thou attitude that exudes from you and which is injurious to unity and respect within the Palestinian justice movement. For my part I do not recognise you as the authority you claim to be and I will not feed your delusions by doing any interview with you.

As for any and all of the good work you have done for Palestine, well done Mary, genuinely. No one can ever take that away from you, and we are all allowed to make mistakes. And so I give you that Mary, your attitude and hostility towards me, your hyper critical perspective of the good people and mission of the R2H Convoy, all of this is a mistake at best. It is not good journalism; it is a witch-hunt posing as journalism in which Mary Woodward and Christina Baseos and likely Greta Berlin are leading the way. I accept all of this; it is indeed par for the course in the circus clown show we westerners have created.

I am sorry for you Mary in that you do not acknowledge my undeniable contributions to justice in Palestine and elsewhere. You say you know me “not at all” and yet my actions are well documented. In this you reveal ignorance or dishonesty, anyone who takes an honest look at what I have done and said will know I am a brother in the Palestinian cause, and a dedicated one at that.

I am sorry for you that you do not know my love for the people of Palestine, for the love of my wife and baby who have Palestinian blood in their veins. Write what you will, move with who you will, always strive to be the best person you can be. I forgive you your mistakes even if you are incapable of reciprocation.

TJP

Mary Rizzo 19 November at 13:07

Ken, can you actually say you know me? Honestly? I understand that Facebook has given an entirely new meaning to the word “friend”, so I can understand that while you expect that I should know “about you”, you can’t in any way claim that I know you, because it is simply not factual! I know you exactly as much as I know Christina Baseos, though you have my email and she does not! And as far as even being “Facebook friends”, no, I am not even a friend with you there, so I don’t understand why you insist that I know you, and then call me delusional. Have you ever heard of me before now? No, I would imagine not, and this is why it doesn’t make me so defensive.

Feel free to post this on your blog as an exhibit of how you judge those who respectfully engage with you, as “self-righteous and holier than thou”. I have declined from expressing my opinion of your character or impressions of your way of interacting, and I can understand that you are very defensive and you often feel a need to demonstrate your dedication, even supplying me and anyone who you speak with on videos and things, with irrelevant personal information. I don’t know precisely either where you can judge yourself to be “forgiving” (of what? my mistakes don’t need to be forgiven by you, actually, unless you would like to be a priest confessor) while determining I am incapable of reciprocation. Perhaps it’s just your communication style, but I can feel it is a bit holier than thou for real.

I had offered to you, as well as to anyone else involved the chance to contribute and respond, and if you have no issues with what the content of the responses might be, I don’t see why you are so defensive. Whenever I feel judged unfairly or misunderstood, I make the effort to arrive at understanding, especially when other people are involved.

I did not claim to be an authority, I claimed, and can substantiate it, that I have a site together with others that is a major site on Palestine and activism for Palestine and we are one of the few sites that has News crawling. This can all be confirmed with a click on Google News and putting our site name in. So, if you don’t want to make yourself available for an overview on our site, this is your choice and we duly note that, and as well, you are already laying out for yourself a justification of what I view as evasiveness. I think that if we want to be best friends with everyone who interviews us, we will only be producing Tazibao and not going on BBC or CNN or any other news media. You have a right to deny to respond to direct questions. This means I will utilise all that is available in internet.

One last note, I was not at all hypercritical of RTH, on the contrary! I know persons in the convoy and respect their desires for the mission. It was you who, in your own note, had complained about their bad management, and we can also see that having what happened occur, along with the stranding of good and dedicated people while you were busy acquiring funds for your own return left a bitter taste in my mouth. I had expressed on several occasions my total support to the people who took part in that campaign and understand that their very dramatic situation is actually something that could have been prevented, so yes, I am critical of the enterprise, but not of its statement of purpose, as it seems clear in your own statement that you do not agree with it in principle. I think that this however, is an internal issue for all of you to sort out. I can only have my opinion from the outside.

On one more note: I have seen what you have done/claimed to have done, and as a matter of fact, have contacted persons you have suggested regarding these matters. If people have reached some opinions, independently, this may not necessarily mean that they have coordinated it. Not at all. I think you tend to be overly defensive and interested in conspiracy type thought, but as a matter of fact, I will look into your work and record on Palestine.

mary

Mary Rizzo 19 November at 13:13

by the way, you are not allowed to publish my email address. I grant you no permission to share contact details. mary

[xii] The enquiry by R2H was for the transportation of 30 vehicles plus 30 persons from Derna/Libya to El Arish/Egypt.

The MV STROFADES is RO-RO (Rolling On-Rolling Off) vessel and has a DWT (dead weight) of 4200mt. In order for you to understand the voyage calculation, you must keep in mind the following:
– The vessel consumes fuel oil & diesel oil when at sea and only diesel oil when she is berthed in a port
– The distance between Derna & El Arish is 586 n.m (nautical miles) and with an average speed of 12.5 – 13.0 knots (n.m/hour) the duration of the voyage is about 2 days, agw, wp,uce (all going well, weather permitted, unforeseen circumstances excluded)
– The vessel would spend 1 day in Derna port for loading operations PLUS 1 day in El Arish port for discharge operations, i.e. 2 total days in the ports
– After the vessel had discharged the cargo in El Arish and due to the fact that in El Arish there is no rolling cargo available for the vessel to load, an estimation of expenses covering the BALLAST voyage from El Arish to Lattakia/Syria (where rolling cargo to load is available) had to be included (BALLAST voyage: when a vessel sails from one port to another empty, i.e without cargo). The duration of the voyage from El Arish to Lattakia is about 1 day, agw, wp, uce
– Fuel consumption rates are the actual ones of the MV STROFADES IV
– Daily operating costs include, maintenance, crew wages, insurance, classification society, victualling, etc and are the actual ones of the MV STROFADES IV

VOYAGE ESTIMATION:

Fuel oil: 17mt/day x $ 570/mt = $ 9690/day X 2days voyage = $ 19380
Diesel oil: 1.5mt/day x $ 700/mt = 1050 X (2 days voyage +2 days in ports) = $ 4200
Daily operating expenses $ 4000/day X 4 days = $ 16000
===========================================
A) Total voyage expenses $ 39580

Ballast voyage:
Fuel oil: 17mt/day x $570/mt = $ 9690
Operating expenses: $ 4000 X 1 day = $ 4000
===========================================
B) Ballast voyage expenses $ 13690

The freight the owners required was $ 75000 and NOT $ 82500 as Mr. O’Keefe claims

FREIGHT REQUIRED $ 75000
LESS GRAND TOTAL EXPENSES(A+B) $ 53270
===========================================
GROSS PROFIT $ 21730

Please note that the cargo (30 vehicles) was less than 1/4 of the MV STROFADES IV cargo carrying capacity. The remaining 3/4 + of the vessel’s carrying capacity would be empty.
Moreover, note that in the above Gross Profit calculation, the depreciation cost of the MV STROFADES IV investment ($ 4.000.000) has NOT been included.

N.B. The above estimation is only for the SPECIFIC voyage of Derna-El Arish and by no means does it constitute a “base” for generally making voyage estimations, as the estimations always depend on different factors.

Now, that I have given you the voyage estimation and the actual costs involved, I would like to point out the following:
All ship-owners are entrepreneurs. The fact that they might be asked to carry a humanitarian cargo does not constitute a reason for them to carry it without profit. There are thousands of vessels in the sea and thousands of shipping companies around the world. I remind everyone that is was R2H’s broker who approached the ship-owners of MV STROFADES IV proposing them a potential business. The owners decided to make an offer for the carriage of the cargo in question.
However, if the charterers (R2H) were not satisfied with the freight offered by the owners, they could always search for another vessel and/or shipping company to ask for more offers.
It is worth mentioning that the MV STROFADES IV carried humanitarian for Viva Palestina 5 from Lattakia/Syria to El Arish/Egypt for a freight of $70.000 for a much shorter voyage (1 day), which only proves that the freight requested by the owners for the R2H cargo was indeed competitive.