Archive for the ‘Lebanon’ Category

 

BY SAMANTHA FALCIATORI
The Syrian situation is hell on earth. To understand what is happening is our human duty, as well as being indispensable for the comprehension of those phenomena that cross over the natural confines of that land. For this reason, our Magazine will always follow the Syrian war as closely as we can; a war which is in fact many different and overlapping wars, so as to provide an always up-to-date picture that is as accurate as possible.

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We have interviewed a volunteer of the Red Crescent, witness of the massacre of Al-Bayda and Banyas in May 2013 in which over 400 civilians were slaughtered, house by house, to then be buried in mass graves. His is a testimony that at 4 years from the massacre tells the story of one of the darkest and most bloody pages of the Syrian war.

What you are about to read is a unique testimony of one of the bloodiest pages of the Syrian war, the massacre that began on 2 May 2013 of the civilian population of two towns in the coastal area. The National Defence Force (NDF) and the Shabeeha, pro-government militias comprised of Shi’as and Alawites (the religious group to which the Assad family belongs), attacked the Sunni-majority towns of Al-Bayda and Banyas, nestled in the Alawite-majority zone between Tartous and Latakia, stronghold of the Syrian regime, with summary slaughtering the inhabitants (Sunni), breaking into their homes, setting them on fire, burning alive those who were inside, including infants.

The Banyas Local Council has identified a total of 410 victims, the Syrian Network for Human Rights has counted 459. The UN Investigation Commission on Syria has investigated this massacre, among many similar ones, identifying the perpetrators, ascertaining that there was no presence of armed opposition, nor were there any military clashes in the city during the massacre, and concluded in its report A / HRC / 24/46 (pages 32-33) that there was “reasonable evidence that the perpetrators were governmental forces”.

It is the Syrian regime itself that has confirmed the responsibilities of its militias carrying military operations on Al-Bayda and Banyas, broadcasting images of the carnage (as in this news report from al Manar) on the government-friendly TV channels, but always claiming that only terrorists had been killed. The images of women and children, including newborns, mutilated and burned alive, as well as the testimony of the survivors, tells another story.

We were able to interview an eyewitness of that massacre, already heard by Human Rights Watch investigators for their No One’s Left investigation. The man was in Banyas and was part of the team that the Syrian security forces sent after the massacre to arrange the corpses in the mass graves and clean up the streets. He accepted, asking for anonymity for security reasons, to tell Zeppelin what happened and what he saw, providing a rare and precious testimony also about the planning of the massacre (which had been in the planning for several months) and its political / religious motives. This is the transcript of the interview.

The massacre of Al-Bayda and Banyas can be understood in the wider project of ethnic cleansing of Syria, and it fits within the framework of the efforts of international justice to take the first steps toward punishing those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity, thanks also to those eyewitness accounts, like this one, that, though they are brutal, should be listened to.

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Testimony of a volunteer of the Red Crescent from Banyas. 

He witnessed the 2013 massacre and disposed of the bodies in a mass grave afterwards. He requested anonymity for security reasons. The interview was recorded over Skype on January 5, 2017. 

Q: What can you tell me about that day? What happened and what did you see? 

[..] The Syrian Red Crescent could enter the city only 3 days after the massacre, because the army prevented all the people from coming in or out of Banyas [..] Banyas is a coastal town between Tartous and Latakia, the two biggest cities in the coastal area; Banyas is a smaller town, of about 50,000 people. It was one of the first which took part in the revolution, when people took to the street for many reasons, regarding what was happening in Deraa, the lack of freedom, but also because there were tensions between the rural areas of Banyas, mainly Alawite, and the city, mainly Sunni, and they felt the injustice because all the employees, all those working in courts, hospitals, in the oil industry of Banyas are all Alawites, and people felt injustice and took to the street. This was a choke for the regime because it thought that a coastal city, where the coastal area was the stronghold of the regime, would not participate in any kind of demonstrations. So Banyas was a surprise for the regime, they hated it, because they saw people demanding the fall of the regime in the heart of its stronghold.

Q: And the demonstrations were in the Sunni part of the city or all over the city?

In the Sunni part. In Banyas you have the Sunni part which is the old city of 50-60 years ago. Then when the Alawites took power, they came from rural areas, so all the officers, State employees settled in Banyas and built new neighbourhoods, so Banyas was getting bigger and now it is in two parts: the southern part, which is Sunni, and the northern part, which is Alawite. Christians are living in between, in the two parts. The Christians who are originally from Banyas are living with the Sunnis because that is the old city, and the new Christians who came to Banyas from other towns are living in the new neighbourhoods, the Alawite ones [..]. The demonstrations were 100% in the Sunni part. Christians, for many reasons, did not take part in them. I did, but secretly, because the regime tried to prevent Christians and Alawites from participating in the demonstrations because it did not want them to look like a national thing whose demands came from everybody[1], so it tried to emphasize their Sunni trait.

Q: So there was dissent also among the Christian and Alawite community? 

Yes, they tried to prevent them from getting in because when Alawites and Christians would come to the demonstrations it looked like it was not religious or radical [as the regime wanted to depict the demonstrations] but it would be a Syrian demonstration. But still, in the first 3 or 4 demonstrations, there were Alawite people coming from the Alawite neighbourhoods secretly who participated in the demonstrations. I have videos of this, many Alawite people came, they had speeches, they were welcome and people were crazy about them because they were Alawites supporting their demands, it was great. But after that, in May 2011 the Syrian army surrounded the city, they cut electricity in the Sunni part, they cut food [deliveries] preventing it from coming in, the siege lasted for 2-3 weeks, and after that they rolled the tanks and got into the city. They took a lot of prisoners, they were tortured in the Banyas stadium, where they took the people, 10,000 maybe, tortured them and humiliated them[2]. People were taken to the military prison in Tartous, Damascus and Homs, some people were never returned. We think they were killed under torture. After this, when the army came back to the town, patrolling the city, there were a couple of people trying to make very small demonstrations, like putting some homemade bombs where government forces were coming or going, but nothing as serious as it was happening in other parts of Syria[3], I think just 2 or 3 soldiers died in all these actions. This was still 2011, early part of 2012, then in Banyas everything was back to [normal] [..].

Suddenly, in early 2013 [..] all the Alawites involved in the militias of the regime, some were my friends […] they started to say that the people of Banyas were planning for something big. I said: “What are they planning for? Come on, the demonstrations have stopped, nothing is happening anymore”, so this kind of propaganda became to spread among the Alawites […]. There is a militia, the National Defence Forces (NDF), they are mainly civilians, 100% Alawites, and they are very tough, with a very strict point of view with the regime, they want all opposition dead, they started getting arms from the government and to participate in the battles all around Syria. One of them was called Ali Shaddoud, he is very famous in Banyas, he is a pharmacist. He is the founder of the NDF in Banyas and he told me personally that something big is happening in Banyas. Frankly I did not believe him.

Q: Because the opposition was not strong in Banyas? 

Yes, because in 2013 it was defeated. The government was in full control of the city, so “what will happen? Nothing”. But he told me “something very big is happening”. When I tried to understand from some friends of his, some told me that the regime was trying to focus on Damascus and the coastal area and it did not want anything to happen there, so if there are Sunnis remaining in this area they wanted them to have a lesson, so they cannot oppose the regime anymore […] Then there was no intervention by Hezbollah, Iranians or Russians, so the regime was afraid that it could not control all Syria, so it was trying to preserve Damascus and the coastal areas.

Q: They did not target the political or military opposition: they targeted the Sunnis.

Of course. From the Alawite point of view when they say “opposition” they do not mean the political meaning of the word, they cannot say “Sunni” in the street because that would be rude and sectarian, but by “opposition” they mean “the Sunnis”. And when they said “we want them to have a lesson”, they meant the Sunnis. This was clear since the early months of 2013. But it was not before the early days of May 2013 that… it happened very fast, we started to see tanks coming to the town, and it was not 100% weird, Syria was at war […] we thought maybe they are moving troops and vehicles, ok. But then they put tanks and mortars on the hill of Banyas, in the Alawite part of the town, the hill that overlooks the city. We started to see people that were not from the town, they were wearing regime uniforms but they did not sound like they came from Banays. Some people who saw them, including my brother, saw Lebanese people having dinner in a restaurant in the Alawite part of Banyas, this restaurant is famous because the NDF gather there. They were clearly Lebanese, so Hezbollah or close to Hezbollah, I do not know, and they were talking about a big operation that was coming to Banyas. There was this guy, Kayalli, the commander of a militia, he comes from Turkey, from the Alawite minority in Turkey, they are fighting for the regime and this Kayalli lived in Latakia, where he went on TV and said, literally, “Banyas is the only weak point for the government in the coastal area and we will put an end to this, the traitors can come in the coastal areas through Banyas and we need to end  it”, he said this 2 or 3 days before the massacre[4].

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The Alawite General Ali al Kayalli, better known as Mihrac Ural (he is of Turkish origin, but has Syrian nationality) is the head of a pro-government militia, composed of Alawites and  Shabeeha, called Syrian Resistance, based in al Baseet, North of  Latakia. He was among those responsible for the massacre of Banyas. In this photo, he is in the centre, with flowers in his hand, together with his men. Credits to: sbs.com.au.

On the day of the massacre I was in the church because it was the Thursday before Easter[5] and suddenly […] we heard gunshots, we went out and saw the army and militia telling people to go home, so we went home. In the evening, we started to see… not from my home, but I went to the Alawite part, I saw 200-300 men coming from the highway, they were walking on the bridge that comes down to Banyas, some of them wearing masks on their faces, and also Alawite people, some of them were my friends, started to join them and I asked them “what are you going for with your guns?” They said “there is an operation in Banyas and al Baida”, al Baida is south of Banyas and it was famous in the first months of the revolution because it was actively participating in it […] so they began with al Baida, which is Sunni. Families of Banyas are living in al Baida and vice versa, so they are very close to each other. They started in al Baida and I was on the phone with a friend, and he was shaking, he was very afraid. I was surprised and asked “what is happening?”, because we thought they were going to take some men to prison, or beat and humiliate them as they did every day everywhere, but he told me “no, it is not beating nor humiliating, they are killing people”.  And I was like “What? Killing people? Why?” and he said “Yes, they are killing people.” He told me that his mother’s family were burnt alive, some people were killed by gunshots, some were burnt, they gathered people in a shop and burnt them, like 60 or 70 dead bodies there, and people started to flee the city. So this is what they [regime people] wanted. It was May 2nd.

On May 3rd […] they came to Banyas and made a massacre […] in the heart of the Sunni part of the city. My home is very close to this so I went on the roof and I saw clearly the tanks bombing the city, I was able to see clearly the shells coming over my house, I saw them with the naked eye, and dropping down in the middle of the town. Then again these masked men came and did these atrocities. I did not see it, but many people told us, they started to kill people with swords, axes, guns, by burning, and I know families by name. They came and killed whole families…for example the Taha family had 17 people killed, they killed father, mother, sons, the son’s wives and sons and so on.

 

Q: So was it a deliberate ethnic cleansing of the Sunni population of the city?

Of course, because they targeted [Sunni] families, like the Taha family, the Shighri, even when they see “Shighri” on your ID card the government forces would be upset because they see that you are 100% from Banyas, so 100% opposition, so 100% Sunni. So they did ethnic cleansing of [Sunni] families. People started to flee, to Latakia. Also my family wanted to go there and they were accepted. I did not go there but my sister did and at the entrances of Latakia there were regime checkpoint and they were screening people from Banyas, if they knew they were Sunnis they sent them back, if they were Alawites or Christians they let them in. This lasted until May 4th, when they moved to another Sunni village […] called al Basateen, where they did not do ethnic cleansing but they took 95-96 men to prison and we have not heard of them since. So we assume they were also killed under torture. After the killing was over, it was a real shock to see even the Alawites who are 100% with the regime, being shocked and upset. A friend of mine, she was working in my same company, told me that her brother, an Alawite who supports the government, was part of these NDF and went to Al-Bayda to participate in what he thought was a regular operation of the regime, and he was shocked by the amount of atrocities done, the amount of killings, burning bodies, killing children, he fainted and they had to take him to hospital. He could not eat for two days, he was in shock, even people who are very radical with pro Assad [positions] were in shock, it was completely unprecedented, unexpected. After that they began to steal, they took a lot of cars, family homes’ furniture, we could see them putting them on army trucks. After 2-3 weeks they let people go back to Banyas, but not to Al-Bayda. Al-Baida is still empty to this day. 

Q: But they didn’t let the Sunnis come back, or also the Sunnis?

Also the Sunnis. But of course after this a lot of, and by “a lot” I mean A LOT, of Sunni families in Banyas left. As my Alawite friend said, it was a lesson. So many families went to Turkey, and from there they came as refugees in Europe. […] Now in the Sunni part of the city you can only see old men, children and Sunni people coming from other towns, like Aleppo, these are the pro-regime Sunnis of Aleppo so the regime lets them stay in Banyas.

Q: When could you enter the targeted neighbourhoods as a Red Crescent volunteer?

We entered on May 7th, 8th and 9th for three consecutive days to bury the bodies, because they were in the street. I didn’t go to al Baida, because other teams were going there. Some members of the Red Crescent managed to smuggle out some photos of the dead bodies and these are the only photos we have of this massacre. They put us in a lot of trouble because they did not expect members of the Red Crescent, which is controlled by the regime, to smuggle photos out. These are the only photos because no media was allowed to go in and I know the people who took the photos and smuggled them out.

Q: There is a lot of disinformation about the photos because they don’t have a source, being smuggled out secretly. So some people say they are Christians killed by Daesh [ISIS] or Palestinians killed by the Israelis, or whatever, so…

Look, the regime is not stupid. It is evilly smart. It tried to confuse us, its supporters put together some photos of Banyas, Palestine, Iraq and said “look, this is not Banyas!” but I can know exactly which photos were taken by us and I can tell you where they were taken, I can pinpoint them on Google Maps, and some of the photos are taken in such known streets that people know it is Banyas. These photos are taken by members of the Red Crescent. [..] I have an Alawite friend, he is the one who took the photos of the children. So let’s see the photos[6].

 The first one with children with a yellow shirt, another one with jeans, this is in Banyas. And this [scene of the] photo, I saw it personally, with the naked eye. I can assure you 100% that I saw this horrific scene. The second one, the two babies, I did not see this personally but it is in Banyas, and also the other one. The fourth one  is in Al-Bayda, I know this street, it is not Banyas, it is Al-Bayda. The other one, with the blood, the boy and the men, also this is in Al-Bayda and I know the guy, the family of the guy. The photo with the woman and the children, this is also in Banyas, in a neighbourhood called Ras Al-Nabe’. The last photos, with another woman and children, which is by the way the same as above, this is Banyas, and I know these stairs, everybody in Banyas knows them, this small street is in Banyas, in Ras al-Nabaa. The regime ordered us to open mass graves and put people in them. We were not able to put all the families in the mass grave together, respectfully. I will not forget where it is. We put a lot of bodies in it, I think 40-50 bodies and I heard from my friends that there are also mass graves in al Baida. We managed to bury all the bodies. […] We know from the Local Councils in al Baida and Banyas that there were 300 killed in al Baida and over 100 in Banyas. So totally 410. Half of them, more or less, women and children.

Q: I wonder something: after the massacre the regime blamed terrorists…

Actually no [..] they said the government attacked Banyas because there were terrorists hiding weapons there.

Q: But how can they justify the fact that in al Baida and Banyas many women and children died because of the massacre? How could they all be “terrorists”?

I know what you mean, but if you think that the people who support the regime try to find excuses, maybe you are wrong. From my friends, my colleagues, at work, at university… more than 75% of the people who are pro-regime, like Alawites and some Christians, they do not need excuses. Actually I hear some neo-fascist-nazi things, like “kill them, they are insects, they are animals, let them be taken out”. Of course some of them say “Yeah, killing children is not ok, but this is all their parents’ fault, they want the Islamic State, they want to kill minorities, so they had the right punishment”. You can hear this [being said] without any shame, so people do not need excuses, they know, they knew that the regime killed them, but they try to defend it, they try to convince themselves that they are terrorists, and maybe a couple of mistakes have been done, but they are living well with this. You cannot imagine how much hatred there is. Mainly the minorities feel like this, really, they are like Nazis, I’m sorry to say it but…of course some of the minorities are with the revolution, they stand bravely, but I’m talking about the mainstream.

Q: Many people say that before the revolution the Syrians lived together peacefully…

No, this is a big lie, we lived in a lie. We had a secretive regime that controlled every aspect of life and society […] In my classroom, we were like 20-25 guys, and 10-11 of us did not have the father because they were imprisoned and were never seen again. People tried to forget what happened in the 80’s, the horrible Hama massacre, but the hatred is real. […] The Alawites took all the positions in the coastal areas, all State employees are Alawites and many young Sunni were forced to go abroad to work.

Q: One last question: when I was reading the Human Rights Watch report… 

“No one’s left”? I was interviewed for that report[7].

Q: So maybe you remember that it says that the regime started the operation in al Baida because a man confessed there were deserters. What do you think about it?

No, I think that’s irrelevant. Banyas took part actively in the demonstrations, we hid some deserters, there was an assassination operation against a regime officer, all this happened. But I know it was deliberately planned months before, you cannot make such an operation in a city where there is no violent engagement like in Homs, Aleppo, Damascus or the rural areas. You cannot kill 400 people just to get a few deserters, the amount of forces that came to Banyas but are not from Banyas, all the talking to my Alawite friends about a lesson [to give] to the Sunnis in the coastal areas, I think it was well planned.

[…] The regime didn’t even bother to emphasise this confession as a pretext, it said “it was an operation, maybe some mistakes were done, but the rest is propaganda against us”. Since the early days there was a lot of talking about tanks, Lebanese and militia men coming to town having conversations, it was all obvious. But we were shocked by the size of it, it was huge to kill 400 in two days! […]

I think it was a deliberate ethnic cleansing. It was not part of the daily activities of the war […] We have not seen this elsewhere, in Latakia I saw a shooting on a demonstration that killed 30 people, but still that was “regular activity”.  But this and the Ghouta attack are beyond the clashes between regime and opposition. It was ethnic cleansing, also in Ghouta they were 100% Sunnis and in Banyas no Alawite or Christian was injured, not killed, not even injured. [..] My friend, who took the photos of the massacre, is still having nightmares to this day, after more than three years […] Those two days changed everything, I had friends and family who are with the regime, two of my cousins tried to defend the massacre and we are not talking anymore since the massacre. So divisions are also in the families, imagine in the society. They say there were terrorists, but in that area there was not jihadist or ISIS presence, it was a stronghold of the regime […]. I remember one thing, I was talking with a guy whose uncle was a prominent Alawite officer who worked for Hafez al Assad, Ali Douba, he was very famous because he was the head of the Military Intelligence Services, and this guy told me once: “Do you know why they chose Banyas?” and I said “No, why?”. “Because they could not do it in Latakia or Tartous because they are big cities and by doing it there they would risk to paralyse the city, so they decided to punish Banyas because it is small and even if life stopped in Banyas, that would not have affected the economy”. […]

Q: Ok, thanks a lot for your time and testimony [..].

Thank you. I don’t want this story to die, I want people to know. It’s very important what you and others are doing.

Source: http://www.thezeppelin.org/al-baida-e-banyas-massacro/

[1] Regardless of ethnicity or religion, as the demonstrations actually were.

[2]This episode is well documented. See Amnesty International, Syrian student tells of torture ordeal in mass stadium detention, 24/05/2011.

[3]For an overview of the story of Banyas from the early demonstrations to the massacre and the development of local councils and brigades, see S. DARWISH, M. DIBO, Cities in Revolution. Baniyas. Al-Bayda: The White City, 24/05/2011.

[4]Video online: https://youtu.be/y0P4rhRjR9I.

[5]The Orthodox Easter was on May 5th in 2013, the massacre started on Good Thursday, May 2nd.

[6]Yallasouriya, The Baniyas Massacre: Why Assad Did It, 6/05/2013. Online: https://goo.gl/km1NY9 In this link videos of the aftermath of the massacre can also be viewed.

[7]“No One’s Left”. Summary Executions by Syrian Forces in al-Bayda and Baniyas, ibid.

Interview by Samantha Falciatori. Introductory text by Samantha Falciatori, translated by Mary Rizzo

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WRITTEN BY Mary Rizzo

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

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

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

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

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

Framing confusion!

Framing confusion!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a Syrian child doing some real-life framing!

a Syrian child doing some real-life framing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 

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

 

 

a letter written by the detained Syrians in Egypt

a letter written by the detained Syrians in Egypt

Stopped in the middle of the sea by the Egyptian Coast Guard, aboard a boat that was sinking shortly after the start of its journey to Europe. Locked within the premises of a police station in Alexandria, where the police prevent the arrival of relief supplies of Caritas

WRITTEN by STEFANO PASTA, translated by Mary Rizzo

MILAN- Through WhatsApp, we interviewed Syrian refugees held since 14 April in Al Rashid police station in Alexandria, Egypt. Having failed to reach Europe with a barge, they were handed over to the Egyptian authorities, but now risk transfer to the prison of Al Burj , or – even worse – repatriation to Syria.

What is your situation like today?

Disastrous hygienic conditions are dangerous due to a broken sewer. We are 144 persons living in two rooms measuring only a few meters, one room for women and one for men. We sleep on the ground and we cannot wash. We try to keep calm, but when it happened a few days ago there were moments of tension between us, the police prevented the visits for that day and suspended the coffee and the food brought from outside by Caritas Alexandria. The boys and men are still able to resist in some way, but the women and children are really at the limit; there are two women with heart problems who finished their medicine and they need to get out immediately.

What is the situation of children?

There are 44 children under the age of 12, while the total number of children is 63. There are a few who are trying to play with water bottles and they are the only ones who can get distracted for a moment. At night, however, they find it difficult to sleep. As of yesterday, almost all of them have developed a sort of skin disease that no one can identify. Two children of one and two and a half years, alone with his mother because his father was killed in Syria, were suffering particularly yesterday , they were taken to the hospital five times because they suffer from asthma and staying in this place of detention is equivalent to sleeping in a garbage dump. We are also concerned about another 4 year old girl, suffering from cardiac difficulties, who had begun to complain about the chest pain already in the midst of the sea.

Why did you flee from Syria?

Many of us have fled to avoid conscription in the army of Assad, others are activists against the regime who are risking their lives. Then there are families who have fled their homes because they could not survive in some cities, people are dying of hunger because of the siege of the regular army (regime army), which does not allow the entry of food. There is no bread and milk for the children, while the rice when one can find it, costs almost twenty dollars a kilo. Life like that is simply impossible, that’s why we escaped.

Have you talked with a lawyer or with international authorities?

No, none of us was able to speak with a lawyer or has received a sheet with the written reasons for why we are being detained. We met a lawyer named Ahmad, who initially presented himself as belonging to UNHCR, but then he began to terrorise us by threatening to have us repatriated and he revealed that he works for Egyptian National Security.  This is our greatest fear, because it would be tantamount to a death sentence; also return to Lebanon would be very dangerous, since it has already happened that Hezbollah has handed over some refuges to Assad. After a week from the meeting with Ahmad, presented to us is a UN official, at least this is what he is telling us, along with an interpreter, in which we explained how we ended up in the police station.

How did it happen?

What happened before our arrest was a nightmare. We were ready to face the Mediterranean to reach Europe and we had entrusted ourselves to smugglers, who treated us badly, screaming profanities and threatening to beat us with bars, even children. With small boats, we were taken in groups on a larger boat, where we were parked at sea for seven days waiting for it to fill up to 250 people. When we were ready to leave, the same smugglers noticed that the boat was about to sink. It was the worst time since we left Syria: we could die and nobody would know. Then, after a fight broke out between the smugglers on the boat and the organisers were on the ground, we were able to convince them to bring us back; we passed the Coast Guard, but no one saw us. Once on the beach, we ourselves went to the Egyptian authorities, asking for help, but since that day, April 14, we were all arrested, including children.

Have you heard of other refugees detained in Egypt?

Of course, we have detailed information because they are members of our own families. The wife of a man who is here at Al Rashid is held in another place, then we know where the traveling companions arrested with us are. In the police station in Al Montazah there are 22 people, 55 in Chabrakhit and an unknown number – but with so many children – in Miami.

What are you asking for?

We call for the respect of Article 33 of the Geneva Convention, which prohibits any member country the repatriation (refoulement ) of persons to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened . We ask UNHCR and the European embassies (we initiated contact with the Austrian one) to be able to apply for asylum. We ask the Europeans: would you like your children to have the Mediterranean as their graves? Open a humanitarian corridor, let us save our lives legally.

thank you to Nawal 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Written by NOT George Sabra. [Submitted this to any number of publications, none picked it up. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone after Rania Masri…]

The anti-war movement in the West got what it wanted: the war in Syria grinds on without the involvement of the only force capable of ending the bloody stalemate, the U.S. military.

The anti-war movement in the West accomplished what it set out to do: American F-16s remained grounded while the Assad regime’s MiGs returned to the skies to bomb hospitals for the first time since Bashar al-Assad crossed President Obama’s “red line” on August 21.

The anti-war movement in the West succeeded: the big guns aboard America’s battleships parked off the Syrian coast remained silent as the regime’s big guns opened fire once more on defenseless civilian neighborhoods.

The anti-war movement in the West won a great victory: while the war-making regime in Damascus enjoys the unlimited and unconditional financial, military, and diplomatic support of Iran and Russia, the popular uprising still stands alone as the red-headed stepchild of the Arab Spring, without a steady source for the heavy weapons it needs to survive.

These are the bloody real-world consequences of this so-called anti-war movement’s triumph in the West.

This movement that arose on the basis of Sarah Palin-style concern for Syrian lives – “so we’re bombing Syria because Syria is bombing Syria?” – is nowhere to be found now that the regime’s savage campaign to end their lives has resumed in earnest. This movement that was so worried about the fate of innocent Syrians in the face of American bombs has not uttered a single word, not called a single Congressman, nor organized a single demonstration to demand the Obama administration send Syrians gas masks, something the administration has steadfastly refused to do despite its talk about basic human decency and the sanctity of children’s lives. Thus, the administration and its anti-war critics are united as one in treating Syrian lives as fodder for their political agendas, as a rhetorical device in finely-worded speeches about high-minded principles and universal ethics.

Leading figures of this movement like Rania Masri (who should know better because of her workaround Israel-Palestine) continually draw a false equivalence between the infrequent atrocities committed by a poorly armed, untrained, undisciplined, disorganized rag-tag opposition desperate to save themselves and their families from an oppressive dictatorial regime that uses sarin, tanks, jets, scud missiles, and artillery against them daily. Imagine blaming “both sides” for the carnage of the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising and you get an idea of how monstrous this is.

What is worse than this “anti-war” movement’s highly selective faux outrage over the plight of the Syrian people are the bald-faced lies it continually spreads to substantiate its position.

In the run up to the 2003 Iraq war, the anti-war movement fought the Bush administration’s lies with pure, unadulterated truth. Former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter declared that Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed by the U.N. in the 1990s and pointed out that Iraq was a basket case militarily thanks to a decade of crippling U.N. sanctions. For his trouble, Ritter was shut out of the halls of power as lawmakers in Washington, D.C. authorized President Bush to disarm a disarmed Iraq by invading and forcibly occupying it.

In the run up to the 2013 Syria war that wasn’t, the anti-war movement fought the Obama administration’s truths with pure, unadulterated lies. Antiwar.com founder Justin Raimando saidthe Assad regime’s sarin gas attack in Ghouta on August 21 was a “hoax” and referred to it sarcastically as a massacre – in quotation marks. Retired CIA officer Ray McGovern and his Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) claimed that the Ghouta gassacre was a false-flag attack staged by the opposition in a bogus, unsourced Curveball-style “report” that VIPS plagiarized from Global Research, a conspiracy theory website founded by a man withdirect ties to the Assad dynasty.

“Bush lied, people died” is what the anti-war movement said when the Downing Street memo revealed that the Bush administration fixed the facts and the intelligence around their policy of regime change in Iraq. This time, the movement lied, Syrians died as anti-war activists went into overdrive to spin the facts and intelligence coming out of Syria in 2013 to fit the Iraq template of 2003. U.S. politician Dennis Kucinich even recapitulated in his own way Donald Rumsfeld’s infamous handshake with the Butcher of Baghdad as he was gassing Kurds and Iranians by having friendly sit down with Bashar al-Assad in the middle of his killing fields.

The movement to stop U.S. military action failed in 2003 and succeeded in 2013. In both cases, the result was needless bloodshed and brutality borne by people far from our shores.

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

Lebanese novelist and intellectual, Elias Khoury

Syrians, you are alone!

Written by Elias Khoury published in al Quds al arabi (Translation from Arabic by Giacomo Longhi, translation to English by Mary Rizzo)

Ghiyath Matar, the martyr in Daraya who, with a gesture that confirms the nobility of the Syrian revolution, had distributed water and flowers to the Syrian soldiers, was kidnapped by the secret service on 6 September, 2011 and returned to his family four days later as a battered corpse.

Ghiyath Matar today weeps for his city, Daraya, as he sees more than three hundred martyrs assassinated by the blind machine of the Assad army thugs and shabbiha that have devastated as the Tatars had done, eliminating anyone who they had at the range of their guns.

But the regime, not content with this inhuman massacre, ratcheted up their ferocity by sending a reporter from Addounia TV, owned by Rami Makhlouf, to traipse around with tele-cameras among the corpses still fresh with blood to interview the injured, including a woman who seemed to be at her last breath.

Two massacres: the first an expression of the drunkenness to kill anyone around with an incredible bloodlust, the second an expression of insensitivity, meanness and contempt, she wanted to record the voices and images of the event in order to terrorise Syrian men and women with the prospect of a similar fate to that of the inhabitants of Daraya, Baba Amro, Azaz and other places.

The criminal does not erase the traces of his crime, but he is actually proud in front of everyone, convinced that the support of Russia and Iran will save him from the abyss, preventing the any sort of fulfillment of his own end.

Yesterday the torturer Bashar surpassed his own father the assassin, resolving his psychological conflict with the father figure, whose effigies filled Syria of the phantom threat of a new Hama.

Last Sunday, as I watched the images of the victims of Daraya, I was reminded of a meeting in Beirut, in the house of the Arabist, Frenchman Michel Seurat, who was killed after a kidnapping. It was 1981, Beirut was experiencing devastating moments under the Israeli invasion.

That day I asked the Syrian intellectual Elias Morcos, who came from Lattakia, how the situation in Syria was, from where he received the news of the massacre in Hama. Morcos did not answer directly, but told me about Genghis Khan. When I showed surprise that Morcos, a Marxist-realist, took refuge in a metaphor, he looked at me: “What do you want me to say?”. Then he told me how the secret service men had raided a bar in Lattakia, where he was having coffee, ordering everyone to kneel.

The pain veiled his eyes with water that did not look like tears. This authoritative man, who had been a leading intellectual of our generation and whose political and moral conduct was irreproachable, found himself on his knees with others.

I was reminded of Elias Morcos not because the secret services humiliated those men like they did with the entire Syrian people, but because instead of speaking of the Assad regime, or perhaps precisely to talk about it, he had to turn to the image of the Mongols invading the Arab Levant.

They are the Mongols and with them there is no truce, nor under the oaks – as Mahmoud Darwish once wrote – or in the darkness of the tomb.

A bloodthirsty appetite dominates the machine of the regime, which has lost all legitimacy and power. The lie of its anti-imperialism became apparent. The aircraft MiG and Sukhoi never dared to stand up against the Israeli Air Force when it bombed Syria. The mission of the regime has nothing to do with anti-imperialism and resistance, its real mission is to bend his knees and humiliate the people of Syria.

The Syrians are alone in front of the machinery of death.

All verbal support of the United States and Europe is a false, misleading, cynical lie.

The deafening silence of the world in the face of the repressive machinery of Assad is not due, as is often said, to the fact that Syria lacks that oil that arouses appetites for profit and domination by the West, but it is due to Israel. The destruction that the regime has inflicted on Syria, Israel could not even dream about. When the regime will fall, and it will be inevitable, Syria and the Syrians will have ahead of them long years of reconstruction.

Do not believe the analysis that the reason for the lack of support for the Free Syrian Army is the fear of the Arab states regarding Islamic fundamentalists.

The reason is neither the lack of oil nor the fear of fundamentalists. Western countries and in particular the UN does not fear political Islam, which in fact it is building alliances with States where there are such parties in power.

The only reason is to strengthen the racist component of Israel, whose insolence and arrogance has reached the point of making accusations of racism against South Africa which has decided to apply a special label for the goods produced in the occupied West Bank.

Bashar Assad is carrying out a task that for others has so far been impossible: he is destroying Syria and its social fabric. Then what good does it do to supply arms and aid to those who want its fall?

If it remains forever, whether its Russian and Iranian allies merrily dance to the rhythm of bombs and massacres, Assad will lose power after destroying the country from north to south. His allies will be covered with shame and hated by all Syrians and Arabs.

The perpetrator of Damascus has never been so vital to Israel as he is now, so do not expect anything from those who claim to be a friend of the Syrian people.

The Syrian people are alone.

They are alone in defending the dignity of the human being in the entire Arab world. Alone, shedding their own blood, giving humanitarian and moral meaning to politics.

What can I say to you who are alone?

Your solitude, my brother, you can only compare to that of the Palestinians, who have found themselves in front of every bloody turn taken by Israeli savagery. I know well, brother, that these words do not stop the bleeding, do not dry your tears, do not console the heart of a grieving mother.

I tell you that you’re alone.

I tell you to persevere in your solitude, your insistence on taking ownership of the dignity submerged in the blood of your sons and daughters, your efforts in defending the ruins of houses destroyed by cannons and fighter planes, are the road that you have to singlehandedly defeat the torturer who would like to once again make you go down on your knees.

I know that you do will not kneel. I know that your mission, crowned by blood, is now the value of our human dignity. I have nothing but these words of mine that bow in tribute to your sacrifices and your victims.

 

http://www.sirialibano.com/siria-2/siriani-siete-soli.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

Jubliant Americans

News during the last couple of weeks has rumbled in to shake an already rickety balance of world order. Perhaps one of the most disturbing images accompanying those headlines, though, was not that of more bruised and bulleted bodies. Rather, the image was of what the Associated Press termed a ‘jubilant crowd’. As though they had just won the World Cup Final, Americans waved flags as they sang and chanted their patriotic celebration.

Osama Bin Laden, they had just been told, had been shot dead. After nearly a decade-long manhunt, he had finally been pounced upon in Pakistan. The crowd cheered. And when President Obama made the official announcement, he coaxed the nation to cheer the same; he concluded by quoting the American pledge of allegiance:

‘Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all’.

‘Indivisible’. In this one word lies the notion that has fed American policy for many, many years: united we stand-divided they fall.

This is the disturbing aspect about the spectacle that accompanied a political assassination. The power that drives the ruin of lives has been reduced to a sports-style competition. The longstanding game strategy has become brazen: (1) unite ourselves to challenge a common enemy-of-the-day, (2) keep all designated enemies splintered with hostilities, and then (3) exploit the resulting instability. A 2005 report called ‘Dividing Our Enemies’, a report produced by the US Special Operations Command, admits frankly: ‘exploiting the rivalries or animosities among the insurgent bands clearly meets our goals’.

By way of example, just last month President Obama gave a speech stressing the importance of strengthening the nation by all working together. Meanwhile, American leaders were bristling at the renewed rumours of an impending reconciliation between the Fatah and Hamas parties of Palestine. They then promptly issued threats to cut off American support to the Palestinians should the Palestinians choose to work together themselves.

Within days, twenty-seven US Senators formerly demanded that President Obama ‘stand by its refusal to work with any Palestinian government that includes Hamas’. The Senators declared:

‘It is imperative for you [President Obama] to make clear to President Abbas that Palestinian Authority participation in a unity government with an unreformed Hamas will jeopardize its relationship with the United States, including its receipt of U.S. aid’.

Why had political support and financial aid been offered in the first place? Clearly not to facilitate a stable government of national unity. Repeatedly over the years, whenever the Palestinians have expressed their own unity, they have been rebuked for seeking their own terms of agreement. Only those Palestinians who were willing to abide by the terms of the Western “Israeli” Alliance were welcome.

This American pattern of provoking and prolonging internal hostilities amongst strategically targeted populations has been played out time and again in the Middle East. With protecting its “Israeli” project in the forefront, successive American governments have spared no effort to tame the Palestinians and Lebanese. Being unprocurable, Lebanon was played. From the 1950’s onward, relentless political manipulation and violent interference ensued.

Just as they had with the Palestinians, American governments offered political support and financial aid to select Lebanese-but only as a means of leverage. In the run-up to the Lebanese national election of 2009, for example, US Vice President Biden warned that his government would assess its willingness to continue aid to Lebanon ‘based on the composition of the new [Lebanese] government and the policies it advocates’. Years of open hostility toward Lebanese parties supportive of the Resistance clarified beyond any doubt what he meant.

Yet again in January 2011, the US cautioned that it ‘would have great concerns about a government within which Hizbullah plays a leading role’ and warned once again it could cut off aid, that tantalising carrot dangled in the faces of those pursued as strategic allies. A game played by house rules. But when the so-called assistance is bartered not for peace and stability, but solely for the political gain of the lender, then the role of the international community has gone terribly wrong.

Eleven years ago this month, the Lebanese thwarted the strategy of the Western “Israeli” Alliance to divide and conquer. The Lebanese Resistance rejected the presence of American-paid mercenaries and liberated its land from military occupation. The Resistance liberated its people from the dictum of imposed division. In so doing, the Resistance confirmed that the right to a durable national unity is not the prerogative of the Western world.

In similar fashion, the various calls for reform we are witnessing today in the Arab world are calls for integrity. They are resistance to a state divided from its people, resistance to a people divided from each other, and resistance to foreign states imposing their own agendas. In particular, the eagerness of the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples to achieve national unity is a key element of this developing global balance. Yet their eagerness has not been cheered; instead, it has been routinely met with stern disapproval from America-the self-proclaimed champion of united patriotism.

The concept of national unity, whether Arab or Western, should guide and grow with its people. It should be built on what is right about its own people-and not on what it perceives to be wrong about another. If we are ever to establish peaceful relations, the role of the international community is to be an honest broker in the pursuit of mutual benefit. When lives are at stake, it is simply not a game.

Brenda Heard is Founder of Friends of Lebanon, London. Details of the Lebanese Resistance & Liberation Day event in London, 25 May, ‘Reform as Resistance: emerging independence within the Arab world’ can be found here.

http://www.english.moqawama.org/essaydetails.php?eid=14083&cid=269

The arms of the Resistance, it has been suggested, should be abandoned as a matter of principle.  ‘From now on’, explains Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri, ‘the possession of weapons, decision of war and peace, and defending the country should only be under the state’s control’.  Political principles, it would seem, can be slippery.  ‘From now on’?  Perhaps this disclaimer is meant to ease the turnabout from the Hariri-Ministerial Cabinet Statement issued just over a year ago:

‘Based on the Cabinet’s responsibility to preserve Leba­non’s sovereignty, its independence, unity and the safety of its land, the government underscores Lebanon’s right through its people, army and resistance to liberate or regain authority of Shebaa Farms, Kfarshouba hills and the occupied part of Ghajar village and defend the country against any aggression’.

For the sake of argument, however, let us set aside the dictates of political expediency.  Let us look at the reality of what this stance entails. 

The crux of the grievance being voiced these days is that the Lebanese Army should have exclusive domain over national defence.  The grievance asserts that the Islamic Resistance of Hezbollah has usurped this privilege for its own advancement.  The puzzling bit of this accusation, however, is that it is being raised not by the Army—but by various politicians.

In contrast to the opinions of the 14th of March personalities, the Lebanese Army has for over twenty-five years maintained an efficient working relationship with the Resistance.  The developments in Lebanon over the past six years have left this harmony stronger than ever.  Building on the firm, longstanding commitment exhibited by Generals Michel Aoun and Emile Lahoud, the Lebanese Army remains a proud partner of the Resistance. 

When Lebanese Army General Michel Sleiman took on the role of President in 2008, he carried with him the experience to judge the elements required for an adequate national defence.  He stated that the success of the Resistance in defeating the occupier was ‘achieved by virtue of the support granted by the Lebanese people, the State, and the Lebanese Army’.  Such success notwithstanding, he continued,

‘the enemy’s persistence in threatening to violate our sovereignty imposes upon us to elaborate a defensive strategy that will safeguard the country concomitantly with a calm dialogue to benefit from the capacities of the Resistance in order to better serve this strategy.  Accordingly, we will manage to avoid depreciating the achievements of the Resistance in internal conflicts and subsequently we will safeguard its values and national position’.

President Sleiman reiterated his conviction just weeks ago in response to Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak’s warning that Israeli military may invade Lebanon yet again.  Barak ‘knows full well’, said Sleiman, ‘ that entering Lebanon is no longer a walk in the park.  The defence minister’s threat to send his forces into Lebanon again shows premeditated intentions of aggression.  The Lebanese people, army and resistance are ready to respond to any such aggression.’

President Sleiman’s confidence in the existing defence framework is shared by the head of the Lebanese Army, General Jean Kahwagi.  Addressing his troops last year, he advised them to ‘cling to the will of steadfastness and confrontation and to benefit from all the Lebanese capabilities residing in the capacities of the Army, the people and the Resistance as well as from the presence of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon and its support’. 

Whereas the stance currently adopted by the 14th of March campaigners clearly resents the ability of the Resistance, General Kahwagi  openly describes all contributions toward the national defence as honourable:

‘Let us look with veneration and respect at the souls of our pious martyrs, whether soldiers, citizens or resistance fighters, who fell while defending their country. . . and drew with their innocent blood the path of dignity and liberation for a country that we can be proud of in front of the whole world since we are its true and loyal protectors’.

As the Israeli media grins at the banners being  waved in Beirut that read ‘We want only the arms of the Lebanese army’, again it becomes imperative to look at the reality of what this stance entails.  

The Lebanese Army remains committed to a cooperative national defence, to a formula of the Army, the people and the Resistance.  Just days ago, General Kahwagi reiterated:

‘The Lebanese Army abides by this formula since it is part of the decisions and guidance of the political authority represented by the Cabinet and it is totally convinced by this formula since experience has proved its primary role in liberating the greater part of south Lebanon and western Bekaa from Israeli enemy occupation in addition to its role in defeating this enemy in the war of July 2006 and in safeguarding Lebanon in these days’.

A system of mutual support has evolved.  To disallow the arms of the Resistance would be to arbitrarily disregard the consistent evaluation of the Army’s top leaders.  This is nonsensical.  Such a suggestion would leave Lebanon vulnerable; of this there is no doubt.  The only conclusion, then, is that such a suggestion is either gross negligence or wilfull acceptance of Lebanon’s being engulfed.   We have to wonder whether the current swirl of rhetoric over who gets to be commander-of-the-day has more to do with protection or politics.  If both the acting Army General and the President, a former Army General, embrace the contributions of the Resistance, then the state of Lebanon is already well in control of its defence. 

 By Brenda Heard For www.english.moqawama.org

Originally posted at http://www.english.moqawama.org/essaydetails.php?eid=13640&cid=269 

Things that do not require a tribunal in Lebanon (picture by Amelia Opainska)

Al Jazeera reported yesterday that judges and lawyers at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), ostensibly established to prosecute the perpetrators of the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, “have begun discussions on how to define the crime of ‘terrorism’ as listed in a draft indictment”.

Opposition to the politicization of the STL, which appears to be concerned with prosecuting certain groups and not others, led to the collapse of the Lebanese government in January.

According to the Al Jazeera website:

International lawyers have wrangled for years without arriving at a single definition for the crime of terrorism, but prosecutors and defence lawyers at the tribunal agreed on Monday to apply the definition as stated in Lebanese law, which the tribunal already uses.

‘There is no reason to go further and create an overarching, worldwide, universal definition,’ Iain Morley, a lawyer for the prosecution, said.

But he sought to refine the definition they will use at future trials, arguing that it was unnecessary to prove a political motive for a terrorist act.

He proposed his own definition of terrorism as an act by which ‘a substantial section of the public reasonably and significantly fears more than momentarily from the present onward indiscriminate personal harm’”.

I’d be willing to bet that a more substantial section of the Lebanese public feared impending indiscriminate personal harm during and after the July 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon—waged in part via rush shipments of American weapons to Israel and resulting in the elimination of over 1200 people, mostly civilians, in the country—than after the elimination of Hariri and 22 others.

As for assassination-related fear, there was presumably some of this in 1985 when CIA-trained operatives attempted to dispense with Shiite cleric Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah in Beirut. Fadlallah survived; approximately 80 civilians, including a number of women and children, did not. It is meanwhile unclear why the Hariri assassination should be considered any more fear-inducing than the decades of Lebanese political assassinations that have not prompted special tribunals.

Dr. Omar Nashabe, editor of the justice section at Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar newspaper, gave an excellent speech in London last month on the subject of the STL in which he pointed out that current Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has boasted of his participation in assassinations in Lebanon in 1973. One more reason not to issue an “overarching, worldwide, universal definition” of the word terrorism.

http://pulsemedia.org/2011/02/08/on-indiscriminate-personal-harm-in-lebanon/