UN

Refugees From Assad’s Campaign of Murder

The level of ambivalence found in the West towards the mass death of Syrian civilians is truly grotesque.

In March 2014 it will be the three year anniversary of the conflict, which started with peaceful protests and continues with the Syrian government dropping barrel bombs.

Nearly three whole years of slaughter. A point to ponder.

This map shows only one aspect of the conflict, mass refugees.

HIU_syria1

We need to be under no illusion that the cause of suffering in Syria is placed squarely at the feet of the Assad government and their allies, Russia, China and Iran. The latter countries have fuelled the conflict from the outset and propped up Syria’s murderous dictatorship.

What I find most galling in the West is the denial of basic facts about the Assad regime. Westerners seem to have an infinite amount of concern about the Middle East until it affects real people.

Hussein Ibish, one of the most intelligent Middle East commentators, re-enforces that point by asking “Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk are being starved to death by the Syrian regime. Does anyone care?”

Please do read it:

“There isn’t much the Palestinian people haven’t suffered. But the use of enforced starvation against them by the Syrian dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad at the Yarmouk refugee camp breaks new ground in cruelty. Hundreds are said to be facing imminent death by starvation, lack of water and medical care, and the loss, for almost a year now, of all heat and electricity.

The crucial thing is not simply that Assad and his allies – Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia – must be held fully and completely responsible for this outrage. It must also be noted that the international community and the Arab world are not doing enough to respond to it, practically or politically. They have done virtually nothing as Yarmouk’s pre-war population of 250,000 has shrunk in the past three years to 18,000 famished, cowering, and shivering souls.

Those who still worship at the altar of the false idol of “resistance” and see Assad, Iran, Hezbollah, and their allies as the embodiment of the Arab cause are not simply disingenuous or delusional propagandists. Their thinking – not even, but especially, if it is sincere – is profoundly sick.”

I have covered Syria elsewhere.

World Socialist Web Site: Doing PR for Assad

Cherry picking is not just confined to fruit.
cherry1
It is incredibly popular amongst politicos. Such an approach can be seen from the World Socialist Web Site’s defence of the Assad government on the Houla massacre.

A copy is left below as a public record, as the original was recently removed!


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung confirms: Houla massacre committed by Syrian “rebels”

By
Clara Weiss

16 June 2012

On June 13, journalist Rainer Hermann confirmed his earlier report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung refuting the official version of the Houla massacre in Syria.

The media have almost unanimously described the May 25 events in Houla as an atrocity committed by the Syrian government, relying almost exclusively on reports from the so-called “rebels.” Western powers have used the massacre as a pretext to whip up pro-war sentiment and intensify their pressure on the Assad regime. The US and UK reacted to the massacre by withdrawing diplomats from Syria.

In his June 7 report, Hermann asserted that the victims of the massacre in Taldou, a village in the Houla region, were members of the Alawite und Shi’ite minorities and that the killers were not troops loyal to the Assad regime, but forces aligned with the Sunni-based sectarian Free Syrian Army (FSA).

Although the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is one of the most prominent German-language newspapers and Hermann a well-known journalist, the report has largely been ignored by the German and international media and criticized in a few reports.

In his new article June 13, Hermann defends his reporting and adds further details about the massacre. This report has also been met largely with silence.

The Houla plains region, Hermann writes, “is burdened by a long history of sectarian tensions. … Of the names of the civilians killed, 84 are known. These are the fathers, mothers and 49 children of the Al Sayyid family and two branches of the Abdarrazzaq family. … Additionally killed in Taldou were relatives of the … member of parliament Abdalmuti Mashlab.”

Hermann goes on to describe what happened: “The family members were targeted and killed with only one exception. No neighbour was injured. One had to have knowledge of the place to carry out these well-planned executions”.

Hermann then quotes 11-year-old Ali, the only member of the Al Sayyid family to survive the bloodbath: “Those responsible had shaved heads and long beards”. In Hermann’s opinion, this points to “fanatical jihadists” and not the Shabiha militia.

The version of the event advanced in the global media, in particularly lurid fashion by Britain’s Observer and Der Spiegel, the German news magazine, blames the Shabiha militias, regarded as assault detachments of the Assad regime. These articles rely on the testimony of a Major Jihad Raslan, said to have first served in Assad’s army, who then deserted because he was so appalled by the “events in Houla”. Hermann’s article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung exposes these reports as a bunch of lies.

Hermann reconstructs the sequence of events as follows: “After the Friday prayers on May 25, more than 700 armed people led by Abdurrazzaq Tlass and Yahya Yusuf, forming three groups from Rastan, Kafr Laha and Akraba, attacked three army checkpoints around Taldou. The numerically superior rebels and the (mostly also Sunni) soldiers fought bloody battles in which two dozen soldiers, mostly conscripts, were killed. During and after the fighting the rebels, supported by residents of Taldou, wiped out the Al Sayyid and Abdarrazzaq families. They had refused to join the opposition”.

In his article, Hermann refers to earlier reports by other journalists and nuns from the Jacob Monastery in Qara. Nuns had described to Dutch journalist Martin Jannsen how the “rebels” piled the bodies of dead soldiers and civilians in front of the mosque and told UN observers their version of the alleged massacre in front of cameras from “rebel”-friendly television channels.

The nun Agnès-Maryam had already described the escalation of sectarian violence around Homs in an open letter toward the end of April. She warned of a step-by-step liquidation of all minorities by the Sunni “rebels” and described the displacement of Christians and Alawites from their homes and the rape of young girls who had been given to the “rebels” as spoils of war.

Herman also refers to Russian journalist Marat Musin, who works for the Anna news agency and was in Houla on May 25 and 26, thus becoming an eyewitness to the events as well as a reporter. So far, Musin seems to have given the most detailed description of what took place. His version coincides with Hermann’s and that of the nuns on all decisive points.

These reports and the latest article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung confirm that Syria is being ravaged by a civil war deliberately promoted by Western powers to destabilize the country and prepare it for regime-change. The rebels do not speak for the majority of the population. They are made up of former members of the regime, soldiers, mercenaries, terrorists and secret agents pursuing a reactionary political agenda, many of them using the support by the West to settle old scores and carry out sectarian conflicts.

International news media are supporting the war preparations of US imperialism and its allies in an unprecedented campaign of agitation and propaganda. That is why Hermann’s article and the well-documented reports of other journalists and eyewitnesses are mostly being hushed up.

Human Rights Watch on Syria:

“On May 25, at least 108 residents of Houla near Homs were also killed, most shot at close range. According to survivors and local activists, it was pro-government armed men who were responsible for the executions. In late August, residents from the Damascus suburbs of Daraya and Moadamiya also described finding hundreds of bodies following ground operations there. Some of the victims appeared to have been executed by government forces.”

I have covered Syria many times before.

On Syria

Syria and the West are intimate friends. For years Western leaders courted Bashar Assad, arguing he was a moderate and a vehicle of change. Vogue even produced a propaganda edition on the Assad family. Elsewhere, Russia and China continued to support and supplied buckets of armaments to the Syrian dictatorship or shuffle their feet at the UN.

queenAssad1a With a few notable exceptions, many Western activists simply coughed and looked the other way when the various Assads committed atrocities, as Galloway argued in June 2011:

“The BBC, Galloway complained, is denouncing Syria for using Apache helicopters to attack its own people. “I’ve never understood,” said Galloway, “why it is worse to kill your own people than other people’s people.” The BBC had cheered a week or 10 days earlier for Apache helicopters used by Britain to kill Libyans. The problem with Syria, Galloway said, is not that it’s run by the latest Adolf Hitler of the month, but that it harbors Palestinian leadership, supports Lebanese national resistance, and refused to participate in the attack on Iraq.” [My emphasis.]

That was good enough for them, deliberately forgetting Assad’s unsavoury allies.

Yet there is a foul stench that pervades any discussion on Syria, the inability to stop a dictator from openly murdering civilians for 2½ years. The West in terms of political leaders and supposed “activists” have given this smiling dictator an easy time. Complacency has rules from March 2011 onwards, with Westerners largely hoping that the slaughter in Syria would go away, all by itself.  MIDAEST SYRIA UK

Syria is not far from Europe. A mere 300 miles from Cyprus. A relatively quick trip from Italy, under three hours in a plane. Just over 4½ hours from London but it could as well be a world away, whilst the Assad regime carried on torture and murder, under Russia and China’s protection and it slipped down the media priorities.

Leaving aside the question of intervention for the moment, the inability of Westerners to inform themselves on the nature of the Assad dictatorship is exceedingly troubling. From 1963 coup d’etat to the later one in 1970 when Hafez Assad took power, civil rights were never on the agenda. However, Western Human Rights organisations have covered abuses over the years and those with access to the Internet have no excuse.

Human Rights Watch reports on Syria: 1997, 2000,2002,2010,2013.

Amnesty International reports on Syria: 1995, 2000, 2007, 2011, 2012.

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Punishing Israel

In light of recent events an adage needs updating:

Benjamin Netanyahu never seems to miss an opportunity, to miss an opportunity.

I am not the only one annoyed at Netanyahu’s maladroitness.

Two astute Middle East analysts, Meir Javedanfar and Hussein Ibish have noticed the issue, how Netanyahu has succeeded in isolating Israel and himself from potential allies by his own clumsy actions.

Ibish remarked on the UN vote:

Israelis must ask themselves how they lost their “quality minority” and why so many European and Western states that have been historically supportive of them or neutral moved rather dramatically today in the Palestinian direction. The war between Israel and Hamas shows that the situation on the ground is fundamentally unstable and untenable. The dramatic shift in the diplomatic landscape at the U.N. today demonstrates that the international community understands that and is losing patience.

Javedanfar puts his finger on it:

“The Iranian regime was hoping that the recent Gaza conflict between Israel and Gaza based militants would create a diplomatic crisis for Israel.

Unfortunately for the regime, this did not happen.

Ayatollah Khamenei must have been very disappointed to see that his regime’s military support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist groups did not lead to an Israeli military response which created a diplomatic crisis in Israel – EU and Israel – US relations.

What Iran could not achieve in Gaza, Netanyahu achieved for the Iranian regime with his latest plans for new settlement homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank: diplomatic crisis in relations between top EU countries and Israel. As Barak Ravid reported in Haaretz: “Europe threatens to withdraw support for Israel over settlement building plans”. According to the article the top 3 EU economic powerhouses Germany, UK, and France are protesting, so are the Dutch. More countries could follow.”

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Support The Palestinian Quest For Statehood

The quest for Palestinian statehood has been a long and unglamorous one.

Over the years various leaders have been undecided on the best tactics to take. The infamous Yasser Arafat was forever putting off the question of full statehood, trying to maximise his political capital accordingly, but the status quo is not tenable.

The Palestinians deserve a state, as much as the British do, the Americans, the French, the Australians and a whole host of other countries.

The lingering, waiting and statelessness amongst Palestinians must stop. They are consigned by the UN and regional states to numerous refugee camps or as diaspora throughout the Middle East, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, etc.

They are often treated as second and third class citizens by Arab states with limited rights and lesser prospects all around.

They deserve so much more, more from the UN, more from the leading nations and moreover from their leaders.

A Palestinian state, along with the move towards non-member observer state, could change the dynamic in the Middle East and make the necessary final status negotiations more, not less likely.

That is something everyone should welcome!

Update 1: Meir Javedanfar makes some excellent points:

“To weaken the extremists we have to strengthen the moderates. Tomorrow’s act will strengthen the moderates in Palestine, who are the PLO and its associated candidates. We in Israel should have been doing this over the last few years, but instead Netanyahu and Co. have done the opposite. They have weakened and discredited Abbas with continued settlement building.

I believe that tomorrow will give hope to a people who have been stateless for 64 years. They missed an opportunity in 1948 when Palestine, which was divided by the UN (48% Palestine, 48% Israel, 4% international territory), as well as all Arab states rejected recognition of Israel, and instead attacked her in order to drive the Jews into the sea. But that was in 1948. I can’t make yesterday a better day. We have moved on. We have a peace partner in Ramallah, his name is Mahmoud Abbas. We never had anyone like him in 1948.

I believe that we have to talk to the Palestinians and bring them to the table. Building settlements on their land is not going to bring them to the table to talk about peace. If the Palestinians were building illegally in Tel Aviv I would not want to talk peace with them.

I am not alone in Israel, quite a few people believe that talking with Palestinians is a crucial matter for the future of Israel.

Giving a stateless people hope and strengthening the moderates who want to work with Israel will be the opposite of losing, for us and for the Palestinian people.”

John-Paul Pagano Analyses Iranian Vice President Rahimi’s Racism

One of the least reported stories in the media recently was the crazed and racist speech at a event in Tehran, AP explains:

“According to The New York Times, Mr Rahimi blamed Zionists, a term used by some for Jews supporting the state of Israel, for illegal drug trade, and said that Talmud, a Jewish religious book, taught followers that they were a superior race.

He said: “The Islamic Republic of Iran will pay for anybody who can research and find one single Zionist who is an addict.

“They do not exist. This is the proof of their involvement in drugs trade.”

He proceeded to blame the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia on Zionists, and said that they ordered gynaecologists to kill black babies.

Not unsurprisingly, it was not covered by the BBC and barely by the Guardian.

Can’t say I am that shocked, nowadays it is more in the Guardian’s line to give VP Mohammad Reza Rahimi a column than criticize his disgusting racism, but back to the real issue.

John-Paul Pagano has provided a detailed breakdown of Rahimi’s speech:

“He added: Eighty percent of American wealth is in the hands of 6 percent of the Jewish world and a U.S. researcher says that in order to reduce the population of American Indians a Jewish doctor of obstetrics and gynecology rendered 8000 of them sterile — all of these teachings are in the Talmud. “

وي افزود: هشتاد درصد ثروت آمريكا در دست شش درصد از يهوديان دنياست و يك محقق آمريكايي مي‌گويد يك پزشك زنان و زايمان يهود براي كاهش نسل سرخپوستان هشت هزار نفر از آنها را عقيم كرده است و همه اين مباحث در آموزه‌هاي تلموت است.

I wonder if any “anti-Zionists” will ever admit the depth of racism at the heart of the Iranian leadership?

Or perhaps, like the BBC, it really isn’t an issue for them.

What Syrian Refugees Say.

AP relates:

“The U.N. refugee agency said Monday that as many as 2,000 Syrians crossed into Lebanon over the last two days to flee the violence in their country. In the Lebanese border village of Qaa, families with women with small children came carrying only plastic bags filled with a few belongings.

“We fled the shelling and the strikes,” said Hassana Abu Firas. She came with two families who had fled government shelling of their town al-Qusair, about 14 miles (22 kilometers) away, on the Syrian side.

The town is in Homs province, where the government has been waging a brutal offensive for the past month.

“What are we supposed to do? People are sitting in their homes and they are hitting us with tanks,” Firas told The Associated Press. “Those who can flee, do. Those who can’t will die sitting down.”

Lebanese security officials say more than 10,000 Syrians are believed to be in the country. One official said as many as 3,000 are believed to have crossed in recent days because of violence in Homs, though it is unclear how many have returned to Syria.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity under government protocol.

Inside Lebanon, many Syrians fear agents from their own country’s security services. Stories have circulated of kidnappings and collaboration between Lebanese and Syrian security forces. Syria controlled Lebanon for decades and Hezbollah, the party which now dominates Lebanon’s government, is closely allied with Syria and Iran.

Turkey says it hosts more than 11,000 Syrians in camps along the border with Syria, including more than 1,000 who crossed in the last month. About 100 have entered in the last two days.

Jordan has more than 80,000 Syrian refugees, according to the government.”

The Huff Post has more news of atrocities, and still international inaction.

UNESCO And Settlements

David Schraub makes an excellent point:

“In response to Palestine’s successful bid to gain membership in UNESCO, Israel has approved a wave of new settlement construction, apparently on the theory that hacking off one’s own nose is worth it to spite someone else’s face. Seriously, one gets the sense that radical Palestinians can just play Israel like a flute at this point. Do something Israel doesn’t like, and watch as they furiously self-destruct.”

I am not keen on the tone of this article at HuffPost, but it makes some pertinent points:

“But the end of U.S. involvement in one lesser-known UN body, the World Intellectual Property Organization, may pose the most direct consequences for American business interests. If the U.S. is forced to stop funding the group, it would open the door to a possible contest for the attention of lawmakers between the pro-Israel and Silicon Valley lobbies.

WIPO hosts forums for the negotiation of international treaties on copyright protection. It is an essential outlet for Hollywood and Silicon Valley businesses seeking to prevent infringement in the developing world, such as from those who pirate DVDs in China and elsewhere.

The consequences of a diminished US presence in WIPO could be devastating, experts on intellectual property law predict.

“You’re trying to engage developing and developed countries in enhancing intellectual property protections where there are already barriers to your success,” said Suzanne Stoll, the former WIPO representative in Washington and now COO of the IP lobbying firm Raben Group. “Now you add that you can’t vote in the annual governing bodies as the result of a 20-year-old legislative provision involving Palestine. It’s not a good position for the U.S government to be in. You have to anticipate some diminution of your influence in that body. There are always people and interests and nations waiting to fill a void there.”

The State Department has said it recognizes these consequences, and is looking for a way to work around them. Yet it has also indicated they cannot see a way forward without new legislation.”