A yearly Christian festival has come in for criticism to the extent that Greenbelt felt compelled to put out a Statement on Israel/Palestine programming by Greenbelt. Whilst there is the broader question of, whether or not Westerners should be interfering in the Middle East, there should be no circumscription on criticising the human-rights record of any governments. Any.
There is much to criticise in the Middle East and the Israeli government is not immune from it. The continued occupation in the West Bank. The treatment of immigrants to Israel and the rise of right-wing racist ideas. However, we must not forget that it has been Israelis at the very forefront of these issues and opposing their own government. That opposition takes various forms from the human-rights organisations, such as B’Tselem to Rabbis For Human Rights and beyond.
Where is it, Syria?
Except that Israel is not the only country in the Middle East.
Nor is it the only one connected to the Christian faith and therefore of interest to many Westerners or festival-goers at Greenbelt.
I could not help but notice a strange omission from the festival programme, any mention of Syria. Whilst it has slid down the news agenda, the 2½ year conflict involves many millions, with probably over 120,000 dead, millions of refugees flooding into neighbouring countries and it should deserve at least one word of commentary. I thought it was a peculiar oversight, but then, is it?
I wondered, could it be that those fixated with Israeli misdemeanours give the rulers of Syria an easy time? There is one whole article on the Greenbelt site relating to Syria, whereas the search result on “Israel” amount to 7 pages of searches, 63 entries.
The hypothesis, that strident and negative views on Israel would lead to a bias in reporting of the Middle East needed testing, the question was how?
Well, I supposed that choosing the most strident Christian critics of the Israelis I could think of might prove illuminating. Surely, I reasoned, they could not fail to indict Bashar Assad for instigating the conflict in Syria? Or using tank shells and aircraft on unarmed civilians?
All of this did not happen overnight. The conflict started in March 2011 when the Syrian government decided to shoot peaceful demonstrators. The Western media begun to document the abuse by the Assad regime, including disappearances and regular use of torture.
I had hoped to start 2013 on a better footing, with longer, more thoughtful post but time and life are not so generous. I think the plight of the Chagossians deserves a wider audience:
“For the uninitiated, in the 1960s, the US wanted Diego Garcia (one of the Chagos Islands) as a major air base. It spoke nicely to the UK, its owners, who consequently evicted and banned all the inhabitants from it and the neighbouring islands. The constitutional arrangements were apparently decorous. A new UK colony was established (the British Indian Ocean Territory or BIOT) with a Commissioner to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Territory. “
Iain Duncan Smith is a loathsome politician, but he’s also innumerate as Channel 4’s Factcheck shows:
“Tax credit payments rose by some 58 per cent ahead of the 2005 general election, and in the two years prior to the 2010 election, spending increased by about 20 per cent.”
We asked the Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which administers work and child tax credits, how much has been paid out since the current system started under Labour in 2003 (before that it was the Working Families Tax Credit).
It said that in 2003-04, £16.4bn was paid, and the following year – the one that included the general election to which Mr Duncan Smith refers – £17.7bn.
That’s an increase of 8 per cent, not 58. “
In the US, White Supremacists are planning an anti-immigration rally according to the ADL.
The Guardian looks at the companies set to benefit from the privatisation of the NHS.
The Automatic Cat’s commentary is to the point:
“That doesn’t matter, anyway. The purpose of his statement was to demonise a section of the public in order to justify cuts which themselves are aimed at proving to ‘The Markets’ how fiscally astute and fearless we are. ‘The Markets’ being, in large part, the global banking system which brought us to the edge of catastrophe in the first place.
We’ve seen this kind of demonisation before, with the unemployed and the long-term ill. The suggestion that they’re really putting it on somehow, or shirking, or somehow otherwise undeserving of any help at all. It goes hand in hand with the policy that the safety net has made us all soft and needy and that taking it away will get us off our lazy behinds and make us take all those jobs which are out there.
It really won’t do. Personally I’m rather insulted that the government thinks so little of us that it believes we’ll swallow this nonsense. It shows a rather interesting lack of sophistication and, indeed, compassion. A government which believes we can be so easily manipulated is really not a government worth having. “
Reuters reminds us of the ever increasing death toll in Syria: 60,000 at the last estimate.
Will 2013 be better than 2012? Not looking good thus far.
Despite the many benefits of the Internet, access to news from all parts of the world and almost instantaneous translation, it is sometimes difficult getting a grasp of what is really happening in a certain country, particularly those in the Middle East.
Syria is but one example. After nearly 20 months, tens of thousands killed, millions of people displaced and hundreds of thousands injured, there is lethargy in the Western media concerning the fate of Syrians.
It used to be said that in journalism, what bleeds leads, but that clearly isn’t the case when it comes to Assad’s victims.
Yet as NPR reports things are changing, Project Looks At A New Way To Report On Syria.
Watch Syria Deeply for more developments.
The people in Egypt have been, rightly, demonstrating against authoritarianism, in the form of President Morsi and the new, proposed, constitution.
I am not a fan of the Middle East Research and Information Project but Ahmad Shokr makes some intelligent points:
“The draft constitution does not reflect a democratic consensus, as many in the opposition have argued that it should. It reflects an emerging relationship between the Muslim Brothers and existing state institutions, like the army, along with a great deal of appeasement of the salafis, whom the Brothers have embraced as junior partners. The rush to a referendum suggests a deep anxiety among the state elites about continuing instability and a desire to seize the opportunity to cement a new political framework as quickly as possible. More worrisome than the text itself is the vision these leaders have for which voices count and which alliances matter in the new Egypt. Should this vision go unchallenged, the losers would be all those who have been calling for more pluralistic and inclusive system. “
A slightly delayed round up from a few weeks back.
Lest we forget, Exhibit focuses on scientists’ role in Holocaust.
Individual tragedy from the Middle East, the Oasis of Peace’s sad news.
Still no freedom for poorer rural women in South Africa.
The Women of Afghanistan:
“A recent study by Human Rights Watch, which interviewed 58 women and girls in prison, found that half were jailed for acts that any reasonable person would not consider a crime, like running away from abusive situations. People who force women into marriage, often at very young ages, or subject them to violence, are rarely prosecuted, the group said. Female victims get little support from police and judges, and they face the added injustice of being punished for committing “moral crimes,” like “zina” — sexual intercourse between two people not married to each other. Criminalizing zina is contrary to Afghanistan’s international obligations, the group says. “
No means no, lest George Galloway and his supporters forget that.
ADL’s Snapshot of Al Quds Day 2012:
“While the largest Al Quds Day events generally take place in the Middle East, protests are also held in cities across the United States. The protests, which took place last Friday in a dozen U.S. cities, were rife with extreme language, including signs that compared Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to the Holocaust.
In New York, L.A. and Houston, large banners reading “Stop Palestinian Genocide” were on display, as well as other signs that read, “Israel is a Cancer,” “Down with Zionism,” Holocaust in Palestine” and “Gaza=Auschwitz.” A woman in New York held a sign that said, “Free Palestine! End ZioNazi Apartheid! No $$ to ‘Israel!’ Boycott ‘Israel’.” “
[Trigger warning, Assange related material.]
When the GOP Convention comes around there is almost the feeling that America has stepped back in time, not by the technology employed or the showmanship, but the underlying ideas.
Issues that many might think are uncontroversial provoke alarm and worry amongst the GOP, the Pew Research Quiz is just one indicator.
But a deeper whiff of bigotry and reaction clings to GOP events, as TPM reported:
“An attendee at the Republican National Convention in Tampa on Tuesday allegedly threw nuts at a black camerawoman working for CNN and said “This is how we feed animals” before being removed from the convention, a network official confirmed to TPM. “
And more, Nativism 101:
“There were energetic shouts of “Aye!” and “Nay!” as a Puerto Rican party functionary—Zoraida Fonalledas, the chairwoman of the Committee on Permanent Organization—took her turn at the main-stage lectern. As she began speaking in her accented English, some in the crowd started shouting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”
The chanting carried on for nearly a minute while most of the other delegates and the media stood by in stunned silence. The Puerto Rican correspondent turned to me and asked, “Is this happening?” I said I honestly didn’t know what was happening—it was astonishing to see all the brittle work of narrative construction that is a modern political convention suddenly crack before our eyes. None of us could quite believe what we were seeing: A sea of twentysomething bowties and cowboy hats morphing into frat bros apparently shrieking over (or at) a Latina. RNC chairman Reince Priebus quickly stepped up and asked for order and respect for the speaker, suggesting that, yeah, what we had just seen might well have been an ugly outburst of nativism.”
Meanwhile, for would-be GOPers, Ayn Rand and a discussion of her “philosophy”, which seems to have all of the depth and consistency of L.Ron. Hubbard’s Scientology, albeit without the UFOs.
I suppose we should not be terribly surprised by the latest outburst from the Assad regime:
“The Syrian regime has threatened to use its chemical and biological weapons in case of a foreign attack, in its first-ever acknowledgement that it possesses weapons of mass destruction.
Foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi vowed, however, that Damascus would not use unconventional arms against its own citizens. The announcement on Monday came as Syria faces international isolation, a tenacious rebellion that has left at least 19,000 people dead, and threats by Israel to invade to prevent such weapons from falling into rebel hands.
Syria’s decision to reveal the long-suspected existence of its chemical weapons suggests a desperate regime deeply shaken by an increasingly bold rebellion that has scored a string of successes in the past week, including a bomb attack that killed four high-level security officials, the capture of several border crossings and sustained offensives on the regime strongholds of Damascus and Aleppo.”
It seems to be only a matter of time before the fall of Syria’s dictatorship.
I would give Assad 2-3 weeks, he’ll either be evacuated to a despot-friendly country, like Russia, or end up dead in a ditch.
In the West conspiracies have always been popular. They play to a certain irrational desire to simplify events, to explain away complexities and interactions by reference to some controlling force, outside of our view.
That holds true for the JFK assassination, 9/11 and the Twin Towers, even the 7/7 attacks in London.
Syria has become the latest topic among conspiracy cranks, as Julian Borger ably illustrates:
“Tarpley, who Skelton described as a “Bilderberg expert”, is best known for a conspiracy theory book about the September 11 attacks, called 9/11 Synthetic Terrorism Made in USA, blaming a shadowy American security apparatus.
The affected tone of intrigue in Skelton’s piece is grating but it’s also beside the point. Most of the hated “mainstream media” treat the people he singles out as they should be treated, as the mouthpiece of a sprawling, dysfunctional coalition of strange bedfellows – among which the Muslim Brotherhood are probably far more powerful that these would-be American plants.
I did a search for Bassma Kodmani mentions on the Guardian, and got seven hits for this year. But four of those were pieces by Skelton, and another was a wire agency piece on the infighting inside the SNC.
To appreciate how specious Skelton’s approach is, all you have to do is apply it to other situations. In Kosovo, a lot of fighters in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) were complete rogues, including smugglers and car thieves. But that did not and does not change the fact Serb forces executed thousands of civilians there. To have focused exclusively on the KLA’s shortcomings would have somewhat missed the point.
Likewise in Bosnia, there were also a lot of crooks in the Bosnian army, and the likes of the Reaganite Jeane Kirkpatrick and Margeret Thatcher advocated tough action on the Bosnian Serbs, as did lots of other people who turned out to be unsavoury or nutcases – but to have obsessed about their politics would have meant you would have missed the genocide.
If you are of a conspiratorial turn of mind you could do a bit of research on me after reading this article and find that I spent more than eight years in Washington (aha!) and about 18 months in Jerusalem (the Mossad connection) and you may well find pictures of me with Ratko Mladic, and Radovan Karadzic, where I maintain I was conducting interviews but which could have had a much more underhand connection.
You would be wasting your time. Even if I had been paid or programmed to falsify everything I write about Syria, my controllers would be powerless to alter people’s perceptions of what is going on there. The news is streaming out by Skype, emails and satellite phones, and in the testimony of refugees. We rely heavily on our correspondents on the ground to gather information directly inside Syria. They do not spend much if any time on the phone to SNC spokespeople in Washington. Likewise most of the reports on the latest butchery in Tremseh came not from the SNC, but from rebels and activists in the area, and are treated for the time being as unconfirmed. “
I scanned a few comments, but gave up, not pretty.
I had hoped to do many more individual posts, particularly on the issue of a minutes silence at the 2012 Olympic games in memory of the athletes that were murdered in Munich 1972, but instead I present another round-up of news and events.
Jonathan Freedland at the JC:
“They sought to resurrect a lost and ancient tradition, at the centre of which was the high ideal known as the Olympic truce.
The official Olympic website traces this back to Greece in the 9th century BCE, when three rival kings agreed to halt hostilities while the Games were under way: “During the Truce period, the athletes… could travel in total safety to participate in or attend the Olympic Games and return afterwards to their respective countries.”
Today’s International Olympic Committee still proclaims that goal, insisting that it is committed to “protecting” all athletes as well as “searching for peaceful and diplomatic solutions to the conflicts around the world”.
Forty years ago, the Olympic truce was violated in direct and brutal fashion. At the Munich Games of 1972, 11 athletes discovered they could not, after all, travel in “total safety” and that they would not, after all, be protected.
For Jews again to be killed on German soil was almost too much to bear.
The 11 were members of the team representing Israel. In their quarters in the Olympic village, they were seized by eight Palestinian gunmen disguised as athletes, taken as hostages, and finally killed in a botched rescue effort at a nearby airport. “
Personally, I would have preferred if Freedland had written it for the Guardian directly, but Jennifer Lipman does that and you can imagine what the comments boxes are full of? Disdain and barely concealed contempt for Jews and Israelis.
Helen Lewis at the New Statesman looks at online harassment and women.
Brown Moses has a fascinating post on Manaf Tlass:
“Hama Echo pointed me in a direction of a couple of picture of Manaf Tlass which may indicate that this defection is more about saving his own skin than any ideological differences with the Assad regime. In August 2011 the French anti-fascist website Reflex posted an article about members of the far right in France, including Frédéric Chatillon, founding a new website, InfoSyrie, to correct what they stated was the gross misrepresentation of facts by the Western media in the pay of the US and Israel.
The article goes on to describe links between the far right in France and the Alawite and Assad regime members in Syria, and describes a visit arranged by Chatillon for his associates, that include Thierry Meyssan, chairman of the Voltaire Network; Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, a anti-Semitic political activist; essayist Alain Soral; Ahmed Moualek, president of La Banlieue S’exprime (LBS); and Marc George to Lebanon, via a 5 day stop over in Syria.
This stop over in Syria is reportedly largely financed by the Tlass family, including hotels, sightseeing and drivers for their far right friends, including this meeting with Manaf Tlass (and other family members) pictured second from the left. “
There’s another antisemitic attack in France (and I don’t expect BBC News or the Guardian to cover it in any significant way) but events in France are extremely worrying:
“A French Jewish teenager, who attends the Toulouse school where Islamist gunman Mohamed Merah shot dead three children in March, has suffered a violent anti-Semitic attack on a train, French media reports said on Thursday.
The attack on Wednesday took place on a train travelling between Toulouse, which is in the south-west, and the city of Lyon in the south-east, Le Figaro newspaper reported, quoting an interior ministry statement.
“A teenager aged 17 wearing a distinctive religious symbol, who attends Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse, was taken to task and insulted by two individuals,” the ministry was quoted as saying.
He was then attacked near the toilets “by the same two individuals, who beat him up,” the statement said, adding that the attack ended when a fellow passenger and train conductors intervened. “
A rather naive Max Blumenthal eventually realises the company that he keeps.
The best and worst places in the world to be a woman.
A rye view of events in Israel.
Undressing the Underwear Bomb Plot?
I tried to argue with Norm over the hyphen in antisemitism but he’d been there.
EDL activist jailed for 9 years.
Surreal? LBJ and Gordon Brown compared.
Ziad J. Asali has some hard questions for One Staters.
Still, polishing a turd? The Lobbying company trying to help improve Assad’s image.
Meanwhile in the US, Alabama Pastors Conference Invites Only ‘White Christians’:
“A group of pastors in Alabama says that they are not racist even though only “white Christians” were invited to their three-day conference, which will include a cross burning and be attended by Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members.
Residents in Guin, Alabama became outraged earlier this week after they noticed flyers posted around the town that read, “Annual Pastors Conference All White Christians Invited.” The groups Christian Identity Ministries and the Church of God’s Chosen told WIAT that they just didn’t have the “facilities” to accommodate non-whites.
“We’re seldom ever have been invited to black Muslim events and we never have been invited to NAACP events and we never have been invited to join Jewish synagogues events and stuff,” Christian Identity Ministries Pastor William J. Collier explained.
“It has nothing whatsoever to do with any kind of racism or hate or anything like that,” he added. “And anybody who would brand it as that would be a racist and a hater themselves, you know.” “
Finally, if you didn’t know about Higgs Boson then this might help:
Reuters’ report AI’s opinion on Syria:
“(Reuters) – Syrian government forces are killing civilians in organized attacks on towns and villages that amount to crimes against humanity, Amnesty International said on Thursday, citing evidence from over 20 locations in the country’s northwest.
The rights group repeated its call for the United Nations Security Council to refer Syria to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, and to impose an arms embargo.
Amnesty’s findings, detailed in a 70-page report, add to reports of massacres elsewhere in Syria as a 15-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad moves closer to a civil war.
Its researchers visited 23 towns and villages in the Aleppo and Idlib provinces between April and May, conducting interviews with more than 200 people, including many whose relatives had been killed or whose homes had been destroyed.
Amnesty adviser Donatella Rovera told Reuters TV she had found repeated examples of brutality against civilians during two months of unauthorized visits to northwest Syria.
“Wherever I went, in every town, in every village, there was a very similar pattern – soldiers who went in, in very large numbers, for very short but very brutal incursions where they extra-judicially executed young men, burned down their homes. Those who they arrested were then tortured in detention,” she said.
“And that was really repeated in every town and every village that I visited … The bulk, the overwhelming majority of the violations are being committed by the government security forces and their paramilitary militia against the civilian population,” she added. “
Often PR companies are not too choosy as long as their clients pay well.
So it is with those in the business of polishing the image of Assad’s murderous regime, the Indy reports:
“At the very least, it was a case of unfortunate timing.
Vogue magazine invited ridicule and condemnation last year when it printed a glowing profile of the Syrian First Lady in the same month that a violent crackdown on protests in the country began. But the 3,200 fawning words on Bashar al-Assad’s wife, Asma, was just one part of a public relations campaign carried out by Western firms to burnish a friendlier image of the Assad family – the extent of which is still coming to light.
It was later revealed that international PR firm Brown Lloyd James agreed a $5,000-per-month contract in November 2010 to help with the photo shoot and interview, which described the British-born Mrs Assad as the “freshest and most magnetic of first ladies”.
The Vogue interview, headlined “A Rose in the Desert”, was arguably the high point of a public relations blitz designed to make the Assad family appear progressive and accessible. “
The NYT has more:
“For some journalists, Syria has been one of the least hospitable countries in the Middle East, a place where reporters — if they can get in — are routinely harassed and threatened as they try to uncover the repression that has propped up the Assad government for decades.
For other journalists, Syria has until recently been a country led by the cultivated, English-speaking President Bashar al-Assad who, along with his beautiful British-born wife, Asma, was helping usher in a new era of openness and prosperity.
That second impression is no accident. With the help of high-priced public relations advisers who had worked in the Clinton, Bush and Thatcher administrations, the president and his family have sought over the past five years to portray themselves in the Western media as accessible, progressive and even glamorous.”
“Explain briefly why some people are prejudiced against Jews.”
My gut feeling was how inappropriate such a question might be for children, and the result of mainstreaming of anti-Jewish racism within academia. We have seen it manifest before.
But on reflection (and I’m glad that Norm seems to agree with me), I think discussing racism is a good idea, even if the wording is poor.
Opening up the subject, not letting it fester away in the corner, but facing all our prejudices, both individual, collective and societal is a good idea.
It helps us address the question, why is antisemitism still prevalent in western societies?
In Syria, according to the BBC there is continued killing of civilians in Rastan. Not unsurprisingly there is little indignation in the Western media concerning the shelling of the defenceless by Assad’s murderous gang.
Elsewhere, Chris Dillow makes an acute observation on Leveson inquiry:
“Tittle-tattle about whether Hunt should resign or not symbolises an ideology that disfigures our politics – the idea that what’s needed for proper decision-making is men of the right character. But this is not enough. You also need the right systems. And these have not been in place. If Hunt does have to resign – and I can think of nothing I care less about – he will pay the price for a political system which over-rates the role of personality and under-rates the role of structure.
Alfred North Whitehead famously said that “civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking of them.” By this standard, government hasn’t advanced very much. “
Over in Egypt.
How much enrichment is really just for medical purposes? You decide:
“There are civilian uses for 20% enriched uranium, but it is also a significant technical step towards producing weapons-grade uranium.
Iran has told the agency it was a mistake in starting up the cascades of centrifuges, the machines used to enrich uranium.
Nuclear experts say that is plausible. But one senior diplomat in Vienna refused to speculate. “It can happen,” he said, “it needs to be checked”. “
Mystical Politics explains it better.
Apparently, EU to look into antisemitism on continent.
According to the Guardian, Twitter instead of objecting to interference from the Syrian dictatorship capitulated to it:
‘Twitter closed down a string of accounts purporting to be authored by the Syrian president and the first lady, emails reveal.
A senior aide to Asma al-Assad, Fares Kallas, took issue with the site over 11 accounts. Half of the accounts using the first lady’s name and all but one of those using the president’s name were closed down.
The author of one account, @Syrianpresident, described it as a “parody account” and said it had attracted 2,500 followers.
Kallas wrote to Twitter complaining that this and other accounts were “fraudulent Twitter accounts purporting to be the president of Syria and the first lady of Syria and we would like to officially request for these accounts to be removed or suspended. We believe that each of the following are clearly intending to mislead people via impersonation rather than act as spoof/humorous accounts.” ‘
The Guardian provides an astonishing insight into the comfortable and brutal world of the Assad dictatorship:
“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.
HRW has released some striking images of the Syrian government’s shelling in Homs:
“Local sources have reported that approximately 700 civilians have been killed and thousands wounded in Homs since the Syrian military began its current assault on the city on February 3, 2012. Indiscriminate shelling and sniper fire has caused most of the casualties in Baba Amr, which is a residential area where elements of the armed opposition have sought refuge. Human Rights Watch interviewed 15 Homs residents who escaped the city in the last two weeks, as well as two foreign correspondents who spent time in Baba Amr during the military assault.
“These new satellite photos and witness accounts show the extent of the brutality unleashed on Baba Amr,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Despite the killing, Russia and China continue to block any international action.”
Human Rights Watch acquired and analyzed this commercial satellite image of the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs on February 25. A wide view of the image clearly shows the extensive damage caused by the use of surface-delivered explosive weapons in a populated area. The image reflects the damage that has occurred since previous images were taken between four and six weeks ago.”
I suspect that lot of what Yossi Gurvitz says applies to attitudes in Britain and Europe:
“Last Thursday, a special UN commission on Syria found that the Assad regime is committing crimes against humanity, and that senior regime officials are participants in these crimes. The commission was significantly limited in its ability to report on events, as the regime denied it entry into Syria, and it had to rely on the testimonies of refugees. Even so, it is important to take its conclusions seriously: in several previous cases, the first testimonies about crimes against humanity came from refugees.
The refugees supply us with only a partial view, yet they indicate a terrible desolation, thousands of casualties, the systematic use of rape as a tool of terror, and prevalent torture. The number of civilians massacred by the regime in the last year is estimated in the many thousands – many more, for instance, than the number killed by the IDF during the Second Intifada. Naturally, the precise number is not known, but an opposition site that is considered reputable cites 8,791 dead; another site, which also furnishes a map of the atrocities, estimates the number of dead at 9,236. These numbers are updated to the time of writing of this post, and both of them reflect only the known dead – people identified by others. It’s very probable that there are hundreds more, unrecognized.”
The Washington Post’s coverage is worth a read:
“Bombs fall, bullets fly, cocks crow — and a rainbow appears. The battle in Homs on livestream,” The Post’s Liz Sly wrote on Twitter early Wednesday morning.
It was another day of deadly shelling in Syria, despite declarations from Russia that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is “completely committed” to stopping the fight.
While Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged the international community not to intervene and to allow more time for dialogue with Assad, the city of Homs came under renewed bombardment Wednesday. The BBC reports it’s the “heaviest” yet, as activists say military tanks are rolling in the streets. BBC’s Paul Wood, who has now left Homs after reporting there for the past few days, writes:
Unconfirmed reports claimed that pro-government militiamen known as “shabiha” were going door-to-door and killing indiscriminately.
There are also reports that 18 premature babies died after their incubators failed as a result of power cuts. State TV denied the reports and said Homs hospitals were operating normally.
As many as 100 civilians died in the attacks on Wednesday alone,according to Reuters. Hundreds of amateur videos have been pouring in on YouTube, showing dead bodies, damaged buildings and the grief of family members who have lost their relatives.”