A row between the US and Moscow over Snowden’s extradition has reached a new level of tension after Barack Obama canceled a long-planned summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, again showing the adherence of US to double-standard politics.
This goes back to Putin finally deciding to give temporary asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, specifically ignoring Obama’s personal directive that Snowden should be handed over to the US. With this measure, Putin echoes Russia’s and the world’s growing weariness with America’s hegemonic carrot-and-stick strategy, and its double talk.
Both presidents had agreed to hold a summit in Moscow next month to discuss bilateral issues but, reading between the lines, one can clearly sense the increasing frustration the US and its key global allies feel towards Russia and China, the only two major powers that can stand up to them, bringing some measure of traditional balance-of-power to today’s world; even if uneasy and fragile
As with Julian Assange, the case involving Edward Snowden is well-known around the world: both men were in a position to access credible behind-the-curtain information, together with the documentation backing it up, and they both came out boldly disclosing it to the public.
If the proof is in the pudding, then America’s rage and ire, as well as that of its allies’, are proof that these disclosures are in fact true, which is why such a large portion of global public opinion hail Snowden and Assange as true heroes and freedom fighters.
For when it comes to assessing the true motives and unconfessable activities and goals behind much of US, UK and Israeli foreign and domestic policies, millions of modern-day Hamlets can smell that there is definitely something very rotten and not precisely in the State of Denmark.
If, as we believe, the supranational global power elites are embedded deep inside the public and private power structures of key nations – notably the United States and the United Kingdom – then clearly their Achilles Heel is any and all disclosure of their crimes, their meddling in the internal affairs of other countries, their direct or indirect involvement in false-flag attacks, their support of genocidal regimes when it serves their purpose, their murderous invasions and occupations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Libya, and their obscene funding and support of terrorists, guerrillas and mafias in Syria and elsewhere, under the PsyOps cover of ‘Arab Spring’.
Now, if giving temporary asylum to a disgruntled 30-year-old former National Security Agency (NSA) operative like Snowden has such impact on the US power structure – so much so that it led the president of the United States to cancel a key summit with the President of Russia – then one can only wonder at the fear and trembling they must feel when assessing potentially much more serious ‘security breaches’.
What if a really organized group of truly powerful insiders-turned-outsiders were to decide to confront Washington, New York, London and Tel-Aviv with unquestionable evidence and proof of their crimes and their criminal perpetrators? What if, say, somebody comes up with total and undisputable proof on the truth behind 9/11? Or Iraq and Libya? Or Wall Street in 2008? Or London 7/7…?
Russia and China: America’s 21st-century foes
Naturally global hegemons abhor anyone standing up to them, which is clearly what Russia has been doing for the past decade. At the UN, where Russia had been more accommodating to many US interests, after the US-backed monstrous assassination of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on live TV and the rape of Libya in 2011, its appears Moscow got really fed up.
Assassinating global leaders to the chuckling of Hillary Clinton on CBS News is definitely not on Moscow’s agenda.
A key change in Russian foreign policy can thus be clearly seen in the cases of Iran and, more significantly, in Syria – a traditional Russian ally.
The US, UK and Israel know full well that even if they continue to finance the worst terrorists, mafias, murderers, arms-dealers and Al-Qaeda operatives – whom they collectively dub as ‘freedom fighters’ - against the legitimate government of Bashar Assad, Russia just won’t budge.
Putin’s message is clear: the West will not have its way in Syria. Period.
Many readers are probably asking, what about China? Isn’t China supposed to be the key Pentagon target in the years to come because it continues to grow and grow, and its economy will soon surpass that of the US?
Yes, but that’s just the economy and, yes, China does hold almost $2 trillion in US Treasury Bills, which gives them the potential to wreak havoc on the US by just liquidating them short-term in the major global financial markets. China could, if it wanted, send the US Dollar crumbling down like the World Trade Center twin towers did in 2001.
But the US knows China will not do that; not now, anyway, as they have much more to lose from a US financial collapse than they have to win. China knows that triggering the mass devaluation of those Treasuries would backfire and explode in their own face.
Besides, China has never had, nor has today, global hegemonic aims. China seems quite happy to be and remain the undisputed power in South East Asia and the Western Pacific, something that is in sharp contrast with the US/UK/Israel, which together insist on running the whole world: politically, territorially, financially, even trying to impose its courts and laws.
In addition, China has few issues for open conflict: Tibet, Taiwan, a couple of disputed islands with Japan, perhaps, but that’s basically it. Their struggle lies on the economic and resources stage.
Now, compare that to the permanent conflicts the US and its allies stir up in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, Central Europe etc.
China does not really need to be contained; it is self-contained. The US and its allies, however, must be contained and, seeing the way things are going, in the long run they must be stopped.
Russia might have far less economic clout than the US, however the Kremlin has always had clear long-term geopolitical objectives; intelligently designed and planned ever since the times of the tsars, later under the Bolsheviks, and today under its mature, coherent and consistent leadership.
For Russia not only has global aims, Russia understands the world and its multicultural complexities far better than the US. On this, Russia is only rivaled by Britain… and China.
So is the US now slipping back into ‘Evil Empire’, Russia-standing-in-the-way-of-‘democracy’; Russia-supporting-the-bad-guys rhetoric?
The truth is that Russia is helping to unmask American social and political decadence, financial weakness, and psychopathic imperial overdrive.
When Russia stands up to America, it shows strength, personality and self-respect. The world looks on and applauds.
On August 7, Obama appeared on Jay Leno’s popular ‘Tonight Show’, whining and complaining about Putin, accusing Moscow of slipping back into “Cold-War mode”. He listed US grievances against Russia: missile defense and arms control, trade relations, global security, human rights, civil society… and advising President Putin not to look at the past but to “think about the future as there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to cooperate.”
Obama doesn’t seem to understand that to think correctly about the future, requires learning from the experience of the past. Addressing the Snowden Affair in isolation is but another example of US double-standards and double talk.
As journalist Glenn Greenwald of London’s The Guardian newspaper reminded his readers on that same day, whilst Obama and the mainstream media today express so much distress over Snowden’s Russian asylum, they seem to forget past cases where the tables were turned, and which did not involve a young, mild-mannered whistleblower, but rather where the US protected the worst criminals and murderers.
For instance, the US refused to heed an extradition request from Italy for two CIA agents indicted in the alleged 2003 abduction of an Egyptian cleric in Milan (New York Times, February 28, 2007); later, when CIA agent Robert Seldon Lady was released in Panama, he was flown back to the US to avert the possibility he might be extradited to Italy (Washington Post, July 19, 2013).
Then we have America’s refusal to extradite former CIA-supported Bolivian President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada – who for all practical purposes was given US asylum – so he could stand trial for genocide and war crimes in Bolivia (The Guardian, September 9, 2012). Or the case of Luis Posada Carriles, whose extradition to Venezuela was also refused by the US, over his alleged role in the 1976 terror bombing of a Cuban jetliner that killed 73 people (El Paso Times, December 30, 2010).
The list does not stop there. In recent years, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Brazil filed repeated requests and legal summons asking the US to give up one Sir Henry A. Kissinger, wanted for questioning over his decades-long involvement with CIA-backed military regime murders in those countries during the 1970s, under a mass genocide strategy which later became known as ‘Plan Condor’.
But again, the Global Power Elite always stands behind its problem children like Sir Henry to the very end. Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón went so far as to ask Interpol to arrest Kissinger for questioning during a visit to London but – Alas! – to no avail.
And we won’t even mention the repeated extradition requests filed by Belgian Courts against former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for his war crimes and crimes against humanity, filed by Lebanese victims of his 2001 killing sprees.
The list is far too long. But the double standards are glaringly obvious, which does not seem to unduly bother the Global Hegemons, for they are far too used to always having their way.
And even when they do take some risk they use their overpowering leverage to play their game safely, as if saying “let’s flip a coin: heads we win; tails you lose”.
Adrian Salbuchi is a political analyst, author, speaker and radio/TV commentator in Argentina
Seven of Syria’s Thirteen Palestinian camps now controlled by Salafi-Jihadists…
Jihadists are entering Syria at an accelerating pace, according to Syrian, UNWRA, and Palestinian officials as well as residents in the refugee camps here. For the now-estimated 7000 imported foreign fighters, Palestinian camps are seen as optimal locales for setting up bases across Syria.
“Syria’s Palestinian camps have become theaters of war,” said UNWRA Commissioner Filippo Grandi.
The Syrian people compassionately host 10 official, UN-mandated Palestinian camps, along with three unofficial ones, whose populations total at least 230,000. Eight of these are “Nakba (“catastrophe”) camps,” organized soon after Palestinians were expelled from their homes in 1948, while two, Qabr Essit and Dera’a (emergency camp), are “Naksa (“day of setback”) camps.” The latter were set up in 1967 as a result of the internationally condemned Zionist-colonial aggression against the two sister-Arab-nationalist regions—Palestine’s West Bank and Syria’s Golan Heights.
And it was on the Ides of March of the year 2011 we saw an explosion of violence near one of these camps, the Dera’a camp established in 1950, in the south near the Jordanian border.
But first, perhaps a simple listing of the camps, along with their populations and dates of establishment, would be in order here:
1950, Dera’a, 5,916
1967, Dera’a (Emergency), 5,536
1950, Hama, 7,597
1949, Homs, 13,825
1948, Jaramana, 5,007
1950, Khan Dunoun, 8,603
1949, Khan Eshieh, 15,731
1948, Neirab, 17,994
1967, Qabr Essit, 16,016
1948, Sbeineh, 19,624
1955-6, Latakia camp, 6,534 registered refugees
1957, Yarmouk Camp, 112,550 registered refugees
1962, Ein Al-Tal, 4,329 registered refugees
As of 8/8/13, seven of the camps—two in the north and five in the Damascus area and in the south of Syria—are presently with their throats under the jackboot of foreign Salafi-Jihadists. These jihadist cells moved against the camps early in the current crisis for purposes of forced recruitment, to benefit from a supply of noncombatant human shields, to shakedown the residents and take over UNWRA facilities, and to make use of the erstwhile “refugee camp security zones.” All these steps were precursory to the setting up of military bases from which to launch operations aimed at toppling the current government of the Syrian Arab Republic.
How do the jihadists infiltrate the camps?
How is it possible that more than half of the Palestinian camps in Syria not only fell, but did so, regrettably, without all that much resistance, to the point at which we see them now—dominated by largely foreign jihadists who continue to impose their unwanted extremist religious beliefs on a largely progressive secular Palestinian community? It is a subject currently much discussed here.
This observer has deduced from a number of conversations—with former and current camp residents, as well as members of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, Palestinian NGO’s, and also with academics—that there is a ‘model of occupation’ metastasizing in Syria in a manner strikingly similar to what we saw six years ago at Nahr al Bared Palestinian camp near Tripoli Lebanon. The stories we hear today are quite similar to those from among the nearly 30,000 refugees at Nahr al Bared who were forced to flee to the nearby Badawi camp or to Lebanon’s ten other camps—reports related to this observer in visits to Nahr al Bared in May of 2007.
What we hear today in Syria bears an almost uncanny likeness. For instance one lady, whose family is from Safad in occupied Palestine explained: “First they (the intruders) appeared only a few in number. We noticed them and that some had ‘foreign’ accents and wore conservative clothes, most had beards. They were polite and friendly. Then more arrived, a few followed by women and children. They stayed to themselves at first and they began using the local mosque—even being welcomed at first by local sheiks who sometimes expressed admiration for the sincerity and devoutness. Then some of them began to preach their versions of the Koran, and at some point their gentle teaching became more strident, and soon these men were commenting on how some of the Palestinian women dressed in an un-Islamic fashion and even lectured young women about modesty and that they must change their ways, including stop smoking, and to leave public meetings if they were the only women present, and wear a full hijab.”
The lady’s sister interrupted: “Then guns appeared and some of the men appeared to be very skilled when they would use, for example, a school or playground to train. They were so serious and seemed to be in a trance of some kind. There was no possibility to talk or reason with them. All they seemed to want was martyrdom! Some actually believe that Syria was Palestine and they were here to liberate Al Quds!”
Upon some in the camps it began to dawn that the newcomers intended imposing their ideas, and that they fully intended that camp residents should submit to “pure Islam,” as they view it. Some resistance began to jell from camp residents, but the camp popular committees did not have the power to confront them, and a few actually joined them. The fighting with Syrian government troops accelerated the takeover process, and soon the camp residents were presented with a demand: join the gunmen and “liberate” the camps.
With respect to Ahmad Jibril’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command—and no offense meant to them and their officials, with whom this observer met in July and early August—but several of their best Palestinian patriot commanders jumped ship in protest against the plan to “liberate” Yarmouk. At the same time many of the PFLP-GC rank-and-file fighters split and joined the opposition for various reasons, including better pay and wanting to be on the presumed winning side. That being said, however, camp residents overwhelmingly rejected the PFLP-GC “defense” project, and insisted that their camp was neutral, that it was to be maintained as a safe zone for its residents, who were guests in Syria pending their return to still-occupied Palestine.
Again, this chain of events is singularly similar to what we saw (too late as it turned out) in Lebanon’s Nahr al Bared, a process which, like the one unfolding now in Syria, was accelerated by the civil war raging here.
There is fear that the Syrian army will sooner or later attack and destroy the camps in order to confront the rebel militias—similar to what the Lebanese army did during the 75 days of shelling in 2007. At that time it took vengeance on the camp and demolished it in an unjustifiable frenzy of shelling for the criminal attack and killing of some Lebanese troops, an attack that had been carried out by camp invaders, not Palestinians. For Palestinians in Syria, it is the all too familiar fate of outsiders entering and seeking to control their camps, coupled with the threat of a host army attacking them to confront the invaders. The residents are once more killed or forced to flee and their homes are destroyed.
Here once more comes to mind the cliché: “Where is the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Council, the EU or the UN? Where’s Waldo?
In order to gain control of the camps in Syria, two main processes appear to be made use of by the al Qaeda affiliates. One is what this observer labels the ‘Nahr al Bared model”. A Popular Committee member from Yarmouk, who just barely escaped the camp before his home was destroyed by a direct hit mortar round, put it this way:
“Some come bearing gifts. They usually set up small problem solving centers. Maybe a little cash, offers of medical aid, bread distribution, pledges of camp security, these sorts of currently absent social services.”
But the camps quickly become petri dishes, and the explosive growth of the foreign implantations is sometimes dazzling. By the time government supporters report the camp invaders it’s too late. And what can the government do anyhow? Guns appear everywhere, and suddenly it’s no longer ‘nicely nicely’ polite treatment from the Islamic brothers. Residents are told they must help liberate the camp from the Assad regime or face the wrath of Allah. Consequently, fleeing for one’s life becomes an utmost urgency, often literally as the snipers arrive and intense fighting, and rooftop targeting, ensues.
Dodging the snipers
So what happens next to the Palestinian camps in Syria? Is a hopeful, positive or peaceful resolution possible? This observer’s 2-cents worth of analysis suggests that the answer is no. The camps will stay largely under the domination, militarily and socially, of the jihadist elements that continue building fortifications and ‘digging in.’ What is happening is a God-awful calamity, one being foisted upon those whose only prayers and wishes are to leave Syria and return home to reclaim their stolen lands.
A central question is the precarious situation in Yarmouk and the fate of the 18-20 percent of its population still remaining. These are people risking their lives daily trying to avoid snipers from both sides. One can hear speculation on the prospects that the Syrian Army, aided by Hezbollah, will move on Yarmouk to try and expel the rebel militia. Some PLO officials with offices inside the Yarmouk neighborhood claim that Ahmad Jibril’s PFLP-GC is being beefed up and armed by the government with more than just AK47’s and RPG’s. Last winter, some of Jibril’s forces were expelled when they tried to eject the foreign militia, while others, as mentioned above, went over to the opposite side. At the same time, three PFLP-GC commanders quit over tactics while questioning Jibril’s decision to violate the camp’s neutrality, a decision leading to the destruction of parts of Yarmouk.
As to speculation on the possibility of the Syrian government and/or Hezbollah moving to eject the foreign forces from Yarmouk, this observer does not give the reports much credit. The Syrian Army has more urgent and prioritized battles being waged today, with others being planned. Hezbollah, likewise, is facing challenges at present, and fighting in Yarmouk against unknown numbers of rebel militia would surely add to them. Moreover, any force invading a Palestinian camp faces being roundly condemned over violations of the Cairo agreement forbidding host governments from entering UNRWA refugee camps.
This observer and contacts in the Palestinian community cannot verify the recent report for a foreign media source that al Nusra has fled Yarmouk and is on the run. On the run from whom? Currently they are not being seriously challenged. On the contrary, the al-Qeada affiliates are busy digging more tunnels under the camps to store weapons and move freely. Their ranks are growing not dwindling.
Grim as it sounds, they who reside in Syria’s camps, along with the 12 million Palestinian refugees worldwide, will continue to be at the mercy of events they had no part in creating. It is a fate they share at this moment with much of the rest of Syria’s population, and things are not likely to improve in the immediate term.
But on a more positive note, the Palestinians of Syria persist in their resistance and opposition to the illegal occupation of their country. Theirs is a determination to return to their homeland that simply will not fade or wither, and speaking with Palestinian refugees these past several days in Damascus and Homs has convinced this observer more than ever that on this they will not retreat a single inch—and that in time they will liberate their country.
The fact that the initiation of the Zionist project had nothing to do with the Holocaust, as it developed more than a half century earlier, and the fact of the mostly indifference to the slaughter of Jews on the part of the founders of Israel, together with its collaboration with the Nazi Party, undermines Israel’s projected, and exploited, image as innocent victim.
Both Nazism and Zionism arose in tandem from small insignificant social movements in the early part of the 20th century, arguing, with equal force, that Jews were an alien and indigestible mass living in the midst of an otherwise pure Aryan population. Both movements contributed to the more general acceptance of this argument in Europe, and particularly in Germany, as mid-century approached, and both have to be responsible for the consequences.
In 1896, journalist Theodore Herzl’s book, Der Judenstaat (The Jews’ State), Herzl expressed his understanding of inevitability, permanence, and omnipresence of anti-Semitism and argued that the only solution was a separate state for Jews. Herzl stated, in his book:
The Jewish question exists wherever Jews live in perceptable numbers. Where it does not exist, it is carried by Jews in the course of their migrations. We naturally move to those places where we are not persecuted, and there our presence produces persecution. …1
In 1912, Chaim Weizman, Israel’s first president, and the Zionist advocate who had the most to do with lobbying the British for the Balfour Declaration of 1917, echoed this view, speaking to a Berlin audience:
… each country can absorb only a limited number of Jews, if she doesn’t want disorder in her stomach. Germany already has too many Jews.2
Reflecting in 1949 in his autobiography, Trial and Error, Weizmann wrote:
Whenever the quantity of Jews in any country reaches the saturation point, that country reacts against them …
Weizmann, the chemist, invoking a metaphor from the sciences, added:
… the determining factor in this matter is not the is solubility of Jews, but the solvent power of the country. …
This cannot be looked upon as anti-Semitism in the ordinary or vulger sense of that word;
it is a universal social and economic concomitant of Jewish immigration, and we cannot shake it off …3
Ben Frommer, an American Revisionist, stated in 1935:
No matter what country he inhabits … [it] is not of the [his] tribal origins. … Consequently, the Jew’s attempt at complete identity with his country sounds spurious; his patriotism despite his vociferousness [sounds] hollow even to himself; and therefore his demand for complete equality with those who are of the essence of the nation naturally creates friction. This explains the intolerance of the Germans, Austrians, Poles and the increasing tide of antagonism in most European countries … It is presumptuous on the part of a Jew to demand that he be treated as lovingly as say a Teuton in a Teutonic country or a Pole in a Polish country. He must jealously guard his life and liberty, but he must candidly recognize that he does not ‘belong‘. The liberal fiction of perfect equality is doomed because is was unnatural. [Italics mine]4
Indeed, in 1925, Jacob Klatzkin, the co-editor of the massive Encyclopedia Judaica, wrote:
If our people is deserving and willing to live its own national life, then it is an alien body that insists on its own distinctive identity, reducing the domain of their life. It is right therefore, that they should fight against us for their national integrity … Instead of establishing societies for defense against the anti-Semites, who want to reduce our rights, we should establish societies for defense against our friends who desire to defend our rights.5
The understanding of Herzl, as well as the Zionists, about the inevitability of anti-Semitism was possibly self-fulfilling, for rather than opposing anti-Semitism in the first half of the 20th century, the Zionists found common cause with Hitler, Eichmann, and the Nazis and used anti-Semitism and Nazism as a means of achieving their end which was the establishment of a Jewish state. The two reactionary movements shared the view that German Jews were living in that country as a ‘foreign race’ and that the racial divide was essential to maintain. The Zionists’ use of Nazism involved, among other things, the blocking of avenues of escape to other countries of Europe’s Jews and diverting them to Palestine, even as the death trains began to roll in Europe. The rise of Nazism and Hitler to power was never, or almost never, opposed by the Zionists prior to the establishment of Israel.
Thus, in an article by Siegfried Moses, which appeared in the Rundschau, the official newspaper of the German Zionist Federation, and later, its head, stated:
… it is true that the defense against anti-Semitism is not our main task, it does not concern us to the same extent and is not of the same importance for us as is the work for Palestine …6
Rabbi Stephen S Wise
In 1934, Stephen Wise, head of the American Jewish Congress said:
… I cannot be indifferent to the Galuth [the Jewish diaspora living outside of Palestine] … if I had to choose between Eretz Israel and its upbuilding and the defense of the Galuth, I would say that then the Galuth must perish.7
On October 2, 1937, two SS officers, Herbert Hagen and Adolf Eichmann, disembarked in Haifa and were met by the Gestapo’s agent in Palestine, Fritz Reichert, and later in the day, Fevel Polkes, a Haganah agent, who showed the Nazi officials Haifa from Mt Carmel and then visited a kibbutz. Some years later, when Eichmann was hiding in Argentina, he taped a story of his excursion to Palestine, stating:
I did see enough to be very impressed with the way the Jewish colonists were building up their land. … In the years that followed I often said to Jews with whom I had dealings that had I been a Jew, I would have been a fanatical Zionist.8
Eichmann had read Herzl’s book, Der Judenstaat, and also studied Hebrew. In their trip report, the two SS officers paraphrased Polkes’s message to them:
The Zionist state must be established by all means and as soon as possible. … When the Jewish state is established according to the current proposals laid down in the Peel paper, and in line with England’s partial promises, then the borders may be pushed further outwards according to one wished.9
… in Jewish nationalist circles people were very pleased with the radical German policy, since the strength of the Jewish population in Palestine would be so far increased thereby that in the foreseeable future the Jews could reckon upon numerical superiority over the Arabs in Palestine.10
During his February trip to Berlin, Polkes proposed that the Haganah act as spies for the Nazi government and, as a sign of good faith, passed on intelligence information which was detrimental to their mutual enemies, the Communists. History might have been very different had the Zionist component of Jewry opposed Nazism; there might never have been a Holocaust. And there might never have been a state of Israel, as some Zionists well understood.
… of all of the active Jewish opponents of the boycott idea [of Nazi Germany], the most important was the world Zionists Organization (WZO). It not only bought German wares; it sold them, and even sought out new customers for Hitler and his industrialist backers.
The WZO saw Hitler’s victory in much the same way as its German affiliate, the ZVfD [the German Zionist Organization]: not primarily as a defeat for all Jewry, but as positive proof of the bankruptcy of assimilation and liberalism.11
Here Brenner is referring to the so-called Ha’avara agreement, or ‘transfer agreement’.
In 1933, Sam Cohen, owner of a citrus export company in Tel Aviv, approached the German government with the proposal that emigrants from Germany could avoid the flight tax by instead purchasing German products, which would then be shipped to Palestine, along with their purchasers, where the new arrivals in Palestine could then redeem their investments after the sale of the products by import merchants.
Heinrich Wolff, the German Consul in Jerusalem, quickly realized the utility of such an arrangement in tamping the international boycott effort of German import goods. He wrote to Berlin:
Whereas in April and May the Yishuv [the European Jewish community in Palestine] was waiting boycott instructions from the United States, it now seems that the situation has been transformed. It is Palestine which now gives the instructions… It is important to break the boycott first and foremost in Palestine, and the effect will inevitably be felt on the main front, in the United States.12
Cohen had promised Heinrich Wolff that he would work behind the scenes at the forthcoming Jewish conference in London to weaken or defeat any boycott resolution.
Dr Fritz Reichert, the Gestapo’s agent in Palestine, later wrote to his headquarters:
The London Boycott Conference was torpedoed from Tel Aviv because the head of the Transfer in Palestine, in close contact with the consulate in Jerusalem, sent cables to London. Our main function here is to prevent, from Palestine, the unification of world Jewry on a basis hostile to Germany … It is advisable to damage the political and economic strength of Jewry by sowing dissention in its ranks.12
Negotiations with the Nazi government were taken over by the World Zionist Organization and Cohen was replaced by Chaim Arlosoroff, the Political Secretary of the Jewish Agency. Arlosoroff traveled to Berlin in May of 1933. He and the Nazis reached a preliminary understanding to continue Cohen’s arrangement. Arlosoroff returned to Tel Aviv where he was assassinated, most probably by some members of the Revisionist wing of Zionism headed by Jabotinsky who opposed any accommodation with the Nazis.
Negotiations continued, however, and an agreement was signed in 1933 between the Nazis and the World Zionist Organization which persisted until 1939 and the German invasion of Poland. The Ha’arava grew to become a substantial banking and trading house with 137 specialists in its Jerusalem office at the height of its activities. The sale of German products expanded to include destinations outside of Palestine, but the arrangement remained essentially the same as the one originally negotiated by Sam Cohen – that German Jews wishing to emigrate, rather giving up most or all of their wealth to the German government, could invest their money in a German bank which would be used for purchasing German export goods. The purchaser could then redeem his investment when the goods had been sold and after he had arrived in Palestine. The German government set the rules and the emigrant would lose typically in excess of 30% of his investment and, eventually, 50%.
Indeed, there was a fundamental incompatibility with the upbuilding of a Jewish state in Palestine and opposition to the Nazi program of extermination of Europe’s Jews. The Ha’avara agreement allowed the transfer of LP 8,100,000 (Palestinian Pounds; then $40,419,000) to Palestine along with 60,000 German Jews between 1933 and 1939. But it also had the effect of undercutting the international boycott effort and providing an inflow of capital to the German government owing to the sale of German manufactured goods abroad.
This understanding is important, as the Holocaust has been central in provoking sympathy for the State of Israel and in amplifying the claims for reparations from European governments. Sympathy for the victims of the Holocaust, whether Jews or Roma, is no less justified, but the state of Israel cannot maintain an air of complete innocence nor be the justified recipient of billions of dollars or reparations, very little of which is actually dispersed to Holocaust survivors.
Nor has Israel accepted the universal principle that states must pay reparations to ethnicities whom it has harmed, as Israel has ignored or denied the catastrophe of ethnic cleansing and massacres which it prosecuted against the Palestinian people in 1948.
The model of Jews fleeing a burning building; i.e., the Nazi Holocaust, and thus creating a redoubt of safety in the form of the state of Israel cannot be maintained. Aside from the fact that the Zionist project was initiated at least by the time of Herzl’s Der Judenstaat of 1896 and his founding of the World Zionist Congress a year later, and well before the Nazi ascension to power in the 1930s, the Zionists were little concerned with the slaughter of Jews in Europe and almost exclusively focused on building a state in Palestine.
Delegates at First Zionist Congress.
A proposal by the British, in the aftermath of Kristallnacht, of November 1938, that Britain admit a thousand children directly into Britain was sternly opposed by Ben Gurion who told a meeting of the Labor Zionist in December:
If I knew that it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them over to England, and only half of them by transferring them to Eretz Israel, then I would opt for the second alternative. For we must weigh not only the life of these children, but also the history of the People of Israel.13
By 1943, ample reports of massacres of Europe’s Jews were arriving in the US, though it garnered little of the mainstream press.
Jabotinsky’s “revisionist zionism”At this time, Peter Bergson, a Palestinian Jew and member of the Irgun, a militant offspring of the Revisionist Zionists, and his young colleagues, shifted their attention to saving Europe’s Jews. Bergson, who had been sent to New York City, by Revisionists leader, Jaobtinsky, in order to create American support of the establishment of a Jewish army in Palestine, and his colleagues formed the Emergency Committee to Save Europe’s Jews and initiated it with a conference attended by 1500 delegates including former President Herbert Hoover and New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. The delegates ultimately adopted an eight-point rescue program, the primary feature of which was the creation of a US government agency charged with saving Europe’s Jews. They also called for their allies to immediately attack the concentration camps and bomb railroads lines leading to them.
The conference’s program sought to avoid the issue of a Jewish state in Palestine, preferring to leave that to another day. Indeed, the efforts of Bergson were perceived by the American Jewish organizations, and especially by Rabbi Stephen Wise, head of the American Jewish Conference, as an effort to divert energy and attention away from Zionism and the upbuilding of a Jewish state in Palestine.
Bergson’s group sponsored full page advertisements in the New York Timesand other newspapers with such bold headlines as, “HELP Prevent 4,000,000 People from Becoming Ghosts.” Another read, “THIS IS STRICTLY A RACE AGAINST DEATH.”
The Emergency Committee also organized public events and rallies and a march by 450 Orthodox rabbis to the White House and the US Capitol. They also staged a theatrical production, entitled, We Will Never Die, authored by Academy Award winning screen writer Ben Hecht and included actors such as Edward G. Robinson with music written by Bertoldt Brecht. The play chronicled the contributions of Jews and addressed the current situation of Europe’s Jews.
The production played to 40,000 in Madison Square Garden and, in Washington, was viewed by Eleanor Roosevelt and hundreds of members of Congress.
Though the Emergency Committee had raised the consciousness of Americans for the plight of Europe’s Jews, their efforts were strongly opposed by America’s organized Jewish groups including Rabbi Stephen Wise and his American Jewish Congress.
In Buffalo, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh, local mainstream Jewish organizations attempted to block the production of We Will Never Die.
Most significant of the Emergency Committees’ actions was to provoke the sponsorship of a resolution, introduced in the House by Baldwin and Will Rogers Jr., and in the Senate by Guy Gillette, on November 9, 1943.
The full text follows:
Whereas the Congress of the United States, by concurrent resolution adopted on March 15 of this year, expressed its condemnation of Nazi Germany’s ‘mass murder of Jewish men, women, and children,’ a mass crime which has already exterminated close to two million human beings, about 30 per centum of the total Jewish population of Europe, and which is growing in intensity as Germany approaches defeat; and
Whereas the American tradition of justice and humanity dictates that all possible means be employed to save from this fate the surviving Jews of Europe, some four million souls who have been rendered homeless and destitute by the Nazis: therefore be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives recommends and urges the creation by the President of a commission of diplomatic, economic, and military experts to formulate and effectuate a plan of immediate action designed to save the surviving Jewish people of Europe from extinction at the hands of Nazi Germany.
Senator Gillette emphasized that the bill focused only on rescue and not on the issue of Palestine or a Jewish state.
It is not to be confused with the dispute over the future of Palestine, over a Jewish state or a Jewish army. The issue is non-sectarian. The sole object here is to rescue as many as possible of Hitler’s victims, pending complete Allied victory.
Stephen Wise tried unsuccessfully to persuade the sponsors of the bill to withdraw their support. But failing that, Wise traveled to Washington and testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, chaired by Sol Bloom, stating that the resolution was ‘“inadequate” because it did not urge the British government to open Palestine to Jewish refugees” [italics mine].14
The lack of a reference to Palestine was, of course, intentionally absent from the bill.
Congressman Rogers also faced strong pressure from Zionists groups:
When it became known that I was becoming a member of the Bergson group, there was a terrific amount of pressure from all sorts of areas. I went back to Beverly Hills and I remember meeting with Rabbi Stephen S Wise in a synagogue. … He took me aside and said, ‘Now, young man. I knew your father very well. Now you are getting confused, you are getting mixed up with the wrong type of people. Let me tell you and steer you clear when it comes on, or want to meet the right people, the responsible people.’ He was quite the diplomat. He didn’t say, ‘If you get mixed up with them, you are not going to be reelected.’ He wasn’t that direct, but he made every pressure that he could, and where he know it would be effective.15
Gillette also faced strong opposition.
These people used every effort, every means at their disposal, to block the resolution. … [They] tried to defeat it by offering and amendment, insisting on an amendment to it that would raise the question, the controversial question of Zionism or anti-Zionism … or anything that might stop or block the action that we were seeking.15
On stationary with the letterhead of the American Jewish Congress, Stephen Wise wrote to Secretary of the Interior, Harold L. Ickles on December 23, 1943:
I was very sorry to note, as were others among your friends, that you had accepted the Chairmanship of the Washington Division of the Committee to Rescue European Jews. … I do not like to speak ill of you, not of us, concerning a group of Jews, but I am under the inexorable necessity of saying to you that the time will come, and come soon, when you will find it necessary to withdraw from this irresponsible group, which exists and obtains funds through being permitted to use the names of non-Jews like yourself.
Nor was Bergson beyond the crosshairs of the American Zionists. Bergson received an offer from Congressman Samuel Dickstein (D-NY) to meet with him in his DC office where it turned out that several other US Congressmen had also assembled. He was told, as paraphrased by Bergson, that unless he ‘behaved”, “we will deport you. … One shouldn’t mistake democracy with lawlessness, and don’t feel that you can just come to this country without – on temporary visitor’s visa and do whatever you wish …”15
Despite the opposition of the American Zionist community, the bill passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously only to die in the entire Senate.
According to a State Department memorandum, Rabbi Stephen Wise had expressed to State Department John Pehle, that Wise “had gone so far as to inform Mr Pehle that he regarded Bergson as equally great an enemy of the Jews as Hitler, for reasons that his activities could only lead to increased anti-Semitism.”11
Reports of atrocities and mass murders in the Ukraine began arriving in the west in 1941. In January 1942, the Soviets issued a report of the working of the Einsatzgruppen, or the SS, and in May of that year, the Bund, the Jewish Workers Union of Poland and Russia, which was anti-Zionist, sent London a radio message that 700,000 people, most Jews, were exterminated in Poland. This message was repeated on the BBC two months later.
In April, even before the Bund broadcast, Moshe Shertok, later to become Israel’s second Prime Minister, wrote to British General and commander of the British Eight Army in North Africa:
The destruction of the Jewish race is a fundamental tenet of the Nazi doctrine. The authoritative reports recently published show that that policy is being carried out with a ruthlessness which defies description … An even swifter destruction, it must be feared, would overtake the Jews of Palestine.16
The focus here is on the hypothetical Nazi attack on Palestine, not on the slaughter actually taking place in Europe, but based, nonetheless, on Shertok’s understanding that such a slaughter was, in fact, taking place.
Despite the amply sufficient reports of massacres and exterminations, essentially nothing at all was done by the Zionist organizations, and reports of atrocities were consistently minimized.
Bernard Joseph (later Dov Yosef)
Dov Joseph, acting director of the Jewish Agency’s Political Department cautioned:
… against publishing data exaggerating the number of Jewish victim, for if we announce that millions of Jews have been slaughtered by the Nazis, we will justifiably be asked where the millions of Jews are, for whom we claim that we shall need to provide a home in Eretz Israel after the war ends.17
Yitzhak Gruenbaum, leader of the Jewish Agency’s Vaad Hazalah (Rescue Committee) who, in 1942 also believed the reports of atrocities taking place in Europe were exaggerated, offers a defense in his post war book, Bi-mei Hurban ve Sho’ah (In the Days of Holocaust and Destruction):
I want to destroy this assumption [that the Zionist leadership was to blame that it did not do everything possible to help the European Jews] in order to take out people from the occupied countries … it would be necessary for the neutral countries to provide refuge, that the warring nations open their gates to the refugees. …
How is it possible that in a meeting in Yerushalayim people will call: “If you don’t have enough money you should take it from Keren Hayesod [the Palestine Foundation Fund], you should take the money from the bank, there is money there.” I thought it obligatory to stand before this wave … .
And this time in Eretz Yisrael, there are comments: “Don’t put Eretz Yisrael in priority in this difficult time, in the time of destruction and European Jewry.’ I do not accept such sayings. And when some asked me: ‘Can’t you give money from the Keren Hayesod to save Jews in the Diaspora’? I said: no! And again I say no! … I think we have to stand before this wave that is putting Zionist activity into second row. … I think it necessary to say here Zionism is over everything… [Italics mine]
… [W]e must guard Zionism. There are those who feel that this should not be said at the time a Holocaust is occurring, but believe me, lately we see worrisome manifestations in this respect: Zionism is above all – it is necessary to sound this whenever a Holocaust diverts us from our war of liberation in Zionism. Our war of liberation does not arise from the fact of the Holocaust in a straight forward manner and does not interlock with actions for the benefit of the Diaspora … And we must guard – especially in these times – the supremacy of the war of redemption [Italics mine].18
The irony is overwhelming. Though the memory and imagery of the Holocaust is not far from the lips of every Israel leader, particularly the present one, and though this imagery is exploited for the sake of gaining tolerance and forbearance from the international community, as well as reparations which go well beyond actuarial merits, there was little serious concern on the part of organized Zionism for those facing extermination in Europe. Rather the Holocaust was regarded as a threat which had the potential of diverting energy and resources from the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine which was by far their highest priority.
The fact that the initiation of the Zionist project had nothing to do with the Holocaust, as it developed more than a half century earlier, and the fact of the mostly indifference to the slaughter of Jews on the part of the founders of Israel, together with its collaboration with the Nazi Party, undermines Israel’s projected, and exploited, image as innocent victim.
At the end of the war a document, dated 11 January 1941, produced by Avraham Stern, proposing a military alliance and an understanding between the Third Reich and the Zionists was found in the German embassy in Ankara. It had been presented to two German diplomats in Lebanon, under Vichy at that time. The document was entitled, “Proposal for the National Military Organization (Irgun Zvai Leumi) Concerning the Solution of the Jewish Question in Europe and the Participation of the NMO in the War on the side of Germany.” The NMO, later to adopt the name Lohamamei Herut Yisrael, or lehi for short, was universally known by its British designation as the Stern gang.
The document read:
The evacuation of the Jewish masses from Europe is a precondition for solving the Jewish question; but this can only be made possible and complete through the settlement of these masses in the home of the Jewish people, Palestine, and through the establishment of a Jewish state in its historical boundaries … The NMO, which is well acquainted with the goodwill of the German Reich government and its authorities towards Zionist activity inside Germany and towards Zionist emigration plans, is of the opinion that:
1. Common interests could exist between the establishment of a New Order in Europe in conformity with the German concept, and the true national aspirations of the Jewish people as they are embodied by the NMO.
2. Cooperation between the new Germany and a renewed volkish-national Hebrium would be possible; and,
3. The establishment of the historical Jewish state on a national and totalitarian basis, and bound by a treaty with the German Reich, would be in the interest of a maintained and strengthened future German position of power in the Near East.
Proceeding from these considerations, the NMO in Palestine, under the condition the above-mentioned national aspirations of the Israeli freedom movement, are recognized on the side of the German Reich, offers to actively take part in the war on Germany’s side [italics mine].
This offer by the NMO … would be connected to the military training and organization of Jewish manpower in Europe, under the leadership and command of the NMO. These military units would take part in the fight to conquer Palestine, should such a front be decided upon.
The indirect participation of the Israeli freedom movement in the New Order in Europe, already in the preparatory stage, would be linked with a positive-radical solution of the European Jewish problem in conformity with the above-mentioned national aspirations of the Jewish people. This would extraordinarily strengthen the moral basis of the New Order in the eyes of all humanity.19
The Irgun, (the MNO) under Manachem Begin, and the Stern Gang, are sometime blamed, by mainstream Zionism, as being uniquely responsible for the more grotesque atrocities of Israel’s fight against both the Arabs and against the British in its quest for statehood; for example, the bombing of the King David Hotel in 1946, in which 96 mostly civilians were killed, and the massacre at Deir Yassin. In fact, both of these actions involved the coordination of these ‘dissident groups’ with the Haganah — the military under the direction of David Ben Gurion.
Yitzhak Yzernitsky — later to call himself Yitzhak Shamir,
Yitzhak Yzernitsky — later to call himself Yitzhak Shamir, and later to become Israeli Prime Minister, in fact, the longest serving Prime Minister of Israel except for David Ben Gurion — became the operations commander of the Stern Gang after Avraham Stern was killed by the British army in February of 1942. Under Shamir’s leadership, 14 assassinations were attempted of British officials with two successful ones, of Lord Moyne, the British Minister Resident in the Middle East, sitting in Cairo, and the UN Representative to Palestine, Count Folke Bernadotte, who received three bullets in the heart on the order of Stern’s operations commander and future Prime Minister – Yitzhak Shamir.
The Charter of the Stern Gang, or more accurately, the principles promulgated by Stern, included the establishment of a Jewish state “from the Nile to the Euphrates”, the ‘transfer of the Palestinian Arabs to regions outside of the Jewish state, and the building of the Third Temple in Jerusalem. It maintained offices outside of the Middle East – including Warsaw, Paris, London, and New York City, the latter headed by Benzion Netanyahu, the present Prime Minister’s father.
- Herzl, Theodore, The Jewish State, p 9, 2007, BN Publishing [?]
- Weizmann [?]
- Weizmann, Chaim, Trial and Error, pv90-91 [?]
- Frommer, Ben, The Significance of the Jewish State, Jewish Call, (Shanghai, 1935), p 10-11. [?]
- Agus, Jacob, The Meaning of Jewish History, vol II, p 435. [?]
- Edelheim-Muehsam, Margaret, Reactions of the Jewish Press to the Nazi Challenge, Leo Baeck Institute Year Book, vol V, (1960), p 312. [?]
- Rabbi Wise, The New Palestine (14 February 1934), p 5-7. [?]
- Eichmann, Adolf, “Eichmann Tells His Own Damning Story”, Life (28 Nov. 1960) p 22. [?]
- Polkehn, Klaus, “The Secret Contacts: Zionism and Nazi Germany 1933-41″, Journal of Palestine Studies (Spring 1976), p 337. [?]
- Hohne, Heinz, The Order of the Death’s Head, p 337. [?]
- Brenner, Lenni, Zionism in the Age of Dictators, Lawrence Hill, (1983). [?] [?]
- In Yisraeli, David, “The Third Reich and the Transfer Agreement,” Journal of Contemporary History, vol. VI (1971), P 131. [?] [?]
- Gelber, Yoav, “Zionism and the Fate of European Jewry (1939-42),” Yad Vashem Studies, vol. XII, p 171. [?]
- Brownfield, Peter Egill, “The Jewish Establishment’s Focus on Palestine: Did it Distract from Holocaust Efforts?” (Summer 2003). [?]
- Ibid. Also, Brenner Lenni, Zionism in the Age of Dictators. [?] [?] [?]
- Laqueur, “Jewish Denial and the Holocaust,” Commentary (December 1979, p 46. [?]
- Gelber, Zionist Policy and the Fate of European Jewry, p 195. [?]
- Gruenbaum, Yitzhak, Bi-Mei Hurban ve Sho’ah, p 62-70. [?]
- Brenner, op. cit., p 267. [?]
William James Martin has written many articles on the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Middle East. He can be reached at : firstname.lastname@example.org.
Will it Work?
Western side of Yarmouk Camp, Damascus — For more than a year, Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, one of nine in Syria, has been a war zone between supporters of the Syrian government and those seeking its overthrow. But the number of camp residents actively engaged in fighting on either side is negligible, according to Dr. Hamed Mouad.
Mouad is author of the first book on Yarmouk camp history and its sociology. Many of his relatives are camp residents, orwere at any rate, until they had to flee eight months ago. Despite great pressure to help “liberate” the camp—pressure put upon them from both sides of this war—the residents here, insisting on neutrality, overwhelmingly refused to join either side in the conflict. And for this they have paid a big price.
All “legal” entrances to Yarmouk and its neighborhoods are blocked by the Syrian army or rebel gunmen, and government and rebel snipers inhabit many rooftops. However, along the western side it is possible to enter some parts of the camp with the assistance of a friendly teenager. Approximately only 20% of the 170,000 who lived in Yarmouk pre-crisis have remained, with a majority of those seeking housing outside in Damascus suburbs. Many parts of the camp are now largely a deserted wasteland, and most residents remaining have little or no water, electricity, or safe camp infrastructure or shops of any sort. The Syrian government, however, continues to allow free medical aid at public health facilities, and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society (SARCS) helps many with food parcels.
Palestinians interviewed inside this western area of Yarmouk explain that the only reason anyone still remains at all is that they have run out of options. They risk their lives daily, a sort of Russian roulette fate in view of snipers and mortars, to remain in what is left of their homes—either that or they camp out near the piles of rubble that were their homes. Still others try to survive outside the camp, squatting on blankets, flattened cardboard boxes or plastic tarps, in the shadow of schools and mosques. There are even some fortunate families who have a small gas burner to cook with.
Damascus experiences very high summer heat, far exceeding temperatures commonly seen in Beirut and Saida Lebanon, where many of the Palestinian refugees from Syria have fled—many but by no means all. For inside the Syrian capital can be seen additional Yarmouk residents, lots of them, milling amongst the more than one million refugees who have fled here from other parts of the country over the past nearly 29 months. A few of these desperate people drape some blankets in alleyways, gambling that the authorities will not roust them, or fearing, even worse, that they may become victims of robbery or kidnapping. In Damascus, kidnapping has especially become a significant business.
Damascus cops, some of them at any rate, will on humanitarian grounds allow people to sleep in a few of the city’s smaller, more inconspicuous playgrounds or green spaces, a policy applied as well to Roma Gypsies, whose main neighborhood was destroyed. But this lenience stops at the borders of the main parks, which are probably the most beautiful and manicured, even during the current fighting, of any Arab country in the Middle East. In these parks, camping is not allowed. Yet that being said, when a mortar or car bomb demolishes part of a street, some of its residents do spill into the central parks, reminding this observer of how many times since the Lebanese civil war and Israeli aggressions that Beirut’s Saniyeh gardens in Hamra has been overcrowded with refugees living rough.
Classes will start in Syria in less than a month, meaning that school buildings will no longer be available as temporary refugee shelters. Some Palestinians, like their Syrian neighbors, are still fleeing to Lebanon, but the government has recently raised the exit fee at the Masnaa border crossing from 550 Syrian pounds to 1,100 (roughly $6) per person—not a big bite for most foreigners, certainly, yet for Syrian and Palestinian families hoping to postpone death, it is a rather hefty, nigh unaffordable, chunk.
Though it’s hard to generalize, many residents of Damascus, including some of the remaining Palestinians, seem to feel the violence will continue slowly to subside as government forces go on pushing rebel forces further away from the city center. This appears also to be the case with Syrians as a whole, despite the fact that the population is numbed and exhausted, horrified at what has become of their country, and pessimistic about the future of their beloved Syria and its chances at remaining intact. Most of course have suffered incalculable losses—tragically in terms of killed loved ones, but there are also material losses, losses of livelihoods, jobs, and businesses, without much prospect for recovery, at least anytime soon. Nonetheless, there is exhibited a sense that life may soon improve. Mazin, the driver for Al Alam TV, explained to this observer the other night: “ It may seemed strange, but we Damascenes hear more shelling these days as government forces push rebels out of some of the suburbs, but we also feel more secure despite more shelling because the rebels are being driven back away the our suburbs. But there is a long way to go.”
As signs of approaching better times, some people point to Ali Haidar, Syria’s Minister for National Reconciliation, seen frequently in public these days discussing plans being put into place for the return of the Syrian and Palestinian refugees. Another example is President Bashar al-Assad’s August 1 visit to the town of Daraya. Located outside Damascus, Daraya was a rebel bastion for more than a year. Now it is mainly under government control. It was the Syrian President’s first such public trip since his 3/12/12 visit to Baba Amr in central Homs—a location which ironically yesterday saw a huge explosion at a government weapons depot in which approximately 50 people were killed. A defiant speech nonetheless was given by Assad, who pledged victory over forces seeking to topple Syria’s government, and he seems to have buoyed some as he chatted with soldiers, expressing the country’s gratitude for its military’s performance. This kind of connecting with the general population is replicated by an increasing number of Syrian officials, officials who are being seen more and more in public outside their heavily protected offices. While not a complete restoration of public optimism, it does seem to offer hope for an end to the civil war.
As the pendulum swings, at least for now, in favor of the current regime, Syrian and Palestinian friends and acquaintances still express dismay, for more specifics are becoming apparent in regard to what they may face should the extreme Islamist, Salafist and Wahabist forces ultimately prevail and set up a Salafist caliphate. Just this week, for instance, a sharia committee in the rebel-held region of secular Aleppo banned the baking or eating of croissants, this despite shortages of bread. The reason given? The French croissants, according to some Salafist-Wahabist “scholars,” are secret symbols of colonial oppression. The belief of the leaders of Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, both affiliated with al-Qaeda, seems to be that because Syria is a former French colony, this symbol of Frenchness is obviously connected with imperialism. And of course the pastry’s crescent shape celebrates European victory over Muslims. Conspiracy theorists abound everywhere, it seems.
Also, various groups increasingly are issuing fatwas designed to ensure that the planned new order dismantles the current secular Syrian society, the sooner the better. Over the past several months a raft load of Fatwa’s, which apparently any wannabe Islamic “scholar” can issue when in the mood, has included just about the wholesale importation of Saudi Arabian culture and lifestyle. In fact, some of these Fatwa’s make the KSA appear almost moderate.
Within the past few months, Rebel-held regions of Aleppo have become more and more dominated by extremist elements, further marginalizing more moderate rebel groups, and putting many Syrians at their mercy. The Islamic law council of Aleppo’s Fardous neighborhood recently issued a fatwa banning all women, not only Muslims, from wearing “immodest” dress. This includes not only tight-fitting clothing but also a ban on cosmetics. Another Fatwa decrees a one year jail sentence for failing to fast during the month of Ramadan, again, Muslim or not.
In the face of this decidedly dismal backdrop, the PLO leadership in Ramallah is reaching out to Palestinians in Syria, as well as to the Syrian government, with a proposed solution to the current Palestinian refugee crisis, a crisis that for the moment, despite hopeful signs, continues to worsen. Reportedly a four-member delegation was sent to Damascus at the end of July from PA headquarters in Ramallah. Upon arrival, the envoys presented the 14 Palestinian factions in the Syrian capital with a two-step initiative to end the fighting in Yarmouk. A copy of the “secret plan” was obtained by this observer. The proposal has, on good authority, been approved by the Syrian government, with a decision expected from the PLO groups during the first half of August. Meant to build on Mahmoud Abass’ July visit to Lebanon, the PLO declaration reads essentially as follows:
“Based on the principled position declared by the Palestine Liberation Organization leadership regarding all the internal developments taking place in the Arab countries – particularly the crisis in Syria – which is not to interfere in the internal affairs of these countries, and prevent the involvement of either the Palestinians or their camps in these struggles, by maintaining their neutrality and preserving the camps as secure environments for their Palestinian and Syrian residents, empty of both weapons and fighters, in order to keep the Palestinian struggle directed against our primary enemy, the Israeli occupation.
Mindful of the above, and after the developments which led to the dispersal of hundreds of thousands of our people in the camps, which were then turned into insecure and dangerous zones, we the factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, propose the following initiative, with the hope that in cooperation with all those concerned, we can work together to achieve the following:
First, based on our principled position of positive neutrality and keeping the Palestinians and their camps out of the confrontations in Syria, we propose that all the Palestinian camps – and Yarmouk camp in particular – be secure and safe areas, free of weapons and fighters, by taking the following steps:
– End all public display of weapons and fighters, with guarantees to those who wish to do so.
– Avoid the use of the camps as areas of confrontation and cease all forms of fighting, including sniping and shelling.
– Allow the free movement of people, food, medical supplies and vehicles in and out of the camp, which will encourage the return of the displaced to their homes.
– Restore services, including electricity, water, telecommunications, schools, and hospitals.
– Provide amnesty to all those camp residents who have been detained if their involvement in the fighting cannot be confirmed.
Second, follow up and coordinate efforts in order to execute the steps outlined in the proposal by eliminating all obstacles, providing all that is required for its success.”
It is a fine sounding, presumably well-meaning initiative, but one that has been met with grave doubts among Palestinians here, including camp popular committees. The plan is considered unworkable since some groups that are even more extremist than al-Qaeda have started moving families of their members and community into Yarmouk, pledging to stay despite what any other rebel groups decide, reminding us of the fate of Nahr al Bared camp near Tripoli, Lebanon.
The overwhelming sense among Palestinians here with whom this observer has discussed the proposal, is that there can be no progress with respect to returning Palestinian refugees to their homes in Yarmouk until a political solution is reached among all the major parties to the Syrian Crisis. And some predict that may take decades.
Damascus — It may well have seemed like a fine idea at the European Union’s Foreign Ministers cocktail reception in Brussels, where ample alcohol freely flowed the night before last week’s vote to blacklist the “military wing” of Hezbollah. But shortly after the vote the EU appeared to be experiencing a severe hangover as the stark reality of its impetuous decision began to soak in.
After periodical discussion of the US-Israel demand for blacklisting Hezbollah for more than a year, and adding its name to the EU list of 26 organizations and 11 individuals currently being designated as ‘terrorists’ is in becoming clearer by the day the EU actions may not have been in anyone’s interest except possibly Israel’s.
It is true there was never much enthusiasm at EU HQ for taking the blacklisting step given some fundamental uncertainties of what it would mean in reality. But American and British pressure, and headlines from Israel screaming: “We told you about rising anti-Semitism from Europe” following the EU decision to blacklist illegal Zionist colonies implanted on the West Bank portion of occupied Palestine, weeks earlier. To round up EU votes, the US State Department staff designated to lobby the 28 EU foreign ministries also focused on the unproven Bulgaria bus attack, and Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria as reasons to go along with the blacklisting decision which required a unanimous vote for the 28 EU countries foreign ministers.
Minutes after the EU vote, problems began to appear and it became obvious that buying into the US-UK Hezbollah “military wing” blacklisting project was not an attractive product after all.
Some of the reportedly emphasized ‘talking points’ to the EU Foreign Ministries from Washington and London included the following:
· The EU blacklisting Hezbollah’s military wing would “compensate” Israel, as it has been demanding, for the EU vote early this month that essentially boycotted Zionist colonial projects throughout the illegally occupied West Bank
· The action would not affect UNIFIL or UNSCR 1701 because Hezbollah has good relations with UNIFIL and they would likely continue to work with the 15 European countries nations making up UNIFIL including the five EU members ,France, Spain, Italy, Poland and Ireland who have troops patrolling the Lebanon-Palestine border;
· Israel would be assuaged and can claim a victory in its war with Hezbollah;
· The Lebanese political parties backed by certain EU member states and the Gulf Countries such as Saudi Arabia would benefit in terms of establishing a new pro-March 14th dominated government, significantly pressuring Hezbollah’s delegation in Parliament and at the ballot box by the blacklisting—although it was not spelled out precisely how to would work;
· US-led western aid to the Lebanese army would likely increase and Hezbollah’s international reputation would suffer;
· There would be no damage to EU-Lebanese relations and any negative reactions would soon dye down.
However great all this may have sounded in some capitols before the ill-considered vote, a rude awakening began to dawn almost immediately after the votes were counted. Criticisms, complications and doubts from the EU action are continuing to be voiced and second thoughts are spreading despite efforts of the EU Ambassador to Lebanon, Ms. Angeline Eichhorst at damage control.
Even before the EU’s decision to blacklist Hezbollah’s “military wing” was publicly released, Ms. Eichhorst sought and was granted appointments with Hezbollah’s Ammar al-Musawi, Liaison for International Relations, and Minister of State Mohammad Fneish, at which she repeatedly offered assurances that the EU vote will have zero effect on relations with the group’s “civilian wing.” She assured the gentlemen that the EU votes do not reflect on the Lebanese government in any way, explaining that the EU “has no problem with Hezbollah participating in any future government.”
Ambassador Eichhorst declared that “this decision is a political message to Hezbollah for the attack in Burgas, Bulgaria, which is a terrorist attack on European soil.”
She added, however, that this does not reflect on the Lebanese government in any way, explaining that the EU “has no problem with Hezbollah participating in any future government.” After her meeting with Hezbollah’s minister in the current caretaker government, she stated, “Financial assistance will continue, of which Minister Fneish’s ministry gets a sizable share, and we want for this cooperation to continue.”
For his part, and ever gracious towards the EU’s well-meaning Ambassador , who appeared to understand some of the diplomatic complications the EU action unlearned, Hezbollah MP Fneish reminded the ambassador that “Israel occupied our land for many years, and we did not hear a single objection (from the EU) “we were careful to maintain good relations with Europe, despite the terrible legacy Europe left behind among our people – from the Palestinian cause to colonialism – and despite this, you choose to remind us again of this painful history.”
Minister Fneish reiterated Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah’s statement that the European decision will provide Israel with political cover for any future attack on Lebanon, in which case Hezbollah would consider the EU a partner in such a crime. Eichhorst replied that the EU decision has nothing to do with Resistance to Israel or Lebanese sovereignty.”
Both Musawi and Fneish stood their ground in their discussions with EU ambassador Eichhorst, insisting that the decision was an insult to the Resistance. They dismissed the decision as politically motivated, particularly given that the outcome of the Burgas investigation is rooted in allegations and conjecture, even by the admission of the ambassador herself who conceded that there are no firm results regarding responsibility for the Burgas incident that cost innocent lives.
Ms. Eichhorst’s hosts were reportedly far too polite to ask the EU ambassador just how the EU planned to somehow go about distinguishing a “civil wing” and a “military wing”.
And they are not alone in appearing a bit puzzled. According to a lawyer at the American Society of International Law in Washington DC, the EU decision was a big mistake from an international law standpoint and could be an international lawyer’s worst nightmare or a dream come true. Which would depend if the lawyer was representing the EU in trying to unravel the civil-military conundrum or advising thousands of EU member states businesses and agencies wanting to continue any business with the Lebanese government, UNIFIL, or countless NGO’s who regularly interact with Hezbollah.
“It’s a real legal mess!” the ASIL source explained, as he described the legal confusion the EU action caused. “The best thing for EU credibility and international relations right now on this subject would be for the EU to forget what it did and to desist from any implementation whatsoever. And then let the designation be removed after the six months trial period as provided by EU regulations. Otherwise, their decision will swamp courtrooms and complicate Middle East-European political and economic relations with challenges from all points on the compass with uncertain outcomes to say the least.”
It is not only Hezbollah, the leader of the National Lebanese Resistance and American international lawyers who have expressed concerns about the EU action last week. It seems that nearly everyone else does too and this reaction is adding to the EU’s ‘morning after’ queasiness.
Many citizens of Lebanon are expressing concern that the EU brush stroke aimed at Hezbollah’s “military wing” may tar them as well due to the ‘terrorism’ label toxicity these days. A Sunni taxi driver wondered if his children could now get visas to Europe because of the ruling. Lebanon is very sensitive to the issue of Visas as they see fellow citizens are being forced out of Gulf countries due to fabricated claims of association with Hezbollah. In these countries hundreds of thousands of Lebanese have had visas for decades. It is the uncertainly among many-understandably paranoid Lebanese living and working abroad than is causing near panic among some in Lebanon.
It’s hard to find in Lebanon, even among Hezbollah detractors, a political party that is publicly endorsing the EU decision because they basically see no advantage for Lebanon of their own tightly controlled sects, whether Christian, Muslim, or Druze.
On 7/27/13 Former premier Fouad Saniora, head of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc, no friend of Hezbollah, voiced “concern and regret over the reasons that led the European Union to take the decision of putting Hezbollah’s so-called military wing on its terror list.” Saniora added in a statement released from his party’s media office:
“We had commented on this issue in the bloc’s statement and voiced our regret and also our concern over the reasons that led the EU to take such a decision, especially that we in Lebanon have ties of solid friendship with 28 European countries, and thus none of us would have liked to see this happening.”
Saniora’s friend and colleague, Phalange Party leader Amin Gemayel argued over the week-end that the European Union’s decision to blacklist Hezbollah’s military wing is “ambiguous,” pointing out that it will have a negative impact on the country. In an interview with Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) he argued that “The decision confused the Lebanese situation and will constitute negative repercussions on all matter especially the cabinet formation process,” Gemayel said. He pointed out that the decision targets Hezbollah members who his party considered “ghosts,” saying: “The members that are responsible for Hezbollah’s military action are unknown.”
Even Israeli officials have problems with the EU’s decision. Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman and MK Avigdor Lieberman slammed the EU’s decision to put military wing of Hezbollah on terrorist list, saying that not only military wing, but the entire organization should be blacklisted. “
As usual, Lieberman found some antisemitism lurking among the Europeans, claiming that they were satisfied with going only halfway, and like the West Bank Settlements EU decision, the EU wants to punish not the terrorists but those (like-Israel!) who reject terrorism and fight it. Half a dozen other Israeli officials including the ever garrulous Shimon Peres chimed in to form a chorus condemning the EU.
Far be it for this observer to advise the European Union’s Foreign Ministry or to promote an American association’s legal analysis and advice. However, the American Society of International Law lawyer, quoted above, makes a valid point.
The best move for the EU now, as it tries to recover from the current self-inflicted debacle is to do nothing to inflame the situation by cooking up some dubious terrorist lists. Rather, in six months the EU should assure that this month’s blacklisting decision acquiesced in under US-Israel pressure, lapses.
They are 67 new families, or about 400 Palestinian refugees displaced from Syria, residing in 60 recently erected tents set up as an emergency ‘gathering’ near the Ein el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp adjacent to the city of Sidon in southern Lebanon. In all, there are approximately 75,000 thousand Palestinians in Lebanon who have fled from Syria over the past 28 months.
Additional Palestinians arrive every week and sometimes meet former neighbors from Yarmouk and other Syrian Palestinian camps at the Masnaa Lebanon-Syria border crossing. The new arrivals are often grimaced to happen upon their countrymen who are returning to take their chances facing death in Syria including dodging the snipers and bombings targeting Yarmouk and elsewhere. The reasons the returnees give for returning to Syria focus on the appalling humanitarian conditions in Lebanon for Palestinians as well as the nearly 780,000 other refugees here from Syria.
Palestinians forced into Lebanon from Syria soon learn, if they were not aware previously, that all Palestinians refugees in Lebanon are barred by law from the most elementary civil rights to work and to own a home. More than 50 professions open to Palestinians in Syria and in every other country, including occupied Palestine, are forbidden here. Two examples of jobs Palestinians can do and are doing in Lebanon when they arrive from Syria include scavenging through the rotting filth at Saida Garbage Mountain and other Lebanese government public garbage dumps to find something worth a few Lebanese Lira (LL) to help their loved ones survive. No, nearly impossible to secure work permit, is even required so they need not fear arrest by the Lebanese authorities who irregularly round up Palestinian violators of this country’s no work for Palestinian refugees ban.
The same, “no work permit required” reality is true of another profession which critics accuse the “Government” of Lebanon and its competing politicians of approving instead of allowing even one currently banned legitimate job to those whose lives are at risk and who are desperately in need of livelihood.
That profession which is open to every Palestinian today in Lebanon willing to consider it, is ‘hired gun’.
While both the major political grouping in Lebanon will deny they do it but will accuse the other, the fact of the matter is that both continue to discreetly recruit Palestinians to fight their personal battles on the cheap. It is unfortunately the case that some Palestinians, sweltering in the squalid, fetid camps in Lebanon, discriminated against in public institutions of higher learning, and barred from internationally mandated elementary civil rights, are seeking jobs as militiamen. This against the admonitions and sage counsel of the older generation of PLO fighters, now mainly retired, that the Syrian civil war is not theirs and that Palestinian involvement will not advance Return to Palestine and reclaiming stolen homes and land, by one minute or by one inch.
The choice for many Palestinian young men in Lebanon has come down to guns or education. By force of Lebanese law and under threat of prison for violators, Palestinians are denied the elementary civil rights to work in more than 50 professions and are barred by a 2001 racist law from them or their families, more than six decades living as refugees in Lebanon, from even owning a home. Among Palestinian youth, unemployment rates hover around 70%, while refugee students are also discriminated against in admission to Lebanese state institutions of higher education, including the relatively low-tuition fees at Lebanese University. This makes it difficult for young Palestinians in Lebanon to pursue higher education after graduating from UNWRA schools and passing the Baccalaureate II exam. Being barred from most jobs, it is very difficult to come up with even modest sums for tuition payments.
Against this backdrop of flagrant state sponsored discrimination, if one were to offer un-employed young camp resident, say $ 200 per month, an AK-47 with plenty of ammo, and free cigarettes, the odds are good that you just might have yourself a militiaman. Those journalists and observers who spent much of the summer of 2011 in Libya saw a similar phenomenon and now it’s also the case in Syria. In Lebanon, it is resurgent from the 1975-90 civil war days. The gun for hire resource is being exploited across the political spectrum here among many of the same confessions and political parties that ignited this country’s massively destructive civil war more than three decades ago.
Today, some Palestinians are being paid to fight for certain factions whether from the North of Lebanon at Tripoli and Akkar, to Beirut and various contentious areas such as Tariq al-Jdideh, Sabra, Cola, and down south in Saida during recent clashes that saw 16 Lebanese army killed and twice that number from the supporters of Salafist activist Ahmad Asir. Despite denials from some sources, there were a few Palestinians who fought for Asir and some Palestinians joined other militia including the Hezbollah organized “Resistance Brigades’ and the Lebanese army in fighting against Asir’s forces. An investigation in supposedly underway of the army’s conduct and the involvement of political parties from both the March 14anti-Assad sects and elements of the March 8th pro-Assad groups regarding recruitment of Palestinian youngsters.
President Mahmoud Abbas repeatedly warned Palestinians in Lebanon during his 72 hour visit to Lebanon last week to reject these offers and not to be drawn into the Syrian conflict despite the ‘market place maneuverings’ going on here from various armed confessions. What he meant is that as most of the Lebanese sects are frantically arming and seeking gunmen and weapons, that Palestinian s must refuse to be exploited once again and that they must reject any involvement in a military conflict that contravenes their communities wishes and their national interest. He lectured a gathering of PLO factions at a Palestine Embassy event that this terrible error was the case during the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil wars. For that involvement, Palestinians in Lebanon continue to pay a very heavy price from certain factions here that rather see Lebanon’s economy continue to decline than allow Palestinians to work and help build the local economy as they have done in countless other countries which granted them the right to work and the opportunity to invest in the economy with their technical competence and business skills.
As one Palestinian academic pointed out last week to this observer, “While President Abbas assured Lebanese politicians that Palestinian factions did not want to join the Syrian civil war, he also chastised Lebanon’s government in private for not pressuring various factions, most with representatives in Parliament, to stop recruiting and enticing the hapless, desperate for work refugees, forced into Lebanon against their will.
PA President Abbas also repeated the PLO’s willingness to turn the refugee camps weapons over to the government. He did this with a straight face but surely he knows well that despite the regular scapegoating of Palestinians refugees in Lebanon and the danger they are said by some to pose because some have access to light arms, as everyone in Lebanon does, the truth of the matter is that the Lebanese political groups, even the most open about their hatred of Palestinians in Lebanon, do not want the state to collect or receive as gifts the arms in the Palestinian camps and gatherings, however many there they in fact are. The reason is that if the Palestinians had no weapons at all in the camp, it would make it awkward for some politicians to use the fear of a return to the early 1970’s and the potential danger of a Palestinian uprising for sects political advantage. Truth told, there is no realistic fear, unless provoked, from Palestinians arms. They are exaggerated as is the number of salafist factions inside camps. Yet without the right to work, some Palestinians will doubtless be seduced into becoming hired guns for scarce cash to feed their families.
Hiring young men as gunmen in Lebanon is also impliedly condoned by silence on this problem from various polarized and politicized religious leaders. Some of Lebanon’s religious personalities, too often, wearing pious faces and donning prelatical ‘Pope-wannabe’, if sometimes comical, outfits, and often sporting fingers ringed with gold and precious jewels, intone their gospels according to St. Mark, or his equivalents, about human dignity and being our brother’s keeper, and often referencing “ our blood-veins support for Palestine and the Right of Return.” While simultaneously standing in Janus-faced opposition to the elementary internationally mandated right to work for Palestinians in Lebanon.
When a Palestinian is arrested for carrying a weapon, it’s often front-page news but also usually exaggerated or later shown to be inaccurate. What is more surprising is that more Palestinians are not in the streets, motivated by the Arab Spring and Islamic Awakening, demanding the civil right to work. Yet signs are starting to appear of a pending and overdue intifada in Lebanon demanding this universally recognized right of every refugee to be able to seek work to sustain oneself and family.
Rumors abound these tense days in many part of Lebanon, as if to say, “I told you didn’t I? The Palestinians are the source of most of Lebanon’s problems!” (or the Zionists, or the Saudis, EU, Iranians, Syrians, other Lebanese sects or the Americans, or just about anyone except, this countries deeply destructive confessional system and the Lebanese who profit from this, to date, failed state. Too many Lebanese politicians reject granting rights to Palestinian refugees while they seek to gain personal, regional and international benefits from playing the “Palestinian card”. Meanwhile, dangerous temperature and pressure levels are building in the huge Presto cookers that are Lebanon’s camps.
On a brighter note, arriving with a late news item of 7/18/13, are the just released results of the General Science (SG) and Life Science (SV) secondary school official exam results known as the Baccalaureate II exam results. Preliminary analysis suggests that despite all their hardships, Palestinian and Syrian refugees have done well on the required exams.
One Palestinian mother from Yarmouk camp in Damascus, now among the 700 Palestinian refugee families temporarily here from Syria, and squeezed into the already overflowing Shatila camp explained to this observer as she proudly displayed this week’s announcement of her children’s academic success. She beamed that even with little electricity in her family hovel, polluted drinking water, no fresh air and not much food this past year, her daughter’s and son’s success in passing ‘the BACC II” made her forget her family’s misery.
So it is that the doors are cracked open for higher education, if Palestinian refugees in Lebanon can come up with tuition, sometimes fairly modest by western standards but beyond the means of a majority of camp families. The good news that there will be places in Lebanon’s institutions of higher learning this fall semester, assuming that these youngsters, desperate to be allowed to work at the same jobs that every other foreigner in granted on arriving to Lebanon, do not heed the sirens calls of various sects here, singing seductive songs of quick cash in exchange for carrying a gun.
On April 19, 2013 at the Shatila Camp Youth Center, exactly 30 years to the week following the death of American journalist, Janet Lee Stevens here in Beirut, and recalling times during the 1982 Israeli aggression that rained American bombs of various types down on the civilian population, and still hearing Janet’s voice telling young Palestinian defenders, during the 75-day Zionist siege, “ Once the fighting ends you must, every one of you, return to school, whether to study quantum physics or literature or whatever interests you. Higher education is what will hasten your return to Palestine. Education is your greatest resource and your most potent weapon.”
Speaking at the Shatila Scholarship Award event, one American, paying tribute to Janet as a mediator and advocate for Palestine, and addressing the tuition grant recipients, sought to encourage these future Palestinian leaders:
“An education is forever and its purpose is to enjoy a more productive lifetime while seeking to fulfill all of what each of us is capable as we give back to our respective communities. Staying in school here in Lebanon where we are all guests, just for the time being, and pursuing knowledge and practical skills is a quintessential and noble act and commitment of Resistance against oppression and occupation – anywhere. Education cannot be ethnically cleansed, stolen, tortured, jailed, uprooted, bulldozed, massacred, murdered, bombed or burned down. Rather, staying in school and pursuing ones dream is what your cherished for-bearers, who were forced from their homes and lands into Lebanon and trekked from Palestine- approximately 130,000- in the summer and fall of 1948, would want for you, and expect of you.
Education is a Saladinian Resistance toward liberating, six decades after the Nakba, those still under occupation in Palestine. And to help achieve for refugees in the diaspora, their inalienable full Right of Return.”
When and how do we put an end to this outrage which is an urgent humanitarian imperative shared by every one of us?
We end it immediately.
We do it by Lebanon’s parliament, taking 90 minutes of its time, which is all that would be required, and grant these youngsters the most elementary civil right to work which will also enable them to pursue their dreams of higher education.
And by international support.
This can be facilitated by international pressure. One telephone call from Washington, Riyadh, or Tehran, to local political allies, can get the job done in just over an hour without further procrastination.
If not, to add to its other problems, Lebanon may face a civil right intifada– ignited by continued repression.
In the words of the angelic Miss Hiba of Ein el Hilweh camp, now 19 years old and three years after her defiant declaration in 2010 to those who sneered at her that she should get married at age 16, and with her beauty, could demand a handsome dowry for her impoverished family, and forget about college: “There is no other choice than success with the civil rights goal of every Palestinian in Lebanon to seek a job and to pursue education as we peacefully intensify our struggle to Return to our stolen and still occupied country, Palestine. “
Today, Hiba continues the good fight as she completes next year, her degree in engineering. She insists she will need this knowledge when she returns to her family’s occupied home near Safed.
Dahiyeh, Beirut. This observer’s neighbors seemed to believe, especially over the past year, as most of us did, that the war in Syria would, in one form or another, spill into our neighborhood, Dahiyeh, the Hezbollah stronghold in south Beirut near the Shatila and Burj el Barajeh Palestinian refugee camps.
And now it has with a vengeance.
As this observer left his flat this morning and walked toward his motorbike on Abbas Mousawi Street en route to Shatila Palestinian Camp for a 10:30 a.m. appointment, at precisely 10:15 a.m. there was a tremendously loud blast. It seemed to shake our massive 12 story apartment building which had been rebuilt by the WAAD (“promise”) Hezbollah construction enterprise, from the mountain of rubble it was turned into in July of 2006. Leveled as most in the neighborhood were, by American weapons in the service of the Zionist regime still occupying Palestine.
Contrary to media reports, the blast was not on my street, Abass Mousawi, behind Bahman Hospital, but rather down a side street one block over and two east toward the Hezbollah media office near the Hezbollah sponsored Islamic Cooperation Center in the area of Bir al-Abed. The explosion occurred close to the Coop supermarket and Salah Ghandour Square.
Jumping on my motorbike I was one of the first to arrive on the scene face to face with an inferno that initially seemed to engulf ten or so cars in a parking lot surrounded by eight or nine Waad built high-rise apartment buildings, being a few of the more than 250 residential buildings in our neighborhood leveled during the 33 day July 2006 war.
Finally, it seemed like an eternity, two fire trucks arrived and made their way thru the rapidly expanding chaos as nearby residential buildings with windows blown out started to empty of their inhabitants amidst fears that another blast may be triggered. A few men joined this observer in pulling the very long hoses close to the inferno as medics arrived and searched for injured. At press time, 38 neighbors were treated, including several children, at nearby Bahman Hospital and others rushed to Rasoul al-Alham hospital and Cardiac Care Center, ten minutes away on airport road.
I observed a six feet by six feet by around eight foot deep crater at the blast site. As I watched the Red Crescent and Hezbollah emergency services staff care for the injured and the many who were traumatized, the crowd quickly grew to a few thousand, with fear, shock and anger spreading. Many elderly slumped against walls and curbs dazed while neighbor helped neighbor, especially the young to cope with the effects of the blast which shattered windows and caused serious damage to several nearby residential buildings, including cracks in their walls. There was much panic and shouting, with crying turning to anger and with people caring for the elderly and children with apartment building entrances set up as emergency treatment areas and neighbors helping neighboring reassure one another.
The Hezbollah neighborhood of Dahiyeh has been for years considered the safest residential area of Beirut due to strong Hezbollah security measures which over the past year have been intensified including the use of packs of explosive sniffing dogs moving up and across the streets and alleys, usually around three in the morning I have noticed since I often work during the night when its cooler and more quiet, and hearing a barking dog is very rare around here. More scrutiny-security cameras have been placed on utility poles and on rooftopss, with security personnel frequently stopping and questioning new arrivals or visitors to the area and at time residents told not to go to their roofs.
Yet, as Syria’s President Bashar Assad noted several months ago, despite intensive security measures taken in Damascus, it is still very difficult to prevent car bombings.
The speculation has already started concerning who committed this act of terrorism, one day before the start of the Holy Month of Ramadan. Whoever is was, cause the carnage by booby trapping a 1998 Renault Rapid. No one has yet claimed credit and likely will not. Hezbollah’s International Relations official Hizbullah MP Ali Ammar told al-Manar that the blast was carried out by the supporters of the so-called American-Israeli project. “There are clear Israeli fingerprints,” Ammar said as he inspected the damage.
The Bir al-Abed bombing , not far the William Casey ordered 1985 CIA bombing that targeted Sayed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, in which 80 citizens were murdered and more than 200 wounded, is interpreted but some of the residents in my building, two families so far telling me they will move, as simply a message for Hezbollah to leave Syria. Because if it was a typical al Qaeda operation aiming at maximum civilian deaths, detonating the blast a few hundred yards in any direction would have left many more victims, according to a Hezbollah bomb specialist.
This observer counted 15 destroyed vehicles and more than 20 damaged. A fierce fire erupted among some of the vehicles sending thick black smoke billowing high into the sky. I also saw gentlemen who I assumed was the parking lot attendant badly wounded. Another wounded man near him seemed also to be in serious condition.
Reuters has reported five were killed but Hezbollah is denying this report and I met the Hezbollah Media director on the scene and his job was to get the facts straight before the Party of God made any announcements.
For many in my neighborhood, a major concern is that Syria’s troubles will reopen the wounds of Lebanon’s long civil war but this time with the Sunnis community, which by and large supports the Syrian opposition, being pitted against Hezbollah, the powerful Shite led Resistance organization which supports Syria President Bashar Assad.
A reliable Hezbollah source has just advised this observer that 53 have been wounded but so far no confirmed fatalities stood at 53. This is the second time this year that the Hezbollah stronghold has come under attack following threats of retaliation by Syrian rebels.
The concierge of my building just reported that as of 4 p.m. Beirut time on 7/9/2013, two suspects have been arrested following the blast.
Is Obama Backing ElBaradei?
Beirut — According to well-connected Washington sources, one being a Congressional staffer whose job description includes following political events in Egypt, it did not take Mohamed Mustafa ElBaradei, the Sharia legal scholar, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and for 12 years the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) (1997-2009), very long at all to contact the Washington, DC law firm of Patton Boggs on 7/2/13. That is once it became evident that Egyptian President Mohamad Morsi might well be ousted by Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). The next day, ElBaradei’s representatives reportedly also made contact with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations  which claims to represent the 52 largest US based largest Jewish groups.
ElBaradei, perhaps the current front-runner to replace his long-time nemesis, Mohammad Morsi, moved fast to organize some key allies in Cairo and Washington to pick-up where his earlier failed Presidential campaign left off shortly before the 1/25/2011 Egyptian Presidential election. Patton Boggs, the K Street, NW Washington DC law firm, which last year had 550 lawyers and 120 lobbyists and is arguably the firm closest to the White House in terms of securing for its clients what they want from the approximately 5000 key decision makers in the US Capitol. The other nearly 11,800 federally registered lobbyists in Washington (there were only 300 as recently as when Lyndon Johnson was US President) lag far behind Patton Boggs in terms of political influence.
Patton Boggs new client wants the Pentagon and the White House to squeeze Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) who deposed President Morsi and arrange for himself to be appointed the interim President of Egypt pending early elections.
ElBaradei wants the same thing from Israel and its US lobby, the former having developed close relations under Morsi similar to what Israel enjoyed under Mubarak.
What ElBaradei’s representatives are reportedly offering the White House in exchange for Obama’s discrete assistance, is that it that the 1979 Camp David Accord, including all its elements will be observed and that in addition, additional guarantees will be given to Israel with the Zionist regime occupying Palestine will be given prime estate for its Embassy. In addition, Egypt under ElBaradei can be expected to toughen its stance on Iran’s nuclear program with altering and adjusting publicly some of his pre-2012 comments on Iran that the White House and Israel criticized as being “soft on the Islamic Republic.”
Israel is also being promised by ElBaradei’s agents, major security cooperation with Egypt, under which they also pledge to the White House, will continue to grow stronger. ElBaradei’s objective is to secure Barack Obama’s personal support during his jockeying for the White House imprimatur for the expected soon to be held Egyptian presidential election and before.
Once again, the Obama administration was caught by surprise as the enduring “Arab spring”, still in its infancy, increasingly portends ill for Western installed potentates in artificially Sykes-Picot style created “countries”.
Barack Obama reportedly has some doubts according to Congressional contacts and dear readers will likely recall his praise of Morsi after the two former University Professors had a chance to sit together and get to know one another. “I like this man”, Obama was reported to have told some staff members, “he thinks like me” as his wife Michele reportedly rolled her eyes and deeply exhaled.
When Morsi was deposed, Obama lamented: “We are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian armed forces to remove President Morsi and suspend the Egyptian constitution. I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsi and his supporters.”
Meanwhile, the SCAF, at the urging of ElBaradei’s team, is paying Washington and its ally’s sweet lip service regarding Obama’s expressed concerns. Shortly before the words were uttered by SCAF’s interim appointee, the State Department received a copy of the speech with the first paragraph high-lighted to assuage Obama. The first words of Sisi’s 7/1/13 statement read, “The armed forces will not interfere in the realm of politics or governance and will not overstep the role that it is assigned in a democracy, which stems from the desire of the people.” Those words sound good also in Foggy Bottom.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s Arab neighbors have expressed support for the military coup, but not Africa, where it has been reported that the African Union will suspend Egypt from all activities, following the unconstitutional power change.
Patton Boggs talking points to the Congress and Obama Administration include, but are not limited to, the following:
President Morsi had more than a year to show progress to the Egyptian people, with both institutional political legitimacy derived from their election victories and also strong popular support when they assumed full power from the armed forces in June 2012.
ElBaradei’s team is emphasizing that the Morsi government failed badly and the new government, hopefully led by ElBaradei, will now act more efficiently to move the country towards credible and legitimate institutions of governance.
ElBaradei’s campaign, as reported in the 4/4/13 edition of the New York Times also worked hard to convince the White House of what he called the necessity of forcibly ousting President Morsi, presenting several arguments that included documentation that Morsi had bungled the country’s transition to an inclusive democracy and wasted a year without following thru on any of his pledges or addressing the problems of:
Some Congressional analysts believe that one of Morsi’s biggest mistakes resulted from a deliberate policy of accommodation and not, as is commonly believed, confrontation.  He allowed the military to retain its corporate autonomy and remain beyond civilian control. Furthermore, he included in his cabinet a large number of non-Muslim Brotherhood figures who abandoned him within months when the going got tough, thus presenting to the public an image that the government was on the verge of collapse. Some have suggested that Morsi should have brought the military to heel soon after he assumed power and was at the height of his popularity, just as the military was at its lowest point in public perception. Monday morning quarter backing is now rampant to explain Morsi’s failures.
What the Muslim Brotherhood and Mohammad Morsi’s supporters do in the coming days at Tahir Square and across Egypt will likely determine the route and the ultimate success of ElBaradei growing juggernaut.
Meanwhile, as of 7/5/13, it appears that President Barack Obama may well help usher Mohammad ElBaredei into Egypt’s Presidential Palace. If the Obama administration has success there will be joy in Tel Aviv and at Patton Boggs victory party where a good number of the invited guests will almost certainly be carefully vetted by AIPAC.
No Shame on Pennsylvania Ave…
Beirut — Fatou Bom Bensouda, the Gambian-born deputy prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), was never Washington’s first choice to succeed the inveterately self-promoting elitist ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.
And it is doubtful that key Obama administration officials have changed their minds this week given Ms. Bensouda’s impassioned invitation on 6/27/13 to Palestine, urging its accession to the Rome Statute and the ICC, the former signed and ratified, as of this month, by 122 states with 31 additional countries, including Russia, having signed with ratification pending in their legislatures.
Visiting Al Jalil UNWRA high school across from Shatila camp here in Beirut recently, this observer was asked several questions by students and staff and the most frequent inquiry, which came as no surprise, concerned why the Lebanese government, even those who claim to support the Palestinian cause, still have not acted in Parliament to grant Palestinian refugees the same elementary civil right to work and to own a home that every refugee everywhere, even in Zionist occupied Palestine, have long enjoyed.
The second most commonly asked question, did surprise me a bit and it was why the Palestinian leaders in Ramallah have not joined the International Criminal Court (ICC) in order to challenge the criminal, apartheid regime in occupied Tel Aviv and hold it accountable under international humanitarian law for crimes against Palestinian prisoners and more than a dozen equally brutal campaigns that target the indigenous population increasingly being condemned internationally.
From my time visiting Al Jalil School, it became clear that the students and faculty want their country, Palestine, to join the ICC. One is advised that this sentiment is the same in all 54 Palestinian refugees’ schools in Lebanon and this insistence mirrors virtually all Palestinian, camps, groups and NGO’s with whom I have discussed the subject.
The new ICC Prosecutor Bensouda is also encouraging Palestine to join the International Criminal Court, as she prepares for the cases that are likely to be filed with the ICC in the coming months. Addressing this week’s Transitional Justice and International Justice the Arab World conference, she declared that her office believes Palestine qualifies to join the ICC after the UN General Assembly voted to admit Palestine as a non-member state last November.
The ICC prosecutor’s office is rumored in The Hague to be particularly impassioned and focused on those areas in which their chief, Ms. Bensouda, has particular international legal expertise. With the main area being international crimes comprising the category of continuous crimes against humanity, which, arguably, since 1948, have been most egregiously committed by the last 19th century colonial enterprise that still brutally occupies Palestine.
Prosecutor Bensouda and her ICC staff is reported to be particularly intent on investigating continuing violations of basic humanitarian principles, standards and rules and both have spoken about the case of Palestinian Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, a cancer-sufferer who died in Israeli custody on 6/25/13 after the Israeli government rejected repeated international calls and protests for his release. This, even as its officials conceded that Mr. Abu Hamidiyeh was no threat to society and could likely be successfully treated if allowed medical treatment for his life threatening condition. One ICC investigator, who asked for anonymity, stated that she and her colleagues considered the actions of the Netanyahu government with respect to the Abu Hamidiyeh, and similar cases, to be “sick!”
The White House and its allies are not pleased by prospects for an eventful next few years at the ICC. What have particularly unnerved outgoing UN Ambassador, Susan Rice and Israeli PM Netanyahu, are the 5/23/13 comments of Ms. Bensouda during the 38th FIDH Congress in Istanbul which celebrated the 15th anniversary of the Rome Statute which created the ICC.
“Gone are the days when those who commit international crimes, could be cleansed of their atrocities through a mere hand shake and a scribble of their initials on a piece of paper which purports to bind them to conditions that they have no intention of ever observing.” She added: “My challenge is to consolidate what has been achieved, to build on from it, and to answer victims’ calls for justice. That is the promise made in Rome and that is the promise we cannot fail to fulfill”.
One the several “going out the door” comments Ms. Rice made on cleaning out her UN office on her way to become President Obama’s National Security Adviser, was basically a reiteration of her livid expressions made following last fall’s UN General Assembly vote giving Palestine its new international status. When asked if she considered the UN vote a repudiation of the Obama administration and her personally, Ms. Rice scolded:
“That resolution is not going to take them closer to statehood, or to the ICC! It may actually make the environment more difficult for them and public references to the “State of Palestine” do not make it a sovereign state. Any reference to the ‘State of Palestine’ in the United Nations, including the use of the term ‘State of Palestine’ on the placard in the Security Council or the use of the term ‘State of Palestine’ in the invitation do not reflect acquiescence that ‘Palestine’ is a state,” she said.
It may be recalled that in a letter addressed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the President of the UN Security Council immediately following the 11/29/12 General Assembly vote, the permanent UN observer of Palestine reiterated his delegation’s position that ”all Israeli settlement activities are illegal, constituting grave breaches of article 49 (6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention and thus constituting war crimes, as further determined in accordance with article 8 (2) (b) (viii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Israel, the occupying Power, must be held accountable for all of the war crimes it is committing against the Palestinian people.”
This letter was cited by the most recent UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) report of February 2013, which also found Israel, as an occupying power, in violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention for ”transferring parts of its civilian population into territory that it occupies.”
Adding to all its currents problems, is this week’s announcement that President Obama’s “favorite general,” Retired Gen. James “Hoss” Cartwright will likely cause yet more serious problems for the administration when details of his suspected leaks of information about a covert U.S.-Israeli cyber-attack on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program, for which he is expected to soon be arrested and indicted. Coming on the heels of the Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks case, Washington is said to have no patience whatsoever, for Palestine making more problems and opening an ICC Pandora’s box.
Ramallah is being flooded with threats this month from Middle East envoy, Tony Blair, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, now on his 5th visit to the Middle East in as many months, Jordan’s King Hussein and reportedly, several others. The message for Mahmoud Abbas is that the Palestinian Authority risks a cut-off of funds and US dis-engagement from any “peace process” as well as the scrapping of the rumored “mega economic & development package” which Kerry aids are currently finalizing, if Palestine goes anywhere near the International Criminal Court.
It’s a tough call for President Mahmoud Abbas and his supporters because Hamas wants Palestine to immediately file cases against Israel at the ICC and so it appears, do a large majority of Palestinians, in Lebanon and internationally.
Many Lebanese and Syrian supporters of this regions Resistance culture, increasingly led by Hezbollah, are chastising, for a number of reasons, their former Islamist ally Hamas. Pillorying them with accusations that the latter are ingrates who are creating a host of problems for Hezbollah and its support for the Syrian regime, during the continuing crisis. Unnecessary problems, it is frequently asserted, that inure to the benefit of their mutual arch enemies, the Zionist colonizers of Palestine and their American and Arab enablers.
An outsider living near the center of the security zone in Dahiyeh, South Beirut, including this observer, hears from friends and neighbors both sides of this rancorous ‘domestic argument’. Having respect for, and being a supporter of both, one feels a bit awkward– rather like a good friend of a married couple, who are engaged in an increasingly acrimonious marital spat.
While sympathetic to each friends seemingly legitimate complaints with the other, one does not want to take sides for a few reasons with one being the risk of appearing disloyal to mutual friends and alienating perhaps both while being labeled a weak charactered “friend betrayer.”
Yet one cannot disagree with the Palestinian community in both Syria and Lebanon who repeatedly assert that they want to stay neutral in the Syrian crisis, whick appears unlikely to end anytime soon. Palestinian refugees, who have manifold problems in Palestine as well as Syria and Lebanon, want to stay sidelined from internecine conflicts and focus on trying to survive and staying focused on confronting their only enemies, those being the ones who stole and are still living on their land and villages.
Some supporters of Hezbollah and the Palestine Resistance seek to avoid exhibiting dirty laundry to public view, but given the voracious craving of media outlets linked to various local parties and foreign sponsors, there is much pressure and opportunity to condemn each side by broadcasting, some real but many illusory, Hezbollah-Palestinian cross border conflicts. This mutually destructive phenomenon is becoming commonplace and appears to be spreading.
Hezbollah’s local Palestinian problem started to form in the spring of 2011 as the Syrian crisis quickly gained momentum. Some Palestinians joined the rebels and nearly 28 months into the maelstrom, unknown numbers continue fighting the Assad government. But the numbers do appear to this observer to be a tiny fraction of the unemployed, discouraged Palestinian youth, facing a bleak future because they are bared by Lebanese law from even the most elementary civil rights to work or to own a home. Some have succumbed to the allure of $ 200 per month, free cigarettes, and an AK-47 and have joined one the literally hundreds of militias operating in Syria with affiliated jihadists currently scoping out and probing Lebanon.
Some point out those Palestinian refugees in Syria should not be seen as betraying those who have helped them most. This includes the undeniable fact that Palestinian refugees in Syria have been granted by its government, for more than six decades, rights to education, medical care, housing, employment, even with the government, as well as preferential treatment in many instances. In addition, Syria has granted them identity and travel documents, on a basis that no other Arab League country has ever granted them. This despite decades of Arab potentates blathering interminably about supporting the ‘bloodstream and sacred cause of Palestine.”
So there is festering resentment among some when certain media blare that Palestinian groups such as Hamas, are with the rebels and are insisting that Hezbollah fighters not enter Syria under any pretext. Hamas stands accused of closing their Damascus offices, accepting a $ 400 million grant from Syria’s nemesis Qatar, and of joining the US-Israel axis by harming their own people as well as undermining the Resistance to the Zionist regime in the process. Certain other Palestinians in camps such as Yarmouk in Syria and Shatila in Lebanon tacitly accuse Hamas of abandoning the Palestinian cause and misguidedly sparking sectarian strife with Hezbollah. Others argue just the opposite and blame Hezbollah.
Some Palestinians are also said to be carrying guns for the Saida, Lebanon based, Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir, the imam of Sidon’s Bilal bin Rabah Mosque, while supporting his anti-Hezbollah-Assad regime movement which is trying to unite Sunnis, who make up roughly 85% of the world’s Muslim population, to eliminate Shia Muslims.
Syrian government forces claim that Hamas has even trained Syrian rebels in the manufacture and use of home-made rockets. Some Hezbollah fighters go further and complain that they taught Hamas many of their battlefield skills and they turned around and used their fighting skills and IED’s against Hezbollah forces in al-Qusayr and are preparing to do the same, with larger numbers, in the coming battle for Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.
Many supporters of Hezbollah believe Hamas and some other Palestinian factions were being needlessly provocative when a few officials issued an unusual admonishment of Hezbollah on 6/17/13, calling on their ally and mentor of more than 20 years to direct its firepower at Israel and demanding that it withdraw from Syria. “We demand of Hezbollah to withdraw its forces from Syria and call on it to leave its weapons directed only at the Zionist enemy,” read a statement allegedly from Hamas, posted on the Facebook page of its deputy political leader Moussa Abu Marzouq.
Despite its withdrawal from Syria in early 2012, Hamas, as an Islamic organization as opposed to some of its individual members and a few officials, has been wary of publicly criticizing Hezbollah for its military support of the Assad regime. On 6/5/13, the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Araby reported that a schism existed within Hamas regarding its attitude toward Hezbollah. Hamas’s military wing, the Izz Ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, reportedly endorsed the alliance with the Syria-Hezbollah axis, while its political leadership opposed it. Some have questioned the accuracy of this report.
Other more petty accusations have been made by some Hezbollah supporters, for example that Hamas and perhaps others had prevented some Palestinian camp residents in Ein el Helwe and Jalil camp near Baalbek, from burning refugee aid packages provided by Hezbollah for Syrian and Palestinians forced to flee Syria. The reasons cited were that the Palestinians felt they could not, given moral Islamic values, accept “blood” gifts, even of much needed food.
This observer met with some Palestinian leaders from different factions and is satisfied by their explanations that this was not the case. Hezbollah has given emergency aid to all the Palestinian camps. What happened with the symbolic burning of a few parcels was entirely politically motivated and organized by certain salafists in Saida and a few troublemakers from the pro-Saudi/US factions, including rump elements from the so-called pro-western March 14 alliance. That issue has now been resolved by Palestinian popular committees and the Hezbollah donors and hopefully will not recur.
Some Hezbollah partisans complain that certain Palestinian factions have circulated rumors in the media accusing the Resistance of wrongdoing and thereby are in effect collaborating with the US and Israel to divide and weaken the National Lebanese Resistance.
Yet additional criticism of certain Palestinian factions, specifically Hamas, relates to the nature and future of the movement’s relationship with the state of Qatar which is accused of essentially appointed itself godfather of all the Islamist and Muslim Brotherhood movements in the region. According to some criticism, Hamas’s change of stands has caused the movement to lose the credibility and popularity that it once enjoyed from diaspora Palestinians and the Arabs.
The Palestinians’ Hezbollah Problem
Revisiting the “marital spat” analogy, some of the accusations against certain Palestinians mirror those made against Hezbollah.
Some Lebanese analysts and some camp Palestinians have warned that Hezbollah’s foray into Syria is fueling a Sunni-Shiite polarization that threatens to feed extremism on both sides and catapult the conflict to the wider region
Syrian opposition groups reported on 5/30/13 that Hezbollah had ordered Hamas’s representative in Beirut, Ali Baraka, to leave the country immediately over Hamas’s public support for Syrian rebels fighting Assad. Baraka denied the report, telling Lebanese media and his neighbors there was no change in the relationship between the two organizations. Baraka’s assessment may be a bit understating the reality, but it is not too late to fix this problem. As of today, this observer’s kitchen balcony overlooks over the Hamas office in central Haret Hreik and it is clear that the Hamas office is still functioning.
The Hamas disagreement with Hezbollah still stands but both parties have agreed to discuss it by holding a series of meetings. In response to a question on this subject, former Foreign Ministry undersecretary in the ousted government in Gaza Ahmad Youssef, pointed out that Hamas needs and very much wants the support of all the powers and sides in the region to face the colonial Zionist implantation, what some refer to as “the 9th Crusade.” Youssef explained: “We needed and still need Iran and Hezbollah. However, the movement’s position is that this behavior had damaged the relations which we wanted to be close and strong with the party.” Next month, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abass will reportedly visit Lebanon to meet with Palestinians who fled Syria for Lebanon as is expected to attempt a Hamas-Hezbollah Musalaha or reconciliation.
The Resistance to the Zionist colony has multiple pillars two key ones of which are Hezbollah and the Palestine National Movement, which itself is becoming international, given that world opinion increasingly opposes the illegitimate apartheid regime still clinging to occupy Palestine. Both of these powerful forces as well as a growing number of others, including hundreds of militia now fighting in Syria, share one, if not other, common objective which must not be squandered by relatively soluble problems. And that bond is the shared reason d’etre to liberate every inch of occupied Palestine from the river to the sea and to return-by all means necessary. They share a moral, religious duty to struggle until victory in achieving the full right to return for the rightful indigenous inhabitants and their off-spring, from the 531 Palestinian villages that were ethnically cleansed 65 years ago. It is latter who, post liberation, who will decide, based on one person one vote without religious preferences, for all Jews and Arabs who choose to live in peace, how best to rebuild and administer Palestine on the basis of absolute equality before the law.
Neither Hezbollah or certain Palestinians now fighting each other in Syria, and god-forbid soon in Lebanon if the US-Israeli is successful in achieving this project which both are investing in, need the 2-cents worth of advice from this foreign observer.
But surely most from each camp will agree that this is not the time for Hezbollah and the Palestinians to use their over stretched resources to right perceived wrongs claimed to have been inflicted by the other. There will be time enough to discuss that, if either group is still feeling unjustly wronged, after Palestine is freed from its racist colonial yoke.
The Group of Eight leaders meeting in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, having called for an international conference on the ongoing crisis in Syria to be held “as soon as possible” could not agree on much else that might end the civil war anytime soon there. The White House now is reportedly in private agreement with Russia and Iran that the Assad government will remain in power until next year’s election.
Consequently, an 18 month old US-led Plan B has been dusted off by the Obama administration according to Washington Congressional and Beirut diplomatic sources. If successful, there is growing confidence among pro-Zionist neocons in Congress that while Syrian regime-change has failed for several reasons that thwarted the Gulf funded military campaign, Syria can still be brought to heel through an economic campaign dressed to look, well, down right “humanitarian.”
The term “equivalent of the Marshall Plan” is being employed by some in the White House and Pentagon this month to describe a proposed large-scale “humanitarian rescue program” being prepared for Syria, according to some Western diplomats based in Lebanon.
However, the 1948 Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Program or ERP) was an American program to aid Europe, through which the United States provided $ 13 billion, in today’s monetary terms, approximately 100 billion dollars of economic support, to help rebuild European economies devastated by war.
With respect to Syria, the “ equivalent of the Marshall Plan” currently being finalized is very different from what General George |C. Marshall explained to his Harvard University audience, 66 years ago this month, when he announced the post WW II initiative.
The already project Syria amounts to 19th century economic imperialism as a means to achieve control of Syria by hijacking its economy while shielding Israel from the rising tide of protests in this region, as armed groups across the spectrum are beginning to focus on directly confronting the Zionist theft and continuing occupation of Palestine.
What Washington has in mind constitutes an attempt to gain control over Syria by controlling its economy via contracts for rebuilding the country and “lending” the hoped for post-Assad Syrian government as much as 300 billion dollars to be secured by Syrian assets. IMF economists estimate the value of the public sector in Syria, exceeds half a trillion dollars. Under the US-led pan, creditors can take control of ownership of the public sectior, if Syria accepts the plan for pledges to secure debt. The buyers of the debt will be largely American and indirectly Israeli businessmen as well as from the Gulf. Qatar specifically is gambling on this plan, to work with “international parties”, to immerse Syria in debt, and then drive the country to sell the private sector at a very small fraction of their true values.
Some who are warning against the scheme point out that Syrians are capable of rebuilding their own country and have the labor force and raw materials to do it. Foreign aid will be welcomed by the Syrian government but not at the price of ceding the Arab Syrian Republic to a new western crafted economic order. What is hidden in the war on Syria is reported to be much bigger than has been divulged to date, and involves winding down the military actions in favor of economic aggression against the Syrian population which the layers of US sanctions to date is just a harbinger.
In this context, according to Western Diplomatic sources, the US government and some Gulf countries have tried to bribe Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of Syria’s President, to break with the government and leave the country. Some other well-known figues have also been offered large sums of cash to break ranks. Last month, one prominent Syrian nationalist who works with the government told this observer of receiving a $ 50 million dollar offer to defect and leave Syria. The official rejected the bribe and ridiculed the government that made the offer by explaining that as proud Syrian nationalists, no amount of money would break the sacred bond between Syrians and their country.
With respect to Mr. Maklouf, he did not react to being placed on the US Treasury Department’s “Specially Designated Nationals” (SDN) list which blocks assets and prohibits, under severe penalties, U.S. citizens from dealing with them, nor did he dignify an American clemency offer with even a reply. Rather he has maintained his steadfast support for Syria in the face of several attempts to assassinate him as well as targeting him, as a leader of the Syrian business community, with American orchestrated (OFAC) defamatory media campaigns, to pressure Presidenrt Bashar al-Assad to break with him. Rather than rejecting Syria for American offers of protection, Makhlouf channeled much of his assets for the benefit of domestic charities and rehabilitative projects, providing jobs for the unemployed and loans for small investors as well as “at cost” family housing for many of the internally displaced. This initiative continues. Makhlouf has provided his borse shares in the largest telecommunications companies in Syria to charity associations in order to insure financial independence and resources that the Authority can rely upon, to ease somewhat, the devastating effects on the current crisis on the Syrian civil society.
According to analysts among the Western diplomatic corps in Beirut, many wealthy Syrian capitalists fell into the U.S. trap, wherein SDN economic sanctions prompted them to leave Syria and defect from the regime. The United States and its European partners continue to wage an economic war against Syria by imposing crippling sanctions which are affecting the lives of ordinary citizens in many ways from food and fuel costs to medical care.
Why Rami Makhlouf and other strong nationalists in Syria’s business community are being targeted as a prelude to fully launching the US-led “Syrian Marshall Plan” is that their bonds with Syria as well as their business acumen are blocking the Western scheme because they provide the Syrian government with much needed additional financial strength to rebuild Syria, in cooperation with other countries, but without being subject to the economically fatal conditions the US-led plan envisages. Many in the financial and academic community view the proposed SMP plan as nearly certain to hold the Syrian economy hostage to foreigners for scores of years.
The US Treasury Department considers Makhlouf and others like him in the Syrian business community as fully capable, if allowed, of helping Syria’s government to collect huge sums from international investors to help rebuild Syria without being subject to Western domination.
“The anti-Mahhlouf black propaganda campaign, according to a Washington DC source familiar with the intensified preparations, commented that the SMP was designed to include a wide ranging assault in the visual and written media, audio, as well as in the electronic media: “ Almost certainty funded by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, both of which like their western partners who are actually constructing the SMP project, view Makhlouf as a key obstacle to realizing their plans to hijack and control the Syrian economy as part of a soft war, whereby the US and its allies, western and middle eastern, controls Arab economies while keeping US boots off the grounds of Arabia or spending more US treasure in this region.”
Targeting Rami Makhlouf, and other Syrian businessmen by Qatari media and other Arabic paid media outlets, is designed to hit Syria economically, because weakening the Syrian economic security at its core, is a more certain path, than endless military campaigns, to quickly smash the state. Makhlouf and his colleagues are seen as preventing this.
The ultimate goal of Qatar and certain Gulf countries, with US complicity, is not just expanding their investments in this region, as much as Doha is intent on connecting the Arab world to the American-Zionist axis politically and economically. The speed with which Israeli, Gulf, and Western businessmen showed up at the Corinthian, Radisson, and Rixos hotels in Tripoli, Libya, literally within days of the murder of Maoammar Qaddafi, “to help rebuild this country” is instructive on these same interests seeking to control a war damaged country by removing obstacles. Indeed, Russian intelligence reported at the time that the salafists who apprehended Qaddafi in Serte on October 20, 2011, as he attempted to flee, received verbal instructions from a Gulf country (UAE) to kill him in order to eliminate competition for dominating the Libyan econnomy and to silence those who might torpedo their best laid plans..
The targeting of Mr. Rami Makhlouf and dozens of like-minded Syrian businessmen, who refused to abandon their country, continues. Yet today, like thousands of other Syrian volunteers including the approximately 10,000 who work with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society (SARCS) their time and resources serve their country in order to lessen the suffering of the civilian population. They have stood firm and did not flee, as did some corrupt former supporters and officials of the government.
This week, Syria’s President put the goal of the Marshall Plan for Syria succinctly, without identifying it, “What is happening in Syria is a project for those states to push a non-submissive state towards the brink and to look for a new president who says ‘yes’ (to their orders). They have not found and they will not find in the future,” Assad stressed while adding, “The interference is a blatant violation of international law and the sovereignty of this country; they (western states and their Gulf allies) want to destabilize the country and spread chaos and backwardness.”
The End of Syria As We Know It?
Beirut — The short answer is Iran and Hezbollah according to Congressional sources. “The Syrian army’s victory at al-Qusayr was more than the administration could accept given that town’s strategic position in the region. Its capture by the Assad forces has essentially added Syria to Iran’s list of victories starting with Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq, as well as its growing influence in the Gulf.”
Other sources are asserting that Obama actually did not want to invoke direct military aid the rebels fighting to topple the Assad government or even to make use of American military power in Syria for several reasons. Among these are the lack of American public support for yet another American war in the Middle East, the fact that there appears to be no acceptable alternative to the Assad government on the horizon, the position of the US intelligence community and the State Department and Pentagon that intervention in Syria would potentially turn out very badly for the US and gut what’s left of its influence in the region. It short, that the US getting involved in Syria could turn out even worse than Iraq, by intensifying a regional sectarian war without any positive outcome in sight.
Obama was apparently serious earlier about a negotiated diplomatic settlement pre-Qusayr and there were even some positives signs coming from Damascus, Moscow, and even Tehran John Kerry claimed. But that has changed partly because Russia and the US have both hardened their demands. Consequently, the Obama administration has now essentially thrown in the towel on the diplomatic track. This observer was advised by more than one Congressional staffer that Obama’s team has concluded that the Assad government was not getting their message or taking them seriously and that Assad’s recent military gains and rising popular support meant that a serious Geneva II initiative was not going to happen.
In addition, Obama has been weakened recently by domestic politics and a number of distractions and potential scandals not least of which is the disclosures regarding the massive NSA privacy invasion. In addition, the war lobby led by Senators McClain and Lindsay Graham is still pounding their drums and claim that Obama would be in violation of his oath of office and by jeopardizing the national security interest of the United States by allowing Iran to essentially own Syria once Assad quells the uprising.” Both Senators welcomed the chemical weapons assessment. For months they have been saying that Obama has not been doing enough to help the rebels. “U.S. credibility is on the line,” they said in a joint statement this week. “Now is not the time to merely take the next incremental step. Now is the time for more decisive actions,” they said, such as using long-range missiles to degrade Assad’s air power and missile capabilities. Another neo-con, Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) said the opposition forces risk defeat without heavier weapons, but he also warned that may not be enough. “The U.S. should move swiftly to shift the balance on the ground in Syria by considering grounding the Syrian air force with stand-off weapons and protecting a safe zone in northern Syria with Patriot missiles in Turkey,” Casey said.
According to some analysts, Obama could alternatively authorize the arming and training of the Syrian opposition in Jordan without a no-fly zone. That appears unlikely according to this observers Washington interlocutors because the Pentagon wants to end the Syrian crisis by summers end, the observer was advised “rather than working long term with a motley bunch of jihadists who we could never trust or rely on. The administration has come to the conclusion apparently that if they are in for a penny they are in for a pound, meaning would not allow Iran to control Syria and Hezbollah to pocket Lebanon.”
Secretary of State Kerry had meetings with more than two dozen military specialists on 5/13/13. The Washington Post is reporting that Kerry believes supplying the rebels with weapons might be too little and too late to actually flip the balance on the Syrian ground and this calls “for a military strike to paralyze Al-Assad’s military capacities.” A Pentagon source reported that the USA, France, and Britain are considering a decisive decision to reverse the current Assad momentum and quickly construct one in favor of the rebels” within a time period not exceeding the end of this summer.
Shortly after the meetings began, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia quickly returned to Saudi Arabia from his palace at Casa Blanca, Morocco after receiving a call from his intelligence chief, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan. Bander reportedly had a representative at the White House during the meetings with President Obama’s team. King Abdullah was reportedly advised by Kerry to be prepared for a rapid expansion of the growing regional conflict.
What happens between now and the end of summer is likely to be catastrophic for the Syrian public and perhaps Lebanon. The “chemical weapons-red line” is not taken seriously on Capitol Hill for the reason that the same “inclusive evidence” of months ago is the same that is suddenly being cited to justify what may become essentially an all-out war against the Syrian government and anyone who gets in the way. Hand wringing over the loss of 125 lives due to chemical weapons, whoever did use them, pales in comparison to the more 50,000 additional lives that will be lost in the coming months, a figure that Pentagon planners and the White House have “budgeted” as the price of toppling the Assad government.
“We are going to see a rapid escalation of the conflict”, a staffer on the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee emailed this observer: “The president has made a decision to give whatever humanitarian aid, as well as political and diplomatic support to the opposition that in necessary. Additionally direct support to the (Supreme Military Council), will be provided and that includes military support.” The staffer quoted the words of Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes to the media on 5/13/13 to the same effect.
A part of this “humanitarian assistance” the US is going to established in the coming weeks a “limited, humanitarian no-fly zone, that will begin along several miles of the Jordanian and Turkish borders in certain military areas into Syrian territory, and would be set up and presented as a limited bid to train and equip rebel forces and protect refugees. But in reality, as we saw in Libya a Syrian no fly zone would very likely include all of Syria.
Libya’s no-fly zones made plain that there is no such thing as a “limited zone”. Put briefly, a “no-fly zone” means essentially a declaration of all-out war. Once the US and its allies start a no fly zone they will expand it and intensify it as they take countless other military actions to protect its zones until the Syrian government falls. “It’s breathtaking to contemplate how this in going to end and how Iran and Russia will respond,” one source concluded.
The White House is trying to assuage the few in Congress as well as a majority of the American public that it can be a limited American involved and that the no-fly zone would not require the destruction of Syrian antiaircraft batteries. This is more nonsense. During the no-fly zone I witnessed from Libya in the summer of 2011 the US backed it up with all manner of refueling, electronic jamming, special-ops on the ground and by mid-July a kid peddling his bike was not safe. Over the 192 days of patrolling the Libyan no-fly zones, NATO countries flew 24,682 sorties including 9,204 bomb strike sorties. NATO claimed it never missed its target but that was also not true. Hundreds of civilians were killed in Libya by no-fly zone attack aircraft that either missed their targets and emptied their bomb bays before returning to base while conducting approximately 48 bombing strikes per day using a variety of bombs and missiles, including more than 350 cruise Tomahawks.
At a Congressional hearing in 2011, then US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates got it right when he explained which discussing Libya “a no-fly zone begins with an attack to destroy all the air defenses … and then you can fly planes around the country and not worry about our guys being shot down. But that’s the way it starts.”
According to the accounts published in American media, Obama could alternatively authorize the arming and training of the Syrian opposition in Jordan without a no-fly zone. That appears unlikely because the Pentagon wants to end the Syrian crisis by summers end, the observer was advised “rather than working long term with a motley bunch of jihadists who we could never trust or rely on. The administration has come to the conclusion apparently that if they are in for a penny they are in for a pound.”
In response to a question from this observer about how he thought event might unfold in this region over the coming months, a very insightful long-term congressional aid replied: “Well Franklin, maybe someone will pull a rabbit out of the hat to stop the push for war. But frankly I doubt it. From where I sit I’d wager that Syria as we have known it may soon be no more. And perhaps some other countries in the region also.”
Beirut — A number of analysts and security experts who specialize in intelligence and security subjects in Lebanon and France have expressed this week shock at the way many Western authorities, including several in Europe and the United States, are avoiding engagement with the Syrian authorities and thus missing important avenues to help end the crisis in Syria.
This dismay follows increasing evidence of the grave dangers now threatening to turn Syria into a main operations base for anti-Western and anti-sectarian international jihadist groups and organizations. Some specialists spoke to “Afrique Asie” recently and expressed surprise and concern that authorities in the United States and Europe are deliberately ignoring the daily warnings sent out by intelligence and security organizationsin those countries including the Intelligence Community in the US with is comprised of the 16 American intelligence organizations , also referred to as “elements”. These are the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA),United States Department of Defense, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), National Security Agency (NSA),National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA),National Reconnaissance Office (NRO),Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency (AFISRA),Army Intelligence and Security Command(INSCOM),Marine Corps Intelligence Activity (MCIA), Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), United States Department of Energy , Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence (OICI), United States Department of Homeland Security, Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A),Coast Guard Intelligence (CGI),United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),Drug Enforcement Administration, Office of National Security Intelligence (DEA/ONSI),United States Department of State, Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), United States Department of the Treasury, and the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI).
One of France’s leading experts on terrorism, who visited Libya and Syria after the start of the turbulences, concluded:
“It is understandable that the that authorities in the United States and Europe are deliberately exploiting the Syrian revolution to punish President Bashar Al-Assad for his policies of siding with Iran and supporting organizations, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, that pose threats on Israeli security. However, the real strangeness lies in the fact that those nations are continuing to provide support, weaponry, military training and funding to the Syrian opposition and the media, with their knowledge that the class dominating the armed Syrian opposition is that of Al-Nusra terrorists who are closely affiliated with Al-Qaeda.”
Discussing the reasons preventing those authorities from changing their stance, the acknowledge expert concluded that Western political authorities, including the White House, believe that the Salafist movement’s attacks can be controlled through countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Hitherto, the relationship with Bashar Al-Assad has proven his independence as well as his adherence to the policies that bound him to Iran and other anti-Israeli organizations. However, French, European and American security officials perceive this differently.
Most Western intelligence apparatuses sounded out their danger sirens pointing to the necessity of cooperating with Syrian security authorities. This is because the Syrian intelligence is still considered the most effective party facing Salafist movements in the Middle East, and the Syrian army is fighting “terrorist/jihadists” on a daily basis. In this context, the Syrian intelligence never lost the penetrations it had into Al-Qaeda and other Syria-based Salafist movements as part of it work of planning to neutralize future terrorist attacks. To this end, Syrian intelligence committed substantial resources and senior officers in pursuit of international terrorists who are currently based in Syria, but who are laying the groundwork for terrorist attacks soon to be executed in European capitals.
While the United States and its Western allies are offering military, media, financial and political aid to thearmed opposition in Syria, allied with Al-Qaeda and like movements, the Syrian intelligence continues to fight against terrorism on behalf of the world, but with no assistance from countries whose interests and people they are work to protect.
One expert posed a rhetorical question, “Imagine that an assassination as big as that of the “Crisis Cell” officers in Syria was executed during the time when we discovered that among the victims was one of the most cooperative Syrian people with the French intelligence services in the fight against terrorism. And what have we done to protect it? Nothing.” However, as the Syrian story puts it, the Americans might well have been involved with his assassination.
In addition to the death of the “Crisis Cell” officers, in July of 2012, in a complex security operation widely believed to have been executed by the Syrian opposition, Western authorities are in pursuit of Syrians officers who helped save the lives of thousands of French and other Europeans over the past years. It is worthy to note here that one of those officers was wounded and almost killed while he was defending Western embassies under attack by” terrorists.”
When the scholar was asked whom he meant by this and replied: “It is obvious Colonel Hafez Makhlouf, the competent expert in combating Salafist terrorism who currently resides in Syria. It was through the efforts of officer Makhlouf that the Syrian authorities captured a number of terrorist cells, and thus, thwarted major operations that were being prepared for execution in Europe in general, and specifically in France.”
For his part, the security expert and former Lebanese Army General Elias Farhat, argued recently that security operations targeting senior Syrian officers do not only affect Syrian security, but are undermine operations for weakening international security and strengthening terrorists around the world. This is because the Syrian role is viewed even by the US Intelligence Community as being effective in fighting “international terrorism”, and had it not been for the cooperation the Syrians provided to Western security services, “terrorist organizations” would have succeeded in many attacks on European capitals.
Regarding the impact of sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe on the Syrian officers for global security, General Farhat argued that what is incomprehensible is the self-targeting process today being carried out by Western powers because what they are doing with the Syrian security authorities is similar to refusing any help offered to save them from the monster of “terrorism.”
According to the Lebanese General, “Western authorities are providing enormous support for the armedopposition in Syria and they continue targeting senior Syrian officers, with sanctions, as well as planning and executing assassinations against the very peoples who helped save the lives of many Europeans. By doing so inlight of the internal security crisis in Syria, these authorities are curbing all future prospects for Syriancooperation.”
Indeed, Maj. Gen. Ali Mamlouk, who was largely responsible for security cooperation to combat international terrorism between the Syrians and the West in the past decade, was subject to the sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe. In addition, the “Crisis Cell” operation, which participated in the assassination ofagents who were undoubtedly related to the West, resulted in the death of a number of Syrian officers who were responsible for some key security cooperation between Syria and the West. The West is killing and sanctioning many of those who provide it with help.
Walid Zeitouni, a former Lebanese Army General and an intelligence and extremist movements specialist, claims that imposing sanctions on Syrian Generals and senior security officers by the United States and Europe “is suicide carried out by Western governments. These sanctions can only be categorized under stupidity, forthe assassination of the members of the most prominent cell in Syrian security was indisputably executed by Western intelligence agents. Moreover, imposing sanctions on Colonel Hafez Makhlouf came simultaneous to him achieving a lot of security accomplishments not only in favor of Syria, but also for the benefit of international security and that of the West in particular.
The West killing senior Syrian intelligence officers who are some of the key individuals fighting terrorists who are enemies of the West while claiming to fight terrorism while they are taking measures to intensify political, economic, security and media pressure on Syria and its officers and leaders, is self-destructive for these countries.
It is these Syrians are considered among the most effective forces combating global terrorism. While Al-Qaeda and the West are working hand-in-hand in their fight the Syrian army, the West is also busy conspiring against Syria, while engaging in, and aspiring for, the formulation of yet more sanctions against the population of Syria in order to achieve a purely politically motivated regime change. These sanctions are in fact resulting in the rise to power of fundamentalist groups promoting terrorism.
Moreover, there is no benefit for Europe in such a policy, as it targets those who offer help by killing some of their officers, imposing sanctions on others, and aspiring to transfer others to the International Criminal Court. Those being punished are the same people helping fight terrorism on behalf of the world – as with the cases of Colonel Hafez Makhlouf, Maj. Gen. Ali Mamlouk, and the officers of the “Crisis Cell”.
In both the Makhlouf and Mamlouk’s cases, both were blacklisted and sanctions were imposed on them by the United States and Europe, preparatory to transferring them to the International Criminal Court. However, this did not detour either gentleman from continuing to combat terrorist organizations funded by the West to fight President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.
These organizations are working in parallel and currently are planning terrorist and security attacks in Western capitals, despite the fact that a number of Western and Jordanian officers have repeatedly certified that Colonel Makhlouf achieved numerous successes in the field of security, especially in the fight against international terrorism. Makhlouf’s efforts resulted in saving the lives of many Westerners who were targeted in their home towns by Al-Qaeda’s assets in Syria who operate a planning center. Makhlouf also arrested a number of senior terrorists in Damascus who confessed to planning for operations that were halted through the information offered by the Syrians to the West via intermediary security organizations in the Middle East. When the French requested that the cooperation with the Syrians be restored, their request was turned down, pending the French governments ending its fighting alongside the terrorists in Syria.
Brigadier-General Mahmoud Matar, who was involved in person during the Cold War in a Lebanese-Western security operation that led to foiling a Russian KGB operation to steal a Mirage Airplane from Lebanon to Russia, told “Afrique Asie”:
“It is unfortunate that the extensive presence of Western security agents in Syria is serving the aim to fight the opponents of terrorism, which is wrong. However, I expect that the West would conduct a comprehensive review of its policy in Syria, and that security cooperation between the West and President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime be restored, since the situation is now even worse for the West than it is for Syria.”
This is one subjects that is reportedly being analyzed by the by US Intelligence Community. It is to be hoped that Washington and Brussels listen and act appropriately. If so they will avoid a steep price for their currently flawed policy.
Beirut — Although al-Qusayr may not be the decisive battle for Syria, it is irrefutably an important turning point in the crisis which has given the regime much sought military momentum. Plenty of adjectives and some clichés are being bandied about from Washington to Beirut to describe the al-Qusayr battle results and significance. Among them are “game-changer,” “mother of all battles,” “altered balance of power,” critical “turning point in the civil war,” and so on.
It does appear that the victory of the Syrian government forces at al-Qusayr is a strategic achievement, if also a humanitarian disaster for the civilian population still waiting for the ICRC and SARCS, (Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society) emergency help. Al Qusayr is located in Homs province, an area central to the success of the Syrian government’s military strategy. It is situated just west of the shortest route from Damascus to the coast, at a juncture where regime forces have struggled to maintain control. Rebel control of al-Qusayr had disrupted the regime’s supply lines from the port of Tartus and was open for the cross-border movement of Gulf arms to rebels via Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.
Government control of al-Qusayr also provides a ground base for the Assad government to move to retake control of the north and east of Syria. This cross-roads city just 6 miles from the Lebanese border has many strategic ramifications: breaking the opposition’s 18 month control of much of Homs province, facilitating government forces momentum generally across Syria, and psychological, by raising the morale of exhausted Syrian forces while energizing the Assad government and its allies to finish the conflict and focus on long-promised reforms and try to relieve Syria from the nearly 27 months of hell for its people.
Perhaps less appreciated here in Beirut are al-Qusayr’s effects on the Zionist occupiers of Palestine and their currently traumatized US lobby.
From conversations and emails with former colleagues at the Democratic National Committee (on which this observer served during the Carter administration) as well as with Congressional insiders, a picture emerges of nearly debilitating angst among those committed to propping up the apartheid state in the face of truly historic changes in this region that have only just begun to re-shape the region.
The reactions from various elements of the pro-Israel lobby range from the Arabphobic Daniel Pipes’ fantasy essay in the Washington Times this week entitled “Happy Israel” to Netanyahu’s increased threats issued from Tel Aviv about what Israel might do if his three cartoon “red lines” are breached, to more pressure on the White House by Israel’s agents in Congress who are demanding that Obama act immediately to undo “the major damage done at Qusayr”.
Several aspects of “the Qusayr rules and results” are being discussed at the HQ of the racist anti-Defamation League (ADL) which has summoned an emergency gathering of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations to craft a solution to the problem. The tentative agenda reportedly includes for discussion and action the following:
The twin defeats at al-Qusayr and at Burgas, Bulgaria — the latter should not be underestimated, according to one AIPAC activist who works on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, given that it substantially knocks out the props from the lobby’s project to get the European Union to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, thus interfering with the Islamic party’s fundraising. The lobby is reacting angrily to Austria’s Chancellor Werner Faymann and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger’s statement about that country’s decision to withdraw its 380 peacekeeping troops, more than one-third of the 1000 United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, (UNDOF) contingent, from the Golan Heights.
The lobby is claiming that Austrian move constituents an existential threat to Israel because it opens the Quneitra crossing, the door to the Golan, for the Syrian civil war to spill over the border into Israel. At the same time it is being argued that al-Qusayr lifts pressure off Hezbollah, Iran and Syria as well as the Palestinian resistance and gain all more fighters who sense victory for the current regime and major gains for all in the political dynamics of the region.
The Israel embassy in Washington has chimed in with a statement that the Austrian withdrawal threatened the role of the UN Security Council in any future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, while at the same time encouraging Hezbollah to move into the Golan.
Israel stalwart, Eric Cantor (R-Va) told a “brown bag” lunch gathering in the House Rayburn Building cafeteria late this week that the “fall of al-Qusayr, will facilitate the Assad regimes advance on areas north of Homs province and will likely return to Damascus control of important rebel-held areas in the north and the east. Cantor claims that the Assad regime victory effectively cuts off an important supply route to the rebels which will leave the armed opposition even more weakened and scattered. Israel is demanding an immediate US supported counter-offensive consistent with the demands made by US Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham.
The apartheid state also is demanding that the White House scrap Geneva II, claiming that Assad is now too strong for the US/Israel to benefit from such a dialogue. “If the international community is serious about seeking to enforce a negotiated settlement, they will first have to do something to decisively change the balance of power on the ground ahead of any serious negotiations,” he added.
When asked about giving US aid to Lebanon, Cantor reportedly sneered, as he expressed his shock that Hezbollah had so many troops and, without US boots on the ground, would be very difficult for Israel to defeat, he reportedly replied, “Forget about Lebanon, it never was a real country anyway, just call the whole place over there Hezbollah and let’s send in the marines to finish the job.”
One congressional staffer who attended the meeting winced at the thought of US marines again being sent to Lebanon given their previous experience there nearly 30 years ago.
The Lobby is also concerned about the fact that the Arab League and the Gulf countries might be softening in their ardor to confront Syria and Hezbollah, who they view as now being full partners in this crisis. A media source at the Saudi Embassy in Washington has complained that the six member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has spent more than a billion dollars on the opposition and have, to date, little to show for their “investment.” Nor does Israel have much to show to date for its deepening role in the crisis given that its air strikes are widely viewed in Washington and internationally as being counterproductive and helping to unite Muslims and Arabs in the face of their common global enemy.
The ADL reportedly wants the White House to act fast “to do something” in light of a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released on Wednesday, the day of the Syrian government’s victory at al-Qusayr, showing that only 15% of Americans polled advocated taking military action, and only 11% supported providing the rebels with arms. A quarter of respondents, 24%, favored taking no action, similar to the White House current position.
Abe Foxman, ADL’s President for Life, and inveterate anti-Semite tracker, myopically sees anti-Semitism, and surely not Israel’s decades of crimes against humanity as the cause for other “anti-Semitic” polls released this week. Those included the recent one commissioned by the BBC which confirmed that Israel is not only ranked second from the bottom of 197 favorably viewed countries, including as a danger to world peace, and just about the world’s most negatively viewed country, but its support globally continues to evaporate. Views of Israel in Canada and in Australia remain very negative with 57 and 69 per cent of their citizens holding unfavorable views. In the EU countries surveyed, views of Israeli influence are all strongly negative with the UK topping the list with 72 per cent of the population viewing Israel negatively.
As Ali Abunimah noted this week, “The persistent association of Israel with the world’s most negatively viewed countries will come as a disappointment to Israeli government and other hasbara officials who have invested millions of dollars in recent years to greenwash and pinkwash Israel as an enlightened, democratic and technological ‘Western’ country.”*
With Wednesday’s National Lebanese Resistance (Hezbollah) victory at al-Qusayr, coming as it does 97 years to the month after the Triple Entente’s (UK, France & Russia) May 1916 secret Asia Minor Agreement, generally known as Sykes-Picot, the scheme to control the Middle East following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire has furthered crumbled. Its “Rosemary’s Baby” progeny, the colonial Zionist occupation of Palestine, is increasingly being condemned by history to an identical fate.
According to a growing number of US and European officials and Middle East analysts as well as public opinion polls, it is solely a matter of time until, like al-Qusayr, Palestine is returned to her rightful, indigenous inhabitants.
“Israel one of world’s most unpopular countries and it’s getting worse: BBC survey,” Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, June 6, 2013
Last week the Senate passed Resolution 65, mandating a new round of sanctions against Iran and promising to support Israel if it should choose to launch a unilateral war. The bill contradicted explicit US policy in a number of areas: it imposed secondary penalties on US allies; it lowered the bar for military action to Israel’s preferred language of “nuclear capability” rather than acquisition of a nuclear weapon; and it interferes with the attempt to reach a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear impasse at a delicate time. No wonder Secretary of State John Kerry implored Congress not to pass the bill when he testified before the Senate Foreign relations committee last month.
Nevertheless, the Senate bill came to a vote on May 22, and the result – in a roll call vote – was 99-0 in favor of the bill.
In the last Congress, another Iran Sanctions measure – an amendment attached to the 2012 Defense Appropriation Bill — was also opposed by the Obama administration. The provision, probably illegal under WTO rules, mandated secondary penalties against foreign banks which did business with Iran’s oil sector (US banks were already banned from doing so). Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner wrote a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee “to express the Administration’s strong opposition to this amendment because, in its current form, it threatens to undermine the effective, carefully phased, and sustainable approach we have taken to build strong international pressure against Iran.” Two State Department officials of the Administration testified against the amendment; Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry also opposed the measure.
However, when the amendment’s sponsors insisted on a roll call vote, it passed 100-0. Even Senator Kerry voted for the measure he had earlier opposed.
To understand how this can happen, it is useful to look at the Israel Lobby’s legislative MO — as well as the larger dynamic around Israel advocacy within the US Congress, in our political system and in the press.
AIPAC, of course, is the premier Israel Lobby organization. Every March at its annual Conference the group assembles a huge turnout of moneyed and grassroots lobbyists. Scores of members of Congress from both parties and political aspirants of all stripes jockey to express their loyalty to the Lobby. It is at these conferences that AIPAC’s major legislative priorities for the year are unveiled. This always includes renewed (and increased) military aid for Israel and for the last ten years or so various measures to oppose, sanction and preferably make war on to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran — Israel’s last remaining serious military opponent in the Middle East.
Here is the way it works.
–In the days before the yearly AIPAC conference in early March, reliable members of Congress from both parties – preferably non-Jews – are prevailed upon to submit AIPAC-drafted bills with a substantial number of initial bi-partisan sponsors. This year the highlighted legislation included House Res. 850, The Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013,introduced on February 28 by California Democrat Rep. Edward Royce and 31 co-sponsors (16 Democrats and 15 Republicans); and Senate Res. 65, Strongly Supporting the Full Implementation of United States and International Sanctions On Iran, also introduced on February 28 by the every dependable Senator Lindsey Graham [R-SC] and 22 initial co-sponsors (13 Democrats and 9 Republicans). Another bill, apparently a late entry from the March 2-4 Conference itself, did not follow the preferred pattern. House Res. 938, The United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013 was introduced hurriedly on March 4 by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen [R-FL27] with only two Democratic co-sponsors. These three bills embodied AIPAC’s 2013 declared legislative priorities: Prevent Iranian Nuclear Weapons Capability; Strengthen U.S.-Israel Strategic Cooperation; Support Security Assistance for Israel.
– Then, before leaving Washington, the AIPAC Conference attendees launch themselves on Capitol Hill to recruit more co-sponsors for the AIPAC bills. Initially, this is mostly pushing on an open door, as many legislators are eager to join the bandwagon; some were simply not asked earlier in the interest of bi-partisan balance; some were not quick enough to get listed when the initial bills were introduced. Within a few weeks of the AIPAC Conference Senate Res. 65 had an additional 55 co-sponsors, House Res. 850 added more than 250 sponsors; and House Res. 983 more than 150.
–The effort continues to line up more cosponsors with the aim of securing an irresistible momentum for the bills. Many legislators simply take more time to pin down; others (few) might have been reluctant holdouts persuaded not to find themselves isolated against the AIPAC juggernaut. An AIPAC staffer once famously bragged that “in twenty-four hours, we could have the signatures of seventy senators on a napkin”. It took a little longer this time, but Senate Res. 65 already had 91 co-sponsors before it came up for a vote. House Res. 850, still pending, now has 351 co-sponsors; H. Res. 983 has 271.
–Not all AIPAC-initiated legislation follows this pattern. Other bills or amendments come up during the year and are pushed as opportunities or needs present themselves. Some of these bills – and the frequent “Congressional Letters” of support for Israel — have little practical impact on policy but are part of AIPAC’s promotion of discipline among US legislators. I call it “puppy training,” so that members of Congress are reflexively obedient to AIPAC’s legislative agenda. The 29 standing ovations for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he addressed Congress in 2011 are a good illustration of the outcome. Pavlov had nothing on the Israel Lobby.
It might be tempting to conclude – as AIPAC and its allies contend – that Congress acts in response to the overwhelming public support for Israel. However, it is important to observe that votes on the Lobby’s bills are rarely much publicized in the US – as opposed to Israeli –mainstream media. Of course, the pro-Israel political machine, the Rightwing and Zionist blogosphere do pay close attention, ever-ready to reward or punish legislative misbehavior. Most of the public remains, by design, completely unaware of these political maneuverings. Not long ago, House Republican Whip Eric Cantor proposed voting separately on military aid to Israel so as to insulate it from potential cuts to Pentagon spending, but he was quickly persuaded to drop the idea. The Israel Lobby prefers to have the $3 billion plus in annual aid to Israel discretely hidden within the vast Defense Appropriation Bill.
So the power of AIPAC derives not fundamentally from Israel’s vast popularity. Although opinion polls do regularly confirm the public supports Israel at a much higher level than the Palestinians (no surprise), substantial pluralities still prefer that the US stay neutral in the conflict. I have seen no polling about support for the billions in military aid to Israel each year. It is hard to imagine that the majority response would be anything but negative in the light of cuts to funding other popular government programs. Not surprisingly the Lobby prefers “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on the question of yearly $billions for Israel.
The apparent dominance of the Israel Lobby in Congress stems from what I would call “asymmetric politics”. AIPAC represents the power of a well-funded and single-issue political machine. It is quick to punish recalcitrant legislators – or to reward good behavior with dollars and campaign support from the many PACS and rich donors who take its direction.
On the other side, the advocates for Palestinian rights are scattered, poor and little threat to incumbent legislators. The Arab and Muslim communities cannot match the Israel Lobby’s Jewish financial base or it mobilized grassroots numbers. Many of their communities are relatively new in the US, insecure and targeted by the well-funded complex of anti-Arab, anti-Muslim mobilization since 9/11. The great mass of the public are simply not involved and not paying much attention to the Israel-Palestine conflict or much aware of pro-Israel political power in Congress.
Seen in this light, members of Congress – ever averse to risk, as are all elected officials – are behaving rationally when they defer to the Israel Lobby. They pay little or no price for playing ball with AIPAC and risk a backlash with no apparent reward if they don’t.
As for the broader anti-war and progressive movements, even when they have adopted good positions on Palestinian rights or opposing the Lobby-supported drive for war with Iran, these issues usually turn out to be “expendable” in comparison to other agendas.
Two recent examples will illustrate this dynamic.
This Spring, a well-established national peace organization, with a significant branch in Massachusetts, decided to endorse Democratic Rep. Ed Markey prior to the special primary election for John Kerry’s vacated Senate seat. Markey is on the right side of most issues progressive hold dear, but he was also an initial supporter of the Iraq War. And he has become a very reliable backer of Israel-Lobby legislative priorities, where in Massachusetts he is something of an outlier on these issues. He was among only three Mass delegation co-sponsors of H. Res. 850 and among only two of H. Res. 983. He is also a dependable signer of whatever letter AIPAC is collecting signatures for, such as the one supporting the assault on Gaza a few years ago.
Some members of the peace organization argued in favor of no endorsement for Markey – at least in the primary – because of his poor record on Iran and Palestine, but they were outvoted. The majority argued that an endorsement and fundraising for Markey would give them “access” to promote better positions on these issues after the election. A cynic may wonder whether Markey, or any other progressive legislator would take this seriously. A long-serving national board member of the group resigned in protest.
Then there is Massachusetts’ celebrity Senator Elizabeth Warren. Many of her progressive supporters were uneasy over the boiler-plate pro-Israel language on her campaign web site, however there was little doubt that she was a genuine populist on other issues and would bring a rare progressive voice to the halls of Congress. This, in large measure, she has done.
However, when push came to shove, Sen. Warren was persuaded to add her name as a sponsor to Senate Res. 65 – late to be sure (not until May 7) – and she joined in the unanimous vote in favor of the bill. Now Warren, a faculty member of Harvard Law School undoubtedly knows the score on the Israel and Iran issues. It is hard to imagine she hasn’t had certain conversations in the Faculty Club about Palestine, heard about the many events at her school on issues of Human Rights and International Law in the Middle East or understood the role of the Israel Lobby in war-promotion and military spending.
No doubt Warren rationalized her vote pragmatically. Why risk becoming an isolated Senate freshman and losing her political credibility? Why not submit to what was required in order to give her space to battle on other political issues she cared about? For Senator Warren – as for so many progressives and Liberals — her seat is worth the price of a vote for AIPAC.
This is the way asymmetric politics works for the Israel Lobby. It is the dynamic that puts our country in opposition to most of the world with respect to International Law and peace in the Middle East. And it may yet succeed in getting us into a war with Iran.
Why Washington and Tel Aviv Want Hezbollah to Keep Fighting in al-Qusayr…
Homs Province, Syria…
During a tour of some of the neighborhoods in Homs, Syria’s third largest city after Aleppo and Damascus, with a pre-conflict population of approximately 800,000 (nearly half Homs residents have fled over the past two years) located maybe about 22 miles NE of the current hot-spot of al-Qusayr, this observer engaged is a few interesting conversations. More accurately labeled diatribes–with some long bearded Sunni fundamentalists who claimed they came from Jabhat al Nusra, aka Jabhat an-Nuṣrah li-Ahl ash-Shām, “Front of Defense for the People of Greater Syria”), and were preparing to return to al Qusayr to fight “the deniers of Allah”!
It is the strategic crossroads town of al-Qusayr, and its environs, which whoever controls, can block supplies and reinforcements to and from Damascus and locations north and east. For those seeking the ouster of Syria’s government, including NATO countries led by Washington, were their “allies” to lose control of al-Qusayr it would mean the cutting off of supplies from along the Lebanese border, from which most of the local opposition’s weapons flow and fighters have been smuggled over the past 26 months. If the Assad regime forces regain control of the city, Washington believes they will move north and conquer current opposition positions in Homs and Rastan, both areas being dependent on support from Lebanon and al-Qusayr. Some analysts are saying this morning, with perhaps a bit of hyperbole that as al-Qusayr goes so goes Syria and the National Lebanese Resistance, led by Hezbollah.
If government forces can retake the city it will put an end to the Saudi-Qatari green light, in exchange for controlling al-Qusayr, of the setting up a Salafist emirate in the area which would constitute a threat to the nearly two dozen Shia Lebanese inhabited villages of the Hermel region. If the Syrian army re-takes al-Qusayr, it would also avoid the likelihood of a full-fledged sectarian war on both sides of the border.
Meeting with a few self-proclaimed al Nusra Front militiaman last week, in Homs, one who spoke excellent British English they had plenty to say to this observer about current events in al Qusayr to which they planned to return the next day to fight enemies “by all means Allah gives us”. One added, when asked if they had confronted Hezbollah: “Of course but Hezbollah can’t defeat us. Eventually they will withdraw from Syria on orders from Tehran. But first enshallah we will bleed Hezbollah with thousands of cut throats”, he boasted raucously as nearby kids cheered and gave V for victory signs, smiles, giggles and cackling all around.
Such Jihadist rants are music to more than a few US congressional and White House ears these days, as once more in this region, a major US-Israeli carefully calibrated regime change project, appears to be falling short.
This week, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted overwhelmingly to arm elements of the Syrian opposition with a recommendation to “provide defense articles, defense services, and military training” directly to the opposition throughout Syria, who naturally, will “have been properly and fully vetted and share common values and interests with the United States”. History teaches that the vetting part would not happen if the scheme is implemented, despite only a few in Congress objecting.
Perhaps lacking some of his father Ron Paul’s insights into US hegemonic plans for this region, Senator Rand Paul did object to the measure and he fumed at his colleagues: ”This is an important moment. You will be funding, today, the allies of al Qaeda. It’s an irony you cannot overcome.”
According to the Hill Rag weekly, veteran war-hawks Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham, flashed a knowing smile but gave no rebuttal, perhaps realizing that Senator Paul is a bit untutored on the reality of current Obama Administration policy in Syria generally, and for al-Qusayr, in particular.
Contrary to the shock and anger expressed by Senator Paul, American policy in Syria is to de facto assist allies of al Qaeda including the US “Terrorist-listed” Al-
Their victory according to US Senate sources would be a severe blow and challenge to Iran’s rising influence in the region and Iran’s leadership of the increasing regional and global resistance to the Zionist occupiers of Palestine in favor of the full right to return of every ethnically cleansed Palestinian refugee.
While Congress was considering what else to do to help the “rebels”, on 5/22/13, no fewer than 11 so-called “World powers” foreign ministers, including Turkey and Jordan, met in Amman to condem, with straight faces, even, tongues in cheek, the “flagrant intervention” in Syria by Hezbollah and Iranian fighters.” They urged their immediate withdrawal from the war-torn country. In a joint statement, the “Friends of Syria” group called “for the immediate withdrawal of Hezbollah and Iranian fighters, and other regime allied foreign fighters from Syrian territory.”
Not one peep of course, about the Salafist-Jihadist-Takfuri fighters from more than 30 countries now ravaging Syria’s population. The truth of the matter is that the governments represented by their foreign ministers this week in Amman, will follow the US lead which means they will assist, despite some cautionary public words, virtually any ally of al-Qaeda whose fighting in Syria may be seen as weakening the Assad government and its supporters in Iran and Lebanon.
According to one long-term Congressional aide to a prominent Democratic Senator from the West Coast, while the Amman gathering described Hezbollah’s armed presence in Syria as “a threat to regional stability”, the White House could not be more pleased that Hezbollah is in al-Qusayr.” When pressed via email for elaboration, the Middle East specialist offered the view that the White House agrees with Israel that al-Qusayr may become Hezbollah’s Dien Bein Phu and the Syrian conflict could well turn into Iran’s “Vietnam”. ..Quite a few folks around here (Capitol Hill) think al-Qusayr will remove Hezbollah from the list of current threats to Israel. And the longer they keep themselves bogged down in quick-sand over there the better for Washington and Tel Aviv. Hopefully they will remain in al-Qusayr for a long hot summer and gut their ranks in South Lebanon via battle field attrition and Israel can make its move and administer a coup de grace.”
The staffer followed up with another email with only one short sentence and a smiley face:
“Of course the White House and its concrete wall-solid ally might be wrong!”
The dangers for Hezbollah are obvious – that it may be drawn ever deeper into a bottomless pit of conflict in Syria that could leave it severely depleted and prey to a hoped for death-blow from Israel.
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah and other party officials have dismissed that possibility.
The next few weeks may tell.