Must listen; impressive determination and courage. Click on image
Listen also to this Battlefield America: U.S. Citizens Face Indefinite Military Detention in Defense Bill Before Senate
It is the lowly policemen or security men who beat and groped Mona and have abused and killed hundreds of other unarmed protesters in Egypt. The same holds true of the killing and mistreatment of protesters in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The real guilt, however, lies squarely on shoulders of the likes of Col. Jaffar and his superiors who in their words and actions encourage and excuse the behavior of their subordinates. Ultimately, General Tantawi is directly responsible for the recent deaths and abuse in Tahrir square as is Bashar Al Assad responsible for the thousands of deaths, disappearances, detentions and abuse of prisoners perpetrated by the forces he ultimately commands.
Before any of the niceties of democratic governance, the citizens of the Arab world urgently need and deserve a much more basic human right: the right to be treated with dignity and respect. It is the lack of this fundamental right that has ignited the Arab uprisings and it is the unrelenting daily toll of deaths and abuse that fans the flames of rebellion. In the United States, the pepper spraying of Occupy protesters sparked outrage and was relentlessly covered by the media for a week, the video of the incident replayed (in slo mo) ad nauseum. Meanwhile, after a week of mayhem and the killing of forty one protesters, all the Egyptian government can come up with is a lame apology, quickly negated by statements similar to that of Col. Jaffar. The Bahraini government, to its credit, and without excusing any of its past and ongoing transgressions, appointed an independent commission and actually allowed it to publicly present damning evidence of abuse and torture by government forces. This is the first step towards transparency and accountability.
We will not see such transparency any time soon in Syria under the leadership of a very myopic eye doctor in chief. Bashar and his propaganda machine, in complete denial, continue to lament the loss of life of the abusers never seeming to care about the abused, his own citizens. The heart wrenching lament of a middle aged Syrian protester who appears on one of the hundreds of Youtube videos sums it up best: His voice trembling and on the verge of tears he cries out “I am not an animal, I am not an animal! I am a human being!” and pointing to all the people around him he adds “we are all human beings and deserve to be treated like human beings”. It is a very simple and very basic request and it this demand for dignity and respect that is at the heart of all the popular uprising from Tunisia to Bahrain.
And so to president Bashar Al Assad I say: “It is the people, stupid!”. It is not about salafists, or terrorists or imperialist designs…. It is not about secterianism or the Hariri-KSA-Zionist plot… It is not about pan-Arabism or resistance or Baathist ideals. It is about about the people asking for their most basic rights.
The big news this week has been about the Arab League’s imposing economic sanctions on Syria. In a nutshell, Syrian regime officials will no longer be able to travel to other Arab countries, and Syrian regime assets will be frozen wherever they are found. The League stressed that normal transfers from expatriate Syrians will still be allowed through, in the hope that the sanctions will have less of an effect on the average Syrian. Beirut and Baghdad have both rejected these sanctions, and it seems they will carry on business as usual with Assad’s regime:
Sheikh Hamad said Arab nations wanted to avoid a repeat of what happened in Libya, where aU.N. Security Council resolution led to NATO air strikes. He warned other Arab states that the West could intervene if it felt the league was not “serious.””All the work that we are doing is to avoid this interference,” he said.
Belgium’s links to Israel’s war industry appear to be getting stronger.
At least, that is what I learned from a recent briefing by arms trade monitor Thierry de Lannoy.
He cited data indicating that Belgium is the fourth largest provider of weapons to Israel in the European Union. As the top three — France, Germany and Britain — are much larger countries hosting some of the world’s leading “defense” companies, that ranking alone appears significant for a relative minnow like Belgium. At €14 million ($18.5 million), the volume of arms contracts approved by the Belgian authorities to Israel was particularly high in 2005, the year before Israel killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, in Lebanon.
“Made in Belgium” components are essential to some of the most sophisticated and lethal instruments in Israel’s arsenal, as de Lannoy explained.
U2 hire military firm
Barco, a firm registered in the Dutch-speaking city of Kortrijk, is a provider of graphic screens to the pilotless drones — or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) — that Israel used to attack Gaza in late 2008 and 2009. The same firm’s brochures, incidentally, brag of how it provided screen and lighting technology to the Irish rock band U2 for its latest world tour. Considering how Bono, the band’s singer, used that technology to declare support for human rights, pressure should be put on him and other musicians to cease doing business with Barco.
De Lannoy also drew attention to how Israel’s top weapons producer, Elbit, is now in charge of a few Belgian companies. In 2003, an Elbit subsidiary El-Op Industries bought Optronics Instruments and Products (OIP) in Oudenaarde, a town in Flanders. OIP, which makes sensors and detection equipment for military clients, went on to buy Sabiex, a tank distributor headquartered in Braine l’Alleud, a French-speaking part of Belgium, last year.
The campaign group Intal yesterday held a “die-in” protest at the central train station in Brussels to raise awareness about Belgian cooperation with Israel’s war industry. As I was one of those who lay on the ground as part of the action, it was difficult for me to gauge how it was received among the public. Fellow protesters who handed out flyers, however, reported that the response was generally positive, with many passersby expressing an interesting in learning more about the topic.
Arms cooperation with Israel is almost certainly illegal. Since 2008, all of the EU’s countries have been bound by a code of conduct on arms exports, which says that weapons should not be sold to countries where they are likely to be used for repression or where they are likely to contribute to aggravating tensions among neighbors. If the EU showed any respect for its own laws, then it wouldn’t be trading a single bullet with Israel.