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February 2013

UAE : missing

 
"This is the story of my brother Khaled an Irish/Syrian man in the UAE: The last week of December 2012 the UAE government agents called Khaled into their offices for questioning. Hours later Khaled went to their offices during the integration they asked about the money he’s being sending to Syria and about his opinion toward the Syrian regime and the uprising. They asked if he would stop his support for the revolution. Khaled said he sends money to his father and he would not stop supporting the revolution. A week later, Khaled booked a ticket to go to Ireland at the airport they stopped him and asked to go back see the security since he was not allow to leave the UAE for some unknown reason. Khaled went to see them again. They told him everything should be okay. However, when Khaled went to the airport a week later with a new reservation attempting to go to Ireland he faced a new allegation that he was no permitted to leave the country either permitted to work anymore and that he is under house arrest for no apparent reason.  On Thursday February 7th 2013 they called Khaled and asked him to come down on Sunday the 10th to their office for questioning and bring down your passports because he’s dual citizenships. At that date Khaled went missing and there is now where to be found. By night fall his brothers went to the police asking about where his about. They told them we don’t know anything about this individual. From Sunday to Tuesday his brothers asked hospitals, airports and police stations no one would know anything about his disappearance. On Tuesday went back in person to the police station to make an official report about his missing brother. Two hours later, the police called Ibrahim –Khaled’s younger brother – and told him that Khaled is in our custody and you need to stop asking and searching. On Thursday, the security agents came to Khaled’s house with Khaled to get some documents and a SIM card as they went to his sister’s house to get more documents belong to Khaled. As Khaled looked up his sister’s yes asking her to pray for him.  There have been a quiet few incidents where the UAE’s security agents arrested many Syrians activists and forced them to sign an agreements stated that they won’t practice activities against the Syrian regime in order to be released. Khaled refused to sign this agreement. Although, Khaled’s and the other young activists only activities against the Syrian regime was over his wall on Facebook.  Until this moment, Khaled still missing, has no right for a lawyer, has not being charged with any crime, nor is he allowed his family to contact him.  Khaled has a dual citizenship an Irish and a Syrian’s"

‎”This is the story of my brother Khaled an Irish/Syrian man in the UAE:

The last week of December 2012 the UAE government agents called Khaled into their offices for questioning. Hours later Khaled went to their offices during the integration they asked about the money he’s being sending to Syria and about his opinion toward the Syrian regime and the uprising. They asked if he would stop his support for the revolution. Khaled said he sends money to his father and he would not stop supporting the revolution. A week later, Khaled booked a ticket to go to Ireland at the airport they stopped him and asked to go back see the security since he was not allow to leave the UAE for some unknown reason. Khaled went to see them again. They told him everything should be okay. However, when Khaled went to the airport a week later with a new reservation attempting to go to Ireland he faced a new allegation that he was no permitted to leave the country either permitted to work anymore and that he is under house arrest for no apparent reason.

On Thursday February 7th 2013 they called Khaled and asked him to come down on Sunday the 10th to their office for questioning and bring down your passports because he’s dual citizenships. At that date Khaled went missing and there is now where to be found. By night fall his brothers went to the police asking about where his about. They told them we don’t know anything about this individual. From Sunday to Tuesday his brothers asked hospitals, airports and police stations no one would know anything about his disappearance. On Tuesday went back in person to the police station to make an official report about his missing brother. Two hours later, the police called Ibrahim –Khaled’s younger brother – and told him that Khaled is in our custody and you need to stop asking and searching. On Thursday, the security agents came to Khaled’s house with Khaled to get some documents and a SIM card as they went to his sister’s house to get more documents belong to Khaled. As Khaled looked up his sister’s yes asking her to pray for him.
There have been a quiet few incidents where the UAE’s security agents arrested many Syrians activists and forced them to sign an agreements stated that they won’t practice activities against the Syrian regime in order to be released. Khaled refused to sign this agreement. Although, Khaled’s and the other young activists only activities against the Syrian regime was over his wall on Facebook.

Until this moment, Khaled still missing, has no right for a lawyer, has not being charged with any crime, nor is he allowed his family to contact him.

Khaled has a dual citizenship an Irish and a Syrian’s”

Palestinian chutzpah

Gideon Levy
Home Opinion

Now you demonstrate? After all, we’ve already told you we no longer care what happens to you.
By Gideon Levy | Feb.24, 2013 | 4:39 AM | 9

My Palestinian brothers (for your information, everyone’s a “brother” around here these days ), aren’t you ashamed? How dare you protest and throw stones? How dare you disturb the peace; build “illegal” outposts on your own private land; go on hunger strikes; demonstrate solidarity with prisoners; protest the closing of Shuhada Street in Hebron and the rearrest of freed prisoners; sneak into Israel to find work; oppose the eviction of people from their homes; protest that you are not allowed to reach your farmlands; protest against the fence that was built in your area; threaten a third intifada? Are you out of your minds? Where do you get such chutzpah?

Now you demonstrate? After all, we’ve already told you we no longer care what happens to you. Right and left, they all told you loud and clear. Even that warrior for social justice, MK Shelly Yacimovich, told you that Israelis don’t care about you, and you just don’t understand. Can’t you see that we’re busy? We have momentous questions before us – sharing the military burden; the number of ministers; Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s pistachio ice cream; Yesh Atid MK Ruth Calderon’s inaugural Knesset speech; and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s alleged love life.

So who can think about you? Israel is trying to put together a coalition. It is still not clear whether the eternal alliance between Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid and Habayit Hayehudi’s Naftali Bennett will last, and you dare to bother us with your foolishness? Lapid doesn’t want the “Hanin Zuabis”; Bennett doesn’t want “Abu”; and you just don’t get it. You don’t see they are so worried about the people of Israel that they have no time for you, so how dare you remind them of your existence.

Occupation-shmoccupation; human and civil rights; expulsion and stealing; self-determination; two states for two peoples; the separation fence; 5,000 prisoners – you buzz around like bothersome mosquitoes. Leave us alone, you’re boring us.

How much longer are you going to keep bothering us with your little problems? How much longer are you going to keep bothering the world? Can’t you see that U.S. President Barack Obama is coming on another emotional-blackmail visit, to prostrate himself on the graves of Yitzhak Rabin and Theodor Herzl and at Yad Vashem, so why should you bother him, either? Sit tight, my brothers: in Syria, things are worse.

Sit tight: the occupation is only 46 years old. Be happy with what you have. You’re in good hands – the hands of the only democracy in the Middle East. Don’t bother it and don’t stop it from continuing to flourish. Its old politics didn’t take an interest in you and its new politics – even less. Just ask the harbingers of the new politics, Lapid and Bennett, over whom Israel is so enthusiastic right now. Neither of them probably ever met a (living ) Palestinian in their life, nor do they want to. You’ll miss Netanyahu yet, you’ll miss Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak, from the old guard. They at least talked to you. So be happy with what you have.

Think ahead. It won’t be that long before you are the majority here. And even before that, the world will not stand for you to live without rights. Guilt feelings over the Holocaust will subside. The Jewish lobby – yes, it’s Jewish – might lose some of its strength. And besides, natural justice is with you, history is on your side.

Rotten tyrannies like the Israeli occupation have never lasted forever. So sit tight, my brothers, and wait for the future. If it doesn’t happen in your lifetime, perhaps it will in your grandchildren’s. True, you have suffered enough, but a human being is like a tree in a field; when you get whipped, bend your head submissively. After all, you have tried everything: negotiations and terror; recognition and compromise; the first intifada; the second intifada.

Nothing much came out of it all. The settlers have tripled, the Knesset is full of their representatives, and Israel has completely stopped dealing with you. True, if you sit tight you will be forgotten; if you protest, they will say you are terrorists. But the most important thing is: not now. Not when Israel is busy, not when Israel has had it with you, with your wailing, your sobbing and your demands.

It’s hard to be a Palestinian but, remember, it’s even harder to be a Jew. A Jew, after all, is always the victim; the only victim around

source

He Provided Them with Bananas

Karl Sharro  –  February 21, 2013

14

Karl Sharro is a Syria Deeply columnist,  London-based architect and Middle East commentator. He blogs at the wildly popular karlremarks.com and Tweets @KarlreMarks.

In the early 90s I was in a taxi heading from Lebanon to Damascus with several other passengers. The trips were always educational. This prime mode of transport between the two countries allowed one to meet people from various backgrounds and walks of life.

Listening to the coded way in which Syrians spoke was quite revealing. Nuggets of truth lay under layers of innuendo and seemingly apolitical language, decipherable only by the trained ear.

On that particular trip, we had an estaz on board, the generic description for an intellectual, usually a university professor or teacher. This particular estaz sported an audacious comb-over, which bestowed an added sense of respectability to his appearance.

In those days imports to Syria were still highly restricted and travellers took the opportunity of being in Lebanon to purchase products that were not available in Syria. Lebanese bread was particularly sought after, as well as fruits and other foods.

Before we were about to depart, the driver asked the estaz if he wanted to buy some bananas. The estaz declined.  Bananas weren’t in shortage in Syria any longer, he said.

Then he added, “God protect the president. [At the time, Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father.] He knows what the Syrian people want. He saw that the Syrian people wanted bananas, so he provided them with bananas.”

The pronouncement hung in the air for a while, before dissipating among the sea of mundane chatter that one was used to hearing in those days.

As it happened, that was the most profound political thought the estaz would make for the rest of the trip. To thank the ruler for his magnanimity in allowing the Syrian people access to bananas.

The words had come out un-selfconsciously, like the recitation of a familiar prayer. But for a learned man in particular, they must have been accompanied by a sense of shame at having to engage in this daily ritual of submission.

Those who don’t understand why Syria revolted two years ago are entirely oblivious to this deep sense of shame that its people lived with for decades.

It wasn’t the deprivation or lack of consumer goods. Rather, it was the incessant demand to submit to an all-knowing authority, one that cannot be questioned.

It was the lack of possibility, the closed doors of the future. It was the bureaucratic machine that reduced every citizen to a robot and then treated him or her accordingly.

In the 1980s, I remember going with a relative to an ice cream shop in one of Syria’s northeastern cities. I naively inquired about the flavors when the vendor was about to fill my scoop.

“Flavors? They’re all the same flavor, they’re just a different colour,” he said.

It was a perfect metaphor for the officially-sanctioned parties, available in various political shades but all subsumed by the ruling Ba’ath.

The illusion was elaborately constructed to remind you that you didn’t really have any choice.

Damascus in the 1960s was a thriving cultural center that had hundreds of media publications. By the ‘80s, just a handful was left. The two party-sponsored newspapers were completely interchangeable with little variation from day to day.

They provided sterile, mass-produced ‘opinions’ that were the journalistic equivalent of the estaz’s polyester suit. They belonged to a pacified intellectual class.

But they carried their shame with them. Everybody knew about the thousands in the regime’s prisons, those who refused to submit. Poets, writers, activists and workers who spent decades facing incarceration and torture but refused to sign a piece of paper denouncing their political aspirations.

Those on the outside felt that shame but thought they were helpless to do anything about it. They publicly sang the praises of the regime and the heroic role it played.

Syria’s rich and long history only increased the sense of shame. The feeling of being marginalized from the world’s consciousness was exacerbated by the ancient monuments that mocked your impotence.

What purpose does dwelling on past achievements serve other than to remind you of your helplessness and the squandered legacy you have not lived up to?

As Syria gradually opened to the Western world in the 1990s, the regime thought that it could pacify people by turning a blind eye to the satellite dishes that were sprouting like mushrooms on buildings, and later by allowing the internet.

But the feelings of inadequacy only increased. People could now compare between their lives and what was happening in the rest of the world. They had access to the internet, shopping malls and lots of bananas.

But they still had only one choice in presidential “elections.”

The sudden openness violently confronted Syrians with their helpless self-image. When the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt succeeded in removing aging dictators, the response in Syria, more than any other Arab country, was visceral.

Organised attempts at staging demonstrations never materialized. When the eruption came, it was brought about by the regime’s heavy-handedness and the instinctive reaction to it. The time for living with the shame was over.

Syria’s was the least well-articulated or organised of all the Arab uprisings. It was raw and abrasive.

The people who had the responsibility to lead the uprising failed it. Perhaps this was unavoidable, the accumulation of anger and shame got in the way of cold thinking and the decades of oppression meant that Syrians were starting from scratch.

What we’re seeing today isn’t what Syrians wanted. The situation got out of control, but the regime bears the main responsibility for that. What is clear is that there will be no return to the old ways. After all the sacrifices, the people of Syria won’t go back to living with their shame.

About the Author

Karl Sharro
@KarlreMarks.Karl Sharro is a Syria Deeply columnist, London-based architect and Middle East commentator. He blogs at the wildly popular karlremarks.com and Tweets @KarlreMarks.

SOUTOUR – IKRAM إكرام للثورة السورية

[youtube http://youtu.be/NczqBnVxCCE?]

SYRIA WITNESS: ‘She Refused to Even Look at Me’

February 18, 2013 By

Mideast Syria AleppoYisser Bittar, a Syrian-American, tells us that since she was a little girl she used to travel to Homs every year to visit relatives. Due to the civil war and intense fighting in the city, she was unable to visit last year, but says that she and six other Syrian-Americans managed in December to travel to a town north of Aleppo controlled by the Free Syrian Army. She shares her impressions – and emotions – further below.

Middle East Voices’ “Syria Witness” features personal accounts by citizen-journalists inside Syria about the grim challenges of survival in a war zone. These activists are often the only available street-level source of information about life in a country whose government restricts independent reporting.With Syrian expatriates having begun to enter areas of Syria now under rebel control, we have expanded the series to include their accounts.Syria Witness reports cannot be independently verified and, for their personal safety, some contributors do not use their real names. Accounts may be edited for reasons of clarity and style, but no changes to content are made.

By Yisser Bittar

She refused to even look at me. The wife of a Free Syrian Army soldier refused to look at me when I asked for her forgiveness.

We were visiting her home, just an hour after one of the Syrian government’s Sukhoi fighter jets had dropped a barrel bomb about 500 meters from where we were staying on our visit to this town. The bomb was loaded with diesel fuel, shrapnel and TNT. It killed 18 Syrian civilians in less than five seconds, wiping out two entire families.

Within that one hour, I experienced shock, fear and anger. Shock that we had witnessed what we had seen back in the States on YouTube videos hundreds of times over; fear as the plane buzzed by three more times and we held our breath as we waited to see whether or not we would survive; and anger at how unfair the world is.

If we seven Syrian-Americans had been killed by an Assad airstrike, the world would care for at least a week, but because those two families were just Syrians, they are 18 of the scores of Syrians that are killed each day in this war, now in its 23rd month.

Consumed by Syria’s revolution

I am Syrian-American, born and raised in the United States. My mother and father are both from the city of Homs, and I have spent every summer in Homs since I was born.

My life has been enveloped by this revolution as I watch my loved ones fight and die for their right to love their country. The Syrian diaspora is a vital part of the revolution but the international community has more or less abandoned the people of Syria as they face snipers, tanks, MIG and Sukhoi jets, and the threat of chemical weapons; but there is only so much we can do.

I traveled to Syria to connect directly with the people on the ground in order to find ways to strengthen and revitalize our support for the revolution. What I saw was a heartbreaking reality.

“I held back tears when young men in the refugee camps chanted, ‘You are only good at taking pictures.’” – Yisser Bittar

The Syrian people feel and know they have been abandoned. Whether it is by the diaspora, the Arab states or the West, they trust absolutely no one.

My heart was wrenched every time we were asked about our intentions during our visit. I held back tears when young men in the refugee camps chanted, “You are only good at taking pictures.”

Recitations of our false promises

I sat in silence as my people recited our false promises of aid and support. I nodded in agreement when I was told that these Syrians will refuse any humanitarian aid if they sense there is a political agenda. I had nothing to say.

For almost two years, the Syrian people have gotten nothing but lip service. As Assad has starved, raped, destroyed and murdered his people, the people of Syria have heard nothing but words of condemnation of the government from the international community.

I don’t blame them for their anger. I don’t blame them when they ask me, “What do you want from us?” I don’t blame them when they refuse to have pictures or interviews taken; two years of media coverage and the promises of aid and victory and they see that nothing has come of it. The Syrian people know that the world is aware of their tragic fate and that the world continues to turn a blind eye. They are angry and how can I blame them?

“She had every right to continue her blank stare when I asked for her forgiveness.” – Yisser Bittar

As I was walking out of the Free Syria Army fighter’s house, a sense of shame overtook me. His wife had every right to refuse to look at me. She had every right to continue her blank stare when I asked for her forgiveness. I asked for it because we were leaving. Running away.

I was a Syrian, turning my back on my fellow Syrians to run to safety.

I was not the West nor was I the Arab states. I was one of them, but I am privileged to be American. With that privilege, I can flee war and return to safety, turn my back on my people who are left to wait and see if they will live to see the next day.

And all they can do in the meantime is watch their children play soccer in the streets as women go about about taking down their laundry.

NOTE: To become a Syria Witness and tell your own inside-Syria story, contact David Arnold, coordinator of our Syria Witness project at syriawitness(at)gmail.com. For safety reasons, we strongly urge you to use a browser-based e-mail (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail) and be sure “https” appears in the URL. You can also invite Arnold to Skype at davidarnold70.

 SYRIA WITNESS: She Refused to Even Look at Me

David Arnold

David Arnold coordinates the Syria Witness project at Middle East Voices and reports on Middle East and North Africa affairs for both Voice of America and MEV. The Syria Witness project publishes on-the-ground citizen reporting, giving Syrians the opportunity to offer to a global audience their first-person narratives of life on the streets of their war-torn country.

European Policy on Syria : the Time for Caution is Past

Syrian anti-regime protesters wave pre-Baath Syrian flags, now used by the Free Syrian Army, during a demonstration after the weekly Friday prayers in the Bustan al-Qasr district of the northern city of Aleppo on February 8, 2013 (photo: Aamir Qureishi/AFP/Getty Images)

18.02.2013

In view of the suffering and the destruction in Syria and the reticence of the US, the Europeans must assume more responsibility. They should expedite the reconstruction of liberated territories, bolster the National Coalition, finance rebels fighting for a democratic Syria and apply diplomatic pressure to pave the way for a political transition, says Kristin Helberg

Damascus may appear to be a city on an alien planet when viewed from Washington, but for Berlin, Paris, Rome and Athens, Syria is pretty much on the doorstep (unlike Mali). If this is why US President Barack Obama believes his nation can do nothing more in Syria than help with the distribution of food, clothing and medicaments, then it is the responsibility of the Europeans to act even more decisively.

Several things need to be happening at the same time. The liberated regions in the northeast of the country need humanitarian aid and support in the establishment of alternative state structures. This necessitates swift, unbureaucratic and creative solutions.

With the help of international NGOs and the local councils that have been set up in many places, EU representatives can establish what the population is lacking and how they can help to set up a functioning administration. Bakeries need flour, garbage trucks and ambulances need fuel and replacement parts, hospitals need medical equipment and staff, and schools need new windows, furniture and heating oil.

Stimulating the economy

In the medium-term, priority should be given to stimulating the economy and not to the distribution of alms – helping people to help themselves, instead of creating dependence and frustration.

(photo: Jan-Niklas Kniewel/dpa)
“If President Barack Obama believes his nation can do nothing more in Syria than help with the distribution of food, clothing and medicaments, then it is the responsibility of the Europeans to act even more decisively,” Kristin Helberg writes. Picture: UN staff members hand out food rations in Aleppo Syrians are experienced businesspeople, and in traditional commercial centres such as Aleppo it makes more sense to enable a soap manufacturer to get his business up and running again and employ staff, than to be continually handing out food. Teachers and doctors must be encouraged to return to their jobs. And in the rural regions of the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo, farmers need seeds and customers for their products. Exports from rebel-controlled areas must not be allowed to falter because of a lack of trading regulations.

The more quickly a functioning public order is established, living conditions are improved and post-war job prospects created, the less likely it is that radical groups will gain a foothold in society. In addition, liberated regions could then serve as a positive example to the rest of the country of how a future Syria can look.

But thus far, the Syrian opposition has unfortunately not been in a position to take up the many impressive local initiatives and flesh them out into coherent structures. It is still waiting for a certain energetic support promised to it by Washington and other “Friends of Syria” in the event of an agreement. But the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces formed in November 2012 urgently needs financial, logistical, structural and content-related support if it is going to establish a provisional government within Syria.

This is the only way it will be able to gradually assume the administration of liberated territories, build up trust in oppositional institutions, become a credible point of contact for international donor countries and thereby provide an answer to the key question of what is in store for the nation after the toppling of Assad.

The National Coalition’s shrewd tactis

By offering to negotiate with Syria’s Vice President Farouk Al Sharaa, National Coalition leader Mouaz Al Khatib has shown that the coalition is doing its political homework and gaining a greater appreciation of the rules of international diplomacy.

Head of the National Coalition of Forces of the Syrian Revolution and Opposition, Ahmad Mouaz Al-Khatib arrives to a meeting with European foreign affairs ministers in Brussels, Belgium, 10 December 2012 (photo: dpa)
Doing their political homework: Despite the appalling violence, Mouaz al-Khatib, the president of the opposition coalition, has said he would negotiate with representatives of Syria’s governing party – though not with Assad or members of his security services. This move puts the ball firmly in the regime’s court, Helberg writes Al Khatib does not want to discuss the future of Syria with Assad, but rather give the leadership of the regime the opportunity to peacefully hand over power to prevent any further bloodshed.

Instead of making Assad’s resignation a pre-condition for negotiations, it is hoped a political solution will bring this about – a shrewd move that puts the ball firmly in the regime’s court.

Rulers in Damascus will find it difficult to write off Al Khatib as a “marionette of the West” and refuse talks, particularly after even Syria’s allies Russia and Iran met with the coalition leader in Munich. In doing so, the Syrian leadership is exposing its own dialogue rhetoric for what is really is: hollow talk and a play for time. In the end, Assad and his cronies emerge as the true obstacle to a political solution.

The National Coalition and international diplomacy

The EU can expedite this delegitimisation of the Syrian regime by not only formally recognising the National Coalition as the representative of the Syrian people, but also by practically treating it as such. Its members could be accredited as new Syrian ambassadors, as they already have been in France and several Gulf states, and embassy buildings handed over to the coalition, as happened recently in Qatar.

Of course, the National Coalition still lacks the necessary democratic legitimisation at home and its actions have triggered much criticism. But at the present time, it is the broadest opposition alliance making it the only body capable of spawning an initial alternative to the Assad regime. This fact must be realised by Moscow above all, to step up diplomatic pressure on Assad and his entourage.

A picture of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is seen on the ground at the army base at Hawa village, north Aleppo December 23, 2012 (photo: Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters)
“The vexing issue of armed resistance”: In view of the increasing militarization and imminent radicalisation of society, a swift and decisive victory by the Free Syrian Army would currently be the best scenario for Syria, Helberg writes As soon as possible, Syria should be represented at the Arab League and United Nations by members of the opposition and not by diplomats from the regime. Only then does international aid for Syria recently approved by the UN make sense – a package totalling 519 million US dollars. The regime is supposed to use this money to help those it previously bombed out of their homes, look after the widows and orphans left behind by the men it has killed, and reconstruct the schools and hospitals it has intentionally reduced to rubble. Humanitarian aid could hardly be more cynical.

In these circumstances, the Europeans would be well advised not to put their Syria funds in the UN pot, thereby indirectly financing Assad’s war against his own people. Instead, they should assign a portion of this money to the National Coalition, and use another portion to promote projects in liberated territories, preferably in areas of their own core competence: Establishment of infrastructure and administration, transitional justice, political education and the strengthening of civil society structures.

The best scenario

Which leaves the vexing issue of armed resistance. In view of the increasing militarization and imminent radicalisation of society, and in view of the fact that 100 to 250 people are dying every day, a swift and decisive victory by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) would currently be the best scenario for Syria. After all, the longer the conflict continues, the less likely it is that an orderly transition can be achieved and peace re-established across the nation, and the greater the risk that Syria will descend into a state of protracted war thereby destabilising the entire region.

Kristin Helberg (photo: Jan Kulke / Foto Art Berlin)
Kristin Helberg worked as a freelance journalist in Damascus from 2001 to 2009. She is considered to be among the best Syria experts in Germany If it is going to defeat the regime, the armed opposition must be better organised and establish central command structures with the help of the National Coalition. Then, in the event that the regime is ousted, these structures could produce a new military leadership and defence ministry capable of restoring the state monopoly on the use of force and guaranteeing security for all Syrians.

Unfortunately, the West has still not understood that its reticence concerning the Free Syrian Army has in fact played into the hands of radical Islamist groups. While the FSA needs to sell flour to buy weapons, the well-funded Al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front buys this flour and uses it to make bread, which it then distributes to the people. It may well be that the residents of Syria’s most conservative Sunni regions around Aleppo and Idlib regard the Jihadists with scepticism, but morally and financially, the radicals are already superior to the FSA.

For this reason, it can only be in the interests of the Europeans to support those forces within the FSA that are fighting for a free democratic Syria in which all confessional and ethnic groups coexist with equal rights.

When the Supreme Military Council – which was formed in December 2012 as an alliance of several brigades from various provinces ready to cooperate with the National Coalition – receives more money and better weapons, only then can it assert itself against Jihadist groups, bring more rebel units into its fold and protect liberated areas from regime air attacks.

The aim must be to gradually bring the armed resistance under political control, so that the demise of the Assad regime also means an end to the fighting.

Kristin Helberg

© Qantara.de 2013

Translated from the German by Nina Coon

Editor: Lewis Gropp

source

French group that saved Jews from Nazis snubs Shoah memorial event

A French organization that saved Jews during the Holocaust has declined to attend a commemoration because it was organized by pro-Israel Jews.

The Marseille branch of CIMADE, a French Protestant group established in 1939, declined to attend the region’s main memorial ceremony for Jewish Holocaust victims because of the pro-Israel attitude of CRIF, the umbrella group representing French Jewish communities, which organized the event together with the municipality.

The values that led CIMADE to save Jews make the group “equally committed to oppose the colonial, discriminatory and bellicose policy of Israel with regards to the Palestinians,” CIMADE regional deputies Françoise Rocheteau and Jean-Pierre Cavalie wrote in a letter to the local CRIF branch on Dec. 21. It also said CIMADE was determined to fight “apartheid.”

The letter, which was published online on Feb. 11 by a group which promotes a boycott of Israel, was a reply to an invitation extended by CRIF to CIMADE to attend the 70th commemoration on Jan. 20 of the deportation and subsequent murder of thousands of local Jews.

Marseille had a Jewish population of 39,000 in 1939, according to Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish People. Only 10,000 remained after the Holocaust. CIMADE organized “vital relief and later resistance” in connection with the murders, according to Yad Vashem, and helped smuggle Jews to safety. Yad Vashem named Madeleine Barot, who headed CIMADE during the Holocaust, a Righteous among the Nations in 1988. She passed away seven years later.

“We understand our positions may appear unacceptable, making us unwelcome at your commemoration,” the CIMADE representatives wrote. “We cannot keep silent on our convictions but do not wish to cause a scandal.”

source

The NYU Student Tweeting Every Reported US Drone Strike Has Revealed A Disturbing Trend

Michael Kelley | Dec. 12, 2012, 4:36 PM | 213,787 | 214
US drone afghanistan

AP

NYU student Josh Begley is tweeting every reported U.S. drone strike since 2002, and the feed highlights a disturbing tactic employed by the U.S. that is widely considered a war crime.

Known as the “double tap,” the tactic involves bombing a target multiple times in relatively quick succession, meaning that the second strike often hits first responders.

A 2007 report by the Homeland Security Institute called double taps a “favorite tactic of Hamas” and the FBI considers it a tactic employed by terrorists.

UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Christof Heyns said that if there are “secondary drone strikes on rescuers who are helping (the injured) after an initial drone attack, those further attacks are a war crime.”

The U.S. refuses to discuss the merits of its overtly covert drone program, but the reports featured on @dronestream clearly document that U.S. hellfire missiles have intentionally targeted funerals and civilian rescuers.

Israeli soldier posts disturbing Instagram photo of child in crosshairs of his rifle

Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Fri, 02/15/2013 – 21:28

This disturbing image shows the back of the head of a child or young man as seen in the crosshairs of a rifle. The photo was posted on the personal Instagram account of Mor Ostrovski, a 20-year old Israeli soldier in a sniper unit.

The context – particularly the character of the buildings seen in the background of the image – strongly suggests the child could be Palestinian.

There are no other images to suggest that the photographer actually fired at the person in the image in this case. The image is simply tasteless and dehumanizing. It embodies the idea that Palestinian children are targets.

It reminded me of a chilling account another Israeli soldier gave to the group Breaking the Silence about how Israeli soldiers in Nablus in 2006-2007 would deliberately fire at children, sometimes using live ammunition and sometimes rubber-coated steel bullets:

Where do you aim? Do you choose some kid at random?
Yes. Choose someone, aim at his body.
Body?
Center of mass.
10 meters’ range at the center of mass?
I remember one time we put a kid down. We didn’t kill him but someone hit the kid in the chest and he fell and probably lost consciousness, or at least, it was pretty close. About 10 meters.

Recently, Benjamin Doherty pointed out how the Israeli army has wittingly and unwittingly used Instagram and other social media to promote itself. These images, which Doherty calls “war sporno” use “male and female bodies to eroticize the military, to displace violence against Palestinians, to encourage Western publics to identify with Israeli soldiers.”

Ostrovski’s account includes other images of himself and his weapons:

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