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Palestinian chutzpah

Gideon Levy
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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


Meet the Assadosphere, the Online Defenders of Syria’s Butcher

That would be a heavenly Bashar Assad, dictator of Syria, arm-wrestling the demonic Uncle Sam. Is that Mount Doom in the background? Photo: Instagram/Bashar4Ever

You might think it’s hard to defend Bashar Assad, the Syrian dictator responsible for the murder of 40,000 human beings. You must be new to the internet.

Assad doesn’t have many allies IRL — Iran and Russia are about the only ones remaining. But as the Syrian rebellion stretches into its 20th month, he’s found (and paid for) a whole heap of friends online, who warn of an impending NATO invasion to dominate Syria; secret CIA shipments of weapons to terrorist groups; and, of course, that Assad’s enemies are all really Jews. Welcome to the Assadosphere — on Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and the web.

Assad has maintained a robust propaganda presence for years: Remember the infamous Vogue profile of his wife Asma, which praised the “wildly democratic” Assad family right as it began its wave of bloodshed. Assad’s online buddies are the next wave of that propaganda: They’ve taken a defense of his regime viral, to the point where they don’t need to take their marching orders from Damascus. They’re contesting the web and social-media space that would otherwise be filled with recitations of Assad’s war crimes — and flooding the zone.

We’ve seen these characters show up occasionally in our comment threads and Facebook pages. But the most efficient portal into online Assad apologias comes from the Twitter hashtag #RealSyria. There, you’ll learn that the Free Syrian Army, “aka al Qaeda” is “preparing suits etc. for chemical weapons false flag.” You’ll see links to YouTube clips from the “Eretz Zen Channel” to learn how the rebels torture citizens with “flesh burning materials.” (Not that said rebels are in said video.) And you’ll find people skeptical of the “HUUURR DURRRR” that that nice Mr. Assad would ever use his “supposed” chemical weapons. It’s not like an Assad spokesman warned the world last July that “these types of weapons are [under] the direct supervision of the Syrian armed forces and will never be used unless Syria is exposed to external aggression.”

According to Bashar Assad’s defenders on Instagram, the U.S. media hides from you how the Jews control the Syrian rebellion, or something. Image: Instagram/Laith Belal
Then there’s the News About Syria-English blog, Facebook page and Google+ account. It invariably describes the Syrian rebels as “terrorists”; takes at face value Assad’s declarations that he’ll “not use chemical weapons, if it possesses any, whatever the circumstances“; and warns that last year’s war in Libya has yet to satisfy NATO’s “thirst for blood.”

And on like that. SyriaTribune maintains a YouTube channel stocked with clips from — surprise — Vladimir Putin’s Russia Today portraying Assad as the victim of a bloody-minded western conspiracy. A self-described French intellectual named Thierry Meyssan — author of 9/11 The Big Lie — reveals that TV images purporting to show Assad’s massacres of civilians were prepared by the CIA, along with White House deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes, and “aims at demoralizing the Syrians in order to pave the way for a coup d’etat.” The #FakeRevolution hashtag on Instagram provides pictorial, meme-filled boosterism for Bashar, like a screengrab from Time’ app kindly telling user mybubb1e to stop voting for Assad for Person of the Year or Hillary Clinton with flames shooting out of her eyes and ear, courtesy of Bashar4Ever.

Now, the Syrian rebellion is eclectic, and it includes some rather extreme elements –including al-Qaida-aligned terrorists. Human Rights Watch has borne witness to its willingness to execute and torture detainees. But human rights abuses can’t be the real issue for these web and social-media accounts: if so, they’d be turning on Assad, who drops cluster bombs on Syrian cities and has killed more civilians over the last 20 months than perhaps any other despot in power. And anyone defending Assad because they hate the idea of another U.S. invasion might consider that the Obama administration evidently wants to stay out of Syria at all costs. Yes, the Syrian rebels might actually acquire chemical weapons in the wake of Assad’s downfall, and that’s legitimately worrisome, but perhaps some ire might be spared for the regime that, you know, created that chemical stockpile.

Of course, the Syrian rebels use Twitter, Facebook and YouTube for everything from propaganda to weapons training, so perhaps it’s unsurprising that Assad’s defenders seek to contest that online space. It’s the internet; people say terrible things on it. But the Assadosphere is the sort of thing that Block and Unfollow functions were created for.


The Land of Topless Minarets and Headless Little Girls

A requiem for Syria.


Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.

In Italo Calvino’s novel, Invisible Cities, a world traveler named Marco Polo describes the cities of a vast but crumbling empire to its ruler, Kublai Khan. Over time, the intricate descriptions of the cities begin to overlap until the khan slowly realizes that his appointed traveler has been describing the same city, an imagined city, over and over, in fragments — each vignette exposing another perspective, unveiling yet another city, where death mirrors life and cities are named after Italian women. Each city is suspended between reality and imagination, structured on a set of absurd rules, reminding the reader that a city can only be absorbed through short glances, each glance anchored to an object, a story, or a memory.

I’ve been reading and rereading Invisible Cities for over a decade. Before the Syrian revolution, Calvino’s poetics were safely rooted in the realm of fiction. When I recently picked it up to look for a quote, I began to read it once more — this time sneaking a few pages at a time between my daily intake of endless streams of gruesome images emerging from our all-too-real Syrian cities. For the first time, Calvino’s words detached from fantasy; Syria’s cities became embedded within the lines of the Invisible Cities. I listened, along with Kublai Khan, to Marco Polo’s narrations and tried to understand how cities become invisible.

Watching death has become a pastime of the revolution. There is much to learn from it. Death is sudden; it is shorter than a short YouTube clip. Death is a man wrapped in his shroud, bloodied gauze strips tied around his head, cotton stuffed in his nostrils, and the bluish-gray tinge of his skin. Death is the camera panning over mass graves where children’s bodies are arranged in long, perfect lines, then covered with rust-colored dirt. The death of Syrians accumulated so fast it seems impossible to comprehend over 40,000 lives lost in less than two years.

read full article here

Syrian voices

A selection of  comments to the latest Syria Comment post

29. ALI said:

For those who claim that Syria was good only in the eyes of tourists and expatriates, I say this is non sense. For example, in Damascus, remember the good days when you used to go for “seeran” every Friday, remember the family visit to the Damascus international exhibition, remember the grilled corn, beans and cactus in Sh3lan, remember the old Damascus and BabToma, remember Ala-Elbal and beet Jabri ….. all these things were for all Syrians not only tourists and expats.

Syria offered all sorts of entertainment and good times to all Syrians from all social classes. Maybe the poor didn’t afford to have a meal in four seasons but for sure everybody could afford a mean at Abo Wa7eed in Ein Elfejeh where Bashar himself used to dine weekly before being a president.

Alawis didn’t take advantage of the state, it just happened that most Alawis do work in the army where the perks of cars and accommodation are really good, but similarly Naz7een people (from Golan) did control Mukhabarat and they were Sunnis, exactly like Idleb and Deer-Zour people controlled police and traffic police and it happened being Sunnis as well.

It’s not fair to blame all corruption on Alawis and forgetting the majority of Sunnis who were part of this corruption in every detail especially when coming and begging Alwais to do things for them above the law. If you claim the state was not great, and I disagree with that, then you need to be fair and honest before throwing non-sense accusations around. Some Alawis villages still till now has no power while Sunnis were spending money in Bloudan, and blue beach but still these poor Alawis never complained.

36. Amjad of Arabia said:

Ali, I’m quite disappointed and saddened that you still don’t feel able to lay the blame for Syria’s current situation squarely where it belongs; at the feet of the regime. Was it really necessary to murder 100 people in Homs on an April night just because they were holding a demonstration? Was it really necessary to beat up Ali Ferzat and imprison najati Tayara and butcher Gaith Mattar?

And who am I going to fight the Jihadists with? Bashar? F*ck Bashar and every member of the Assad family. I’d rather take my chances with an uncertain future than see that ibn el gahba pass the presidency on to Hafiz II

“so it’s your fault and responsibility to assure me that my sisters won’t get raped or stoned for wearing shorts.”

I can give you no assurances on the future. Everything you fear could happen and worse. Nothing is certain about the future, but we have a 100% certainty on what life under Assad will be like. Everything you fear and worse has been done to Assad’s opponents. Rape, murder, entire villages bombed, hundreds of people massacred.

The FSA completely withdrew from Hama. Do you have any idea what life is like for the Hamwis now? An entire neighborhood of 300 houses was leveled. Every week hundreds of people are arrested in mass random arrests. There is rarely a man on the streets of the city. That is what would have awaited the country if Assad had won.

And you blame people for cheering the Islamists who turned out to be the only ones to take the regime on? I may not like their ideology or system, but what have I and the likes of me managed to accomplish in contrast before they came along? We looked to the West and the USA for support, and instead got a POTUS with his thumb in his mouth.

50. MarigoldRan said:

The supporters of the regime lived in a bubble where they thought all was well. They lived in the cities, supported by their rich friends, careful not to offend the police. And the police left them alone because, after all, these people are not a threat. They toed the line, proclaimed Assad as a brilliant leader, and got along with their lives.

Little did they know, but a volcano was brewing under their feet. In the countryside, the poor got poorer, and more numerous. A drought hit, and many of them lost their jobs. When they protested, the police beat them up. When they wrote graffiti on the wall, the police tortured their children. Eventually, the poor rose up and said, “Enough of this, it is time for our vengeance.” And so they rose.

In the meantime, the rich happy people who lived in the cities and who toed the line saw all this happening, and proclaimed in a bewildered voice: “What is this? Where did all these angry people come from? What is this cursed revolution? Wasn’t Syria a beautiful state before?”

And the poor said to the rich people, “NO. It was a beautiful country for you, perhaps, but not for us. You chose to ignore us, treating us like dirt. It is now OUR time to pay you back.”

And so they will.


November 23rd, 2012, 1:40 am

51. MarigoldRan said:

Syria was two countries before the civil war: one rich, one poor. Anyone who says otherwise is either lying or lived with their heads stuck in the sand.


It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Israel has just suffered a historic defeat.
One only had to watch the international news coverage.
BBC persisted in its typically awful reportage on the Israel-Palestine conflict during Israel’s latest rampage.
But tonight it had to acknowledge that the people of Gaza were out in the streets celebrating.
It desperately sought some “balance” by positing that “some people in Israel are probably also celebrating.”
Fat chance.
CNN aired Christiane Amanpour’s “exclusive” interview with Khaled Meshal.
Despite, or perhaps because of, her silly histrionics (“What do you want?” she tearfully pleaded), Meshal came across as remarkably articulate.
It could not have failed to register even on the terrifyingly stupid Abu Mazen that the PA Comedy Hour will soon be cancelled.
Meshal also explicitly endorsed a settlement on the June 1967 border, which won’t please the BDS/One-State cultists.
CNN then televised the Israeli news conference of Netanyahu, Lieberman and Barak.
They looked like three sixth-graders called down to the Principal’s Office, counting the minutes until the humiliation was over.
Israel suffered a double defeat.
Its announced goal when it went into Gaza was to restore its “deterrence capacity.”
But at the end of the day its deterrence capacity had been drastically reduced:
The once mighty Israeli army that caused the whole Arab/Muslim world to tremble could not even defeat the impoverished and weaponless tiny enclave of Gaza.
Israel demanded an unconditional and unilateral secession of Hamas “rocket” attacks.
But Israel had to accept a mutual ceasefire.  It also had to make promises regarding the siege of Gaza.
It is highly improbable that anything will come of these Israeli promises, but still, Israel could not unilaterally impose its will.
Let it, finally, be said:
In praise of the ever-martyred but ever-heroic and ever-renascent people of Gaza.
May they live to see the full brightness of dawn.

Norman Finkelstein

Syria mourns man who might have been

Oct 7, 2012

Damascus // The gunmen walked in on a small political meeting in the northern town of Qamishli, asked for the opposition leader Meshaal Tammo by name and, when he answered, opened fire.

In this image taken from video obtained from Shaam News Network (SNN), which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a fire rages at a medieval souk in Aleppo, Syria. Syrian rebels and residents of Aleppo struggled Saturday to contain a huge fire that destroyed parts of the city's medieval souks, or markets, following raging battles between government troops and opposition fighters there, activists said. Some described the overnight blaze as the worst blow yet to a historic dist

His life, and his assassination a year ago today, encapsulate much about the Syrian uprising, and the frightening underworld of a country now mired in a gruesome conflict. The revolt has inspired revolutionary political vision, hope and generosity of spirit. But it has also unleashed obscene violence, ruthless political calculation, fear and a choking narrative of complexity and conspiracy.

Unlike many well known dissidents – for the most part elderly men seen as out of touch or, worse, as regime patsies by the mass of youthful demonstrators – Tammo, 53, was respected by those risking their lives protesting in the street.

“There are many remarkable activists and dissidents at street level but there’s a big shortage at national level. Meshaal Tammo was perhaps the only one with that kind of potential, to become a statesman,” said a Syrian political analyst who knew Tammo well.

“He is perhaps the only person in the Syrian opposition who you’d look at and think, ‘He could be president one day’, he had that about his character,” the analyst said.

Although himself a Kurd, Tammo wanted none of the special rights demanded by mafia-like Kurdish political groups, and insisted that the answer to the historic persecution of Syria’s ethnic minorities lay in democracy for all, not separatism for some.

He had paid his dues, serving a long jail sentence for political dissent and, having been released, he participated in demonstrations and organised them. Other opposition political leaders stood aloof, preferring to discuss policy in their offices or, better still, in the safety of luxurious hotels in foreign capitals.

Tammo refused to distance himself from the dangers faced by protesters, instead joining the rallies in which unarmed civilians were being shot by security forces.

While a split opposition – renowned for its multitude of preening egos and its dogmatic interpretation of politics – jockeyed amongst itself for position, Tammo worked to create a united platform of those seeking to usher in a new Syria after decades of authoritarianism.

In July last year, he was instrumental in organising a political forum in the Damascus neighbourhood of Qaboun, which, had it gone ahead, would have broken new ground by involving young demonstrators, seasoned political activists and exiled opposition leaders.

A hail of gunfire that killed 16 people outside the meeting hall led to its cancellation.

Tammo wanted to build a modern Syria, founded on a secular legal system, civil rights and citizenship. His solution for the various sectarian and ethnic divisions now tearing at Syria was simple; complete equality for all before the law.

Those qualities – his genuine leadership potential, his push for unity and his refusal to trade in the narrow sectarian and ethnic identity politics lurking so dangerously beneath Syria’s surface – made him a threat to the status quo.

And all of them, to a greater or lesser extent, gave his enemies a motive for killing him.

Openly calling for nothing short of Bashar Al Assad’s overthrow and for toppling the underlying structures of his regime, Tammo was anathema to the Syrian authorities.

By his own account, after the uprising began he had been called in by a particularly feared security chief and threatened in brutally stark terms to stop his activism, or face dire consequences. He had cheerfully answered that he was quite prepared to die for the cause of freedom in Syria if that is what was required of him.

At the same time, he was also anathema to powerful Kurdish political factions, rejecting their strategy of exploiting the uprising to carve out an independent enclave. Syria’s revolution was for all, Tammo said, and its Kurdish minority should stand alongside the Arab opposition and fight with them for nothing more and nothing less than complete equality.

He famously told Kurdish protesters not to fly Kurdish flags at demonstrations, asking them to fly the Syrian flag instead, and he openly sought a close working relationship with neighbouring Turkey, angering powerful Kurdish factions who view Ankara as a greater evil than the Damascus regime.

Old guard Arab nationalists – and they represent a strong sentiment in Syria – were also irritated by Tammo’s suggestion that the country should, in future, define itself as a democratic republic, not specifically an Arab country, for the simple reason that not all of its citizens were Arabs.

And he stood against Islamist militancy, opposing those who called for a state based on Sharia. Only a secular legal system would safeguard Syria’s mosaic of religious and ethnic groups, he said.

No one has ever been convicted of Tammo’s murder. Syrian officials said he had been killed by an “armed terrorist group” and, soon after he died, announced the arrests of 11 men in connection with the case. Nothing has been heard since.

He was one of the few genuinely charismatic opposition figures, a rare mixture of hard experience, energetic youth and political vision, and his story is one of Syria’s great might-have-beens.

If Tammo were alive today, there is a chance – a slim chance no doubt, but a chance nonetheless – that his country would not now be marching so quickly down the path of bloodshed and oblivion.


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