Syria: at least 200 killed in Hama province massacre, say activists

If confirmed, killings in village of Tremseh would represent single biggest massacre since uprising began

, The Guardian, Thursday 12 July 2012
Syria: government troops participate in a live fire exercise. Activists say more than 200 people have been killed in a massacre in Hama province. Photograph: AP

[Syria: government troops participate in a live fire exercise. Activists say more than 200 people have been killed in a massacre in Hama province. Photograph: AP]

Syrian government troops and a pro-regime militia have killed more than 200 people, mostly civilians, in a village near the city of Hama, opposition activists reported in the early hours of Friday morning.

The massacre is said to have taken place in the village of Tremseh, starting early Thursday morning, when government forces are alleged to have surrounded the village and opened fire with mortars and artillery. Then an Alawite pro-government militia, the Shabiha, are reported to have moved into Tremseh and started carrying out executions.

A statement by the Hama Revolutionary Council said: “More than 220 people fell today in Tremseh. They died from bombardment by tanks and helicopters, artillery shelling and summary executions.

“It appears that Alawite militiamen from surrounding villages descended on Tremseh after its rebel defenders pulled out, and started killing the people. Whole houses have been destroyed and burned from the shelling,” Fadi Sameh, an opposition activist from Tremseh, told Reuters.

Sameh said he had left the town before the reported massacre but was in touch with residents.

“Every family in the town seems to have had members killed. We have names of men, women and children from countless families,” he said, adding that many of the bodies were taken to a local mosque. Continue reading

Syria: To oppose, or not to oppose?

Maher Arar

Maher Arar

Human rights activist Maher Arar is the publisher of Prism Magazine, and first came to public attention after he was rendered by US authorities to Syria, his native country.
 The opposition movement inside and outside the country must walk a fine line between independence and intervention.
 Maher Arar, Al Jazeera, 11 Jul 2012

Clashes between rebel fighters and government forces have wrought great destruction [Reuters]

Deciding whether or not to oppose Syria’s rulers has been the recent dominant preoccupation of many anti-imperialist and left-leaning movements. This hesitant attitude towards the Syrian struggle for freedom is nurtured by many anti-regime actions that were recently taken by many Western and Middle-Eastern countries, whose main interest lies in isolating Syria from Iran. However, I believe a better question to ask with respect to Syria is whether the leftist movement should support, or not support, the struggle of the Syrian people.What I find lacking in many of the analyses relating to the Syrian crisis, which I find oftentimes biased and politically motivated, is how well the interests of the Syrian people who are living inside are taken into account. Dry and unnecessarily sophisticated in nature, these analyses ignore simple facts about why the Syrian people rebelled against the regime in the first place.A brief historical context is probably the best way to bring about some insight with respect to the events that are unfolding in front of our eyes today. Before doing so, it is important to highlight that, unlike many other Arab countries, Syria is not a religiously homogenous Middle-Eastern country. I am mentioning this because it is through religion that the majority of Arabs identified themselves for centuries. As it stands today, Syria’s population is composed 74 per cent of Sunnis (including Kurds and others), 12 per cent Alawites (including Arab Shia), ten per cent Christians (including Armenians) and three per cent Druze.

Syria earned its independence from the French in 1946. As has always been the case with any occupying and imperial force, France worked diligently to ensure that Syrian minorities were placed in top government and military positions.  The Alawites’ share of the pie was the military. By the time France left Syria, Alawites became well entrenched in this crucial government institution.

After two decades of military coups and counter-coups, it was no surprise that Hafez al-Assad, an Alawite and minister of defence at the time, seized power in a bloodless coup in 1970. Within a few years he was relatively able to bring about economic and social stability – which made him a hero in the eyes of the majority of Syrians, regardless of their religion or ethnicity. Continue reading

Egypt: The Muslim Brotherhood and the Military: A New Deal?

Jul 05 2012 by Salma Shukrallah, http://www.jadaliyya.com

The Egyptian Republican Guard was responsible for president-elect Mohamed Mursi’s safety during his speech in Tahrir Square. Image originally posted to Flickr by Johnathan Rashad

Speculation is rife that the Muslim Brotherhood are again reaching a deal with the ruling military council after weeks of what seemed to be escalating tensions between the two. The long awaited government Morsi is expected to appoint soon may reveal what the two parties will finally agree upon.

While sources at the office of President Mohamed Morsi have revealed that Egypt’s newly-inaugurated head of state has not yet contacted anyone specific for the post of prime minister, analysts hint ongoing negotiations may be the source of this delay.

“There’s broad consensus between the Brotherhood and military leaders on the need to accommodate the military’s longstanding political and economic interests,” political analyst Hesham Sallam told Ahram Online.

“But the devil’s in the details; I don’t think the two sides have reached agreement on specifics,” Sallam added. “Control over cabinet appointments is probably one source of these disagreements.”

On 30 June, Morsi was sworn into office before Egypt’s High Constitutional Court (HCC), bringing an end to an ongoing conflict with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

The Brotherhood had earlier rejected a constitutional addendum giving the SCAF legislative powers at the expense of Egypt’s dissolved parliament and keeping the Armed Forces independent of the president. Morsi’s oath before the HCC, however, appeared to signal a retreat from the Brotherhood’s stated position. Continue reading

Ramallah protesters attacked by Palestinian Authority police

By Benjamin Gottlieb, Washington Post blog, July 1, 2012

Members of the Palestinian security forces scuffle with demonstrators in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday, during a protest against a meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz that had been put off. (Mohamad Torckman – Reuters)

Palestinian Authority police employed brute force to break up a second day of protesting in Ramallah on Sunday, with activists and eyewitnesses claiming police assaulted both male and female protesters with batons and chains, the Jerusalem Post reported.

At least seven people were injured in the clashes, according to Ma’an News Agency – an independent media group based in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Police also arrested seven protesters in Ramallah and two journalists, and attacked Reuters’ photographer Saed al-Hawari.
Demonstrations first erupted in Ramallah on Saturday over the announcement of a planned meeting between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, the current chairman of Israel’s centrist Kadima Party.

The meet-up – which would be the first official face-to-face meeting between top-level Israeli and Palestinian officials since 2010 – has since been postponed, according to the Associated Press.

The Electoral Victory of Political Islam in Egypt

by Samir Amin | Monthly Review | 30 June 2012

The electoral victory of the Muslim Brotherhood and of the Salafists in Egypt (January 2012) is hardly surprising.  The decline brought about by the current globalization of capitalism has produced an extraordinary increase in the so-called “informal” activities that provide the livelihoods of more than half of the Egyptian population (statistics give a figure of 60%).

And the Muslim Brotherhood is very well placed to take advantage of this decline and perpetuate its reproduction.  Their simplistic ideology confers legitimacy on a miserable market/bazaar economy that is completely antithetical to the requirements of any development worthy of the name.  The fabulous financial means provided to the Muslim Brotherhood (by the Gulf states) allows them to translate this ideology into efficient action: financial aid to the informal economy, charitable services (medical dispensaries etc.).

In this way the Brotherhood establishes itself at the heart of society and induces its dependency.  It has never been the intention of the Gulf countries to support the development of Arab countries, for example through industrial investment.  They support a form of “lumpen development” — to use the term originally coined by André Gunder Frank — that imprisons the societies concerned in a spiral of pauperization and exclusion, which in turn reinforces the stranglehold of reactionary political Islam on society. Continue reading

The Feds are watching — badly

[US imperialist xenophobia translates into bizarre and concentrated cultural ignorance, especially when replicated by aggressive, repressive government bureaucracies.  The harm inflicted on targeted communities is beyond measure.  This investigative report from the San Francisco Bay Guardian, an alternative weekly newspaper, traces the details of some recent revelations. — Frontlines ed.]

by Yael Chanoff and Natalie Orenstein, San Francisco Bay Guardian, June 26, 2012

The FBI’s modern snoop program is racist, xenophobic, misdirected, dangerous — and really, really stupid

Muslims, the Internet — what isn’t the government spying on?

So, you’re a law enforcement officer in training for participation on a local Joint Terrorism Task Force. Or a student at the United States Military Academy at West Point, involved in the counterterrorism training program developed in partnership with the FBI. Or you’re an FBI agent training up to deal with terrorist threats.

Get ready for FBI training in dealing with Arab and Muslim populations.

Take note that “Western cultural values” include “rational, straight line thinking” and a tendency to “identify problems and solve them through logical decision-making process” — while “Arab cultural values” are “emotional based” and “facts are colored by emotion and subjectivity.”

Be advised that Arabs have “no concept of privacy” and “no concept of ‘constructive criticism'” and that in Arab culture it is “acceptable to interrupt conversations to convey information or make requests.”

“Westerners think, act, then feel,” an FBI powerpoint briefing notes, while “Arabs feel, act, then think.”

Those are some of the most dramatic examples of racial profiling and outright racist stereotyping revealed in thousands of pages of documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Bay Guardian, the ACLU of Northern California and the Asian Law Caucus.

The documents show a pattern of cultural insensitivity, sometimes bordering on the ridiculous, not only tolerated by promoted as official instructions by the FBI. The records also show a broad pattern of surveillance of people who have engaged in no criminal activity and aren’t even suspected of crimes, but have been targeted because of their race or religion.

Pieces of this story have come out over the past year as the ACLU has charged the FBI with racial profiling and Attorney General Eric Holder has insisted it’s not happening. And some of the documents — which are not always properly dated — may be a few years old.

But none of it is ancient history: All of the material has been used by the FBI in the past few years, under the Obama administration.

This is the first complete report with the full details on a pattern of behavior that is, at the very least, disturbing — and in some parts, reminiscent of the notorious (and widely discredited) COINTELPRO program that sought to undermine and disrupt political groups in the 1960s.

The information suggests that the federal government is using methods that are not only imprecise and xenophobic but utterly ineffective in protecting the American public.

“This is the worst way to pursue security,” Hatem Bazian, professor of Near East Studies at UC Berkeley, told us.

CULTURAL STEREOTYPES

Dozens of documents attempt to describe “Arabs and Muslims” but other groups aren’t left out of the sweeping stereotyping and blatant racism and xenophobia that the FBI has used in its training guides. One training presentation is titled “The Chinese.” The materials give such tips as “informality is perceived as disrespectful.” The presentation warns “expect your gift (money) to be refused” but advises to give “a simple gift with significant meaning- tangerines or oranges (with stems/leaves.)” But “never give a clock as a gift! (death!)”

And if those in the training on “The Chinese” find themselves in “interactions with the opposite sex,” then “touching, too many compliments, may imply a romantic liaison is desired — be careful!” Continue reading

Author of The Color Purple condemns Israeli Apartheid, joins cultural boycott

http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-news/author-of-the-color-purple-refuses-to-authorize-hebrew-version-because-israel-is-guilty-of-apartheid-1.437220

Author of The Color Purple refuses to authorize

Hebrew version because ‘Israel is guilty of apartheid’

Alice Walker says Israeli policies were ‘worse’ than the segregation she suffered as an American youth and said South Africans had told her it was worse than Apartheid.

U.S. human rights activist and author Alice Walker.

U.S. human rights activist and author Alice Walker speaks during a news conference about an international flotilla to blockaded Gaza, in Athens, on Monday, June 27, 2011. Photo by AP

June 18, 2012

(JTA) — Alice Walker, author of “The Color Purple,” refused to authorize a Hebrew translation of her prize-winning work, citing what she called Israel’s “apartheid state.”

In a June 9 letter to Yediot Books, Walker said she would not allow an Israeli house to publish the book because “Israel is guilty of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people, both inside Israel and also in the Occupied Territories.”

In her letter, posted Sunday by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel on its website, Walker supported the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and offered her hope that the BDS movement “will have enough of an impact on Israeli civilian society to change the situation.”

It was not clear when Yediot Books, an imprint of the daily Yediot Achronot newspaper, made the request, or whether Walker could in fact stop translation of the book. At least one version of the book has already appeared in Hebrew translation, in the 1980s.

Walker said Israelis policies were “worse” than the segregation she suffered as an American youth and said South Africans had told her it was worse than Apartheid.

“The Color Purple,” which won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, was adapted into a movie in 1985 directed by Jewish filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

The novel and the film, which was nominated for 11 Oscars, treat racism in the American South in the first part of the 20th century and sexism among blacks.

Walker has intensified her anti-Israel activism in recent years, traveling to the Gaza Strip to advocate on behalf of the Palestinians.

 

Syria: A darkening horizon

29 May 2012. A World to Win News Service. The photos of dozens of dead little children – their bodies lying side by side in a row, each upturned face tearing at the heart of anyone who has ever loved a child and bringing to mind other children all over the world – convey only a part of the horrifying situation that the Syrian people face.

It may be that the Bashar al-Assad regime and/or its allies carried out the massacre in Houla, not as an act of madness or simple revenge but a calculated attempt to divert the anti-regime revolt into an inter-religious civil war. At the same time, the UN Security Council resolution condemning this crime is an obscene act of hypocrisy and worse. The US and Russia are trying to use this tragedy as an occasion to step up their contention and negotiations over who will dominate Syria. The interests of the Syrian people and the just demands of the movement against the regime, and the lives of the people, including children, count as nothing in this reactionary manoeuvring.

 

The Security Council resolution reflected not a concern with human life but the contest between the US and its allies on one hand and Russia on the other as to how foreign domination of Syria is to be divided up in the near future. Bizarrely, the resolution mentions Syrian government tank and artillery fire, and not the apparent close-quarter executions of many of the victims. This has allowed the Syrian government room to claim that the killings were carried out by “terrorists”, presumably meaning Islamic fundamentalists, an explanation for which no evidence has been presented. Western diplomats assert that the resolution’s wording was designed to gain Russian acceptance for what turned out to be a unanimous Security Council vote. But this unanimity had criminal purposes on both sides.

 

The UN pretends to be working for a peaceful solution to the crisis through a ceasefire, a kind of freeze-in-place. This is the least likely alternative, one that none of the imperialist powers involved really believe possible, and one that the US and its allies are working to make impossible. The US is determined that Syria, often described as a Russian “client regime”, will become an American client regime at any cost.

The US and Russia seem to be in agreement in seeking to preserve the essential structure of the Assad regime, especially the military and security forces, without Assad. How this could happen is currently being negotiated between the US and Russia. The US has a powerful argument: either Russia can accept some continuing influence in an American-dominated Syria, or it risks having no influence at all.

This situation was laid bare in an article in The New York Times (26 May 2012) that was in its own way as shocking and cynical as the Houla massacre, in terms of the future of the Syrian people. At the recent G-8 summit in Camp David, Maryland, Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev told US President Barack Obama that Russia was not willing to see the UN Security Council authorize a regime change in Syria on the Libya model, where an American-led military intervention under the guise of protecting civilians allowed the US to topple a regime it deemed problematic. Russia apparently has come to consider Assad a “liability”, meaning that it no longer believes he can remain in power, but Moscow is not willing to be entirely forced out of a country where its interests predominate militarily (Russia has a small naval station, its only outpost in the Mediterranean), economically (Russia has extensive investments in Syrian gas and oil, and Syria is a leading buyer of Russian arms) and politically, although the US has also had relations and influence. Continue reading

Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans Protest, Throw Their Medals at NATO Summit!

May 20, 2012 CHICAGO (Reuters) – Nearly 50 U.S. military veterans at an anti-NATO rally in Chicago threw their service medals into the street on Sunday, an action they said symbolized their rejection of the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Palestinian prisoners: After 79 days of hunger-strike, Tha’er Halahla and Bilal Thiab to be released

 May 15, 2012
by Saed Bannoura – IMEMC & Agencies

After an ongoing 79 days of hunger-strike, Palestinian detainees Tha’er Halahla and Bilal Thiab, signed an agreement with the Israeli Prison Authorities to end their hunger-strike in exchange for their release as they are being held without charges, the Maan News Agency reported.

handala.jpg

According to Maan, head of the Legal Unit at the Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS), Lawyer Jawad Boulos, was present when detainee Tha’er signed the agreement at the Ramla Israeli Prison, adding Halahla will be released on June 5th.

The father of Halahla said that Tha’er phoned him shortly after midnight, informed him of the recent developments, and told him that he still has no information regarding the fate of the rest of the political prisoners held under administrative detention.

Furthermore, the brother of detainee Bilal Thiab said that a late-night agreement was reached between his brother and the Prison Administration, and that detainee Jamal Al-Hour, representative of Hamas at the Hunger-Strike Committee, detainee Bassam As-Sa’dy, in addition to lawyer Boulos were present when the agreement was signed.

According to initial reports, detainee Bilal Thiab will be release on August 14, 2012.

Talking to his mother over phone, Thiab said that he grants this victory to the Palestinian People, adding that this agreement was reached after a series of meetings. He further stated that negotiations are still being held at the Ramla Prison to conclude all files of hunger-striking detainees.

Thousands of Palestinians are imprisoned by Israel, hundreds are currently being held under the illegal administrative detention polices that deprive them from their right to legal representation. Continue reading

In preparation for war against Iran, U.S. set to give Israel largest grant of military aid ever

Information Clearing House

May 09, 2012

Following a decision by the U.S. House of Representatives Defense Appropriations Subcommittee which just approved over $948 million in funding for Israel’s anti-missile defense programs, Israel will receive a record $4 billion in military aid in 2013.
The Jewish Press reports: Approximately $679 million of the funding will go to the Iron Dome, thanks in large part to legislation initiated last month by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Howard Berman (D-Calif.), chairwoman and ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, respectively.
The remaining $269 million will go to Israel’s other anti-missile initiatives: the short-range David’s Sling ($149.7 million), and the current long-range Arrow anti-ballistic missile system and its successor the Arrow 3 ($119.3 million). These projects, unlike the Iron Dome, are joint Israel-US projects.
While the increase in funding for the Iron Dome was expected, with the Department of Defense stating in March that it “intends to request an appropriate level of funding from Congress to support such acquisitions based on Israeli requirements and production capacity,” the funding for the other projects represents an increase of $169 million over the Obama administration’s proposed number.

Thousands march across the West Bank in support of the prisoners’ hunger strike

by on May 11, 2012

Palestinians march in support of prisoners on hunger strike, Nablus, May 11, 2011. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz/ActiveStills)

Press Release
Friday, May 11, 2012

[Marches, demonstrations and clashes took place all across the West Bank in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike, on its 25th day.]

Thousands took to the streets today in Palestinian cities and villages across the West Bank, in solidarity with over 2,000 Palestinian political prisoners on hunger strike.

Hundreds protested in the town of Beitunia, adjacent to Ramallah, in front of the Israeli Ofer prison and military court, which have become a recent flashpoint with nearly daily demonstrations. Several moderate injuries from rubber-coated bullets and tear-gas projectiles were recorded, including one to the head.

Twenty year-old Majd Barghouti was injured in the eye by a rubber-coated bullet shot by Israeli soldiers who tried to suppress another demonstration, in the village of Aboud, north-east of Ramallah. He was evacuated to the Ramallah hospital, where he is expected to undergo surgery. Continue reading

Joint Palestinian-Israeli declaration in support of Palestinian political prisoner struggle

Alternative Information Center (AIC), 8 May 2012

Mobilize all possible efforts in solidarity with the Palestinian political prisoners in their struggle for justice!

Joint Palestinian-Israeli solidarity visit on 5 May to the family home of Palestinian political prisoner Thaer Halahleh, who is on day 71 of hunger strike (Photo: Alternative Information Center)

Joint Palestinian-Israeli solidarity visit on 5 May to the family home of Palestinian political prisoner Thaer Halahleh, who is on day 71 of hunger strike (Photo: Alternative Information Center)

Since 17 April, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, thousands of Palestinian political prisoners have commenced a general hunger strike. Some of them started some 70 days ago and thus the strike has now entered a critical stage, threatening the lives and the safety of a growing number of detainees. Many prisoners have been moved to hospitals due to their deteriorating health conditions.

At the same time occupation forces and their implementation body, the Israeli prison administration, continue to ignore the just demands of the prisoners for an end to the policy of isolation, for the right of prisoners from the Gaza Strip to receive family visits of which they have been deprived for years, for an improvement in medical treatment and for an end to invasive body searches which violate the human dignity of the prisoners, as well as an end to the policy of administrative detention.

The protracted disregard of the humane demands of hunger striking Palestinian detainees reveals yet again the true face of the state of Israel as an occupying power which aims to destroy and break the spirit and humanity of the detainees.

Despite this, the prisoners on hunger strike express the demand that their rights be respected. They further demonstrate that their cause is a national one, a cornerstone in the struggle for Palestinian liberation from the occupation authorities.

Beyond its national meaning, the prisoners’ issue in general and their hunger strike in particular is also a humanitarian cause par excellence. We call upon everyone, institutions and individuals at the local, regional and international levels, to take action in order to save the lives of the prisoners and to force Israel as the occupying power to respect detainee rights. Continue reading

Palestinians voice resistance, PA suppresses dissent

Dozens of journalists, activists arrested as PA cracks down on dissent

Jerusalem, 1 May 2012

Palestinian journalists in Gaza City protest the arrest of West Bank journalist Yousef al-Shayab, 4 April 2012. (Mohammed Asad / APA images)

JERUSALEM (IPS) – The Palestinian Authority’s arrest of journalists and activists critical of its policies are threatening freedom of expression in the West Bank, according to local human rights groups.

“We monitored a new trend of arresting people and journalists and the oppression of freedom of expression,” Shawan Jabarin, director of the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, said. “There are many people I’m sure that are afraid and will count to ten before they say anything. Maybe they’ll push people to speak underground instead of expressing their opinions freely.” Continue reading

Arab Uprisings: Progress, But Not Yet a Revolution

[Article 2 of the series “One Year After the Arab Uprisings.”  Part One, “The Failure of the Arab ‘State’ and Its Opposition” originally appeared at  http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/failure-arab-state-and-its-opposition and was posted on revolutionary frontlines at https://revolutionaryfrontlines.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/the-failure-of-the-arab-state-and-its-opposition … Part 3 of the series is expected soon. — Frontlines ed.]

 ….a revolution is fueled by class interest or the ideology of a revolutionary party while an uprising is fueled by anger and frustration. A revolution presents a comprehensive social, economic, and political program for change that was pre-meditated and based on philosophical discourses. An uprising has no such program and has no philosophical discourse. A revolution has a leading class or a leading party, whereas an uprising has no clear leadership.

A protester, wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, stands in front of Egyptian military police standing guard near the Ministry of Defense in the Abbassiya district of Cairo 30 April 2012. (Photo: REUTERS – Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

By: Hisham Bustani–Saturday, May 5, 2012

Arab Uprisings: Progress, But Not Yet a Revolution

There is no real class formation in modern Arab societies. The post-colonial Arab “state” is a political and economic disaster area that has yet to advance into the industrialized era. Its social fabric was deformed by imposing and/or magnifying divisions and fragmentation. It transformed the collaborative self-sufficient gatherings – based economically on farming and grazing in rural areas; pillaging and grazing in desert areas; and commerce, crafts, and some manufacturing in cities, with each social group having its own traditions and rules that applied to all members – into malformed consumerist social formations. These formations come in the shape of family, clan, sect or ethnicity for identity, solidarity and protection.

These formations live on the periphery of a globalized service sector, and are governed by regimes that largely destroyed local economies in exchange for a model based on foreign aid. This is a corporate-dependant, commoditized, service-based model, where the ruling class is the representative of global corporations: a comprador formation with interests opposed to local industrialization and production. In countries where natural resources are abundant, the governments opted for exporting raw materials rather than investing in and manufacturing goods with them. Instead, the money was sucked away in a cycle of corruption and parts of it were redistributed down to the people as a form of a “grant” from the benefactor ruler..

Continue reading