By SHAMUS COOKE | December 17, 2012
The Obama administration has already declared war on Syria, even if it isn’t “official” yet. Consider the facts, all of them acts of war: The U.S. now recognizes a group of Syrian exiles to be the official government of Syria; the U.S. is providing direct support for rebels attacking the government; the U.S. has coordinated with NATO to place advanced missile systems — and 400 U.S. troops — on Syria’s border with Turkey; Obama has drawn a “red line” that, if Syria crosses, would result in U.S. direct military intervention. If any other country made similar moves toward the U.S., there would be no question that war had been declared.
All the strategic steps that led to the Iraq war are being repeated. Obama has assembled a Bush-style international “coalition of the willing” of nations to topple the Syrian government; 130 countries have put their names on paper in support of toppling the Assad government.
In reality, however, the core of the group is the U.S./Europe NATO alliance and the Gulf monarchies. The rest of the “coalition” are economic and political satellites of these main groups, who would sign onto to any military adventure that the rich nations demanded of them, since otherwise the poorer nations would have their military, financial, or political aid frozen.
Europe’s increased lust for blood is a relatively new phenomenon; the European divisions that erupted during the Iraq war and then the Libyan invasion seem to have been smoothed over. Now even Germany aims to directly join the war efforts, intending to send missiles and troops to the Turkish border as well.
But NATO is still a U.S.-dominated military alliance. Any NATO military action is in reality a U.S. led effort, since the European armies are miniscule in comparison, and lack much of the technological sophistication of U.S. weaponry. The advanced Russian missile systems that Syria is equipped with demand a direct U.S. military role to neutralize.
Like Bush, Obama is using his coalition of the willing to distract from the fact that he is circumventing the UN, and thus bringing the post WWII system of international conflict resolution — already on life support — closer to death.
Also like Bush, Obama strategically exploited the UN to weaken Syria with sanctions, and when further UN action was not possible — because of the objections of China and Russia —Obama threw aside the UN and opted for NATO, a U.S./European military alliance built specifically as a deterrent to the now-defunct Soviet Union.
Again like Bush, Obama has crafted a false motive for war. Obama has stolen Bush’s “weapons of mass destruction” but substituted “the use of chemical weapons” as a bogeyman worthy of military intervention. Obama’s bogeyman is as false as Bush’s was. The New York Times reports:
“…the effect of that statement [that Syria was planning to use chemical weapons] was somewhat undercut when France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, asserted during a news conference that such reports were unconfirmed.”
This lack of confirmation hasn’t bothered the U.S. media, who remain content repeating as truth any report issued by U.S. intelligence, no matter the past lies that have cost countless deaths in Iraq and elsewhere.
Of course the U.S. government has zero legitimacy to hand pick a “replacement” government for Syria, since the U.S. is universally hated in the region after the destruction of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and the ongoing drone wars against Pakistan and Yemen. No sane Syrian would invite the U.S. government to “liberate” their country. In fact, a coalition of Syrian opposition groups inside of Syria, the National Coordination Committee (NCC) — virtually ignored by the U.S. media — opposes military intervention, demanding the conflict be addressed through political means. A leader of the NCC is Hassan Abdul Azim, who correctly states: “We refuse on principle any type of military foreign intervention because it threatens the freedom of our country.”
Another prominent ongoing lie repeated by U.S. politicians and media is that the Syrian government is on the verge of collapse. This lie is effective in that it creates an urgency to “take action.” It also paints a picture of the conflict coming to an end that resonates well with Americans. The reality is that the Syrian western-backed rebels have staged daring high-profile attacks that have been largely repulsed by government counter-attacks. But in each instance the U.S. government has used these attacks as an excuse to ratchet up their support to the rebels and now to place U.S. missiles and troops on Syria’s border. Of course if the Syrian government does fall, Obama has absolutely no plan on how to “stabilize” the country, since the most effective rebel fighting force — the Al-Nusra Front — has been labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. government. Obama and his NATO and Gulf monarchy allies have created an extremely unstable situation in Syria. They have already torn the Syrian social fabric to shreds with their support of the rebels, but in so doing they’ve pushed many Syrians closer to supporting their government, who they see as a protector against the rebels that have used large scale ethnic-religious cleansing and other war crimes to subdue the population.
Thus, the Syrian government still retains a popular base, ensuring that the already bloody catastrophe will continue with no end in sight, especially since Obama has “regime change” as his goal and is encircling the country with missiles and U.S. and European troops. Iran and Russia will continue to bolster the Syrian government. Under these tense conditions a broader war can break out any moment. The U.S. can claim that the Syrian government is about to employ chemical weapons as an excuse to directly intervene. Or perhaps Turkey — a NATO member — will claim that Syria fired missiles into its territory, and thus Obama will act to “defend” its ally. When war “officially” breaks out, Iran might then increase its direct support for the Syrian government with troops —funneled through Iraq — giving the U.S. another excuse to “defend” itself, and pushing the conflict into Iran. Hezbollah in Lebanon or Israel may intervene too, since both have a direct interest in the outcome of the Syrian conflict. Any number of scenarios could play out that drag other nations into the war, including Russia, who is already supporting the Syrian government. Many of these scenarios have already begun on the proxy level and need only a shove to ensure they explode into a full-scale regional war.A nation under attack creates a feeding frenzy logic from those countries looking to opportunistically exploit the situation. This proxy war in Syria is on the brink of a much larger disaster, with the potential to annihilate the Middle East through a new round of war and barbarism.
Shamus Cooke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The struggle for land rights near the Gaza border
Mohammed and Ahmed Qdeih Dec 15, 2012 Photo- Maher Alaa
Gaza City – Yesterday in al-Faraheen, Gaza, Israeli Occupation Forces shot and wounded an unarmed 22 year old farmer, Mohammed Qdeih, from behind.
Mohamed and nine others went out to their fields in the early afternoon, walking approximately 250 meters from the Israeli border. Within minutes, two heavily armed Israeli military jeeps rushed to the security fence. They issued a warning for the farmers and residents to leave the area and shortly thereafter the Palestinians, intimidated by the heavy military presence, began to head back to the village of Abasan. The soldiers were not satisfied and opened fire, piercing Mohamed’s right arm from the backside. Israeli forces continued to shoot rounds of live ammunition while Mohamed and the others frantically evacuated and waited for an ambulance. Another young Palestinian, 19, was shot yesterday near the border in Jabaliya.
Under the siege, Israeli “closed military zones” have confiscated up to 35 per cent of Gaza’s arable land, which was previously used for fruit and olive orchards, wheat and various vegetables. With nearly half of Gaza’s population designated as “food insecure” by UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the farming industry having been crippled from the inability to export products under the Israeli blockade, this land is essential for the livelihoods of thousands of farmers and residents of Gaza. Even so and given that four Palestinians have been killed and over 50 injured since the November 21st, 2012 ceasefire agreement, one might ask why anyone would risk their life and venture near the border at all.
Palestinians have had varying experiences near the fence. There have been some successes with farming and some incidents resulting in death and serious injuries. The agreement between Israel and Hamas clearly stated that Israeli forces would “refrain from targeting residents in the border areas” and to “stop all hostilities in the Gaza Strip land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals.” Hamas and other factions have held up their end of the bargain with not a single rocket being fired from Gaza.
As a participant in an international solidarity team, I sat down this with Mohammed Qdeih and family members this afternoon to get their perspective on the breach of the ceasefire and why they would risk their lives in pursuit of reclaiming their land. “The ceasefire is without any sense,” said Mohammed. “They attempted to kill me.” Mohammed is single but works the land to help provide for his 15 extended family members who reside together in Abasan al-Kabir. The family has approximately ten dunams of land which fall in the vaguely defined “buffer zone.” He is one of only five who are able to work in the fields and now the family will be without his help for a month at least.
Farmers work with solidarity activists 12.15.2012 Photo- Maher Alaa
After waiting patiently for Mohammed to tell his story, attention shifted to the eldest member of the family, Ahmed Hassan Jabbar Qdeih. Around ninety five years old, Ahmed became infuriated and began to speak up passionately. “What I have seen in my lifetime is too much to bear!” Though they are originally from Abasan, the Qdeih family used to have 500 dunams of land which spread far beyond Gaza’s borders, most of which fell in what is now considered Israel. In 1948 when Ahmed was in his thirties, he was working near the local water well when Zionist militias terrorized his farm. Ahmed was detained, along with his family, and taken to their house where they were forced to watch as his father was murdered in front on them. The militias destroyed their home, bombed the well and set ablaze 60 dunams of land. Additionally, they stole 60 sheep and two cows to take with them.
Mr. Qdeih also spoke of February 7th, 1957. Just before Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in March of that year (under very strong pressure from the United States), Ahmed again barely escaped with his life. Presumably during one of Israel’s last “screening operations” to eliminate members of the Palestine Brigades in which over 500 Palestinians were killed, Israeli forces lined up Ahmed and ten other men who were then mowed down with gunfire and executed. The rifle which targeted Ahmed malfunctioned. When he was later discovered to still be alive, he was arrested and imprisoned in Israel for eight years. While in jail, the prison guards stomped on his hands and beat him mercilessly, leaving him permanently disabled and unable to walk properly. In the process of explaining this, Ahmed almost removed his shirt successfully in front of all present before being discouraged by a relative standing nearby. “Look, look! You can still see the scars on my back,” he nearly screamed in a fashion as if he was still reliving those torturous years.
UNEF forces in Gaza, 1957 Photo- Palestine Remembered
Having a proud persistence in farming and a history of tragedy dating back to the Nakba, the connection to the land runs deep for the Qdeihs and obviously so do the scars. As many Palestinians feel that they have taken the victory from the recent conflict, the present situation holds many possibilities for farmers like the Qdeih family. However, recent events have been no less distressing. Two days after the Israeli Pillar of Cloud offensive, Anwar Qdeih, the twenty year old cousin of Mohamed Qdeih, was shot and killed while participating in an impromptu demonstration near the border.
In a celebratory mood due to the gains supposedly guaranteed by the ceasefire and in defiance of the brutality of the recent Israeli assault, a small group consisting primarily of young men headed to the “buffer zone.” When approached by heavily-armed Israeli soldiers, some threw stones and managed to cross the first security fence, which does not constitute the official border. Upon confrontation with the soldiers, the group turned back and the Israeli forces opened fire striking Anwar in the head and killing him instantly. Eighteen others were wounded, including three children. (There is also a second fence the protesters did not reach which is electrically charged, more heavily guarded and virtually impenetrable to such a group. There are no Israeli houses or civilians in the vicinity. It is also essential to remember that Palestinians have a legal right to resist the occupation through such demonstrations and even armed resistance.)
The Israeli military establishment seems to be confounded that, for all its advanced weaponry and fire power, hundreds of young men like Anwar and Mohammed and elders like Ahmed continue to come out daily to their fields. The right-wing, ruling elite and even many self-proclaimed “liberals” in Israel appear to be in denial that the Palestinians’ claim to their land and will for self-determination is unquenchable. While they talk of more deadly operations like Cast Lead and Pillar of Cloud, they continue with the harassment of farmers and fishermen. While they provide for and forcefully protect more illegal settlements and carry out the demolitions of Palestinian homes in the West Bank, they justify the killing of a young man at a check point in Hebron and the following vicious assaults on the media. While strengthening apartheid policies against Arab and non-Jewish Israelis and fortifying new stretches of the separation wall, they feel the need to collectively punish the civilian population of Gaza with siege. While they aggressively stomp any remnants of a two-state solution under their feet and isolate themselves with mantras of victimhood, the United Nations has affirmed the right to Palestinian statehood.
What are the goals and likely consequences of these violent and obstructionist policies? How could they possibly make Israel more secure or lead to a just solution? All the while, resistance is again becoming more and more popularized among Palestinian civilians and the factions are moving towards uniting. Regardless of the new shapes the resistance takes or any path the Israelis choose, as evidenced clearly since 1948 until this very day, the Palestinians’ deep connection to and affection for their homeland cannot be broken.
Joshua Brollier is a co-coordinator with Voices for Creative Nonviolence. He can be reached at Joshua@vcnv.org.
- Israeli forces attack Press TV crew in Gaza (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Israel’s navy shot and wounded a Palestinian fisherman in waters off Gaza, and army soldiers shot another Palestinian in the chest inside the Strip on Monday, sources on both sides said.
Israeli forces also arrested nine overnight Sunday in violent West Bank raids.
Nizar Aayesh, head of the Gaza fishermen’s union, said the fisherman was wounded when navy gunfire hit his boat before being taken to a hospital in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon.
“There was a shooting towards a Palestinian fishing boat in the sea off northern Gaza. One fisherman was injured and the occupation’s navy took him to Barzilai hospital,” he told AFP.
Israel, which maintains a paralyzing air, land and sea blockade of Gaza, only allows Palestinian boats to travel six nautical miles from the coast.
The fishing zone was extended from three nautical miles after a November 21 truce ended Israel’s eight-day assault on Gaza that killed over 143 Palestinians.
“It was within the six nautical mile limit, but the Israeli vessels took the boat and whoever was on it and we are waiting for the fisherman to come back to know more details,” Aayesh said.
Israeli attacks on Palestinian fishermen are not uncommon. Army snipers killed a 22-year-old fisherman in September off the coast of Gaza and injured his brother. One week later navy soldiers fired at a fishing boat they said had breached the three-mile limit before detaining the fishermen on board.
In Gaza, locals told Ma’an news agency that Israeli soldiers shot a Palestinian in his 20s in his chest near the southern town of al-Qarara.
Israeli soldiers have fired several times across the border since the ceasefire agreement.
The latest incident was Friday, when soldiers shot and injured a 19-year-old man east of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip, medical officials said.
Israel has imposed a no-go zone on the borders, but agreed to stop targeting Palestinians in the area as part of the ceasefire, Gaza’s government has said.
West Bank raids
Meanwhile in the West Bank, Israeli soldiers detained nine people overnight Sunday.
Four men were arrested in the Ramallah village of Beit Rima, locals said, with clashes breaking out that lasted several hours following the arrests of Ibrahim, Firas and Mohammed Rimawi.
Another unidentified man was injured while being detained and taken to the hospital for treatment, witnesses said.
Israeli soldiers also raided several areas in Nablus, arresting five people, locals said.
The headmaster of a secondary school in Balata camp, Farid al-Museimi, 47, was arrested by soldiers in his home. Soldiers also detained a Palestinian security officer Baha Jamil Mohammed, 22.
Saddam Raghib Salah, 20, Diyaa Abdul-Fattah Salah, 21, and Mahdi al-Shafi were also arrested in nearby areas of Nablus.
In another incident just south of Nablus, Jewish residents of the hardline Yitzhar settlement attacked shepherds from the nearby village of Madama, one of whom was hit in the leg by a bullet, a local official said.
“Settlers from Yitzhar attacked shepherds who were tending their flocks south of the village and started shooting with live ammunition,” Madama local council head Ehab al-Qat told AFP.
He said a 27-year-old shepherd was shot in the leg and his brother “was beaten by settlers.” Palestinian medics confirmed they had treated one person for a gunshot wound. An Israeli official told AFP that the shooter was an Israeli soldier.
(AFP, Ma’an, Al-Akhbar )
- A Must Read Story from Gaza: “I just want to live a peaceful life and be able to fish freely” (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
A large explosion rocked the southern Lebanese town of Tair Harfa on Monday, five kilometers from the Israeli border, killing several farm animals, resident said. There were no human casualties.
A Lebanese security source said the blast was caused by an Israeli rocket fired into Lebanon during the 2006 war, that had not detonated.
A Reuters reporter said that members of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Army and around 50 members of a UN peacekeeping force were at the site of the Monday blast, but that he was prevented from approaching the area.
But Andrea Tenenti, a spokesman for United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon said its soldiers in the area were still trying to determine the cause of the explosion.
Israel had dropped approximately four million cluster bombs on Southern Lebanon during the war on a country of less than four million residents. More than one million bombs were left unexploded, according to a 2007 Human Rights Watch report.
When cluster munitions are fired, over 100 sub-munitions are ejected from a single shell, but one-in-four do not explode immediately.
Israel fired the majority of the cluster munitions in the last two days of their war on Lebanon in anticipation of a ceasefire. Over six years later, unexploded bombs continue to kill civilians.
Children constitute a large percentage of the casualties as they often mistake the unexploded bombs for toys.
Most recently a sub-munition exploded and killed a Lebanese security official in early October as he was demining land near his village of Deir Sirian in Southern Lebanon.
According to a Human Rights Watch Report, continued demining efforts are hampered by the refusal of Israel’s army to provide data on the number of strikes, the type of weapons used, and their targets, despite repeated UN appeals to Israel.
So far, 111 countries have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions, an international treaty that prohibits the use, transfer and stockpile of cluster bombs. Countries that have not signed on include Israel, the United States, China, Russia, India, Pakistan, and Brazil.
The treaty is presently ratified by 77 countries, making it officially illegal in those states.
However, because cluster munitions do not allow for specific targets, and because the small bomblets continue to kill civilians long after the bombs are dropped, the use of cluster bombs violates the Fourth Geneva Convention, that prohibits indiscriminate attacks that threaten civilians and non-military targets.
This treaty is ratified by 194 countries including Israel, making it internationally binding for all.
(Al-Akhbar, Reuters )
As Jewish lawmakers lead the push for gun control in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting, the rabbi of Newtown’s small Jewish community has castigated the culture that led to the massacre. Speaking to Israel’s Army Radio, Rabbi Shaul Praver of Temple Adath Israel said he told his congregants:
“We live in a culture of violence. All of our culture is based on violence and we need to teach the kids about the ways of peace. We need to change everything. There’s too much war, too much violence in our streets.”
Apparently Rabbi Praver saw no irony in decrying a culture of violence on the radio network operated by the Israel Defense Forces which had just been responsible for the deaths of 34 children in its Biblically-named “Pillar of Cloud” onslaught on Gaza. On the contrary, as the rabbi explained in 2005, in Palestine “only one party seeks the destruction of the other”:
Israelis simply want peace and would much prefer spending their time, tending their gardens, doing art, finding a cure for cancer, composing and performing world class music, and inventing more incredible bio-pharmaceuticals and computer technology. Real time internet applications, cellular telephones, color printing are just a few examples of the technology developed in Israel. There is so much brainpower and creative energy emanating from Israel’s diverse ethnic population that benefits every person on the planet. Yet even at a time that Israel pursues territorial concessions for the sake of peace, many people lack the ability to say even a few kind words.
I will say to them then, “Zionism is Beautiful!”