Archive | June 8th, 2011

Report: East Libya puppet’s Detaining Civilians Suspected of Supporting Gadhafi

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Reports of Torture Extend Beyond Regime Into Rebel-Controlled Cities

antiwar.com

Systematic brutality and summary detentions are nothing new in Gadhafi-ruled Libya, and indeed the routine human rights abuses were a big part of fueling the protest movement and eventually, the civil war aimed at removing him from power.

But the would-be rebel government, made up in no small part of former Gadhafi government leadership that defected, appears to have taken their bag of tricks with them, as a new report from Human Rights Watch details parts of the rebel faction are using very Gadhafi-style tactics to root out dissent. 

The report says that “volunteer security groups” operating on behalf of the rebel government have begun detaining civilians they suspect of being “Gadhafi supporters” in rebel-held cities, and reports that at least one detainee was tortured to death.

Its clear that the pro-democracy rallies calling for Gadhafi’s ouster came about with an eye toward reining in this sort of abuse, but the NATO-backed “rebel government,” despite operating nominally on behalf of the protesters, was not elected by them and doesn’t appear to be a very effective guarantor of human rights.

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The Jewish power-providers of the Arab Spring revolts

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Mark Zuckerberg’s deft denial during an Internet forum in Paris last month that Facebook was not responsible for the Arab Spring protests sweeping across the Middle East was somewhat disingenuous. In almost the same breath, Zuckerberg acknowledged that Facebook had performed a key role in the regional revolts from Tunisia to Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Syria. “It’s not a Facebook thing, it’s an Internet thing,” he said in response to a question about the Arab Spring. “I think Facebook was neither necessary nor sufficient for any of those things to happen. If it weren’t Facebook, it would be something else.”

Most accounts from rights activists themselves as well as journalists on the scene and sociologists analyzing the situation, however, clearly show that Facebook had an enormous influence on the start and spread of the uprisings, as well as their apparent domino effect. It served a primary means of communication.

Take Egypt, for example, where one of the most prominent leaders of the revolution, Wael Ghonim, squarely credited Facebook with its success in an interview shortly after president Hosni Mubarak stepped down in early April.

Ghonim, a marketing manager for Google, helped organize the massive January 25 demonstration in Tahrir Square by reaching out to Egyptian youths on Facebook, and was arrested and imprisoned for 12 days after the protest.

“I want to meet Mark Zuckerberg one day and thank him,” Ghonim told CNN. “This revolution started online. This revolution started on Facebook.”

If you accept that the story of the year so far has been the blossoming of the Arab Spring uprisings across the Middle East, and the thesis that Facebook at the very least enabled and encouraged, if not empowered, the protests by advertising them on the Internet, then its boss, Mark Zuckerberg, should be given his fair share of credit, whether he accepts it or not.

When it comes to influencing international events, therefore, it is Zuckerberg who takes first place in our list as the most influential Jew in today’s world.

In third place, in this subjective listing, we decided to acknowledge the Jewish woman behind the scenes at Facebook, its chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg. She is responsible for expanding Facebook’s operations globally, and was dubbed by Radio Islam as the “Jewish second-in-command of Facebook.”

On a related issue, Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein sent a personal letter in March to Zuckerberg asking him to shut down a page calling for a third Palestinian intifada, which had attracted some 230,000 supporters in the wake of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

“On this Facebook page there are posted many remarks and movie clips which call for the killing of Israelis and Jews and the ‘liberating’ of Jerusalem and of Palestine through acts of violence,” Edelstein wrote. “I turn to you with the request that you order the immediate removal of this Facebook page. I am sure that you too hold fast to these values and would prefer that all of the pages on your site operate according to them.”

A short time later, the page was removed, but reappeared in a similar form in just a few weeks. This time, Facebook let it be, taking no action to close it.

Edelstein, who holds the tough job of promoting Israel’s case to the world, is our primary interview in this supplement, and features in 10th place on our list.

LAST SHAVUOT, The Jerusalem Post published its first-ever list of the 50 most influential Jews in the world, from all walks of life. We wrote then that the candidates were chosen from all walks of life “for their ability to fashion the face of the future.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was top of our list last year. This year, he is in second place, still high on the list, based on his leadership of Israel and ability to shape the future of the Jewish people. His recent speech to the US Congress was his most eloquent policy address to date, and while vague on specifics, strongly signals his continued desire to make history by forging a peace agreement with the Palestinians in particular, and the Arab world in general. Following Netanyahu are Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, new military chief, Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz, and Meir Dagan, the former chief of the Mossad, all of whom may play a key security role in the coming year.

Rounding off our top 10 are Dennis Ross, a key adviser to US President Barack Obama on the Middle East, Ben Bernanke, the powerful chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Stanley Fischer, the internationally respected governor of the Bank of Israel, and Edelstein.

Others who are expected to play an important part in advocating for Israel in the coming year (and hence feature fairly high on the list) are Ron Prosor, who takes up the prestigious position of ambassador to the United Nations in July, ahead of the much-anticipated Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN General Assembly in September, as well as Israel’s articulate ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, and Eric Cantor, the astute majority leader of the US House of Representatives.

After publication of our last list, we received a torrent of responses, both in letters to the editor and talkbacks on the Internet. We carefully noted our readers’ criticism, sometimes scathing, and suggestions, many of which were helpful. This year’s list contains many new names, including respected rabbis, Diaspora leaders and wonderful women, some of whom readers charged had been unfairly downplayed.

We have endeavored to correct that oversight by including a few of the world’s most revered religious leaders, headed by the great Jerusalem-based Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, who last year concluded his monumental translation and commentary of the Talmud.

Also in the list are Rabbi Yitzhak David Grossman, the founder of Migdal Ohr, which cares for impoverished children throughout Israel, Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel, and Rabbi Menachem Froman, the chief rabbi of the settlement of Tekoa, known for his peacemaking efforts with Muslim religious leaders.

Among the prominent women are Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the US congresswoman who serves as head of the Democratic National Committee, US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who survived an assassination attempt earlier this year and was named by Time as one of the world’s most influential people, and Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni, who was named by Newsweek as one of the world’s most powerful women.

We also feature an interview with Ester Levanon, the savvy managing director of the resilient Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

Toward the bottom of our list are Israeli-born American actress Natalie Portman and Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli, who may be more familiar to citizens of the world than most of the other names mentioned – and their movements are covered by the media just as much if not more than some of the political and business leaders higher up on the list.

Coinciding with Jerusalem Day, which was celebrated last week, we have honored Jerusalem’s popular mayor, Nir Barkat, this year. And as we celebrate Shavuot, the giving of the Torah, we also chose Joseph Cedar, who recently won the best screenplay prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his new movie, Footnote, which addresses the relationship between a father and son who are rival researchers of Talmud.

As a new addition this year, our Jewish world correspondent, Gil Shefler, has compiled a list of relatively young people who show signs of becoming future movers and shakers.

I would like to thank my assistant editor, Joshua Hamerman, as well as our team of contributing reporters – Herb Keinon, Gil Shefler, Nadav Shemer, Sharon Udasin, Jonah Mandel, Yaakov Katz, Gil Hoffman, Hilary Leila Krieger, Melanie Lidman, Greer Fay Cashman and Tovah Lazaroff – and our meticulous chief copy editor, Sybil Ehrlich, assisted by Rachel Beitsch-Feldman, for helping to put together this special supplement.

To our readers, a message of encouragement: Enjoy reading about the interesting people our list comprises! Remember that no such list can be all-inclusive, and every year important people are inevitably left out.

Hopefully, this year’s list will spark as strong a reaction as last year, when we received dozens of letters of kudos and condemnation.

 

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Saleh Vows to Return to Yemen Soon

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US Urges ‘Immediate’ Transition of Power to Acting Ruler

antiwar.com

Long-time Yemeni dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh dismissed the notion that his retreat to Saudi Arabia for surgery was a permanent move, insisting he would return to the country “within days” and intended to retain power.

The nation’s interim ruler Major General Hadi confirmed that this was the case, saying Saleh’s health had “greatly improved.” The president fled the country after being wounded in an attack on Friday, and had surgery over the weekend.

Saleh’s impending return immediately throws into doubt the ceasefire between regime troops and the tribal forces led by Sheikh Ahmar. The deal was no doubt based on the assumption of Saleh’s ouster, and if he manages to return the situation is likely to resume.

The Obama Administration, for its part, called for an “immediate transition” of power to Maj. Gen. Hadi, who they’ve previously suggested was their preferred post-Saleh ruler. Officials said it was vital because of the threat of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which took over some small towns in the southwest. The pro-democracy protesters are unlikely to look kindly on a new military ruler, however.

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US Drones Pound Pakistan, Killing at Least 21

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antiwar.com

US drones launched a number of missile attacks against the South Waziristan Agency of Pakistan overnight, killing at least 21 people and wounding an unknown number of others. The strikes destroyed two homes and a religious school in the tribal area as well as a vehicle.

The victims of the attacks were unknown but Pakistani officials say they believe that foreigners wereamong the slain in the attack on the vehicle.  The US, as usual, did not offer any comment on the attacks.

The strikes come just days after a separate attack on South Waziristan which officials say they believe killed Ilyas Kashmiri, a militant faction leader they blame for the 2008 Mumbai attack. It is the second time Kashmiri was “confirmed” killed in a US drone attack, the previous being in September of 2009.

Pakistan’s government had been demanding the end to the US drone strikes over rising evidence that most of the people being killed were just random tribesmen. The news of Kashmiri’s latest death appears to have stalled those concerns, at least for the time being. The deaths of militant leaders in Waziristan have a notorious history of being temporary, however, and if he reemerges it will likely renew concerns about the program.

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Zionist’s Attack on America June 8, 1967

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On this, the 44th anniversery of Zionist’s deliberate attack on a United States ship, USS LIBERTY, let us not forget the 34 Americans killed by America’s “only ally” in the region.

 

 

 

 

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West Bank mosque targeted in suspected ‘price tag’ attack by Nazi settlers

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Zionist youth roll burning tires into a mosque in Maghayer village next to Zionist Alei Ayin outpost demolished by by Zio-Nazi army last week.

Haaretz

The Civil Administration received reports Tuesday of settlers who carried out a suspected ‘price tag’ attack in Maghayer village near Ramallah.

Initial investigation showed that in the early morning hours the settlers rolled burning tires into the mosque, which caused some rugs to catch fire. The mosque was also sprayed with graffiti.

The village is located near the Alei Ayin outpost, where the Israeli security forces demolished illegal structures last week. The police is investigating whether the two events are linked.

Civil Administration official have spoken with the head of the village and promised a swift investigation.

The Rabbis for Human Rights organization said Tuesday this kind violence threatens everyone and may backfire. “This despicable act goes against human morality and our Jewish belief that we must not harm followers of different religion,” the organization said in a statement.

Rightist activist Itamar Ben-Gvir said the arson doesn’t come as a surprise. “In the last few months Jewish blood has been spilled like water in Judea and Samaria,” he said. “Instead of dealing with enemies, the police tears down one outpost after another. The feelings of anger and discrimination have their consequences.”

The Peace Now movement responded by calling for more decisive actions against violent settlers. “The Shin Bet security service and the police must uproot the ‘hill youth’ phenomenon,” it said.

About a year ago residents of the village of Bayt Fajar near Bethlehem alleged that a group of settlers, apparently from the nearby Gush Etzion settlement bloc, entered the village before dawn and burned down the local mosque.

Tuesday marks the 44th anniversary of the battles over East Jerusalem in the Six Day war, as the IDF prepares for rallies in the Golan Heights, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

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buffer zone protests

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Zio-Nazi Fuad: Fear of a BDS Europe

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From Ha’aretz, June 6:

“Listen, Bibi,” MK Benjamin [Fuad] Ben-Eliezer (Labor ) growled, “I congratulate you on your hug from Congress, but it will not take us off the path to confrontation. Our situation in Europe is very bad. President Obama said everything we wanted him to say. Now you have to announce that Israel will vote for a Palestinian state in the UN this September … As a former industry and trade minister, I tell you: The markets are closing. We will suffer a devastating economic blow.”

& from May 15, from the Israeli tech business publication Calcalist, as translated by the Alternative Information Center:

“We are quickly turning into South Africa” noted Idan Ofer to the Israeli paper Calcalist, a prominent Israeli player in international ventures and future technologies. “The economic damage in the wake of boycott and sanctions will be felt by every family in Israel. The top percentiles, members of the middle class and first and foremost the distressed classes,” he added.

Together with Yaakov Peri, the former head of Israel’s General Security Services (GSS) and Dani Gilerman, the former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Ofer initiated the meeting of some 80 of Israel’s most prominent businessmen.

“Global business provide us with heightened senses and in recent months we are experiencing signs of substantial erosion in the legitimacy of the state of Israel, stated Ofer. “If in the past the community of business people tended to desist from taking a position in relation to the political process, today’s situation obligates us to act in defence of the Israeli economy. In an age in which exports represent almost 50% of the gross domestic product, damage to Israel’s international position will immediately endanger jobs and households in Israel.” Therefore, said Ofer, “we must act with all the means at our disposal to call on the government of Israel to initiate a political initiative that will prevent any possibility of the imposition of a boycott on Israel.”

Dani Gillerman, the former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, said “the morning after the expected recognition of a Palestinian state, a dramatic and painful process of South Africanisation of the state of Israel will commence. The economic quiet existing today in Israel is illusionary, and is very likely to explode immediately following the declaration. I continue even today to receive messages from senior Palestinian officials that the Palestinian side prefers a peace agreement over a unilateral move. Therefore, the (Israeli) prime minister must initiate a real political process which will allow this, and prevent a catastrophe from an Israeli perspective.”

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Palestine: unity is strength

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Hamas and Fatah reconciliation brings hope for the future.

Sixty-three years after the Nakba (catastrophe), the ethnic-cleansing project that launched Israel through the massacre of thousands of Palestinians and the forced eviction of over 750,000 more from their homes and land, Israel is still terrorising the Palestinian people. In recent months, airstrikes on Gaza have again been increasing, while the illegal siege remains in place. Meanwhile, the demolition of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem and the expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank have also been continuing.

However, despite the continued impunity with which Israel wreaks its vengeance on those it has failed in six decades to crush, as the Arab revolts spread around it, and with the Palestinians finally getting reunited in their struggle for self-determination, the long-term prospects for Israel are looking bleaker by the day.

Palestinian unity

On 27 April 2011, delegations from Hamas and Fatah met in Cairo, following a series of discussions brokered by Egypt, to finalise the Palestinian National Reconciliation Agreement. A week later, again in Cairo, the agreement was signed by Khaled Meshaal, leader of Hamas, and Mahmoud Abbas, leader of Fatah, along with 12 other organisations, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Islamic Jihad, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) and the Palestine People’s Party (PPP).

The agreement is a great step forward for the Palestinian struggle and follows massive demonstrations at the end of March in Gaza and the West Bank, which called for an end to division in the Palestinian leadership.

After four years of hostility, during which the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority (PA) played a shameful role, the move toward forming a unity government, with Hamas in a strong position, is a positive advance in the cause of Palestinian self-determination.

The talks also mark a significant change in the role being played by Egypt following the removal of Mubarak. The unity agreement was brokered much to the chagrin of the US and Israel, who had not been consulted or informed. For once, middle-eastern peace talks had been undertaken with only those thatneeded to be involved in the discussions, not those foreign powers who think they have the inalienable right to dictate policy to other countries.

This is an extremely positive sign that Egypt is beginning to move away from subordinating itself to the interests of US imperialism and is instead realigning itself towards those of its own people and of the Middle East in general.

Under the unity agreement an interim government will be set up, with elections to be held within a year. Discussions are already underway as to who will form the interim government pending fresh elections. The agreement also provides for the release of political prisoners, and for the merging of Hamas and Fatah security forces. It also stipulates that the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) will be restructured in order to allow Hamas to join it, thus hopefully giving a new lease of life to the broad front that had formerly for decades been widely recognised as representing Palestinians in struggle, but which had seemed to lose much of its legitimacy and relevance after the death of Yasser Arafat and the ascent to power of Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel’s preference is division

Unsurprisingly, given the amount of time and money Israel has invested in maintaining Palestinian divisions through encouraging the PA to collude with them against Hamas, the Israelis were quick to oppose the agreement.

Their initial response was to freeze the tax revenues that Israel collects for the PA, and to call on other western donors to stop the flow of money likewise. This was, however, met with contempt by all those involved in the reconciliation agreement, and also received rare criticism from UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon. Israel has subsequently lifted the freeze, stating however that “We will continue to verify that the money is not going into the accounts of terrorist organisations. If we believe that is the case, we will stop the transfers again.” (Quoted in ‘Israel’s strategic affairs minister Moshe Yaalon’, AFP, 16 May 2011)

Clearly (and quite correctly!), Israel is terrified of the looming prospect that a united Palestinian government will be able to revitalise the struggle and lead a far stronger opposition to Israeli occupation.

This point has not been lost on Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, whose office stated: “Hamas aspires to destroy the state of Israel and says so explicitly. The idea of reconciliation with Hamas demonstrates the weakness of the Palestinian Authority and makes one wonder whether Hamas will seize control of the [West Bank] the way it seized control of Gaza.” (Quoted in ‘Hamas and Fatah reach resolution’ by Vita Bekker, Financial Times, 27 April 2011)

Egypt a friend of Palestine

The fall of the Mubarak regime is beginning to usher in a new era for Egypt, which shows some signs of bringing an end to the treacherous role it played in aiding Israeli zionism and keeping the Palestinians down, most notoriously through its role in maintaining the siege of Gaza.

This turnaround in Egypt’s approach comes just three months after the fall of Mubarak’s regime. During the preceding fifteen months, talks brokered by the previous Egyptian government had produced little in the way of unity between Fatah and Hamas. However, the lack of progress during those talks was unsurprising given they were mediated by Omar Suleiman, Mubarak’s intelligence chief and a close associate of both the US and Israel, whose desire has always been for disunity amongst the Palestinians.

Previously, also at the behest of its imperialist masters, Egypt did its best to isolate Hamas. It was Suleiman, the so-called ‘mediator of unity’ no less, who promised Israel in 2005 that he would prevent Hamas’ rise to power. (‘WikiLeaks: Suleiman promised to stop Hamas’, JPost.com, 11 February 2011)

With the old regime’s demise, relations between Egypt and Hamas have improved considerably. Hani al-Masari, one of the political analysts who travelled to Cairo and Damascus as part of the reconciliation talks in April, explained that “the revolution in Egypt has made Hamas comfortable that now it has a mediator who is not biased to one side or the other”. (Quoted in ‘Palestinian rivals unite with regional mood’ by Tobias Buck, Financial Times, 9 May 2011)

In recent weeks, Egypt has finally responded to calls from home and abroad by gradually easing the restrictions on people and goods allowed into Gaza through the Rafah border crossing, a move that will effectively render Israel’s four-year siege a failure. It has also stopped the construction of the metal barrier wall that Mubarak had started to build to help enforce the Israeli blockade, which was known to ordinary Egyptians as the ‘wall of shame’.

Clearly under pressure from the newly-awakened masses, Egypt’s foreign minister Nabil al-Arabi confirmed that the interim government would no longer accept that the Rafah border remained blocked and described his country’s decision to seal it off as “shameful”.

As Egypt’s relations with Palestine have changed, so too must its relations with Israel. The Muslim Brotherhood, a leading voice in the new Egypt, has called for a review of the 1978 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. It has also called for an end to normalisation with Israel and the abolition of areas of joint economic interest, such as the Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZ) that allow Egypt to export goods to the US duty-free as long as Israel has contributed 10 percent to their manufacture.

The Brotherhood is also championing the abolition of another unpopular agreement with Israel in calling for an end to the export of Egyptian gas at rock-bottom prices to Israel.

As David Gardner put it: “Israel’s discomfiture is understandable. The era in which it competed for regional influence with Turkey and Iran, in a game refereed by the US, with the Arab states watching impotently from the sidelines, is over. Egypt, once the beating heart of Arabism, is back in the game. ” (‘Old certainties tottering in face of Arab spring’, Financial Times, 10 May 2011)

UN vote on Palestinian state

Meanwhile, the PA has announced its intention of tabling Resolution 377, ‘Uniting for peace’, at the UN General Assembly (GA) session in September, calling for the UN to recognise a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders of the West Bank and Gaza.

It is likely that a vote of the GA will accept the resolution, since 140 of the 192 countries in the GA have already indicated their support. Although this has happened twice before, it will still be a blow to Israel and the US.

However, membership can only be granted by the GA on the recommendation of the Security Council. It is here that UN recognition of a Palestinian state comes unstuck as the five permanent members, of which the US is one, have the veto on any such recommendation.

Israel lashing out in fury

With the Arab revolts spreading across the region, Israel continues to vent its fury on the people of Gaza, with intensified bombing across the Strip. Unsurprisingly, there have been no calls for enforcing a ‘no-fly zone’ over Israel from the ‘great and the good’ of the ‘international community’ who were all so keen to launch an attack on Libya for supposed ‘human rights’ violations.

In another push at expanding into West Bank territory, the Israeli cabinet’s ministerial committee has approved the construction of a further 500 homes within illegal settlements in the West Bank. This was apparently in response to the killing of a settler family of five. The construction of these houses will only serve to further the dismemberment of the West Bank and increase the impossibility of a two-state solution ever being implemented. Thus, even as it lashes out at the Palestinians, Israel is in fact hastening the day of its own demise.

In the short term, Palestinians generally and Gazans in particular may be suffering more than ever as the zionists continue to attack viciously in all directions. However, their long-term prospects can be seen in a very different light. With the shift in the balance of forces in the Middle East, Israel’s ability to act with impunity against either the Palestinians or its Arab neighbours looks set to start rapidly diminishing. Added to this, the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, thereby forging the struggle of a unified Palestinian people against Israeli occupation, represents a great opportunity for Palestinian justice.

 

See: www.cpgb-ml.org

 

 

Posted in Palestine Affairs1 Comment

Defend Syria against imperialist aggression

NOVANEWS

 


The vicious campaign to overthrow the anti-imperialist regime in Syria must not be allowed to succeed.

The imperialist powers, principally the United States, Britain and France, along with the Israeli zionists, are continuing with an aggressive campaign against Syria, which, along with Libya and Algeria, is one of the only remaining Arab countries that presently maintains an independent stance. This campaign is aimed at destabilising the country and overthrowing the government led by the Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party.

Well-rehearsed imperialist script

The strategy and stages of this destabilisation process are, or ought to be, familiar by now:

•    Using grievances, both justified or unjustified, among sections of society to foment protests and demonstrations;

•    Encouraging terrorist actions against not only police and security forces but also against the general public and even against anti-government protestors, whilst conducting a propaganda war that all is that is happening is peaceful protest;

•    Presenting the government’s legitimate response to such provocations in the most lurid and exaggerated terms, with every rumour and falsehood, frequently invented by the imperialists themselves, presented as fact;

•    Using the hysterical atmosphere thus created to impose sanctions on the country, both as a form of psychological warfare and to impact on its economy by, for example choking off trade credits and restricting access to the international banking system; and finally

•    Launching outright armed aggression against the victimised country, using overwhelming military force, in particular aerial bombardment that constitutes nothing less than state terrorism, with or without the fig leaf of a resolution from the toothless and spineless United Nations Security Council.

This cynical scenario, already played out this year in the case of Libya, is now targeting Syria. Although the imperialists have failed to attain their aims in Iraq, are being defeated in Afghanistan, are presently stalemated in Libya, are under pressure from the people’s movements in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and other Arab countries, and are shaken by the revitalised struggle of the Palestinian people, who are unifying their ranks and intensifying their struggle, there can be no complacency regarding imperialism’s war agenda against Syria.

If Damascus is to be spared the fate currently being experienced by Tripoli, and previously by Baghdad and Belgrade, then it will be entirely due to the resistance of the Syrian and other Arab people and the solidarity of their allies and friends.

Western media lies

From the time that disturbances broke out in Syria in mid-March, manipulation, misrepresentation and lies could be discerned on the part of the imperialist mass media (as well as by their stooges who in the case of Libya and Syria have been joined by Al-Jazeera, the wholly owned mouthpiece of the Qatari feudal dictatorship, despite the positive role that it played with regard to the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt).

The Syrian police and armed forces were accused of indiscriminate firing and of killing unarmed ‘pro-democracy’ demonstrators. But as Michael Chossudovsky of the Canadian organisation Global Research noted:

While these police shootings did indeed occur, what the media failed to mention is that among the demonstrators there were armed gunmen as well as snipers who were shooting at both the security forces and the protesters.” (‘Syria: Who is behind the protest movement? Fabricating a pretext for a US-Nato “Humanitarian Intervention”’, 3 May 2011)

Besides this, there have been numerous demonstrations in Damascus and throughout the country in support of the government and President Bashar al-Assad, some of them tens of thousands strong (even according to Reuters figures), but these have scarcely been mentioned. Indeed, on several occasions, video footage and photos of pro-government rallies have actually been presented by western media as mass anti-government protests!

Chossudovsky further notes: “From the initial casualty figures … there were more policemen than demonstrators who were killed: seven policemen killed versus four demonstrators. This is significant because it suggests that the police force might have been initially outnumbered by a well-organised armed gang.

According to Syrian media sources, there were also snipers on rooftops which were shooting at both the police and the protesters.

What is clear from these initial reports is that many of the demonstrators were not demonstrators but terrorists involved in premeditated acts of killing and arson.” (Ibid)

Such reports have continued to come out of Syria, but they have been blacked out by corporate media, imperialist governments and politicians alike, who are all determined to stick to their prepared script of a ‘brutal dictatorship slaughtering its own people’.

For example, on 8 May, China’s Xinhua news agency reported that:

Thirteen army personnel were killed Sunday in an ambush set by an ‘armed terrorist group’ in the central city of Homs, Syria News local website reported … Meanwhile, state SANA news agency reported that the army mourned on Sunday three of its personnel who were killed by a terrorist group last night in Homs, 160 km north of the capital Damascus.” (‘Thirteen Syrian army personnel killed in ambush set by “armed group”: report’)

The following day, the same agency noted: “Al-Watan newspaper also reported that Banias has been under the full control of the Syrian army after fierce battles with armed terrorist groups, which it said were using heavy weapons and mortar shells.

The army units and security agents are still chasing the terrorist groups in the city and in some villages of the southern province of Daraa, it said, noting that six army officers were killed.” (‘Syria president says turmoil will end’)

Economic challenges

There are, of course, economic and other reasons why some sections of the Syrian population have become estranged from their government.

For many years, Syria had an essentially socialist-oriented economy, in which the state played the dominant role. As in a number of other countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, relentless pressures in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the socialist countries of central and eastern Europe forced a retreat from this.

In particular, in 2006, the Syrian government finally accepted an IMF plan that imposed austerity measures, a wage freeze, opened the economy to foreign banks and privatised a substantial number of previously state-run enterprises. Predictably this led to increased unemployment and inflation alongside deteriorating social conditions. On the other hand, a small number of people were greatly enriched, including some with close ties to the ruling circles.

But besides these new government policies, there are other reasons for Syria’s present economic difficulties, the blame for which cannot be laid at the door of Damascus.

The country, like many in the Third World, has been badly hit by the dramatic global rise in food prices, and particularly by the suspension of grain exports by Russia and Ukraine, traditionally major suppliers to many Arab states, following the severe drought and devastating fires in those countries.

These woes have been compounded by severe water shortages, due at least in part to the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights, home to a major aquifer, since 1967, as well as the building of dams and the resultant diversion of waters from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers by successive reactionary regimes in Turkey.

Perhaps the greatest issue has been the refugee burden that Syria has long assumed as a result of the imperialist despoliation of the region.

Writing in the US paper Workers’ World, Sara Flounders noted:

Syria has had the added burden of providing for more than 500,000 Palestinian refugees and their descendants for the past 63 years. Their conditions are better than in any surrounding countries because, unlike in Lebanon and Jordan, health care, education and housing are accessible to Palestinians in Syria.

The massive US invasion and destruction of neighbouring Iraq, the Bush-Blair discussion of a similar attack on Syria in 2003, and the harsh new sanctions on Syria have added intense pressure.

But the most dislocating factor is never discussed in the corporate media: more than 1,500,000 Iraqis have flooded into Syria to escape the last eight years of US occupation.

This was a huge influx for a country with a population in 2006 of 18 million. According to a 2007 report by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the arrival of 2,000 desperate Iraqis per day had an extreme impact on all facets of life in Syria, particularly on the services offered by the state to all its citizens and all refugees. Syria has the highest level of civic and social rights for refugees in the region. Other surrounding countries require a minimum bank balance and ban destitute refugees.

The unexpected arrival of these Iraqi refugees has had a dramatic impact on the infrastructure, on guaranteed free elementary and high schools, on free health care, on housing availability and other areas of the economy. It has led to a rise in costs across the board. The prices of foodstuffs and basic goods have gone up by 30 percent, property prices by 40 percent and housing rentals by 150 percent.

Iraqi refugees also benefited from Syrian state subsidies in gasoline, food, water and other essential goods provided to everyone. Such a large mass of unemployed people led to the lowering of wages and increased competition for jobs. The impact of the global economic downturn during this difficult period added to the problems. (Middle East Institute, 10 December 2010, Report on refugee cooperation)

The US created the refugee crisis, which left more than 25 percent of the Iraqi population displaced … Yet it accepts the lowest number of refugees and has donated less than the cost of one day of the war in Iraq toward UN relief costs. US sanctions on Syria have increased the economic dislocations.” (‘Events in Syria – which side are you on?’, 5 May 2011)

It is clear, therefore, that the main cause of any problems in Syria lies in direct and indirect imperialist pressure, be it in the form of military threats, occupation of part of the national territory by the ionist entity, economic sanctions and the impact of the ionist dispossession of the Palestinian people, and the imperialist occupation and destruction of Iraq.

Syria’s achievements

Yet despite all this, the Syrian government has, compared to others in the region, done a commendable job in providing for the social and economic needs and rights of the people. The literacy rate in Syria is 84 percent, whereas in Egypt, the world’s second-largest recipient of US aid after Israel, the literacy rate barely tops 60 percent.

According to the CIA World Factbook (clearly not a source unduly sympathetic to the Syrian government), life expectancy in Syria is 74.69 years, being 72.31 for men and 77.21 for women. This ranks at 94 out of 222, comprising 221 states and territories, with the world average taking the 160th place. To further put this into some kind of perspective, this puts Syria ahead of four members of the European Union – Romania (109), Bulgaria (114), Estonia (118) and Latvia (122).

Comparing Syria with its neighbours, we find it outranking oil-rich Saudi Arabia, which takes the 108th position, as well as Egypt (123), Turkey (126) and Yemen (173). Russia, after the disastrous restoration of capitalism, has sunk to 162nd place, whilst the blessings of imperialist occupation leave Afghanistan at 221 out of 222, with an average life expectancy of just 45.02 years.

Turning to infant mortality, the same CIA source puts Syria’s level at 15.62 in every 1,000 live births, putting the country in 115th place out of 222, with a world average of 41.61. Again, this puts Syria in a better position than Saudi Arabia on 16.16, Jordan (16.42), Turkey (23.49), Egypt (25.20), Tunisia (25.92), Morocco (27.53), Iraq (which in the time of Saddam Hussein had the best health service in the whole Middle East (41.68), Yemen (55.11), Mauritania (60.42), and Western Sahara, which is under Moroccan colonial occupation (60.44). Once again, Afghanistan has the second worst position in the whole world, with a heart-rending 149.20 deaths out of every 1,000 live births.

If the imperialist destabilisation campaign against Syria were to succeed, not only would these and other social gains for the Syrian masses be wiped out, the whole anti-imperialist struggle in the Middle East would suffer a major blow.

Anti-imperialist Iran would lose its only real ally in the region. The resistance movements of Hizbollah and Hamas would also be substantially weakened. According to Xinhua, no fewer than 11 Palestinian liberation movements are based in Damascus. These include Hamas, which has played the leading role in the resistance in recent years, as well as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).

And whilst the United States would doubtless gain yet more bases in the region if Syria’s anti-imperialist government were to fall, Russia would lose one of its last two naval bases outside its own country, the other being in Ukraine.

History of sanctions and aggression

Imperialist hostility to the country did not begin with the sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union in recent weeks.

Among the organisations believed to be implicated in the armed opposition to the Syrian government, two, the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood (which staged a major insurrection in 1982) and Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HuT or Party of Liberation), have been headquartered in London for decades.

Hizb-ut-Tahrir claims to be a pan-Islamic party devoted to establishing a global Caliphate, or theocratic state with an absolute ruler, based on the most backward, most obscurantist and most medieval interpretations of Islam. Needless to say, it is violently anti-socialist, misogynist and opposed to national liberation.

But despite, or more likely because, of its professed support for a global Caliphate, there have been persistent reports that the organisation has been extensively used, whether unwittingly or otherwise, by MI6. British imperialism, its intelligence services in particular, has a long history of using fundamentalist movements in its machinations in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Libya and elsewhere, including the Central Asian republics, both before and after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

According to the State of Pakistan blog:

Hizb-ut-Tahrir in Britain emphasised the importance of muslims choosing loyalty to their religion above loyalty to Britain or any other country. In Hizb-ut-Tahrir’s view, Islam is anti-nationalist, transnational and pan-islamic in nature. Although it was founded decades ago and is active in many countries, its activities in Central Asia are considered as of vital importance to MI6 as part of Anglo-American strategy to contain the Russians and since the last decade to counter the growing influence of China. ” (‘Is Hizb-ut-Tahrir another project of British MI6?’, 21 March 2010)

Needless to say, the United States has been no less implicated. Syria has long been on the State Department’s notorious so-called “list of state sponsors of terrorism”, which has been one of the pretexts under which Syria has been subject to crippling sanctions.

Indeed, such have been the extent of US sanctions on Syria that the BBC said that western governments were “struggling to find levers” to put pressure on Damascus in terms of further sanctions. The Guardianadded:

The US treasury department and other American agencies are discussing freezing the assets of senior officials accused of human rights abuses and banning them from travelling to the US or doing business there. Such sanctions are mainly symbolic, as the US has long had stringent measures in place against Syria and has little trade with the country.” (‘Syria sanctions planned by US after Deraa assault’, 25 April 2011)

Sanctions by the EU could be considerably more dangerous to the country. On 28 April, the Wall Street Journal reported:

European Union ambassadors will consider a number of sanctions against Syria when they meet Friday, including an asset freeze, travel bans and an arms embargo, according to a document seen by the Wall Street Journal.

The document, sent to member-state representatives by the EU Foreign Service on Wednesday, says restrictive measures could also include the freezing of current and planned aid to Syria, including loans from the European Investment Bank …

The EU has earmarked aid to Syria worth €129m ($191m) for various programmes to help economic and rural developments for 2011-13. The EU has given Syria €80m in aid in recent years to help the country cope with the influx of Iraqi refugees. More significantly, the European Investment Bank has programmes with Syria valued at about €1.3bn.

The EU is Syria’s main trade partner, with bilateral trade representing €5.4bn in 2009, some 23 percent of Syria’s trade, according to EU statistics.” (‘EU mulls Syrian asset freeze, arms embargo’)

Calling for further pressure to be placed on Damascus, a 6 May editorial in the Financial Times wrote:

The US has shown through its sanctions against Iran that it is possible effectively to freeze targets out of the international financial system.” (In fact, these tactics were developed and used on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [DPRK] before they were unleashed on Iran.) (‘Going from talk to action on Syria’)

In 2002, the US Pentagon’s Nuclear Posture Review was leaked to the Los Angeles Times. According to this, Syria was one of seven countries against which the US had actively developed and current plans for a nuclear first strike, the others being China, Russia, the DPRK, Iran, Iraq and Libya.

On 6 September 2007, Syria was the victim of an Israeli air strike, which the ionists and the United States claim destroyed a projected nuclear reactor, supposedly being built with assistance from the DPRK, although both the Syrian and Korean governments have consistently denied this.

WikiLeaks exposure

On 17 April, the Washington Post, relying on WikiLeaks, revealed important information regarding how US imperialism has long since been funding Syria’s right-wing opposition. The paper reported:

The State Department has secretly financed Syrian political opposition groups and related projects, including a satellite TV channel that beams anti-government programming into the country, according to previously undisclosed diplomatic cables.

The London-based satellite channel, Barada TV, began broadcasting in April 2009 but has ramped up operations to cover the mass protests in Syria as part of a long-standing campaign to overthrow the country’s autocratic leader, Bashar al-Assad.

Barada TV is closely affiliated with the Movement for Justice and Development, a London-based network of Syrian exiles. Classified US diplomatic cables show that the State Department has funnelled as much as $6m to the group since 2006 to operate the satellite channel and finance other activities inside Syria. The channel is named after the Barada River, which courses through the heart of Damascus, the Syrian capital.

The US money for Syrian opposition figures began flowing under President George W Bush after he effectively froze political ties with Damascus in 2005. The financial backing has continued under President Obama, even as his administration sought to rebuild relations with Assad.” (‘US secretly backed Syrian opposition groups, cables released by WikiLeaks show’)

Attempts to get the United Nations Security Council to condemn and sanction Syria have so far failed, owing to opposition from a number of countries, including Russia, China, India and Lebanon. The draft statement had been tabled by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal.

But even without a UN fig leaf, voices are already being raised for military action. Joseph Lieberman, an extreme right-wing former Democratic vice-presidential candidate and arch zionist, has called on the US to bomb Syria next, after Libya.

In the face of all these threats, the Syrian government and people remain defiant. Demonstrators outside the US embassy declared that US intervention “would only strengthen the unity of the Syrian people”. Similar demonstrations have taken place outside the French embassy and the headquarters of the delegation of the European Commission. (‘Hundreds protest US intervention in Syrian affairs’, Xinhua, 8 May 2011)

 

See: www.cpgb-ml.org

 

 

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