Archive | June 22nd, 2012



Syria calls air force defector ‘traitor’, demands Jordan return fighter jet

Statement released just hours after a Syrian fighter jet makes emergency landing at a northern Jordanian airbase.


The Syrian Defense Ministry said on Thursday that a military pilot who defected to Jordan on Thursday with his MiG-21 fighter jet was a “traitor” and that it was in contact with Jordanian authorities to retrieve the aircraft.

“The pilot is considered a deserter from service and a traitor to his country and his military honor. Contacts are underway with the Jordanian side to make arrangements to return the plane,” a statement by the ministry said.

The statement was released just hours after a Syrian fighter jet made an emergency landing at a northern Jordanian airbase.

A Jordanian official said the Russian-made MiG-21 landed at the King Hussein Air Base in Mafraq, a north Jordanian town near the Syrian border.

Meanwhile, the head of the Arab League said on Thursday he expected a meeting of the five big powers in Geneva later this month to produce “practical mechanisms”, not words, to resolve the conflict in Syria.

Describing the situation in Syria as a tragedy, Nabil Elaraby said he was hopeful that the June 30 conference would result in action to deal with the crisis.

“It will include the big five states which have never met together on this issue before. This is very important, because this is the key,” Elaraby said speaking to reporters at the League’s headquarters in Cairo.

“The second point is that the preparations that are under way now are producing practical mechanisms,” he said. He declined to give any further details.
International efforts to halt the violence are deadlocked because Russia and China, which hold veto power in the UN Security Council, have blocked tougher measures against Assad, their strategic regional ally.

They say the solution must come through political dialogue, an approach that most of the Syrian opposition rejects. An uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule in Syria that erupted 15 months ago has turned into an armed conflict between his security forces and armed rebels.

The League’s deputy secretary general Ahmed Ben Helli urged Russia on Thursday to halt arms sales to Syria and said that UN sanctions could be needed to force Assad and the rebels to implement a failing peace plan. Helli was heading an Arab League delegation to Moscow to hold talks about Syria.

The United Nations says more than 10,000 people have been killed by government forces during the conflict, while Syria says at least 2,600 members of the military and security forces have been killed by what it calls foreign-backed “Islamist terrorists”.

But a peace plan proposed by international envoy and Nobel Peace laureate Kofi Annan has all but collapsed and the West is unwilling to intervene militarily, as it did in Libya last year to seal the fate of Muammar Gadhafi.

Elaraby met with the 16 representatives of the Syrian opposition earlier on Thursday and said there was agreement on a broader meeting of the opposition on July 2 or 3, but that the date may be pushed back. “They all spoke of their vision and hope for the future,” he said.

The Syrian opposition has been weakened by power struggles pitting Islamists against secular politicians and exiled leaders against activists at home. Elaraby said there had been progress towards “harmony.”


US ambassador taps Facebook to drive wedge between Syrian military and Assad


Using social media, US Ambassador Robert Ford warns Syrian military officers they could be prosecuted for crimes against humanity by following President Bashar al-Assad’s orders.

Christian Science Monitor

Robert Ford, the US ambassador to Syria, spent much of his time taking America’s support for Syria’s pro-democracy opposition directly to the streets before he was pulled out of the country in February out of concern for his safety.

Related stories

In Pictures: Conflict in Syria

Now Ambassador Ford, holed up in Washington and relying on social media to continue getting his message out, is using Facebook to relay a stark warning to Syria’s armed forces: Stop carrying out President Bashar al-Assad’s dirty work for him, or risk finding yourself prosecuted for crimes against humanity.

“The officers and soldiers of the Syrian military have a choice to make,” Ford says in an entry on his Facebook page that he posted Wednesday. “Do they want to expose themselves to criminal prosecution by supporting the barbaric actions of the Assad regime against the Syrian people?”

IN PICTURES: Conflict in Syria

Ford then cites the case of the former Yugoslavia, noting that 161 people, including prominent and not-so-prominent members of the military, were indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia “for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity against non-combatants and combatants.”

The alternative for members of the Syrian armed forces, Ford says, is to “help secure the role of the professional military in a democratic Syria by supporting the Syrian people and their transition to an inclusive, tolerant and representative democracy that respects human rights and equal, fair treatment for all components of the Syrian nation.”

The ambassadorial effort to drive a wedge between Mr. Assad and his military henchmen comes as Western powers contemplate another try in the United Nations Security Council for a resolution on Syria. The Security Council is empowered to refer cases to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

Ford’s post was also followed, less than 24 hours later, by the defection of a Syrian fighter pilot, who flew his Russian-made MiG-21 to neighboring Jordan and was immediately granted asylum. While it’s unlikely the pilot was acting on Ford’s admonition, he nonetheless illustrated the kind of action the activist ambassador is trying to encourage.

For months, Western leaders have suggested that Assad could suffer the fate of leaders like Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic and Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. In February, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in Senate testimony that Assad should be considered a war criminal, and that same month the UN’s top human rights official, Navi Pillay, told the UN’s Human Rights Council that Syria should be referred to the ICC for “the unspeakable violations that take place every moment.”

Mr. Milosevic died in custody in The Hague as he fought war-crimes charges in a long court battle. Mr. Bashir, under ICC indictment for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, remains president of Sudan but is unable to travel widely for fear of arrest.

But other world leaders have also spoken of offering Assad asylum as a way of ending Syria’s violence and paving the way to a political transition. Indeed, the contradictions in the various proposals for handling Syria – asylum for Assad on the one hand, but now the specter of international prosecution for lower-level military as raised by Ford’s warning, on the other – has some human rights advocates worried that a let-off-the-rat-but-go-after-the-mice approach could be in the offing.

“The US is hoping to pull a rabbit out of a hat: trying for a managed transition in Syria which includes an implicit Get-out-of-Jail-Free card for Assad and his associates,” says Richard Dicker, director of the international justice program at Human Rights Watch.

The ICC can get involved only if the Security Council refers the Syria case to the court’s prosecutor for investigation, similar to what happened with Libya and Sudan, Mr. Dicker notes. But Russia, a veto-wielding member of the Security Council and Syria’s main defender, is highly unlikely to agree to a referral.

But publicly, administration officials are showing no signs of letting Assad off the hook. At the White House, the spokesman for the National Security Council, Tommy Vietor, hailed the defecting Syrian pilot even as he echoed Ford’s call to the Syrian military to jump their commander’s ship and distance themselves from the regime’s “horrific actions.”

“We welcome this pilot’s decision to do the right thing,” Mr. Vietor said. “We have long called on the military and members of the Syrian regime to defect and abandon their positions rather than be complicit in the regime’s atrocities.”

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Declassified: Massive Israeli manipulation of US media exposed


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New Cold War: The War by Proxy in Syria


History books tell us that the Cold War was a period of tensions between the two superpowers which emerged after the second world war, the U.S. and the Soviet Union and their respective allies. Always on the brink of war, the two super powers never reached military confrontation. Or so we are told.

The reality is quite far from that mainstream history revisonism. The Cold War was a period of constant armed confrontation, which took the form of proxy wars on almost every continent. The Mujahideen during the Soviet-Afghan War illustrate that phenomenon which is replicated today in Syria: “rebels” sponsored by the U.S and their allies are seeking to instate a puppet regime….

Scott Taylor notes in Syria Strategy looks like Bloody Repeat :

Now, even as our NATO allies continue to take mounting casualties in Afghanistan, western reporters embedded with Syrian rebel forces are painting the Islamic fundamentalists as heroic freedom fighters.

Last week, a report by David Enders, of the American media outlet McClatchy Newspapers, revealed that the Syrian rebels are using explosively formed penetrators to knock out Assad’s armoured vehicles. It was noted that these same penetrators were the bane of U.S. forces during their occupation of neighbouring Iraq.

Again, this might make one contemplate the possibility that Assad is not beyond reason when he claims to be combating “foreign fighters bent on establishing an Islamic republic.”

In Washington Arming Syrian Insurgents, Stephen Lendman observes :

It’s no surprise. It’s an open secret. It’s been ongoing since early last year directly and/or indirectly. Rhetorically supporting peace while waging war exposes Washington’s transparent hypocrisy.

On June 15, the UK Daily Telegraph headlined “US holds high-level talks with Syrian rebels seeking weapons in Washington,” saying:

In the past week, a Free Syrian Army (FSA) representative met with outgoing Syrian ambassador Robert Ford and special Syrian coordinator Frederick Hof at the State Department.

Washington’s Blog says a “Cold War II” Has Begun … In Syria

We noted in February:

The U.S. is supporting the Syrian opposition (and see this), considering military options for ousting the Syrian government, American allies Britain and Qatar allegedly already have foreign troops inside Syria, and the U.S. has been planning regime change in Syria for over 50 years.

Indeed, the United States is fighting on the same side as 3 terrorist groups in Syria.

Even Pat Buchanan asks:

If its good for Al Qaeda, can it be good for us?

Indeed, terrorist rebels have been responsible for much of the violence inside Syria. And outside monitors have confirmed that the situation on the ground is much different than it is being portrayed in the Western media. (And according to the large German newspaper FAZ, those recently massacred in Hama were on the same side as Syrian leader Assad).

According to Michel Chossudovsky: “The objective of the US sponsored armed insurgency is –with the help of Israel– to “Break Syria into Pieces”.

The “balkanisation of the Syrian Arab Republic” is to be carried out by fostering sectarian divisions, which will eventually lead to a “civil war” modelled on the former Yugoslavia. Last month, Syrian “opposition militants” were dispatched to Kosovo to organize training sessions using the “terrorist expertise” of the US sponsored Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in fighting the Yugoslav armed forces.”   

Global Research invites its readers to take a look at the latest news items on the proxy war in Syria.

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By Gilad Atzmon

In a desperate attempt to capture the imagination of patriots and nationalists, Labour leader Ed Miliband today promised new measures to prevent the British people being “locked out” of their own jobs by foreign workers. But what jobs is he talking about? Everyone knows there are no jobs. For forty years now, all British governments have gone out of their way to dismantle any manufacturing in this country and with devastating results – British industry and engineering belong to the past and the British governments have done little to change the situation.

Desperate to maintain his political relevance, Milliband distances himself from his predecessor, Gordon Brown’s, rhetoric. He (Brown) went on record saying: “I am not going to promise ‘British jobs for British workers’”. Here, I must mention, that the reference to ‘British workers’, used so often by Labour politicians, is obviously and completely out of date. Our elected politicians care nothing for the ‘worker’. They are far more interested in transforming those who used to be workers, into consumers. In fact, all Western governments are there to regulate consumption and are therefore, openly and completely submissive to big monopolies and global interests.  Accordingly the rest of us, immigrant or a native, have but one simple role in life: to buy, or more accurately, to spend money we don’t have.

‘Immigration’ is obviously another spin. The real problem in Britain and in the West in general is pretty obvious. We are paying a heavy price indeed for the fatal collapse of manufacturing. We hardly produce anything and, as time passes, lose any chance to ever produce anything again.

So Miliband diverts our attention from the real issues. He blames Brown for being “disconnected from the concerns of working people.”  Now, I wonder, what could Ed Milliband, that political toddler, possibly know about ‘working people’ or for that matter, work in general? Did Ed Milliband ever spend one day of his life in a factory or farm? Did Ed Milliband ever produce anything except empty rhetoric?

Milliband picks on immigration because he is, quite simply, a banal populist. He longs to appeal to some imaginary British national collective. At first he is apologetic: “Why didn’t we listen more?” he says as if he, Ed Milliband, could ever manage to listen. Then, he ‘empathises’ with the weak: “We lost sight of who was benefiting from that growth – and the people who were being squeezed. And, to those who lost out.” As the son of an immigrant Jewish cosmopolitan socialist, I would expect nothing less of Milliband than to transcend himself beyond any such fake, righteous British tribalism.  If Ed Milliband really cared about the ‘squeezed’ then he would be perhaps a universalist and care about all those who fall behind – both indigenous Britons and immigrants.

Ed Milliband speaks about ‘immigration’ today because to him, the very concept of production and manufacturing is alien.  It is so much easier for his lame mind to appeal to the lowest form of British xenophobic feelings.  But the truth is, as ever, quite simple: if Britain wants to save herself and to stand again on her own two feet, she must flee the service economy and pursue real production that would imbue the presently archaic notion of ‘British worker’, with a new and vibrant meaning.


Accuser Offered $500k for Silence in NY Abuse Case



Associated Press

A teenage girl was offered $500,000 to leave the country instead of testifying in an upcoming sex abuse case against her former spiritual counselor in Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, prosecutors said Thursday.

Abraham Rubin, 48, offered the bribe to the girl and her boyfriend, telling them justice would be better served if they didn’t testify in the case against Nechemya Weberman, prosecutors said. Three other men also tried to harass the accuser into silence, they said.

Weberman, 53, has been accused of molesting the girl from ages 12 to 15. He has pleaded not guilty to sex abuse charges, and he has been embraced in his community and defended as wrongly accused. The girl has been threatened, ostracized and called a slut and a troublemaker, family friends said.

Both the accuser and her boyfriend could be called to testify in the case. A court date was set for July 18.

The rallying around Weberman, suspected witness intimidation and ostracizing of his accuser reflects long-held beliefs in this insular community that problems should be dealt with from within.

Assistant District Attorney Josh Hanshaft said the four men had no regard for the criminal justice system and wanted to handle the case their way. They “tried to make the witnesses disappear so the case would be dropped,” he said.

Rubin offered to provide them with counsel on how to be uncooperative at the trial, prosecutors said. Meanwhile, brothers Jacob, Joseph and Hertzka Berger threatened and pressured the accuser and her boyfriend, telling him that they would take away the man’s kosher license at his Brooklyn restaurant if he didn’t persuade her to drop the case, prosecutors said. Jacob Berger eventually went to the boyfriend’s restaurant and tore down the license, according to the indictment.

The four men pleaded not guilty to charges including witness tampering, bribing a witness and coercion. Attorney Bruce Wenger said the men deny all the charges against them.

Rubin’s attorney, Shulamis Peltz, said her client would be vindicated when all the facts came out.

On Thursday, the courtroom was packed with family and friends of the defendants, who made bail and were released. The four were ordered to stay away from the accuser and her boyfriend.

Brooklyn is home to about 250,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews, the largest community outside of Israel. The Hasidic community is especially tight-knit, embracing centuries-old traditions and creating a network of separate schools, ambulances and community policing. More than a thousand people recently attended a fundraiser for Weberman that raised thousands intended for his defense, and, in the event he was jailed, for his family. Prosecutors said Thursday they did not have evidence to show the money was used to bribe the girl.

Weberman’s accuser was eventually kicked out of the school where she was receiving his counseling. When she was asked by a guidance counselor at her new school whether she had ever been molested, she said yes, according to a family friend. The counselor went to police last fall.

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they were victims of sexual abuse.

Weberman’s attorney, George Farkas, has said his client is innocent of the charges, and that Weberman has been maligned by the supporters of the girl, now 17.

Farkas said Thursday his client had no knowledge or involvement in the suspected bribery.

“We denounce any effort to undermine the legitimate court process in this or any case. Mr. Weberman has stated from the beginning that no one should be subjected to any form of harassment,” Farkas said in a statement.

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes has said it is difficult to prosecute cases of sex abuse within the ultra-Orthodox community, because victims are reluctant to come forward, and intimidation is rampant. Earlier this year, he created a new panel to help address intimidation problems, and the charges Thursday were a result, Hynes said.

“It became clear to us that individuals in these various communities, despite our efforts, were committed to intimidating and threatening victims, and protecting the perpetrators,” he said.

Hynes has faced recent criticism that was soft on the community for years, in exchange for political support from powerful rabbis, claims he has vehemently denied. In 2009, Hynes created a program that offered counseling and other social programs to sex abuse victims in the Orthodox community. Since then, more than 100 cases have arisen.

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CIA Officers Regulating Arms Traffic to Syria Zio-Nato Groups


According to report, U.S. operatives are stationed in southeast Turkey to ensure weapons meant for anti-Assad groups do not fall in hands of groups linked to al-Qaida.


U.S. intelligence officers are secretly operating near Turkey’s border with Syria, in an attempt to ensure that weapons meant for Syrian opposition groups do not end up in militias aligned with al-Qaida, the New York Times reported on Thursday.

According to the report, citing a U.S. official, a small group of CIA officials are stationed in southeast Turkey, where they regulate the influx of automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and anti-tank weapons to the various rebel factions.

Speaking to the New York Times, one Arab intelligence official said that clandestine American attempts were geared at collecting information on the various opposition groups, as well as “to make new sources and recruit people.”

In addition, American officials and retired CIA operatives indicated that the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama was considering other ways of assisting the anti-Assad insurgency, such as satellite imagery and detailed intelligence on Syrian troop locations and movements.

More than 14,400 people, mainly civilians, have been killed since the revolt against President Bashar Assad erupted in March 2011, according to the opposition.

On Wednesday, opposition sources said that at least 47 people, including 28 soldiers, were killed in violence across Syria.

“The dead were 14 civilians mainly from the central provinces of Homs and Hama, five revolutionary fighters and 28 soldiers,” Rami Abdel Rahman, the spokesman for the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told dpa.

He added that 20 of the Syrian troops were killed in clashes with rebels in the northwestern province of Latakia.

In Idlib, near the Syrian-Turkish border, five Syrian soldiers were killed when a car bomb exploded near their checkpoint, the U.K.-based organization said in a statement.

Meanwhile, three soldiers were killed in fighting with rebels in the town of Kernaz in Hama, it said.

Five rebels were killed in similar clashes that took place in Kurdish mountain area near the border with Turkey, Abdel Rahman said.

He added that the rebels had seized an unspecified number of military personnel along with their weapons.

In the central province of Homs, rebel fighters told dpa that Syrian troops were using helicopters in attacks on the al-Rastan and al-Kurssiar areas, setting several wheat fields ablaze.

Syrian troops also shelled areas in Hama, a central dissident province, opposition activists said.

The surge in violence came hours after the head of the UN observing mission in Syria told the UN Security Council that his team would remain in the country until a political solution was reached.

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Barak: World’s paralysis over Syria bodes ill for bid to halt Iran’s nuclear program


Speaking to the Washington Post, defense minister says all options on the table to stop Iran from going nuclear, adding there were ‘a lot of preparations on the technical level.’


The international community’s “paralysis” in the face of ongoing strife and violence in Syria highlights the importance of a unified global front against Iran’s nuclear program, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in an interview to U.S. media on Wednesday.

Barak’s comments came on the heels of a recent round of P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran in Moscow earlier this week, which ended in apparent failure after the sides were unable to reach an agreement on the inspection of certain nuclear and military installations.

Speaking about the prospect of resolving the West’s nuclear standoff with Iran through diplomatic means, Barak told the Washington Post on Wednesday that while Israel hoped “it will be solved by the free will of the ayatollahs, by the effectiveness of the sanctions, by the creativity of diplomacy or by any other miracle.”

“When we say that we are determined to prevent them, and we should all be determined, including the American leadership, the European leadership, the Russians, the Chinese, we mean what we say and that is all I can say,” Barak said.

The defense minister then indicated that the international community’s lack of resolve in dealing with ongoing Syria violence served as a warning against such inaction with Iran, saying Syrian President Bashar Assad was “living proof of the paralysis that sometimes takes over the world, even when there is no need for any further proof that something totally unacceptable that costs human life is happening.”

“Basically, [Assad] is slaughtering his own people and using every form of crime. Here you have real-time pictures of the actual crimes, the rows of buried children,” Barak told the Washington Post.

In an apparent link between the crisis in Syria and the standoff with Iran, Barak said that the world’s lack of resolve on Syria showed that “even when there is no need for any further proof, however tangible and visible the nature of the crimes, it doesn’t mean the world can mobilize the will to do something about it.”

“It’s a fact of life that we should bear in mind when we look at the overall picture around us. We are living in a tough neighborhood — no mercy for the weak, no second opportunity for those who cannot defend themselves. We have to be able to defend ourselves,” he added.

When asked whether or not Israel would launch a nuclear strike against Iran, the defense minister said: “You can’t expect me to answer directly.”

“We [the United States and Israel] are using the same rhetoric when we say that we are all determined to prevent Iran from turning into a nuclear military power, and we both say that all options are on the table. We mean it and we recommend to them to mean it,” he added.

Asked whether he felt the United States sincerely meant it weighed all options, Barak said: “At least on a technical level, there are a lot of preparations,” adding, however, that it was “not a secret that America prefers that it will be solved through diplomacy. We all hope that [diplomacy] will be successful, but time is not unlimited in this regard.”

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Syrian Christians feel vulnerable as country burns


Associated Press

BEIRUT –  Inside the besieged Syrian city of Homs, where hundreds of civilians are caught up in a fierce battle between rebels and government troops, a small group of Christians is making its own desperate pleas for safety.

Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Syria’s population, say they are particularly vulnerable to the violence sweeping the country of 22 million people. They are fearful that Syria will become another Iraq, with Christians caught in the crossfire between rival Islamic groups.

“What is happening in these neighborhoods pains our hearts,” said Maximos al-Jamal, a Greek Orthodox priest who is still in Homs. He says about 90 of the civilians in two besieged Homs neighborhoods are Christians, down from thousands who lived in the area before the uprising began.

“Before we were staying here to guard our homes but now the situation is unbearable,” one Homs resident told The Associated Press by telephone, asking that his name not be used for fear of reprisals by both sides of the conflict.

He said he feared the rebels want to keep the Christians trapped in the city as a bargaining chip while the army’s bombardment and ground attacks on the city intensify. Syrian Christians have largely stuck by President Bashar Assad, fearing the strength of Muslim hard-liners in the uprising against his rule.

Several mediators have made an urgent appeal to evacuate the Christians who they fear could be targeted for their religion. Syrian Christians don’t have to look far for an example of brutal treatment. Hundreds of thousands of Christians fled Iraq after their community and others were repeatedly targeted by extremist militants in the chaotic years after Saddam Hussein’s 2003 ouster.

The Christians, who are trapped in Homs’ Hamidiyeh and Bustan Diwan neighborhoods, include four children under the age of 10. There is barely any electricity or running water, telephone lines are unreliable and they are forced to hide in shelters during daily shelling.

Pictures posted online from the neighborhoods show empty streets full of debris, bullet-riddled buildings and churches with blown up walls and windows. Al-Jamal said a Greek Orthodox and a Protestant church were destroyed.

Father Michel Noman, who is trying to mediate a safe passage for the Christians, wrote on a Facebook page dedicated to Hamidiyeh, that the people trapped in the area are tired.

“I tell them all, there are people who have been working to get you out. We will keep trying 20 more times and 30 more times in order to rescue those human beings,” Noman said.

The turmoil stemming from the Arab Spring has deeply unsettled the Middle East’s Christian population.

Syria’s Sunni majority makes up the backbone of the opposition, and minorities such as Christians have generally stuck to the sidelines, in part out of fears that they will be marginalized — or even targeted — if Sunnis take over.

Assad and the ruling elite also belong to a minority sect, the Alawites. Assad’s regime always pushed a secular ideology, which was seen as giving minorities a measure of protection.

Christians hold senior positions in the state, although some have joined the opposition, including prominent writer Michel Kilo and a top member of the main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, George Sabara, who were jailed by Assad for dissent. The most senior Christian government official is Defense Minister Dawoud Rajha, a former army general.

Homs, Syria’s third largest city, has been one of the hardest hit regions since the uprising against Assad’s regime began in March 2011. Rebels control several neighborhoods, sparking intense attacks by government troops over the past two weeks.

The International Committee of the Red Cross called on Syria’s government and rebel groups Wednesday to allow it to reach trapped civilians and evacuate the wounded and sick.

“Hundreds of civilians are stuck in the old city of Homs, unable to leave and find refuge in safer areas, because of the ongoing armed confrontations,” said the group’s head of operations for the region, Beatrice Megevand-Roggo.

The rebels have controlled the Christian neighborhoods of Hamidiyeh and Bustan Diwan since early February. Sporadic clashes between rebels and troops have forced tens of thousands of Christians to flee the neighborhoods to a relatively safe area known as the Valley of the Christians, just outside the city.

But those who remain say three attempts to evacuate them so far have failed despite efforts by Sunni clerics and tribal leaders to help.

Al-Jamal, who took part in three rounds of failed negotiations, said there would be a fourth attempt but he felt “hopeless.”

Al-Jamal said that in past attempts, the army had agreed to a two-hour truce to allow the mediators to evacuate the besieged people but they were blocked by the rebels.

A Christian from Homs said two of his relatives were killed by shrapnel this month. The man, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said the two were buried inside the old cemetery in Hamidiyeh because it was not possible to take them to the new cemetery outside the city because of the violence.

On Tuesday, Syria’s government said it was ready to act on a U.N. call to evacuate civilians trapped in Homs for more than a week, but blamed rebels for obstructing efforts to get them out.

Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, the Norwegian chief of the U.N. observer mission in the country, has demanded that all warring parties in the conflict allow safe passage for women, children and sick people trying to get out.

Al-Jamal said that many Christians from Homs are coming to his office in the city to get marriage or birth certificates to apply for visas to leave the country.

“If Syrian Christians get visas from other countries, I say more than 70 percent of them will leave,” he said.

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King: Time to investigate Muslims, again


King: Time to investigate Muslims, again

Congress’s biggest Islamophobe, Rep. Pete King, is opening his fifth set of hearings tomorrow into American Muslims

Everywhere Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., looks, he sees Muslims. You know, the gun-wielding, burqa-wearing, America-hating, “stealth-jihadi,” “creeping Shariah,” terrorist type. They enthrall him. So much so, in fact, that not only has he built his entire political career on championing the fight against them, but he’s also fantasized about their destruction in the pages of a mediocre techno-thriller he wrote in 2003, sensationally titled “Vale of Tears.”  “This is something I am absolutely fixated on,” he once admitted.

It came as little surprise, then, when the jowly Long Island sexagenarian announced that he would hold his fifth (count ‘em) congressional hearing on the supposed “radicalization” of the American Muslim community.

The spectacle is set to kick off tomorrow in room 311 of the Cannon House Office Building — a stately chamber that in 1967 hosted the House Committee on Un-American Activities’ investigation into links between race riots and Communist infiltration. It is an appropriate place for King’s witch hunt, one might say.

This time, the panel plans to examine the American Muslim community’s “response” to the four previous hearings. Translated into Peter King language, this means that they will likely consider every single instance of objection or protestation to the inquiries as further evidence that Muslims are a hostile group or religious believers.

It is that kind of logic — stereotyping an entire religious faith as “radical” before a national audience and then pointing to their complaints about being prejudiced as proof that they are indeed fanatics — that has typified King’s hearings thus far.

King has repeatedly suggested that he meets with law enforcement officials and they tell him “how little cooperation they get from Muslim leaders.” It would seem, then, that the objective way to convince the American public of that claim would be to call on law enforcement officials who could confirm that such a thing was true.

Objectivity, though, has been absent from this hyper-partisan heyday for a reason: It would disprove King’s accusations. Better, then, for him to avoid the evidence that would make him look bad — evidence that suggests that Muslims do cooperate with law enforcement officials and that claims of increased “radicalization” within the Muslim American community are simply unfounded.

Attorney General Eric Holder has stated that cooperation from the Muslim and Arab-American communities has been “absolutely essential” in identifying and preventing potential terrorist threats. FBI Director Robert Mueller noted that, “Many of our cases are a result of the cooperation from the Muslim community in the United States.” Former National Counterterrorism Center director Michael Leiter argued that “Many of the tips to uncover terrorist plots in the U.S. come from the Muslim community,” and Los Angeles County Sherriff Lee Baca lauded the praise that his office receives from Muslims living in California. Moreover, the Triangle Center for Terrorism and Homeland Security reports that the Muslim-American community has been one of the largest sources for information on potential attacks in the U.S., and the Muslim Public Affairs Council shows that Muslim cooperation has been key to foiling some 40 percent of al-Qaida-related attacks in the U.S. since 2001.

Given that the NYPD, the FBI, the CIA and several other law enforcement agencies have spied on the American-Muslim community and trained their agents using material that is unquestionably Islamophobic, it’s a wonder that they feel compelled to cooperate at all. Still, they have, but that’s not good enough for King.

“I’m aware of a number of cases in New York where the community has not been cooperative,” he said. He has never explicitly stated just how many cases he is aware of and when pressed, he grimaces, clears his throat and huffs about his close friends, the police, who share secret information with him that must remain “off the record.”

And so, in place of evidence and objectivity, King’s hearing will feature the testimony of one of his friends who will tell him exactly what he wants to hear. Zuhdi Jasser, a Muslim-American physician who moonlights as a self-described “expert” on Islam will appear before the panel a second time (he testified during the first hearing) to enumerate the ways in which members of his faith group have supposedly gone astray.

Jasser is a rising star in the Islamophobia industry. His wavy black hair, voguish eyeglasses, colorful neckties, and eagerness to toe the Republican line suggest that he is a “good Muslim,” one who is fully assimilated in the American culture. He is much like a trophy — someone whom various agitators of the political right hold up as shining proof for their talking points. “[You are] the one Muslim that we were all searching for after 9/11,″ Glenn Beck once gushed.

Muslim activist groups have protested Jasser’s influence in the political sphere, including his recent appointment to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. They point to his involvement with anti-Muslim groups and his litany of stereotypical statements. Jasser has been featured in several anti-Muslim films, including “Islam vs. Islamists” and Newt Gingrich’s 2012 documentary “America At Risk: The War With No Name,” and was the narrator of “The Third Jihad,” a propaganda flick produced by Aish HaTorah, a radical Israeli settler group in the West Bank that refracts anti-Muslim animosity through the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. The group was behind the 2008 film “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.”

Most recently, Jasser’s foundation, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy received a $10,000 donation from Nina Rosenwald, a right-wing Zionist who has spent her Sears Roebuck-inherited fortune fanning flames of Islamophobia.

If King’s stated intention is to shed light on the American Muslim community’s response to the previous hearings, Jasser’s presence is certainly not the way to do that. He is hardly a representative of the faith group and is despised by many mainstream American Muslims.

But King must surely know that.

He also must know that this is not an impartial hearing that seriously examines issues of radicalization and extremism, but rather, a political performance in which a carefully selected cast appears before an audience and delivers a rehearsed script under the guise of fairness and neutrality.

Posted in USA, CampaignsComments Off on King: Time to investigate Muslims, again

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