Savage murder of musician Ibrahim Qattush shows Syria’s dictatorship is brutish, uncouth, macabre

Israel/Palestine
on 127 Comments

Beautiful piece on Syria by Rana Kabbani in the Guardian. What an amazing transformation Syria is undergoing, and more and more people say, Assad is finished. It is only a matter of how long and how much cruelty he subjects his society to. Makes Mubarak’s “no-mas” look altruistic. Kabbani (thx to Elly Kilroy): 

Though all the undemocratic regimes of the Arab world are unremittingly cruel, Assad’s must stand out as the most inventively macabre. Its brutish, uncouth, illiterate and famously greedy Shabbiha death squads are being bussed around the country, with orders to rape, loot, burn, and kill. It is they who pull out the fingernails of young boys, they who torture them to death, castrate their bodies, only to force their grief-crazed parents to recant their accusations on the state’s propaganda television.

It was them who killed Ibrahim Qattush – the amateur musician who became an overnight sensation and the revolution’s youthful voice, when he composed some of its rousing chants and ditties. Qattush’s throat was cut out, as it was where the regime visualised his songs came from. Such literalism in its crimes is very much part of the way this crudest of power structures seeks to present itself.

In the past five months of Syria’s agony some international pundits have made it their business to cheer for Bashar, swallowing his black propaganda line that “aprés moi, le deluge” of the Salafi bogeymen. But facts on the ground are more eloquent: every single minority and ethnicity across Syria has risen in revolt, repelled by the war crimes it has been witness to…

What will the Assads and their extended family be remembered for? Their prisons, mass graves, scorched earth policy; their denaturing of Syrian society into a place of suspicion and fear; and their ugly creation of a North Korea without the bomb? Their illegal enrichment, corruption, arrogance and vindictiveness?

Syrians deserve better and will win their freedom the difficult way, as other peoples have.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

Other posts by .


Posted In:

127 Responses

  1. ToivoS
    August 10, 2011, 4:01 pm

    Assad and his regime have to go. But there is no need to use lying propaganda to achieve that end. The link above to the Shabbiha death squads is to the Weekly Standard. Are you serious? Would you cite them as a source for Iraq? Israel? Hamas in Gaza?

    Obtaining accurate information on what is happening there is difficult. There are two things clear to me: 1) Assad must go and 2) the US and Nato should stay out of the process completely.

    • ToivoS
      August 10, 2011, 4:39 pm

      My error, the link to the Weekly Standard was made by Rana Kabbani, not Phil. I question her judgment then and would treat skeptically any assertions she makes.

    • Brewer
      August 10, 2011, 5:39 pm

      “The link above to the Shabbiha death squads is to the Weekly Standard.”

      -an article written by Tony Badran of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. An organization funded by:
      * Edgar M. Bronfman
      * Charles Bronfman
      * Michael Steinhardt
      * Haim Saban
      * Bernard Marcus
      * Dalck Feith
      * Abramson Family Foundation
      * Lewis Ranieri
      * Roland Arnall
      * Jennifer Mizrahi
      * Clifford May

      Hmmmmmm.

      • richb
        August 10, 2011, 7:54 pm

        Some more background from a friendly (!) source:

        link to amconmag.com

        In early 2001, a tightly knit group of billionaire philanthropists conceived of a plan to win American sympathy for Israel’s response to the Palestinian intifada. They believed that the Palestinian cause was finding too much support within crucial segments of the American public, particularly within the media and on college campuses, so they set up an organization, Emet: An Educational Initiative, Inc., to offer Israel the kind of PR that the Israeli government seemed unable to provide itself.

        In other words, outsourced Hasbara.

        The group’s membership includes, among others, U.S. Healthcare founder Leonard Abramson, New York financier Michael Steinhardt, Seagrams patriarch and Jewish World Congress president Edgar S. Bronfman Sr. and his brother Charles, and Lynn Schusterman, widow of Oklahoma oilman Charles Schusterman. Some of the group’s projects have been establishing and funding Birthright Israel, which provides Jewish youths with free travel to the Holy Land; a synagogue restoration program called STAR (Synagogue Transformation and Renewal); and the renovation and re-invigoration of Hillel, the Jewish campus chaplaincy. More than a few of these projects have generated controversy among some American Jews, who see this small group of mega-donors exercising considerable influence over Jewish-American affairs. But for all the debate that has attended some of these projects, none before has been as overtly political as Emet or FDD.Leonard Abramson was the point man for establishing Emet. He, Michael Steinhardt, and Edgar Bronfman were the foundation’s board of directors at the time of its incorporation in the spring of 2001. Their original plan called for Emet to have centers in both the U.S. and Israel, with the Israeli branch to be located at Tel Aviv University under its president, the former Israeli ambassador to Washington Itamar Rabinovich. Emet was to have close ties to the Israeli government as well—so close, in fact, that there was some dispute between the mega-donors and the Israeli Foreign Ministry over just whose project this was. On March 9, 2001, three days before Emet’s articles of incorporation were filed in New York, the Forward reported that “A[n Israeli] Foreign Ministry source leaked news of the initiative—called ‘Emet,’ or ‘truth,’ in Hebrew —to Israel Radio, portraying the effort as a Foreign Ministry project that the Americans were trying to co-opt.” According to the Forward, the mega-donors were quick to assert their control in a letter to the Foreign Ministry, saying in part, “Either the Ministry will be part of the project or the Ministry will be left out.

        OK, not outsourced.

        For all that, one will not find anyone speaking in behalf of Palestinian complaints against Israel at FDD. Asked about this, Gordon said that addressing such grievances is outside the foundation’s purview.

        But of course. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.

        Does all of this mean that the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies has abandoned Emet’s goal of providing public relations support for the state of Israel? With mega-donor funding, a very capable staff, and a presence on campuses across the country, FDD is making a difference for someone. At the very least, the billionaire activists who established and support the foundation seem to be getting their money’s worth.

        Indeed.

      • ToivoS
        August 10, 2011, 8:59 pm

        Brewer and richb. Thanks, the source is even more contaminated than I first thought. Straight out of the Israeli propaganda machine. This Rana Khabbini character has an interesting pedigree. Can’t quite figure her out but seems like she might be just an useful idiot or maybe a willing dupe for some Zionist cause or another.

        • thankgodimatheist
          August 11, 2011, 12:50 am

          We are manipulated big time. It’s pre Iraq war/ Saddam stories all over again! Not that the regime or the sinister Shabbihah aren’t what is said about them mind you. It’s just we need to look into the fine print. Not every signature is as innocent as it pretends to be.

    • DICKERSON3870
      August 10, 2011, 11:37 pm

      RE: “There are two things clear to me: 1) Assad must go and 2) the US and Nato should stay out of the process completely.” ~ TovioS

      MY REPLY: I agree, with the emphasis on #2!

      ALSO SEE (but consider the source): A “Humanitarian War” on Syria? Military Escalation. Towards a Broader Middle East-Central Asian War?, by Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, 08/09/11

      “As I went back through the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was more. This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia, and Sudan.” ~ General Wesley Clark

      An extended Middle East Central Asian war has been on the Pentagon’s drawing board since the mid-1990s.
      As part of this extended war scenario, the US-NATO alliance plans to wage a military campaign against Syria under a UN sponsored “humanitarian mandate”.
      Escalation is an integral part of the military agenda. Destabilization of sovereign states through “regime change” is closely coordinated with military planning.
      There is a military roadmap characterised by a sequence of US-NATO war theaters.
      War preparations to attack Syria and Iran have been in “an advanced state of readiness” for several years. The Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 categorizes Syria as a “rogue state”, as a country which supports terrorism.
      A war on Syria is viewed by the Pentagon as part of the broader war directed against Iran. President George W. Bush confirmed in his Memoirs that he had “ordered the Pentagon to plan an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities and [had] considered a covert attack on Syria” …

      ENTIRE COMMENTARY – link to globalresearch.ca

      • DICKERSON3870
        August 10, 2011, 11:45 pm

        P.S. ALSO SEE: Syrian opposition admits armed insurgents are operating on fringe of uprising against Assad regime, By Adrian Blomfield, telegraph.co.uk, 08/06/11

        (excerpt) Syria’s opposition has admitted that armed insurgents are operating on the fringes of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, raising fears that extremists could take the country into civil war…

        ENTIRE ARTICLE – link to telegraph.co.uk

        • marc b.
          August 12, 2011, 9:47 am

          excellent link, 3870. i had read the same article. one of the problems, of course, is the ‘cowboys and indians’ level of narrative in the main stream media. the assad regime is despicable of course, but it also has a legimitate right to respond to military aggression. and you have to wonder what is the motivation for this string of ‘balance’ posts on MW. aren’t there enough stories in the MSM about how evil assad is, and how theocratic the iranian theocracy is? the whole point of this site, from my perspective, is to provide a space for frank discussion of the only democracy in the middle east, a discussion absent from the MSM.

        • General Choomin
          August 12, 2011, 12:45 pm

          I stopped supporting those in Syria when callers to al-jazzera couldnt deny that it was an armed uprising. While I do not like the regime at all, looking at whats happening makes me think this is based on a lie like what is happening in Libya. News sites are even mentioning that “Hezbollah and Iran” are sending in troops to kill people. Which stinks of recycled propaganda during the “green movement”.

          What I fear is that the whole area will be balkinized with ethnic minorities fighting each other in a war to create their own ethnic nation states. This will only lead to ethnic cleansing and might even spread to other nations in the region.

        • annie
          August 12, 2011, 1:00 pm

          What I fear is that the whole area will be balkinized with ethnic minorities fighting each other in a war to create their own ethnic nation states.

          this is the intent of those who push the birthpangs of the new middle east. they are not happy with the old map and want a new one.

  2. MRW
    August 10, 2011, 5:47 pm

    Robert Fisk on the situation: link to independent.co.uk

    • davidsc
      August 10, 2011, 6:13 pm

      Seems to be that more credence is put in who is saying something than what they are saying. This can reduce debate and discussion to a waste of time.

      • annie
        August 10, 2011, 6:23 pm

        funny you should say that. are you sure you were not meaning to post that comment on this thread?

      • ToivoS
        August 10, 2011, 7:01 pm

        If someone is relying on the words of proven liars it is proper to reject their assertions.

      • MRW
        August 10, 2011, 7:33 pm

        Bet your ass, sometimes. I would certainly trust Fisk before I trusted anything the State Dept told me, and ditto 99.99% of American pubs and writers.

        • American
          August 11, 2011, 12:51 am

          I agree Fisk is one of the most, if not the most, creditable reporter on the ME. He used to live in Lebanon –is he still there?

        • mig
          August 11, 2011, 5:31 am

          Yup, i haven’t heard that he has moved out.

      • Chaos4700
        August 10, 2011, 7:51 pm

        Well, since what you are saying is useless, what does that say about your credence?

  3. Charon
    August 10, 2011, 6:04 pm

    What’s happening in Syria makes no sense. I don’t know why they would shoot themselves in the foot and continue to kill peaceful protesters. Assad isn’t his dad either, this guy seems pretty soft and not like his old man. He wasn’t supposed to be president, he was like working IT or something and then his brother was killed. He isn’t like his old man, and even some of the stories about him are not even true. He’s got to be just another puppet and somebody else is calling the shots and using violence. Reminds me of Sri Lanka or Sicilian Mafia.

    I grew up hearing similar stories about Saddam and his sons. All these years later is daughters living in asylum in Jordan claim that it is mostly propaganda. Even the stuff they would say about her brother Uday. I don’t know what to believe. Read some media outline from the 90s that said they were going to make sure every American knew the name “Saddam” in the same breath has “Hitler”. Not saying he was a good guy, but the media invented a boogeyman. They love to make new Hitlers.

    I’m skeptical of everything about what’s being reported there. Strangely there was a group of Syrian protesters (when this all began) right down the street from me. I don’t live far from Arab communities, but I have no idea where these people came from or why they chose a restaurant to protest at (no Syrian connection, I looked). Aside from the recent sanctions and calling for Assad to step down, the international community including Obama didn’t seem to care about it.

  4. annie
    August 10, 2011, 6:46 pm

    it reminds me of the murder of victor jara. however with victor it was clear who did it.

    ever since i watched the documentary on how the west set up the popular president of romania and his wife thru the cia i’m completely reluctant to believe what i read in the papers about countries who the west have placed targets on the heads of their leaders. it’s hard for me to judge because i fear there are outside agitators stirring discord. it really doesn’t help when the source is the weekly standard. for me this completely discredits the author of the guardian article.

    i don’t like not knowing but even if i knew i would not be advocating we intercede. not after what’s happened in iraq. anything advocated by neocons i would have to have triple or quadruple evidence with confidence to support because i think they are genocidal liars who will stop and nothing to decieve to get their way. nothing.nothing whatsoever. so sorry, i can feel horrible about what is going on in syria and have no confidence any intervention w/our FP middle east team can be trusted. talk to me after dennis ross and elliot abrams are banned from washington, until then..forget it. over a million dead in iraq and millions more orphaned and refugees. no, i will not support intervention. if turkey does it fine. not us.

    • Saleema
      August 11, 2011, 7:20 am

      “ever since i watched the documentary on how the west set up the popular president of romania and his wife thru the cia…”

      I just finished taking a summer class titled “CIA and the 3rd World.” That stuff is NOT pretty. They have set up successful governments all over the world. And continue to try to do so to this day.

  5. richb
    August 10, 2011, 7:03 pm

    Just because Assad is clearly a bad character does not necessarily imply — as we learned in Libya — that the opposition is innocent, particularly if the opposition party is based out of the U.S. You will recall how the Hasbara trolls were saying that the Nakba and Naksa crossings were the result of Assad “attacking” Israel rather than Palestinians trying to go home. This assertion was based on an opposition figure in Syria in the so-called Reform Party of Syria. My DailyKos diary told the rest of the story:

    link to dailykos.com

    This is not to say that this isn’t true but we should be skeptical of all sides here since independent verification is impossible inside Syria.

    • Brewer
      August 10, 2011, 8:45 pm

      I have found nothing concrete to support “Assad is clearly a bad character” and much to suggest otherwise.

      I am not wedded to him however. Please elucidate.

      • ToivoS
        August 10, 2011, 11:14 pm

        Brewer it should be clear that Assad has lost his “mandate from heaven” (I do love those Chinese political science terms, they do make sense.)

        It is time for him to go. The question for us is to hope that the US, Nato, Saudi Arabia and Israel do not pick the new regime. And to be sure we should know that they are active within the Syrian opposition. Just as they are within the Libyan rebel groups trying to oust Khadaffi.

        • annie
          August 11, 2011, 12:15 am

          It is time for him to go. The question for us is to hope that the US, Nato, Saudi Arabia and Israel do not pick the new regime. And to be sure we should know that they are active within the Syrian opposition.

          do you mean ‘we should know the ‘new regime’ are active within the Syrian opposition.’? the opposition is around (max) 100,000 (i think). the population of syria is over 21 million. why should a new regime represent the opposition?

        • ToivoS
          August 11, 2011, 1:15 am

          annie, What I am trying to to say is that the US and Nato should not pick the next Syrian government. That should be simple.

        • annie
          August 11, 2011, 2:48 am

          thnx toivos, got it. i agree.

  6. Philip Munger
    August 11, 2011, 12:31 am

    I just learned about Ibrahim Qattush and his song-chants the other day. I can’t find any videos of him or others singing his songs. Youtube doesn’t even acknowledge he existed. How sad to have the throat cut out of such a resonant voice.

    Does anyone here know if any of his material was recorded or notated on music paper?

    • annie
      August 11, 2011, 2:39 am

      phillip, i had that same experience searching on you tube. the spelling of his name is incorrect in the article. here is his famous song. if you google Ibrahim Qashoush you will find different results.

  7. American
    August 11, 2011, 1:09 am

    link to english.aljazeera.net

    Al Jazeera is reliable. Says 1,700 + civilians have been killed by Assad forces.

    • annie
      August 11, 2011, 2:51 am

      Al Jazeera is reliable.

      not so sure about that. talk to walid. the main newscaster resigned during libya. and bahrian? not so sure anymore.

      • American
        August 11, 2011, 1:52 pm

        Uh oh. …must look into that.

        • General Choomin
          August 12, 2011, 12:58 pm

          AngryArab covered that qatar and saudi arabia made a new relations deal and after that the news started getting terrible in relation to the revolts. It was pretty much youtube videos, twitter talk, and random people calling in saying whatever they wanted after that. Nothing verifiable.

  8. Brewer
    August 11, 2011, 1:38 am

    There’s that word “clear” again.

    I haven’t yet got my head around the Syrian political system but I have had occasion to examine the Iranian system. I was struck by the level of participatory democracy there (once you begin to understand Islam is, by its very nature, political). Readers who have difficulty imagining a political system different to our Western Democratic model or think it has reached a state of perfection need read no further.

    There is universal franchise (18yrs) in Syria and substantial participation in the political process. The sticking point is that B’aathism is written in to the Constitution.

    Westerners make the mistake of assuming B’aath is only a party. That is like assuming “democracy ” belongs to the Democratic Party.

    Baathism is a mixture of socialism, nationalism, and Pan-Arabism, devised by a Christian, Michel Aflaq, and a Sunni Muslim whose name escapes me for the moment. It was conceived as a vehicle for unifying the various tribal and religious factions after the great powers carved up the Ottoman Empire which, may I remind you, lasted about 1300 years.
    Bashar’s father wrote it into the Syrian constitution for this reason. Baathists get the top jobs.

    Bashar’s term expires in two years. He has already decreed multi-party elections and I am not sure if this means the President may in fact be elected from outside the Baath party. Not that the West would believe it fair if he was re-elected which is probable. He is very popular with the people despite what you are hearing now. Of this I am fairly certain (through my personal contacts, I will try to dig up something more substantial).

    I believe Bashar will step down when the reforms are bedded in and if he is tipped out now, Syria will be a mess.

    There are some interested parties that would be delighted were this to happen.

    I’m sorry if this is a bit disjointed. I strongly recommend that everyone research Baathism and the Syrian and Iranian political systems for themselves with an open mind, remembering that Great Britain has an hereditary Monarch and America has political appointments to many of its highest offices including its highest authority – the Supreme Court.

    • richb
      August 11, 2011, 3:38 am

      I believe we are roughly saying the same thing. I don’t think the issue for those of us here is the state of little-d democracy in Syria. Rather, it’s the violence used. Where we agree is that regime change is very, very tricky since you never know if things will get worse with the “opposition”. Furthermore, most of the media in MENA has one sort of agenda or another. OK. OK. All media has an agenda. Thus, we take “reports” by Al Jazeera of YouTube videos with a grain of salt. Still, while the actual numbers maybe off there appears to be enough credible information from human rights organizations that something is happening. At least that’s where I’m coming from. The government of Syria is doing something bad to her citizens. How much and the particulars who knows.

      • Brewer
        August 11, 2011, 4:29 am

        Be careful of “Human Rights” organisations reporting on Syria. The last one I tracked down was a one man operation out of a village in England.

        Do me a favour.
        Check every report of civilian casualties in the MSM. If you find one that does not include the phrase “activists said” or similar, post it.

        What do you think of reports of 500 Syrian Security personnel killed by these “unarmed” protesters?

        link to english.peopledaily.com.cn

        • ddi
          August 11, 2011, 5:52 am

          What’s wrong with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch?

        • richb
          August 11, 2011, 10:15 am

          As ddi says I’m depending on organizations like HRW and Amnesty International which unlike the Israeli propaganda organs I find quite credible. For example (my gold deals with the alleged attacks on security forces):

          link to hrw.org

          (New York) – Systematic killings and torture by Syrian security forces in the city of Daraa since protests began there on March 18, 2011, strongly suggest that these qualify as crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

          The 54-page report, “‘We’ve Never Seen Such Horror’: Crimes against Humanity in Daraa,” is based on more than 50 interviews with victims and witnesses to abuses. The report focuses on violations in Daraa governorate, where some of the worst violence took place after protests seeking greater freedoms began in various parts of the country. The specifics went largely unreported due to the information blockade imposed by the Syrian authorities. Victims and witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch described systematic killings, beatings, torture using electroshock devices, and detention of people seeking medical care.

          “For more than two months now, Syrian security forces have been killing and torturing their own people with complete impunity,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “They need to stop – and if they don’t, it is the Security Council’s responsibility to make sure that the people responsible face justice.”

          The Syrian government should take immediate steps to halt the excessive use of lethal force by security forces, Human Rights Watch said. The United Nations Security Council should impose sanctions and press Syria for accountability and, if it doesn’t respond adequately, refer Syria to the International Criminal Court.

          The protests first broke out in Daraa in response to the detention and torture of 15 children accused of painting graffiti slogans calling for the government’s downfall. In response and since then, security forces have repeatedly and systematically opened fire on overwhelmingly peaceful demonstrators. The security forces have killed at least 418 people in the Daraa governorate alone, and more than 887 across Syria, according to local activists who have been maintaining a list of those killed. Exact numbers are impossible to verify.

          Witnesses from Daraa interviewed by Human Rights Watch provided consistent accounts of security forces using lethal force against protesters and bystanders, in most cases without advance warning or any effort to disperse the protesters by nonviolent means. Members of various branches of the mukhabarat (security services) and numerous snipers positioned on rooftops deliberately targeted the protesters, and many of the victims had lethal head, neck, and chest wounds. Human Rights Watch documented a number of cases in which security forces participating in the operations against protesters in Daraa and other cities had received “shoot-to-kill” orders from their commanders.

          Some of the deadliest incidents Human Rights Watch documented include:

          An attack on al-Omari mosque, which served as a rallying point for protesters and a makeshift hospital for the wounded protesters, and attacks on ensuing protests from March 23 to 25, killing more than 30 protesters;
          Attacks on demonstrators during two protests on April 8, resulting in at least 25 deaths;
          Attacks during a protest and a funeral procession in the town of Izraa on April 22 and 23, resulting in at least 34 deaths;
          Killings during the blockade of Daraa and neighboring villages beginning on April 25, and during an effort by residents of neighboring towns to break the siege on April 29, which left up to 200 dead.

          Nine witnesses from the towns of Tafas, Tseel, and Sahem al-Golan described to Human Rights Watch one of these attacks which happened on April 29, when thousands or people from towns surrounding Daraa attempted to break the blockade on the city. Witnesses said that the security forces stopped the protesters who were trying to approach Daraa at a checkpoint near the Western entrance of Daraa city. One of the witnesses from the town of Tseel who participated in the protest said:

          “We stopped there, waiting for more people to arrive. We held olive branches, and posters saying we want to bring food and water to Daraa. We had canisters with water and food parcels with us. Eventually thousands of people gathered on the road – the crowd stretched for some six kilometers.

          “Then we started moving closer to the checkpoint. We shouted ‘peaceful, peaceful,’ and in response they opened fire. Security forces were everywhere, in the fields nearby, on a water tank behind the checkpoint, on the roof of a nearby factory, and in the trees, and the fire came from all sides. People started running, falling, trying to carry the wounded away. Nine people from Tseel were wounded there and one of them died.”

          Another witness, from Tafas, said:

          “There was no warning, no firing in the air. It was simply an ambush. There was gunfire from all sides, from automatic guns. Security forces were positioned in the fields along the road, and on the roofs of the buildings. They were deliberately targeting people. Most injuries were in the head and chest.

          “Two men from Tafas were killed there: 22-year-old Muhammad Aiman Baradan and 38-year-old Ziad Hreidin. Ziad stood next to me when a sniper bullet hit him in the head. He died on the spot. Altogether, 62 people were killed and more than a hundred wounded, I assisted with their transportation to Tafas hospital.”

          Syrian authorities repeatedly blamed the protesters in Daraa for initiating the violence and accused them of attacking security forces. All of the testimony collected by Human Rights Watch indicates, however, that the protests were in most cases peaceful.

          Human Rights Watch documented several incidents in which, in response to the killings of protesters, Daraa residents resorted to violence, setting cars and buildings on fire, and killing members of the security forces. Human Rights Watch said that such incidents should be further investigated, but that they by no means justify the massive and systematic use of lethal force against the demonstrators.

          Syrian authorities also routinely denied wounded protesters access to medical assistance by preventing ambulances from reaching the wounded, and on several occasions opening fire on medical personnel or rescuers who tried to carrying the wounded away. Security forces took control of most of the hospitals in Daraa and detained the wounded who were brought in. As a result, many wounded people avoided the hospitals and were treated in makeshift hospitals with limited facilities. In at least two cases documented by Human Rights Watch, people died because they were denied needed medical care.

          Witnesses from Daraa and neighboring towns described to Human Rights Watch large-scale sweep operations by the security forces, who detained hundreds of people daily, as well as the targeted arrests of activists and their family members. The detainees, many of them children, were held in appalling conditions. All ex-detainees interviewed said that they, as well as hundreds of others they saw in detention, had been subjected to torture, including prolonged beatings with sticks, twisted wires, other devices, and electric shocks. Some were tortured on improvised metal and wooden “racks” and, in at least one case documented by Human Rights Watch, a male detainee was raped with a baton.

          Two witnesses independently reported to Human Rights Watch the extrajudicial execution of detainees on May 1 at an ad hoc detention facility at a football field in Daraa. One of the detainees said the security forces had executed 26 detainees; the other described a group of “more than 20.” Human Rights Watch has not been able to further corroborate these accounts. However, the detailed information provided by two independent witnesses and the fact that other parts of their statements were fully corroborated by other witnesses supports the credibility of the allegations.

          On April 25, security forces began a large-scale military operation in Daraa, imposing a blockade that lasted at least 11 days and was then extended to neighboring towns. Under the cover of heavy gunfire, security forces occupied every neighborhood in the city, ordered people to remain indoors, and opened fire on those who defied the ban. Witnesses said that Daraa residents experienced acute shortages of food, water, medicine, and other necessary supplies during the siege. The security forces shot out water tanks. Electricity and all communications were cut off. Unable to bury or properly store the growing number of dead bodies, Daraa residents stored many of them in mobile vegetable refrigerators that could run on diesel fuel.

          Syrian authorities also imposed an information blockade on Daraa. They prevented any independent observers from entering the town, and shut down all means of communication. Security forces searched for and confiscated cellphones that contained footage of events in Daraa, and arrested and tortured those whom they suspected of trying to get images or other information out, including some foreign nationals. In some areas, electricity and communications remain cut off.

          Human Rights Watch called on the Syrian government to halt immediately the use of excessive and lethal force by security forces against demonstrators and activists, release all arbitrarily arrested detainees, and provide human rights groups and journalists with immediate and unhindered access to Daraa. It also called on the Security Council to adopt targeted financial and travel sanctions on officials responsible for continuing human rights violations, as well as to push for and support efforts to investigate and prosecute the grave, widespread and systemic human rights violations committed in Syria.

          “Syrian authorities did everything they could to conceal their bloody repression in Daraa,” Whitson said. “But horrendous crimes like these are impossible to hide, and sooner or later those responsible will have to answer for their actions.”

          The full fifty-four-page report is here (PDF): link to hrw.org

  9. Richard Witty
    August 11, 2011, 6:44 am

    “Around 1,730 civilians and 406 security personnel have been killed since the pro-democracy protests started in Syria in mid-March, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. ”

    link to haaretz.com

    I wrote to Phil months ago, asking when he would comment on “the war of ideas in the Middle East”, including Syria (no response). This is another “finally”.

    Of Israel’s neighbors, Syria is no model of democracy, Lebanon is no model of democracy (also no commentary on the Hezbollah indictments), Palestine is no model of democracy (Hamas and Fatah still delaying their actual unification until… – sounds like the “peace process”), Jordan is moderately democratic (a parliamentary monarchy), Egypt is on the fence (not known yet whether it will be another military state or civilian).

    Israel has had 63 years of elections (how many in that time, 20?). They did experience one soul-wrenching assassination. (Lebanon, Egypt?)

    • James North
      August 11, 2011, 8:58 am

      Richard Witty said, ‘Notice once more how I presumptuously exaggerate my personal relationship with Phil Weiss. Instead of simply making public comments here at Mondoweiss about Syria, I say “I wrote to Phil months ago” to straighten him out about the Assad dictatorship.
      ‘The facts are simple; Phil and I have only seen each other in person 4 times in the past 40 years.
      ‘As for my comments on Syria; I’m just making the same tired old tu quoque argument to defend Israel. Unlike Phil, who has visited Syria and has friends there, I don’t care anything about the Syrian people at all.’

      • Richard Witty
        August 11, 2011, 10:50 am

        We’ve probably seen each other maybe 7 or 8 times, not a lot.

        But, we are still family friends, if that family link is important to him at all. A couple years ago, we wrote fairly frequently, and I did sincerely invite him to join a Chattaqua effort, but that was rebuffed, and since then Phil has gotten more polemic and partisan than even previously.

        I don’t have a clue how or if he would relate to me currently. He has written to me recently, requesting that I continue posting here.

        This is one of very few posts on Syria, though as reported, over 1700 Syrian civilians have been murdered by their own government.

        It is a conspicuous shadow, a gross incompleteness.

        • Philip Weiss
          August 11, 2011, 11:12 am

          Richard I can think of only 4 or 5 occasions that I’ve seen you, but it’s no big deal.
          The point is: You’re not on this site because of our connection. In fact, I have broken off communication with,. or had it broken off by, far closer connections, close friends, who dont like what I have to say on these issues.
          As James North points out, with far more wit than I can muster, your presence here is tolerated and even encouraged not because we went running thru the woods naked as lads (well we didn’t do that; I do remember being on a dock once, fishing) but a, because you generally obey the rules (apart from your annoying threadjacking) and b, mostly because you represent huge numbers of American Jews, I reckon the majority, who don’t have the guts you have to express their view publicly. When you do that here, you are actually performing a service, of voicing the (sadly-backward) ideas of a large bloc of our religious community… Phil

        • Exiled At Home
          August 11, 2011, 11:45 am

          I don’t get you Phil.

          You write things such as “When you do that here, you are actually performing a service, of voicing the (sadly-backward) ideas of a large bloc of our religious community…”

          Yet, in 2006 you wrote: “The good things I associate with Jewish culture, a sense of intellectual supremacy, analytical brilliance, are everywhere at hand, they’re what built this state.”

          Isn’t it that exact sense of “supremacy” -a good thing in your opinion- that you apparently find innate in the Jewish psyche that creates those “backward ideas” that justify or ignore Israeli subjugation of Palestinians?

          I find it patronizing, Phil, that you cling to this notion of ethno-superiority, while clamoring on and on about this ills of occupation and the rights of Palestinians.

        • annie
          August 11, 2011, 12:15 pm

          exile, could you please link to that quote of phils. i would like to read the whole thing. wow, for a new poster here you seem to be more familiar with phil’s writing than even me. that’s impressive. i wasn’t reading him on 06. what inspired you to start commenting now so much later? where have you been all these years?

        • Richard Witty
          August 11, 2011, 1:01 pm

          I’m disappointed to hear your reaction.

          One of the reasons that I invited personal contact early was for each other to get to discuss our own sincere questions fully, openly and with a predisposition of respect.

          Here, or on somewhat passive aggressive e-mail correspondence, that is not possible.

          I assume that you want your perspective to get the light of day, questioned, clarified internally and externally, proven, blessed with the moniker of rational (rather than fanatical), articulating a path forward, attracting sympaticos.

          I want to have the opportunity to demonstrate that I personally am not “sadly-backward”, but also rational and articulating a path forward.

          Its always been unclear “if” you’ve broken off communications intentionally.

          I don’t think we went fishing as its always repulsed me. We sailed a bunch of times, hung out at the town beach, hung out at my aunt’s summer home, hung out a little at your parents’ summer home, hung out on the Clearwater. We met at least one seder at my aunts in our mid-twenties, at my aunt’s funeral, at at least two bar/bat mitzvahs, and two weddings.

          Seders, bar-mitzvahs, weddings, funerals.

          I don’t assume that I’m permitted on the site because of our connection.

          When I first discovered the site, I was more on your page ideologically than not. (You’ve drifted more radical. I’ve drifted more conventional.) My original purpose in posting on the site was the content (which I had been actively involved in for years, as a peace advocate) and frankly some less than kind comments you made about your family.

          I am disappointed that you didn’t take up the invitation to post on my blog on the bar mitzvah a month ago. It was on topic, and visible.

          Its also disappointing to hear you describe me as a “type”. “sadly backward”, “religious community”.

          And, I’m also very disappointed that you don’t dialog directly.

        • Exiled At Home
          August 11, 2011, 1:03 pm

          Annie,

          Here’s the link from Phil’s blog entry on August 11, 2006:

          link to mondoweiss.net

          Actually, I was not familiar with Weiss’s work until I noticed he had co-edited ‘The Goldstone Report’ essays. I had seen others link to Mondoweiss on various blogs, but never actually visited here. A few weeks back I came across an interview with Weiss from a few years ago and he seemed interesting and well-informed, so I decided to check this out. I spent a week or so going through his archives dating back to 2006. I was especially interested in his writings from that summer, as I was in Israel during the offensive in Lebanon and I’m always intrigued reading various takes on that war, and that time, and comparing them to my own experiences there at the time.

          Phil seems a well-intentioned individual and I respect his dogged pursuit of justice in Palestine, But, in comparison to two of my favorites, Jeffrey Blankfort and Ali Abunimah, he is sometimes far too idealistic and naive.

        • Richard Witty
          August 11, 2011, 1:17 pm

          Frankly,
          I don’t have a clue what you mean by “thread-jacking”.

          If your purpose here is for discussion, and the content stimulates different issues for some than you or the posse would hope, that is not “thread-jacking”. That is sincere response to the content in the original post.

          I am always trying to steer discussion to mutual respect, including towards Israel and Israelis. Most don’t want to include respect towards Israel and Israelis in their palette.

          I would have hoped that you would write more on the tent movement, that does not encourage discussion of Israel/Palestine in the effort to give air to other perspectives, “social” ones, rather than “political”.

          The common theme being that “social” concerns are common and/or humane engendering mutual sympathy, while “political” are more doctrinaire and divisive, engendering mutual antipathy.

        • Exiled At Home
          August 11, 2011, 1:37 pm

          Richard,

          If your purpose here is for discussion, and the content stimulates different issues for some than you or the posse would hope, that is not “thread-jacking”. That is sincere response to the content in the original post.

          You’ve written little that I agree with in the week or so that I’ve been commenting (lurking a bit longer, though). But, I agree with this completely. There is no purpose in this site being a circle of self-congratulating activists. It needs diversity, it needs disagreement, it needs some conflict, otherwise nothing will be accomplished. Stick around, share your views. I, for one, will engage you respectfully.

        • annie
          August 11, 2011, 1:45 pm

          thanks exile. i had googled that phase you quoted and it only came up w/the observer. i wanted to read the context:

          I began to find the homogeneity a little suffocating. The good things I associate with Jewish culture, a sense of intellectual supremacy, analytical brilliance, are everywhere at hand, they’re what built this state. The downside is that the sense of Jewish superiority that I grew up with in my scientific family is all around you here—Jews are smarter because they made the desert bloom in one generation; Jews are smarter because as Thomas Friedman wrote the other day, Warren Buffett just bought an Israeli company for $4 billion—and this self-regarding, materialist values system goes unchecked by an alternative set of values, say humility and tolerance—qualities I think of as Christian. I wonder if the homogeneity doesn’t also explain the famous Israeli rudeness. Of course I was there during war time, but no one’s especially friendly, there aren’t smiles or curiosity for a stranger. People pushed past me in lines. A seatmate on my flight to Tel Aviv treated me as vermin, and meanwhile barked angry commands to his employees into his cellphone.

          I find it patronizing, Phil, that you cling to this notion of ethno-superiority, while clamoring on and on about this ills of occupation and the rights of Palestinians.

          have you read any of phil’s essays “notes on my racism”? they may interest you and address your assertions.

        • annie
          August 11, 2011, 2:00 pm

          richard, my idea of threadjacking is posters who jump to post the first comment (something you’ve done repeatedly, swiftly after a post first appears) while generally ignoring the main theme of the post, pick out some small segment of the text and criticize it with specific critique directed in an ad homimen way lecturing the author especially wrt ‘intent’.

          you’ve done it frequently. perhaps holding off and not initiating comments on a thread would help.

        • Richard Witty
          August 11, 2011, 2:06 pm

          Annie,
          There are only a couple occassions that I remember in which I had an urgent self-initiated comment that I “threadjacked”.

          The overwhelming majority of my posts are on topic (moreso than most), but often dissenting from the topic content itself, implications, and from the posse.

          Calling a difference of perspective thread-jacking is an attempt at stifling discussion.

          Thread-jacking is an action, not a person (“posters”). It is reasonable to criticize an action. When personalized, it becomes something different than criticism.

          I’m accused of thread-jacking when I write in response to an original post, six hours after other comments as well.

          And, I only write in response to comments that I believe that I have something constructive to say.

        • Exiled At Home
          August 11, 2011, 2:39 pm

          Annie,

          Thank you so much for pointing me to Phil’s “Notes on my Racism.” Very enlightening stuff.

          From July 2010: Today I think of these as cultural attributes, and don’t see them as essential to being Jewish. Cultures can be changed, cultures shift, as the environment shifts. But that was the culture I came out of and am still formed by. We were smarter than other people, better. It is all over the Jewish response to the Middle East, and we will get nowhere until Jews begin to challenge the nature of their identity formation.

          Phil’s come a ways since 2006.

        • Koshiro
          August 11, 2011, 2:44 pm

          I don’t have a clue what you mean by “thread-jacking”.

          Thread-jacking is when you insert provocative off-topic comments into a discussion thread, compelling others to respond, thereby pushing the original topic aside. What you did in this thread is a fine example actually.

          P.S.: “Dialog” is not a verb.

        • James North
          August 11, 2011, 2:55 pm

          Richard Witty said, ‘Ouch, annie. In this comment, I sound principled, genuinely interested in dialog (sic), and I might confuse newcomers.
          ‘But let’s not forget one of my favorite threadjacking tactics. Phil Weiss will put up a long, thoughtful post, and I respond with the single word: “potshots.” My aim is to irritate and interrupt, not stimulate discussion.
          ‘Also don’t forget my timing technique. I follow Mondoweiss closely, so I know Phil and Adam often put up a bunch of new posts at 11 a.m. or so, Eastern Standard Time.
          ‘I wait, and pounce. Sometimes I have the first comment on three or four posts simultaneously. I can’t possibly have even read the posts all the way through before commenting, much less taken the time to come up with thoughtful, genuine responses.
          ‘There is only one real question. I threadjack both to protect (my dream castle view of) Israel, and because I crave attention. (I’m jealous that my own miniblog attracts so few visitors, even though I’ve been promoting it here on Mondoweiss for years.) So, I ask myself; which of my two motivations for threadjacking is the more important?’

        • annie
          August 11, 2011, 3:03 pm

          Phil’s come a ways since 2006.

          haven’t we all exile, haven’t we all.

        • Woody Tanaka
          August 11, 2011, 3:13 pm

          “P.S.: ‘Dialog’ is not a verb.”

          LOL. It’s not really a word, either. (Cf. “dialogue”)

        • Koshiro
          August 11, 2011, 5:16 pm

          LOL. It’s not really a word, either. (Cf. “dialogue”)

          Well, I was willing to cut him some slack there, since the spelling “dialog” is also possible in some contexts.

        • MRW
          August 11, 2011, 7:00 pm

          And, I’m also very disappointed that you don’t dialog directly.

          (1) He’s busy. We all are. You profoundly underestimate the amount of time this site takes up.

          (2) His wife wants a husband at the end of the day. She doesn’t want to be prying a gun out of his hand.

        • American
          August 12, 2011, 2:04 pm

          I get what Phil is saying about witty’s contribution.
          Witty does represent a seemingly large swarth of Jewish attitude about Israel.
          How much?–Half ? More-Less? Who knows. But enough to be important to be aware of.

          But also, just like the freaky christian zios, they don’t represent all christians or US citizens.

        • Richard Witty
          August 12, 2011, 3:26 pm

          North,
          I didn’t know that Phil and Adam post at 11:00. I thought they posted sporadically during the day.

    • eljay
      August 11, 2011, 9:04 am

      >> Of Israel’s neighbors, Syria is no model of democracy, Lebanon is no model of democracy … Palestine is no model of democracy …

      “Israel: We may not be as good as the best but, hey, at least we’re not as bad as the worst!”

      So, how do the internal wrongdoings of Syria, Lebanon and Palestine excuse Israel’s ON-GOING offensive (i.e., not defensive) campaign of aggression, oppression, theft, colonization, destruction and murder? Oh, that’s right – they don’t!

      • richb
        August 11, 2011, 10:30 am

        Eljay, also note the epistemological decay caused by our “special relationship” with Israel. It was Israel that told us that there were weapons of mass destruction and it is Israel currently telling us Iran has a nuclear weapons programs when all 16 of our intelligence agencies concur they don’t in both 2007 and 2011. When we get reports like this, particularly when the come from the usual neo-con suspects, we sit back and go is it true? In the end guilty people are acquitted and vice versa because Israel needs to have someone as venal as Assad for comparison in order to look good! Talk about low standards for the “only” democracy in the Middle East.

    • Brewer
      August 11, 2011, 12:06 pm

      The very one:
      “Thousands of miles from his homeland, Rami Abdel Rahman runs a network of 200 rights activists across Syria who report to him to allow news of the latest bloodshed in their country to reach the outside world.

      “We are all normal people, with normal lives, normal families. We don’t have an office. We work from home or from our jobs,” said Abdel Rahman, 40, in a telephone interview from his home in Coventry, central England.

      The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights which he heads has burst onto the world stage as a primary source of information for the world media since his country’s anti-government revolt erupted in mid-March. ”

      link to timesofoman.com

      • annie
        August 11, 2011, 12:20 pm

        wow, huge catch brewer. more on The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights re: Prosecution of Kurdish leaders. here is their archive, and website.

        • Brewer
          August 11, 2011, 1:08 pm

          Thanks annie. I was starting to feel a little isolated. Explaining this stuff requires a great deal of time and effort.

          On the Syria Human Rights Information site, the second article listed is the “abduction of the well-known blogger Amina Arraf”. This is the “Lesbian blogger” who turned out to be a bearded Scotsman.

          Great source Richard.

      • annie
        August 11, 2011, 12:50 pm

        oh look

        There remains some doubt about the credibility and autonomy of these activists. Na’eem Jeenah believes many of the statements emanating from these activists require a “great degree of caution”. “WikiLeaks,” Jeenah says, “revealed that many Syrian NGOs received American funding.” Many of the human rights agencies, including the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights mentioned here appear to be based outside of Syria. “Their objectivity”, Jeenah says, “is doubtful.”

        No less than US secretary of state Hillary Clinton met with such a group of “expatriate Syrian political activists” on Tuesday as the US battles to articulate an effective response to the latest of Bashar al Assad’s crackdowns.

        that’s from 8/3

        seham links us to a great video US funding Syrian opposition?

    • Woody Tanaka
      August 11, 2011, 1:47 pm

      “Israel has had 63 years of elections”

      And for 45 of them have excluded from those election half of the population which they govern. Not exactly a shining beacon of democracy.

    • annie
      August 11, 2011, 3:25 pm

      They did experience one soul-wrenching assassination. (Lebanon, Egypt?)

      yes, they both did. although i’m not sure how well loved sadat was.

  10. Saleema
    August 11, 2011, 7:25 am

    It’s really not that complicated. Weather Assad is a softie and is really a human teddy bear, it doesn’t matter. Him and all his other dictator compatriots in the region have got to go. People there want them to go.

    Will people try to exploit the situation for their benefits? I’m sure they will and are. That doesn’t really matter to me at this point. Let the Arabs taste freedom and down the road, one day, their destiny will be theirs. Along the way there will be much blood and slaughter, something I’m not happy about, but freedom has never come without it.

    • annie
      August 11, 2011, 1:26 pm

      Him and all his other dictator compatriots in the region have got to go. People there want them to go………Let the Arabs taste freedom and down the road, one day, their destiny will be theirs.

      i do think people need to taste freedom and i am not a fan of dictatorships that last 30 years. i concern is how it will come about. if, as you say (and you are probably right), there will be much blood and slaughter then let it be amongst the people fighting for their freedom and no thru intervention of the superpower who will not be doing it for ‘freedom and democracy’. they will be doing it to usher in their own puppet who will follow their agenda just like in iraq or the coup in iran. that is all i am saying is to be weary of information and inflammation and/or incitement supported and paid for by the US.

      • American
        August 12, 2011, 2:38 pm

        There are several ways to look at the Syria revolution, just as there were with Egypt and Libya and others.

        When people undertake to overthrow whatever government or regime the majority is against they would be fools to not take whatever help is available. That doesn’t mean they will go along with
        that ‘partner’ after their mission is accomplished and it doesn’t mean once that regime is ousted a working popular government magically appears.
        Most revolutions go through a long period of many fractions jockeying for power before a final form of government is established and accepted by the majority.
        There are exceptions like Castro’s Cuba where one sole group unsupported by outside powers was successful and immediately acceded to power unchallenged.
        The US will try to keep installing US and Isr friendly rulers and government in the ME–what kind of government emerges from the revolutions taking place in the ME depends a lot on the streets attitude toward the US. IMO they are going to be extremely suspicious of any possible US influence or control of whatever emerges.
        The biggest threat to the final overcome of revolution is the wearing down, the exhaustion of the populace with the uncertainty and chaos that can lead them to accept a leader or government that is as illegitimate or corrupt as they one they brought down.

  11. Richard Witty
    August 11, 2011, 10:53 am

    The significance of being surrounded by suppressive and civilly violent dictatorships is that the martial requirement never disappears from its palette.

    A horrible tragedy that people are not just accepted.

    • Woody Tanaka
      August 11, 2011, 1:54 pm

      That’s not even internally consistant. First, even if every state in the region were democratic, do you think that their opinion of Israel, based as it is on Israel’s actions against its Arab population (both in de jure Israel and in de facto Israel), would change?

      Second, if the Israelis are “not just accepted” it is because they have rejected the Arab Peace Plan, which is an offer of just acceptance. Why do you suppose that is?

    • eljay
      August 11, 2011, 2:56 pm

      >> The significance of being surrounded by suppressive and civilly violent dictatorships is that the martial requirement never disappears from its palette.

      Ah, so now you can appreciate why Syria is the way it is.

      Kidding. ;-)

      Nothing excuses Syria’s brutal, repressive behaviour. And nothing – not even being surrounded by dictatorships – excuses Israel’s ON-GOING and OFFENSIVE (i.e., not defensive) campaign of aggression, oppression, theft, colonization, destruction and murder.

      Stop being such a dismal apologist.

      • Richard Witty
        August 11, 2011, 4:25 pm

        I agree that nothing excuses Israeli expropriation of land, whether occupied or contested is irrelevant.

        I’m not an apologist for theft. I’m an advocate of mutual self-determination, multiple real democracies in the dual conditions of:

        1. Majority rule
        2. Protection of individual and minority rights

        • annie
          August 11, 2011, 4:58 pm

          richard, i appreciate you saying nothing excuses Israeli expropriation of land, whether occupied or contested is irrelevant but i’m wondering what it is you’re willing to advocate to end it outside of both parties negotiating to end it. i’m not understanding what would motivate israel to end it outside of bsd or threats that are, unlike bsd, violent in nature (and frankly that would have to be a very big threat because of israel’s military superiority, not something i am advocating)

          so what does it mean to you in practical terms. would you be willing to advocate the occupation end today,now? or is that also something you advocate only by mutual agreement and negotiation?

          again, i am not contradicting you or accusing you of being pro expropriation of land and occupation i am merely asking you what realistic process you are willing to support to end both. because if you are limited to this ‘ mutual agreement peace process sans concrete action’ your declaration is rather meaningless.

        • eljay
          August 11, 2011, 5:13 pm

          >> I agree that nothing excuses Israeli expropriation of land …

          You omitted “ON-GOING and OFFENSIVE (i.e., not defensive) campaign of aggression, oppression, colonization, destruction and murder”. Are you suggesting that expropriation cannot be excused, but everything else can?

          >> I’m not an apologist for theft.

          I didn’t say you are an apologist for theft, I said you’re an apologist for Israel. And every time you…
          - gloss over; or
          - ignore; or
          - redirect onto the Palestinians and/or “dissent” responsibility for
          …Israel’s ON-GOING and OFFENSIVE (i.e., not defensive) campaign of aggression, oppression, theft, colonization, destruction and murder – a campaign which Israel has the power to stop immediately and completely – you are being an apologist.

          >> I’m an advocate of mutual self-determination, multiple real democracies in the dual conditions of:
          >> 1. Majority rule
          >> 2. Protection of individual and minority rights

          Don’t forget that you have also proposed the bureaucratic ethnic cleansing of inconvenient non-Jewish Israeli minorities – that is, re-drawing the borders in order to excise them from Israel and strip them of their citizenship – in order to preserve a Jewish Israeli majority:
          I personally don’t see a conflict with intentionally adjusting boundaries if the demographics change considerably to create a smaller Israel that is Jewish majority.

        • Koshiro
          August 11, 2011, 5:14 pm

          I’m not an apologist for theft.

          No, you just want the thieves to keep what they’ve stolen and remain impervious to any consequences. No apologism there, no siree!

        • Exiled At Home
          August 11, 2011, 5:31 pm

          Rich,

          It’s been a popular talking-point among Israel’s apologists that the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN is a unilateral action, and that recognition of statehood can come only from a negotiated settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. I wonder what you think of that argument. Do you agree that going to the international community, through the United Nations, is somehow unilateral action, or does it in fact exemplify the very essence of international consensus? What are your thoughts on the seeming hypocrisy of the leadership of a country formed by the United Nations dismissing another people’s request for statehood through the United Nations as an ‘obstacle to peace?’

        • Richard Witty
          August 11, 2011, 7:48 pm

          Thank you for those constructive questions.

          The math for change is a puzzle.

          The factors that I note that are impossible to change are:

          1. Palestinians live there
          2. Israelis live there

          Neither are going to magically disappear, or magically forget their history independent of each other, nor in relation to each other.

          Not in the short term, and nearly certainly not in the long term.

          The political approaches to attempt to force Israel to change behavior, have a possibility ONLY if the movements are solely oriented to change of behavior, not stated in any language that implies general punishment, ONLY oriented to change of behavior.

          And, also only if the behavior requested to be changed is doable. If the behaviors are stated vaguely, that the converted understand, but the rest of the world doesn’t, they will not succeed. If the behaviors objected to are too multiple, they will not succeed.

          Dissent that is oriented to “international law” will likely not succeed as that is understood as an external force, invoking the response of “we are surrounded, they are out to get us”.

          I’ve outlined an approach that I think is palatable and will realize the majority of the BDS stated objectives.

          Always stated in positive terms, what we require to be a healthy vibrant society (“we” including Jewish and Arab Israelis).

          Dissent should always include, and always remember that they are seeking:

          1. Change in legal status
          2. Change in people’s attitudes so that the change in legal status (title and sovereignty) is respectable, respected, and ultimately consented.

          1. Individual rights:
          A. Civil rights – Right to speech, peaceable assembly, press, religious attitude and observance, participation in election, equal access to public assets and services.
          B. Property rights – Ultimately argue for repeal of the 1950-51 laws prohibiting return from war zone, prohibition from day in court, and annexation of “abandoned” land.

          Before then, quietly collect history of the villages (I know that is being done) and of the city life, and present them to Israelis as anthropological presentations, rather than political polemic. (They needn’t be presented as “dead” or entirely “past”. That takes skill and interpersonal respect and clarification.)

          As, in my holy and unholy region of Western Mass, the site of great celebrations and great massacres, many of us gathered periodically to hear of the communities that lived here. In my region, there were valley agricultural communities of 10-15,000, and hunting communities in the uplands, a great variety of lifeways. We intentionally honor those that have lived here. The Native Americans that attend have seen how many come when an inviting setting is created, and how few come when an adversarial or guilting setting is created.

          Israelis don’t see the prior Arab villages. They need to know that there was an honorable life before, a complex one, not perfect, not even romantic.

          Changing hearts and minds takes determination and patience. Impatience creates aggression, rather than communication.

          Once the former village and city life is well documented and presented to Israelis convivially, village by village, I would go door to door (with gifts, delicacies) to petition that former residents that still have title claims, get their day in court.

          After doing this calmly in a dozen towns/villages, then begin inviting political affirmation of the right to the day in court, by urging repeal of the early 50′s laws.

          2. Sovereignty – I still don’t see the possibility of a single state. So, I would assert the right of self-determination to self-govern east of the green line.

          To start, I would recommend calmly undertaking my “green thread” idea, that places the green line (rather than ignored).

          I frankly don’t see any possibility of external pressure succeeding at really any change in an environment of revolution in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Egypt.

          The tent communities’ discussion is promising for change, but will guided by “social” concerns (common) rather than “political” ones, though they will eventually have to put their ideas into practice, which will involve political clarification.

          Calm and oriented to sympathy is first, middle and last.

        • annie
          August 11, 2011, 8:03 pm

          so iow that would be a ‘no’ to my question?

          would you be willing to advocate the occupation end today,now?

          your list sounds like it would require the people who are suffering under occupation to keep suffering for years and nothing in there sounds like it would stop the continued expansion. there’s no point of saying you are against it if you are not willing to advocate anything that would require it to cease.

        • Richard Witty
          August 11, 2011, 8:51 pm

          “would you be willing to advocate the occupation end today,now?”

          Actively, by orienting to simultaneously changing hearts and minds and legal status, asserting a basis for equal rights that will stand, without subsequent suppressions in a pendulum swing.

          The “sumud” of kind determination brings success. The “sumud” of aggressive determination brings failure.

        • annie
          August 11, 2011, 9:22 pm

          Actively, by orienting to simultaneously changing hearts and minds and legal status, asserting a basis for equal rights that will stand, without subsequent suppressions in a pendulum swing.

          a simple yes will do. can you say ‘i think the occupation should end today. israel should pull out of the WB today.’

          if you can advocate an end to the occupation starting right now just say that.

        • Max Ajl
          August 11, 2011, 9:56 pm

          Nitwit is a useful punching bag but he should be forced to write in the English language.

        • James North
          August 11, 2011, 10:07 pm

          Richard Witty said, ‘Look at this statement of mine

          Dissent that is oriented to “international law” will likely not succeed as that is understood as an external force

          ‘I’m basically saying Israel does not have to obey international law. I’m also saying that “dissent” (my dehumanizing word for courageous and principled Palestinians, Israelis, and others) should not require Israel to live up to international law!
          ‘What would Moses say to this? Elijah? Jeremiah?
          ‘(Imagine Moses coming down with the Ten Commandments, and telling the Israelites, “Ignore these; they are an “external force.”‘)

        • eljay
          August 11, 2011, 10:17 pm

          >> RW: Changing hearts and minds takes determination and patience. Impatience creates aggression, rather than communication.

          None of which excuses or justifies Israel’s ON-GOING and OFFENSIVE (i.e., not defensive) campaign of aggression, oppression, theft, colonization, destruction and murder. A campaign that is entirely within Israel’s power to halt, immediately and completely.

          >> annie: a simple yes will do.

          If he weren’t an apologist for Israel and its crimes, he might be able to provide a simple ‘yes’. But this is the same guy who has yet to rule out the possibility of future ethnic cleansing (either physical or bureaucratic):
          ——————————
          Question 3: Are you now able to consistently say that ethnic cleansing is never (anywhere and any time) necessary?
          - Yes, I am able to consistently say that ethnic cleansing is never (anywhere and any time) necessary.
          - No, I still cannot consistently say that ethnic cleansing is never (anywhere and any time) necessary.

          RW’s reply: “The answer to question 3 is that I cannot see any situation in which mass forced removal of a population (ethnic cleansing) can be considered just.”
          ——————————

          Cannot see any situation…at this time (which jibes with his previous and well-documented statement that the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is “currently not necessary”). But the future is WIDE open. For example:

          >> RW: I personally don’t see a conflict with intentionally adjusting boundaries if the demographics change considerably to create a smaller Israel that is Jewish majority.

        • Richard Witty
          August 11, 2011, 10:57 pm

          Annie,
          I advocate an end to the occupation by the ways that are possible to.

          How do you see that actually happening? Or, is it another academic litmus test question?

          It can only happen with Israeli consent. So many actions are called for to get there. Even with external force, if the Israelis genuinely believe that it is infeasible, then it won’t happen, as much organizing, money, time, emotion is spent.

          They have been surrounded and survived. They will do so again.

          The thing that will make actual change possible is changing hearts and minds, and that won’t happen by insult.

          It will happen by calm, patient determination to change hearts and minds (most likely through the “social” approach rather than the “political”).

          Please take in the difference between 3000 reluctant allies marching in the political definition of ending the occupation, versus the social appeal of 350,000 marching (10% of the adult population of the country at a single demonstration, including from almost ALL communities) for well-being, cheering Palestinian Israeli representatives describing their condition.

          Get positive. It will be more effective. You can stay clear and aware, even while around people that are less so.

        • Richard Witty
          August 11, 2011, 10:59 pm

          NOrth,
          You know that I’m saying that Israelis will perceive the invocation of international law as an external imposition. If international law were applied consistently, by the UN and by dissent, then there would be a basis to comply with the genuine international character of law.

          When it is invoked habitually and often misrepresentatively for polemic purposes, and consistently so, then it loses its authority.

        • eljay
          August 11, 2011, 11:09 pm

          >> I advocate an end to the occupation by the ways that are possible to.

          Except for the most obvious one: Israel can end it, immediately and completely. It has the power to do so.

          The occupation is not a defensive action. There is no justification for it. But you are an apologist for Israel and its crimes, and so you gloss over it, gently brush it aside.

          ——————————-
          Zio-supremacist “humanist” (ZSH): “I advocate for an end to the rape by the ways that are possible to.”

          Victim: “You’ll finally demand that the rapist stop raping me?”

          ZSH: “Oh, no. That’s too maximalist. No, you need to engage the rapist, to humanize him, to make ‘better wheels’.”

          Victim: “But…he’s raping me and beating me!”

          ZSH: “Ah, yes, but you’re also punching him so, clearly, you are both aggressors. And only ‘dissent’ would advocate for unilateral disengagement in such a situation.”

        • Sumud
          August 12, 2011, 1:42 am

          Once the former village and city life is well documented and presented to Israelis convivially, village by village, I would go door to door (with gifts, delicacies) to petition that former residents that still have title claims, get their day in court.

          OMG your really are on another planet Richard. Rallies in Jerusalem with youth screaming “death to arabs” – which 21% of Israeli jewish school children agree with, 53% of jewish Israelis wanting arabs to leave Israel, 57% wanting human rights organisations exposing Israel’s wrongdoings gagged and 55% of jewish Israel’s backing the racist rabbis edict that jewish housing shouldn’t be rented to non-jews and you think some sweet treats are going to pull Israel back from the abyss?!?

        • Exiled At Home
          August 12, 2011, 1:54 am

          Richard,

          While I appreciate the general sentiments you expressed, I think you can see why people get so upset with you. You seek positivism, but only at the expense of Palestinian aspirations. It all sounds lovely, but your hesitation to unequivocally denounce that which is indefensible rubs people the wrong way. Seeking a practical end to the occupation sounds like more stalling to allow Israel, at best, to end the occupation on its own terms. This is simply unacceptable for those directly impacted by 40 years of brutality. While I understand what you say in regard to any solution requiring Israeli consent, I think that at times like these, principle must trump practicality. Sure, it would be more constructive if Israel would agree to terms, some terms, any terms, that put this issue to rest. However, you and I both know that Israel will never agree to any terms that:

          A) Suggest Israeli culpability in the conflict;
          B) Require any substantial return of annexed land;
          C) Demarcate any or all of Jerusalem from unilateral Israeli jurisdiction;
          D) Undermine the vision of Eretz Israel by dismantling the settlements
          E) Etcetera.

          Basically, all of the principles that would allow an equitable and just conclusion to the conflict are matters that Israel refuses to agree to.

          At times like these, drastic measures are called for. External measures. Sanctions. Boycotts. Hard Diplomacy. When you disregard the importance of these, and suggest that the nothing can be imposed on Israel, that Israel must comes to terms with the Palestinian and Israeli future on its own, you do realize how incredibly enraging that is to people who live and die under the boot of Israel, and to those who feel most passionately about them.

          Not to get overly hyperbolic, Rich, but imagine if the world concluded that external influences were the incorrect method of bringing an end to the reign of the Third Reich. That Germany’s occupation of Europe and the ethnic cleansing of Jews must come to an end in practical terms, terms that the German High Command would embrace.

          Certainly, you must see how your hesitation and timidity and your use of language suggests that you simply don’t see the occupation as anything overly drastic. Ending the suffering of 4 million Palestinians simply is not imperative to you. Salvaging Israel’s image will always supersede the lives of Palestinians. This view, quite frankly, is reprehensible and enraging, Rich. And you wish your detractors to be ‘positive’ with you?

        • Shmuel
          August 12, 2011, 3:18 am

          Once the former village and city life is well documented and presented to Israelis convivially, village by village, I would go door to door (with gifts, delicacies) to petition that former residents that still have title claims, get their day in court.

          Pre-’48 Palestinian life is already quite well documented. It is Abu Sitta’s life’s work, and there are some great websites/organisations, like Palestine Remembered and Zochrot (which has real programmes for educating Israelis about the Nakba – which are necessarily political and include a significant amount of discomfort – as opposed to ignorant fluff wrapped in faux sympathy).

          I have a better idea. Why don’t you go door-to-door (with sweets and delicacies) at a refugee camp, say Bourj el-Barajneh, and explain calmly and patiently, with as much sympathy as you can muster, that, inshallah, if all goes well, some time in the distant future, granny may be able to go home, but she’ll have to do it on her own because anything else would be “maximalist”. If she’s really lucky, she may even get her day in an Israeli court – once the Knesset, swayed by a parallel sweets ‘n delicacies campaign in Israel, has decided to repeal Israel’s ethnocratic laws. Don’t forget to tell granny and the kids and grandkids that “Changing hearts and minds takes determination and patience. Impatience creates aggression, rather than communication.” I’m sure they will appreciate it. After all, what are 63 years with no end in sight in a human lifetime. The important thing is to change Israeli minds through gentle persuasion, shwaye shwaye. They’ll come ’round, eventually. You can even ask them what the Arabic equivalent of catching more flies with honey than with vinegar is. Good luck.

        • James North
          August 12, 2011, 8:37 am

          Richard Witty said, ‘Ouch, Shmuel. Don’t you ever sleep? (And how can you be so articulate in one of the 3 or more languages you speak while I garble the only one I know?)
          ‘Of course I’ve never heard of Abu Sitta or Palestine Remembered. It’s hard to keep up with Israel/Palestine if you haven’t been there since 1986.
          ‘But it doesn’t matter. I, Richard Witty, know better than Palestinians who live there and the sympathetic Israelis who support them. I don’t have to pay attention to initiatives like BDS that people like them who actually live through the occupation have discussed and democratically decided.
          ‘None of that. I, Richard Witty, can sit here in western Massachusetts and spin out my green yarn schemes, all by myself, and then arrogantly prescribe them to people on the other side of the globe.
          ‘Of course this arrogance is characteristic of a certain sort of pro-Israel person, whom I stand in for here at Mondoweiss. And my arrogance is also characteristic of a certain sort of American.’

        • Richard Witty
          August 12, 2011, 8:51 am

          Exiled,
          Practicality ALWAYS trumps principles. Principles define one’s motivations, the designs of one’s proposals.

          Principles that are only principles, with no intention of implementation, are just vanity. If dissenters really wish to help Palestinians achieve sovereignty and full human rights, then they have to do what is possible, not what is dreamed.

          I’m saying, be effective, and at accomplishing something that is actually good.

          Even the articulation of wrongs, does not add up to a plan, a goal. In this case there is a gross, complex knot of animosities, that is not served by increasing the knot. That is what impatience as to removing the occupation, hoping for magic, does.

          There definitely is a path to quickly end the occupation by negotiation. When the PA is assaulted by dissent for seeking to negotiate, then every effort takes 8 steps backwards for every 2 forward.

          And, clearly, the only way that the occupation will end is by election of liberal parties in Israel, which takes patient and determined effort, not renounced by those that are appalled (as reasonable as that reaction is).

          The only way to end the occupation is by consent (unified Israeli and unified Palestinian), and to achieve that consent requires changing hearts and minds (Israeli and Palestinian) so that different parties with different objectives are elected in Israel, and that Palestine unifiedly recognizes Israel at the green line (or consented adjustments).

          Who spoke of image? Its not a question of image, but of forming a basis of actual reconciliation, rather than animosity. It takes deliberate action, involved action, not the luxury of distance.

        • Richard Witty
          August 12, 2011, 8:58 am

          Shmuel,
          You know that the documentation, great work. I’ve only seen snippets. (That in itself is a bad sign, that I who am interested do not have an easy path to hear.) And, sadly, the snippets that I have seen, contained polemic.

          The information needs to be heard is the point. Hold your nose if you have to, but actually get the job done. Don’t whine that Israelis don’t know. Be more determined than to give yourself that out.

          The question is of what is needed, and what is effective, not what is enraging.

        • Shmuel
          August 12, 2011, 9:28 am

          I’ve only seen snippets. (That in itself is a bad sign, that I who am interested do not have an easy path to hear.) And, sadly, the snippets that I have seen, contained polemic.

          It is indeed a bad sign, but you immediately find an excuse for yourself: such documentation is full of polemic. It’s somebody else’s fault.

          Try starting here (with an eye to learning and understanding for a change, rather than merely seeking fault): link to zochrot.org
          Most of the actual documentation is in Hebrew (the primary target audience is Israeli), but you’ll find plenty of information about the Nakba and Zochrot’s educational activities on the English site.

        • Richard Witty
          August 12, 2011, 9:44 am

          Thanks for the link.

          Shmuel,
          I sincerely would recommend that you hold back your anger at my imagined wrongs. In this case, I was recommending that Israelis learn MORE of the communities that preceeded them, and your response was to castigate me for making that recommendation.

          Even though I noted in my post that the documentation of the Palestinian villages had been occurring, North chose to misrepresent my recommendation as somehow negligently ignorant.

          To be successful at changing hearts and minds, any presentation would have to sincerely eliminate political implications. Even a site dedicated to honoring the nakba, rather than honoring the people slows down their ability to even recognize that there were others living there before.

          You can position how you define your effort as to “educate”, rather than even to convince (the left sadly uses the term “to educate” as meaning to propagate, rather than just to inform and let people come to their own conclusions.).

          Our purposes for informing are obviously different. I am seeking to honor the prior residents, moreso than achieve some justice for them. I get that that is at best partially satisfying, but I propose that honoring is a starting point, that creates a positive precedent, a sympathy and appreciation, rather than a position in a war.

        • Shmuel
          August 12, 2011, 10:12 am

          You honour no one by referring to the ethnically cleansed as “preceding communities” or “prior residents”. If you really want to educate, you must call things by their real names (as any decent sex ed. teacher will tell you).

          Once again you are playing innocent while engaging in apologetics for theft and ethnic cleansing. This kind of sneakiness makes people angry, offering you a further opportunity for distraction – you can then chastise them for getting angry.

        • Donald
          August 12, 2011, 11:21 am

          “While I appreciate the general sentiments you expressed, I think you can see why people get so upset with you. You seek positivism, but only at the expense of Palestinian aspirations. It all sounds lovely, but your hesitation to unequivocally denounce that which is indefensible rubs people the wrong way”

          That’s pretty much my story with him. I came to this blog before the current system and used a pseudonym that I don’t remember now. When I first encountered Richard I saw the generalities and agreed with them, thinking that some of the offensive details were just displays of innocent ignorance. But follow him long enough and one soon catches on–Richard wants peace, but on his own terms and those terms do not allow for anything that would inconvenience an Israeli Jew in any serious way, nor should mainstream Zionists be made to feel that their ideology bears any responsibility for any bad thing that has happened.

          You summed it up with this line–

          ” Salvaging Israel’s image will always supersede the lives of Palestinians. ”

          For Richard, that’s the bottom line. Anything else is “groveling”, a word he has used in this connection.

          And I wonder to what degree he represents liberal Zionists in general? That’s the important issue. He doesn’t represent them all–Jerome Slater, for instance, may have his disagreements with some people here, but he is nothing like Richard. But are most closer to Richard or closer to Jerome? I don’t know.

        • Richard Witty
          August 12, 2011, 1:18 pm

          I am trying to articulate a strategy that has a prospect of succeeding.

          Accompanying a description with an attack will repel audiences, again as difficult as that may be.

          The whole question revolves around whether you want to practically change hearts and minds of Israelis to a consented long-standing peace, or you want to practically organize a punitive isolation movement in the fantasy that they will change, or that a bloodbath won’t occur in the next war.

          Its hard to know what you propose Donald. End the occupation, but still with isolation, then what?

          Single state, constructed by animosity, then what?

        • eljay
          August 12, 2011, 1:50 pm

          >> The whole question revolves around whether you want to practically change hearts and minds of Israelis to a consented long-standing peace …

          Demand that the victim change the heart and mind of the rapist to a consented long-standing peace. But don’t you dare expect him to stop raping first!

          Such a “humanist”…

        • Shmuel
          August 12, 2011, 1:57 pm

          Richard,

          Homeopathic theory notwithstanding, if you dilute something enough, all you are left with is water.

          Your presumption of animosity is insulting and shows a marked lack of respect for and understanding of positions that differ in any way from your own. Disrespect and intolerance disguised as a moralising lecture on education and understanding – to be followed surely by a sermon on anger.

        • James North
          August 12, 2011, 2:10 pm

          Richard Witty said, ‘Doesn’t Shmuel ever rest? Also, he’s unflappable, and unfailingly polite. If I could just rile him up a bit more, I could blame him for being angry, and preen with self-satisfaction.
          ‘My problem is; he and the others have blown my cover. I AM NOT REALLY A LIBERAL ZIONIST! Shmuel knows plenty of them. I know he has disagreements with them, but they don’t, for instance, try to justify the colonization of the West Bank by equating the illegal settlers with Jewish refugees expelled from Hitler’s Europe.
          ‘Under my hippie-like, ashram denizen disguise, I am actually a right-wing pro-Israeli.’

        • annie
          August 12, 2011, 2:16 pm

          I am trying to articulate a strategy that has a prospect of succeeding.

          Accompanying a description with an attack will repel audiences, again as difficult as that may be.

          well how’s your strategy working out for you? here’s the thing richard, for the most part you are not talking to israelis who are perpetuating.support this occupation, you’re here day in and day out trying to sway us and whatever it is you are doing doesn’t seem to be working. does that ever occur to you?

        • annie
          August 12, 2011, 2:18 pm

          lol, sometimes it occurs to me it’s worth all his posts just to hear you paraphrase him james.

        • James North
          August 12, 2011, 2:22 pm

          Richard Witty said, ‘annie: you misunderstand my aim. Of course if I wanted to persuade Israelis I would go to the Haaretz English-language site, or others like it. I’m here to persuade my own guilty conscience.
          ‘Look how I wasted a bunch of comments this very morning trying to find one single Palestinian who had been allowed to move into a West Bank Jewish-only settlement. Of course, if I had been successful it would have meant nothing in the larger scheme of things. But I would have been able to tell myself, “Look, Richard, those nasty people on Mondoweiss exaggerate. Israel is not as bad as they say.”‘

        • annie
          August 12, 2011, 2:22 pm

          eljay, the only ‘hearts and minds’ of israelis richard is trying to change are the ones on this blog. he thinks we are the problem otherwise he would waste his time here. we should be nice and the israel will gladly disarm and stop expanding.

          hahhaahhaahhhahah

        • annie
          August 12, 2011, 2:24 pm

          james, yeah..one single palestinian israeli family that worked the court system for years to be able to build a house on their own lot. at that rate it will all be fine in about a century or two. but to richard this proves how democratic israel is.

        • Richard Witty
          August 12, 2011, 2:55 pm

          Shmuel,

          Your language was “playing innocent while engaging in apologetics for theft and ethnic cleansing.”

          Its insulting language, to which I responded relatively calmly.

          You infer insult frequently in my language, its not confrontational enough for you.

          Lighten up. You might harrangue me, but the arguments won’t disappear as they are substantive.

          Better that you take the risk and address the arguments made.

          Do you personally think that it is necessary for Israel and Israelis to consent to a two-state solution, or will external popular pressure suffice (without accompanying proposal nor enforcement mechanism and power?

          I think that Israel’s consent is an inevitability, a requirement.

          If that is a requirement, do you think that calling Israelis racist, or oppressors ad infinitum, will change hearts and minds to be more accepting, or more resistant?

          We all affect each other. Israelis clearly affect Palestinian options and consciousness. Palestinian and solidarity communications affect Israeli.

          You read the Dana pieces in 972 I assume. Why do you think 350,000 demonstrated around “social” issues, while only 3000 demonstrated around “political”, two weeks before this demonstration?

          Its the communication, the way that people are spoken to.

          I find it literally sadly ironic that statements that support the honoring of Palestinians prior to independence/nakba, would be met with such criticism. You distrust way too much. You build walls.

        • Richard Witty
          August 12, 2011, 2:59 pm

          Annie,
          The significance of the family’s determination and courage is that it sets a precedent. There is no magic, only hard work to make real social change.

          Applaud it, encourage it.

          Even trivial intentional efforts will hasten social change.

        • Richard Witty
          August 12, 2011, 3:00 pm

          Annie,
          I think you are the people that are determined, motivated to improve things.

          I worry that the form of dissent chosen won’t improve things for either Palestinians, Israelis, Americans.

        • James North
          August 12, 2011, 3:50 pm

          Richard Witty said, ‘Look what I say to Shmuel, a man of many languages, a man at home in many cultures,

          You distrust way too much. You build walls.

          ‘Meanwhile, I haven’t been to Israel/Palestine since 1986. But I know exactly what they should do over there.’

        • Shmuel
          August 12, 2011, 4:39 pm

          You might harrangue me, but the arguments won’t disappear as they are substantive. Better that you take the risk and address the arguments made.

          Richard,

          I have yet to see you make a substantive argument based on research, knowledge and fact. Furthermore, you have ignored all of the direct questions I have ever posed to you, and sidetracked virtually every exchange we have ever had. So please, tell me. Why should I bother?

          If you are really interested in my views regarding the questions you ask, as opposed to just making conversation, please feel free to search both of my profile pages: Shmuel, and Shmuel Sermoneta-Gertel.

        • Richard Witty
          August 12, 2011, 5:58 pm

          “It’s been a popular talking-point among Israel’s apologists that the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN is a unilateral action, and that recognition of statehood can come only from a negotiated settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. I wonder what you think of that argument. Do you agree that going to the international community, through the United Nations, is somehow unilateral action, or does it in fact exemplify the very essence of international consensus? What are your thoughts on the seeming hypocrisy of the leadership of a country formed by the United Nations dismissing another people’s request for statehood through the United Nations as an ‘obstacle to peace?’”

          I think their taking a petition to the UN is a unilateral action that they should do.

          Netanyahu had months advance notice, in which he could have initiated earnest efforts for reconciliation, and a smooth transition.

          He knows that any transition would not be smooth, so is using that prospect of difficulty as a means to delay or entirely avoid, permanent reconciliation that establishes Palestinian sovereignty.

          I have to say that I believe that Hamas is also a party to the obstacle to peace, in that the prospect of a unified Palestine that would negotiate, or war, or whatever as one voice, is a prerequisite to anything useful in the region. Specifically, they made repeated non-compromising rejectionist statements regarding prospective treaty with Israel, and boycotted discussion of prime minister and Palestinian policy. (Maybe the deferral of discussions after September was joint, but it is an obstacle to ratification.)

        • Koshiro
          August 12, 2011, 6:29 pm

          I am trying to articulate a strategy that has a prospect of succeeding.

          Succeeding at…
          … blocking the refugees’ right of return (except for old people who can come to Israel, not their actual homes of course, for which Jews hold ‘perfected title’. And naturally only if they leave their families behind.)
          … keeping all settlers where they are, with dual citizenship, in full possession of their current stolen homes, under strong protection.
          … keeping the Palestinian state semi-sovereign and subservient to Israel “security needs”, i.e. no military, Israeli-controlled borders, Israeli-controlled airspace etc.
          … getting someone else than Israel to pay for all costs that may arise, such as the mere crumbs the Palestinian refugees will get as “compensation” if at all.

          See, it’s not that we – I am just assuming I speak for more than one person here – disagree with your suggested methods (nor lack of those.) We also disagree with your despicable colonialist goals.

          But of course, if I have misrepresented you in any way, just feel free to correct the above points.
          No, just kidding. The day you’ll ever articulate a clear and principled position, hell is going to freeze over.

          Some people on this site seem to think you actually are a misguided sort of liberal. I wonder why. All evidence points to the explanation that you are merely a spin artist with a Likudchnik’s agenda. A soft-spoken propagandist of The Settler Power.

        • Richard Witty
          August 12, 2011, 9:23 pm

          “I have yet to see you make a substantive argument based on research, knowledge and fact. Furthermore, you have ignored all of the direct questions I have ever posed to you, and sidetracked virtually every exchange we have ever had. So please, tell me. Why should I bother?”

          What is there to research relative to proposal for approach and strategy? It is a statement of recommendation.

          The facts are that Israel and Israelis are there, that Palestine and Palestinians are there, and that a state of war is not a progressive status for anyone. So, the only path to anything reasonable is by consent. And, it is reasonable to attempt to influence the terms of that consent by education and fully non-violent dissent, but more importantly by engagement, rather than blessing the separation of the wall by BDS.

          Keep trying on direct questions. I’ll answer you sincerely, if they are actual questions, as I believe that I have historically.

          Are there pending questions that you feel that I should answer?

          Side-tracking every exchange. We emphasize different points, different critical questions of the same reality. Is that side-tracking.

  12. Brewer
    August 11, 2011, 11:23 am

    Human Rights Watch is not my go to organisation. Initially it was set up to take the heat off Israel. Now it seems to be anybody’s:

    “The international non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) has been accused by critics[1] of being influenced by United States government policy,[2] in particular in relation to reporting on Latin America;[3][4][5][6][7] ignoring anti-Semitism in Europe or being anti-Semitic;[8] biases in relation to the Arab–Israeli conflict; and unfair and biased reporting of human rights issues in Eritrea and Ethiopia.[9][10][11] Accusations in relation to the Arab–Israeli conflict include claims that HRW is biased against Israel[12][13][14] and that requesting or accepting donations from Saudi Arabian citizens causes it to be biased;[15] it has also been accused of unbalanced reporting against Hezbollah in Lebanon[16][17] and against Palestinian militant groups.[18]”
    link to en.wikipedia.org

    It is really rather funny when Bernstein, who set it up, is now its foremost critic:
    link to nytimes.com

    Notice that the HRW reports are peppered with “witnesses said” and that there are substantial casualties on the Government side. From this we can deduce that the “protesters” are not your average peace love and incense crew. It is difficult to carry both a machine gun and a placard:

    Read the linked report closely, my remarks in brackets:
    link to news.sky.com

    “Syrian forces have killed at least 80 civilians in a major tank assault on the city of Hama to crush pro-democracy demonstrations, according to activists.” (according to activists?)

    “The assault prompted opposition gunmen to fire machine guns and set police stations on fire. ” (these “activists” had machine guns they were “prompted” to use? Lovely piece of transference )

    “Witnesses reported there were 51 wounded people at one hospital alone, and the facility was running short of blood for transfusions.” (“Witnesses reported”)

    “Tanks had also surrounded another main hospital, al Horani, one witness added.” (“one witness added”)

    A doctor who did not want to be named for fear of arrest said: “Tanks are attacking from four directions. (unnamed witness)

    “They are firing their heavy machine guns randomly and overrunning makeshift road blocks erected by the inhabitants.” (road blocks? )

    “Tanks ambushed the city of Hama, killing at least 45 protesters”(ambushed?)

    “Another resident said snipers had climbed onto the roofs of the state-owned electricity company and the main prison.” (whose snipers?)

    “There were also claims soldiers threw nail bombs at anti-government protesters in a suburb of of the capital Damascus.” (Soldiers don’t throw nail bombs, they have much better ordnance. There are serious agitators in that crowd)

    This has all the classic signs of a planned insurgency, probably sponsored.
    We know that the U.S. and Israel is active in this area and boy do they have a track record. If they can defang Syria, Israel gets a free shot at Lebanon.

    • Donald
      August 12, 2011, 11:27 am

      Bernstein today is not quite the person he was when he helped set up HRW. Today he uses the same bogus criticisms of HRW that the Reagan Administration’s supporters used back in the 80′s–they said then and he says now that human rights groups are betraying the cause of human rights when they criticize US allies.

      HRW actually has a pretty good record when it comes to criticizing both Israel and Israel’s enemies. I don’t know for sure what is going on in Syria, but all the evidence suggests that the government is behaving in its usual thuggish fashion.

  13. dimadok
    August 11, 2011, 12:56 pm

    Shame, everlasting shame on each and everyone of the commentators here,who will do everything in order to use Syrian murders for taking cheap shots at Israel.

    Suddenly human rights groups reports are doubtful, Al Jazeera unreliable , Asad is not the one who gives the orders, the information has to taken with the grain of salt……

    How dare you?! When you bow to every single report from Pallywood or Manar, or anything that implicates Israel as solid facts/responsible journalism, suddenly now you have the urgency to pass judgement on the reports?

    Some of you “don’t understand why..” or it “makes no sense”, how low you have fallen o mighty freedom fighters! Where are your liberal senses or profound need for freedom and human rights?
    Ego sum.

    • Woody Tanaka
      August 11, 2011, 1:58 pm

      “Shame, everlasting shame on each and everyone of the commentators here,who will do everything in order to use Syrian murders for taking cheap shots at Israel. ”

      If you have a criticism of a particular commenter for the content of his or her comment, then confront that person. Only a coward would reference “each and everyone [sic] of the commentators here” in broad brush fashion.

    • eljay
      August 11, 2011, 2:52 pm

      >> Shame, everlasting shame on each and everyone of the commentators here,who will do everything in order to use Syrian murders for taking cheap shots at Israel.

      The real shame is on the immoral Zio-supremacists who use the events in Syria to justify Israel’s crimes, as though being not Syria somehow justifies Israel’s ON-GOING and OFFENSIVE (i.e, not defensive) campaign of aggression, oppression, theft, colonization, destruction and murder.

    • richb
      August 12, 2011, 10:22 am

      Suddenly human rights groups reports are doubtful, Al Jazeera unreliable , Asad is not the one who gives the orders, the information has to taken with the grain of salt……

      What this illustrates is the natural skepticism that anyone in the ME is telling the whole story. Furthermore, there is even greater skepticism that our government is a positive help in the region.

      Given this tendency here, we challenge each other to be grounded in reality and to look hard at sources that have lied to us in the past. But what explains the overwhelming consensus vis-a-vis Israel here? It’s really quite simple. Despite the skepticism, the evidence for the depravity of the Israeli government is deep, wide, pervasive, broad-based, and longstanding. The evidence is like breakers in the ocean that overwhelm us over and over again. And, yet, despite the patent evidence you live in pathological denial of the evils done in your name. Shame on you.

    • Donald
      August 12, 2011, 11:35 am

      Dimadok, to quote Oscar Wilde, one would need a heart of stone to read your histrionics without laughing. Leave that sort of writing for people who can do it without seeming ridiculous. I agree that the Syrian regime is composed of brutal thugs who are busy murdering people. I’m fairly sure their victims wouldn’t appreciate having their cause linked with your racism. “Pallywood”? Try again, maybe keeping in mind this time that your audience isn’t a bunch of rightwing Israeli settlers.

Leave a Reply