Why are American pro-Palestinian voices silent about the brutal war on Yemen?

Middle East
on 63 Comments

The US government is backing a brutal war on Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East. It has been for more than nine months.

You wouldn’t know that from the US Palestinian solidarity movement though. It has largely remained silent — silent while Yemen has bled profusely.

The Saudi-led coalition has for close to 300 days rained US-made bombs down upon civilian areas including weddings, hospitals, refugee camps, civilian neighborhoods, government buildings, humanitarian aid warehouses, and more.

Approximately 6,000 Yemenis have been killed — dozens per day, on average. More than 2,800 civilians, and at least 5,300 civilians have been wounded, according to the UN.

Human rights organizations have repeatedly accused the coalition of war crimes for attacking civilian areas.

The UN has made it clear that the Saudi-led, Western-backed coalition is responsible for roughly two-thirds of civilian casualties.

Where are the American pro-Palestinian voices?

The reasons Americans should stand in solidarity with Palestinians are the same reasons Americans should stand in solidarity with Yemenis.

Just as the US arms and aids the Israeli military, the US arms and aids the Saudi-led coalition. On January 6, just one day after bombing a center for the blind and Yemen’s chamber of commerce, the Saudi-led coalition dropped widely banned US-made cluster munitions on civilian neighborhoods in the capital city of Sanaa. The bombs were made at the Milan Army Ammunition Plant in Tennessee.

The photos of Yemeni children dug from under the rubble of buildings destroyed by Saudi bombing appear incredibly similar to those of Palestinian children massacred by Israel in the besieged Gaza Strip. In fact, I have personally seen them confused for each other on social media.

Just as Israel has imposed a merciless (and illegal) siege on Gaza for almost 10 years, Saudi Arabia has imposed a ruthless siege on Yemen for almost 10 months. As early as August, human rights organizations had warned that 80 percent of Yemen’s population — 21 million people — were in desperate need of humanitarian aid because of the Saudi blockade.

All of the arguments used to defend the Palestinian resistance are just as valid vis-à-vis the Yemeni resistance.

Just as Israel is responsible for the vast majority of civilian casualties in its periodic wars on Gaza, the Saudi-led coalition is responsible for the vast majority of civilian casualties in Yemen.

Like the al-Qassam Brigades, the Houthis and other Yemeni rebels do not have airplanes; it is Israel and the Western-backed coalition that are dropping bombs from the sky.

And, even beside the US role and other geopolitical alliances, Yemenis are objectively an oppressed group. Internationalists who believe in the universality of justice are obligated to stand with the oppressed against their oppressor.

This argument may seem reminiscent of the fallacious talking points and deflections used by Israel’s supporters. “Why don’t you say anything about Syria?” such pundits often ask. But there is a crucial distinction in regards to Yemen.

Syria is complicated. Even the US’ position is contradictory. The White House has called for the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad, but legendary journalist Seymour Hersh has exposed that the Pentagon has independently aided him. The Syrian regime has carried out horrific crimes, shooting protesters, bombing and besieging civilian areas, torturing. US allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar, on the other side, are actively supporting extremist groups like Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra, while NATO member Turkey is giving foreign Salafi fanatics free reign to cross its border and has been accused of supporting ISIS. Many Palestinians and other groups are themselves divided on Syria.

Yemen is not complicated.

A coalition of Western allies and traditional imperial powers — including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey, armed by the US and UK — is carrying out a brutal war on the poorest country in the Middle East.

Qatar and the UAE have effectively invaded Yemen.

Israel has said little about the war, but it is evident that its sympathies lie with its allies in the US-backed coalition. In the few times Israeli politicians have mentioned Yemen, they have characterized the war as a product of supposed Iranian aggression. Israel, like the members of the coalition, accuses Iran of backing the Houthi rebels.

Most media outlets have uncritically echoed this accusation, describing the war as “sectarian” and a “proxy war.” Investigative reporters like Gareth Porter have revealed, however, that the ostensible role of Iran has been exaggerated, or even blatantly lied about, in order to justify the bombing and destruction.

The egregious injustice of the Saudi-led, Western-backed war on Yemen is, to put it bluntly, cut and dry.

During Israel’s brutal 51-day war on Gaza in the summer of 2014, there were constant demonstrations in solidarity with Palestinians. In DC, there were literally dozens — one often held every day or every other day.

Where are the demonstrations for Yemenis? In New York City in the past six months, there has only been one or two, and even those were sparsely attended.

I have written numerous articles for Mondoweiss detailing the war crimes the US-backed coalition has carried out in Yemen, but the pieces I published have not been nearly as popular as those I wrote detailing the war crimes the US-backed Israeli military carried out in Gaza.

This is a war that has carried on for more than three-quarters of a year, but many American pro-Palestinian voices have remained silent.

Some might fall back on an age-old argument, claiming they do not want to delve into wars like that in Yemen because they do not want to “divide the movement.” But there is a big difference between remaining silent for the sake of unity and remaining silent in an act of hypocrisy.

Besides, such a view is myopic. The war on Yemen cannot be distinguished from the ongoing war on Palestine. There is an enormous overlap in the forces responsible for the oppression in both cases. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and others may do lip service to the Palestinian cause, yet they abandon Palestinians and make deals with Israel behind their backs.

If American pro-Palestinian activists cannot find common cause with Yemenis struggling against violent oppression that is in so many ways similar to that suffered by Palestinians, they need to seriously reflect on their politics.

Whatever happened to solidarity?

About Ben Norton

Ben is a journalist and writer based in New York City. His work has been featured in a variety of publications, and he is presently a politics staff writer at Salon. His website can be found at BenNorton.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

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63 Responses

  1. Donald
    January 8, 2016, 10:19 am

    I don’t follow activism out in meatspace very closely, but online Yemen has been an issue at Salon ( as you know)and at the Intercept. I didn’t realize reaction has been limited, but if so that’s really bad because as you say these are the same issues, for Americans at least. In both cases civilians are blown up by war criminals with American support.

    There actually has been some attention given to this issue in the NYT as I mentioned in my piece. The NYT has been fairly honest about the fact that the Saudis are committing war crimes, much more honest than they are about Israel’s.. The problem with the NYT coverage is twofold– first, like Israeli crimes supported by the US, the stories are on the back pages. That signals that they aren’t important and consequently I would guess most Americans don’t know about them. I assume the rest of the MSM is the same.

    The other problem with the NYT coverage is that they lean over backwards to be sympathetic to the Obama administration, which supports the Saudi campaign but is evidently worried about bad PR if people start to pay attention in the West. Once again the great and noble West which lectures the Muslim world about terrorism is supporting state terror.

    I did bring this up at another blog and my sense was that some liberals are jaded– they don’t support the bombing, but don’t get angered by it the way they were when Bush was torturing people. In some cases this is straight partisan politics ( one person was actually defending the policy, but this person is the most fanatical Obama worshipper I’ve ever encountered.). In other cases I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s as though sophisticated grownup people just aren’t supposed to get outraged by this. I’m guessing it’s because of our limited likely political choices for President.

    • pabelmont
      January 8, 2016, 11:11 am

      My guess is that the problem is that “state terrorism” is rejected as a concept by GoUSA since they do it and prefer to use words like “war” and “humanitarian intervention” and “collateral damage” (or even “human error”) to deal with civilian deaths. Did Saudis target weddings? well, gee, so did those exemplars of humane warfare, the USA’s dronistas. So who are “we” to complain about Saudis (our allies, BTW), where “we” seems to capture the USA’s MSM.

      As to why pro-Palestine folks don’t complain as much about Yemen, a very good point. Maybe “compassion fatigue” and maybe a feeling that our very limited acceptance in USA’s political sphere will grow even less if we start complaining about USA’s own acts (and those of its allies in the “War on Terror”). “Choose your battles” is not a bad idea, really, and explains why some people are pro-Palestine (or anti-Zionist, not exactly the same thing) in a world teeming with barbaric cruelty, much of it coming, as it were, from the barrels of American guns.

      • amigo
        January 8, 2016, 11:29 am

        “As to why pro-Palestine folks don’t complain as much about Yemen, a very good point.”Pabelmont

        I can,t speak for others but I am tired of being told by the zionist entity how f—–g perfect they are , ie , the most moral army and a light unto the rest of we lesser beings and that they are the only democracy in the ME and that they try their very best to avoid killing civilians and they are under a never ending existential threat , blah,blah, blah ad infinitum.

        They have tried our patience for 7 decades.

  2. Atlantaiconoclast
    January 8, 2016, 10:35 am

    I am not silent about it. The Saudi regime disgusts me. We should have stopped all aid to SA long ago. And I don’t get this obsession with Assad. What proof do you have that he has committed horrific crimes? No one ever proved that he gassed his own people, let alone while UN inspectors were in the area. If any group of rebels dared to overthrow Obama, he would bomb them to hell and back, taking a number of civilians with him. Somehow, Obama does not commit horrific crimes when he orders drone strikes that kill innocents?

    The same people who excuse Israel’s killing of civilians as unfortunate collateral damage, suddenly have a problem with the same phenomenon when its Assad’s forces doing the collateral killing. Abraham Lincoln’s forces killed thousands of innocent civilians in the South during his war on the South. Syria is not complicated. We have been backing Islamic extremists AND ISIS (per the 2012 DIA Report) to counter the secular and Christian protecting Assad. Syria is none of our business. Not saying we should support Assad, but we certainly shouldn’t support his violent, Islamist enemies, not to mention his Zionist enemy.

  3. Tuyzentfloot
    January 8, 2016, 10:38 am

    Most media outlets have uncritically echoed this accusation, describing the war as “sectarian” and a “proxy war.” Investigative reporters like Gareth Porter have revealed, however, that the ostensible role of Iran has been exaggerated, or even blatantly lied about, in order to justify the bombing and destruction.

    Porter examined the main claims and found they were baseless. That there was nothing there. I do not find any allegations in Porter’s article that there have been exaggerated claims about Iran’s role in Yemen.
    Exaggeration means that something can be substantiated, so what is it that can be substantiated? It’s not implausible that there is something but I don’t know what.

  4. StanleyHeller
    January 8, 2016, 10:49 am

    There is one coalition that supports Palestinian rights and very firmly condemns the Saudi-US-Sudanese-Egyptian war on Yemen. It’s the Coalition to End the U.S.-Saudi Alliance http://www.SaudiUS.org It’s current members are CODEPINK, the Institute for Gulf Affairs,
    ​Middle East Crisis Committee (CT), Massachusetts Peace Action and the United National Anti-war Coalition​

  5. hophmi
    January 8, 2016, 12:33 pm

    Why, indeed? Because there aren’t Zionists (read: Jews) to blame in the Yemeni conflict.

    • Donald
      January 8, 2016, 1:14 pm

      The commentators I’ve seen condemning the US- Saudi crimes in Yemen are Ben Norton, people at the Intercept, and Daniel Larison along with the human rights groups. All of these people are also critical of Israel ( not sure about Larison– I’d have to check). I just checked– Larison was critical of Israel in Gaza.

      Have you said anything to anyone about Yemen?

      • gamal
        January 8, 2016, 4:20 pm

        “Have you said anything to anyone about Yemen?”

        i recommended Ali Muqri’s “The Handsome Jew”,

        operation Vantage (Kuwait) was tied up with Aden (Yemen), Egypt, Jordan and Saudi etc there’s a lot less to worry about this time round, some back ground, how the Arabs have declined since the 1960’s:

        link to books.google.ie

    • eljay
      January 8, 2016, 1:58 pm

      || hophmi: Why, indeed? Because there aren’t Zionists (read: Jews) to blame in the Yemeni conflict. ||

      What is it with you and your frequent anti-Semitic conflation of Zionism with all Jews and all Jews with Zionism? Why do you hate Jews so much?

    • tony greenstein
      January 9, 2016, 3:01 pm

      Most conversations have to have one idiot troll.

      Why has the Palestine solidarity movement not condemned what is happening in Yemen? Probably because it is concentrated on what is happening in Palestine. Unfortunately solidarity campaigns tend to narrowly focus on their main area of interest. This is a mistake because overthrowing Zionism and dismantling the Israeli state will not take place without the overthrow of the Arab regimes and friends of US imperialism too.

      Israel, contrary to idiot’s views, does overtly support Saudia Arabia and it does this militarily too by all accounts. So yes there are Zionists (don’t read Jews) involved in Yemen.

      • echinococcus
        January 10, 2016, 1:42 am

        Tony,

        There is something missing in your argument.

        You see that guy over there, baseball cap, Giants shirt and all? He approves of Palestinian resistance, for whatever reason, and I want him at the next demo and lobbing hard questions at his Rep rep candidate at the next Town Hall meeting.
        He also happens to harbor fuzzy feelings for the Government of the US of A, for whatever reason, say for the energy in handling crime, or because he just loves being uninsured; he also likes the House of Saud because of whatever, say because tough on crime.

        I still want that guy with me on Palestine because without the participation of those like him there’s a snowball’s chance in hell the US will ever respond to pressure. “Liberals” and such, albeit unreliable, may be useful in starting a ball rolling but cannot get enough traction. Hence the key statements: 1. All Americans must know; 2. Each alliance should be made in view of one narrow, strictly circum..scribed goal.

        I personally have a beef both with the US Gov in general and its Saudi alliance in particular, but I attend to it outside the Mondoweiss discussion board, and not only in discussion. It is, however, no business of Palestine Resistance solidarity work, just because the key is the US.

    • Hostage
      January 10, 2016, 2:31 pm

      Why, indeed? Because there aren’t Zionists (read: Jews) to blame in the Yemeni conflict

      It doesn’t have anything to do with Zionism or Jews. But there certainly are plenty of Zionist propagandists who have tried to employ the Saudi blockade of Yemen to justify the blockade of Gaza, e.g. See “Guest Post: Iran’s Relief Ship and the Blockade of Yemen
      by Eugene Kontorovich at link to opiniojuris.org

      As you can see from the comments there, I’ve always taken the time and trouble to explain why both situations are illegal.

  6. merlot
    January 8, 2016, 12:37 pm

    Should people be more vocal about calling or an end to attacks on Yemen and violence in Yemen? Yes

    Should we all be more critical of the role Saudi Arabia is playing in Yemen? Yes

    Should we all be critical of the U.S. role in tacitly supporting Saudi Arabia? Yes

    Should we be critical of the long term U.S. military engagement in Yemen and its support for authoritarian governance? Yes

    Should we resist false analysis that tries to make Yemen a simple sectarian conflict? Yes

    Is Yemen simple to understand as is alleged here and should we uncritically side with the Houthis and their allies? No, Yemen isn’t simple and the idea that opposition to Saudi Arabia and its violence should go hand in hand with Houthi support is really problematic. Painting this as a conflict involving Saudi and U.S. regional imperialism is as problematic as an analysis that paints the conflict as being about sectarianism.

    The Houthis have been in open conflict with the Yemeni government for over a decade. Even before this latest round of conflict they have had sporadic conflict with the Yemeni government going back to the late 1960s when they were forced from power by nationalists in North Yemen after centuries of rule in the area. The conflict links with long term internal Yemeni tribal struggles over resources, power, and control. The conflict links into Saudi Arabia directly as the land of the tribal groups affiliated with the Houthis crosses into Southern Saudi Arabia and the Saudi regime has repressed the Zaiyadi minority in those regions, giving then reason to be concerned about the rise of the Houthis to power. The power of Al-Qaeda affiliated groups in Yemen and the brutal U.S. drone war there also must be factored in as a dynamic of the conflict. The historic divisions in the country between the North and the South and the tensions and conflicts since reunification need to be considered.

    Please do call for an immediate end to the war. Call out Saudi violence and U.S. support for that violence. Call for accountability. Call for more consistent regional activism by Palestine activists. But don’t claim simplicity.

  7. rugal_b
    January 8, 2016, 12:38 pm

    Ben, a vast majority of pro-Palestinian Americans are against many things, including the close American ties with the Saudi regime. I do not think for a minute they are silent in any way against the war crimes being perpetreted by the Saudi regime, only they are shouting against so many ills of the US and Israeli government, very little voice is left to make any sort of impact with regards to the war in Yemen.

    The issue currently is the vary interconnection of the oppressive forces working in tandem to create the most amount of mischief possible everywhere in the world. Domestically, the US is heading for a low scale civil war that will finally usher in a new political landscape that is no longer dominated by the two parties. The Republicans are on the verge of political annihilation, and their party base are scared and restless on the impending status quo that will leave them picking up the scraps, and coming to the harsh realization of them, being lied to all their lives, for generations. Given their large numbers, it won’t take much to trigger a violent upheaval out of the mostly working class, lower-class folks. The Democrat party is also heading for a split from their elite supporters in the Wall St., and their average lower to middle class urban voters.

    The pro-Palestinians Americans are working hard for the purging of domestic Zionists in both parties in this sensitive period. There is an ongoing nation-wide and also global movement that are helping to uncover the real enemy inside of America and outside, in Israel, Saudi, UK, etc. Many pro-Palestinian Americans are busy, and working tirelessly to reveal the head of the oppressive, imperialist, Zionist dragon hiding within the American rulling class, before calling for everyone to work together in slaying it.

    We are trying to cut off the head, so it can’t no longer spread and maintain its ideology of hatred and oppression anywhere else, be that in the USA, Saudi, Israel, Egypt or anywhere it has spread its root. Once thats done, every war supported by the dragon will cease on its own, from Yemen to Gaza to Syria. But before that, we need to focus all of our might on cutting off the head of the dragon here.

    Pro-Palestinian activists do not just seek the liberation of Palestinians, but through our hard work and solidarity, the liberation of all under oppression of the dragon.

    • Mooser
      January 8, 2016, 1:16 pm

      “We are trying to cut off the head, so it can’t no longer spread and maintain its ideology of hatred and oppression anywhere else, be that in the USA, Saudi, Israel, Egypt or anywhere it has spread its root. Once thats done, every war supported by the dragon will cease on its own”

      And until we decapitate, in one fell swoop, “the dragon”, it’s strictly “leave Israel alooooone!”? That sound’s like a good plan. It’ll throw “the dragon” off the scent.

      “Pro-Palestinian activists do not just seek the liberation of Palestinians, but through our hard work and solidarity….”

      Yes, the Palestinians should, out of solidarity, refuse any amelioration of Israel intransigence! Refuse to be free until everyone else is free!

      • Annie Robbins
        January 8, 2016, 1:34 pm

        mooser, for full effect start from here:

        Many pro-Palestinian Americans are busy, and working tirelessly to reveal the head of the oppressive, imperialist, Zionist dragon hiding within the American rulling class, before calling for everyone to work together in slaying it. We are trying to cut off the head, so it can’t no longer spread and maintain its ideology of hatred and oppression anywhere else

        rather dramatic i’d say. where’s hops!! freakout alert!

      • Mooser
        January 8, 2016, 1:48 pm

        “mooser, for full effect start from here:”

        I take your point, but I like to make the quote as short as I can.

      • MHughes976
        January 8, 2016, 3:09 pm

        Dragons lay eggs, I suppose. Cutting off its head doesn’t necessarily mean that there won’t be lots more little dragons – o mi God, I’m sounding like that horrible woman – left to cause trouble.

      • Annie Robbins
        January 8, 2016, 4:16 pm

        and don’t forget those dual headed dragons either. you cut off one and the other takes over. i don’t think “dragon” is really the best metaphor. serpent? flying serpent. flying 2 headed serpent? remember the super hebrew man comics or whatever his name was (blue cape). wasn’t his nemesis the green palestinian coiled serpent? does anyone know if they’ve put out any other issues since the original copies.

      • rugal_b
        January 9, 2016, 10:34 am

        Mooser –

        “And until we decapitate, in one fell swoop, “the dragon”, it’s strictly “leave Israel alooooone!”? That sound’s like a good plan. It’ll throw “the dragon” off the scent.” –

        Way to miss the point. In Israel and Palestine, we have two people already fighting. One is a sociopathic, entitled, delusional kid (Israel) and the other is a normal, well-adjusted guy (Palestine). Now, this problem is really straightforward right? The kid just need a good whooping his parents failed to give, to bring him back to the real world, which the normal guy would gladly give to him, along with his family and friends.

        The problem is, the sociopath is being backed by an even bigger bully which gives him protection from any consequences of his actions, and motivating him to be even worst than he was when he arrived in the scene. Take away the protection, and the problem will solve itself almost instantaneously. But we must understand that we cannot change this disturbed kid to become a nice guy. He is a too far gone, too damaged, all we can do is restrain him, humanely of course, until his time comes to leave for the other side. The US need to acknowledge its role, it must or else I see no hope for the situation improving in any shape.

      • Mooser
        January 9, 2016, 12:11 pm

        “I see no hope for the situation improving in any shape.”

        “Rugal” , cheer up! I have a chart that I project on my screen, of the number of Jews in the world who are in contact with organized Judaism, and the number who are Zionist. All the signs are very encouraging.

        Keep that in mind, and you will feel better.

    • rugal_b
      January 9, 2016, 12:48 pm

      Mooser

      – I have a chart that I project on my screen, of the number of Jews in the world who are in contact with organized Judaism, and the number who are Zionist. All the signs are very encouraging. –

      Don’t be so naive to think this conflict is about the relationship of Jews to Judaism, its not. Zionism cares about Jews or Judaism only on paper, the reality is anyone can be Zionist, and there will be no shortage of people for use by this project. If you study history, you will know there is no such thing as encouraging when it comes to oppressive actors, in all level of human society.

      • Mooser
        January 9, 2016, 1:28 pm

        “Zionism cares about Jews or Judaism only on paper, the reality is anyone can be Zionist, and there will be no shortage of people for use by this project.”

        In that case, I advise, and urge, all Palestinians to become Zionist as soon as possible. What with the all the dwindling, they should be welcome in the movement. And they’re so close by, too!

    • tony greenstein
      January 9, 2016, 3:06 pm

      What a strange formulation:

      ‘Many pro-Palestinian Americans are busy, and working tirelessly to reveal the head of the oppressive, imperialist, Zionist dragon hiding within the American rulling class, before calling for everyone to work together in slaying it.’

      Zionism doesn’t hide within the US ruling class, it is an integral part of it. Support for Zionism is part and parcel of the maintenance of US interests in the Middle East. That is why US ruling class opinon swung decisively in favour of Zionism throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s. To suggest it is a cancer that can be cut out of the otherwise healthy flesh of the US ruling class is to misunderstand how that class has maintained itself politically and militarily.

      I suggest that you read up on what happened in Vietnam. Not many Israelis there but there was genocide and the use of chemical weapons.

      • tree
        January 9, 2016, 5:14 pm

        I suggest that you read up on what happened in Vietnam. Not many Israelis there but there was genocide and the use of chemical weapons. .

        Yes, and it ended without the US ruling class being overthrown.

        As did de jure segregation of the Jim Crow South, and some de facto segregation in the rest of the country. As did the Korean War and Apartheid in South Africa, etc, etc. And lo and behold the US ruling class is still here. So its possible to make things better without some pie in the sky “revolution”, and frankly, my experience with quite a few Marxists online and in person, who can’t seem to carry on a coherent argument without insulting and belittling other people, makes me very leery of putting any of them in a position of power. Meet the new boss…

        If its possible to end individual oppressions, and it is, then let people who wish to do so, do so. Pursue your battle with the ruling class if you wish, but don’t demean people for trying to do what they can to help others, including Palestinians.

  8. Andrew Pollack
    January 8, 2016, 1:39 pm

    Actually Syria is not complicated: there are the genocidal government and counterrevolutionary Islamists, and each one’s foreign backers, on the one hand; and opposing both there are on the other hand the local grassroots councils and secular parts of the FSA.
    Porter and Hersh’s mythological columns are only evidence of conspiracy theorists’ desire to pander to pseudo-anti-imperialists.
    The real reason the Palestine solidarity movement has not taken up Yemen, IMO, is that taking a stand on anything other than Palestine opens the door to the truth about all the bogus “axis of resistance” powers, and the stranglehold over Palestinian politics by the phony “Left” parties who support that “resistance.”
    I would add to all the above the understandable weakness in many areas of the Palestine solidarity movement itself: despite amazing BDS victories and the brave steadfastness of activists in the face of repression, the day-to-day functioning of the movement varies tremendously by place and organization.
    There are, however, some groups – like the MENA Solidarity Network-US – which sees the connections and has been working to support ALL the struggles in the region.

    • Donald
      January 8, 2016, 2:49 pm

      I agree that both the Syrian government and the various Islamist groups are murderers and I would assume that many Syrians hate both, but what is your explanation for the lack of success on the part of whatever groups you support? What course of action do you advocate that would lead to an end to the killing?

      I will look up MENA later.

      • gamal
        January 8, 2016, 4:49 pm

        ah Donald ” the Syrian government”

        now you’ve lost the Conolly’s

        link to cym.ie

      • Donald
        January 8, 2016, 9:16 pm

        The last thing I’d advocate is another Western intervention to topple yet another government. We’ve caused enough catastrophes over there.

      • gamal
        January 8, 2016, 10:15 pm

        “The last thing I’d advocate is another Western intervention ”

        yes at one level thats fine but

        It was Muhammad Abduh who said, paraphrasing, ” we have to find another way of interacting with west rather than through resistance and war because” in his words “the fate of the Arabs and Europeans has become inextricably intertwined”

        Given the realities it seems to me USA intervention is urgently needed to accept the offer of the legitimate government of Syria for talks to end the crisis, attitudes to the regime are irrelevant, no one has the right to arrogate to themselves rights that belong to the Syrian people alone, demonizing the Syrian government seems unhelpful to me, one thing one to respect about the Syrian Ba’ath is their pragmatism, they will negotiate as they said.

        i gave a link somewhere else to “American Ascendance and British Retreat In the Persian Gulf” by Taylor-Fain, it shows how the area is managed and gives knew meaning to the inextricable, non-intervention is an impossibility.

    • Atlantaiconoclast
      January 10, 2016, 4:11 pm

      How is Assad committing genocide? Show us proof he gassed his people. Did he ever slaughter Sunnis in Syria before Sunnis started violently resisting? Many people argue that Assad only used brutal force when the initial protests turn violent. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know for sure, but I don’t trust our media to tell us what really happened. And you can bet the CIA and Mossad were involved in whipping up opposition to Assad.

      Stop regurgitating mainstream media talking points. Unless you are willing to say that Lincoln too committed genocide against Southern civilians, and mercilessly destroyed Southern infrastructure, or that Obama is a murderer for his cowardly drone strikes, then you are inconsistent. If anyone dared to violently overthrow any American regime, the president would not hesitate to bomb the hell out of the the rebels and any civilians that happened to be in the way. We already cause collateral deaths and make excuses for Israel when it does it. But somehow, Assad is a genocidal maniac with you guys. We don’t support Assad, nor should we. But Syria is none of our business. If we supported him with aid, then we might have some right to interfere. Israel DOES have our support, so it is our business what is done with our money.

  9. eljay
    January 8, 2016, 2:12 pm

    … Where are the American pro-Palestinian voices? …

    They’re probably busy doing pro-Palestinian stuff. IMO, “American pro-Palestinian voices” are under no special obligation (compared to American pro-other-kinds-of-justice voices) to condemn the atrocities in Yemen and insist on the universal and consistent application of justice, accountability and equality.

  10. JoeSmack
    January 8, 2016, 3:40 pm

    For the record, it took years before any significant portion of Western society, including the “Left,” decided to sympathize with Palestine. There is also the difference that Israel, unlike Saudi in Yemen, is a settler-colony, making Israel’s crimes more than just a matter of invasion, but also one of territorial expansion, something that always looks palpably more brazen and is always illegal.

    Nonetheless the failure of the Western left to say or do anything significant about the Saudi bombardment of Yemen is conspicuous.

  11. Eva Smagacz
    January 8, 2016, 4:10 pm

    I am struggling with very issue you are raising.
    But in response let me make few points :

    Morally, we are of use to a victim of injustice only if we have something to give, to offer. We have to choose our struggles or we will dilute ourselves to the point of being inconsequential. It’s a little bit like if you will come across a battered woman and you will open your home and your heart to her and work with her to rebuild her life, but hearing then about other battered women you cannot then spread yourself thin and try to do the same for all women in the entire neighbourhood. It is very likely that nobody will have a chance to rebuild their lives.

    Practically, I am only one voice. If I can learn as much as possible on the subject, I can be a voice in an argument, a voice that some people are taking seriously. I don’t claim to be an expert Palestinian conflict, but my knowledge is certainly more deep and detailed than on other conflicts in the region, and I can put forward convincing arguments, and support them with sources.

    Finally, there is a historical perspective, and historical liability. Zionism found a fertile ground between my kin and my compatriots, cohabitants of my country, citizens of my nation: Jewish Poles and Polish Jews.

  12. Steve Macklevore
    January 8, 2016, 4:28 pm

    Why don’t I protest about Yemen?

    For the same reason I don’t protest about Climate Change, Tibet, Zimbabwe, organised crime, growing levels of inequality, the 1% etc etc. There are only so many hours in the day. Some defenders of Israel insist that I spent an equal amount of time protesting about each and every cause and issue in the world today. Only then will I prove that I’m not an anti-Semite.

    Fuck ’em.

    My grandfather’s brother witnessed the Nakba. Palestine is my issue, I’ve spent over 30 years educating myself about the conflict, have spent time in the West Bank and even done some time in an Israeli jail.

    I don’t know anything much about Yemen. I don’t want to be the kind of ignorant protestor who flits for cause to cause, issue to issue, shouting and making some moronic noise. Such people swell the numbers at demonstrations (a very ineffective type of protest) but do little more and often repel the moderates and undecideds that political activists are supposed to persuade. When faced with the kind of slick hasbara that so many of us here have to face, such activists come across as ignorant and aggressive loudmouths.

    I hope Yemen attracts some dedicated activists. The Yemeni community in the United States and elsewhere must provide the initial support and get the message out. Best wishes, and I’m sorry I can’t help on this one.

    • gamal
      January 8, 2016, 5:41 pm

      “Fuck ’em.”

      that brought a tear to my eye, so true, not only them, but obviously also them.

    • Donald
      January 8, 2016, 9:19 pm

      This one isn’t that difficult. You don’t have to know that much about Yemen– I sure don’t– to see that the US is once again helping someone– the Saudis in this case– bomb civilians. Why should we be doing this? The only reason is to keep the Saudi government happy.

    • tony greenstein
      January 9, 2016, 3:12 pm

      I understand Steve’s response but it is wrong. And for this reason. The liberation of Palestine will never happen in isolation. Because of the massive support for Israel from the Western ruling classes and because of demographic parity between Israeli Jews and Palestinians, the overthrow of Zionism and the Israeli state can only come from revolution in the Arab East and the overthrow of the existing ruling classes. Prime amongst these are those in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

      There should be no difficulty in deciding who to support in Yemen. The Saudis are everywhere enemies of freedom, both within Saudi society (e.g. the recent 47 executions) and without. Their bombing of Yemen’s population and its blockade of Yemen are outrageous war crimes. The Yemenis have a right to determined their own future and government. The Saudis also act to uphold repressive governments throughout the Gulf, e.g. the use of their military to uphold the dicatorship in Bahrain in 2011.

      • gamal
        January 9, 2016, 7:02 pm

        “can only come from revolution in the Arab East and the overthrow of the existing ruling classes. Prime amongst these are those in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.”

        ok but lets start with Syria, right.

        The Palestinians have built an infrastructure of resistance as a result of resisting, who in Egypt do we support hisham hemlawy? in Saudi where is the resistance?

        “The Saudis are everywhere enemies” we are as one on that.

        “The Yemenis have a right to determined their own future and government” yes they are at war over the issue, how do we support them, not in forestalling the US/Saudi aggression but in determining their future, and effecting revolutionary liberation, they are quite factionalized currently, the ‘Houthi’s” Zaydi khuruj sets them apart from the quietists, but Yemeni’s have provided me with no mechanism by which i can support their political goals, whatever those might be, there is a 150 year old Yemeni (Lascar) community in Cardiff but they are not very politically active.

        as confessional status has been made a source of political identity this has placed all the Islamist groups in a quandry because now however conciliatory and tolerant they attempt to be they none the less have the indelible stain of sectarianism, in this extreme state of exception the Ba’athists may be our best hope, what other credible forces are there in Arab world right now el Mahalla el Kubra textile unions? what are the groups in Saudi resisting the state? what other forces are there

        i understand the notion of this complete liberation but the Palestinian struggle is much more developed than those in other Arab countries as much as possible Palestinians are better off at the moment pursuing their own narrow concerns, the Arab world has suffered a ferocious counter revolution part of which is the attack on Syria, Palestine is part of the struggle of all the Arabs, but the Arab struggle is in a profound crisis, reeling from the impact of Imperial aggression over the last 30 years in this iteration, in terms of struggle Palestinians are light years ahead of Egyptians. The Arabians are politically invisible, Bahrain is a distant memory.

        the prospect of a united Arab revolt is slim in the extreme, in the meantime Palestinians, who have had their fingers burnt in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, in inter Arab feuds for decades ( Arafat in Iraq, Kuwait) are better off to take a position of neutrality as regards inter-Arab disputes and pursue whatever avenues are available to them, involving yourself now in inter Arab politics is like putting your hand into a bag of snakes there can only be one outcome.

        i have to say that to propose supporting the “Syrian Revolution” seems to me to be crazy, so soon after operation Catastrophe in Libya which was soon after Iraq which was immediately subsequent to Afghanistan which barely post dated Somalia, i will have read up about the Arabs in the east perhaps i missed something.

        onward and upward

      • Danaa
        January 10, 2016, 12:16 am

        I find myself quite agreeing with Tony Greenstein, especially this:

        “There should be no difficulty in deciding who to support in Yemen. The Saudis are everywhere enemies of freedom, both within Saudi society (e.g. the recent 47 executions) and without. Their bombing of Yemen’s population and its blockade of Yemen are outrageous war crimes. The Yemenis have a right to determined their own future and government. The Saudis also act to uphold repressive governments throughout the Gulf, e.g. the use of their military to uphold the dicatorship in Bahrain in 2011. ”

        Indeed, it should be quite simple – there is simply no cause that saudi Arabia is engaged in that is not treacherous and injurious to Human Rights. Not outside that country and not inside it. This is a reactionary regime, one that is ruled by a dogmatic, violent, toxic religion. Anything saudi Arabia supports we should be deeply suspicious of. Yemen is a case in point – does anyone even know what got the Saudi goat about yemen? what is the bombing about? and why does the US – and indeed NATO – support these obvious war crimes?

        I attempt to answer the last question below.

  13. echinococcus
    January 8, 2016, 5:39 pm

    Diversion alert!

    This site calls itself “The War of Ideas in the Middle East”, true, but for what –10 years?– I see it has only dealt with the non-Palestinian Middle East only (almost) as far as it impacts Palestine.
    This is the correct way of doing things.

    Alliances for more than a single, restricted objective are the guaranteed way to lose a battle.
    Just as in the current discussion we’re having right now with Green and Co. around some requirements like: don’t talk to the American right! Verboten! Do not inform the conservative American who could help you! Attack all of US policy when speaking about Palestine, so you make sure to only keep the “Jewish liberals”…

    Extending the discussion to Yemen just for the hell of it is the same tactic: diluting the public this site could reach and mobilize.
    People here who support Palestinian resistance (also by doing somewhat more than sending money to Phil Weiss and commenting on the blog, one hopes) DO NOT AGREE about everything in the Middle East or in the US. We sure do not agree about Syria (horror), or Egypt (oh wow wow) or Sanders (the guy who is rah rahing the Saudis to kill more in Yemen), or the Lebanon, or Turkey, or the Kurds and on and on… Divergences among the general public are liable to be much more marked.. and we want to throw away unity around Palestinian resistance for the sake of another “whatabout”!
    So please, let’s stop this kind of provocation.

  14. talknic
    January 8, 2016, 6:19 pm

    Yemen overlooks the Gate of Tears, the fourth most important oil route in the world. Like the Straits of Hormuz, it is a chokepoint. Wherever there is a choke point, the states are kept weak/small/divided. Part of the reason for hostilities against Iran

    link to eia.gov

  15. JLewisDickerson
    January 9, 2016, 1:16 am

    RE: “Just as Israel has imposed a merciless (and illegal) siege on Gaza for almost 10 years, Saudi Arabia has imposed a ruthless siege on Yemen for almost 10 months.” ~ Ben Norton

    MY SNARKCASM: Great minds think alike!

    P.S. This goes as to Isreal’s and Saudi Arabia’s use of cluster munitions as well.

  16. JLewisDickerson
    January 9, 2016, 2:20 am

    RE: “During Israel’s brutal 51-day war on Gaza in the summer of 2014, there were constant demonstrations in solidarity with Palestinians. In DC, there were literally dozens — one often held every day or every other day. Where are the demonstrations for Yemenis? In New York City in the past six months, there has only been one or two, and even those were sparsely attended.” ~ Ben Norton

    MY COMMENT: I think the disparity is partly due to the difference in coverage by the mainstream/corporate media here in the U.S. There is far less coverage in the case of Yemen.
    When Israel “kicks ass” like it did in Gaza during the summer of 2014, it gets a lot of coverage by the mainstream/corporate media because Israel has become America’s Mini-Me (to borrow from Austin Powers). The mainstream/corporate media certainly did not cover Gaza out of concern for the Palestinians.
    When it comes to Saudi Arabia (as opposed to Israel) pulverizing Yemen, despite the Saudis using weapons purchased from the U.S., they do not have Mini-Me status. Consequently, the mainstream/corporate media isn’t very interested. And, of course, the mainstream/corporate media has no more concern for the Yemeni’s than for the Palestinians.

  17. David Plimpton
    January 9, 2016, 10:15 am

    Solidarity is a great concept, but as other commenters have noted, American pro-Palestinian groups and voices have spent years working to get attention on Israel’s wrongs against the Palestinians and the Israel Lobby’s and American policymakers’ support of those wrongs.

    American pro-Palestinian groups and voices have a full-time job in keeping the spotlight and impetus on the wrongs of Israel and the Israel Lobby, which pile up daily.

    To spend precious time and resources, which are unfortunately limited for pro-Palestinian groups and voices, on either Saudi Arabia or Yemen, as horrible as the situation is and as right-thinking as Mr. Norton is, just distracts from the priority of confronting Israel and the Israel Lobby and waters down that primary message and its potential impact.

    • tony greenstein
      January 9, 2016, 3:14 pm

      No it doesn’t distract from the priority of confronting Israel. It is part of that fight. Saudi Arabia is in a close military alliance with Israel. It might not be declared but it is there and should be obvious to anyone aware of the politics of the region.

  18. for-peace
    January 9, 2016, 12:08 pm

    For whatever it is worth, this article voices a lot of my own thoughts. The government of Saudi Arabia and its actions are no less a contributor to the collective pain and suffering of the people in the Middle East vs. that of Israel. As a remarkable coincidence, they have been our two “most reliable allies” in the region for the longest time.

  19. tommy
    January 9, 2016, 1:08 pm

    I have repeatedly called the US interference in Yemen a war crime, since the first US drone assassinations there, and consider the President responsible. The American prejudice against Shiites, like their prejudice against Palestinians, is a result of these peoples desire for self-determination from either US hegemony, or its allies.

  20. Rooster
    January 9, 2016, 1:38 pm

    Absolutely agree in as much as we all should be opposed to further victimization of Yemen, especially with regards to Saudi Arabia, our “ally,” being a major agent of that victimization.

    However, opposition to Yemen victimization and Palestinian victimization is not mutually exclusive.

    And the Palestinian victimization has been ongoing for much, much, longer. This does not excuse silence on the Yemen issue (and frankly, I have read much in opposition to the Saudis as of late, so there is hardly silence on the matter).

    But anyone who has been observing the Palestinian struggle over the decades recognizes the tired tactic of misdirection: demanding every other global situation of injustice gets solved before the Palestinians can expect justice, as their genocide continues.

    Do not confuse laser-like focus on the Palestinian struggle in response to Zionist attempts to misdirect with support for Saudi atrocities against the Yemenis.

  21. Citizen
    January 9, 2016, 5:57 pm

    Nobody in the USA thinks Saudi Arabia is anything but a retarded klan tyranny kingdom sitting on the biggest oil spigot in the world, locked together with the little oil Arab dictator states. It’s also the largest retail buyer of US MIC products. There’s no enmeshment, no “special relationship” between US and Saudi Arabia. Saudi lobby in US is registered under FARA. As of September 2015, since October 2010 alone, the Obama administration has agreed to sell $90.4 billion in weapons to the Saudi kingdom, according to the Congressional Research Service.

    • Annie Robbins
      January 9, 2016, 6:07 pm

      i can’t stand SA, and out relationship with them is disgusting. however, while i don’t agree why we have an alliance with them, unlike israel, it’s blatantly clear how the US “benefits” from that alliance.

      • Steve Grover
        January 9, 2016, 6:49 pm

        Annie, just like you do SA boycotts Israel. Israel benefits a smidgen because SA is against Iran having nukes.

      • Annie Robbins
        January 9, 2016, 7:30 pm

        hmm, well they don’t boycott them too much steve, or they wouldn’t be using israeli made weapons in yemen. albeit, the news was first reported by FARS, but both haaretz, jpost, reuters among others reported it and is gov did not deny it.

      • talknic
        January 10, 2016, 7:55 am

        @ Steve Grover “Israel benefits a smidgen because SA is against Iran having nukes”

        Iran is against Iran having nukes

  22. Steve Grover
    January 9, 2016, 7:59 pm

    Annie, i’m not aware of this. could you tell me what Israeli made weapons? and do you know if it was bought from a country other than Israel?

    • Annie Robbins
      January 9, 2016, 8:06 pm

      google is your friend steve. i found all those sources (and personally opened them all) in about 3 minutes. it was heavily covered in the press. all i did was google “yemen weapons israel”. let me know after you’ve tried that if you’re unsuccessful.

      • Steve Grover
        January 9, 2016, 8:08 pm

        i can’t keep posting here as much as mooser does and do that too

      • Annie Robbins
        January 9, 2016, 8:39 pm

        what happened to your times of israel link? you decided not to post it after all? anyway, no worries. not everyone is as blessed w/gab as mooser. you don’t have to keep up y’know.

  23. Mooser
    January 9, 2016, 8:40 pm

    “i can’t keep posting here as much as mooser does and do that too”

    Man, cut it out, you’ll get me banned! Do you have to point out that your shortcomings are really my fault? I think your shortcomings are due to other things, but see your doctor. Might just be stress.

  24. Steve Grover
    January 9, 2016, 8:43 pm

    i dunno what happened to it. i thought u deleted it. the story is questionable at best and couldn’t find the specifics i was looking for.
    link to timesofisrael.com

  25. Danaa
    January 10, 2016, 12:56 am

    This article raises a good question though perhaps the question should be asked much more broadly: why does the global left, seemingly in unison, choose to avert its eyes from Saudi atrocities – both direct (as in yemen) and indirect (as in Syria and Iraq)? where has everyone been when bombings were and are going on in Iraqi cities, carried out mostly by Sunnis of various kinds? why has the “global left” (whatever that entity is – it includes pro-Palestinian groups) chosen to fall catatonic in the face of the calamities that have befallen Iraq, Syria, Bahrain and now Yemen? why are they so quick to dismiss these awful conflicts as “mere” sectarian wars? and, more relevantly here, as Ben Norton asks – where have all the solidarity groups gone when it comes to devastation visited upon Yemen? and to make things worse, it sure isn’t just the pro-palestinian groups that have gone deaf and mute, while yeme is reduced to rubble and its people devastated. It’s almost all of the solidarity groups everywhere (with a few notable exceptions).

    Oh yes, and one more question, to partially complete the circle of unanswerables – what exactly makes Syria “complicated”? Who and how did the left fall into the well laid trap of ascribing the 200,000 +casualties in Syria (the number most often cited and never supported ) to Assad (ignoring that well over half of those casualties, if not most, were soldiers and civilian supporters of the secular government)? just what did Assad’s army do wrong in trying to fight the takfitris that were injected willy-nilly into their country, complete with arms, drugs and even enough chemicals to make for a few false flags? and why the incredibly shrill silence about the malfeasant role of Turkey in Syria and its ongoing deadly campaign against the Kurds?

    I don’t have really good answers to these questions, though commenters above have certainly pointed to a few hints, such as sympathy fatigue, fear of losing focus, ignorance of the situation in eg, Yemen, the complexity of the players in Syria, etc. I do however think we should look a lot deeper into the choices made by well-meaning left activist groups as to what cause to support and when.

    One direction that has not gotten much attention is the unbelievable amount of money spent by Saudi and Qatari governments on PR in the West on the one hand (through part ownership of media outlets etc) and the support they provided to Palestinian groups such as the PA and Hamas. In fact, the latter two are heavily dependent on golf states funds to stay afloat and continue to exercise some form of government, each where they are. I happen to think that we are naive if we believe that such influx of money does not color and corrupt both the attention paid to certain conflict zones and the attitudes taken. I don’t think for example, that pro-Palestinian western groups can entirely ignore the preferences of ruling bodies on the ground in Palestine. And the way the saudi money works to corrupt the arguments in favor of human rights everywhere is insidious. It almost always turns on the sunni vs shiite dichotomy, one that most, if not all of us, non-muslims, basically don’t get. Let’s face it, good people of the left – we have no clue what divides the Sunnis and the shiites. Something about the succession to Mohammed is about all we know. Please correct me anyone if I am wrong – what do we, westerners who come mostly from Jewish and/or Christian background know? how much have our Palestinian friends educated us with regard to this schism?

    And that is the other issue that, IMO< contributes to the relative silence about the Yemen situation. All we ever heard (mostly from the saudi side through their shills in the western press) is that the Houtis are "kind of " shiites and are allied with Iran. Sounds much like the Alawites of Syria – "something shiite" again, so it must be Iran that has put them up to no good. And since almost all the money that goes to support think tanks and western media comes from the Sunni side, no wonder we find it difficult to educate ourselves about who and what is going on in these conflicts.

    So between the ignorance of what the muslim sectarian split is about or how deep it goes, the ready access of Saudi backed PR (surreptitiousy of course) to our papers of record, including the NYT, and PBS/NPR, and the fact that too many official and semi-official Palestinian entities have become so dependent on gulf state money that they are in no position to lend their voices to solidarity with Yemenites, or yazidis or coptic christians, or Kurds, or people of Iraq, it is just too politically complicated for left solidarity groups to go on a limb and swim against the tide.

    Yes, Norton and others here are right. Indeed, if one wanted to know what to support just look at what SA and Qatar support then turn and look sharply the other way. Saudi Arabia in particular is so corrupt, despotic, culturally chauvinistically primitive and religiously reactionary that it has a strong claim on being just about the evilest regime in the world currently. Yet, here we are in the US, in the UK and in most NATO countries and we are in cahoots with the worse of the worst. So much so that even our radicalest solidarity groups have been reduced to whimpering barely audible protestations.

    So really there is nothing very complicated about Yemen, or Syria, or Iraq. Follow the Sunni money and all shall be revealed. The rest is for each of us to interpret well enough to make the wiser and humane choices..

  26. traintosiberia
    January 12, 2016, 11:10 pm

    Muslim silence on Yemen draws from multiple weak points. Yemen is not being brutalized by Hindus and Christian . Neither are Kurds . A politically conscious voice doesn’t exist in Muslim countries . It can cry hoarse over Chechenya or West Bank but these protests are organized by forces often rallied by religious figures who will not cross the redlined set and expected by Saudis and it’s appendages like Pakistan or Egypt . This silent servility to Saudi draws its sustenance from Saudi money and control of Mecca .Saudi buys same silence from America and UK.
    Yemen is already demonized beyond pale . Media does it job by keeping it that way through selective negative coverage .
    Also it has been clear that some of the demonstration organized by Arab in 2011 or 2012 against Ghaddafi or Basher Assad were possibly staged and managed by the US government at some level. Without tacit governmental support ,no Muslim would possibly dare to come to the street protesting Yemen war. Chances are that Muslim would likely join if the Jews or the Christian raised the voice against Saudi atrocities .
    Irrespective of what is happening on the street,it is a shame and disgrace that Saudi atrocities are getting a free pass in the Muslim countries and in the mosques where one could hear the platitudes and shibboleth from the Imam denouncing Israel India,Russia or China for the state crimes against Muslim .
    It shows the lack of independence ,free thinking,conscientious reasoning and shows lack of respect of life among the Muslim population unless the victims and the perpetrators belong to different faiths. It is sad . The barbarity of Saudi is something that also empowers the villains in India,Mynamar,and Israel or in Ethiopia because these right wing religious zealot can see what the Saudi could get away with .

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