Commenter Profile

Total number of comments: 18 (since 2010-11-23 19:32:00)

Showing comments 18 - 1

  • 'Either Assad or we'll burn the country' - An excerpt from 'Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War'
    • To be clear, when I say "real international intervention" I do not mean military intervention of any kind but rather international engagement and work to bring all sides to a ceasefire and end of conflict agreement.

    • This theory that Assad is the best option assumes that we need to support a particular current side, that we need to push for a return to Assad and that supporting the government is what will bring change. It is to say that one side in the conflict needs to be pushed to win the conflict. We need to pick a winner, the one we find (for whatever reason) the least objectionable and then we can accept their violence as tragically needed.

      This is terrible logic. You can say that Assad needs to go and not support international military intervention or any one of the problematic opposition groups. You can call for change not through continued military action but through real international intervention and bringing all parties, including those we don't like, to the table. You can push for support by all of the disparate actors for talks that will end conflict by addressing both the concerns of pro and anti-Assad forces. Ending things for anti-Assad groups means Assad going. Ending things for pro-Assad groups means not repeating the de-Bathification process that was so disastrous in Iraq, recognizing that some people in the government will need to stay and that reconciliation is needed post conflict. You can say that this isn't realistic, but saying we must support Assad is to say we must support brutality.

      If people here are concerned with consistently supporting justice, supporting Assad isn't a demonstration of principle.

    • NO question that the messes we have created in Iraq and Libya should make everyone question doing the same thing in Syria. What doesn't follow and what I can't accept is people here saying that somehow Syrian's need to live with Assad and that we should support him as the best option. There is no principle in that statement. Assad is a brutal. Even before this war he inherited rule over a police state from his father and maintained that police state. The history of Assad rule in Syria is long and brutal. To say that is the best that can be respected under the circumstances is to expect that Syrians should accept brutality.

    • The support for Assad on this site is disturbing. I find the opposition problematic. I find Al-Nusra and ISIS frightening. I don't support them and recognize that they are committing atrocities in Syria and against Syrians. I'm not an apologist for those groups. But I'm also not an apologist for Assad. To say that all of this is propaganda and to ignore Assad's actions if reprehensible. To put all of this on the U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia as if the whole conflict were a conspiracy is beyond logic. To insist that opposition to groups like ISIS and Al-Nusra should come with support for Assad is a real problem.

      To say that Assad was freely elected and to imply that there ever was a functioning Democracy in Syria or that people can freely express their opinions is problematic. To deny that Assad was a dictator who ruled through power before the uprising is a problem. To deny that people really did rise up against Assad after decades of living in an authoritarian police state and to say that all of this is a conspiracy against the "legitimate" government is to ignore Syrian history.

      Please do challenge U.S., Saudi, Israeli, Russian, and other policies and their intervention. Please do challenge ISIS, Nusra, the FSA, and other opposition. But also please do challenge Assad and the regime. Hold them all accountable.

  • 'Say Hello to Zenobia': A report from Palmyra rising from the ashes
    • Gamal, it is entirely possible to be opposed to the Assad regime and its actions and also to oppose outside intervention by the US, Israel, Russia or any other player. It is entirely possible to see the Assad regime as criminal and brutal and to also recognize the decades long history or US extreme violence in the Middle East which has obviously killed more people than have died in Syria. It is possible to recognize the fact that the U.S. has played a key role in destabilizing the Middle East, has contributed to the rise of ISIS, has propped up despotic regimes, serves its own interests, etc. and at the same time also recognize that the Assad regime is criminal.

      I have never excused U.S. policy or supported intervention. But lets recognize that the conflict started when the Syrian people stood up in protest against their government which had systematically denied their rights for decades. Syria wasn't a free and open state prior to this conflict and the conflict didn't start with outside intervention.

      Saying that isn't covering up U.S crimes or saying that Arabs are inferior to the West. The Syrian regime responded to protests with violence and the conflict has grown from there. The Syrian regime continues to use great violence against its own population. A government loses legitimacy when it turns on its population. A government never has legitimacy when it maintains power through repression and force.

      If your comment was directed at me, I never compared the Assad regime to the U.S. I merely said that if we really are for justice consistently then I can't see how you can support the Assad regime. I stand by that position.

    • I have not been in Syria during the conflict, few people have, but I have spent years living in the Middle East, spent much of last year assessing responses to the Syrian refugee crisis in the Middle East, spent that time listening to people impacted by the war, have worked in areas of conflict for years, etc. I'm not just parroting Western liberal opinion but basing my opinion on long experience in the Middle East and addressing conflict. I find your statement that you were able to talk with a wide range of people while under the sponsorship of the regime laughable. Do you really think that in a police state where the regime is leading a brutal war against all people opposed to its power you will hear diverse opinions and open opposition to the regime while in a group coordinated by people aligned with the regime? Do you really think that I have to buy into a dichotomy that simplistically sees the options as either supporting a brutal regime or "extremism"? Hope for evolution of the Assad regime is not hope for change. I'm not calling for the exclusion of the regime from the table as efforts are made to secure peace. I recognize that peace must be achieved through an open table to includes even actors we don't like. However, I can't accept that sleeping with the devil to gain access to see, and thinking that access given by the regime will open you to seeing reality as lived by most Syrians is to be deluded to the reality of propaganda and messaging as necessarily shaped on any trip like this. Coziness with the regime is coziness with brutality.

    • How does this tour differ from a tour of Gaza taken with Israeli soldiers where you hear from them and others about how the key to peace is defeating Hamas and Palestinian armed factions?

      The idea that a tour with the backing of the Syrian regime and accompanied by the Syrian military can be called a peace delegation is really problematic. The idea that the government, which is responsible for more deaths than any other party in Syria, is an acceptable interlocutor for "leftists" is really problematic. The idea that you can call for liberation and peace in Syria by calling for the defeat of all groups opposed to the regime is really problematic.

      I'm no supporter of Western intervention and am not uncritical of opposition groups in Syria. However, Syrian regime led a brutal police state before all of this started and the government was the initiator of violence when it brutally cracked down on protesters calling for their rights. It is the government of Syria which has dropped barrel bombs on its population, starved civilians, tortured people, executed people, etc. It has not carried out brutality in a way that is publicized like the violence of ISIS, but really it doesn't make a lot of difference. If you cut off five people's heads on camera like ISIS or shoot ten people in the head off of camera like the regime the result is the same. Dead people and terrified populations.

      Again, I'm no supporter of US policy in the Middle East and am not saying this to support another faction of US action. I certainly don't support US intervention. However, apologies for brutal regimes do not belong on a website that is supposedly dedicated to rights and liberation.

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

  • Roundtable on the Palestinian solidarity movement and Alison Weir
    • Annie, I think the silence from many supporters of the JVP and ETO decisions results from the fact that comment forums are not places where nuanced discussions can occur. More from a perspective supporting the decision is here: link to

      I also think that the discussion of how this is divisive needs to be contextualized. We need to remember that the JVP decision was not made public but was an organizational decision about relationships. It was If Americans Knew that made that public by attacking JVP first for an alleged whisper campaign and then for their decision. With the US Campaign, following receipt of a complaint a letter was sent to IAK asking for their response as part of a discussion with no decision made. Instead of engaging with the US Campaign in a private and confidential process If American Knew put out a public attack on the US Campaign that continues. Neither of the decisions by these organizations stop Alison from doing her work or reaching out to anyone. They purely speak to how each group chooses to partner. Should they be forced to partner with Alison if they disagree?

      Both JVP and the US Campaign have each made one statement that clarifies their points. It is not them who have pushed a public dispute. The US Campaign explicitly says that IAK can rejoin the coalition if it works in the US Campaign anti-racist framework. If IAK engaged the campaign rather than attacking them perhaps a discussion could happen. However, the aggression here isn't coming from either the US Campaign or JVP which may also be why they are less aggressive here.

    • It seems quite problematic to call for opposition to all forms of racism while defending the If Americans Knew principle that we should be willing to accept any speaking platform provided to us, including those provided by racists, for the purpose of promoting our positions on Palestine while not prioritizing explicitly opposing the racism under girding the platform being used.

      Sure Zionism is racism and our movement is about opposing Zionism with the aim of supporting Palestinian efforts to achieve their rights, but that does not mean not engaging with Zionists. Equally, anti-racism doesn't mean not engaging with racists.

      How many of us in this movement who are not Palestinian started from a position free from Zionist opinions? Understanding that the conflict as not merely an eternal conflict between Jews and Palestinians, seeing it as tied to settler colonialism and as being about racism and Jewish Israeli privilege, understanding the centrality of return - these are not positions most of us naturally hold. They develop as a result of our engagement in the movement and through people who challenging our acceptance of mainstream Zionist narratives.

      I hear people support Alison by saying that we must be a big tent and not only talk to the converted but then say that we must keep out all Zionists. Engaging with Zionists is not necessarily a sign that you are embracing or endorsing their views. It can be part of a process of challenging and trying to change their views. Engagement can be part of a direct process of challenge to Zionism. The distinction should be how you engage. Rejecting all engagement with Zionists is calling for a small tent.

      If an organization, like JVP, embraces right of return, equality for Palestinians, an end to the occupation, opposes Israeli policies, receives support from broad swaths of Palestinian civil society, etc. it does not make sense to call them Zionist. The place where they have natural reach is into the mainstream Jewish community which does hold Zionist opinions. They do important work in pulling liberal Zionists away from Zionism and challenging their opinions. Should we demand that they stop that work and only focus on the already converted? How is that useful? How does demanding that JVP not engage with Zionists help build our movement?

      Demanding absolutely no engagement with Zionists is counter productive in a movement devoted to challenging the reality of how Zionism has been lived out in historic Palestine.

      If Alison were saying that she will continue to use platforms provided by people like Clay Douglas to explicitly challenge their racism and anti-Semitism and as a part of dedicated activism towards those ends then many of us would not have a problem with her actions. However, that is not what she says her goal is and it is not how she has used past appearances on these platforms. She has used her appearances to promote her work on Palestine. That is not showing a dedication and commitment to challenging all racism.

    • I put this link up as another comment, but since people are more likely to see this as a reply to your comment I'll add it here as well. It also is directly related to your call for a perspective from someone connected to the ETO decision. link to

    • One added view point on this controversy:

      link to

  • The UN can bring peace to Jerusalem by moving its headquarters there
    • Call me a cynic but I don't see this as a good idea. How in the world is the UN supposed to take over Jerusalem? Superficially attractive but in reality how is this practical? I also have a problem with the idea that the heart of the problem is Jerusalem. This seems to presuppose that the conflict is religious in nature and about control over holy sites. This is not reality. Rather the heart of the conflict is the historic and ongoing dispossession of Palestinians and the Jewish Israeli insistence on maintenance of ethnic privilege for themselves which includes political and social supremacy. Internationalizing Jerusalem will not challenge the ethno-supremacist policies that undergird Israeli decision making. This will only reinforce pushes for a completion of the 1947 partition process which focused on ethnic separation and pushed forward the conflict. Rather than calling for the internationalization of the conflict through UN intervention and control of a unified Jerusalem, challenge and demand an end to the racism inherent in idea that states should have ethnic identities.

  • Can the US Congress bring justice for the Palestinians?: A response to Robert Naiman
    • Naiman's promotion of this CJPIP initiative at the same time that he is attacking JVP and calling for support of these three congress persons from attack by "AIPAC and the far left" in another message shows his lack of awareness. CJPIP was pragmatic in its approach to Davis but it must also be recognized that some of its key members come from JVP and AFSC. It is a member of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. It supports BDS and calls for an End to US Military Aid. It now runs a campaign focused on the detention of Palestinian children by Israel and previously started the "Two Peoples, One Future" campaign which also called for an end to military aid. It is based in Chicago and therefore disconnected from D.C. and would align itself with JVP and not J Street. How does this match with Naiman's position that only advocacy found kosher by J Street will be acceptable in D.C.? When was the last time J Street pushed forward a campaign like this and got results? Naiman shows a complete lack of self awareness.

  • Have I failed to acknowledge Palestinian violence?
    • I would disagree, I believe that the focus on drawing borders to end the conflict and achieve peace by establishing two states is one of the core reasons that the US led peace process has failed over the last 20 years. Focusing on the establishment of particular state structures will not bring peace. Rather, the reality of historic and ongoing Palestinian dispossession, Jewish-Israeli privilege and Palestinian inequality, and the Occupation are what need to be focused on and addressed. When these issues are addressed then violence will stop and some future state structure can be determined. Drawing borders and establishing state structures is not the first step nor the answer. I wrote more about this here: link to


  • The Ramallah bubble just popped: Reflections on a city under siege
    • It is the PA and a certain capitalist class that exist in high numbers in Ramallah and in lesser numbers in other locations who have power and privilege. They have built for themselves institutions that provide distraction and benefit for those who can afford the entry cost, particularly in Ramallah. However, the existence of this class and their privilege is not Ramallah in any real sense. It is just what stands out to foreigners who find easy entrance to and comfort in this part of Ramallah. This is not the city as a bubble as most of the city is made up of people who gain no benefit for this reality (rather suffering from high cost of living ). It is rather class and power bubble that is not limited to Ramallah. I will agree however that it is useful for maintaining occupation and colonialism.

    • The whole concept of a Ramallah bubble is something of a fallacy. It is an idea that conforms to a surface level Western understanding of the occupation and life plays up the glitz that sits on the surface of Ramallah, benefiting the elite and foreigners, but doing nothing for most of Ramallah's citizens who are impacted by the daily reality of occupation just like every other Palestinian.

      Ramallah does have more cafes and bars than other cities. It does have a lively night life. It does have an over class of rich people and PA functionaries. The presence of the PA and international organizations and consulates mean that over the last 7 years it hasn't been raided as often as other cities by Israel.

      However, most of Ramallah's residents are not able to partake in or benefit from this superficial world. When the Ramallah bubble pops it only pops for foreigners who are still learning about the power of the Occupation. I don't think any Palestinians are ever under any illusion that the excessive consumption and materialism present in Ramallah are protections from occupation.

  • Palestinian writers bring Gaza's hardships to American audience
    • You seem to have missed the part where Sarah was granted a permit by Israel to travel to Jerusalem to get a visa to the US one month prior to being denied a similar permit so that she could travel to use her permit. This is a level of pettiness that is despicable.

      Egypt has closed its borders but please don't place this on Egypt if you are going to defend Israel. Even after the Israeli redeployment in 2005 Egypt's treaty obligations were to respect its agreements with Israel which was the party through the EU that maintained control of the border. Egypt respected this even after Hamas took over. If you defend Israel you must also defend Egypt which is acting to keep in force its agreements with Israel. Many of us see this as despicable given the suffering they are causing but the siege is first and foremost an Israeli action and it is Israel as the occupying power in Gaza which has legal responsibility for ensuring the rights of people like Sarah.

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