Saturday, September 1, 2012

Why I had no choice but to spurn Tony Blair

I couldn't sit with someone who justified the invasion of Iraq with a lie

Desmond Tutu
The Observer, Saturday 1 September 2012

"The immorality of the United States and Great Britain's decision to invade Iraq in 2003, premised on the lie that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, has destabilised and polarised the world to a greater extent than any other conflict in history.

Instead of recognising that the world we lived in, with increasingly sophisticated communications, transportations and weapons systems necessitated sophisticated leadership that would bring the global family together, the then-leaders of the US and UK fabricated the grounds to behave like playground bullies and drive us further apart. They have driven us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand – with the spectre of Syria and Iran before us.....

On these grounds alone, in a consistent world, those responsible for this suffering and loss of life should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in the Hague...."

Al-Jazeera Video: حديث الثورة - تسليح الجيش السوري الحر 30/8/2012


Syrian rebels 'seize air defence base'

Fighters take anti-aircraft rockets and 16 captives in attack on air defence facility in east, says UK-based group

Reuters in Beirut, Saturday 1 September 2012

"Syrian rebels have seized an air defence facility and attacked a military airport in the east of the country, according to a UK-based monitoring group.

Saturday's attacks in the oil-rich province of Deir al-Zor follow rebel strikes against military airports in the Aleppo and Idlib areas, close to the border with Turkey.

The Syrian government has recently used helicopter gunships and fighter jets to attack rebels and residential areas.

Rebels in Deir al-Zor overran an air defence building early on Saturday, taking at least 16 captives and seizing an unknown number of anti-aircraft rockets, said Rami Abdulrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Video posted on the internet by activists showed the officers and soldiers captured by the rebel fighters, and al-Arabiya television broadcast footage of what it said were rockets and ammunition seized in the raid....."

Mohamed Morsi's slap in the face brings Mahmoud Ahmedinejad back to square one

World focus: After Morsi’s bombshell, agreement on a policy over Syria looked more remote than ever

The Independent

"....But it all went badly wrong. The arrival of Egypt's President, Mohamed Morsi, was a coup: the first visit by an Egyptian leader since the Iranian revolution of 1979. And Mr Morsi's decision to come was a slap in the face for Washington, a further reason for the Iranian President to grin.

The grin vanished, however, when Mr Morsi got up to speak. Far from endorsing Tehran's strategy, the moderate Islamist from Cairo, who has now shown several signs of being his own man, went straight for the jugular, identifying the civil war in Iran's close ally Syria as the latest in the line of just struggles that started in Tunis and went on to Cairo.

"We should all express our full support to the struggle of those who are demanding freedom and justice in Syria," Mr Morsi declared. The world had "a moral duty" to support the Syrian opposition, he went on, whose struggle, was comparable to the Palestinians'. "The Palestinian and Syrian people are actively seeking freedom, dignity and human justice." And he wasn't finished. "Our solidarity with the struggle of Syrians against an oppressive regime that has lost its legitimacy," he said, "is an ethical duty, and a political and strategic necessity."

It was a grave humiliation for Mr Morsi's hosts, and provoked the Syrian delegation, led by the Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, to walk out. He later condemned the Egyptian's remarks as "an interference in Syria's internal affairs" and "an instigation for continuing the shedding of...Syrian blood"....."

Al-Jazeera Video: الجيش الحر يسيطر على كتيبة المدفعية في البوكمال

"قال ناشطون إن الجيش الحر سيطر على كتيبة المدفعية الموجودة في مدينة البوكمال بدير الزور شرقي سوريا, واستولى على أسلحة متطورة وذخائر. وأضاف الناشطون أن قوات النظام قصفت المدينة بعد انسحابها من الكتيبة. وقد قتل تسعة أشخاص في قصف عشوائي على مناطق في المدينة ليرتفع بذلك عدد قتلى الجمعة في سوريا إلى أكثر من 120."

Thousands join peaceful protest in Bahrain

Anti-government protesters are demanding the release of prisoners in the first permitted demonstration since June.


"Tens of thousands of people chanting anti-government slogans and holding up pictures of jailed activists have taken part in Bahrain's first authorised opposition protest since June.

No clashes occurred at Friday's march along a three kilometre stretch of a highway west of the capital Manama.

Protesters carried Bahraini flags and held up images of rights activist and protest leader Nabeel Rajab, calling for his release.

Bahrain, where the US Fifth Fleet is based, has been in crisis since a revolt led by majority Shia Muslims began 18 months ago to demand democracy in the Sunni-ruled kingdom.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Bahrain, journalist Reem Khalifa said that since protests started, "It has never been quiet ... especially in the over-populated Shia areas".

"Every day there is tension in various areas around the island,” Khalifa said.

The government has denounced the protest movement, inspired by uprisings elsewhere in the Arab world, as sectarian.

This claim denied by protesters who say they face discrimination from the ruling Sunni minority....."

Friday, August 31, 2012

Al-Jazeera Video: Alleged abuses on both sides of Syrian conflict

"As the war rages, human rights groups are documenting atrocities on both sides of the Syrian conflict.

Al Jazeera's Sue Turton is in Salma, in the western mountains and has more on the crimes being committed."

Al-Jazeera Video: التلفزيون الإيراني يحرّف انتقاد مرسي للنظام السوري

"حرّف مترجم القناة الأولى المحلية في التلفزيون الإيراني الرسمي خطاب الرئيس المصري محمد مرسي الذي ألقاه خلال قمة دول عدم الانحياز. وطال التحريف انتقاد مرسي للنظام السوري، حيث غيّر المترجم العبارات إلى البحرين بدلا من سوريا فضلا عن عبارات أخرى."

Al-Jazeera Video: Turkmen villages come under attack in Syria

"The Syrian military's daily bombardment of Turkmen villages in the western mountains is forcing more and more people to flee their homes in search of refuge.
Turkmen elders say the government offered them federal control of the region if they stayed loyal to Damascus.
The Turkmen refused and now find themselves under attack.
Neighbouring Turkey says it cannot cope with the increasing number of refugees coming across its border.
Al Jazeera's Sue Turton has this exclusive report from the western mountains."

Syria: scrambling to respond to fast-growing needs

31-08-2012 Operational Update

Since mid-July, fighting in and around Damascus has been escalating almost without interruption. The situation in many parts of Syria is currently edging towards irreversible deterioration. Assisting the fast-growing number of needy people is a top priority.

"The ICRC is extremely concerned about the welfare of the civilian population. People suffer every day. Many have lost their jobs, others their breadwinner. It is difficult to meet even basic food needs and to obtain other essentials. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced over recent weeks, and most of them, often whole families, are completely dependent on humanitarian assistance provided by local communities, the ICRC, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and others.

"People fear for their lives every minute of the day," said Marianne Gasser, the head of the ICRC delegation in Syria. "Humanitarian needs have risen sharply as civilians face ever more difficulty obtaining basic necessities, either because the items are not available in some parts of the country, or because the violence prevents people from going to get them."...."

Guardian Video: Julian Assange predicts year-long stay in Ecuadorean embassy

In an interview with the pan-Latin American broadcaster Telesur, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says it might take six to 12 months to resolve the issue of his extradition to Sweden. Assange reveals that the whistle-blower website will soon release millions of emails related to the Syrian government, Friday 31 August 2012

Al-Jazeera Video: ما وراء الخبر - الملف السوري في قمة عدم الانحياز

"ناقش الحلقة الكيفية التي حضر بها الملف السوري في قمة عدم الانحياز، ولماذا اهتم به البعض وتجاهله آخرون. وكيف سيؤثر التناول الدولي في قمة عدم الانحياز للملف السوري على مستقبل الأزمة؟
ما وراء الخبر 30/8/2012
تقديم: عبد الصمد ناصر
ضيفا الحلقة: عبد الله الأشعل,صادق زيبا كلام

Syria crisis: Turkey calls for 'safe haven' – live updates

Egyptian stance on Syria increases Iran's isolation

Brian Whitaker, Friday 31 August 2012

• President Morsi's speech in Tehran yesterday has "all but completed Iran's isolation", Simon
Tisdall writes in the Guardian.

Morsi's fierce condemnation of the Syrian regime, Iran's close ally, was as eloquent as it was piercing, and it came like a bolt from the blue. He didn't just rain on the Iranians' parade. It was as if Hurricane Isaac had taken a sharp turn north across the Caspian and unleashed its wrathful furies on an unsuspecting Tehran.

Scott Peterson, in the Christian Science Monitor, shares that view:

Iran's charm offensive and attempts to seize the high ground were dampened by the words of the UN chief and by Mohamed Morsi ....."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Al-Jazeera Video: Syria refugees must vacate Lebanese schools

"Syrians who sought refuge in schools in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley are being told they have to leave before the start of the school year next week.

Lebanese officials have been handing out tents, but refugees have had to find somewhere to erect them.

With more than 200,000 refugees now registered in countries on Syria's borders, it is further evidence of a growing humanitarian crisis.

Al Jazeera's James Bays reports from the Bekaa Valley."

Azmi Bishara on Internal Colonialism and the People’s Right to Resist

If a regime’s internal structure resembles that of internal colonialism, and if its actions resemble those of a foreign colonial power—bombing their own country’s cities from the air and adopting an Orientalist mindset in their dealings with their own people—then such a regime’s rule may truly be described as internal colonialism. Thus, the right of a people to resist that regime as if it were a foreign occupying power remains intact. This remains true regardless of the nature of that regime’s international foes, bad as they may be. The nature of the people’s resistance, and their rightful struggle in the face of the regime’s crimes against humanity, remains unchanged. 

As for those who defend the regime, they too must shoulder some of the blame for its crimes—with all of the nonsense being peddled by some of these defenders notwithstanding. They can be said to be defending this system of internal colonialism: nothing will be powerful enough to wash their hands of this blood. 

Nothing will wash away their complicity in the terrorizing of the opposition by aerial bombardment of the cities; nothing will absolve them of culpability in this harrowing moral failure. Just as was the case with those who justified colonial powers’ bombardment of cities on the grounds that terrorists were present in those cities. Keep in mind: the fascist regime we are speaking of here is bombing its own people. 

To fault the people who are fighting against such an internally colonialist regime by pointing out that the regime’s decidedly evil international foes make natural allies for the opposition does not take away from the virtue and justice of the opposition’s cause; nor does pointing this out soften the blow of the regimes multiple crimes against humanity, such as the aerial bombardment of their own cities. 

The resilience of the Syrian people, with such limited world support, and in the face of such aggressive bombardment—both physical and oratorical—by the regime’s proponents is without parallel in history. One would think that the regime’s supporters really were plotting and carrying out resistance operations against the Israelis when the Syrian revolution broke out. In fact, they have long become used to rhetoric: it was no different during the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. As for the regime itself, they have never managed to bomb anybody save their own people, and that with unprecedented international apathy. 
The author of these words recalls well the difference between the different players here: there were some who chose to make peace with Israel, while some chose to resist. Some stood in solidarity with Gaza, while others conspired against her. Yet such stands must always be based on principle, and not subject to the whims of people who simply exploit the cause of Palestine for their own ends. Yet this same author also understands the sharp contrast between those who stand with an oppressed people as their cities are bombed from the air and those who stand by. This author will not simply abandon this very oppressed people merely because the regime’s enemies happen also to be villains. 

There can be no defense for the bombing of Daryaa, and for the other towns and hamlets in the environs of Damascus. Nothing at all can wash away the crime of this months-long bombardment of Syria’s cities.

Al-Jazeera Video: Young men take up arms in Syria's west

"Syrian President Bashar al Assad has sharply criticised foreign powers who have raised the possibility of outside intervention.

He has lost control of large parts in the country's west where teenage fighters have taken up arms against him.

The young men soldier on, defending their communities against tanks and fighter jets, in spite of a lack of sophisticated weaponry.

Al Jazeera's Sue Turton reports from Salma in western Syria."

Real News Video : Gaza to be Unlivable by 2020 – UN Report

Gaza may not be ‘‘a livable place’’ by 2020 unless intensive efforts are made to improve infrastructure and services in fields like energy, health, water, and sanitation, a United Nations report concluded this week

More at The Real News

Which of These Asses is Your Congressman? By Khalil Bendib

Shooting Down Regime's Helicopters, by Emad Hajjaj

Syria: Government Attacking Bread Lines

Civilian Deaths at Bakeries Are War Crimes

Human Rights Watch
August 30, 2012

"New York) – Syrian government forces have dropped bombs and fired artillery at or near at least 10 bakeries in Aleppo province over the past three weeks, killing and maiming scores of civilians who were waiting for bread.

The attacks are at least recklessly indiscriminate and the pattern and number of attacks suggest that government forces have been targeting civilians, Human Rights Watch said. Both reckless indiscriminate attacks and deliberately targeting civilians are war crimes.

One attack in the city of Aleppo on August 16, 2012, killed up to 60 people and wounded more than 70. Another attack in the city on August 21 killed at least 23 people and wounded 30.

“Day after day, Aleppo residents line up to get bread for their families, and instead get shrapnel piercing their bodies from government bombs and shells,” said Ole Solvang, emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch who has just returned from Aleppo. “Ten bakery attacks is not random – they show no care for civilians and strongly indicate an attempt to target them.”
Human Rights Watch researchers visited six of the attacked bakeries and interviewed witnesses:

•Bakery in Maare, northern Aleppo, August 22;
•Bakery in Al-Bab, northeastern Aleppo, August 21 and 22;
•Aqyuol bakery in Bab al-Hadid, Aleppo city, August 21;
•Al-Zarra bakery in Qadi Askar, Aleppo city, August 16;
•Kanjou bakery, al-Maysar, Aleppo city, August 16;
•Bakery in al-Halwaniya, Aleppo city, August 16;

Human Rights Watch collected credible information about four other attacks....."

أبو مرزوق يكشف عن تراجع العلاقة بين حماس وإيران بسبب المجازر في سورية

أبو مرزوق يكشف عن تراجع العلاقة بين حماس وإيران بسبب المجازر في سورية

"غزة ـ 'القدس العربي' ـ من أشرف الهور: كشف الدكتور موسى أبو مرزوق نائب رئيس المكتب السياسي لحركة حماس أمس عن تراجع علاقة حركته التي كانت لفترة قريبة مع النظام الإيراني، عازيا السبب في ذلك الى المجازر التي ترتكب بحق الشعب السوري.
وقال أبو مرزوق في لقاء مصور لموقع 'الوطن العربي'، وأعادت مواقع مقربة من حركة حماس نشره ان علاقة حركة حماس 'قد تأزمت بالإدارة الإيرانية بسبب المجازر التي تحدث في سورية'.
وأكد المسؤول الكبير في حركة حماس على انحياز حركته للشعب السوري ورفضها 'جميع أشكال القمع والتنكيل والقتل التي يمارسها نظام الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد ضد شعبه'.
وتتهم إيران بتقديمها الدعم للنظام السوري الحاكم، ووقوفها ضد الثوار السوريين، وسبق وأن غادر قادة حركة حماس العاصمة السورية دمشق، عقب اندلاع الثورة السورية، وبداية ارتكاب النظام المجازر.
وأقام قادة حماس بعد الخروج من سورية في عدة عواصم عربية، إذ وصل رئيس المكتب السياسي خالد مشعل للعاصمة القطرية الدوحة، فيما يقيم أبو مرزوق في القاهرة.
وكانت حركة حماس تتمتع بعلاقة قوية مع النظامين في سورية وإيران، قبل أن تشهد هذه العلاقات تراجعا، بعد خروج الحركة من سورية.
ومطلع الأسبوع الجاري أعلنت حكومة حماس في غزة أن رئيسها إسماعيل هنية تلقى دعوة من الرئيس الإيراني أحمدي نجاد لحضور قمة دول عدم الانحياز، وهو أمر اعترضت عليه الرئاسة الفلسطينية، وهددت بمقاطعة الرئيس محمود عباس حضور القمة، ثم أعلنت إيران فيما بعد أنها لم توجه الدعوة لهنية.
واستقبلت العاصمة الإيرانية طهران في محطات سابقة قادة حركة حماس، الذين عقدوا اجتماعات مع المسؤولين هناك، بينهم الرئيس أحمدي نجاد، والمرشد الأعلى للثورة علي خامنئي.
الى ذلك، أكد أبو مرزوق أن علاقة حماس مع مصر 'شهدت تقاربا قويا' خلال الفترة الماضية، ومنذ تولى الدكتور محمد مرسي رئاسة الجمهورية.
وقال ان مصر تقف بقوة وتساند القضية الفلسطينية، في ظل النظام المصري الجديد الذي قال انه جاء 'عقب ثورة شعبية مباركة قام بها الشعب المصري'.
ورفض في ذات الوقت الاتهامات التي وجهت من البعض للشعب الفلسطيني، وتحميله مسؤولية الهجوم الذي وقع ضد الجنود المصريين وأدى إلى مقتل 16 منهم.
وأكد أبو مرزوق ان لإسرائيل علاقة بالهجوم الذي استهدف الجنود المصريين.
وتطرق خلال المقابلة إلى ملف المصالحة الداخلية الذي يشهد تعثراً، وقال ان هناك 'أطرافا خارجية' تسببت في تجميد ملف المصالحة وإيقاف جميع الجلسات بين الجانبين.
وكانت حركتا فتح وحماس توقفتا عن عقد لقاءات ثنائية فيما بينهما في القاهرة منذ شهرين، بعد الخلافات الجديدة التي طرأت على الملف الذي كان يشهد انفراجة.

Syria crisis: Assad regime oppressive, says Morsi – live updates

• Reports of fighter jet shot down over Idlib

Brian Whitaker and Haroon Siddique, Thursday 30 August 2012

Video of plane wreckage

This video purports to show footage of the fighter jet reportedly shot down in Idlib.

The pilot, who reportedly ejected, has been captured, according to activists.
A Syrian military source has said no Syrian warplane was shot down.
Bakery attacks 'are war crimes'

Syrian government forces have dropped bombs and fired artillery at or near at least 10 bakeries in Aleppo province over the past three weeks, killing and maiming scores of civilians who were waiting for bread, Human Rights Watch said today..

The attacks are at least recklessly indiscriminate and the pattern and number of attacks suggest that government forces have been targeting civilians, Human Rights Watch said. Both reckless indiscriminate attacks and deliberately targeting civilians are war crimes.

One attack in the city of Aleppo on 16 August 2012, killed up to 60 people and wounded more than 70. Another attack in the city on 21 August killed at least 23 people and wounded 30.

Day after day, Aleppo residents line up to get bread for their families, and instead get shrapnel piercing their bodies from government bombs and shells,” said Ole Solvang, emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch who has just returned from Aleppo. “Ten bakery attacks is not random – they show no care for civilians and strongly indicate an attempt to target them.”...

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

Will Iran succeed in using the summit of non-aligned nations to break its international isolation?

With about 200 responding, 74% said no.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Al-Jazeera Video: قصف الطيران الحربي على حي بستان الباشا بحلب

Al-Jazeera Video: لاتجاه المعاكس - التشكيك بالثورات العربية

"مقدم الحلقة: فيصل القاسم
ضيوف الحلقة:
عبد الحليم قنديل
علاء الخطيب
متى يتوقف بعض المشككين عن تصوير الثورات العربية على أنها مؤامرات خارجية. أليس هناك ألف سبب وسبب لاندلاع الثورات؟ أم إنها الفوضى الخلاقة التي بشر بها الأمريكيون. أليس من المبكر الحكم على نجاح الثورات؟

Al-Jazeera Video: ما وراء الخبر / الدعم الايراني للنظام السوري

Al-Jazeera Video: مهاجمة مطار تفتناز العسكري قرب إدلب

"قال ناشطون إن مقاتلين من كتائب أحرار الشام هاجموا مطار تفتناز العسكري قرب إدلب ودمروا وأعطبوا عشر مروحيات من أصل نحو عشرين كانت رابضة على أرض المطار إضافة إلى تدمير عدد من الدبابات. وحصلت الجزيرة على صور خاصة للهجوم على المطار. وذكر ناشطون أن طائرات النظام ومدفعيته قصفت تفتناز وبنش ردا على الهجوم. من جانبه أعلن مصدر عسكري في الجيش النظامي أن جنوده صدوا هجوما كبيرا لما سماها مجموعات إرهابية على مطار تفتناز وأنهم قتلوا عددا كبيرا من عناصرها. من جهة أخرى قالت الهيئة العامة للثورة السورية إن 36 شخصا قتلوا اليوم معظمهم في حمص وريف دمشق. ودارت اشتباكات بين الجيشين الحر والنظامي في منطقة الحجر الأسود بدمشق."

Al-Jazeera Video: nterview with Syria's news personality, Ola Abbas, who defected from Assad's regime

"Several high-profile figures have defected from President Bashar al-Assad's government in recent months, among them media personalities.

One of them, Ola Abass, now lives in Paris.

She says much of the Syrian media's portrayal of the conflict has been based on lies.

Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons caught up with her."

Real News Video with Transcript : Syrian Conflict a Proxy War, Driven by Internal Struggle

Rami Khouri: The rebellion against the dictatorship is the primary driving force, but all the global and regional powers trying to control the outcome

More at The Real News

Syria: the point of no return

The battle between President Assad's regime and the Free Syrian Army is a life-or-death struggle. But whatever its outcome, this is a civil war being fought on a faultline that threatens the entire Middle East

Martin Chulov, Wednesday 29 August 2012

"When power starts to shift in the Middle East, its people have long known what to expect. Challenges to authority have rarely been met with a promise of consensus or inclusion. Strong-arm suppression – the more forceful the better – has been the default reaction to dissent. The price has usually been brutal.

Syrians who wanted an end to regime dominance knew the rules when they started demanding changes in the region's most uncompromising police state in March last year. Now, 18 months and more than 23,000 bodies later, and with no end in sight to the chaos ravaging the country, their worst fears are being realised on a scale that continues both to horrify and numb.

And yet, the events of the past 18 months have shattered one of the abiding guidelines to life under totalitarian rule – that absolute power is uncontestable. If anything has so far been achieved through the bedlam now rumbling through Syria and indeed other parts of the Arab world, it is a new reality: the power of the street has exposed the fragility of authority......

....A realignment of power appears to be top of the wish list for many fighters and residents alike in Syria's opposition strongholds. But such a shift will not be contained within Syria's borders – a fact that is causing increasing alarm outside the country and fuelling fears that changes more profound than anything since the fall of the Ottomans are starting to take place in the Middle East.....

In dozens of conversations the Guardian has had with Syrians in recent months – some diehard regime backers and others just as deeply committed to the opposition cause – a clear sense has emerged that the popular uprising that started it all in the southern city of Deraa has been dwarfed by something far more significant......"

Syria Neighbors: Keep Borders Open for Refugees

Despite Numbers, Host Countries Should Respect Right to Seek Asylum

Human Rights Watch
August 29, 2012

"(New York) – Syria’s neighbors should keep their borders open to the large and growing number of refugees fleeing Syria, while donor countries should generously support them. Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon have mostly opened their borders to more than 200,000 refugees from neighboring Syria, but in the past week some officials in these countries have said they are reaching their limit and may soon close their borders.

Despite the pressure of numbers, refugees from Syria should be allowed to cross into neighboring countries and remain there legally without fear of detention, confinement in closed camps, or deportation, Human Rights Watch said.

“For many years, Syria kept its borders open to Palestinians, Lebanese, and Iraqis fleeing conflict in their countries and allowed them free movement,” said Bill Frelick, Refugee Program director at Human Rights Watch. “Today, as Syrians flee horrific violence, neighboring countries should extend them the same hospitality.”...."

Rachel Corrie verdict highlights impunity for Israeli Military

Amnesty International
29 August 2012

"Amnesty International condemns an Israeli court’s verdict that the government of Israel bears no responsibility in the death of Rachel Corrie, saying the verdict continues the pattern of impunity for Israeli military violations against civilians and human rights defenders in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

The verdict shields Israeli military personnel from accountability and ignores deep flaws in the Israeli military’s internal investigation of Corrie’s death.

“Rachel Corrie was a peaceful American protester who was killed while attempting to protect a Palestinian home from the crushing force of an Israeli military bulldozer,” said Sanjeev Bery, Middle East and North Africa advocacy director for Amnesty International USA.

“More than nine years after Corrie’s death, the Israeli authorities still have not delivered on promises to conduct a 'thorough, credible and transparent' investigation. Instead, an Israeli court has upheld the flawed military investigation and issued a verdict that once again shields the Israeli military from any accountability."....."

25th Anniversary of the Assassination of Palestinian Cartoonist Naji 'Alli, by Emad Hajjaj

Al-Jazeera Video: Inside Story - Justice evades Rachel Corrie

"Who will take responsibility for activist's death after Israeli court rules its army was not at fault? Hazem Sika speaks to Jafar Farah, Rami Khouri & Efraim Inbar."

Al-Jazeera Video: Syrian war makes a ghost town of Salma

"Life in the small, northwest Syrian town of Salma has become hell, says one paediatrician who decided to stick around. Where 10,000 people once lived tucked into the hills of the Idlib governorate, now only a few remain. The Syrian army has stationed tanks above even unimportant Salma, and their shelling is unpredictable and deadly. Civilians and rebels mix in the town's shattered streets, where life goes on as best it can. Sue Turton reports from Salma."

Syria crisis: Assad says more time needed to 'win the battle' - live updates

• 'FSA destroys 10 helicopters'

Haroon Siddique and Brian Whitaker, Wednesday 29 August 2012

FSA 'destroys 10 helicopters'

The Free Syrian Army claims to have destroyed 10 Syrian Air Force helicopters at Taftanaz military airport, located between the northern cities of Aleppo and Idlib, al-Jazeera reported today. Video uploaded onto YouTube purported to show clashes at the airport in the distance. The video below purports to show the destroyed helicopters.

AFP reports that rebels claimed to have destroyed five helicopters at Taftanaz:
Abu Mossab, a rebel who participated in the attack, told AFP via Skype that the rebels had shelled the Taftanaz military airport with two captured military tanks and had destroyed five military helicopters. The claims could not immediately be independently verified.
It quotes the British-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights as saying 14 government troops were killed in the fighting at Taftanaz......"

The 'Arab Spring' and other American seasons

The uprisings have raised great economic expectations on the part of the majority of Tunisians and Egyptians.

By Joseph Massad

Sponsoring counter-revolutions

Hence, unlike the rest of the Arab world where the US and its West European allies quickly moved from sponsoring the dictators to sponsoring the counter-revolutions to restore them or a similar regime in their stead (Yemen) and then later moved to establish a new alliance with the victorious Islamists (in Egypt and Tunisia), they opted to support the uprisings in Libya and Syria and take them over rapidly to ensure an outcome that serves their interests (France, Italy and the United Kingdom secure the oil while the US hopes to move its AFRICOM military command headquarters from Stuttgart to Libya once the dust settles).

While in Libya, the takeover was quick and successfully executed, in Syria, it ran into trouble on account of the differing nature of the regime and the opposition and the class coalitions that support them.

What the US and the new regimes in Tunisia and Egypt are debating at the moment is how much representativity and accountability the new system should have and whether granting certain measures of representativity and accountability could lead to future unpredictable demands for economic rights by the majority of the people in both countries, which could further threaten the interests of the US and its local regime and class allies.

The recent visit by the head of the International Monetary Fund to Cairo to discuss Egypt's request for $4.8bn could result, as in the South African precedent, in introducing further contractual and legal bans on improving the lives of the poor in the country. The next few months will clarify the final arrangement of governance in both countries, especially in light of the increasing and mobilised popular opposition to any anti-democratic measures in both of them.

The uprisings have raised great economic expectations on the part of the majority of Tunisians and Egyptians (not to mention other Arabs across the region) who languish in utter poverty thanks to neoliberal economics, and who are no longer shy in pressing their economic agenda to centrestage.

The battle of the seasons is on; while the Americans are pressing on for an American Spring in the Arab world that will only be experienced as another American-sponsored Summer drought for the majority of the people of the region, the Arab peoples are working to transform the recent uprisings into nothing short of a cold American Winter."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Al-Jazeera Video: Violence and clashes continue across Syria

"Free Syrian army members and Syrian government forces continue to clash. The government is reportedly using artillery, helicopter gunships and even fighter jets, and the armed opposition is fighting back. A car bomb also struck Damascus, killing 12 people on Tuesday. And the refugee situation along Syria's border is escalating, with the UN expecting a dramatic increase in numbers as violence escalates from both sides. Al Jazeera's Rula Amin reports from Beirut."

Al-Jazeera Video: Save the Children's Hedinn Hallborsson discusses Syria's refugees

"A growing number of unaccompanied children fleeing Syria's conflict are turning up in refugee camps along the country's borders. Many say their parents have been killed in the fighting.

Hedinn Hallborsson is the emergency communication manager for Save the Children.

He spoke to Al Jazeera from Amman in Jordan about the situation at the country's refugee camps."

Nick Hayes on the Rachel Corrie court verdict – cartoon

Nick Hayes, Tuesday 28 August 2012

Doughboy Rises: Exclusive: ‘We believe that the USA is the major player against Syria and the rest are its instruments’

Assad's Foreign Minister gives his first interview to a Western journalist since the conflict began

You will find the following much more interesting than Fisk's interview:

Obituary for the Pillsbury Doughboy

"Dear friends,

It is with the saddest heart that I pass on the following. Please join me in remembering a great icon.

The Pillsbury Doughboy died yesterday of a yeast infection and complications from repeated pokes in the belly. He was 71.

Doughboy was buried in a lightly-greased coffin. Dozens of celebrities turned out to pay their respects, including Mrs. Butterworth, Hungry Jack, the California Raisins, Betty Crocker, the Hostess Twinkies, and Cap'n Crunch. The grave site was piled high with flours as long- time
friend, Aunt Jemima, delivered the eulogy, describing Doughboy as a man who never knew how much he was kneaded. Doughboy rose quickly in show business, but his later life was filled with turnovers. He was not considered a very "smart" cookie, wasting much of his dough on
half-baked schemes. Despite being a little flaky at times, he -- even still, as a crusty old man -- was considered a roll model for millions.

Toward the end, it was thought he would rise again, but alas, he was no tart.

Doughboy is survived by his wife, Play Dough; two children, John Dough and Jane Dough; plus they had one in the oven. He is also survived by his elderly father, Pop Tart.

The funeral was held at 3:50 for about twenty minutes."

Rachel Corrie verdict exposes Israeli military mindset

Corrie's parents have not received justice, but their quest reveals the lie of the IDF's claim to be the world's 'most moral army'

Chris McGreal, Tuesday 28 August 2012

".....An Israeli judge on Tuesday perpetuated the fiction that Corrie's death was a terrible accident and upheld the results of the military's own investigation, widely regarded as such a whitewash that even the US ambassador to Israel described it as neither thorough nor credible. Corrie's parents may have failed in their attempt to see some justice for their daughter, but in their struggle they forced a court case that established that her death was not arbitrary but one of a pattern of killings as the Israeli army pursued a daily routine of attacks intended to terrorise the Palestinian population of southern Gaza into submission......

Three years after Corrie's death, an Israeli army officer who emptied the magazine of his automatic rifle into a 13-year-old Palestinian girl, Iman al-Hams, and then said he would have done the same even if she had been three years old was cleared by a military court.

Iman was shot and wounded after crossing the invisible red line around an Israeli military base in Rafah, but she was never any closer than 100 yards. The officer then left the base in order to "confirm the kill" by pumping the wounded girl full of bullets. An Israeli military investigation concluded he had acted properly.

Tuesday's court verdict in Haifa will have done nothing to end that climate of impunity. Nor anything that would have us believe that Israel's repeated proclamation that it has the "most moral army in the world" is any more true than its explanation of so many Palestinian deaths."

تونس تطالب بإحالة الأسد للجنائية الدولية

"وصفت الرئاسة التونسية الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد بالرئيس غير الشرعي، وطالبت بإحالة ملفه إلى المحكمة الجنائية الدولية على خلفية مجزرة داريا بريف دمشق التي قتل فيها الجيش النظامي السوري أكثر من أربعمائة شخص.
وقال عدنان منصر الناطق الرسمي باسم الرئيس التونسي منصف المرزوقي في بيان اليوم إن النظام في سوريا "مازال مصرّاً على غيه ومكلفا شعبه ضريبة باهظة من الدماء والدموع لا تفتأ ترتفع يومياً من مجزرة إلى أخرى وآخرها مجزرة داريا".

ووصف البيان ما حدث في داريا بأنها "مجزرة فظيعة وجريمة كبيرة تجاه الشعب السوري" وقال إن تونس "تدين بمنتهى الشدة استهداف المدنيين من قبل جيش أصبح يتصرّف كجيش احتلال".

وأضاف بيان المرزوقي أن "تونس التي طالما طالبت بترك منفذ للنظام مقابل وقف العنف الأعمى وحتى عدم المتابعة في حال وجود وفاق سياسي يضمن حماية الجناة وإن لم يضمن العدل، فإنها تدعو إلى إحالة ملف الرئيس غير الشرعي بشار الأسد وكل من يثبت تورطهم في المجازر من الآن إلى المحكمة الجنائية الدولية".

وعزا هذه الدعوة إلى ما وصفه بـ"رفض النظام السوري الحالي ورئيسه بشار الأسد أي خطة عربية أو أممية لحقن الدماء ورفعه يوماً بعد يوم من وتيرة القمع".

Rachel Corrie’s Parents Denounce Israeli Military Exoneration for 2003 Killing in Gaza

Democracy Now!

"An Israeli judge has cleared Israel’s military of responsibility for the killing of the U.S. peace activist Rachel Corrie. A 23-year-old college student, Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza nine years ago. She was standing in front of a Palestinian home to help prevent its demolition. Today’s ruling came in a wrongful death civil suit brought by Corrie’s family, with the judge rejecting any negligence on the part of the driver and finding that Corrie’s death resulted from "an accident she brought upon herself." Today’s ruling follows an earlier internal Israeli army investigation that also exonerated the bulldozer drivers. The Corrie family had been seeking a symbolic $1 in damages, as well as legal fees...."

Al-Jazeera Video: Cindy Corrie speaks to Al Jazeera

"An Israeli court has ruled in a civil case that the Israel army was not at fault in the bulldozer death of American pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie nearly 10 years ago.

Corrie was 23 years old when she went to the town of Rafah in the Gaza Strip as part of a group of activists from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).

Cindy Corrie, the mother of Rachel Corrie tells Al Jazeera why she is hurt by the decision."

Al-Jazeera Video: Israeli army cleared in Rachel Corrie death

"An Israeli court has ruled in a civil case that the Israel army was not at fault in the bulldozer death of American pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie nearly 10 years ago.

Corrie was 23 years old when she went to the town of Rafah in the Gaza Strip as part of a group of activists from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).

Al Jazeera's Cal Perry reports from Haifa."

Al-Jazeera Video: Syrian rebels advance in Aleppo city

"n this exclusive report, filed on August 6, Anita McNaught follows members of the Free Syrian Army deep into the heart of Aleppo city."

Syrian Guernica, by Emad Hajjaj

Syria crisis: Fighting rages around Damascus – live updates

• France urges opposition to form provisional government
• Helicopter crashes in flames over Damascus
• Heavy death toll reported in capital

Brian Whitaker, Tuesday 28 August 2012

Iran 'fighting in Syria'

A commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard appears to have given the first public acknowledgment that the Islamic republic is militarily involved in Syria, the Wall Street Journal reports.

"Today we are involved in fighting every aspect of a war, a military one in Syria and a cultural one as well," Gen Salar Abnoush, commander of IRGC's Saheb al-Amr unit, told volunteer trainees in a speech Monday.

The comments, reported by the Daneshjoo news agency, which is run by regime-aligned students, couldn't be independently verified. Top Iranian officials had previously said the country isn't involved in the conflict.

Palestinian Authority: Hold Police Accountable for Ramallah Beatings

Donors Should Reevaluate Support for Palestinian Security Forces

August 27, 2012

"(Jerusalem) – The Palestinian Authority (PA) should urgently act to hold accountable the police officials responsible for recent beatings of peaceful demonstrators in Ramallah in the West Bank. Police severely beat protesters in the street and dragged others to a police station, where the police continued to beat and kick them. At least six protesters required hospitalization.

A coalition of Palestinian human rights groups released a report on August 27, 2012, that identified several senior police officials who were present and in charge of the forces that beat protesters in Ramallah’s main square on June 30 and July 1.

Two months and four reports later, the Palestinian Authority has not yet brought to justice the police officers responsible for brutal assaults on peaceful protesters in Ramallah’s main square,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The PA should end its foot-dragging and promptly investigate and prosecute abuse by members of its security forces.”....."

وحدكم ايها السوريون!


وحدكم ايها السوريون!
الياس خوري

"غياث مطر الشهيد الذي وزع الماء والورود على الجنود السوريين في داريا، في بادرة تؤكد نبل الثورة السورية، خطفته اجهزة المخابرات في 6 ايلول/ سبتمبر 2011 واعادته بعد أربعة أيام الى ذويه جثة ممزقة. غياث مطر يبكي اليوم بلدته داريا، وهو يرى جثث أكثر من ثلاثمئة شهيد قتلتهم الآلة العمياء للجيش الأسدي ومعه الشبيحة والزعران الذين اجتاحوا داريا كالتتر، وأبادوا كل من وصلت اليه نيران بنادقهم.
لم يكتف النظام بهذه المجزرة الوحشية، بل أضاف اليها المزيد من الهمجية، حين قام اعلامه بـ'التغندر' بكاميرا قناة 'الدنيا' لصاحبها رامي مخلوف فوق الجثث التي لم يجف دمها بعد، واجراء 'حوارات' مع مصابين ومن بينهم امرأة بدا وكأنها تلفظ انفاسها الأخيرة!
مجزرتان، الأولى عبّرت عن عربدة القتل المجاني والعطش الى الدم، والثانية ارادت ان تسجّل بالصوت والصورة وقائع ما جرى، تعبيرا عن الحقد والسفالة والضِعة من جهة، ومن اجل ارهاب السوريات والسوريين، وتخويفهم من مصير ينتظرهم، كمصير أهل داريا وبابا عمرو واعزاز وغيرها، من جهة ثانية.
لا يمحو المجرم آثار جريمته، بل يتفاخر بها امام الجميع، لأنه يعتقد ان الدعم الروسي والايراني سوف ينقذه من الهاوية، ويمنع سوقه الى القضاء.
بشّار السفّاح تفوّق في الأمس على والده القاتل، وحلّ مشكلته النفسية مع صورة الأب الذي ملأت تماثيله سورية بشبح التهديد بحماه أخرى.
يوم الأحد الماضي وانا أنظر الى صور الضحايا في داريا، تذكرت ذلك اللقاء في بيروت وفي منزل المستعرب الفرنسي ميشال سورا، الذي قُتل خطفاً. كان ذلك عام 1981، وبيروت تعيش لحظات التفكك قبيل الاجتياح الاسرائيلي، يومها سألت المفكر السوري الياس مرقص الذي كان آتيا من اللاذقية عن الأوضاع في سورية بعدما تنامت الينا أخبار مذبحة حماه. لم يجب مرقص على سؤالي بشكل مباشر، بل حدثني عن جنكيزخان. وعندما ابديت تعجبي من لجوء مرقص الماركسي - الواقعي الى الاستعارة بدل ان يجيب، نظر اليّ وقال: 'ماذا تريدني ان أحكي'. ثمّ روى كيف دخل رجال المخابرات الى أحد مقاهي اللاذقية، حيث كان يحتسي قهوته، وأمروا الجميع بالركوع.
كان الألم يغطي عيني الرجل بماء لا يشبه الدموع، هذا الرجل الجليل الذي شكّل لجيلنا أحد مراجعه الفكرية، والذي كان سلوكه السياسي والأخلاقي فوق الشبهات، وجد نفسه راكعاً مع الراكعين!
تذكرت الياس مرقص لا لأنهم أذلوه مثلما اذلوا الشعب السوري كله، بل لأنه بدل ان يتحدث عن النظام الأسدي، او من اجل ان يتحدث عنه، استعاد صورة المغول وهم يجتاحون المشرق العربي.
انهم المغول، ولا هدنة مع المغول، لا تحت اشجار السنديان كما كتب محمود درويش مرة، ولا في ظلال المقابر.
شهوة الدم تستولي على آلة نظام فقد شرعيته وسلطته، وظهرت كذبة ممانعته على حقيقتها، طائرات الميغ والسوخوي لم تجرؤ على التحليق امام الطيران الاسرائيلي حين قصف سورية، لأن مهمتها لا علاقة لها بقاموسي الممانعة والمقاومة، مهمتها الحقيقية تركيع الشعب السوري واذلاله.
السوريون وحدهم امام آلة الموت.
كل الدعم اللفظي الامريكي والاوروبي كاذب ومخادع وكلبي.
صمت العالم المدوي امام آلة القمع الأسدية، ليس بسبب ان لا بترول في سورية كي تثير شهية الغرب الى الربح والهيمنة، كما يقال، بل من اجل اسرائيل. فالدمار الذي يلحقه النظام بسورية لم تكن اسرائيل تحلم به. وحين يسقط، وهو سيسقط، فإن امام السوريات والسوريين سنوات طويلة كي يعيدوا بناء ما تهدّم.
لا تصدقوا التحليلات التي تقول ان حجب السلاح عن الجيش الحر سببه خوف الدول الغربية من الاسلاميين.
لا غياب البترول ولا الخوف من الاسلاميين، هما السبب. فالدول الغربية وخصوصا الولايات المتحدة لا تخشى الإسلام السياسي لأنها تبني تحالفا معه.
السبب واحد هو زيادة منعة الكيان العنصري الاسرائيلي، الذي بلغت به الوقاحة والعجرفة الى حدّ اتهام جنوب افريقيا بالعنصرية لأنها قررت وضع إشارات خاصة على البضائع المصنوعة في الضفة الغربية المحتلة!
بشار الأسد يقوم بما لا يستطيع احد القيام به. انه يدمر سورية ويحطم نسيجها الاجتماعي، فلماذا اذن تقديم السلاح والعون لمن يريد اسقاطه؟
فليبق الى ما لا نهاية، وليرقص حليفاه الروسي والايراني طربا على ايقاع قنابله ومجازره. فهو في النهاية سيفقد سلطته بعد ان يكون قد دمّر البلاد كلها من شمالها الى جنوبها، وسيجد حليفاه نفسيهما في العار وسيصيران مكروهين من قبل السوريين والعرب.
صار سفّاح الشام حاجة اسرائيلية اكثر من اي وقت مضى، لذا لا تنتظروا شيئا ممن يدّعي صداقة الشعب السوري.
الشعب السوري وحده.
وحده يدافع عن كرامة الانسان في كل أرض العرب، ووحده يعيد بدمه المسفوك المعنى الإنساني والأخلاقي للسياسة.
ماذا اقول لك ايها الوحدك.
وحدتك يا أخي لا تشبه سوى وحدة الفلسطيني الذي وجد نفسه وحيدا امام كل منعطف دموي صنعه الوحش الاسرائيلي.
اعرف يا أخي ان الكلمات لا توقف نزفا ولا تمسح دمعة ولا تستقبل آهة خارجة من قلب ام ثكلى.
اقول لك انك وحدك.
اقول لك ان صمودك في وحدتك واصرارك على كرامتك المغمّسة بدم ابنائك، ووقوفك دفاعا عن اطلال البيوت التي هدمتها المدفعية والطائرات، هي طريقك كي تنتصر في وحدتك على السفّاح الذي يريد تركيعك من جديد.
اعرف انك لن تركع، واعرف ان هامتك المكللة بالدم هي عنوان كرامتنا الانسانية اليوم، لكنني لا أملك سوى كلماتي التي تنحني اجلالا لتضحياتك واضحياتك.

No to PLC elections under policies of occupation

PNC polls can bring the Palestinians closer to self-determination, while restoring their legitimate right to resistance.

Haidar Eid
(Associate Professor at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza)

"Following assurances and promises by US President George W Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to spread democracy in the Middle East only to see the destruction of Iraq and Afghanistan, a third of the Palestinian population (those in the 1967 territories) voted against the existing Palestinian National Authority government, led by Fatah. Instead they voted in favour of what seemed then to be the only political force capable of challenging the remnants of the Oslo Accords.

They did not vote based on their own political perspectives, but rather to punish a “Third-worldish” authority characterised by: corruption; suppression of freedom; de-prioritisation of the national struggle; minimisation of the Palestinian people to the population of the West Bank and Gaza; security coordination under the oversight of a US general; the steady growth of layers of unproductive bureaucracy and comprador class; suppression of the national forces of opposition parties......

The time of revolutions

Today, as part of the falsely constructed binary between these two authorities, comes the call to register at polling stations and to prepare for new PLC elections as part of a new reconciliation agreement (again!) between them. The choice again is between the religious right and the secular right, with a third, necessary alternative absent.

What is the desired outcome of these elections? And are they radically distinct from those of their predecessors? Are they meant to address the crucial mistakes that plagued the previous two elections or resulted from them? This time, will the right to self-determination as defined by every Palestinian appear on the ballot?....."

Monday, August 27, 2012

Rachel Corrie death: struggle for justice culminates in Israeli court

Her blonde hair, megaphone and orange fluorescent jacket with reflective stripes made 23-year-old Rachel Corrie easily identifiable as an international activist on the overcast spring afternoon in 2003 when she tried to stop an advancing Israeli military bulldozer.
The young American's intention was to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home in Rafah refugee camp, close to the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Scores of homes had already been crushed; Corrie was one of eight American and British volunteers acting as human shields for local families.
"She was standing on top of a pile of earth," said fellow activist and eyewitness Richard Purssell, from Brighton, at the time. "The driver cannot have failed to see her. As the blade pushed the pile, the earth rose up. Rachel slid down the pile. It looks as if her foot got caught. The driver didn't slow down; he just ran over her. Then he reversed the bulldozer back over her again."
The question of whether the driver of the Caterpillar D9R bulldozer saw the young woman in the orange jacket, and drove deliberately at and over her, has been at the centre of the Corrie family's decade-long battle for accountability and justice.
On Tuesday that struggle is set to culminate when an Israeli court gives its verdict in a civil lawsuit that the family have brought against the state of Israel.
An Israeli Defence Forces investigation has already found that its forces were not to blame and that the bulldozer driver had not seen the activist. No charges were brought and the case was closed. The IDF report concluded: "Rachel Corrie was not run over by an engineering vehicle but rather was struck by a hard object, most probably a slab of concrete which was moved or slid down while the mound of earth which she was standing behind was moved." Corrie and other International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activists were accused by the investigators of "illegal, irresponsible and dangerous" behaviour.

Israeli teens making Hitler youth proud

Al-Jazeera Video: Military copter crashes in Syrian capital

"A Syrian military helicopter has crashed in flames.

Opposition fighters say they shot it down over the capital Damascus as it attacked a suburb of the city.

State television confirmed the crash but gave no details on what caused it.

Al Jazeera's James Bays reports from Beirut."

Al-Jazeera Video: Chris Bellamy analyses Damascus helicopter crash

"Chris Bellamy is a former artillery officer in the British Army.

He told Al Jazeera it appears likely that the Syrian army helicopter was shot down."

A decade on, some justice for Rachel Corrie's family?

Whatever the verdict in the Haifa court tomorrow, the case of Rachel Corrie sheds light on the Israeli army's crimes.

By Ben White

Shocking evidence

Evidence submitted to the court included extracts from the battalion operations log on the day Rachel Corrie was killed, March 16, 2003. The summary given that evening by the deputy battalion commander (referred to as "Sh R") included the following:

We must not, as an army, allow such incidents to disrupt the ongoing missions. We are aware of the problem of the foreigners in this area and, as a policy, we do not halt activity because of the presence of foreigners in the area in order to avoid creating a dangerous precedent... But again, this incident was unavoidable and these foreigners should be dealt with and prevented from entering the Strip.

Here, the IDF officer states that the reason why the bulldozers did not stop their work, despite the presence of foreign activists, was not because of any "security" imperative but to avoid creating a "precedent"......"

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

Do you believe that the international community is doing enough for the welfare of Syrian refugees?

With over 1,200 responding, 96% said no.

The Syrian army would like to appear squeaky clean. It isn't

"Our own beloved Free Syria Army has actually advertised its own murders on YouTube"

By Robert Fisk

".....kill civilians, thousands of refugees cross the border and CNN reports – as it did on Friday night – that refugees cursed Bashar al-Assad as they fled their homes.

And I cannot forget how Al Jazeera, loathed by Bashar now as it was once hated by Saddam, came back from Basra in 2003 with terrifying footage of dead and wounded Iraqi women and children who had been shredded by British artillery firing at the Iraqi army. And we don't need to mention all those Afghan wedding parties and innocent tribal villages pulverised by US gunfire and jets and drones.

The Syrian military, whether it admits it or not – and I'm not happy with the replies I got from Syrian officers on the subject last week – work with the shabiha (or "village defenders" as one soldier called them), who are a murderous, largely Alawite rabble who have slaughtered hundreds of Sunni civilians. Maybe the International Court in the Hague will one day name Syrian soldiers responsible for such crimes – be sure they won't touch the West's warriors – but it will be impossible for the Syrian army to write the shabiha out of the history of their war against the "terrorists", "armed groups", Free Syria Army and al-Qa'ida.

The attempted disconnect has already begun. Syrian troops are fighting at the request of their people to defend their country. The shabiha have nothing to do with them. And I have to say – and no, yet again, I am not comparing Bashar with Hitler or the Syrian conflict with the Second World War – that the German Wehrmacht tried to play the same narrative game in 1944 and 1945 and, then, in a much bigger way, in post-war Europe. The disciplined lads of the Wehrmacht never indulged in war crimes or genocide against the Jews in Russia, Ukraine or the Baltic states or Poland or Yugoslavia. No, it was those damned SS criminals or the Einsatzgruppen or the Ukrainian militia or the Lithuanian paramilitary police or the proto-Nazi Ustashe who besmirched the good name of Germany. Bulls***, of course, though German historians who set out to prove the criminality of the Wehrmacht still face abuse......"

Guardian Video: Syrian rebels 'down army helicopter' in Damascus

Amateur footage purports to show Syrian rebels shoot down an army helicopter as it bombarded the Damascus neighbourhood of Jobar on Monday. Witnesses said the helicopter was engulfed in flames after it was hit, before coming down in the nearby district of al-Qaboun. Syrian state TV said a helicopter had crashed in Damascus, but gave no further details, Monday 27 August 2012

Also, see this from AP:

".....With its forces stretched thin by fighting on several fronts, President Bashar al-Assad's regime has been increasingly using air power against the rebels – both helicopters and warplanes. The army has been fighting major battles against rebels in Damascus and its suburbs for more than a month while engaged in what appears to be a stalemated fight against rebels for control of northern Aleppo, the country's largest city and commercial capital.

The rebels are not known to have any answer to the regime's warplanes except anti-aircraft guns that they mostly use as an anti-personnel weapon. Last month, rebels claimed to have shot down a Russian-made MiG fighter, but the government blamed the crash on a malfunction....."

Ahhh, the "New" Egypt: Egypt deports Bahrain activist Mariam al-Khawaja from country

Bikya Masr

"CAIRO: Leading Bahrain activist Mariam al-Khawaja was deported from Egypt on Sunday after arriving at the Cairo International Airport after her name was on a list of persons not allowed into the country, officials were quoted as saying by the official MENA news agency.

The report said the female activist was on an “airport entrance ban” put forward by Egypt’s security forces.

She was deported Sunday night to Copenhagen, Denmark, al-Ahram newspaper reported.

The woman, however, is a leading human rights activist and the foreign relations chief of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. The rights organization has come into international headlines after numerous members have been arrested and put on trial in Bahrain for pushing for change in the small gulf kingdom.

The rights organization was originally founded by Khawaja’s father, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who is now serving a life sentence in Bahrain for “crimes against the state.”

The woman had visited Egypt in April, but was nearly deported then as well, local reports said, but was eventually allowed into the country by security forces at the airport."

معركتي من اجل حرية التعبير في مصر

معركتي من اجل حرية التعبير في مصر
عبد الحليم قنديل

"لماذا تبدو حملة الحكم الإخواني في مصر ضد حريات الصحافة والإعلام والتعيير جنونية إلى هذا الحد؟، ولماذا يكرر محمد مرسي في أيامه الأولى ما كان يفعله مبارك في أيامه الأخيرة؟!.
الظاهرة ملفتة ومتضخمة ومطردة، فقد عين مرسي في وزارته الأولى صحفيا إخوانيا كوزير للإعلام، وكانت وزارة الإعلام قد ألغيت في التشكيل الوزاري الأول بعد الثورة الأخيرة، فالنظم الديمقراطية لاتعرف شيئا اسمه وزارة إعلام ولاوزير إعلام، لكن الوزارة الملغاة عادت مع ميل المجلس العسكري الحاكم وقتها للتحكم في وسائل الإعلام، وواصل مرسي السيرة نفسها حتى بعد التخلص من حكم المجلس العسكري، وجرى اختيار صحافي إخواني ظل طوال عمره العملي نقابيا محترفا، وبلا علاقة وثيقة بالمهنة، فلم يسبق له أن أدار أي مؤسسة مهنية عامة أو مستقلة، وكل مزاياه أنه كادر إخواني ملتزم بأوامر السمع والطاعة، وجرى وضعه على قمة جهاز إعلامي يملك عشرات الإذاعات والقنوات التليفزيونية، والتي نزحت من خزينة الدولة مئات المليارات من الجنيهات، وعملت كرديف إعلامي للجهاز الأمني في خدمة مبارك وعائلته، ثم يراد الآن أن تتكرر القصة نفسها، وأن يعمل الجهاز الإعلامي المتضخم في خدمة مرسي وجماعته، وعلى حساب اقتصاد منهك يتسول القروض والهبات، وسرت رغبة السيطرة ذاتها فيما يخص ما يسمى في مصر بالصحف القومية، ومن خلال سبع مؤسسات تصدر عنها عشرات الصحف والمجلات، وتنزح من موارد الخزينة العامة أيضا، فكلها خاسرة ماليا ومنهكة إداريا، وباستثناء مؤسستي 'الأهرام'، 'الأخبار'، ولديهما توازن اقتصادى نسبي، وكانت وسيلة السيطرة الإخوانية على إمبراطورية الصحف مختلفة قليلا عن حكاية تعيين وزير إعلام، فقد لجأت الجماعة الإخوانية إلى وسيلة 'مجلس الشورى'، والمجلس إياه في حكم المنحل قانونا، وثمة دعوى معروضة ببطلان تشكيله على المحكمة الدستورية العليا، والتي سبق أن قررت حل مجلس الشعب لبطلان قانون انتخابه، وهو ذات القانون الذي جرى على أساسه انتخاب مجلس الشورى، ومع فارق ملموس جدا، وهو أن نسبة الإقبال التصويتي على انتخاب الشورى كانت عظيمة الهزال، ولم تصل حتى إلى نسبة عشرة بالمئة من إجمالي الناخبين المقيدين، أي أن مجلس الشورى القائم بلا شرعية قانونية ولا حجية شعبية، وإن كانت الأغلبية فيه للإخوان والسلفيين، ولم يعبأ الحكم الإخواني بعوار مجلس الشورى، وهو 'المالك الاسمى للصحف القومية' بحسب الصيغة الركيكة الموروثة عن عهد مبارك، وعين رؤساء تحرير جدد للصحف القومية من عينة المنافقين وكتاب التقارير ومندوبي الإعلانات، وتحولت الصحف الحكومية ـ إياها ـ إلى الطبل والزمر لمرسي، وبالضبط كما كانت تفعل مع المخلوع مبارك، ومع كل هذه السيطرة لم يحس الحكم الإخواني بالأمان، واندفع في تقليد مبارك إلى النهاية، وتوسع في تنظيم اعتداءات بدنية على الصحافيين والإعلاميين، ثم في إقامة دعاوى ضد صحافيين كبار ورؤساء تحرير صحف مستقلة، وبتهمة 'إهانة الرئيس' مرسي، ووصلت الهجمة الهمجية إلى ذروتها باتهام الكاتب الصحفي عادل حمودة وكاتب هذه السطور.
وقد بدا ملفتا لكثيرين اتهام شخصي بالذات، وبتهمة إهانة الرئيس ذاتها، والتي وجهت لي في أيام مبارك، وقد كنت وقتها الصحفي المصري الوحيد الذى أحيل للمحاكمة بتهمة إهانة مبارك، جرى ذلك في أواخر سنة 2006، وكانت المناسبة مقالا نشرته في جريدة 'الكرامة' التي كنت وقتها رئيسا لتحريرها، حمل المقال عنوان 'أشعر بالعار لأنك الرئيس'، بينما حمل المقال المتهم هذه المرة عنوان 'الدولة العبيطة والجنرال مرسي'، وقد نشرته في جريدة 'صوت الأمة' التي لا أزال رئيسا لتحريرها حتى وقت كتابة هذه السطور، ويلفت النظر أن حزب الإخوان استخدم ذات الطريقة التي استخدمها حزب مبارك، وهي تكليف أعضائه برفع الدعوى، وفيما يعرف باسم 'دعاوى الحسبة'، وهي طريقة شاذة من الزاوية القانونية المجردة، فبحسب قواعد الإجراءات الجنائية المصرية، لايصح إلا أن يكون المدعي هو المتضرر نفسه في قضايا النشر، وليس أي شخص آخر غير ذي صفة في الخصوص، أى أن مبارك كان يجب أن يكون المدعى المباشر في قضية اتهامي بإهانته، وأن يكون الشيخ مرسي هو المدعي في القضية الجديدة، وهذا ما لم يحدث، ويفترض بصحيح القانون أن يبطل الدعوى، لكن مرسي يعول على ما كان يستند إليه مبارك نفسه، وهو خراب النظام القضائي المصري، ووجود عدد لا بأس به من قضاة التليفون في محاكم الجنايات، هذا بالإضافة إلى تبعية جهاز النائب العام عمليا للسلطة التنفيذية، وهو ما يفسر إحالة البلاغ المقدم ضدي إلى نيابة أمن الدولة العليا 'طوارئ'، وكأنني متهم في جريمة إرهابية، وهو ما يثير العجب والسخرية من القصة كلها، ويعطي الحريات إجازة، ويبعث الحياة في واحدة من أحط مواد قانون العقوبات وأكثرها غلظة، وهي المادة (179) من قانون العقوبات، والتي تجرم وتحرم ما تسميه 'إهانة الرئيس' على طريقة العيب في الذات الملكية، وتجيز الحبس الاحتياطي للصحفي المتهم فيها، ناهيك عن عقوبة الحبس عند الإدانة النهائية، وعلى طريقة ما جرى مؤخرا للزميل إسلام عفيفي رئيس تحرير جريدة الدستور، والذي أفرج عنه بقرار من مرسى تلافيا لمزيد من الفضائح الرئاسية.
وقد يقولون لك أن هناك فرقا، وأن مرسي رئيس منتخب، بينما مبارك لم يكن كذلك، وهذا صحيح شكلا، فقد فاز مرسي بفارق ضئيل في الانتخابات الرئاسية الأخيرة، وكنت ممن رجحوا كفته، ودعوت إلى التصويت لصالحه على طريقة أكل الميتة ولحم الخنزير، وليس لمزايا تصورتها في مرسي وجماعته الإخوانية، بل لرزايا كانت مؤكدة في حالة منافسه أحمد شفيق، وقد كان من المعاونين المقربين لمبارك، وقلت وقتها أنني سوف أكون أول المعارضين لمرسي وجماعته الإخوانية، وتماما كما كان موقفي من مبارك، ومع فارق أن مرسي منتخب، وتتيح الديمقراطية التي أتت به حرية أن تعارضه، لا أن يتحول إلى ديكتاتور يحتمي بإجراءات القهر، وهو مايتحول إليه مرسي الآن، وبصورة تلغي الفارق في المضمون ـ لا الشكل ـ بينه وبين مبارك، فقد تحول الشيخ مرسي إلى 'مبارك بلحية ' إن صح التعبير، ولو حلق مرسي لحيته لوجدنا تحتها وجه مبارك الكئيب.

Syria helicopter downed in Damascus

Rebels claim to have scored rare aerial victory by shooting down government gunship amid renewed fighting in capital.


"A Syrian military helicopter has caught fire and crashed after it was apparently hit during fighting between government forces and rebels in the capital Damascus, an activist group has said.

State-run media on Monday confirmed the crash in Damascus but gave no details. Several videos posted on YouTube showed the helicopter flying above buildings while flames gradually engulf it as it abruptly turns, nose dives and spins toward the ground before disappearing from view.

The downing of the helicopter comes as activists report intense new fighting in the suburbs around Damascus, including a possible new massacre of more than 300 people in the Daraya district....."

تساؤل فقط

By Azmi Bishara
27 أغسطس 2012

"نتساءل هنا حول صحة الفعل التالي سواء أكانت وراءه استراتيجية أم لا: يدخل مسلّحون إلى حي في مدينة مأهولة فتقصفه طائرات النظام، فيخليه السكان بعد ثمن باهظ في الأرواح والممتلكات. ولاحقا يخلي السكان اي حي يدخله مسلحون لأنهم يعرفون ردة فعل النظام، ويحصل توتر بينهم وبين السكان، لا سيما اذا جاءوا من خارج الحي ليس لان السكان ضد الثورة بل لأنهم يعلمون ان النظام سوف يقصف الحي بما في ذلك العمارة ال تي يسكن فيها المواطن المتذمر. وثم تبدأ جولات كر وفكر أو قصف منهجي من قبل الجيش النظامي يتهدم خلالها الحي عمليًّا.

ما الاستراتيجي في هذا، ولماذا قرر أحدهم كان من يكون ان هذه معركة حاسمة؟ طبيعة الكفاح المسلح ضد نظام هو الاستنزاف والتآكل والتقدم التدريجي وليس الإعلان المعارك الحاسمة التي تؤدي الى مواجهات يهدم خلالها النظام المدن. طبيعة الكفاح المسلح ضد نظام هو البحث عن المجتمعات الحاضنة أو خلق مثلها لا أن ينفر المجتمعات ويخلق توترات جديدة مع أحياء لم تشارك في الثورة ولا في القمع مثل قسم كبير من الشعب، فليس كل الناس فدائيين، ولا ينبغي أن يفرض عليهم ذلك في اي مجتمع. تساؤل فقط.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Al-Jazeera Video: Salafis blamed for Libya mosque destruction

"A mosque containing Sufi Muslim graves has been bulldozed in the centre of Tripoli, Libya, a day after Sufi shrines in the city of Zlitan were wrecked and a mosque library was burned. The demolition of the large Sha'ab mosque happened in broad daylight on Saturday, drawing condemnation from government officials and Libyans across the country and abroad. Witnesses say a group of Salafi Muslims who disapprove of shrines and tombs were behind the attack, and that it took place as security forces looked on. Al Jazeera's Omar al-Saleh reports."

Al-Jazeera Video: Syria accused of massacre near Damascus

"Several hundred bodies have been found in a town near Damascus after a ferocious assault by the Syrian army, according to a watchdog group, as activists accused government forces of a gruesome "massacre".

A grisly video issued by the opposition showed bodies piled up wall-to-wall in a mosque complex in Daraya after a massive offensive by troops battling to crush insurgents who have regrouped in the outskirts of the capital.

Al Jazeera's Gerald Tan reports."

Al-Jazeera Video: Inside Syria - The case for a civil war

"As the battle for Syria escalates, the world asks if declaring a civil war will open the way for war crime charges. Stephen Cole speaks to Rafif Jouejati, Nadim Shehadi, &v Yusuf Kanli."

Al-Jazeera Video: Palestinian refugees escape Syria violence

"The UN Relief and Works Agency have said there are around half a million Palestinians in Syria - who over the decades fled wars involving Israel.

It says 1,000 left their homes in July, but that number has risen now to 3,000 as fighting intensifies in the capital. As fighting continues in Syria many Palestinian refugees caught in the crossfire are fleeing across the border to Lebanon.

However, they are largely unwanted in Lebanon, which itself is already home to more than 400,000 Palestinian refugees.

Al Jazeera's James Bays reports from Bekaa Valley, Lebanon."

Al-Jazeera Video: Sufi shrines attacked in Libya

"Witnesses have said an armed group, claming to be Salafi's, carried out the assault on a Sufi shrine, it is the tomb of al-Asmar-the last resting place of a 15th century Muslim scholar.

Mohamed al-Teer, a witness, have said:"A group of criminals who have committed crimes against people inside and outside Zliten, entered and took cover in the mosque and fired at the revolutionaries. So the revolutionaries fired back. They killed and captured some of them and the others escaped."

The attackers have also set fire to a historic library, reducing years of academic and religious writing to ash.

While the official line from the government is condemnation, there are reports security forces stood by and just let this destruction go ahead.

Al Jazeera's Caroline Malone reports."

Al-Jazeera Video: حديث الثورة- أسباب ارتفاع عدد القتلى بسوريا 23/8/2012

Real News Video with Transcript : Protests Grow Against Bahrain Arrest of Rights Advocate

Reem Khalifa: Court overturns twitter conviction for Nabeel Rajab but he still faces three years in prison for allegedly encouraging protesters to clash with security forces

More at The Real News

Israel breaks silence over army abuses

Ex-soldiers admit to appalling violence against Palestinian children

Donald Macintyre, Hebron
Sunday 26 August 2012

".....This is just one young man's story, of course. Except that – remarkably – it is corroborated by one of the soldiers who came looking for him that morning. One of 50 testimonies on the military's treatment of children – published today by the veterans' organisation Breaking the Silence – describes the same episode, if anything more luridly than Hafez does. "We had a commander, never mind his name, who was a bit on the edge," the soldier, a first sergeant, testifies. "He beat the boy to a pulp, really knocked him around. He said: 'Just wait, now we're taking you.' Showed him all kinds of potholes on the way, asked him: 'Want to die? Want to die right here?' and the kid goes: 'No, no...' He was taken into a building under construction. The commander took a stick, broke it on him, boom boom. That commander had no mercy. Anyway the kid could no longer stand on his feet and was already crying. He couldn't take it any more. He cried. The commander shouted: 'Stand up!' Tried to make him stand, but from so much beating he just couldn't. The commander goes: 'Don't put on a show,' and kicks him some more."

Two months ago, a report from a team of British lawyers, headed by Sir Stephen Sedley and funded by the UK Foreign Office, accused Israel of serial breaches of international law in its military's handling of children in custody. The report focused on the interrogation and formal detention of children brought before military courts – mainly for allegedly throwing stones.

For the past eight years, Breaking the Silence has been taking testimonies from former soldiers who witnessed or participated in human rights abuses in the occupied territories......"