band annie's Weblog

I have a parallel blog in French at


July 2014

Hannity Unleashes Shouting Points On Palestinian Guest

Max Blumenthal discusses Israel’s assault on Gaza with AJ English

Witch Hunt’: Fired MSNBC Contributor Speaks Out on Suppression of Israel-Palestine Debate

Max Blumenthal

MSNBC contributor Rula Jebreal’s on-air protest of the network’s slanted coverage of Israel’s ongoing assault on the Gaza Strip has brought media suppression of the Israel-Palestine debate into sharp focus. Punished for her act of dissent with the cancellation of all future appearances and the termination of her contract, Jebreal spoke to me about what prompted her to speak out and why MSNBC was presenting such a distorted view of the crisis.

“I couldn’t stay silent after seeing the amount of airtime given to Israeli politicians versus Palestinians,” Jebreal told me. “They say we are balanced but their idea of balance is 90 percent Israeli guests and 10 percent Palestinians. This kind of media is what leads to the failing policies that we see in Gaza.”

She continued, “We as journalists are there to afflict the comfortable and who is comfortable in this case? Who is really endangering both sides and harming American interests in the region? It’s those enforcing the status quo of the siege of Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank.”

Jebreal said that in her two years as an MSNBC contributor, she had protested the network’s slanted coverage repeatedly in private conversations with producers. “I told them we have a serious issue here,” she explained. “But everybody’s intimidated by this pressure and if it’s not direct then it becomes self-censorship.”

With her criticism of her employer’s editorial line, she has become the latest casualty of the pro-Israel pressure. “I have been told to my face that I wasn’t invited on to shows because I was Palestinian,” Jebreal remarked. “I didn’t believe it at the time. Now I believe it.”

An NBC producer speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed Jebreal’s account, describing to me a top-down intimidation campaign aimed at presenting an Israeli-centric view of the attack on the Gaza Strip. The NBC producer told me that MSNBC President Phil Griffin and NBC executives are micromanaging coverage of the crisis, closely monitoring contributors’ social media accounts and engaging in a “witch hunt” against anyone who strays from the official line.

“Loyalties are now being openly questioned,” the producer commented.

The suppression campaign culminated after Jebreal’s on-air protest during a July 21 segment on Ronan Farrow Daily.

“We are disgustingly biased on this issue. Look at how much airtime Netanyahu and his folks have on air on a daily basis, Andrea Mitchell and others,” Jebreal complained to Farrow. “I never see one Palestinian being interviewed on these same issues.”

When Farrow claimed that the network had featured other voices, Jebreal shot back, “Maybe for thirty seconds, and then you have twenty-five minutes for Bibi Netanyahu.”

Within hours, all of Jebreal’s future bookings were cancelled and the renewal of her contract was off the table. The following day, Jebreal tweeted: “My forthcoming TV appearances have been cancelled. Is there a connection to my expose and the cancellation?”

Jebreal is the author of Miral, a memoir about her coming of age in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Her former partner, Jewish-American filmmaker and artist Julian Schnabel, adapted the book into full length film. A widely published journalist and former news presenter in Italy, Jebreal was a vocal supporter of the now-extinct peace process and a harsh critic of Islamist groups including Hamas. Her termination leaves NBC without any Palestinian contributors.

According to the NBC producer, MSNBC show teams were livid that they had been forced by management to cancel Jebreal as punishment for her act of dissent.

At the same time, social media erupted in protest of Jebreal’s cancellation, forcing the network into damage control mode. The role of clean-up man fell to Chris Hayes, the only MSNBC host with a reputation for attempting a balanced discussion of Israel-Palestine. On the July 22 episodeof his show, All In, he brought Jebreal on to discuss her on-air protest.

In introducing Jebreal, Hayes took on the role of the industry and network defender: “Let me take you behind the curtain of cable news business for a moment,” Hayes told his viewers. “If you appear on a cable news network, you trash that network and one of its hosts by name, on any issue — Gaza, infrastructure spending, sports coverage, funny internet cat videos — the folks at the network will not take kindly to it.”

In fact, MSNBC Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough has publicly attacked fellow MSNBC hosts and slammed the network for its support for the Democratic Party.

“I did not think that i was stepping in a hornet’s nest,” Jebreal told me. “I saw Joe Scarborough criticizing the network. I thought we were liberal enough to stand self criticism.”

Yet when she appeared across from Hayes, Jebreal encountered a defensive host shielding his employers from her criticism. “We’re actually doing a pretty good job” of covering the Israel-Palestine crisis, Hayes claimed to her. “I think our network, and I think the New York Times and the media all around, have been doing a much better job on this conflict.”

Jebreal appeared on screen as a “Palestinian journalist” — her title as a MSNBC contributor had been removed. When she insisted that American broadcast media had not provided adequate context about the 8-year-long Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip or the roots of Palestinian violence, Hayes protested that he had wanted to host Hamas officials alongside the Israeli government spokespeople he routinely featured but that it was practically impossible.

“Not all Palestinians are Hamas,” Jebreal vehemently replied.

“Airtime always strikes me as a bad metric,” Hayes responded. “I mean there are interviews and then there are interviews. I had [Israeli government spokesman] Mark Regev on this program for 16 minutes, alright? That’s a very long interview but there was a lot to talk to him about.”

The NBC producer remarked to me that the network’s public relations strategy had backfired. Hayes’ performance was poorly received on social media while Jebreal appeared as another maverick journalist outcasted by corporate media for delivering uncomfortable truths.

For her part, Jebreal told me she was disturbed by Hayes’ comments. “I admire that Chris [Hayes] wanted to have me on but it seems like he was condoning what happened to me,” she said. “He was saying, ‘What do you expect? We rally around our stars.’ Well, I rally around reality, if that still matters in media.”

Jebreal continued: “I didn’t tell him this on air but I said, ‘I hope you don’t condone other things the network did, like what happened with Ayman.’”

Jebreal was referring to NBC correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin and his sudden removal by the network from the Gaza Strip. Mohyeldin, a rising star in the network and its only Arab-American reporter in the region, was an eyewitness to the Israeli killing of four young boys who had been playing soccer on a beach near Gaza City.

Moments after the killings, Mohyeldin relayed intimate accounts of the scene through Twitter, then released harrowing footage of the boys’ mother wailing as she learned of their deaths. Oddly, NBC correspondent Richard Engel was summoned to deliver Mohyeldin’s package that evening.

The NBC producer told me that the network was deluged with angry letters and phone calls from pro-Israel activists about Mohyeldin’s reporting.

Hours later, Mohyeldin’s summary of the US State Department’s statement defending Israel’s actions disappeared from his Facebook and Twitter accounts. He had apparently been forced to delete the postings. Next, NBC removed Mohyeldin from Gaza, sending him out of the area on the first plane available.

To replace Mohyeldin, NBC dispatched Engel, a veteran foreign correspondent well-liked by top brass and regarded as the network’s “star.” Engel was the keynote speaker at a 2013 event at the Newseum in Washington DC honoring journalists killed that year. Under Israel lobby pressure, the Newseum had removed the names of three Palestinian journalists killed in targeting Israeli strikes during the November 2012 assault on Gaza, accepting claims by anti-Palestinian groups like the Anti-Defamation League that their employment by Hamas-affiliated outlets rendered them enemy combatants. During his speech, Engel carefully avoided condemning the Newseum for its capitulation.

The removal of Mohyeldin sparked an international backlash, with tens of thousands from around the world protesting the decision through viral Twitter hashtags like, #LetAymanReport and #FreeAyman. Two days later, an apparently chastened NBC returned Mohyeldin to the Gaza Strip, but the damage had been done.

Unwilling to explain its unusual actions, NBC left it up to media critics to guess at its motives. CNN Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter chalked up the removal of Mohyeldin to “infighting and bureaucracy,” claiming that NBC was concerned primarily with ratings. Glenn Greenwald, the editor-in-chief of the The Intercept, wrote that Mohyeldin was ordered out of Gaza by David Verdi, a top NBC executive, for political reasons — his reporting was deemed too sympathetic to Palestinians.

The NBC producer insisted that Greenwald’s account was the more accurate one. “Greenwald was right,” the producer told me. “And I hate to say that.”

For her part, Jebreal does not expect to be welcomed back on MSNBC again. “I’m done there,” she told me. “It’s not happening any more. My contract is over. I’m fine with it. I’m not complaining.”

She cited the distorted coverage of Israel-Palestine in American broadcast as the central reason behind the American public’s support for Israel’s assault on Gaza.

“I believe this is a shifting moment in history and we need to make a decison,” Jebreal said. “It’s easier when there’s Bridgegate but there is another gate: This is Mediagate and we need to begin to challenge our responsibilities.”

Max Blumenthal is a senior writer for AlterNet, and the author of Goliath and Republican Gomorrah (Basic/Nation Books, 2009). Find him on Twitter at @MaxBlumenthal.


Let’s Talk About Genocide: The Case of Palestine

 declaration made by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its resolution 96 (I) dated 11 December 1946 that genocide is a crime under international law

Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.  

Though still contentious in some circles even within the Palestine solidarity movement, I’d like to join the, Ali Abunimah, Ilan Pape and others [1,2] and put forth that Israel, typical of a colonialist entity, isn’t only guilty of war crimes, discrimination, and employing an apartheid system on the Palestinian people, but is actually committing genocide. Before the reader rules me out as another “extremist” and clicks on, I’d like to remind you that all these terms are legal terms. And though I’m by no means a legal expert, I intend to argue the legal points in this article, in hopes of not only proving that Israel is in fact committing the crime of genocide, but that legal professionals would refine these arguments and take them where they belong- International Criminal Court.

… intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group

“Intent to destroy” a group is a basic qualifier for the crime of genocide. Intent is probably the element of a crime that is most difficult to prove, however the zionist movement and its subsequent colony in Palestine in its 67 years of colonialism, has never really hid its intent, the “enemy” being identified alternately as “Arabs”, “Muslims”, or “Palestinians”. I give you exhibits A through H:

A- Theodor Herzl

When we occupy the land, we shall bring immediate benefits to the state that receives us. We must expropriate gently the private property on the estates assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our country. The property owners will come over to our side. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discretely and circumspectly … It goes without saying that we shall respectfully tolerate persons of other faiths and protect their property, their honor, and their freedom with the harshest means of coercion. This is another area in which we shall set the entire world a wonderful example … Should there be many such immovable owners in individual areas [who would not sell their property to us], we shall simply leave them there and develop our commerce in the direction of other areas which belong to us…

Granted, Hertzl wasn’t specifically referring to Palestine at the time, just outlining a generalized strategy. This quote within itself doesn’t show intent of genocide, but clearly outlines strategies of collective economic destruction (a “root cause of genocide” according to the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide website) and ethnic cleansing (another legal term). The quote’s relevance is in the future impact that Hertzl would have on the Zionist movement and its leaders, who had adopted his methods, as I intend to show in the rest of the quotes of this section.

B- Ben Gurion

What we really want is not that the land remain whole and unified. What we want is that the whole and unified land be Jewish [emphasis in original]. A unified Eretz Israel would be no source of satisfaction for me—if it were Arab.From our standpoint… We must expel Arabs and take their place… 

C- Golda Meir (collection)

Peace will come to the Middle East when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us… Any one who speaks in favor of bringing the Arab refugees back must also say how he expects to take the responsibility for it, if he is interested in the state of Israel. It is better that things are stated clearly and plainly: We shall not let this happen… There were no such thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian state? It was either southern Syria before the First World War, and then it was a Palestine including Jordan. It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist… When peace comes, we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons… Arab sovereignty in Jerusalem just cannot be. This city will not be divided — not half and half, not 60-40, not 75-25, nothing. 

D- Yitzak Rabin

[Israel will] create in the course of the next 10 or 20 years conditions which would attract natural and voluntary migration of the refugees from the Gaza Strip and the west Bank to Jordan.

E- Ariel Sharon

While Sharon was more of a doer than a talker , he was nevertheless rather straightforward about his actions:

It is the duty of Israeli leaders to explain to public opinion, clearly and courageously, a certain number of facts that are forgotten with time. The first of these is that there is no Zionism, colonialization, or Jewish State without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands.[]

You don’t simply bundle people onto trucks and drive them away … I prefer to advocate a more positive policy, to create, in effect, a condition that in a positive way will induce people to leave []

F- Ehud Olmert

There is no doubt in my mind that very soon the government of Israel is going to have to address the demographic issue with the utmost seriousness and resolve. This issue above all others will dictate the solution that we must adopt. In the absence of a negotiated agreement – and I do not believe in the realistic prospect of an agreement – we need to implement a unilateral alternative… The formula for the parameters of a unilateral solution are: To maximize the number of Jews; to minimize the number of Palestinians; not to withdraw to the 1967 border and not to divide Jerusalem.

G- Benjamin Netanyahu

This is the land where our identity was forged; this is our homeland; here is our country which was reborn. And the Palestinians must accept this. Otherwise, what we are being asked to do is allow for the establishment of a Palestinian state which will continue subvert the foundation for the existence of the Jewish state, which will try to flood us with refugees, which will advance irredentist claims from within the State of Israel’s territory, territorial claims, national claims… the most condensed version of the formula for a peace agreement with the Palestinians is a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state – a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. We do not want to annex the Palestinians as citizens of the State of Israel and we do not want to control them, but naturally the Palestinian state must be demilitarized. This means that certain markers of sovereignty will have to be limited. []

And half a year later while massacring hundreds of Palestinians in the besieged Gaza strip:

I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: There cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan. []

This is the fourth day of Operation Protective Edge. The IDF, the ISA and the security forces are fighting Hamas with increasing intensity. As of now, we have hit over 1,000 Hamas’, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations’ targets, and we are still busy… The pace of attacks in this operation is double that of Operation Pillar of Defense and the military strikes will continue until we can be certain that the quiet has returned to Israeli citizens… no terrorist target in the Gaza Strip is immune but it must be pointed out that Hamas’s leaders, commanders and activists are hiding behind the residents of Gaza and they are responsible for any injury to them. []

H- The next generation: Ayelet Shaked (supporting genocide from Electronic Intifada)

It is a call for genocide because it declares that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy” and justifies its destruction, “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.” It is a call for genocide because it calls for the slaughter of Palestinian mothers who give birth to “little snakes.”

(a) Killing members of the group see FULL document here



Rula Jebreal Scolds Network for Lack of Palestinian Views – ” Disgustingly Biased ” – MSNBC

Syria Speaks on Tour

July 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

left to right: Khalil, me and Khaled. photo by Khalil.

This was published at the National

For a week in June, Syrian writers and artists toured England, giving readings and workshops to promote “Syria Speaks: Art and Culture From the Frontline”, a book reflecting the country’s new revolutionary culture. British-Syrian novelist Robin Yassin-Kassab describes the experience.


In Bradford we met a woman who had tried as hard as she could to forget she was Syrian. We didn’t discover her original trauma, but we heard its symptoms over a British-Pakistani curry. She hadn’t spoken Arabic for years, and never told anyone where she was from. Once a policeman detained her for an hour because she refused to tell him her origin.

In Bristol, on the other hand, we met a little old woman who, with her red hair and flowery dress, we might have mistaken for English. But she was a Damascene, and she wept when I read a description of her city. Afterwards she came to introduce herself. “I’ve lived in England for thirty years, and I didn’t realise until the revolution that I had a fear barrier inside. Then I noticed I’d never talked about Syria. I’d tried not to even think about it. But those brave youths gave me courage; they gave me back my identity and my freedom.”

So the Syrian revolution is alive and well in Bristol if not in Bradford, for this is where the revolution happens first, before the guns and the political calculations, before even the demonstrations – in individual hearts, in the form of new thoughts and newly unfettered words. Syria was once known as a ‘kingdom of silence’ in which public discourse was irretrievably devalued by enforced lip-service to the regime and its propaganda pieties. As a result, many Syrians describe their first protest as an ecstatic event, a kind of rebirth. In “Syria Speaks”, Ossama Mohammed’s story “The Thieves’s Market” concerns a woman who attends the state’s official demonstrations, until her friend is murdered for participating in an oppositional one. “I grew up,” she says, “came of age, abandoned someone and was abandoned, on a march that finished yesterday.” When that coerced march ended and a thousand new ones began, Syrians found unprecedented liberation simply by expressing honest opinions in the presence of their neighbours, by breaking the barriers of fear.

Producer Itab Azzam describes the old cultural dispensation: “In Damascus, if you want to be a recognised artist, you have to be part of the system. The system is based on you being, or you being able to pretend to be, sophisticated enough.” In 2011, many of the established sophisticates took the side of the regime, from pop singer George Wassouf to state intellectual par excellence Bouthaina Shaaban (a translator and writer as well as regime propagandist); but many others – from poet Rasha Omran to actress Mai Skaf – stood publically with the savagely repressed protestors. More importantly, artists were now judged not by their position or prestige but by what they could contribute to a rapidly transforming society. ‘Ordinary’ Syrians no longer sought permission to speak; they no longer craved entry to the Arab Writers’ Union or other institutions of the state’s official culture. Instead, culture exploded from the bottom up, through slogans, cartoons, dances and songs, through endless debate and contestation in the liberated areas, through free radio stations and independent newspapers produced and distributed even in beseiged and constantly bombarded neighbourhoods.

Our tour of England was to promote “Syria Speaks”, a book based on the assumption that the cultural revolution is indistinguishable from the political. It contains a broad range of genres to reflect the growth of engaged art, both highbrow and low, in revolutionary Syria.

There is work by Ali Farzat, the internationally celebrated cartoonist (whose fingers were broken by regime thugs), as well as by the cartoonists and poster-makers of Kafranbel, the media-savvy village in southern Idlib province which almost nobody had heard of before 2011. There are agit-prop posters from the Shaab as-Soori Aref Tareeq group and photographs from the Lens Young collective (anonymous and cooperative production have flourished in the constrained security environment), alongside haunting canvases from Youssef Abdelke and Amjad Wardeh. Text by Sulafa Hijazi accompanies her nightmarish images – a woman giving birth to a gun; a weapon which is itself pregnant; a rosary of human heads – commentary on the cyclical aggression provoked by the state’s repression.

Music is represented by the text of “Come On, Bashaar, Get Out!”, the song sung in Hama by Ibrahim Qashoush before the regime ripped out his vocal chords and dumped his corpse in the River Orontes, and in an illuminating essay by rapper Hani al-Sawah on facing the new criticism. “The street is not an ignorant listener,” he writes. “It can distinguish the good from the bad.”

There’s poetry by Aboud Saeed, the provocative, defiantly working-class Facebook poet from Manbij (complete with date and number of ‘likes’), as well as by more established figures Golan Haji, Rasha Omran and Faraj Bayrakdar. Bayrakdar spent fourteen years in regime prisons, and prison literature (most notably “The Shell” by Mustafa Khalifa) became a well-established Syrian genre even before the revolution. “Syria Speaks” contains an extract from Dara’a Abdullah’s memoir “Loneliness Pampers Its Victims” as well as Fadia Lazkani’s account of a search for her detained bother which is really a journey towards accepting the reality of his death. Yara Badr, who as a child was robbed of her powers of speech when her parents were taken from their home, contributes a text. And the political thinker Yassin al-Haj Saleh, imprisoned for sixteen years, is interviewed on the role of the revolutionary intellectual. “I believe that the new culture will take shape around the experience of resistance to the Assads’ tyranny,” he says, “but also … resistance to the emerging forms of domination.”

What else? Much more, including script from Masasit Maté’s “Top Goon” puppet shows – a runaway internet phenomenon. And an interview with Assaad al-Achi, procurer of equipment for the citizen journalists of the Local Coordination Committees. Plus activist Mazen Darwish’s “Letter for the Future”, smuggled out of Damascus Central Prison in place of an acceptance speech for the 2013 Bruno Kreisky Prize for Human Rights. And cultural activist Dan Gorman’s fascinating discussion with critic miriam cooke on dissident arts from popular debke to Emergency Cinema.

It was Dan, as director of Reel Festivals, who organised our book tour around the English regions, starting with a full house at Rich Mix in east London. Khaled Khalifa, Syria’s most accomplished novelist and one of the most important in the world, began the evening by reading from his new novel “No Knives in the Kitchens of this City”. He read in Arabic, and then I read the same passage in English translation. Malu Halasa, co-editor of the book and author of several others, read an irreverent flash fiction piece by Rasha Abbas. Artist and writer Khalil Younes read from “Chicken Liver”, a compassionate account of his relationship with a childhood friend, an Alawi he calls Hassan, who now fights for the regime.

The next day we headed west to lunch in uncharacteristic English sunshine on the River Avon, and then to Bristol, once a key port in the trans-Atlantic slave triangle, where we met the aforementioned little old lady, recently liberated.

Throughout the tour, we delivered workshops on behalf of English PEN (the writers’ defence organisation) to a variety of audiences. I gave one at an east London Sixth Form College (the students, several of them Muslim, were well-versed in Syria’s Islamic dynasties but knew little of its modern history – and none knew that Syria produced the world’s first alphabet). Khaled Khalifa delivered his workshop to an audience of migrants at Bristol’s Malcolm X Centre. Like Khaled, some came from rural Aleppo – there was a man from Afreen and another from Manbij. “They asked me about the olive trees and the seasons,” Khaled grinned afterwards. “I love these people.”

Khaled usually lives in Barzeh, a devastated Damascus suburb. In the tour’s quieter moments he directed a puzzled gaze at the placid English trees, the well-ordered streets, their well-fed pedestrians, and gasped at the surrealism of it all. I remember coming out of Palestine after a three-week visit, at a time of cold tension. As I arrived in Jordan, I noticed parts of my brain untensing, and understood just how much attention I’d been paying to the towers, checkpoints and armed men. How much stranger, then, for Khaled, who’s spent three years in the hottest of wars.

Our event in Oxford was at the Ashmolean museum, amongst the ancient Levantine statuary. That night we slept in Keble college, where I was once a student. The hot weather broke in a violent storm which lit the sky blue and cast furious thunderbolts. Again I thought of Khaled, and of the planes which hover above his house to fire missiles south at Qaboon. A bewilderment or exasperation breaks across his hands when he speaks of it. “Every time I leave the house I look at my things for the last time… But what can I do? It’s my country, my revolution. My situation is no different to any other Syrian’s. As a writer, it’s important to stay and to reflect the reality of what is happening.” The cost, however, is high. “I go home at night now.” He widens his eyes in wonder. “I never used to. This has changed me. I’m discovering a new Khaled.”

I set off to deliver a workshop in Wigan, setting of “The Road to Wigan Pier”, George Orwell’s investigation into the predicament of the 1930s working class. The participants were teenage writers, bright and eager, but also reflecting the general lack of knowledge of Syria. One boy was surprised to learn that the country contains cities; another believed “it had always been war there.”

From Wigan on to Liverpool, a proudly northern city revived and bustling after the death of its industry, and Khaled’s favourite stop of the tour. “It’s a different culture here, stronger,” he winked to a backdrop of hen parties and street musicians. The “Syria Speaks” event was part of a larger Liverpool Arab Arts Festival. Afterwards, there was a performance of Sarmada, a play based on the 2011 novel by Syrian writer Fadi Azzam.

Zaher Omareen, “Syria Speaks” editor and essayist, was on our panel in Liverpool. He spoke about growing up in Hama, scene of the terrible 1982 massacre, and how he’d never dared to look up at the statues of Hafez al-Assad. People believed there were cameras hidden in the stone eyes. In 2011 the statues came down and donkeys were paraded on the empty plinths.

Our first sight of Bradford was a white woman in shocking pink hijab and shalwar qamees, probably the wife of a British Pakistani. The Bradford trend more reported in the media is towards ethnic ghettoisation, though in the cosmopolitan city centre we didn’t notice it. The faded architectural magnificence, the crumbling mills and warehouses, made it feel like Lahore circa 1800 – a place immensely wealthy until recently, with a definite edge in the air. Our lovely tour bus driver Rasha Shaheen described it as “a living Ken Loach film.” The audience here was fully engaged but also the smallest of the tour. We were competing with the annual Bradford Festival. Bhangra and Reggae music drifted through the doors of the Fuse Art Space.

Khaled spoke about his ‘fathers’ – Dostoyevsky, Marquez, Faulkner. Do Syrian writers have Syrian fathers? Khaled mentioned a writer of an older generation, in negative terms – “A father must respect his children.” The conversation turned to relations between fus-ha, standardised literary Arabic, the preserve of the educated, and a‘miya, the dialect of the street.

Then Khalil Younes discussed his short film “Syria”, in which a needle is pushed repeatedly through skin, provoking an appalled response to mirror an expatriate Syrian’s nauseous experience watching war videos from back home. He also showed his pen and ink drawings, some of which have become revolutionary icons. The picture of Hamza Bakour, the child whose lower face was blown off by a regime shell, seeks to remember, mourn and celebrate this boy, otherwise a single flash in an endless stream of martyrs. “Comb” – a bloodier version of an amputation instrument from the American Civil War – and “Our Saigon Execution” are attempts to universalise the Syrian predicament by linking it to struggles in other times and places.

Next morning we travelled further north to Durham, a green, river-fed, cathedral town, where we were joined at our university reading by British-Jordanian novelist Fadia Faqir. She read from her new novel “Willow Trees Don’t Weep”, and expressed powerful solidarity with the Syrian people.

Finally the long drive back to London and our final event, at Waterstones bookshop in Picadilly. Tonight we were in the company of the fearless Samar Yazbek. She read from “Gateways to a Parched Land”, an account of a regime assault on Saraqeb, and of a meeting with resistance fighters, which depicts the strange coexistence of terrible violence with “tolerance, altruism and dialogue”. Characteristically, Samar gives over half the piece to her interviewees. Such is her method in the much-translated “A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution”, a personal narrative which nevertheless includes the perspectives of defected soldiers, grassroots activists, the tortured and detained, the refugees.

Her approach is an antidote to ubiquitously lazy coverage of Syria’s revolutionary trauma. Far too many journalists, academics and politicians stick to the pre-existent narratives they feel comfortable with. They twist and bend reality to fit their discourses; in doing so they sometimes find it necessary to make stuff up. As a matter of course they ignore, or fail to see, lived experience on the ground. In this way they missed the miracle of Syria’s non-sectarian freedom movement, the dominant trend throughout 2011 amongst poorer and ‘religious’ classes as much as among elites. They ignored this sure sign of Syrian political maturity, long before the rise of Salafist militias, in favour of the Orientalist story of eternally and causelessly warring sects. Others cleaved to the Islamophobic story, with its overgeneralising urge, or to the various conspiracy stories, or to the simplistic chess-game-of-states story, in which America is bad, so Russia and Iran must be good. In every case, the Syrian people are written out of the story.

Seldom are they permitted to represent themselves on the world stage, as agents of history, as architects of their own destiny, as contradictory, imperfect, struggling human beings. “Syria Speaks”, in a small way, aims to remedy this imbalance.


Horrible Out-Of-Touch Tips For Poor People

Israel Spin – Mark Regrev

The November 2012 cease fire has been abandoned after 3 Israeli teenagers were killed and a revenge attack on a Palestinian teenager escalated into rocket attacks.
Abandoning the cease fire comes at a time as Israel seeks to continue its strangle hold control as the single energy producer for the region. Egypt, the wold’s largest Arab populace is almost completely reliant on Israel for energy. This may be seen by Hamas as a reason for not using an Egyptian intermediary in continued peace talks with Israel and as a method to stop further Israeli control in the energy sector of the Arab nations.

Mark Regrev is the Israeli Prime Ministers spokesperson…he is speaking here with Australian Television 14th July 2014.
His well practised spin is like a sing song prayer, hypnotising the watcher like some vaudeville character.


thedigitalfolklore | juillet 14, 2014 à 5:55   | Catégories: URL:


How Netanyahu provoked this war with Gaza

His antagonism to all Palestinians – to Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority no less than to Hamas – started and steadily fueled the chain reaction that led to the current misery.

On Monday of last week, June 30, Reuters ran a story that began:


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Hamas on Monday of involvement, for the first time since a Gaza war in [November] 2012, in rocket attacks on Israel and threatened to step up military action to stop the strikes.

So even by Israel’s own reckoning, Hamas had not fired any rockets in the year-and-a-half since “Operation Pillar of Defense” ended in a ceasefire. (Hamas denied firing even those mentioned by Netanyahu last week; it wasn’t until Monday of this week that it acknowledged launching any rockets at Israel since the 2012 ceasefire.)

So how did we get from there to here, here being Operation Protective Edge, which officially began Tuesday with 20 Gazans dead, both militants and civilians, scores of others badly  wounded and much destruction, alongside about 150 rockets flying all over Israel (but no serious injuries or property damage by Wednesday afternoon)?

We got here because Benjamin Netanyahu brought us here. He’s being credited in Israel for showing great restraint in the days leading up to the big op, answering Gaza’s rockets with nothing more than warning shots and offering “quiet for quiet.” But in fact it was his antagonism toward all Palestinians – toward Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority no less than toward Hamas – that started and steadily provoked the chain reaction that led to the current misery.

Israeli tanks on the border with Gaza. (photo: Activestills)

And nobody knows this, or should know it, better than the Obama administration, which is now standing up for Israel’s “right to defend itself.”

It was Netanyahu and his government that killed the peace talks with Abbas that were shepherded by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry; the Americans won’t exactly spell this out on-the-record, but they will off-the record. So a week before those negotiations’ April 29 deadline, Abbas, seeing he wasn’t getting anywhere playing ball with Israel and the United States, decided to shore things up at home, to end the split between the West Bank and Gaza, and he signed the Fatah-Hamas unity deal – with himself as president and Fatah clearly the senior partner. The world – even Washington – welcomed the deal, if warily so, saying unity between the West Bank and Gaza was a good thing for the peace process, and holding out the hope that the deal would compel Hamas to moderate its political stance.

Netanyahu, however, saw red. Warning that the unity government would “strengthen terror,” he broke off talks with Abbas and tried to convince the West to refuse to recognize the emerging new Palestinian government – but he failed. He didn’t stop trying, though. At a time when Hamas was seen to be weak, broke, throttled by the new-old Egyptian regime, unpopular with Gazans, and acting as Israel’s cop in the Strip by not only holding its own fire but curbing that of Islamic Jihad and others, Netanyahu became obsessed with Hamas – and obsessed with tying it around Abbas’ neck. Netanyahu’s purpose, clearly enough, was to shift the blame for the failure of the U.S.-sponsored peace talks from himself and his government to Abbas and the Palestinians.

But it wasn’t working. Then on June 12 something fell into Netanyahu’s lap which he certainly would have prevented if he’d been able to, but which he also did not hesitate exploiting to the hilt politically: the kidnapping in the West Bank of Gilad Sha’ar and Naftali Fraenkel, both 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19.

Netanyahu blamed Hamas for the kidnapping. He said he had proof. To this day, neither he nor any other Israeli official has come forward with a shred of proof. Meanwhile, it is now widely assumed that the Hamas leadership did not give the order for the kidnapping, that it was instead carried out at the behest of a renegade, Hamas-linked, Hebron clan with a long history of blowing up Hamas’ ceasefires with Israel by killing Israelis. Besides, it made no sense for Hamas leaders to order up such a spectacular crime – not after signing an agreement with Abbas, and not when they were so badly on the ropes. Khaled Meshal, while refusing to confirm or deny giving the order, and saying he had no idea of the three boys’ whereabouts, lauded the kidnapping as a means of freeing Palestinian prisoners. This showed a certain moral idiocy on Meshal’s part, and on the part of his audience – the many, many Palestinians who likewise cheered the kidnapping – but it did not show that the Hamas leadership had ordered the deed. And we are still waiting to see that proof.

Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron take part in the search operation for three kidnapped Israeli teenagers, June 18, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/

 Netanyahu used the kidnappings to go after Hamas in the West Bank. The target, as one Israeli security official said, was “anything green.” The army raided, destroyed, confiscated and arrested anybody and anything having to do with Hamas, killed some Palestinian protesters and rearrested some 60 Hamasniks who had been freed in the Gilad Shalit deal, throwing them back in prison.

Meanwhile, in Gaza, Israel had already escalated matters on June 11, the day before the kidnappings, by killing not only a wanted man riding on a bicycle, but a10-year-old child riding with him. Between that, the kidnappings a day later and the crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank that immediately followed, Gaza and Israel started going at it pretty fierce – with all the casualties and destruction, once again, on Gaza’s side only.

Read: ‘They left us no choice’ – On military escalation and its Israeli rationale

And that was basically it. Netanyahu had given orders to smash up the West Bank and Gaza over the kidnapping of three Israeli boys that, as monstrous as it was, apparently had nothing to do with the Hamas leadership. Thus, he opened an account with Israel’s enemies, who would wish for an opportunity to close it.

On June 30, the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli boys were found in the West Bank. “Hamas is responsible, Hamas will pay,” Netanayhu intoned. That payment was delayed by the burning alive of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, 15, which set off riots in East Jerusalem and Israel’s “Arab Triangle,” and which put Israel on the defensive. It probably encouraged the armed groups in Gaza to step up their rocketing of Israel, while Netanyahu kept Israel’s in check. Then on Sunday, as many as nine Hamas men were killed in a Gazan tunnel that Israel bombed, saying it was going to be used for a terror attack. The next day nearly 100 rockets were fired at Israel. This time Hamas took responsibility for launching some of the rockets – a week after Netanyahu, for the first time since November 2012, accused it of breaking the ceasefire.

And the day after that, “Operation Protective Edge” officially began. By Wednesday afternoon, there were 35 dead and many maimed in Gaza, Israelis were ducking rockets, and no one can say when or how it will end, or what further horrors lie in store.

Netanyahu could have avoided the whole thing. He could have chosen not to shoot up the West Bank and Gaza and arrest dozens of previously freed Hamasniks (along with hundreds of other Palestinians) over what was very likely a rogue kidnapping. Before that, he could have chosen not to stonewall Abbas for nine months of peace negotiations, and then there wouldn’t have even been a unity government with Hamas that freaked him out so badly – a reaction that was, of course, Netanyahu’s choice as well.

But Israel’s prime minister is and always has been at war with the Palestinians – diplomatically, militarily and every other way; against Abbas, Hamas and all the rest – and this is what has guided his actions, and this is what provoked Hamas into going to war against Israel.

Live blog: Escalation in Gaza – July 2014
Dispatch from Gaza: You can never be emotionally ready
Why Netanyahu will lose this Gaza war, too

Newsletter banner 6 -540


Blog at

Up ↑