Petras on Massacre | Baroud on Syria | Palestinian Statehood | New Anti-Semitism | More ..

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The Palestine Chronicle Newsletter

August 02, 2011
featured article
articles_thumbs.jpg Syria: Tired Slogans and a Looming Dawn
Al-Assad is mixing up regional and national narratives.
By Ramzy Baroud

There is no linear narrative capable of explaining the multifarious happenings that have gripped Syrian society in recent months. On March 23, as many as 20 peaceful protesters were killed at the hands of Syrian security forces, and many more were wounded. Since then, the violence has escalated to such a level of brutality and savagery that can only be comparable to the regime’s infamous massacres in the city of Hama in 1982.

Listening to Syrian presidential advisor, Dr. Buthaina Shaaban – one of the most eloquent politicians in the Arab world – one would get the impression that a self-assured reform campaign is indeed under way in Syria. Her words also suggest while some of the protesters’ demands are legitimate, the crisis has been largely manufactured abroad and is being implemented at home by armed gangs bent on wrecking havoc. The aim of the protests, as often suggested by officials, is only to undermine Syria’s leadership in the region and the Arab world at large.

Indeed, Syria has championed, at least verbally, the cause of Arab resistance. It has hosted Palestinian resistance factions that refused to toe the US-Israeli line. Although these factions don’t use Damascus as a starting point for any form of violent resistance against Israel, they do enjoy a fairly free platform to communicate their ideas. Israel, which seeks to destroy all forms of Palestinian resistance, is infuriated by this freedom.

Syria has also supported the Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah, which succeeded in driving Israel out of Lebanon in 2000, and torpedoed Israel’s efforts at gaining political and military grounds in Lebanon in 2006.

This narrative can also demonstrate the viability of its logic through palpable evidence of open or covert attempts at targeting Syria, undermining its leadership of the so-called rejectionist front. The front, which refused to cede to US-Israeli hegemony in the region, had already shrunk significantly following the invasion of Iraq, the surrender of Libya to Western diktats, and the sidelining of Sudan.

More, the Israeli government had been genuinely frustrated when the US failed to target Syria during its regime change frenzy following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. After all, Israel’s faithful neoconservative friends – Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and David Wurmser – had made "containing Syria" a paramount objective in their 1996 policy paper. Entitled "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm", the document was written to help Benjamin Netanyahu in his efforts to suppress his regional foes. It stated that, "given the nature of the regime in Damascus, it is both natural and moral that Israel abandon the slogan ‘comprehensive peace’ and move to contain Syria, drawing attention to its weapons of mass destruction program, and rejecting ‘land for peace’ deals on the Golan Heights".

Syria has also fallen in the range of US-Israeli fire on more than one occasion. The so-called Operation Orchard was an Israeli airstrike with a US green light. It targeted an alleged nuclear reactor in Deir ez-Zor region in September 2007 and an American airborne assault against a Syrian village in October 2008, killing and wounding Syrian civilians.

Although the official Syrian narrative claims that these events alone should justify the army’s harsh crackdown on pro-democracy protests, the rationale is challenged by a history of regime hypocrisy, doublespeak, brutality and real, albeit understated willingness to accommodate Western pressures and diktats.

The Israel occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights in June 1967 didn’t simply affect regional power dynamics, it also ushered the rise of a new political mood in Damascus. It was Hafez Al-Assad, the father of the current president, Bashar, who took full advantage of the shifting mood by overthrowing President Nur Al-Din Al-Atasi. The new narrative was a triumphant one, not aimed merely at recapturing Syrian and other occupied Arab territories from Israel, but also positioning al-Assad’s Baath regime as the leader of the new Arab front. Although the 1973 war failed to liberate the Golan of its invaders, leading to the "disengagement agreement" with Israel in May 1974, the official language remained as fiery and revolutionary as ever. Oddly, for nearly four decades, Syria’s involvement in the conflict remained largely theoretical, and resistance persisted only via smaller Lebanese and Palestinian groups.

It seemed that Syria wanted to be involved in the region only so much as to remain a visible player, but not to the extent of having to face violent repercussions. It was an act of political mastery, one that Hafez crafted in the course of three decades and which Bashar cleverly applied for nearly eleven years. In essence, however, Syria remained hostage to familial considerations, one-party rule and the sectarian classifications initiated by colonial France in 1922.

True, Syria was and will remain a target for Western pressures. But what needs to be realized is that these pressures are motivated by specific policies concerning Israel, and not with regards to a family-centered dictatorship that openly murders innocent civilians in cold blood. In fact, there are many similarities in the pattern of behavior applied by the Syrian Army and the Israeli Army. Reports of causalities in Syria’s uprising cite over 1,600 dead, 2,000 wounded (Al Jazeera, July 27) and nearly 3,000 disappearances (CNN, July 28). Unfortunately, this violence is not new, and is hardy compelled by fear of international conspiracy to undermine the Baath regime. The 1982 Hama uprising was crushed with equal if not greater violence, where the dead were estimated between 10,000 and 40,000.

The Syrian regime is deliberately mixing up regional and national narratives, and it is still exploiting the decades-old political discourse to explain its inhumane treatment of Syrians. Civilians continue to endure the wrath of a single family, backed by a single political party. But there is only one way to read the future of Syria. The Syrian people deserve a new dawn of freedom, equality, social justice, free from empty slogans, self-serving elites and corrupt criminals. Syria and its courageous people deserve better. Much better.

– Ramzy Baroud ( is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London), available on

selected articles
articles_thumbs.jpg Palestine: Conditions of Statehood and Reality of Compromise
By Samah Sabawi

(Presentation given at the forum on Palestine’s bid for statehood and liberation on 28 July 2011. Other …..

articles_thumbs.jpg Syria: Tired Slogans and a Looming Dawn
1312316753assad_bashar_tvfootage.jpg By Ramzy Baroud

There is no linear narrative capable of explaining the multifarious happenings that have gripped Syrian soci…..

articles_thumbs.jpg Fear of Peace: The Israeli Motivator
By Jim Miles

The Weekly Standard, a weekly very conservative web magazine, has recently posted on its blog a short video wit…..

articles_thumbs.jpg The Norwegian Massacre, the State, the Media and Israel
1312235142norway_terror_tv2.jpg By James Petras

‘So let us fight together with Israel, with our Zionist brothers against all anti-Zionists against all cultu…..

articles_thumbs.jpg Museum of Tolerance: Israel’s Blindness
By Lillian Rosengarten

We are by now too familiar with the label anti-Semite aimed towards all who dissent from the deplorab…..

articles_thumbs.jpg September’s Hope?
1311981958beirzeit_checkpoint_tamar_fleishman_small.jpg By Tamar Fleishman

While attending a march of support of the establishment a Palestinian state, a reporter from the Canadian…..

articles_thumbs.jpg The Palestinian Statehood Strategy
By Ali Younes

From the Palestinian perspective, the absence of any meaningful effort to restart the Palestinian-Israeli nego…..

articles_thumbs.jpg The New Anti-Semitism
1311890039norway_racist_guns.jpg By Uri Avnery

The Nazi Propaganda Minister, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, calls his boss, Adolf Hitler, by hell-phone.

‘Mein F…..

articles_thumbs.jpg Brown Skin, White Masks – Book Review
By Ludwig Watzal

(Hamid Dabashi, Brown Skin, White Masks, Pluto, London 2011, 165 p, L 14.99; $ 24,95.)


articles_thumbs.jpg Dershowitz’s Continuum of Civilianality Turns Five
By Belen Fernandez

Five years ago, Israel waged a 34-day war on Lebanon that resulted in the elimination of approximately 1…..

articles_thumbs.jpg Israel is an Apartheid State
1311799163gaza_unrwa_school.jpg By Hasan Afif El-Hasan

Western leaders and media label any Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation as terrorism, bu…..

articles_thumbs.jpg Arab Awakening and Western Media: Time for Revolutionary Discourse
1311800193palestinians_flags_signs_jazeera.jpg By Ramzy Baroud

When President Ali Abdullah Saleh tried desperately to quell Yemen’s popular uprising, he appealed to tribal…..

articles_thumbs.jpg Picasso in Palestine, Israel and United States
1311715405guerinca_piccasso_painting.jpg By Dallas Darling

When it was reported that Picasso’s Buste de Femme arrived in occupied Ramallah, after crossing a number o…..

articles_thumbs.jpg Palestine, Israel, Germany: The Boundaries of Open Discussion
Press Release

Freiburg, Germany – Freedom of speech and expression are recognised by many as primary human rights. However, …..

latest news
bullet.jpg Officials Set Date for ‘Palestine 194’ March
Palestinian officials have said they will begin mass marches against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank on September 20, the eve of a largely symbolic UN vote expected to recognise their independence.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a Palestinian official, said leaders hope to attract millions of people, and the protest will be the first of a prolonged effort.

He said the campaign would be called "Palestine 194" because the Palestinians hope to become the 194th member of the UN.

"The appeal to the UN is a battle for all Palestinians, and in order to succeed, it needs millions to pour into streets," Abed Rabbo said.

With peace talks stalled, the Palestinians have decided to ask the UN to endorse their independence, and plan to ask the Security Council – whose decisions are legally binding – for approval as a full member of the world body.

US and Israeli Opposition

The US opposes the Palestinian initiative and has signalled it will use its veto power in the council to defeat the measure.

That would force the Palestinians to turn to the much larger general assembly, where they will likely receive more than the two-thirds majority that they need.

While a vote there would be symbolic, the Palestinians believe any international endorsement will isolate Israel and improve their position if negotiations resume.

Israeli-Palestinian talks are stalled with the Palestinians refusing to resume negotiations unless Israel halts settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem – claimed by the Palestinians as capital of a future state.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu opposes the UN move and says all issues, including settlements and the borders of a future Palestinian state, must be solved through negotiations.

US mediators have been unable to find a formula to restart talks.

Fears of Unrest

Abed Rabbo said all Palestinian demonstrations would be non-violent, but Israeli security officials have repeatedly expressed concern that mass unrest could quickly turn violent and have appealed to the Palestinians to drop their UN initiative.

Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, Israel’s military chief, warned a parliamentary committee this week that "there is potential for a confrontation in September".

He said the military expects "many thousands of people to conduct a quiet and nonviolent protest" that would move toward Israeli settlements or Israel proper.

"The military will not be able to place the settlements at risk in such cases," Gantz was quoted as saying.

Abed Rabbo said on Monday that Netanyahu had scuttled a secret meeting last week meant to head off the looming diplomatic showdown.

He said Israeli President Shimon Peres called his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, and asked to meet, promising to bring some creative ideas for defusing the crisis.

Abed Rabbo said Abbas travelled to neighbouring Jordan for the meeting last Thursday, but at the last minute, Peres called to cancel, saying that Netanyahu opposed his ideas.

Palestinians Shot

Two Palestinians were shot dead overnight by Israeli soldiers in the Qalandia refugee camp in the West Bank, Palestinian medics and security officials said on Monday.

Moatassem Adwan, 22, and Ali Khalifa, 23, were killed by soldiers as they carried out arrests in the camp on the road from Ramallah to Jerusalem.

An official from the Fatah movement told the AFP news agency that Israeli troops entered the camp at around 3:30am (0030 GMT) and arrested one youth before clashes broke out, with young men throwing stones at soldiers.

The soldiers then opened fire on the stone-throwers, killing two, the official said.

An Israeli military spokeswoman confirmed clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops carrying out an arrest operation in Qalandia refugee camp and said five soldiers were injured in the confrontations.

Hours after the deaths, thousands of mourners packed into Qalandia for the funerals of the two men.

(Agencies via Aljazeera)

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News Topics
bullet.jpg Hamas Rebuilds Ruined Gaza Structures 16:11 08/02/2011
bullet.jpg Israeli Courts Exercise Anti-Arab Bias 16:04 08/02/2011
bullet.jpg Israel, Lebanon Armies Exchange Fire at Border 19:05 08/01/2011
bullet.jpg Israeli Troops Kill Two Palestinians in West Bank 18:59 08/01/2011
bullet.jpg Officials Set Date for ‘Palestine 194’ March 18:52 08/01/2011
bullet.jpg Israel to Extradite Citizen over Srebrenica 18:44 08/01/2011
bullet.jpg PA Spokesman Denies Reports of Negotiations with Israel 19:07 07/29/2011
bullet.jpg Israel Will Not Apologize to Turkey, Says Yaalon 19:05 07/29/2011
bullet.jpg Ex-PA Official Dahlan’s Home Raided 19:03 07/29/2011
bullet.jpg US to Oppose Palestinian UN Bid 17:49 07/27/2011
bullet.jpg China: Israeli Settlements Obstruct Talks 17:41 07/27/2011
bullet.jpg UN Envoy Warns of Profound Deadlock in Peace Talks 17:33 07/27/2011
bullet.jpg Palestinian Authority Faces Cash Shortage 18:12 07/26/2011
bullet.jpg Growing Number of Children with Anxiety Disorders 18:10 07/26/2011
bullet.jpg Two Convicted Collaborators Executed in Gaza 18:08 07/26/2011
bullet.jpg Scottish Aid Convoy Denied Gaza Entry 20:52 07/25/2011
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