In response to the recent vote in the General Synod of the Church of England to support closer ties with EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel), I was involved in writing this response on behalf of the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and Region which was subsequently sent to Christian magazines as an open letter:
The Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and Region expresses its great disappointment at the result of the vote in the General Synod to support EAPPI (the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel).
Whereas it is perfectly legitimate for any Church or religious body to question or criticise the actions of the UK government or any foreign government for that matter, as a question of conscience, it is alarming in the extreme to see the established Church of England support an organisation which itself associates with individuals and organisations whose motivation is not that of human rights or religious conscience, but of demonization and deligitimisation of the State of Israel.
This was reflected in the tone and content of some of the speeches made at the Synod. The debate at Synod was littered with references to ‘powerful lobbies’, the money expended by the Jewish community, ‘Jewish sounding names’ and the actions of the community ‘bringing shame on the memory of victims of the Holocaust’.
This is deeply offensive and raises serious questions about the motivation of those behind the motion.
The content of the EAPPI website itself is rife with uncontextualised allegations, witness and declaration whilst giving but lip service to balance, historical perspectives and disputed legalities.
The Church of England would do well, if not better, to concentrate its efforts, and lead on the parlous situation of Christian communities in the Palestinian Arab Territories and throughout the Middle East where they are subject to attack, abuse, dispossession, forced conversions, expulsion and murder not at the hands of Jews but of Muslims.
It should be noted that Israel is the only country in the Middle East whose Christian community is growing.
Our Council which only last week joined in the celebrations connected with the establishment of the Council of Christians and Jews 70 years ago will continue its interfaith work with the Church of England in Manchester with whom it has strong and highly valued ties; but this relationship has been severely damaged by this vote.
We especially thank the Bishop of Manchester Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch for his opposition to the motion and for his deep understanding of the real issues.
I have emphasised the area under discussion but I believe this topic merits more than one blog post.
I read today in YnetNews
The Orthodox Christian Church in the Gaza Strip is claiming that a group of armed Islamists kidnapped five Christian Palestinians, a young man and a mother and her three daughters, to force them to convert to Islam.
In a statement, the church said that “the dangerous Islamist movement is trying to convince Christian men and women to convert to Islam, destroying Christian families and the Christian presence in the Gaza Strip.”
The church refused to divulge the name of the Islamist group it accused of these attempts.
The head of the Gaza church claimed that one of the Christians was abducted on Saturday after he had been heavily pressured to convert to Islam and had been prevented from seeing his family. According to the leader, the young man’s parents filed a police complaint, but the police did nothing after learning that the person behind the alleged kidnappers was a senior cleric identified with Hamas.
This reinforces my emphasised text above written before this story. All over the Arab world and within the Palestinian Authority Christians are under attack. In Bethlehem they are leaving or being forced out not by Israelis but by Muslims who intimidate them and appropriate property; in Egypt the Copts have been under attack. In Syria; in Iraq the Christian population is all but gone after centuries. Caroline Glick in the Jerusalem Post reviewed the situation last year.
So where is the EAPPI equivalent in these countries? Where are the Synod resolutions? What is the Church doing about it? Which governments are they protesting to? Which NGO’s have they set up to investigate?
As usual, it’s only Israel and the Jews who are subject to a level of scrutiny Israel alone in the Middle East would tolerate.
Meanwhile the in Israel the Christian community is the only one in the Middle East that is growing and the only one that feels safe and whose religious rights and practices are protected not just by law but in fact.
Watching the news coming out of Syria daily, the reports off 5000 dead troops firing on unarmed protestors, cities being shelled, the wounded dragged from hospitals, I couldn’t help notice how little outrage has been evident within the very righteous anti-Zionist community.
Whenever Israel is in conflict with Hamas, defending its citizens from rocket attack or intercepting ships which seek to break Israel’s maritime blockade of the Gaza strip, we can expect marches, demonstrations, statements of solidarity with the Palestinians, Hamas and Hizbullah, headline news articles, debates in Parliament, public meetings, a Twitter deluge of anti-Zionist hatred, outrage in The Guardian and the full panoply of anti-Israel hatred orchestrated against it.
Yet, what do we see? Despite condemnation in Parliament and daily news reports with horrendous images of the dead and abused, including women and children, there have been no demonstrations in London or any siege of the Syrian embassy.
Does it not strike you as a little odd that so many people are motivated by outrage to take to the streets to take sides in a conflict in the Middle-East when Israel is involved, but when a tyrannical regime is suppressing democracy by declaring war on its own civilians, the same people who are so self-righteously opposed to anything Israel does are mute.
Where is the Syrian Solidarity Campaign? Where is the Free Syria Movement?
Could it be perhaps that when Israelis and, therefore, Jews are killing Muslims as part of an on-going existential conflict, this is not acceptable to the sensibilities of those take the side of Muslims in that conflict, for the declared reason that it is all about justice and historical wrongs? But when Muslim is killing Muslim (and – would it be too mischievous to suggest – when Muslim is killing Christian) this is of less importance for multitudes of the self-righteous, anti-israel activists.
Perish the thought. Yes, perish the thought that it is the Jewish element of the conflict rather than the righteousness of the cause that is at the heart of all that breast-beating and outraged indignation.
After all, if it were all about saving the innocent, then the pro-Pal/anti-Israel brigade would be out on the streets with the same anger and violence of expression calling for the destruction of the Syrian dictatorship and the implementation of a democratic government.
But they don’t, do they?
On Naksa day, June 5th, Palestinians and Arabs have recently decided to commemorate the day that the 6 Day War started and which they lost. The war that led to the loss of the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula.
On Sunday hundreds of Syrians tried to cross the Israeli border at Majdal Shams and Quneitra.
After the experience of the Nakba Day riots on the same border the IDF were better prepared to repulse these invaders.
Various news reports from Israel (foreign reporting is not allowed in Syria) showed images of the IDF firing live ammunition and tear gas.
Syria has reported 20 dead and 350 injured.
Israel is condemned again.
The Israelis say their procedure was to fire over the heads of the rioters, then fire tear gas, where that was practical, and if all else failed, to fire at the legs of the invaders.
I have seen no evidence that the IDF killed a single invader.
Reports say that the Syrians were stupid enough to throw Molotov cocktails towards the border which started fires which led to Syrian landmines exploding and causing injuries.
Yet we have not seen a single Syrian news report of these casualties, their funerals, interviews etc (as far as I know).
Because the media accept the word of a Syrian regime currently involved in murdering hundreds of its own citizens and repeat this over and over, it is now accepted wisdom that Israel killed ‘innocent’ Syrians.
So where are the Israeli efforts to rebut these reports?
Why do they allow these lies, if lies they be, to propagate?
Where is there version of events? Where the news conference?
It’s the Mavi Marmara all over again.
No doubt in a year’s time we’ll see the evidence that no-one was killed by Israelis. When it’s too late and the damage is already done.
When will they ever learn?
I have been given permission by a correspondent to publish this exchange of emails with Jim Bollan, the Scottish Socialist Party councillor who proposed a blanket boycott of Israeli goods in 2009.
This boycott has recently caused much debate in the Jewish pres and blogosphere.
Let’s see where your sympathies lie.
I have been asked to withhold the name of the correspondent.
Sent: Sunday, 5 June 2011, 18:46
Subject: I’m puzzled
I’m so sorry to read about your boycott against Israel. As a Scottish Israeli I find it shameful to read of book boycotts and the like form your council. As you know, Israel is the only democracy in this region and without it there would be a swathe of undemocratic countries from Africa to Asia that give women, gays and many, many others no rights at all.
Why would you not want this little country to exist, I wonder?
Please take the time to explain your point of view to me….
On 5 Jun 2011, at 20:56, Jim Bollan wrote:
Please read the information on the Council’s website to understand our actual position not what you perceive it to be. The Council’s BDS policy was unanimously agreed as a result of the murder of over 1,000 innocent Palestinians in Gaza by the IDF in 2009. No doubt you will have seen the news today that there has been another 11 extra judicial killings of Palestinians on the border with Syria. Can you point out to me where I said “I do not want this little country to exist”?
To: Jim Bollan <email@example.com>
Sent: Sunday, 5 June 2011, 19:57
Subject: Re: I’m puzzled
To answer your last point first: by promoting BDS you are clearly aligning yourselves with those who want to destroy Israel step by step. Boycotts are extreme action by people who actually want to eliminate an entity. Check this out.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifZLk6Ei9-U&feature=youtu.be
There’s nothing wrong with criticising Israel – I have plenty criticisms of my own….. but Israel pulled out of Gaza, leveled the settlements and in return received thousands of rockets on towns and cities in the South. I assure you that it was not the intention of Israel to harm innocent people, but, as happens in all wars, civilians were killed and sadly many were killed because Hamas was using civilians as human shields, placing missile launchers in school and homes. Tell me, how would you react to years of rockets fired on Dumbartonshire (sic)?
As far as events on today’s border - those who approached the border were clearly warned – in Arabic – but they chose to violate the border nevertheless. Shame on their leaders. Once again if thousands of demonstrators were trying to penetrate the Scottish border would you not expect the armed forces to react?
Can you tell me where your concern is for the 1,500 killed in Syria over the past few weeks? And what about those killed in Libya? Do you have concerns for human rights in Iran, in North Korea, China etc. etc. etc.? Do you not want to boycott these regimes or is it only Israel who warrants a boycott ? I am trying to understand your reasoning.
If you really cared and were interested in solving the conflict in this area you would applaud the present Israeli government which has voiced acceptance of a 2 state solution and you would be demanding/pushing/encouraging both sides to get to the negotiating table right away rather than denigrating Israel and hailing Hamas.
On 5 Jun 2011, at 22:08, Jim Bollan wrote:
Boycotts are non violent unlike the IDF who murdered another 11 unarmed innocent Palestinians today on the border with Syria. Surely a civilised Country that Israel considers itself to be should have arrested these unarmed demonstrators and put them in front of a Court to be tried?
To: Jim Bollan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Monday, 6 June 2011, 17:00
Subject: Re: I’m puzzled
Concerning boycotts: BDS may be non-violent, but their aim (as I’m sure you’re aware) is to delegitimize Israel and ultimately destroy it. BDS campaigners have announced that their goal is the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state, not a change of policy. Anyway, the decision of your council to boycott Israel was made two and a half years ago and so the events of yesterday are not relevant to that decision.
You are very emotive in the terms you use to describe what happened yesterday. ‘Murder’: totally wrong; ‘innocent’: totally right. Categorical; black and white; nothing in between.
Israel has the right, like every other country in the world, to defend its borders and to keep out invaders either violent or otherwise. The Syrian government set up these demonstrations beforehand – as they did with the ‘Nakba’ day demonstrations – and stirred up its people to violate the borders. This was an action encouraged by the Syrians to detract from its own atrocities of recent weeks, and that tactic certainly seems to have worked for you, Mr Bollan.
As you will no doubt have seen on the news reports, there were thousands of protestors moving towards the Israeli border in a calculated strategy to breach that border in what was clearly a hostile act. They proceeded despite numerous warnings, both verbal and by shots fired in the air. Attempts by the IDF to disperse the crowd by non-violent means did not deter them. The youths were not innocent or unarmed. They fired sling shots, threw Molotov cocktails and hurled stones. It was a calculated, coordinated action against Israel to which huge crowds of Palestinians responded. Live fire was used only as a last resort. ‘Murder’? ‘innocent and unarmed’? Don’t be so naive.
Incidentally, note the difference of approach by the Lebanese government: they declared the border area a closed military zone and….no casualties!
You didn’t answer my previous questions. I will rephrase them for you:
Why is it only Israel out of all the countries in the world that you boycott?
Why do you you not condemn Syria for killing over 1,500 of its own people over the past few weeks? Or Iran/Saudi Arabia/N. Korea/China…..and so on?
Why do you not recognise Israel’s right to defend its borders?
And lastly: do you believe the state of Israel has a right to exist? A simple yes or no, please.
On 6 Jun 2011, at 19:35, Jim Bollan wrote:
All 23 were killed on the Syrian side of the border, not one crossed the fence. They were throwing rocks and garbage over the fence. They were unarmed. In my book that is extra judicial killing, ie murder. Why don’t you approach your local Councillor/Representative and urge them to bring forward a BDS motion to your local Council to boycott Syria?
To: Jim Bollan <email@example.com>
Sent: Monday, 6 June 2011, 18:32
Subject: Re: I’m puzzled
I find bizarre that you swallow the Syrian narrative without a question. But since you give that regime such credence, here’s what Al-Thawra, Syria, reported June 6, 2011: ’Ahmad Amin, who was wounded in his attempt to break throughthe Syria-Israel border on Naksa Day yesterday, said that many of his friends had hoped to die as martyrs on the land of the Golan Heights. He promised to try again to cross the border, until all the occupied Arab lands are liberated.’ Um, peaceful protests? Just throwing garbage? I think not.
And….. why are you so reticent in answering my questions?
PS The emails between us have been interesting. It’s obviously we’re not going to agree but I have one piece of advice for you: don’t believe anything the Israelis say, if you so choose, but do yourself and your constituents a favour and at least question the narrative you’re being fed from the Arab side.
On 6 Jun 2011, at 20:37, Jim Bollan wrote:
I do, on a regular basis. I make my own mind up on what is right and wrong, after analysis based on my beliefs and principles.
To: Jim Bollan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Monday, 6 June 2011, 18:44
Subject: Re: I’m puzzled
I know politicians have the gift of evasion but I’ll try once more: can you please answer the questions I asked you?
Jim Bollan wrote:
You may not always like the answers you get to questions but I think that is more to do with the answers you receive…are not to your liking.
Now, is it just me, or do you think that the councillor did not satisfactorily provide answers to the questions?
Maybe this little delicacy posted by CifWatch might throw some light on Mr Bollan and his politics:
Amjad Awad, one of the two suspects from the West Bank village of Awarta who acknowledged breaking into the Fogel family residence in Itamar, back in March, and stabbing to death the parents, Udi and Ruth, and three of their children (4-year-old Elad, 11-year-old Yoav and three-month-old baby Hadas) said the following to reporters in court, recently, per The Jerusalem Post:
“I don’t regret what I did, and would do it again,” Amjad Awad told reporters in court. “I’m proud of what I did and I’ll accept any punishment I get, even death, because I did it all for Palestine,”
Chilling doesn’t begin to describe the hate which would allow someone to lack even the most elementary sense of remorse for murdering children while they sleep.
Yet, there will always be extreme Israel haters who manage to contextualize such crimes and, if not outright justifying them, find a way to ask, as Ben White did about the rise of anti-Semitism, if such homicidal Jew hatred could at least be “understandable”.
Here’s the response by Jim Bollan, West Dunbartonshire Council member and fierce proponent of his council’s boycott of all Israeli goods, to an anti-boycott activist who forwarded him the Jerusalem Post story cited above:
Jim Bollan is truly the quintessential Israel hater – never able to summon genuine and unqualified moral outrage at the death of innocent Jewish civilians (even infants) without asserting a moral equivalence, and suggesting that there must be a good reason why such terrorists committed the horrific crimes they did.
The Hamas-loving Bollan is simply a poster child for the mendacity of the BDS movement.
There is actually zero evidence that any Syrians (there is no evidence they were Palestinains) were killed by the IDF.
If Cllr Bollan has any evidence of Palestinian children being slaughtered by the IDF as a deliberate act of murder, then I’d like to see it.
More importantly, if someone is justified to murder a Jewish family because of the actions of its army, then surely he would understand the 7/7 attacks, the 9/11 atrocities and also would understand, as someone commented on the CifWatch article, if Jews all over Europe murdered innocent German and Polish and Russian and Lithuanian babies in their beds because of the actions of those countries’ armed forces in the 1940′s
Of course, no such actions ever happened nor would they. No one goes around Ireland murdering innocent Catholic babies because the IRA bombs blew up innocent Protestant children.
Cllr Bollan demonstrates his complete moral destitution and a chilling ideology which resonates well with those dark forces, especially in the Middle East and especially amongst Israel’s neighbours, who would destroy that country and kill all Jews. I don’t suspect this is what Cllr Bollan supports, but it’s what the forces he appears to be sympathising with are bent on achieving.
Maybe the good people of West Dunbartonshire will think carefully about who they elect next time.
Today saw the commemoration of what Palestinians call the Nakba, the catastrophe, which happens to be the anniversary of the Declaration of the State of Israel in 1948.
In scenes unprecedented in history thousands of people in Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, East Jerusalem and even Jordan have tried to cross the border into Israel apparently to demonstrate their so-called ‘Right of Return’. In Tel Aviv an Arab drove two kilometres trying to hit everything in sight and screaming ‘Death to the Jews’ (note ‘Jews’, not ‘Israelis’) killing one man and injuring several others.
Several people were apparently killed by IDF gunfire and at the border with Gaza tank rounds were used.
In Ankara, Turkey and even in Athens, Greece, where you’d think they would have other things to demonstrate about, protests have taken place and Israeli embassies targeted.
I did not intend to write about this particular event, as important as it is. However, it underlines the fact of continued Palestinian rejectionism. As Jonathan Tobin has pointed out :
Nakba Day should illustrate that it is not the eviction of the Jews from parts of the West Bank that has inspired Palestinian Arab nationalism but the notion that Jewish sovereignty anywhere in the country is unacceptable.
Estimates of the number of Palestinians who would claim a Right of Return (or compensation) vary, but it is somewhere between 4 and 7 million and, of course, growing.
The notion that somehow Israel could absorb 7 million people, let alone return them to their putative homes and property is absurd. That doesn’t matter. They are not interested in returning to No. 10 Habibi Street or 17a Jaffa Road.
No, their goal is the same as it has always been: destroy the State of Israel, kick out 5 million Jews and create a Palestinian State from ‘The River to the Sea’. A single, Islamist, authoritarian entity to replace Israel.
The ‘Return’ of a large number of Palestinians would result in Israel no longer being a state where the Jews remain a majority in charge of their own destiny. The goal of a single Islamic state, yet another in the region, would be achieved and the ‘Zionist Project’ would be history.
The sad fact is that so many on the Left in Europe believe that a one state solution will solve the problem and immediately result in the end of the Arab’s grudge against Israel and the West.
They are deluded.
The justification for the idea of a Nakba and a Right of Return comes from two false narratives.
The first is that Jews ‘stole the land’ from something called Palestine, a mythical Muslim state in cis-Jordanic Mandate Palestine. The Jews attacked the Arabs, driving them out and stealing their land forcing them to be refugees in surrouding countries and in Gaza and the West Bank.
This is a gross distortion of history. The Arab League rejected a two-state solution in 1947 and when the Jewish State was declared armies from surrounding nations attacked the nascent state.
Although many Arabs were driven out, many more left from fear or because they were encouraged to leave whilst the armies of the Arab League mopped up the Jews and drove them into the sea.
Unfortunately for these refugees the Arab league never delivered. Much of the land that had been offered as part of an Arab, Palestinian State was now in the hands of the Israelis.
Then something extraordinary happened; the UN created an Agency to deal only with refugees from the conflict of 1948. This is UNRWA or the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
UNWRA’s own website tells us:
UNRWA’s services are available to all those living in its area of operations who meet this definition, who are registered with the Agency and who need assistance. The descendants of the original Palestine refugees are also eligible for registration. When the Agency started working in 1950, it was responding to the needs of about 750,000 Palestine refugees. Today, 4.8 million Palestine refugees are eligible for UNRWA services. (my emphasis)
Thus, uniquely, amongst all the millions of refugees in the world. descendants of Palestinian refugees are also given refugees status with no end date applicable. So in another 60 years there could be 100 million refugees and they would all claim that they have a right to live in Israel and claim back their putative property.
And these refugees were created as a result of an aggressive act by their own people (the Arab nation under the auspices of the Arab League as there was no idea of a separate Palestinian State in 1948).
Let us remember that Israel accepted the partition plan (UN General Assembly Resolution 181) that would have given them a small fraction of what they were promised (by the League of Nations under International Law in 1922), but the Arabs rejected it on behalf of the Palestinian Arabs, and then attacked Israel.
The second false narrative is that there is a Right of Return for these refugees based on UN resolution 194 Article 11:
Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible; Instructs the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation, and to maintain close relations with the Director of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees and, through him, with the appropriate organs and agencies of the United Nations;
As the Zionism-Israel website tells us:
UN General Assembly Resolution 194 called for return of refugees who were willing to live in peace with their neighbors. Jewish refugees, including refugees from Palestinian Arab areas and hundreds of thousands of others expelled from Arab lands, were absorbed into Israel and did not claim refugee status. Arab refugees were placed in camps.
Please point out to me a specific ‘Right of Return’ in Article 11, and where does it mention descendants in perpetuity are entitled to refugee status. In the Zionism-Israel article cited above the Right of Return was specifically excluded despite recommendations by Count Folk Bernadotte, the UN mediator murdered by Jewish extremists.
The cited article also points out that there was no specific mention of Arab refugees. It referred to all refugees included Jews who fled from the area now known as the West Bank which came under Jordanian control until 1967 and included East Jerusalem which was ethnically cleansed of Jews by the Jordanians.
And, most importantly, even if there were a Right of Return specifically for Arab refugees mentioned in Resolution 194 Article 11, General Assembly resolutions are not binding in international law. Israel has no obligation whatsoever to provide such a right.
For a full discussion of the putative Palestinian Right of Return I recommend you read the cited article.
But here is the point of the title of this article. There was a Jewish ‘nakba’ which no-one ever hears about very often if at all.
Estimates of Palestinian refugees vary from 450,000 to 750,000.
800-900,000 Jews were expelled from several Arab states and stripped of their property and assets in 1948, and immediately in the aftermath of the creation of Israel, for no other reason than they were Jews.
Many of these fled to Israel where they were absorbed.
Today, the inestimable Michelle Huberman of Harif organised an event in London “The Jewish Nakba, Remembering Jewish refugees from Arab Countries”. This organisation is dedicated to having the issue of Jewish refugees and their narrative recognised and acknowledged.
Communities right across the Arab world from Algeria to Iraq were wiped out; some of these communities could trace their roots back more than 2000 years.
I recommend that you read Sir Martin Gilbert’s fine history: “In Ishmaels’ House” which deals with the Jewish nakba in its final chapters.
This is why I believe those who suffered the enormity of these events deserve compensation; they attacked no-one, they may or may not have been Zionists, they were generally content to continue their tight-rope existence in Arab lands where many were successful, wealthy, educated, property owning and asset rich.
How did they deserve to be deprived of citizenship, stripped of their assets and their property? What crime did they commit? The crime of being a Jew. That eternal crime which has been punished for centuries.
And they want to punish us still.
That punishment is their version of justice. The perceived grievance of the original 750,000 bloated to 4.5 million or more. Yet the 800,000 or so Jews and their descendants are only now being recognised as the other half to this cruel equation. Indeed, the Israeli government has quite rightly stated that no final peace can be made with the Palestinians without compensation for the Arab Jews.
The compensation and the recognition of this injustice against Mizrachi and Arab Jews is long overdue; and it is a much stronger claim than the Palestinians, many of whom had only moved relatively recently from surrounding countries and fled, or were victims of Israeli action as a result of their own people’s aggression.
Yet, in this Looking Glass world we now live in, the Jews and their grievances are valued at nought whilst the Palestinians must be rewarded and compensating for 60 years of self-victimhood and an aggressive war of extermination.
OK, despite the title, no doubt, at some time in the distant future, hopefully, when there is a final settlement that does not involve the destruction of Israel, Palestinians will be rewarded for their extraordinary patience and, as George Galloway might say, their ‘indefatigability’. I do not wish to suggest that they have not suffered or that Israel is blameless, but unless and until they recognise their own guilt and allow Jews to live in their homeland on a sliver of land called Israel, they do not deserve any compensation at all.
The post, written in March, tells us about how in February 1982 the Syrian army enter the city of Hama in central Syria to hunt down anti-Ba’athists.
The anti-Ba’athists were in fact mainly what we would now call ‘Islamists’, some affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood. This group had already revolted in the past in order to bring down the government of Hafez Assad, the father of the current President of Syria.
These rebel insurgents in Hama were Sunni Muslims. When they attacked and killed Syrian soldiers hunting down the regimes political enemies, what followed was a true massacre of medieval proportions and brutality.
The Syrian army went on a killing spree not just against insurgents but the whole city. In scenes reminiscent of the Nazis who razed whole towns in the Second World War, government forces killed between 10,000 and 40,000 people, men women and children. Exact figures are hard to come by but most commentators now believe that 40,000 is nearer the mark than 10,000.
The city was surrounded and shelled for three weeks. Scenes of unspeakable acts of mutilation and mass executions were reported.
The world did nothing. The Syrian regime remained. The uprising was limited to Hama, and the Muslim Brotherhood was eliminated in Syria, either going to ground or scattering to neighbouring countries, the USA and Great Britain.
Over the past few weeks we have seen that Hafez Assad taught his son, Bashar, well.
A generation later the insurgents have returned. This time they are not necessarily Islamists but from a wide spectrum of Syrian society determined to put an end to decades of the Assad dynasty. What these latterday insurgents want is not always clear, but political rights and greater freedoms are on their agenda. One assumes.
The reaction of the current President Assad is to behave like his father. He, too, is prepared to use tanks and bombs against his own citizens, indiscriminately, to fire on unarmed demonstrators, arrest and detain thousands.
This time it is not just the residents of Hama who are rising up, but also Deraa, Baiyas, Aleppo and Homs. Even the Damascus region has tanks on the streets of its towns.
Not 40,000 dead this time but, according to best estimates about 800. So far, but it could get a loss worse and probably will.
There is a striking comparison to be made between the siege of Deraa where its people have no-one to protect them and Misrata in Libya.
For weeks the Libyan army has pounded the people of Misrata, the front line of the rebel advance. Yet these insurgents are armed and are protected by the most sophisticated air force in the world – that of Nato aided by a few Qataris representing the Arab League.
So what is the difference between Libya and Syria?
According to pundits, the Arabs agreed via the UN Security Council and Resolution 1973 to ‘invite’ Nato to protect Arabs from other Arabs because even this roll-call of oppressive regimes could not stomach the spectacle of Gaddafi killing his own people.
Yet when it comes to Syria not one of them has so much as whispered disapproval. Not the Saudis, not the Egyptians who are now supposed to be paragons of democracy, not the Jordanians and not Assad’s good friends the Turks (until today) and the Iranians (“no need for intervention”).
No international intervention has materialised because the Arabs appear to value the blood of Libyans above that of Syrians, and the UN can just issue its usual mumbled toothless condemnations.
The EU, meanwhile, proclaims sanctions. Big deal.
Apparently, it’s a different situation to Libya because Assad still has the support of his people. Did anyone take a poll in Libya and Syria to determine which regime had most popular support?
The simple truth is that Syria is a ‘player’ a regional power which bestrides the geographic and political ground between Turkey and Iran. Libya, on the other hand, apart from a bit of oil, is of little strategic importance and Gaddafi’s heyday of state terrorism, WMD, assassinations, racism and islamisation are largely in the past.
The recent Arab Spring has shown to what lengths the regimes in the region are prepared to go to preserve power and hegemony; whether it is the racist pragmatist Gaddafi or the Bahraini sheiks, the Ba’athists in Syria or the Shi’ites in Yemen.
Let’s not forget the hundreds who died in Egypt before we proclaim this was a bloodless ‘revolution’.
Despite the West’s wishful thinking that all these Arab uprisings will lead to democracy and the New Millenium, due to the very nature of the regimes in these countries, we have no idea of the motivations, political leanings or any future political outcomes resulting from these uprisings. The West assumes that if you through the pack in the air it will land as a perfect House of Cards, but revolutions and seismic political events leave vacuums into which other dark forces can come which are even more inimical to West and western values.
And in this maelstrom, at the eye of this storm, is Israel being encouraged to make a deal with a Fatah-Hamas coalition to introduce another murderous, undemocratic, Islamist, Jew-hating regime in the region.
An opportunity not to be missed.
I had to laugh at BBC Middle East reporter Jeremy Bowen’s take on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt on the BBC News website:
Unlike the jihadis, it does not believe it is at war with the West. It is conservative, relatively moderate and non-violent. But it is highly critical of Western policy in the Middle East.
Bowen completely ignores the fact that Mubarak has been suppressing any whiff of Islamism, fearing just the sort of uprising from the extremists that the pro-democracy activists are now engaged in. He misses the point that the Brotherhood is patient and lies low, even now, to later pounce and develop a new highly dangerous, anti-Western, anti=Israel and anti-Christian policy when it can wield power and influence over the people.
The contrast between Bowen’s apparent laid back attitude to the threat of the Brotherhood and his views on the Netanyahu government in Israel as ‘right-leaning’ is marked.
Bowen ignores the effect on Israel of a Hizbullah/Iranian proxy in Lebanon, Iranian-backed Hamas in Gaza, Al Qaeda linked Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and, no doubt, a terrified King Abdullah in Jordan who, at least, can flee to Britain should the worse come to the worse.
Will the Palestinians in the West Bank then be emboldened to raise a third intifada and oust Palestinian Authority President Mohmoud Abbas, replace him with Hamas and bring more international outrage on Israel’s head for defending itself?
Meanwhile, in Damascus, President Assad lies waiting for his big chance to seize back the Golan.
Bowen seems somewhat sanguine about the Domesday scenario since he ignores it completely.
Maybe he is easily fooled by the term ‘Brotherhood’,
One thing is almost for certain; the Muslim Brotherhood will have some place in the Egyptian government.
Will the Brotherhood be to the new Egyptian government as the Nazis were to Weimar Repuplic in the 1930′s?
Ambassador Leshno Yaar put Israel’s case and told the true story of the Mavi Marmara at the UN Human Rights Council earlier this week.
He reminded the UNHCR of its obsession with Israel.
He describes the 40 ‘hard core activists’ from the IHH who had planned their attack in advance.
He describes the concern of the captain of the ship who said that the IHH were preparing for violence.
He describes how the IIH goal was to reach Gaza or to die as martyrs.
He describes how the IHH were not interested in humanitarian aid. Three of the ships had no aid watsoever.
He describes how Hamas blocked the aid which Israel wanted to send through.
He describes how there was very little food aid on any ship.
He describes how a Lebanese national aboard the flotilla interviewed on Iranian mouthpiece, Press TV, was asked if he was tortured. He replied, “sadly not”.
He describes the thousands of dollars and euros that the IHH were carrying for the Hamas regime.
He describes how when being hailed by the Israeli Navy over the radio, one of the activists replied “Shut up and go back to Auschwitz” and “Don’t forget 9/11″
He describes the shaheed death videos left behind by some activists.
He describes how the UNHCR voted with haste to form a ‘fact-finding body’ to cynically determine Israel’s guilt without even ‘the minimum respect of consulting with Israel’. The UNHCR would not even contemplate such a process for any other country.
He describes how half of the resolutions of the UNHCR have been against Israel.
He refers to the hate-speech of June 8th by a Syrian diplomat which was permitted without allowing a response or receiving sanction, or comment, words which would be considered ‘a criminal hate crime outside this hall’.
He describes the ‘obsessive one-sided’ nature of the UNHCR vis-a-vis Israel.
Yes, Leshno gave it to them good but it will make no difference.
If you are interested in what the Syrian delegate said on June 8th this link will tell you. And you will see the response of Hillel Neuer of UN Watch. The blood libels continue. The YouTube video is below if you can bear to watch.