This is not strictly about Palestine/ Israel. It is connected. Uri Avnery posts the only rebuttal of the claim that Assad released the poison gas that killed 58-70 Syrians. Avnery doubts this – what would Assad gain? But Syrian sects, Sunni Arab allies, the Gulf Sheikhs and Israel all benefit from the depiction of Assad as a crazed mass murderer. And, as Avnery doesn’t say, how far is the accusation a rebuke to Obama for not having bombed Syria? More questions than answers just now.
With one gesture – not an easy one – the UK earns its medal as a generous asylum for refugees – the 1938 ‘kindertransport’ which brought 9,354 German children to the UK, many of whom ended up working as skivvies or low-paid landworkers. George Kerevan finds no change in British mean-spiritedness towards the desperate.
In a detailed article, Hassan Hassan asks why ISIL has again entered Yarmouk camp and identifies the shifting alliances and rifts amongst the many factions which are defending or trying to gain territory in the region. Hamas has joined in to repel ISIL, Ynet interviews Palestinians trapped in the camp.
The reason for posting several different reports of IDF airstrikes against targets in Lebanon/Syria is that there is no consensus on what the targets were, and why. One suggestion – also made last May – is that Israel wants to find out if any force in those countries has the ability to strike back (no, it seems). Another is that Hezbollah has to be prevented from receiving modern weapons, yet it is also said that because Hezbollah is committed to keeping President Assad in power it has no capacity for opening a new front with Israel. It’s the fog of war – or stormy weather. Perhaps it’s just IDF target practice.
No-one doubts the horror of the situation in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, Syria. Up to 50 people are said to have died of malnutrition. Medicines, cold-weather protection, even fresh water are in short supply. Who is responsible? Some say Assad’s regime, some the Syrian rebels, others the lethal conflict in the camp between Palestinian factions. Without free access to the camp’s residents, the aid agencies are limited in what they can do.
US and Russian foreign ministers said on Friday September 13th that they were exploring ways in which Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal could be destroyed – and move on to ways of starting talks to end Syria’s civil war. President Obama said the the threat of missile attack must remain – and Russia says it is obligated to sell its anti-aircraft missile system to Iran.
The Middle East is criss-crossed by alliances and conflicts which are barely contained by national governments. The chemical attack inside Syria and the threat of western ‘punishment’ have already hugely increased the flow of refugees into neighbouring countries. A missile attack on Syria is predicted to ignite those trans-national alliances and conflicts. Unlike Libya, both sides in Syria have friends.
For decades Syria has been a refuge for Palestinans, hosting the Hamas leaders and housing several hundred thousand in camps supported by UNWRA. But since Hamas abandoned Syria and President Assad in 2012 and successive regime attacks on Yarmouk refugee camp, Palestinians tend to have sided with the Syrian rebels in the name of pan-Arab liberation. Now the threat of western intervention has silenced the Palestinian critics of Assad.
The old axiom has it that the first casualty of war is truth. There is one news story here – about Palestinian casualties of, they say, chemical attack by the Syrian regime, and several photos with captions. The point of these is not to contest the belief that Assad’s regime has committed massacres with poison gas. Rather it is to say that when war fever grips against a defined bad man, normal standards of journalistic accuracy and authentication disappear. Taken together, they amount to a very dodgy dossier.
The high reputation enjoyed by Israel’s secret agencies Mossad and Shin Bet, is largely based on their ability to track and kidnap or assassinate individuals. Other secret operations depend on the scale and interpretation of the intelligence gathering. Those are often flawed and always skewed by Israel’s own fear of and hostility towards all its neighbours. Is this a good basis for a military attack on Syria?
Israel has shown the way, says the NY Times – Syrian air defences can be easily penetrated, so now the West (the USA, with France and the UK) can intervene. Obama is reluctant – who would be helped? Robert Fisk argues that by stopping a weapons supply to President `Assad, the Israelis are directly helping the rebels – which the West has been dithering about doing. All agree on one thing: Israel’s airstrike spreads the conflict beyond any national boundaries.
This posting consists of an article lambasting MPs for their words on Israel rather than Syria, a response by Elizabeth Morley, and further letters to the Jewish Chronicle presenting the arguments and information to which the publication gives no space – despite publishing the occasional protest about its one-sided material. It says it provides all the news about the UK’s Jewish community.
It was inevitable that Palestinian refugees in Syria would be caught up in the civil war there. After rebels took control of the largest refugee camp, at Yarmouk on the outskirts of Damascus, government jets fired rockets into the camp. Palestinians themselves are divided between support for and opposition to the Assad regime.
Since the Emir of Qatar’s visit to Gaza last week, comment has continued on how, where and why Hamas is changing its stance and its alliances. Hugh Naylor says that Hamas’ new alignment with Sunni Muslim countries has broken the anti-Israel, anti-western ‘resistance’ alliance, to which Hamas was affiliated, of Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The division between those who are the ‘global hegemonisers’ and those who are struggling out of their reach was sharply marked last week when the 120 member states of the non-aligned movement (NAM) met at a summit in Tehran. The event was largely ignored by western media – to ostracise Iran, or because they thought it worthless. Netanyahu slammed it as inviting a 2nd genocide of the Jews; Hamas was left out but Palestinians got strong support. Ayatollah Khamenei’s speech may be at odds with the Revolutionary Guard, pious hot air — or the truth.
The International Crisis Group asks a rare question in international relations – how can Hamas move out of the impasse in which it has been frozen for many years? Or should it just stay on the spot waiting for the Arab uprisings to work out in its favour? Many factors are considered, including the loss of its Syrian patron and the pressing demand for Palestinian unity. There are more questions than answers.
The long alliance of Palestinians and Syrians is breaking as Palestinians too feel the brunt of pro-Assad violence. Palestinians are divided over old loyalties and new realities. Sharif Nashashibi warns against supporting Assad as a way of opposing the US and Israel rather than universal human rights.
As predicted, 2 posts below, the EU-Israel Association Council has decided to expand their areas of co-operation even though ‘respect for human rights and democratic principles’ is part of the agreement. Stuart Reigeluth believes the EU side was bedazzled by Lieberman’s talk of Hezbollah, Syria and war. Palestinian human rights groups have jointly condemned the EU’s failure to stand by its own principles.
President Vladimir Putin visited Israel and the West Bank on Monday and Tuesday. He was warmly received by both governments who see him as able to move parts other leaders can’t reach. He gave nothing away in public on Iran and Syria, but let it be known that he praised Mahmoud Abbas for taking a ‘responsible’ position. NY Times and AP.
All forms of government – from monarchies and dynastic republics through formal democracy and theocracy to dictatorships – have felt threatened by the Arab uprisings in the multi-ethnic, multi-faith Middle East. Tony Klug maps the positions – but is stopped short by the toxic effects of the refusal to make progress on the Palestinians’ situation.