First Free Syrian Army Group Sides With Syrian Gov’t Forces – Russian MoD – By Sputnik

A fighter from Free Syrian Army's Al Rahman legion walks near piled sandbags in Ain Tarma, eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria July 17, 2017

© REUTERS / Bassam Khabieh
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The Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria reported that the first large group of Free Syrian Army militants had sided with the Syrian government forces in the Southern deescalation zone.

“On June 22, after talks between the representatives of the Russian reconciliation center and the Syrian authorities with the militants of the Free Syrian Army in the Southern zone of de-escalation, the leader of the Tajammu al-Wiyat al-Omari [Omari Brigades] announced that his group is siding with the Syrian government,” the center said in a statement.

According to the statement, the Omari Brigades leader also stressed that his group will fight against militants from Nusra Front* and Daesh* together with the Syrian army in the south of the country.

“By Friday evening, the first units of the Syrian army entered the settlements of Dama and Ashiyah in the Southern zone of de-escalation,” the document said.

The Syrian military ramped up their operation in the southwest, which might be risky, as both Israel and Jordan are openly nervous about Syrian forces regaining control along with their borders. Israel says there are Iranian forces coming closer to the Golan Heights along with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s troops, posing a danger to the state of Israel, while Jordan, in its turn, is more concerned about dealing with another wave of refugees fleeing southward from the conflict.READ MORE: Syrian Army Steps Up Offensive in Southwest — Reports

Most of the territory of Syria has been liberated by government forces with Russia’s air support, while the remaining terrorist pockets are located in US-controlled areas, including Deir ez-Zor.

READ MORE: Daesh Continues Resistance in Syria Only in US-Controlled Areas — Russian MoD

*Nusra Front, Daesh — terrorist organizations, banned in Russia

 
 

MORE U.S. TREACHERY; SAA LIBERATES 2000 SQ.KMS IN DAYR EL-ZOR; TERRORISTS USE ZIONIST TACTICS TO BURN TREES IN QUNAYTRA; SAA REINFORCEMENTS DEVASTATE RATS IN SUWAYDAA’ – By Ziad Fadel

DAYR EL-ZOR: A large number of towns and villages were liberated the day before yesterday by the Syrian Army from ISIS residual elements.  It was the result of a swift and sudden attack aimed at areas southwest of Al-Mayaadeen in which a confirmed 61 rodents were either killed or wounded.  The numbers are based on an actual on-site assessment since the terrorists had no ability to remove their casualties.  Many of the wounded were taken prisoner and interrogated. All will be tried before a military court.

An area of 2000 square kilometers was completely deloused on the road between Al-Ward Field, Al-Mu’ayzila, Tammaah, and Faydhat Ibn Muwaynis along a 40 km axis.  As I write, the SAA is still dismantling a network of IEDs, mines and other booby-traps laid by the escaping terrorists.  It was interesting to note, that the remaining rodents sped away to the American-protected Al-Tanf area.

Al-Hirri:  For the umpteenth time, the United States was spotted attacking pro-government militias fighting ISIS and moving ever-closer to the Al-Tanf area.  This time, it occurred at Al-Hirri, a few kilometers southeast of Al-Bu-Kamaal close to the crossing at Al-Qaa’im.  The groups hit were Hizbollah of Iraq and Sayyid Al-Shuhadaa` Brigades.  The actual number of dead militiamen is not known, but, according to Monzer in Damascus, it exceeds 20.  The Iraqi government, a so-called ally of the U.S. in the fight against ISIS, first broke the news as American warplanes fired missiles at the military force right in front of Iraqi Army soldiers stationed on the eastern side of Al-Qaa`im.

As many of you have read, the U.S. has now made it clear that it is American policy to stay in the area so that Iran cannot build a passageway to Lebanon.  This was announced by an American State Department apparatchik before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  The U.S. does not care any longer about international law.

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QUNAYTRA: 

احباط محاولة تسلل ارهابيين من أطراف أم باطنة بريف القنيطرة باتجاه بلدة جبا وتل كروم جبا

Zionist and American-supported cockroaches of the Nusra criminal enterprise went on a rampage near the forests of Jubaathaa Al-Khashab by starting fires aimed at destroying orchards on tens of acres of cherries, figs and apples at Hadhar Village.  Many of the trees were 20 years old.  Strong winds and terrorists made it impossible to put out the fires. This is precisely the same policy practiced by the stinking Zionist cockroaches of Occupied Palestine who are known to attack and destroy olive trees which have been on Arab soil for more than one hundred years.

Umm Baatina:  In Central Qunaytra Province, the Syrian Army foiled an attempted infiltration by Nusra grubs in the direction of Jibba and Tal Kuroom.  The Syrian Army confirmed killing or wounding 12 rodents.  Many were seen heading to Zionist medical facilities for treatment.

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DER’AH:  Syria’s new Minister of Defense, former Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen.  ‘Ali ‘Abdullah Ayyoob, met with officers of the SAA just north of Der’ah and reviewed troop preparations before the anticipated frontal assault on Der’ah City which is expected to be relatively easy.  The population of Der’ah is no longer hostile to the government having learned how futile their so-called “revolution” was and how virulent the terrorist organizations had become.

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SUWAYDAA’:  It should be obvious now to the American invaders at Al-Tanf that the Syrian Army is planning to uproot them much sooner than later.  At Al-Kiraa’, Al-Hassaa and Al-Safaa in the southern province of Suwaydaa’, the SAA has sent in huge reinforcements fighting ISIS elements in the area.  Once the area has been cleared, it is expected that the force will move eastward to Al-Tanf.  The reinforcements are, significantly, from units of the Syrian Army’s special forces and Division 62.  Hundreds of troops from the Popular Defense Committees are also a part of the force.

The force will start out at Tal Asfar and Al-‘Awra where the SAA has restructured its bases after 3 days of annihilating ISIS.  ISIS only controls a few pockets in the Suwaydaa’ Desert regions inside extremely rugged terrain, hence, the arrival of special operations units.  The SAA will be operating on three axes:

The first is Tal Asfar to Khirbat Al-Umbaashi to Suh Al-Majeedi (after the SAA liberated the Al-Ashrafiyya School and Al-Ruhba);

The second is at Al-Qassr to Al-Saaqiya to Khirbat Al-Umbaashi and then eastward about 7 kms.

The third is Al-Zuluf to Tulool Al-Safaa, about 10 kms to the north.

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NEWS AND COMMENT:

John Esq. sent us this nice article about a ferocious new Russian weapon:

http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/russias-new-terminator-tank-might-be-able-kill-one-americas-26254

Israel’s secret assassinations – By Rod Such (The Electronic Intifada)

Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations by Ronen Bergman, Random House (2018)

Israeli television recently aired a video of two Israeli soldiers filming themselves in the act of shooting a Palestinian protester at the Gaza boundary while cheering. Filming one’s own crimes against humanity – shooting Palestinians for sport – suggests a sense of security in never being held accountable.

Even more evidence of this impunity is apparent in Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations by veteran Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman, staff writer for The New York Times Magazine.

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court might want to consider this book Exhibit A if Israeli government and military officials are ever indicted for war crimes. It contains open admissions of guilt in plotting and executing extralegal assassinations in violation of international law.

“Since World War II, Israel has assassinated more people than any other country in the Western world,” Bergman writes. In many cases, these so-called targeted killings over the last two decades also involved the deaths of nearly a thousand bystanders, according to Bergman’s calculations – those numbers, however, fail to include the tens of thousands killed in overt acts of war and collective punishment that mostly go unmentioned in this book.

That Israeli officials were willing to be quoted and identify others by name implies a certainty of never being held accountable in a court of law. Consider, for example, the instruction given by former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to Avi Dichter, at that time Shin Bet’s director, in reference to Hamas. Sharon, in an open admission of intent to commit genocide, stated: “Go for it. Kill them all.”

It was not just assassinations. Bergman writes, “‘state security’ was used to justify a large number of actions and operations that, in the visible world, would have been subject to criminal prosecution and long prison terms: constant surveillance of citizens because of their ethnic or political affiliations; interrogation methods that included prolonged detention without judicial sanction, and torture; perjury in the courts and concealment of the truth from counsel and judges.”

Rise and Kill First details the lengthy history of Israeli political assassination, dating back to British Mandate Palestine. It includes the period of the so-called Border Wars (a term used by historian Benny Morris in his book Israel’s Border Wars, 1949-1956), the formation of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the 1960s, the Israeli invasion and occupation of Lebanon in the 1970s, the first and second intifadas in the occupied territories beginning in the 1980s and the ongoing military campaigns against Hizballah, Syria and Iran (the so-called Radical Front) that continue today.

As the decades went on, assassinations became increasingly frequent, in part due to improved surveillance through drones and computer technology, enabling intelligence agencies to carry out hundreds of operations per year as opposed to only a few previously.

“Collateral damage”

The book’s title derives from the Talmudic command that a person has the right to “rise and kill first” as a preemptive measure.

This concept formed both the moral and legal basis for the policy, which many human rights groups consider invalid under international law because execution without trial makes a mockery of due process and erases the distinction between combatants and civilians. Many of the victims were political and even religious figures who were most likely not involved in planning attacks against Israel, Bergman asserts.

The Haganah – the paramilitary precursor to the Israeli army – defined assassinations as “personal terror operations,” targeting leaders of the Palestinian national movement. After 1948 all of Israel’s intelligence agencies, including the military intelligence department Aman, the Mossad and Shin Bet, became involved in extralegal killings.

The assassination policy allowed for the murders of Palestinians and other Arabs simply because they were part of the resistance against Israeli settler colonialism.

The people killed to avenge the holding of hostages and deaths of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich, for example, indicate that Israeli intelligence simply picked out leaders or representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization, not those directly involved in the Black September group that planned the abduction. Palestinian Wael Zuaiter, who was translating One Thousand and One Nights from Arabic to Italian while living in Rome and serving as a local PLO representative, was one of the murder victims, as was a misidentified Moroccan waiter living in Lillehammer, Norway.

That a racist code existed is undeniable, particularly given the distinction Israeli intelligence officials often made between “collateral damage” involving Arabs and non-Arabs: If Arab bystanders or family members might be killed, the operation was still likely to be given the go-ahead; if non-Arab bystanders might die, it was to be avoided. As Bergman notes, “as long as the targets were located in enemy countries, and as long as the innocent civilians were Arabs, the finger on the trigger became quicker.”

Israeli government and intelligence officials even planned the downing of commercial airliners in the hope of assassinating leading PLO officials. Although the plan was never implemented, Israeli officials developed an elaborate scheme to shoot down such aircraft in radar-free zones over the Mediterranean Sea so that discovery of the wreckage would be more difficult and the crime conceivably concealed.

News accounts seized on a separate incident detailed by Bergman in which the planned downing of an aircraft believed to be carrying PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat was narrowly averted in 1982. The plane was carrying wounded Palestinian children, and Arafat was not aboard.

Missing the point

Many of Bergman’s revelations are so shocking that one wonders why an apparently loyal Israeli journalist would expose them. But he is hardly the first reporter to venture into the realm of exposing the secrets of intelligence agencies, even if they tarnish the state’s carefully cultivated image.

The rationale is usually that the documented crimes represent “mistakes” that the exposé hopefully corrects without fundamentally challenging the nature of the state that carries them out. This journalistic genre largely misses the point. Intelligence agencies are not gatherers of information to protect state security, but are rather covert actors engaged in implementing the state’s hegemonic ambitions by any means necessary.

Intelligence agencies protect their secrets. It’s the rare journalist who can ferret them out by diligent investigation.

Most often, intelligence or government officials themselves leak secrets because of policy disagreements, splits within ruling factions or political ambitions. Bergman acknowledges this fact and makes it obvious that his principal source was the late Meir Dagan, an army general who became head of the Mossad under Israeli prime ministers Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu.

Unfortunately, Bergman is little more than a transcriber, bringing minimal analysis or historical background. For example, Dagan’s covert program to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists is cited as a better method than overt military action to halt Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. The diplomatic negotiations that resulted in an international agreement and a rigorous inspections regime for Iran’s nuclear program are simply ignored.

The book has numerous other failings as well, including giving short shrift to the efforts of Israeli human rights organizations to halt extrajudicial killings and framing the Israeli narrative in a way that omits the numerous acts of collective punishment carried out against the Palestinian people since 1948. The words “collective punishment” appear only once in its 784 pages in reference to a home demolition.

Omitted are references to Deir Yassin and the dozens of other massacres that occurred during the Nakba of 1948-49, the massacre at Khan Younis in 1956, the numerous military provocations Israel carried out in Syria’s Golan Heights prior to the 1967 war and Israel’s flagrant violations of the ceasefires with Hamas in Gaza in 2008, 2012 and 2014 that resulted in the deaths of thousands, including children.

Rendition and torture

To his credit, however, Bergman does delineate the similarities between the Israeli and US intelligence agencies, including recruiting journalists as spies, setting up false-front organizations to interfere in other countries, working with ex-Nazis and helping identify left-wing political activists under authoritarian regimes for the purpose of having them tortured or murdered.

Aman’s Unit 504, which engaged in kidnappings, anticipated the CIA’s rendition and torture program following the 11 September 2001 attacks. And Bergman makes it clear that both former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley under President George W. Bush approved and supported the Israeli assassination policy.

Ultimately, the belief in the effectiveness of extrajudicial executions rests on the idea that individuals, not social forces, make history: Eliminate a single person and history is changed. Following the killing of a Hizballah leader, Bergman reports that some in Israeli intelligence came to recognize that “Hizballah wasn’t one-man’s guerrilla force – it was a movement … a legitimate grassroots social movement.”

Bergman makes the dramatic claim that Israel’s intelligence agencies, having come to realize the futility of an assassination policy against Palestinian resistance, embrace the two-state solution, leaving them at odds (though “quietly”) with the current Netanyahu government. Dagan, in particular, appeared to have been motivated to leak some of Israel’s most damaging secrets due to a rift with Netanyahu over his opposition to a Palestinian state.

The likelihood of an eventual binational state if the two-state solution failed was an outcome that Dagan feared more than anything. In one of his last remarks at an Israeli political rally, Dagan explained his worries: “I do not want a binational state. I do not want an apartheid state. I do not want to rule over three million Arabs. I do not want us to be hostages of fear, despair and deadlock.”

After reading Rise and Kill First, one wonders: Had Dagan lived, would he have ordered the assassinations of those advocating a binational democratic state?

Rod Such is a former editor for World Book and Encarta encyclopedias. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and is active with the Occupation-Free Portland campaign.

 

US ‘losing its cards’ in Syria: Highlights of RT’s interview with Bashar Assad – By RT

 

US ‘losing its cards’ in Syria: Highlights of  RT’s interview with Bashar Assad
Washington and its “puppets” tried, and failed, to destroy Syria – and the US military will eventually be forced out of the country: These are a few of the highlights from RT’s exclusive interview with President Bashar Assad.

Speaking with RT’s Murad Gazdiev in Damascus, Assad commented on a range of topics, from the threat of direct conflict between the US and Russia, to why he doesn’t fear Israeli assassination threats.

On Victory: ‘It’s self-evident’ that Syria is ‘moving closer to the end of the conflict’

Assad noted that the “majority” of Syria is now under government control, but said that continued provocations and escalations by the United States and its allies have needlessly prolonged the seven-year conflict. With each Syrian military victory or successful reconciliation effort, the US and its partners have attempted to counteract these gains by “supporting more terrorism, bringing more terrorists to Syria, or by hindering the political process,” Assad said.

However, he stated that it was “self-evident” that “we are moving closer to the end of the conflict,” adding that “without external interference it won’t take more than a year to settle the situation in Syria.”

The Syrian leader said that whenever possible, his government has chosen negotiations and reconciliation over use of force.

“War is the worst choice but sometimes you only have this choice,” Assad told RT. “Factions like Al-Qaeda, like ISIS, like Al-Nusra, and the like-minded groups, they’re not ready for any dialogue… So, the only option to deal with those factions is force.”

He defended the government’s use of ceasefires and allowing extremists to withdraw to Idlib province, describing the agreements as strategically advantageous for the Syrian army. “If you have two or three frontiers, that’s better than having 10, maybe more than 100 at the time.”

 

On the US: Washington ‘losing its cards’ in Syria

 Although the US forces continue to operate illegally in Syria, they will eventually be forced out of the country, Assad told RT.

“The United States is losing its cards. The main card was Al-Nusra, that was called ‘moderate,’ but when scandals started leaking that they’re not moderate, that they’re Al-Qaeda, which is supposed to be fought by the United States, they started looking for another card. This card is the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] now,” he said, referring to the US-backed militia group. According to Assad, once Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and Al-Nusra are exterminated, the Syrian military will turn its attention on the SDF.

“We’re going to use two methods to deal with the SDF: The first one, we started opening doors for negotiations – because the majority of them are Syrians. And supposedly they like their country, they don’t like being puppets to any foreigners – that’s what we suppose.” Assad said that these commonly-shared values could allow reconciliation with the government. “We all don’t trust the Americans, [so] the one option is to live with each other as Syrians.” However, if negotiations fail, the Syrian army will be forced to liberate areas occupied by the SDF, with the Americans, or without the Americans.”

On this point Assad was adamant: “This is our land, it’s our right, it’s our duty. To liberate [these areas], and the Americans should leave. Somehow, they’re going to leave. They came to Iraq with no legal basis. And look what happened to them. They have to learn their lesson.”

 

On Russia: Moscow’s leadership prevented ‘direct conflict’ with US military

 Syria’s president heaped praise on Moscow, claiming that Russian “wisdom” had prevented a direct conflict between Russian and American forces in Syria. “We were close to having direct conflict between the Russian forces and the American forces, and fortunately, it has been avoided, not by the wisdom of the American leadership, but by the wisdom of the Russian leadership.”

While Assad reiterated that the United States military was not welcome in Syria, he said that avoiding escalation was the key to restoring Syria’s territorial integrity. “We need the Russian support, but we need, at the same time to avoid the American foolishness in order to be able to stabilize our country.”

He emphasized that Russia has shown restraint – not weakness – in Syria, noting how Russian warnings had likely dissuaded Trump from launching a full-scale attack against Damascus.

“The Russians announced publicly that they are going to destroy the bases that are going to be used to launch missiles, and our information – we don’t have evidence, we only have information, and that information is credible information – that they were thinking about a comprehensive attack all over Syria, and that’s why the threat pushed the West to make it on a much smaller scale,” the Syrian president said.

 

On Israel: No longer phased by ‘threat of Israeli aggression,’ Tel Aviv in ‘panic’

 Assad shrugged off Israeli threats against his own life, telling Gazdiev that “my generation – and most of the generations in Syria now – has lived under the threat of Israeli aggression. This is something in our unconscious feeling. So to say that you are afraid while living with the same threat for decades – this is nonsense.” He said that the fact that Tel Aviv has resorted to threats suggests that the Israelis are panicking.

“The Israelis have been assassinating, killing, occupying for decades now, for around seven decades, in this region, but usually they do all this without threatening. Now, why do they threaten in this way? This is panic, this is a kind of hysterical feeling because they are losing the ‘dear ones,’ the dear ones Al-Nusra and ISIS, that’s why Israel is panicking recently, and we understand their feeling.”

He said reports that Syria was helpless to stop Israeli airstrikes were inaccurate. “Our air defense is much stronger than before, thanks to the Russian support and the recent attacks by the Israelis and by the Americans and British and French proved that we are in a better situation” than at the start of the conflict seven years ago, he said. However, Assad noted that when foreign-backed fighters first poured into Syria, the first thing they did was target air defense systems – suggesting a “direct link” between the terrorists groups and Israel.

On chemical attacks: ‘Is it in our interest? Why? And why now?’

Syria’s president described the string of alleged chemical attacks as provocations that have ultimately failed to persuade the international community to give the US and its allies a military mandate in Syria.

Washington and its allies blamed the last such attack, in April, on Damascus, but Assad insisted that the Western narrative makes no sense.

“The timing of this alleged strike was after the victory of the Syrian troops in Ghouta. Let alone the fact that we don’t have chemical weapons anyway,” he told RT. Pointing to multiple reports of civilians and medical workers in the area having no knowledge of a chemical attack – with some even appearing in the Western press – Assad concluded that the alleged incident was a last-ditch Western attempt to sway international opinion – one that failed.

“They told a story, they told a lie, and the public opinion around the world and in the West didn’t buy their story, but they couldn’t withdraw. So, they had to do something, even on a smaller scale,” Assad said, referring to the joint airstrikes against purported Syrian chemical weapons facilities, carried out on April 14 by the US, UK, and France.

However, Assad acknowledged that nothing was stopping Washington from attempting similar provocations in the future. The US has “trampled on international law,” and “there’s no guarantee that it won’t happen [again].”

Assad asked: “What was the legal basis of [the April missile] attack? [Or] the so-called anti-terrorist alliance, which supports the terrorists, actually? What is the legal basis of their attack on Yemen, Afghanistan? There’s no legal basis.”

 

On Trump: ‘What you say is what you are’

 Asked if he had a nickname for US President Donald Trump, who had previously called Assad an “animal,” Syria’s leader admitted that he wasn’t in the business of name-calling.

“This is not my language, so, I cannot use similar language. This is his language. It represents him,” he said. “I think there is a very well known principle, that what you say is what you are. So, he wanted to represent what he is, and that’s normal,” Assad added.

“The only thing that moves you is what people that you trust, people who are level-headed, people who are thoughtful, people who are moral, ethical, that’s what should move anything inside you, whether positive or negative. Somebody like Trump will move nothing for me,” he said.

On the myth of Syria’s ‘civil’ war: It was foreign-backed regime change

 Assad disputed claims that the seven-year conflict has been a “civil war,” pointing out that there is no sectarian or ethnic conflicts in the areas currently controlled by the government. “Now in Damascus, in Aleppo, in Homs, in every area under Syrian government control, you will see [the whole] spectrum of Syrian society. With no exceptions.”

He noted that the term ‘civil war’ had been used widely since the beginning of the conflict in Syria – but it does not correctly characterize the conflict.

“A Syrian civil war means there are lines based either on ethnicities or sects or religion. Or maybe political opinion. In reality, in the areas in direct control by the government, which is now the majority of Syria, you have all this diversity,” Assad said. “So the word civil war is not correct. What we have actually, from the very beginning – mercenaries, Syrians and foreigners being paid by the West in order to topple the government. This is the mere reality. Everything else is just a mask to cover the real intentions.”

Israeli Weapons Among Arms Handed Over to Syrian Army By Terrorists in Damascus – By Sputnik

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The Syrian Army, backed by the wider coalition of government forces, has made sweeping gains in Damascus in recent months, liberating the entire East Ghouta region via operation Damascus Steel, and recovering chunks of territory in south Damascus, where the Daesh* terror organization maintains a presence.

Terrorists in the south Damascus towns of Babila, Yelda and Beit Sahem handed over their “medium and heavy weapons” to the Syrian Army on Friday, according to reports by the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA.) The militants will now be transported to the Idlib governorate as part of the agreed transfer deal. 

A local SANA reporter said the militants handed over an array of armaments, including weapons produced by Israel. The list of relinquished weapons includes machine guns, sniper rifles, mortar launchers, improvised explosives and landmines.Both Iran and Syria have accused Israel of aiding terrorists, including Daesh fanatics, in Syria, especially in Damascus and near the Golan Heights.

Tehran described the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) attack against Syria on May 10 as Tel Aviv’s latest attempt to assist terrorists in the country, who have suffered a string of defeats at the hands of Syrian government forces, backed by their Russian and Iranian allies.

READ MORE: Israel Strikes on Syria Kill at Least 23 Fighters — Reports

The reporter said that some of these weapons had been used in recent attacks on civilian and military facilities in Damascus.

Earlier in the day, terrorists in another area of the south Damascus pocket fired rockets at a government-held neighborhood, injuring three civilians, SANA reported, citing an informed source in the Damascus Police Command.

*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State) is a terrorist group banned in Russia.

READ MORE: Damascus Will Not Hesitate to Respond to Israeli Airstrikes — Syrian Ambassador

Israel’s Netanyahu to be guest of honour at Russia’s Victory Day Celebration – By Alexander Mercouris ( The Duran )

Major summit meeting between Russian and Israeli leaders against background of Russia’s 9th May Victory Day Celebration is planned

 

The Russian government has confirmed that Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel has been invited to attend Russia’s forthcoming 9th May Victory Day Celebration as the guest of honour.  He will also hold high level talks with the Russian government and with President Putin.

The Kremlin’s website has published a statement to that effect

Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu will make a working visit to Moscow on May 9. He has been invited to attend a military parade marking the 73rd anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War.

Mr Netanyahu will also hold talks with President Vladimir Putin.

Israel for its part has confirmed that Netanyahu has accepted Russia’s invitation.

The 9th May Victory Day Celebration is not only a festive day in Russia.  It is also a high point in Russia’s diplomatic calendar.

Foreign leaders who get invited to attend the Celebration are invariably persons in whom Russia takes a special interest, with an invitation being treated as a special honour.

Suffice to say that guests who have previously been invited to attend the Celebration include President Xi Jinping of China (who attended the crucially important 70th anniversary celebration in 2015), Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan and Prime Minister Tsipras of Greece (the latter caused serious offence by failing to turn up).

Russia’s invitation to the Israeli leader will come as a surprise to many people given the recent tensions between Russia and Israel over Syria and Iran.

In reality an invitation to Israel’s leader is an obvious gesture in a celebration of Russia’s Victory over Nazism, with Russia and the Jewish State having not only a shared history of suffering and struggle against Nazism, but also a commonality of interest in opposing Nazism’s recurring manifestations today.

Relations between Russia and Israel continue to be the subject of much misunderstanding.  There continues for example to be a constant drumbeat of criticism against Russia because it is not “defending Syria” from any and every Israeli air strike, even though Russia has never said it would.

I have previously discussed all this at length, and have explained that so long as Israel does not cross Russia’s red lines by launching strikes against Syria which call into question the existence of the Syrian government or which interfere in the conduct of the Syrian army’s operations against the Jihadi terrorists the Syrian government is fighting, then Russia – which is not a party to the Arab-Israeli conflict or to the state of war between Israel and Syria which has existed since 1948 – will not involve itself in them.

All this was hammered out and agreed between Russia and Israel over the course of a summit meeting between President Putin and Prime Minister Netanyahu and their respective military chiefs in Moscow on 21st September 2015, shortly after Russian military operations in Syria began.

Since then, though there have been occasional frictions, the agreement Putin and Netanyahu reached with each other on 21st September 2015 has held, and all the indications are that both the Russian and the Israeli leaders remain committed to it.

Russia and Israel also disagree about Iran, with Netanyahu seeing Iran as the greatest threat to Israel and determined to destroy the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreed between Iran and the world community, whereas Russia is committed to improving its relations with Iran and wishes to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

On this subject the Russians and the Israelis have agreed to disagree.

In all other respects relations between Russia and Israel are excellent, and the governments of the two countries are determined that they should remain that way.

Israel is not a Russian ally – it is a US ally – but it follows a determinedly independent foreign policy and has no interest in making an enemy of Russia.

Russia for its part learnt its lesson after the 1967 Six Day War that there is no benefit to Russia from making an enemy of Israel.  I have discussed this previously

When following the 1967 Six Days War the Russians did commit themselves wholeheartedly to one side in the Arab-Israeli conflict – backing the Arabs diplomatically, arming the Arabs intensively, sending a strong military force to defend Egypt in 1970 from Israeli air attacks, and breaking off diplomatic relations with Israel – the result for Moscow was a catastrophe.

The USSR’s large Jewish community became alienated, the USSR found that by making an enemy of Israel it had further poisoned its relations with the Western powers at precisely the time when it was seeking detente with them, and the USSR quickly discovered that its Arab ‘allies’ in whom it had invested so much were both ungrateful and treacherous, so that by 1980 the USSR’s entire position in the Middle East had completely collapsed.

The final straw came after the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979, when volunteers from across the Arab world rushed to fight the Russians in Afghanistan, in a way that they had never shown the slightest indication of wanting to do against Israel on behalf of the Palestinians.

Not surprisingly, the Russians have therefore since the mid-1980s been determined never to become directly involved in any part of the Arab-Israel conflict again.

Thus whilst Russia maintains good relations with the Arab states, and whilst Russia continues to voice support for the Palestinians, Russia has always striven to maintain good relations with Israel as well, and has forged significant economic links with Israel.

Recently there has been some discussion in the media about the possibility of Russia supplying S-300 anti aircraft systems to Syria by way of response to the recent US missile strike on Syria.

Precisely because the supply of S-300 anti aircraft systems to Syria has the potential to disrupt Russia’s otherwise excellent relations with Israel – and given that the US strike on Syria was completely ineffective – I personally doubt the supply of S-300 anti aircraft systems to Syria will take place.

However if it does take place then I expect the Russians to be at pains to assure the Israelis that Russia will maintain operation control over the S-300 in order to ensure that they are not used to threaten Israel’s air force or to affect its operations.

Since it has recently become clear that Syria’s air defence system depends on Russian radar data that should not be difficult to do.

Possibly this will be one of the subjects that Putin and Netanyahu plan to discuss with each other when Netanyahu comes to Moscow on 9th May 2018, though Netanyahu has made clear that for him the biggest issue he will raise with Putin is the extent of Iran’s presence in Syria

Meetings with the Russian president are always important for security of Israel and coordination between the Israeli and the Russian army.  But next week’s talks are especially important in the light of Iran’s growing efforts to create military bases in Syria aimed against Israel.

We [Israel] are resolute to stop Iranian aggression against us, even if it necessitates battle action. It is better to do this sooner than later, as the countries that had demonstrated unwillingness to act against aggression targeting them, had to pay a much higher price later.

[Israel] does not seek escalation, but is ready for any development of the events…..over the recent months, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has been redeploying to Syria advanced weapons, including ground-to-ground missiles and Iranian air defense weapons posing a threat to Israeli warplanes.

(bold italics added)

Perhaps the trade-off will be Israel’s agreement to the supply by Russia of S-300 anti aircraft systems to Syria in return for assurances by Russia that Russia will take steps (1) to ensure that these systems are not used against Israeli aircraft; and (2) that it will rein in the deployment of Iranian air defence systems in Syria which Netanyahu says are posing a threat to Israel’s aircraft.

As for the general state of relations between Russia and Israel, these were recently described in fulsome but nonetheless essentially accurate terms by Israel’s hawkish Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman in an interview with the Russian newspaper Kommersant

Israel reveres its relationship with Russia, which has flourished into efficient and transparent cooperation over the past couple of decades, even against the background of tough pressure from its closest partners, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview with Kommersant.

“For example, as far as the anti-Russia sanctions go, we flatly refused to join them. Many states expelled Russian diplomats not long ago, all due to the standoff regarding the use or non-use of nerve gas and so on. Israel did not join this action. We have a normal relationship with Russia and we comprehend its interests,” he said, adding that Tel Aviv also expects Moscow to “take into consideration our interests in the Middle East.”

Asked why the positions of Russia and Israel vary widely on such issues as the Syrian crisis, he said that Tel Aviv does not seek to pursue tensions with Russia. “On the contrary, we have established a very clear and frank, transparent dialogue with Russia over the past years, whenever we share opinions and even when we do not share opinions,” the minister said. “We do not interfere in Syria’s domestic affairs. In my viewpoint, Assad is a war criminal responsible for killing over half a million of his own citizens. Assad, the Islamic State, Al Qaeda (outlawed in Russia – TASS), all radicals, Hezbollah are no different in essence. Nevertheless, we do not intend to interfere in Syria’s domestic affairs. What we are not going to accept are any efforts taken by Iran to turn Syria into a foothold targeting us,” he added.

Lieberman acknowledged that Russian and Israeli actions are coordinated in Syria. “There is a phone hotline between Israel’s Defense Forces and the Russian contingent deployed in Syria. We always take into account Russia’s interests in Syria and hope very much that Russia will take into account Israel’s interests related to its security” he stressed.

According to the minister, Israel also bears no threat to Syria’s integrity. “There has been a murderous war for many years there, with at least half a million people dead, hundreds of thousands wounded, and I think the sooner it ends the sooner all of us could breathe easier,” he noted.

Lieberman is of course being utterly disingenuous when he says that Israel is not interfering in Syria’s internal affairs.

However his description of the state of Israel’s relations with Russia is accurate enough.

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On sixth Friday of Gaza protests, Israeli snipers shoot 70, but kill none – By Ahmad Kabariti ( Mondoweiss )

Israel/Palestine

on 0 Comments

 
 
 

“You! the one with the red T-shirt that has just insulted me, as a the son of a bitch. I promise to respond to you. We are ready for everything.” An Israeli soldier says by loudspeaker to the young men demonstrating in the weekly march on the Gaza border.

But the soldier’s threat did not compel hundreds of young men who’d gathered close to the fence between Gaza and Israel to step back, despite the intensity of tear gas canisters fired by soldiers towards the masked protesters, as well as the heat of the day, reaching 35 degrees Celsius (104 F) east of the town of Khuza’a in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.

“Give the one-finger salute, guys! ” One of the protesters cheered. And the protesters did so, responding to the threats of the soldier, who characterized them by shirt color, saying: “You the yellow T-shirt guy! I heard you and saw you when you insulted me, ​​I have no problem shooting you as I did during the past Fridays.”

Palestinians in Gaza held their sixth Friday rally as part of the Great March of Return. The protests commemorate the “Nakba,” or Catastrophe, the displacement of Palestinians from lands that would become Israel in 1948. On Friday demonstrators highlighted the plight of Palestinian workers and the unemployed in a demonstration labeled “Friday of Workers.”

Beginning in the morning, protesters brought tires to within 500 yards of the border, preparing to set fire to them and roll them toward the fence, and use them as a smokescreen to counter Israeli snipers behind the sandy hills.

The slingshot is the only ‘weapon’ of some demonstrators. Their small stones rarely reach beyond the fence, though slingshots managed to knock down two Israeli drones, causing them to crash in the sky of Khuza’a.

At least 70 Palestinians were injured by Israeli live fire Friday, the lowest casualty toll since the protests began. Medics also treated 1,073 people, for tear gas inhalation, the Gaza health ministry said.

The protests were backed by “logistical support” from women who had prepared large bags of croissants filled with thyme, cheese and spinach, to be distributed free to demonstrators. “I woke up early in the morning to prepare 300 croissants,” Fatima Dalloul, 44, told Mondoweiss.

Fatima, a mother of 8 children, prepared her fast food packages with her neighbors in the Abasan neighborhood. “The majority of these young people are poor and need to feel that their mothers support their weekly mobilizing. While it is true that we are concerned that youths might be killed, we must support them and their right to return to stolen lands.”

Since the first protest March 30, 44 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,700 injured by Israeli fire. Friday marked the first weekly protest in which no Palestinian were reported killed by sunset.

One protester, Abdullah Al-Mughrabi, 39, came with his family and held a poster asserting the right of return. “I have nothing to lose,” he said. “The whole world must know our right to return.” Abdullah’s origins are the city of Jaffa, which his grandfather was forced to abandon in 1948.

“Seventy years of disaster is enough for us,” Abdullah added. “The siege treats us like animals in a stockyard without rights. Even a poor Somali can get medical treatment, travel and free trade. But we are not pirates, we are a people deprived of our rights, with the consent of the United Nations.”

Crowds were smaller today’s afternoon than in previous weeks, with Gazans saying they predict a large rally on May 14th, when the U.S will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The U.S. move angered Palestinian leaders, who have refused to talk to the Trump administration, accusing it of pro-Israel bias. Israel’s government celebrated the U.S. decision, saying it recognized the “reality” that Jerusalem was the historic capital of the Jewish people.

In the “Malaka” area of protests, on the border 19 miles north of Khuza’a, demonstrators celebrated the arrival of Mahmoud Abu Araza, who was born in 1953, five years after his parents were displaced from al-Majdal, now called Ashkelon. He said he had stopped caring about the fog of teargas that did not fade away for all seven hours of protest.

“All these hundreds of young men are my sons, and I will not leave them until they return to Ashkelon, Jaffa and Jerusalem,” Abu Araza, a grandfather of 45 children, told Mondoweiss.

He asked, “Are the Palestinians to be forced to live in misery throughout their lives due to the last occupation in the world?”

The whole world is living in freedom, compared to Palestine, he said. “I think that slavery still exists as long as Israel breathes.. I have never seen a happy day in my life because of Israel,” Abu Araza said.

About Ahmad Kabariti

Ahmad Kabariti is a freelance journalist based in Gaza.

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Naked aggression: Israel strikes military targets in Syria, Iranian militia killed (UPDATES) – By Tyler Durden (Zerohedge)(SOTT)

Syria bombing

Syrian state news reports a possible foreign attack on military bases in Hama and Aleppo provinces, citing multiple reports and videos now circulating which show massive fireballs lighting up the night sky.

Dozens of pro-government social media accounts are claiming an Israeli strike on Brigade 47 weapons depot in Hama Sunday night. Syrian sate media says rockets from an “unspecified enemy” hit military locations inside Syria, citing “a new aggression with hostile missiles” but stopped short of identifying the aggressor.

Danny Makki – a well-known journalist reporting from on the ground in Syria – also reports an official military source as saying “A hostile Foreign attack took place at locations in Hama and Aleppo at 10:30 local time tonight.”

Makki further reports “the attacks this evening mainly targeted locations/positions with a strong presence of Iranian backed militias.” This indicates that the likely attacker is Israel, though still not immediately confirmed.

There are also widespread rumors of the recent landing of an Iranian transport plane at Hama Military Airport, possibly targeted in the attack, and reports that explosions were so big due to a direct hit on ammunition warehouses.

Pro-rebel media also appears to be uploading footage of the strike – apparently so big it could be seen for miles – and these sources are also confirming a foreign military attack on government locations. Makki notes the airstrikes “caused an earthquake measuring 2.6 on the Richter scale.”

Iranian state media has also confirmed the strikes amidst rumors that Iranian military personnel were targeted in the attacks.

According to Makki, citing Middle East experts, the Israelis might “continue striking these different targets and there are between 20-25 targets to choose from so it will play out considerably.”

Should Israel be confirmed to have carried out the strikes, it would be the third such high level Israeli attack on Syria within a month.

Meanwhile according to unconfirmed Twitter reports, “dozens upon dozens” of Iranian soldiers were killed in the attack.

What is concering is that the attacks take place after Putin personally warned Netanyahu against further strikes in Syria.

Comment: Also from Zerohedge:UPDATE:

Initial reports of mass injuries and perhaps casualties following the Iranian strike appear accurate, and as reporters on the ground located at the Hama National Hospital show, “civilians are donating blood for the Soldiers & Civilians who were wounded by the Israeli Israel Air Strikes tonight.”

Snipers ordered to shoot children, Israeli general confirms – By Ali Abunimah -Rights and Accountability (Electronic Intifada)

Israeli Brigadier-General (Reserve) Zvika Fogel (Wikipedia)

An Israeli general has confirmed that when snipers stationed along Israel’s boundary with Gaza shoot at children, they are doing so deliberately, under clear and specific orders.

In a radio interview, Brigadier-General (Reserve) Zvika Fogel describes how a sniper identifies the “small body” of a child and is given authorization to shoot.

Fogel’s statements could be used as evidence of intent if Israeli leaders are ever tried for war crimes at the International Criminal Court.

On Friday, an Israeli sniper shot dead 14-year-old Muhammad Ibrahim Ayyoub.

The boy, shot in the head east of Jabaliya, was the fourth child among the more than 30 Palestinians killed during the Great March of Return rallies that began in Gaza on 30 March.

More than 1,600 other Palestinians have been shot with live ammunition that has caused what doctors are calling “horrific injuries” likely to leave many of them with permanent disabilities.

As eyewitnesses and video confirmed, the child Muhammad Ayyoub posed no conceivable danger to heavily armed Israeli occupation forces stationed dozens of meters away behind fences and earthen fortifications on the other side of the Gaza boundary when he was killed.

Even the usually timid United Nations peace process envoy Nickolay Mladenov publicly declared that the slaying was “outrageous.”

Targeting children

On Saturday, Brigadier-General Fogel was interviewed by Ron Nesiel on the Israeli public radio network Kan.

Fogel is the former chief of staff of the Israeli army’s “southern command,” which includes the occupied Gaza Strip.

Ahmad Tibi, a Palestinian lawmaker in Israel’s parliament, drew attention to the interview in a tweet.

A recording of the interview is online (it begins at 6:52). The interview was translated for The Electronic Intifada by Dena Shunra and a full transcript follows this article.

The host Ron Nesiel asks Fogel if the Israeli army should “rethink its use of snipers,” and suggests that someone giving orders “lowered the bar for using live fire.”

Fogel adamantly defends the policy, stating: “At the tactical level, any person who gets close to the fence, anyone who could be a future threat to the border of the State of Israel and its residents, should bear a price for that violation.”

He adds: “If this child or anyone else gets close to the fence in order to hide an explosive device or check if there are any dead zones there or to cut the fence so someone could infiltrate the territory of the State of Israel to kill us …”

“Then his punishment is death?” Nesiel interjects.

“His punishment is death,” the general responds. “As far as I’m concerned then yes, if you can only shoot him to stop him, in the leg or arm – great. But if it’s more than that then, yes, you want to check with me whose blood is thicker, ours or theirs.”

Fogel then describes the careful process by which targets – including children – are identified and shot:

“I know how these orders are given. I know how a sniper does the shooting. I know how many authorizations he needs before he receives an authorization to open fire. It is not the whim of one or the other sniper who identifies the small body of a child now and decides he’ll shoot. Someone marks the target for him very well and tells him exactly why one has to shoot and what the threat is from that individual. And to my great sorrow, sometimes when you shoot at a small body and you intended to hit his arm or shoulder, it goes even higher.”

For “it goes even higher,” Fogel uses a Hebrew idiom also meaning “it costs even more.”

In this chilling statement, in which a general talks about snipers targeting the “small body of a child,” Fogel makes crystal clear that this policy is premeditated and deliberate.

While presenting unarmed Palestinian children as dangerous terrorists worthy of death, Fogel describes the snipers killing them in cold blood as the innocent, vulnerable parties who deserve protection.

“We have soldiers there, our children, who were sent out and receive very accurate instructions about whom to shoot to protect us. Let’s back them up,” he says.

Lethal policy

Fogel’s statements are no aberration but represent Israeli policy.

“Israeli officials made it clear that the open-fire regulations would permit lethal fire at anyone attempting to damage the fence, and even at any person coming within 300 meters of it,” the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem stated in a recent analysis of Israel’s illegal targeting of unarmed civilians who pose no threat.

“Nevertheless, all state and military officials have steadfastly refused to cancel the unlawful orders and continue to issue – and justify – them,” B’Tselem added.

B’Tselem has called on individual soldiers to defy such illegal orders.

Following its investigation of the “calculated” killings of unarmed demonstrators on 30 March, the first day of the Great March of Return rallies in Gaza, Human Rights Watch concluded that the lethal crackdown was “planned at [the] highest levels of the Israeli government.”

Two weeks ago, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court issued an unprecedented warning that Israeli leaders may face trial for the killings of unarmed Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip.

Potential defendants would be giving any prosecutor a gift with such open admissions that killing unarmed people in an occupied territory who pose no objective threat is their policy and intent.

The question remains whether anything will finally pierce the shield of impunity that Israel has enjoyed for 70 years.

Full Transcript

Brigadier-General (Res.) Zvika Fogel interviewed on the Yoman Hashevua program of Israel’s Kan radio, 21 April 2018.

Ron Nesiel: Greetings Brigadier General (Res.) Zvika Fogel. Should the IDF [Israeli army] rethink its use of snipers? There’s the impression that maybe someone lowered the bar for using live fire, and this may be the result?

Zvika Fogel: Ron, let’s maybe look at this matter on three levels. At the tactical level that we all love dealing with, the local one, also at the level of values, and with your permission, we will also rise up to the strategic level. At the tactical level, any person who gets close to the fence, anyone who could be a future threat to the border of the State of Israel and its residents, should bear a price for that violation. If this child or anyone else gets close to the fence in order to hide an explosive device or check if there are any dead zones there or to cut the fence so someone could infiltrate the territory of the State of Israel to kill us …

Nesiel: Then, then his punishment is death?

Fogel: His punishment is death. As far as I’m concerned then yes, if you can only shoot him to stop him, in the leg or arm – great. But if it’s more than that then, yes, you want to check with me whose blood is thicker, ours or theirs. It is clear to you that if one such person will manage to cross the fence or hide an explosive device there …

Nesiel: But we were taught that live fire is only used when the soldiers face immediate danger.

Fogel: Come, let’s move over to the level of values. Assuming that we understood the tactical level, as we cannot tolerate a crossing of our border or a violation of our border, let’s proceed to the level of values. I am not Ahmad Tibi, I am Zvika Fogel. I know how these orders are given. I know how a sniper does the shooting. I know how many authorizations he needs before he receives an authorization to open fire. It is not the whim of one or the other sniper who identifies the small body of a child now and decides he’ll shoot. Someone marks the target for him very well and tells him exactly why one has to shoot and what the threat is from that individual. And to my great sorrow, sometimes when you shoot at a small body and you intended to hit his arm or shoulder it goes even higher. The picture is not a pretty picture. But if that’s the price that we have to pay to preserve the safety and quality of life of the residents of the State of Israel, then that’s the price. But now, with your permission, let us go up one level and look at the overview. It is clear to you that Hamas is fighting for consciousness at the moment. It is clear to you and to me …

Nesiel: Is it hard for them to do? Aren’t we providing them with sufficient ammunition in this battle?

Fogel: We’re providing them but …

Nesiel: Because it does not do all that well for us, those pictures that are distributed around the world.

Fogel: Look, Ron, we’re even terrible at it. There’s nothing to be done, David always looks better against Goliath. And in this case, we are the Goliath. Not the David. That is entirely clear to me. But let’s look at it at the strategic level: you and I and a large part of the listeners are clear that this will not end up in demonstrations. It is clear to us that Hamas can’t continue to tolerate the fact that its rockets are not managing to hurt us, its tunnels are eroding …

Nesiel: Yes.

Fogel: And it doesn’t have too many suicide bombers who continue to believe the fairytale about the virgins waiting up there. It will drag us into a war. I do not want to be on the side that gets dragged. I want to be on the side that initiates things. I do not want to wait for the moment where it finds a weak spot and attacks me there. If tomorrow morning it gets into a military base or a kibbutz and kills people there and takes prisoners of war or hostages, call it as you like, we’re in a whole new script. I want the leaders of Hamas to wake up tomorrow morning and for the last time in their life see the smiling faces of the IDF. That’s what I want to have happen. But we are dragged along. So we’re putting snipers up because we want to preserve the values we were educated by. We can’t always take a single picture and put it before the whole world. We have soldiers there, our children, who were sent out and receive very accurate instructions about whom to shoot to protect us. Let’s back them up.

Nesiel: Brigadier-General (Res.) Zvika Fogel, formerly Head of the Southern Command Staff, thank you for your words.

Fogel: May you only hear good news. Thank you.

 

As Israel becomes a political liability it is time to challenge its enablers – By Nada Elia (MONDOWEISS)

US Politics

on 28 Comments

 
 
 

The Great Return March has already made a difference.  As thirty thousand non-violent marchers are all indiscriminately viewed as “legitimate targets” for asserting their inalienable human rights, the image of Israel as a liberal democracy, an image already severely tarnished by its brazen embrace of apartheid over the past few years, is now receiving additional blows that will be hard to recover from.  US politicians are finally noticing, and expressing criticism of the country that was once untouchable. As Philip Weiss notes:  “As protests at the Gaza border get underway this morning, several liberal Democratic politicians have finally objected to Israel’s shooting of unarmed Palestinians at the Gaza fence.” Weiss goes on to point out that the criticism of Israel is nevertheless tempered by the call on Palestinians  “to exercise their rights nonviolently,” and describes Senator Elizabeth Warren’s criticism as “tepid.”

My own take about US politicians’ response to these attacks is quite different.  Up to the latest attacks, on the weekly Great Return Marches by Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, American politicians have come out in droves to assert that offensive formula, “Israel has the right to defend itself.”  It is offensive because Israel is not defending itself, it is defending an illegal occupation, which violates the human rights of a civilian people it is obligated, according to international law, to be protecting. It is also offensive because we have never, not once, heard an equivalent “Palestinians have the right to defend themselves,” even when they are the ones coming under attack.  

Much more revealing than the few comments by congresspeople who criticized Israel,  Mark Pocan (WI), Pramila Jayapal (WA), Keith Ellison (MN), Barbara Lee (CA), and Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr. (GA), is that, this time around, not a single Democrat has actually come out to shield Israel.  Not one has stated that “Israel is our friend and strongest ally,” not one has spoken of “joint values.”  As Jonathan Ofir noted, Israel’s genocidal comments are isolating it.  

From the Balfour Declaration to today’s Great Return March, the past hundred years of Palestinian history have been one painful trajectory of racist settler-colonial injustice imposed upon the indigenous people, followed by uprisings, which in turn are violently suppressed, until the people can take no more, and rise up again, demanding justice.  The revolts, the 1936-39 uprising against Mandate Britain, (sometimes known as “the first intifada”) and more recently, the 1987 and 2000 intifadas, have taken on many forms, from armed insurrection to completely peaceful protests. They have invariably been met with extreme violence on the part of the oppressor, whether England, which first imposed martial law and crafted many of the measures Israel still employs in its discrimination against the Palestinians, to the full blown massacres Israel now routinely engages in, as it finally strips off the mask of “democracy:” to declare that every Palestinian refugee is a legitimate target.  

This is the turning point we have been looking for, when Israel is finally viewed by its hitherto enablers as a liability, not an asset.  At a time when the US is deeply divided between white supremacy and the impulse to resist fascism, the toxic collision between Trump and Netanyahu, and on the popular level between white nationalism and Zionism, is forcing US politicians to distance themselves from an Israel that is ever more open about its true nature as a racist, genocidal state.  Now, then, is the time to break the Zionist hold on our “representatives,” and make it very clear to them that they do not have our support while they profess “joint values” with Israel.

And this is already happening, as outraged citizens are indeed confronting our politicians. It started a couple of years ago,  at town halls across the nation.  We must increase the pressure.  We could ask Bernie Sanders, for example, who rehashed the cliché of “disproportionate response,” as he explained that Israel “over reacted” to the marches, what, exactly, he would view as  an appropriate “response” to unarmed civilians asserting their inalienable human rights. Should Israel have killed five, instead of seventeen protesters? Maybe only three? Would killing three unarmed protesters be “proportionate?”

If we don’t seize the moment of outrage, now, as Israel shows its bare face of criminality, we might as well abandon the struggle.  But if we want change, rather than a scream of pain, we must direct our activism towards those who enable the oppressor. It is past time we stopped discussing such irrelevant matters as whether Palestinian resistance is fully non-violent.  It is resistance, by a dispossessed, disenfranchised, oppressed people, against a nuclear power that does not recognize the humanity of the Palestinians whose most basic rights it has been violating for seventy years.

And it was certainly never appropriate to worry about how Israel will be impacted by the Right of Return. Worrying about the impact of the Right of Return on Israel is like university administrators who prioritize the impact of a rape conviction on the rapist. “Oh but it would destroy his career as an athlete!” The Right of Return is non-negotiable. A country that violates it is the criminal party. Palestinians returning to the town and villages they fled during Al Nakba will change the demographics in Israel, but it would be justice at long last.  Those demographics, allowing Israel to claim it is a “Jewish democracy,” are themselves the result of violence, and can only be maintained through violence.  Besides, qualifying “democracy” voids that very term. Would we ever accept, rather than ridicule and criticize, a country that claims to be a “male democracy,” or a “Muslim democracy?”  And Ahed Tamimi’s slapping of the Israeli occupation soldier is no more “violent” than a woman scratching her rapist. We have prioritized the oppressor for way too long.

In a little under a month, Palestinians will be commemorating the 70th anniversary of Al Nakba.  We can be part of the solution, by confronting Israel’s enablers here in the US.  Or we can let our outrage join history’s heap pile of missed opportunities. And forget about the ideals of freedom, self-determination, justice.  They can be buried in the rubble in Gaza.

Let us do our part.  

About Nada Elia

Nada Elia is a Palestinian scholar-activist, writer, and grassroots organizer, currently completing a book on Palestinian Diaspora activism.

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