30 June 2012

Imperialist Interference is Subverting the Syrian Revolution

Syrian Butcher Assad and UN/US's Compliant Diplomat Kofi Annan
There is no doubt that the armed opposition to the Assad regime in Syria is now armed and directed by the imperialist states and their Arab sponsors – Quatar and Saudi Arabia.  That special forces from the US, UK and France among others are active in Syria, not least in stirring up sectarian conflicts and strife.
Mass anti-Assad demonstration in Damascus
In this they are behaving no differently from how they acted in Libya.  A popular revolution against Ghaddaffi was subverted by the West for reasons of imperial regional hegemony and oil.  The same is happening in Syria.  There is little doubt that the appalling al-Hola massacre was carried out by pro-Western forces. The evidence is impressive.  This is not to say that the Assad regime is anything but a blood stained and murderous entity.  There is nothing progressive about them but to replace one set of murderers with others whose only difference is the targets to be chosen is to jump from the frying pan into the fire.

The other interesting thing is the silence from Israeli politicians.  One might expect them to be utilising what is happening in Syria to the maximum.  But no, they have kept quiet.  Unlike Iran's Ahmedinajad, Assad is not the new Hitler.  Why?  Because just as in Egypt, Israel welcomes a stable border and a people kept under the jackboot.  There may be differences between Ba'athism and Israel but Assad and his father kept a firm grip on the country.  The border is quietest of any sorrounding Israel.  Assad may allow a flow of arms to Hizbollah from Iran but at the moment Israel has more pressing concerns than Lebanon.  In short Assad has always been a man to do business with.  Apart from rhetorical flourishes, as a means of diverting attention from Israel's own crimes, the focus on Assad's crimes have been minimal.

At the bottom is an article explaining who, in the opinion of the author, actually carried out the massacre at Al-Hola.

Tony Greenstein

Between Imperialism and Repression

First published: 12 June, 2012
Victims of Assad's thugs in uniform

Sami Ramadani is a senior lecturer in sociology at London Metropolitan University and has been an active participant in anti-imperialist struggles for many years. In an in-depth interview, he spoke to Samuel Grove about the dynamics of the conflict in Syria, arguing that democratic resistance to Assad's brutal regime has been eclipsed by reactionary forces, backed by Western and Gulf states, with potentially momentous implications for the Middle East.  
The upheaval in Syria is an enormously difficult subject for Western outsiders to get a handle on. One of the reasons for this is the sheer number of different interests jostling for position and power, from both within and outside the country. Let us start with the regime itself. Can you give us a brief history of where the Al-Assad family came from and the direction they have taken the country since they came to power in 1970?
Massive Demonstration against the Ba'athist Regime in Damascus
Following the magnificent peoples’ uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, toppling two entrenched dictators, there developed a tendency not to closely examine the nature of the various forces competing for political power both within the opposition movements and the Arab regimes. Events in Libya and NATO’s intervention there have alerted most people to the dangers of hijacking the peoples’ struggle for freedom by reactionary forces. A brief look at the nature of the Syrian regime and its changing role in the region is crucial in trying to understand the current conflict and the reactionary forces’ success in hijacking the people’s struggle for radical change.

Syria has been run by a ruthless, corrupt regime. Syrian left activists have been on the receiving end of severe repression since Hafiz Assad’s coup in 1970. It was after that coup that Henry Kissinger described Syria as “a factor for stability,” despite Soviet military backing for the regime. Hafiz Assad’s regime, funded by the Saudi medieval dictators, played a leading role in the 1970’s and early 80’s in weakening the Palestinian resistance.  During the 1975-6 civil war in Lebanon Syrian troops sided with pro-Israeli Phalange and other extreme right wing forces. The regime, in return for US promises over the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights and Saudi petro-dollars, also backed the 1991 US-led war over Kuwait.
Burying the dead of another massacre by Syrian State troops
The Syrian forces’ presence in Lebanon had the full support of the US and Saudi rulers and the tacit support of Israel. It was only after Syria’s gradual foreign policy shift and reversal of roles from enemies to allies of the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance movements that the US and Saudi rulers shifted their stance. They pursued an aggressive campaign to force a Syrian withdrawal (1985) from Lebanon, particularly after the 2003 occupation of Iraq. US forces even killed some Syrian soldiers on the Iraqi-Syrian borders.

In relation to the media coverage today, it is important to note that, before Syria’s shift the media were silent about the repressive nature of the regime. This is similar to the their silence towards repression by a variety of ruthless dictatorial allies. Today they talk of Sunni Saudi rulers opposed to Alawite-Shia in Syria, but back then, the media did not bother highlighting the fact that the Wahabi-Sunni Saudi rulers were bankrolling the Syrian regime nor did they push their sectarian poison. A similar sectarian coverage unfolded in relation to Saudi-Iranian relations after the 1979 Iranian revolution and the overthrow of the Shah, a favourite US ally.

The opposition to the Syrian regime was not confined to the left, but included the Moslem Brotherhood, who led a popular revolt in 1982 in their stronghold of Hama. The regime crushed the uprising by bombarding the City and killing thousands of people. Nevertheless, Arab nationalism has for a century or more been Syria’s main ideological current, developed in the struggle against Ottoman rule and, much more deeply, against French colonial rule. Syria won its independence from France in 1946.

 The Brotherhood today are backed by the Qatari and Saudi dictators, but the media rarely dwell on the irony of these dictators championing democracy in Syria while crushing any opposition to their rule and sending their troops to help crush the people’s uprising in Bahrain.

In 1967 Syria was invaded and a strategic part of its territory, the Golan Heights, was occupied by Israel. Since then, successive regimes legitimised their rule partly by working for or at least appearing to be actively trying to liberate Syria from occupation. However, US promises of rewarding Syria by forcing Israel to pull out of the occupied lands came to nothing despite Syria’s compliant policies.
Concurrently with the failure of the US to deliver on its promises, a number of factors changed Syria’s role. These include the rise of Iran as a formidable anti-US anti–Israeli power, the Palestinian uprisings, the unstoppable rise of the Lebanese resistance, led by Hizbullah, leading to the liberation of southern Lebanon from occupation and defeat of Israeli-Saudi-US backed forces, the arrival of hostile US forces along Syria’s borders with Iraq, and the rise of Iraqi resistance and defeat of US forces in Iraq.

The Syrian armed forces and security apparatus, with its multi-layer pyramids of informers, form the backbone of the regime’s control over Syrian society. Much is made of the sectarian nature of the Syrian regime and its reliance on the Alawite communities. I think this is highly exaggerated and ignores the much wider circles of support that the regime has acquired, whether this support is active, passive or of the ‘better devil you know’ type.

The powerful, mostly Sunni, merchant classes of Syria, particularly in Damascus and Aleppo, have close links with the regime. Indeed, the US-led economic sanctions are partly directed at this merchant class to force it to shift its stance. Sections of the middle and upper middle classes also tacitly support the regime. Syria’s religious minorities, including Christians who form 10% of the population, are fearful of the Moslem Brotherhood’s social and cultural agenda for Syria. They too would rather have the secular regime than a state dominated by a Saud-Qatari backed Brotherhood. Importantly, the Kurdish minority are also fearful of the influence of Turkey on the Muslim Brotherhood and the fact that the Syrian Free Army is headquartered in Turkey, which has a horrific record of killing over 20,000 Kurdish people in Turkey. Millions of women also fear the social programme of the Brotherhood.

In the context of the current conflict, the poor, the unemployed and students who were supportive of the initial, largely spontaneous protest movement are now much more reticent, partly due to regime repression but primarily because of their opposition to the NATO-Saudi-Qatari meddling and the militarisation of the sections of the opposition, particularly the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the Free Syrian Army which are dominated by the Brotherhood.

You describe the recent protest movement as 'largely spontaneous'. This doesn't mean obviously that grievances weren't building up over a long period of time, however it does suggest a lack of strong long term organisations of resistance—as was the case in countries like Egypt and Tunisia for example.

Left and progressive opposition to the Syrian regime has been going on for decades, particularly after the 1970 Hafiz Assad coup, which ousted the ‘left’ faction led by Salah Jedid. That faction backed the Palestinian resistance movements based in Jordan against the military onslaught launched by King Hussein’s armed forces in September 1970. Hafiz Assad, who was minister of Defence before the coup, instantly appeased the US and Saudi rulers by siding with King Hussein and starting a crack-down on all left forces in the country.

The left in Syria was for much of the 20th century mostly organised by the Syrian Communist Party. Founded in 1924, the party was subjected to varying degrees of state repression. Since the 1970's the more militant factions within the party and other left organisations and figures have suffered imprisonment, torture and exile. However, the party leadership’s docile stance towards more militant forms of struggle within Syria, Palestine and Lebanon, and servile support for the Soviet Union’s Middle East policies gradually turned it into a party of sections of the intelligentsia rather than a genuine working class party. Perhaps the latter would have appealed to wider society with a socialist programme that also reflected Syria’s neo-colonial status and being part of the wider struggle in the area against imperialism and Zionism. As it happened the political vacuum was filled by the Islamic and nationalist movements, including the Baath party, who champion the Syrian, Palestinian and wider Arab nationalist causes. A similar process happened in Algeria where Marxists initially advocated the line of the French CP declaring that Algeria would be free once France became socialist!

In the context of the current conflict, all the left forces in Syria supported the initial protest marches that followed the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. The marches, which started in Deraa on the border with Jordan, were also supported by the Moslem Brotherhood. The demands of the protest marches were focused on issues relating to corruption, unemployment and democratic rights. Though large scale marches were held across many cities it was significant that no such marches took place in Syria’s largest two cities, Damascus and Aleppo, where more than half of Syria’s population reside.
It was also noticeable that the more NATO intervened and militarised the protest movement in Libya the smaller mass peaceful protests became in Syria. The marchers shrunk from hundreds to tens of thousands and to to thousands and less. Obviously, regime brutality was a factor, but I don’t think that fear played the biggest role. I think the main reason is that most of the democratic opposition in Syria is also staunchly anti-imperialist and naturally fearful of NATO and Israeli plans for Syria. Events in Libya and, above all, the bloodbaths in and destruction of neighbouring Iraq by the US-led forces and the terrorist gangs, played the leading role in making most of the Syrian democratic secular opposition fearful of the consequences of the escalating conflict. They could not fail to notice that while Iraq burned Syria itself became home to a million Iraqi refugees.

On the other hand, the leadership of the Moslem Brotherhood and opposition leaders based in Istanbul, Paris and London have effectively utilised the publicity they enjoyed on all Arab state-controlled media, particularly the Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera. Events have also shown that years of planning had gone into the funding and arming of parts of the Syrian opposition.

Having lost Bin Ali and Mubarak in quick succession, US, Saudi, Qatari and Turkish attention turned to Syria. The massive uprising in Bahrain, headquarters of the US fifth fleet, also sharpened their sense of danger and fear of the people’s uprisings. Saudi and other Gulf sheikdoms sent in their forces to help King Hamad crush the uprising, which is still active.

Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and areas in Iraq became the centres of the counterrevolution in Syria. Arms were smuggled into Syria and the US-created Iraqi militia al-Sahwa backed the armed ‘rebels’ and Libyan fighters were smuggled into the battle zones. Terrorists operating in Iraq also joined the “jihad” against the Syrian regime.

On the other hand, years of repression rendered the Syrian democratic opposition too weak to lead the struggle in the country. As organised forces, they are no match for the counterrevolution’s vast resources. Their only hope was to keep the protests peaceful and sustained. Like in Libya, counter-revolution had other plans.

The left here has to also recognise that the regime does have the support of most of the affluent middle classes, particularly in Damascus and Allepo. The numerous ethnic and religious minorities and large sectors of the female population are also fearful of the socially reactionary nature of the Moslem Brotherhood and the type of regime that they might impose on Syria. Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahir’s call for armed Jihad to overthrow Assad’s regime has also further frightened the population of a sectarian conflict.

This puts us in a difficult situation. As left wing activists we support the rights of people to freedom, equality and self-determination. As activists based in the imperial centres we are opposed to the actions of our governments to deny people these rights. So our support for freedom and equality and our opposition to imperialism tend to go hand in hand. However the picture you are depicting in Syria is tied to the implication that we cannot do both these. Is it possible to support Syria's democratic struggle AND oppose foreign intervention? Or is this a luxury we cannot afford?

You raise a very important question. Let me make it crystal clear: it is vital for the left to always oppose both imperialism and regimes that repress the masses. This is a matter of principle that should never be abandoned. Movements that abandoned one or other of these inseparable objectives have committed serious and sometimes fatal errors.

The Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) is a good example in this context. Within three decades, it shrunk from being a formidable party of the working class, enjoying the support of the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people in 1958-9, to a pathetic grouping that probably received funds from Saudi Arabia in 1991 in return for siding with US-led 1991 Gulf war, and protection-at-a-price from Barzani’s KDP from 1978-9 onwards. In practice, it betrayed brave chapters of struggle against imperialism and domestic reaction with a chapter of shame by serving the US-led occupation authority in 2003. It abandoned the struggle for democratic socialism in 1959 in the name of opposing imperialism and abandoned the fight against imperialism from 1990 onwards in the name of fighting for democracy. 

Which of the twin objectives becomes the main focus of the struggle is always in a state of flux. However, within the context of an era of accelerated imperialist aggression and wars, exposing imperialism and its exploitation of the peoples of the world is always at the heart of the work of the left. Imperialism is a manifestation of monopoly capitalism that exploits the masses at home and abroad. The left in the “imperial centres” has the added internationalist duty of firmly upholding this task: to always side with the oppressed peoples’ struggle against imperialism and for self-determination. However, siding with the oppressed masses also means backing them when they rise up against domestic oppressors. These uprisings and struggle for democracy are part and parcel of the struggle against imperialism.

For me the complexity of the problem resolves itself in determining whether the people’s struggle for civil rights and social emancipation are clearly directed against both domestic reaction/repression and imperialism. In Iraq and Libya yesterday and Syria today, imperialism has succeeded in exploiting the struggle for democracy and eclipsing the progressive opposition forces. The left has to face the facts and not sweep inconvenient developments under the carpet. Syria today has NATO-backed armed groups, led by Saudi/Qatari-funded reactionaries. Syria is a major target of US-led imperialism to install a client regime or, failing that objective, to plunge the country into a sectarian blood bath. The duty of the left in Britain is to firmly uphold and raise the banners high: “Hands off Syria”, “Don’t Iraq Syria”, “Don’t Iraq Iran”, “It is for the Syrian people to determine their future”…

Al-Jazeera is a news station that has developed a reputation on the left for covering the Middle East (some would say the news in general) with more sophistication and seriousness than the mainstream media in this country. And yet you say that in relation to Syria and Libya their role has been very insidious. Can you explain how? Can you append to this your impression of the British media’s coverage of Syria?

With very few and notable exceptions, it really doesn’t take much to provide a more serious and reliable coverage of the Middle East than the mainstream media here. With significant exceptions, the media here echo the line adopted by the Foreign Office on any particular event or country. A complex array of ideological, political, social, economic and commercial factors are at play in the way the media reports on the Middle East and world affairs in general. “British national interests” are perceived by media owners and editors as being expressed by the Foreign Office, which is seen as the neutral depository and slide-rule of the “national interest”. No distinction is made between the genuine interests of the British people and those of the arms manufacturers and oil companies.
Coverage of Israeli policies, Palestinian people’s rights, Mussadaq’s Iran (1953), Nasser’s Egypt (1952-1970), Qassem’s Iraq (1958-1963), the murderous sanctions policies on Iraq, the Iraq War, NATO bombing of Libya and the current covert NATO intervention in Syria are examples of how the mainstream media towed the line advocated by the government of the day. Similarly, the ruthless and socially repressive nature of the Saudi regime is glossed over, because the Saudi medieval rulers are seen as important allies.

As it happens, Al-Jazeera had its own historical link with the media here! The satellite broadcaster was launched in 1996 following the sudden collapse of the BBC Arabic station, which was a joint venture with a leading Saudi prince. The collapse followed Saudi insistence on monitoring all broadcast material, forcing the BBC to pull out. The Qatari rulers seized the moment and launched Al-Jazeera, with scores of the BBC Arabic service staff on board, and with the Qatari ruling family as the owners and political custodians.

The dead hand of the assorted dictatorships in the Arab world made all Arab TV stations be perceived, to varying degrees, as purveyors of state lies, half-truths and, at best, safe-reporting. The advent of satellite stations and the internet opened the doors for the Al-Jazeera to project itself as the antidote to state censorship. 

The more cosmopolitan and less vulnerable Qatari rulers, who were at odds with the Saudi rulers, saw in Al-Jazeera a vehicle for spreading their political influence. They gave Al-Jazeera a free hand to report on the Arab and Muslim world, while maintaining tight control on the Qatari state TV station. But it was of course not allowed to report negatively on the Qatari dictators or to investigate how the current Qatari ruler deposed his father with US blessing. Qatar became the headquarters of US military operations throughout the Middle East, including Afghanistan and Iraq.

One aspect of Al-Jazeera that does not attract much scrutiny is the station’s tendency to negatively report on the Saudi royal family and Saudi princes’ widespread financial and property interests, which are hindering Qatari investments and influence in the Middle East. The friction between the Qatari and Saudi royal families became much more intense after the Qatari rulers started showing keen interest in widening their influence in the Middle East. Occasionally, however, Al-Jazeera’s intrepid reporters on the ground upset US military planners in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In response to Al-Jazeera, the Saudi rulers funded al-Arabiya and other satellite stations.

The uprisings in the Arab world, especially in neighbouring Bahrain, however, threatened all the ruling families of the Gulf region. This prompted the Qatari and Saudi rulers to make common cause in suppressing the uprisings in Bahrain and Yemen while backing NATO intervention in Libya and bankrolling sections of the Syrian opposition and working for militarising the conflict in Syria. For they are aware that militarising the conflict will not only facilitate covert and possibly overt NATO intervention but will thwart the progressive anti-imperialist forces’ efforts to lead the people’s struggle for democracy and radical social and economic change.

Al-Jazeera English targets a different audience but still has to compete with other stations, particularly Iranian and Russian satellite stations. But both Al-Jazeera Arabic and English, along with nearly all Arab TV stations, target Iran in a barrage of negative reporting, with a racist and sectarian undertones against “Persian” and “Shia influence” in the region. This aspect of Al-Jazeera’s reporting is becoming increasingly important in the context of possible Israeli or US attacks on Iran.

Permit me here to quote from an article I wrote last year in which I referred to the role of Al-Jazeera within the Arab uprisings:

“Though Al-Jazeera has now become the most influential political tool of counter-revolution in the Arab world, its role in Libya and the impact of the sectarian nature of its coverage of the Bahrain uprising would have been much less lethal had it not been for the massive prestige and authority it had gained at the height of the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings. [...] This [has given it] a unique position to influence events and perceptions, particularly in relation to Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen and Iraq. [...]Although Al-Jazeera has always had a sectarian undertone at an editorial level, a marked shift in direction came when the Qatari ruling family [...] buried their longstanding conflict with the Saudi ruling family in the wake of the revolutionary tidal wave reaching Bahrain [...]The channel’s silence towards the violent suppression of the protesters in Bahrain, headquarters of the US fifth fleet, was backed up by live interviews with Sheikh Qaradhawi, a very influential Egyptian cleric and a guest of the Qatari ruling family.”

Doing serious damage to the democratic forces in Syria, Al-Jazeera has been trumpeting the Qatari and Saudi rulers’ calls for the militarisation of the conflict. It has given voice to the pro-NATO intervention forces in the Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army, who do not represent a majority of the Syrian people and are dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. Perhaps more damagingly is the way they suppressed the anti-intervention democratic opposition voices in Syria.

How do you see this conflict playing out? Do you see a victory for the reactionary forces as moving us closer to a war with Iran? Is there still a potential for revolutionary change in Syria?

Yes, I think that a victory for the Saudi and Qatari ruling classes, backed by the US, will be a major setback for the people in Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and the entire region. It will plunge Syria and the entire region into a sectarian bloodbath, and will strengthen plans to attack Iran.

In an alarming move pointing to future developments, a major US-led military exercise is taking place in Jordan. 12,000 multinational forces from 20 NATO members and Arab states are taking part in Operation Eager Lion 2012, the first of its type in the region. US military sources do not hide the fact that the simulation of amphibious landings and other war manoeuvres were intended to be “noticed” by Syria and Iran.

Syria is of pivotal importance not only due to its historic role and strategic location but also because it is Iran’s only ally in the region. Installing a pro US regime in Damascus, or crippling Syria through severe sanctions, terrorist attacks and sectarian civil war will apply further pressure on Iran to either concede to US demands or be attacked.
I think that Iran’s nuclear energy programme is not the major US concern, especially given that the CIA itself has admitted that there was no evidence that Iran was working on producing nuclear weapons. Iran is a formidable regional power, and one of the world’s largest oil producers, which happens to be implacably opposed to US and Israeli policies. Its policies run counter to US plans and have created problems for the US in Afghanistan and Iraq and for Israeli policies in Palestine and Lebanon.

Following the uprisings, the Saudi and Qatari rulers are being encouraged by Washington to strengthen their influence in the Middle East by restoring their lost influence in Syria and Lebanon. In the latter, defeating Hizbullah (and its Christian and left and nationalist allies) is the main objective. They are trying to drag Hizbullah into another Lebanese civil war. Al-Jazeera and Arab states’ media have been conducting a prolonged and intense racist and sectarian campaign against Iran, portraying it as the main enemy and accusing Syria and Hizbullah of being stooges of Iran.

This is not to argue that the counterrevolutionary onslaught will be successful. The people of Syria are overwhelmingly opposed to political and social change in their country that is funded and backed by the dictatorships of Riyadh and Doha. Women, most of whom enjoy vast social rights compared to Saudi women, ethnic and religious minorities and the democratic left in Syria are a formidable force against Saudi-Qatari-funded forces and are opposed to calls for NATO intervention. Militarisation of the conflict and resorting to terrorist attacks are signs of failure of the reactionary forces to gain mass support for their line. However, the struggle of the anti-imperialist left and other democratic forces in Syria, as in Iraq, remain difficult and very complex, due to the brutality of and corruption-ridden regime on the one hand and the intervention of NATO and Saudi-Qatari rulers on the other.

Years of repression by the dictatorships, backed by colonial and imperialist powers for so many decades, has organisationally weakened the left and other democratic forces. It is obvious that with Saudi-Qatari backing, the leaderships of the Brotherhood and Salafi forces are, in the short term, reaping the fruits of the uprisings. These forces have always played a dual role amongst the poorest sections of the population, giving voice for their demands while acting as a lid on the more politically and socially radical demands of the people. At critical times, as in Egypt, Iraq and Syria today, they have played a counter-revolutionary role and were accommodated by imperialist powers.
However, the uprisings in the region have unleashed massive popular energies that bode well for the future.

In the short term I am quite pessimistic about radical democratic transformation in Syria. I think that is no longer possible in the current phase of the struggle, because of the weakness of the left organisations and the foothold gained by the reactionary forces in the country. But longer term the uprisings across the Arab world are laying new foundations for the left to organise and prepare for the protracted battles to come. The masses have flexed their muscles in an unprecedented way. I think their triumphs and setbacks are massive schools for the new generations to develop more effective means and organisations to lead the struggle forward.

Samuel Grove is an independent researcher and journalist.

Houla massacre carried out by Free Syrian Army

By Chris Marsden, 13 June 2012, WSWS

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

The May 25 Houla massacre was perpetrated by opposition forces aligned with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), according to Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

The report refutes the official account by the United States and other major powers and presented uncritically by the media. The massacre was attributed to pro-government forces and used to step up the propaganda offensive for military intervention against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Without providing any serious evidence, the US and its allies claimed that either the Syrian Army or pro-government Shabiha militas carried out the mass killing of over 100 people.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on June 7 published a report from Damascus by Rainer Hermann, who based his article on investigations by oppositionists who visited the area and took eye-witness testimony. They largely confirm the account of the events in Houla given by the Assad government.

"Their findings contradict allegations of the rebels, who had blamed the Shabiha militias which are close to the regime", Hermann wrote, adding, "As oppositionists rejecting the use of force have been killed or at least threatened lately, the oppositionists did not want to see their names mentioned."

The massacre took place after Friday prayers and began with an attack by Sunni "rebels" on three Syrian army checkpoints around Houla. "The checkpoints are designed to protect the Alawite villages around the mostly Sunni Houla", the German daily reported.

Reinforcements were sent by the Syrian Army and fighting went on for 90 minutes, during which "dozens of soldiers and rebels were killed."

It was during these exchanges that the three villages of Houla were blocked off from the outside world. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote: "According to eyewitnesses, the massacre took place during this time. Among the dead were almost exclusively families of the Alawite and Shia minorities of Houla, the population of which is made up of 90 percent Sunnis. Several dozen members of a family that had converted in recent years from the Sunni faith to Shia Islam were slaughtered. Also among the dead were members of the Alawite family Shomaliya and the family of a Sunni member of parliament who was regarded as a collaborator. "

The report continued: "Immediately after the massacre, the offenders are said to have filmed their victims, calling them Sunni victims, and distributed the videos via the Internet."

This account is a devastating refutation of the propaganda campaign waged by Washington, London and Paris, with the aid of the Syrian National Council, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and a pliant Western media.

On the day of the attacks, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, without evidence, condemned the Syrian government's "unacceptable levels of violence and abuses", including the use of heavy weapons on civilian populations.

The regime noted that the massacre was timed to coincide with the visit of UN envoy Kofi Annan to Damascus. It charged that the mass killings were carried out to undermine the ceasefire Annan had negotiated. Soon after, the FSA, which is now accused of carrying out the massacre, said it would no longer respect the Annan peace plan. New demands for military intervention came thick and fast.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung article is given additional weight by a report in Spiegel Online from March 29 pointing to the widespread practice of summary execution carried out by the FSA. Spiegel interviewed a member of an opposition "burial brigade" who had "executed four men by slitting their throats."

His victims included a Shiite soldier in the Syrian army, who had "been beaten into a confession, or that he was terrified of death and had begun to stammer prayers."

The burial brigade kill and "leave torture to others; that's what the so-called interrogation brigade is for", Speigel wrote.

That report noted that whereas an admitted 150 Syrian army prisoners have been executed, "the executioners of Homs have been busier with traitors within their own ranks."

"If we catch a Sunni spying, or if a citizen betrays the revolution, we make it quick", one oppositionist explained. "According to Abu Rami, Hussein's burial brigade has put between 200 and 250 traitors to death since the beginning of the uprising."

Also of immediate relevance are reports on the web site of the Monastery of St. James the Mutilated in Qara, Syria. On April 1, Mother Agnès-Mariam de la Croix wrote of an incident in the Khalidiya neighborhood in Homs in which the FSA gathered Christian and Alawite hostages in a building and blew it up. They then blamed the Syrian army.

"The Al Amoura family in Al Durdak village, in the Homs area, was exterminated by Wahhabi terrorists. Forty-one people from this family had their throats slit in one day", she also reported.

Agnès-Mariam stated that of Homs' one million inhabitants, two thirds of the population had fled, including over 90 percent of Christians, due to the activities of "snipers and acts of criminal aggression" against "the Alawite and Christian minorities, Shiites, and many `moderate' Muslims who did not choose to participate in dissident activity."

She wrote that in numerous sectarian attacks "... people were mutilated, their throats slit, disembowelled, cut up, thrown in street corners or trash cans. They did not stop at shooting children at point-blank range to create distress and despair, as was the case with the young Sari, the nephew of our stonecutter. Such horrific acts were then exploited in the media to put responsibility on government forces."

Even without such corroborative accounts, the silence of the world's media on the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung report is extraordinary. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is a respected, indeed conservative, publication, with a circulation in the hundreds of thousands and a daily readership in 148 countries. Yet no major newspaper took up its report, because they are all complicit in the dissemination of naked propaganda. There is literally nothing in the reports of the mainstream Western media that can be taken as good coin.

The most important question posed by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung report, however, is what role was played in the massacre by the United States itself. Clearly, given its own extensive contacts with the Free Syrian Army, and the political, financial and military backing for the FSA by Washington's regional allies—Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey—the Obama administration will have been well aware that the massacre was the work of anti-regime insurgents and not the Syrian army, even as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others called for additional action to be taken to depose Assad.

It is entirely possible that Houla was a massacre made in the USA.

US policy in Syria has from the start been based on the whipping up of a Sunni-based sectarian insurgency, with the aim of destabilising and deposing Assad's Alawite regime. This, in turn, is linked to US preparations for a military attack on Iran, which would be further isolated in the Middle East with the demise of Assad, its major ally in the region.

With the experience of Bosnia and Kosovo to draw upon, this was done not merely in the certain knowledge that bloody internecine fighting would result, but with the intention of provoking civil conflict in order to provide a pretext for military intervention in humanitarian guise.

On Monday, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland expressed her "concern" about reports that the regime "may be organising another massacre" in Latakia province. "People will be held accountable" , she warned.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton escalated the crisis Tuesday, accusing Russia of sending attack helicopters to the Assad regime and charging Moscow with lying about its arms shipments.

The head of UN peace keeping operations, meanwhile, became the first United Nations official to describe the Syrian conflict as a civil war, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague, referring to the massacres at Houla and al-Qubair, denounced the Syrian government for committing "grotesque crimes."

Arizona State University's Student Government Votes to Boycott Israel


Even Students in John McCain's State of Arizona are turning against Israel
This is a good example of how the argument for Israel and Zionism has collapsed, even in its United States heartland.  To those who say it doesn’t matter or it is ‘book burning’ I say that the precondition for the success of BDS is the delegitimisation of the concept of a Jewish state and the removal of the belief that Israel is a democratic oasis in the Middle East.  In other words, the political and ideological attack against the Israeli state is extremely important.

The focus by those like the Reut Institute on delegitimisation of Israel is in fact correct.  Their problem is that they are defending the indefensible.  If a Jewish state means ensuring a Jewish majority and therefore expelling after a few pogroms non-Jewish refugees from Africa, how is that different from other racist states?  Is not the goal of a Jewish state racist in itself, given the context in which it has arisen?

Tony Greenstein


BDS roundup: Arizona StateUniversity student government votes to divest from Israel

Submitted by nora on Wed, 06/06/2012 - 22:20

In this week’s roundup of news from the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, Arizona State University’s student government votes to divest from Israel; Evergreen State College’s student-run campus cafe boycotts Israeli products; Italian activists urge the city of Venice to boycott Sodastream; and more!

The student government at Arizona State University took a powerful stand on the last day of the school year last week, when it unanimously passed a billdemanding that ASU divest from and blacklist companies that continue to provide the [Israeli army] with weapons and militarized equipment or are complicit with the genocidal regime in Darfur.”

In a press announcement, Students for Justice in Palestine’s ASU chapter stated:

This announcement, coming on the last day of the 2012 school year, is another victory in the global call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) on Israel as well as other global solidarity movements calling for the end to human rights violations.

Arizona State University, a university with an endowment of over $735 million, aspires to be the “New American University” with globally engaged students. We, students, at ASU want our university to make socially responsible investment decisions; we also want ASU’s investments to reflect its values as an institution. The bill calls for ASU to divest from and blacklist companies such as Alliant Tech Systems, Boeing, Caterpillar, Motorola, United Technologies, Petrochina, China National Petroleum Company, Sinopec, Oil and Natural Gas Company, and Alstom.

This is not the first time ASU has divested from companies supporting human rights abuses. In 1985 Arizona public universities supported divestment from apartheid South Africa. The undergraduate student government has also supported the idea of the creation of an Advisory Committee for Socially Responsible Investing on campus in the past. This is just another step in the right direction for the New American University. The bill concludes, “that the [ASU] Undergraduate Student Government supports on-campus divestment from and blacklisting of corporations that are complicit in human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian Territories and Sudan.”

ASU has been a flashpoint of cross-struggle student activism, as students from Latin@ groups and Students for Justice in Palestine — and students in solidarity with both — have come together in support of global social justice and human rights (Latin@ is a gender neutral term for Latino and Latina).

In March, students from M.E.Ch.A, the largest Latin@ student group in the US, voted overwhelmingly to endorse BDS, following the previous BDS endorsement by ASU’s own M.E.Ch.A chapter.

Last year, legendary scholar Dr. Cornel West lent his support to the student groups at ASU who work to support BDS and the threatened ethnic studies classes on campus.

In a similar solidarity action on another Arizona campus, students at the University of Arizona at Tucson constructed a mock wall on campus to bring attention to both the militarized wall Israel has built in the West Bank, and the militarized wall along the US-Mexico border.

Evergreen State College’s student-run campus cafe boycotts Israeli products

In another victory on a US college campus, the Flaming Eggplant Cafe, a student-run collective at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, voted on 4 June to boycott Israeli goods.
The local, student-led BDS group, TESC-Divest! stated on its website that:

According to the Flaming Eggplant’s mission statement, one of the cafe’s goals is to “nourish the local food system by making delicious, healthy, ecologically and socially just food accessible to all.” In its statement of principles, the collective also expresses its commitment to “supporting political participation and direct action to create a just and egalitarian society.”

Office Coordinator Cris Papaiacovou said, “We came to a consensus as a collective to support the Palestinian civil society call for BDS because it is directly in line with our mission and statement of principles.” He added, “We are proud to join this non-violent movement to pressure Israel until it ends its human rights violations against Palestinians.”

… The café’s support of the boycott becomes the latest victory in ongoing student-led activism for Palestinian human rights at TESC. In the Spring of 2010, the student body voted overwhelmingly to support two resolutions, one calling for divestment from companies profiting from Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and the other prohibiting the use of Caterpillar Inc. equipment on campus. Rachel Corrie, an Evergreen student, was killed in 2003 by a weaponized Caterpillar bulldozer operated by the Israeli military as she attempted to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian family’s home in the Gaza Strip.

“We are incredibly proud of the Flaming Eggplant for taking this stand,” said Elizabeth Moore, a student and TESC Divest! organizer. “Due to the absence of accountability shown by our administration, we as students will continue to take the initiative in promoting a just peace in Palestine and Israel.”

Workers at The Flaming Eggplant, after making their decision, explained why they came out in support of BDS at the cafe:

Our Mission Statement outlines a commitment to serving socially just food. Israel’s policy of illegal land seizure and destruction on Palestinian lands means purchasing items from Israel is in conflict with our mission.

As a student-run collective with the stated principle of supporting direct action for a just and egalitarian society, and as a café representing the student body at large, we feel it is important to uphold the desire for boycott and divestment as voted for by the students at The Evergreen State College.

Italian BDS activists tell city of Venice to terminate all relations with Sodastream

Activists with BDS Italia and Stop Sodastream released a strong statement to the city of Venice this week, experssing their outrage at a city-sponsored promotional event on 27 May — dubbed “Join the Stream” — organized by Sodastream, an Israeli corporation that manufactures its products in an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank. Sodastream products are sold in numerous chain stores across the US, Canada and Europe.

'We are stunned to see the City of Venice involved in a shrewd marketing ploy aimed at creating an image of Sodastream as a company committed to environmental sustainability. In fact, behind this facade of a socially responsible business, Sodastream hides an ugly truth: its main manufacturing facility is in the occupied Palestinian territories in the illegal Israeli settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim. Sodastream is thus an accomplice of the Israeli occupation and profits from the systematic violation of international law and basic human rights of the Palestinian people.

Sodastream’s marketing campaign in Italy, with an investment of 3 million [euros] for 2012, seeks to leverage this image of an “ecological company,” organizing initiatives to involve individuals and organizations who, in good faith, think they are simply participating in activities in favor of the environment.

… Unfortunately, in the case of the City of Venice, support for Sodastream goes beyond the sponsorship of publicity events to include direct promotion of Sodastream products. The April newsletter for Veritas, the local public utility, included a discount coupon for the purchase of a Sodastream home carbonation device. This collaboration places the City at risk of being an accomplice of the Israeli military occupation through direct support of a company that produces in an illegal settlement.

We consider this inconsistent with the Charter of the City, Article 2, vowing to “recognize the human right to water, specifically, access to water as a universal, indivisible, inalienable human right, and the status of water as a public common good.” This right is denied to Palestinians under occupation, from whom Israel has expropriated water sources via the construction of the Wall and settlements, and forces Palestinians to purchase water at higher prices from the national Israeli company Mekorot.

The statement then called on the city of Venice to “terminate all relations with the Israeli company Sodastream and its representatives in Italy,” and “to use its influence as a shareholder, together with other municipalities that have stakes in the public company, to demand that Veritas immediately discontinue participation in promotions of Sodastream products.”

The entire statement can be read on the Stop Agrexco Italia website.

Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign appeal dismissal of Israeli bonds lawsuit

Activists with the Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign, which aims to stop the state from investing in companies that are involved with Israel’s human rights violations against Palestinians, filed an appeal on 31 May asking the Minnesota Court of Appeals to “reverse a lower court ruling dismissing the group’s lawsuit against the State Board of Investment (SBI).”

In a press release, organizers with MN BBC stated:

The lawsuit, filed in late 2011, contends that the SBI’s investments of millions of dollars in Israel Bonds are unlawful and imprudent. It alleges that the SBI’s statutory authorization to invest public employee pension funds, found in Section 11A.24 of the Minnesota Statutes, does not authorize the SBI to invest in Israel Bonds and that the SBI has done so unlawfully and with impunity. The lawsuit further alleges that the SBI’s investments in Israel Bonds are providing substantial material support for Israel’s human rights violations, including its illegal settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories which have been universally condemned as violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The lawsuit further alleges that the SBI’s material support of Israel’s human rights abuses exposes the SBI and ultimately Minnesota taxpayers to lawsuits brought against them by victims of Israel’s human rights abuses.

Judge Margaret Marrinan had ruled in the lower court that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the lawsuit, that the language of the Minnesota Statute in question allowed the SBI to invest in any governmental bond of any country in the world; that this is a “political question” best left to other branches of government to decide; and that merely investing millions of dollars in the government bonds of another country, regardless of that country’s human rights record, is not sufficient to prove that the SBI is aiding and abetting human rights violations.

MN BBC believes that the lower court ruling is seriously flawed and that the appeal has exceptional merit. Minnesota law gives taxpayers and state pension plan beneficiaries standing to challenge the SBI’s investment decisions. MN BBC includes members meeting both criteria. The Minnesota Statute in question clearly does not permit the SBI to invest state funds in Israel’s government bonds and making an exception for Israel allows for other absurd exceptions. Further, the lawfulness of the SBI’s fiscal decisions is subject to court review. It is not a “political question.” Finally MN BBC contends that providing substantial material assistance to Israel’s illegal activities is sufficient to expose Minnesota and its taxpayers to claims and lawsuits.

MN BBC is a group of Palestinians, Jews, Christians, Muslims, students, professionals, parents, community members and allies working together to promote equality, justice and human rights by educating Minnesota communities about injustices being suffered by Palestinians. MN BBC believes that the people of Minnesota have the moral obligation to make sound investments that will not aid the oppression of any race, creed or people.

Copies of the lawsuit and the appeal are available on the MN BBC website.

French BDS activists: “Israel, ça groove pas” (“Israel, it doesn’t groove”)

French BDS activists have launched a campaign against the “100 Tel Aviv Jazz” festival, organized by the Israeli embassy in France, taking place this week in Paris.
Activists with BDS France appealed to local jazz clubs with a letter, which states in part (translated to English):

You would never have accepted to host in your clubs South African artists financed by the apartheid government; therefore we ask you to hear the call of Palestinian civil society and their Israeli and international partners, and to stand on the side of justice, by refusing the money which would make you accomplices to the crimes of these sponsors.

So please stay true to the code of ethics, don’t allow yourselves to be manipulated, refuse to be part of the propaganda which, under the guise of “cultural openness”, seeks to hide the realities of a colonial apartheid state which is the State of Israel.

The activists also made a YouTube video (in French) to protest the event and Israeli propaganda, entitled “Israel, ça groove pas” (“Israel, it doesn’t groove”).

Who Profits’ new report on Ahava

Who Profits, the research project of the Coalition of Women for Peace, released a new report on the business and trade of Ahava-Dead Sea Laboratories, the Israeli cosmetics company that operates out of illegal settlements in the West Bank.

According to Who Profits, the purpose of this updated report “is to explore the various companies that make up the supply chain of a company involved in the occupation as these companies are participating in practices that, on their face, are in violation of international law. As this report exposes, the company also uses natural resources from the occupied area in its mud products.”

The write-up of the report adds:

The Ahava factory and visitors’ center is located in the Mitzpe Shalem settlement, on the shore of the Dead Sea in the occupied part of the Jordan Valley and a large percentage of Ahava shares are held by two Israeli West Bank settlements.

The report can be downloaded off the Who Profits website by clicking here.

The Freedom Theatre in Jenin - Still Under Israel Attack - Silence from the Literary Mafia

The Hypocrites and Prostitutes of Pundits like Jonathan Freedland & Aaronovitch

There are no greater hypocrites than the pundits and prostitutes of the spoken word – the Jonathan Freedlands and David Aaronovitches – who wax lyrical about the terrors of the Cultural Boycott whilst turning a blind eye to the ongoing attacks of Israel’s war machine against all manifestations of Palestinian culture.  The Freedom Theatre in Jenin, whose Director Julian Meir Khamis was murdered last year, is a case in point.

In the words of Stanley Baldwin it is“Power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.” But Boycott the Habima Theatre Production in London or the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra in the Albert Hall and civilisation as we know it has all but come to an end.
This is a good example of the racist hypocrisy of western imperialism.  Don’t do to us what we are allowed to do to you.  The same arguments were made over the Cultural Boycott of South Africa and the Freedlands of the day were spouting the same nonsense then as now. 
In fact a Cultural Boycott is one of our strongest weapons.  No one seriously thinks that an economic boycott, at least in the short-term is going to pay dividends.  The backing of the United States will see to that.  But the Cultural Boycott is different.  It undermines the psyche of the coloniser, it affects their morale, just as it did in South Africa.   

That is why Gilad Atzmon and his anti-Semitic rotweiller, Sarah Gillespie, are as fervent in their opposition to the Cultural Boycott as any Zionist.  Gillespie recently wrote on Atzmon’s ‘deLiberation site’  under a picture of Stalin that 'the BDS Cultural and academic boycott ...  is not principled, & it lacks integrity. By refusing to have the argument you have lost the argument.’ 

By the same ticket by boycotting South African Apartheid and disrupting those who came from the laager we had lost the argument!  In reality Atzmon and co. don’t wish to make any sacrifices for the cause they allegedly support unlike people like Miriam Margolyes.

The question I always ask is what would have been your reaction to the tour of Hitler’s apologists – the Berlin Symphonic Orchestra and its world famous director Wilhelm Furtwangler.  Would you have welcomed them too?  Atzmon would, to be sure.  Would the Zionists?  Yes they also would have had no difficulty, double confirmation we are right!

Tony Greenstein

Nabil al-Ree
As reported by Mondoweiss, last night at 3am, Israeli troops entered the home of Nabil Al Raee, Artistic Director of the Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp, and arrested him at gunpoint, giving him and his wife no explanation for their actions, and terrifying his three-year old daughter. He is currently being held in a nearby military prison.
Jenin is in Zone A of the West Bank, under Palestinian control and administration, and this arrest by the IDF violates the Oslo Accords.  To be arrested without charge also violates Nabil Al Raee’s human rights.

British Writers in Support of Palestine condemns in unequivocal terms this violent, illegal and repressive act, which is part of a systematic campaign of intimidation clearly directed at the Freedom Theatre itself.   For the last three weeks Freedom Theatre co-founder Zakaria Zubeidi has been held without charge in a prison in Jericho.  The IDF investigation of the murder of founding Artistic Director Juliano Mer Khamis has only ever been directed at Freedom Theatre Staff, and has now been officially closed, ignoring significant forensic evidence.

British Writers in Support of Palestine demands a full and proper investigation into the murder of 
Juliano Mer Khamis, and the immediate release of Nabil Al Raee and Zakaria Zubeidi, neither of whom have been charged with any crime.  We thank our colleagues in the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign for their comprehensive statement placing these recent arrests in the context of the increasing abuse of Palestinian prisoners by Israeli military courts.  With the IPSC we call for the end of Israel’s policy of Administrative Detention and its Unlawful Combatants Law, by means of which Israel interns people without charge; and demand that Israeli courts treat all Palestinian prisoners in accordance with international law, and free all Palestinian political prisoners.

Our thoughts are with Nabil and Zakaria and their families and friends at this dark and uncertain time.
Press Release from The Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp, northern West Bank June 6, 2012

At approximately 03:15 am the Israeli army entered the home of Nabil Al-Raee, the Artistic Director of The Freedom Theatre, and took him to an unknown location.

Julian's Students
Nabil’s wife, Micaela Miranda explains what happened: “The dog started barking so I went outside and saw soldiers jumping over the gate and come into the yard of the house. They asked for my husband and I asked what for, that it’s my right to know and it’s my house. The soldiers replied that they were not going to tell me. They then took Nabil, brought him to an army jeep and drove off. We are very worried because we don’t know where they took him and why.”

Jonatan Stanczak, Managing Director of The Freedom Theatre: “I live on the floor above Nabil and when I heard what was happening I tried to go down to talk to the soldiers because I speak Hebrew. The house was surrounded by masked Israeli soldiers and three of them immediately pointed their weapons at me and pushed me back into the house.”

Attempts were immediately made to contact the District Coordination Office of the Israeli army but to no avail. More than half the employees of The Freedom Theatre were recently called to interrogations by the Israeli army, including Nabil Al-Raee. All came to the appointments as scheduled and answered to their best of their knowledge the given questions even though they were intimidated and even threatened.

Jonatan Stanczak continues: “I don’t understand why they do this after they know they could simply have made a phone call to Nabil and he would have come to answer any questions or concerns that they might have. Since this has happened so many times in the past, I can’t interpret it as anything else than an ongoing harassment of the employees of The Freedom Theatre and their families by the Israeli army.”

At this point it is unclear if any other members of The Freedom Theatre have been taken during the night. Several of them have not responded to phone calls.

A Tribute to Juliano

2011 was a devastating year for The Freedom Theatre. In April, Juliano Mer Khamis, co-founder of The Freedom Theatre and its visionary leader, was murdered. We staff and members of The Freedom Theatre, will not forget and we will not cease to demand, unconditionally, that those responsible for Juliano's death be brought to justice. Just as The Freedom Theatre was built on the inspiration and legacy of Arna, Juliano's mother, so will its future work be built on the legacy of Juliano. It will carry on his message to promote freedom-not only for the Palestinian people but for all human beings. We are mourning, but we will continue our resistance through art, continue our struggle, continue to do our better than best. As Juliano would say: The Revolution must go on!
"You don't have to heal the children in Jenin. We are not trying to heal their violence. We try to challenge it into more productive ways. And more productive ways are not an alternative to resistance. What we are doing in the theatre is not trying to be a replacement or an alternative to the resistance of the Palestinians in the struggle for liberation, just the opposite. This must be clear. I know it's not good for fundraising, because I'm not a social worker, I'm not a good Jew going to help the Arabs, and I'm not a philanthropic Palestinian who comes to feed the poor. We are joining, by all means, the struggle for liberation of the Palestinian people, which is our liberation struggle. We're not healers. We're not good Christians. We are freedom fighters."
Juliano Mer Khamis, 1958-2011

"The revolutionary message will not pass away. It will come storming the yellow sands and the mountains covered by almond trees...from here, from the Freedom Theatres stage, where men were and are made to be free and engaged in the cultural revolutionary battle for freedom. In thousands of silences only one voice is raising up; it's the freedom fighters, to whom you taught how to carry the cultural gun on their shoulders. Juliano, your mother's children have passed away, your mother, Arna, has passed away and so did you-but your children are going to stay, following your path on the way to the freedom battle, and we will go on with your revolution's promise, the Jasmine revolution."
Juliano's students

"I think it was 1989, we were in Geneva attending one of the international women conferences, trying to make bridges and common action against Israeli occupation. We were a group of palestinian, israelies and international women, among the israelies there was Arna. I was taken by her love for humanity and by her sharp vision. Not all the israelies liked her, she was too radical for some of them, but i immediately felt she was unique. We talked about our life and she spoke about Juliano, she was proud of her son. I met Juliano many years later, when he presented Arna's film in Jerusalem to the Women in Black International conference. After the film, we all danced and i finded a pipe fo water, we started to throw water to each other and we were jocking like child. He also was unique. The freedom of his thought, the determination to deal with his plurime identity, his frankness that sometime sound rudness, but also his humanity and kindness. A real human, being able to face also his contraddictions. I admired his committment to go back to Jenin and among the ruines to rebuild this time not the Stone Theatre but the Freedom Theatre. I felt so honored, privileged and moved when he ask me to be part of the Freedom Theatre foundation. When he was killed, the pain for his loss was immense and is still there. I thought about the people of the Theatre, about Zakaria and all the people he lost. But we are still here and resist, resist the military occupation, the occupation of the mind and the fanatics who killed Juliano. Art is freedom, culture is freedom. Juliano is with us and the Jenin Freedom Theatre lives."
Luisa Morgantini
former Vice President of the European Parliament
Spokeperson of the Italian Peace Association