Adonis Diaries

Israel’s refuseniks. Unit 8200 in the intelligence: ‘you can’t run from responsibility’

Three signatories of the 41 Israeli military intelligence refusenik letter agreed to be interviewed by the Guardian to discuss what motivated their concerns.

They are all members of Unit 8200 – known in Hebrew as Yehida Shmoneh-Matayim – Israel’s largest signals intelligence gathering unit, active both abroad and in the Palestinian territories.

All three are now on the active reserve list and have said they will not do reserve service relating to the occupied Palestinian territories.

Of the three, “A”, aged 32, and Nadav, 26, are sergeants, while “D”, 29, is a captain.

Letter of Unit 8200 explains why they refuse to work in Palestinian territories

Three Israeli intelligence veterans talk about their experience in Palestinian territories

By agreement with the letter’s signatories, material relating to specific claims regarding the unit was provided in statements that they chose to disclose to the Israeli military censor.

In face-to-face interviews they agreed to discuss what motivated them to sign the letter, declining to discuss specifics.

Below is a transcript of the Guardian’s interview conducted earlier this week in collaboration with several other media outlets. It has been lightly edited for repetition, brevity and sense.

Two minor amendments were made at the request of the soldiers to clarify meaning.

How did you organise the letter?

D: For a couple of months friends [have been] joining and [it’s been] growing slowly … most of them are still active. We’ve been thinking about it for maybe a year.

It was a difficult dilemma. We were worried that this action would be seen only as a response to the war in Gaza and it is important to us to make it clear this is about the ‘normal’ situation [of the occupation].

A: We didn’t want it to be interpreted only in this context. We decided before the recent war to do this. For me there wasn’t any particular trigger. It was a long process of realising …

When people talk about the role that intelligence services play in non-democratic regimes usually their hair stands on their back a bit and they shudder.

And that’s not the way I thought about the military service that I did [at first].

It was a gradual realisation that this was me [as well]. That I was playing that role. That made me see in a different light what I’ve done and take this action.

I still feel very committed to how I was raised, and that’s what makes it so difficult. I still feel part of [Israeli] society.

N: I think because we are part of [Israeli] society is the reason [that] we are doing it. It is not an act against everything that is done …

A: We feel it as an act of taking responsibility for the things we take part in. But we also see it as part of a deep concern for the society we live in. We’re not trying to break away from it or anything like that.

Maybe you can say something about yourselves?

D: I currently live in Jerusalem. I’m a student. I’m doing a master’s in computers. I joined the military in 2003. I stayed until 2011.

I was an officer. An intelligence officer. And I stayed for a couple of years extra. I was a team leader, then a section leader. A captain.

A: I was enlisted in 2001 after half a year of pre-military courses which I volunteered for. Afterwards I also stayed on for an extra period.

I volunteered to become an instructor and then a team leader. Full time I was [there] five years. Since then I’ve been a student also in the Hebrew University.

Now I live in Tel Aviv and my wife and I are expecting our first daughter. I’m studying maths.

N: I enlisted in 2007. I was in the army for almost four years. I was also an instructor. I finished the military in 2010.

Now I live in Tel Aviv. I’m a student in the Open University and I’m studying literature and philosophy.

When you think about intelligence work, people think about it as “clean” because it’s not about running after people in alleys of refugee camps and shooting at protesters.

What’s not “clean” about intelligence work that you wouldn’t want to be involved in?

N: The intelligence gathering on Palestinians is not clean in that sense. When you rule a population … they don’t have political rights, laws like we have.

The nature of this regime of ruling over people, especially when you do it for many years, it forces you to take control, infiltrate every aspect of their life.

D: [This is] one of the messages we feel it is very important to get across mostly to the Israeli public because that is a very common misconception about what’s intelligence and I can say for myself and for many of the participants – refuseniks in our letter – that this is something [we also felt] when we were enlisting in the military.

Not being aware of the conflict as much as we are aware of it today … [believing] our job was going to be minimising violence, minimising loss of lives. That made the moral side of it feel – be – much easier.

A: I distinctly remember before I was recruited, I felt very fortunate that I had this job that was so clean of moral dilemmas. [Because] our job was to make the work smarter.

We were supposed to minimise the casualties both fighting terrorism. And when Israel is forced to strike back, we would be able to make sure only the bad guys get killed.

And I think recent events … but this is not just about the recent war [in Gaza] … our experience after the past 10 years have made us see this is simplistic.

N: In the last month there were two occasions of this in newspapers that reflect this [point] exactly.

There was a [Palestinian] parliament member in Ramallah. The army told her she had to move to Jericho because she was supporting demonstrations.

That’s just one example of the things intelligence does that is not really to do with terrorism or anything like that.

D: A significant part of what the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] does is not the “title” [ie defence]. The “title” of what the IDF does in the occupied territories is ruling another people.

One of the things you need to do is defend yourself from them, but you also need to oppress the population.

You need to weaken the politics, you need to strengthen and deepen your control of Palestinian society so that the [Israeli] state can remain [there] in the long term … We realised that that’s the job of the intelligence.

Was there work they did not object to?

D: I think a lot of what the unit does, doesn’t have anything to do with Palestinians, we’re not only not against that, we’re all in favour, we think it is the right and duty of the state of Israel to defend its citizens.

We took that very seriously while we were in the unit and we still take it seriously. That’s what makes this decision much more difficult because it’s not a black and white situation.

Did you feel your were violating people’s rights?

N: Definitely. In Israeli intelligence regarding Palestinians, they don’t really have rights. Nobody asks that question. It’s not [like] Israeli citizens, where if you want to gather information about them you need to go to court.

A: The only limitation is the limitation of resources. There’s no procedural questions regarding who can and cannot be surveilled. Everybody is fair game.

N: An 18-year-old soldier who thinks: “We need to gather information on this or that person” – that 18-year-old kid [in Unit 8200] is the one that decides.

A: It is well known that the intelligence is used. People are arrested in the Palestinian territories. Sometimes without trial. And even when they are taken to trial it’s often with evidence that can’t be exposed [in court] because it is classified.

And the intelligence is used to apply pressure to people, to make them cooperate with Israel. These are all things that are known.

It’s no secret that Israeli intelligence is producing the target database that is used in the air strikes …

There was a big media outcry after [Hamas military leader] Salah Shehade was assassinated [in 2002] and 14 members of his family were killed.

There was a big story around that and the commander of the air force then – Dan Halutz – said to the pilots:

You did well. You’re not responsible. Your job is to deliver the ammunition to the target in the most professional and accurate way you can, and you did that and your hands are clean”.

D: And you don’t see the big picture …

A: The question [is] who does see the big picture? Who does provide this information to these pilots? And the answer is clear [ie Unit 8200].

[There was] a famous incident. It was when “Lieutenant Alif” [Lieutenant A, a former member of their unit] refused to pass on information regarding the capacity of a building. The idea was to destroy a building and its inhabitants – and what I’m telling is not the story we were told in the unit – it was a story that was exposed by journalists in Israel years later.

D: In 2003 [during the second intifada] there was this general routine for the IDF to bomb buildings at night as a response to terrorist attacks or to pass a message or … whatever you like.

After an especially bad terrorist attack in south Tel Aviv by the old bus station there was a decision that the response had to be more harsh this time.

The action that was decided upon was to destroy from the air a building belonging to Fatah, which wasn’t the organisation that was responsible for the terrorist attack.

And the building wasn’t related in any way to military activity. It was some kind of welfare centre where they were giving out pay cheques.

Unlike previous times, an essential part [of the operation] was that building wouldn’t be empty and there would be people there, no matter who. Someone had to be there in order to die.

The role of our unit was to give the green light for this attack. To say when the building isn’t empty. So this lieutenant – whose name wasn’t published – refused.

At first he tried to get the action cancelled. And then he spoke with his commanders but still found himself in real time being asked for that information.

And even when he knew that now the building is not empty and was supposed to give the green light he said: “I’m refusing, I’m not doing it.” He got the operation cancelled.

The response of all the senior commanders – in the unit and in the military – was to be shocked by him daring to refuse a direct order that he had received. That was the only kind of inquiry that was taken into the matter. There were some reports – just days after the incident, in the Israeli media – but they were wrong. They changed the goal of the operation and said the goal was a targeted killing of …

A: I remember that it was the talk of the unit because it was in the news and we all had briefings about it. We were told he was “confused”. He didn’t understand what was asked of him. And the general message was there’s no such thing as a manifestly illegal order in the unit.

D: What’s important is that it wasn’t only the interpretation … the media and soldiers inside the unit were told a lie about what was the target of the operation. … The [fact that] the ultimate goal was to kill innocent people was hidden. I joined the unit several months after. The response was to kick [the lieutenant] out of his job – not the unit – until he finished his military service.

I received a lesson in the course where we discussed this [case]. As a person who spent many years in the unit, who took my job there very seriously, I was very motivated to be a part of this unit and to do our job and I feel very betrayed by this lie. I feel the worst thing about it is, it isn’t the momentary decision of a completely illegal, immoral operation, but the fact that for more than a decade later the unit still prefers not to deal with it …

N: To deny what really happened …

D: … to say that according to senior officers this operation was looked into before the order was given. Legal officers checked the order to make sure it was an OK operation to carry out. So according to these senior officers this was all OK. There was no problem. When they were asked in [this article] in 2011 they could not even understand what was the issue. They say “Leave us alone” to the reporter.

A: But you talked to the people who were there …

D: I did speak with people who were there. I don’t want to say exactly who. People who were in the room …

A: The reason I brought up the whole Lieutenant Alif case was to emphasise that on the one hand the pilots are not responsible and on the other hand we – who are providing the information – are not responsible. The feeling is that it’s never possible to point any fingers. There is no one who is responsible.

N: And when you look at what happened this summer when building after building was destroyed on the inhabitants and hundreds of innocent people were killed. No one raised an eyebrow as opposed to just one decade ago when a killing of a family of a commander of Hamas [Salah Shahade] – then people were shocked. It was a huge story in Israel.

D: The story [of Lieutenant Alif] is very important and representative of the response of senior commanders of the unit to this incident I was referring to. [The fact] that the incident is used to give soldiers in the unit the message: “You’re not responsible.” There’s no such thing as a definite illegal order.

And we think this message has been well understood in the unit, which we think is a part of the fact that in the recent decade we’ve seen a decline in how much the soldiers and the Israeli public cares that innocent people are dying.

A: It’s important to say, the reason I decided to refuse. I decided to refuse long before the recent [Gaza] operation. It was when I realised that what I was doing was the same job that the intelligence services of every undemocratic regime are doing. That I’m part of this large mechanism that is trying to defend or perpetuate its presence in the [occupied territories] …

N: … it is part of the effort to save the status quo.

A: To preserve and hold and deepen our hold on the Palestinian population. And I think for most of us this was the main reason for doing this. And of course the operations and the wars – the ongoing periodic wars are part of this.

How did the letter come about?

D: At first it was just a small group of people meeting and discussing both our political opinions and also going through a process of realising what we’ve been involved with. You have to understand that being in the unit is very, very secret. It is not only that we keep secrets from the outside but we keep secrets from each other.

The whole culture is very secretive. It is very difficult to just be in a situation where you meet with each other to reach a position of productive discussion. So for all of us just coming out with our thoughts was in itself very difficult.

Slowly we discussed it with more friends – with friends from the unit we thought would be interested – and just expanded it.

A: You sort of feel around to see how people feel about doing reserve service.

D: First when we approached people we didn’t say: “Look this is our plan, what’s your opinion?”

A: I should say there are a lot of people who, when they leave the military service they start seeing Palestinians as people not just as sources of information, and getting a bigger picture of what’s happening and a lot of people … there’s very different levels of commitment and enthusiasm in doing the reserve service and a lot of people taper off.

D: It was clear from the beginning we wanted to do everything legally. We went to a lawyer and said we don’t want to commit an offense or say anything not allowed to can you help us figure out what we would be allowed to say.

N: We’re not telling secrets about what we did or the way the unit works. We don’t want to do that. We don’t want to hurt national security, we just want to say what is wrong with the things we did and the unit does.

We want people to know that being in intelligence is not clean, and to control a population of millions you can’t just do counter-terrorism and hurt the people who want to hurt you.

D: I think another aspect is the personal aspect. Our decision as individuals that we morally can’t continue to participate in these actions in military service. In theory there is the option of just avoiding the service, not going public but that brings me to – if I had to answer the question what are we doing this for – for me, it is to take responsibility.

I am very acutely aware that I was a part of the cycle of violence, in perpetuating it. I feel like in many moments in this long process I felt maybe just drop it. Maybe just forget about it. You can be leftist, you can go to demonstrations if you want. But I realised that is running away from responsibility because I am already a part. I’ve been a part for almost eight years of these actions that I disagree with.

What at the personal level influenced each of you?

D: During my military service, especially during my last years, I advanced through the ranks and I understood more about what is happening. About the unit’s role in the occupied territories. That was one stage.

After I left in 2011 it the summer of the famous social protests, and I think that was a moment of political awakening for a lot of people despite quite a lot of cynicism in Israel about the impact of that. I felt it put me in a more responsible and involved mindset.

I had questions from my military service I couldn’t really deal with. But it was my whole life. My friends, my daily job. I wasn’t in a position where I could question then properly …

Then I went back to things I was involved in. Thought about it. That was a bit of a Pandora’s box to open because I felt the moment I asked myself these questions I couldn’t run away from responsibility.

Another important realisation for me was that our unit was the intelligence side of an oppressive military regime [in the occupied territories]. Realising it in those terms also brought it much closer to me because my dad was Argentinian, and he was imprisoned by the military dictatorship in 1977.

I think this comparison – and that’s not at all to say the actions of this Argentinian dictatorship is at all similar [to Israel] – but it’s this realisation that we were imagining Palestinians as just plain enemies.

We didn’t realise there was a difference between [the Palestinians we rule over] and citizens of any other country that is the enemy of Israel. My hard realisation was when I realised our function is both to be the regime and also to gather this intelligence … It isn’t like a military issue where you need to know how many airplanes the enemy has.

The targets of this intelligence are specific people and the consequences that this intelligence have are very, very serious and encompass many different areas of their life, because it is also [gathered] by the same regime that controls their lives.

And in this aspect it is the same thing as the dictatorship in Argentina that imprisoned my dad.

A: I identify with a lot of what D said. We are told, and we like to think about Palestinians as enemies in a symmetrical conflict. I started going on tours in Hebron and around Jerusalem and I started to see the reality of the people living there. And you are basically providing them with water and electricity.

And you give them job permits. On the one hand, you decide whether they can work their land or not. And on the other hand, they don’t want you there.

And in this complicated situation you are bound to be drawn to do the all-encompassing surveillance that D has talked about. I’m the person who is doing it … [and I came to] see myself in the light of other oppressive regimes and the role that intelligence plays in these regimes was the turning point.

N: I have to say I was very proud when I first enlisted. I thought it was a very important unit. I am still proud of some things that I did there. I’m not saying that everything done is wrong. The thing that led me to take this decision is that during my service I started realising that we don’t only do things meant to ensure the security of Israel in the sense that these people want to hurt us, but more and more to do with innocent people.

There were times when I raised the question with my fellow soldiers in the unit, with the commanders, that maybe some things were wrong. The answer I was given all the time was: “No, it’s OK.” These questions kept arising in my head. Now as the years go by, and I see it from the outside, I realise that there are some things that are really problematic.

Intelligence can be gathered about everyone.

A: It’s not just a procedural objection that we have. It is the deeper issue that we are part of a regime that is denying Palestinians their rights. It’s been going on for almost 50 years.

D: The problem is that we realised what the actual role of the unit is, that’s what we are bothered about. We don’t think fixing the legal procedures a bit or caring a bit more about Palestinians would be a solution. We think it is a cause of the unit of the job.

A: I think we have said that some of the things that the IDF does really does deserve the title defence forces, but there is a significant proportion of what it is doing that does not deserve this title. It’s in the interests of perpetuating a regime that is oppressive. That is not democratic. It is these things we are trying to bring to the attention of Israeli public first and foremost. To create a discussion and think critically about it.

So you won’t serve across the Green Line in the occupied territories?

D: That is the exact parallel. It’s important to us, if it was up to us, our full names would be on the [published] letter. We are not allowed to reveal it because of secrecy laws.

When you look at [things] in terms of intelligence you can broadly say that there are two types of intelligence in the world. One is gathered – say in a democracy – that a regime collects against its citizens. For example, as an Israeli the government might collect intelligence on me but it has severe limitations on how to do that, and the way that it can use it against me is very limited.

Even if it is taken to court in the end if there is a punishment it is only a punishment directly related to the offence I committed. So that you can, if you like, call civil intelligence.

Then there is military intelligence, which a country collects on another country. Then there’s no laws governing that, only diplomacy and international relations. That’s intelligence. It’s pretty dirty.

But that’s the inherent rules of the game. The other country can defend itself to some extent. In most cases this kind of intelligence won’t have direct consequences for the actual civilian citizens in the other country that might be the target of this intelligence.

[But] in this situation, what’s common to the Palestinian situation – and the situation in Argentina [under the military dictatorship] – is that people get the worst of the two types of intelligence. On the one hand, there are no rules about collecting the intelligence, but at the same time this intelligence might have severe consequences regarding all areas of their life.

You realise that this might have consequences for you – socially and for future employment? You might pay a price for this?

N: This is a price I’m willing to pay. This is very important. You can’t run from responsibility.

D: It’s a serious dilemma for a lot of people I know who decided not to sign the letter. One of the main reasons was this: everyone of us sees the risk a bit differently. I think we are all worried about it but I feel like there is no other choice.

 

Meet the Muslims who sacrificed themselves to save Jews and fight Nazis in World War II
Given recent history, it’s a story that deserves retelling.

Note: For over a century, Muslems were ignored and dehumanized. It got worse after the Soviet troops vacated Afghanistan in 1989. Since then, Muslems were viewed by the west as “terrorists”. Obama is trying to say “Muslems are not representative of ISIS or Daesh since these extremist factions have no religion. This is the same mantra for all religions: the terrorists are the “black sheep“.

The following article is basically trying to wrap Muslems as forming an entity, regardless of their various initial nationalities they are from.

Michael Wolfe published this September 8, 2014

Britain issues a stamp to commemorate Khan. (Courtesy of the Royal Mail)

Noor Inayat Khan led a very unusual life. She was born in 1914 to an Indian Sufi mystic of noble lineage and an American half-sister of Perry Baker, often credited with introducing yoga into America.

As a child, she and her parents escaped the chaos of revolutionary Moscow in a carriage belonging to Tolstoy’s son. Raised in Paris in a mansion filled with her father’s students and devotees, Khan became a virtuoso of the harp and the veena, dressed in Western clothes, graduated from the Sorbonne and published a book of children’s tales — all before she was 25.

One year later, in May 1940, the Germans occupied Paris. Khan, her mother, and a younger brother and sister fled like millions of others, catching the last boat from Bordeaux to England, where she immediately joined the British war effort. In 1942, she was recruited by Churchill’s elite Special Operations Executive (SOE) to work in Paris as a wireless operator. Her clandestine efforts supported the French Underground as England prepared for the D-Day invasions. Among SOE agents, the wireless operator had the most dangerous job of all, because the occupation authorities were skilled at tracking their signals. The average survival time for a Resistance telegrapher in Paris was about six weeks.

Khan’s service continued from June 1943 until her capture and arrest by the Gestapo in October. Her amazing life and eventual murder in Germany’s Dachau prison camp in September 1944 are the focus of a PBS film I co-produced that is airing this week. In researching her story, I came across quite a number of other Muslims who bravely served the Allied cause — and sometimes made the ultimate sacrifice. History is rich with examples of their daring heroism and split-second decisions that helped defeat the Nazis.

Behic Erkin, the Turkish ambassador in Paris, provided citizenship papers and passports to thousands of Jews (many with only distant claims to Turkish connections) and arranged their evacuation by rail across Europe. One fateful day, Necdet Kent, the Turkish consul-general in Marseille, stymied the shipment of 80 Turkish Jews to Germany by forcing his way onto a train bearing them to their likely death and arranging for their return, unharmed, to France.

Abdol-Hossein Sardari used his position at the Iranian consulate in Paris to help thousands of Jews evade Nazi capture. Later dubbed the Iranian Schindler, he convinced the occupying Germans that Iranians were Aryans and that the Jews of Iran had been Iranian since the days of Cyrus the Great — and, therefore, should not be persecuted. Then he issued hundreds of Iranian passports to non-Iranian Jews and saved their lives.

Ahmed Somia, the Tunisian co-director of the French Muslim Hospital outside Paris, organized weapon caches, facilitated Resistance radio transmissions, treated wounded Resistance fighters, and helped save many downed U.S. and British pilots by hiding them in fake T.B. wards where Gestapo and French gendarmes feared to go.

Khan was posthumously decorated with the highest British and French civilian and military honors, but so were other Muslims, including standout heroes among the 2.5 million British Indian troops fighting Axis forces around the globe.

In this largest volunteer army in recorded history, Muslims (roughly one-third of the force), like Hindus and Buddhists, played prominent roles.

In a letter to President Roosevelt during the war, Churchill pointed out that Muslim soldiers were providing “the main army elements on which we [the British] must rely for the immediate fighting.”

In 1944-45, the French Army of Africa, joined to de Gaulle’s Free French Forces, was expanded to 260,000 men, of whom 50% were North African, the great majority being Muslim, while another substantial group were Senegalese Muslim riflemen. These forces invaded Italy and helped liberate southern France.

According to American historian Juan Cole, fighting these dark-skinned Africans in “Aryan” Europe, and losing to them, dismayed many German soldiers steeped in trumped-up theories of racial inferiority.

Eastern Europe offered more examples.

In the Balkans, for instance, only 200 Jews lived in Albania before WWII. Yet by war’s end, almost 2,000 Jews lived in the country, because so many had fled Greece, Austria and other locations in Europe to take shelter there among the predominantly Muslim population, which hid and protected them.

As Cole wrote elsewhere, commemorating the 70th anniversary of D-Day: “While a few Muslims did support the Axis, out of resentment of Western colonialism and hopes that the rise of an alternative power center would aid their quest for independence, they were tiny in their numbers compared to the Muslims who not just supported the Allies… but actively fought on their behalf.
Games – Click Here for More!

One of the jobs of documentary film is to rescue stories that fall out of the history books.

Khan’s account, and others like it, seems at odds with the history of the modern Middle East, whose combatants — whether Arab, Turkish, Iranian or Israeli — may want for their own reasons to bury stories about Muslim-Jewish collaboration.

But these tales should be remembered and honored. It is my sincere hope that with the story of Noor Inayat Khan, we have done just that.

“Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story” will air on PBS stations nationwide on Tuesday, September 9th. Viewers should check their local listings.

(Michael Wolfe is a poet and the co-founder of Unity Productions Foundation. His latest film is “Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story.” He is also author of “The Hadj: An American’s Pilgrimage to Mecca.”

Israeli intelligence veterans’ letter in full to Netanyahu and military chiefs 

34 reserve soldiers who have served in Unit 8200 explained why they refuse to serve in Palestinian territories

To: Military Intelligence Director, Major General Aviv Kochavi

Commander of Unit 8200

We, veterans of Unit 8200, reserve soldiers both past and present, declare that we refuse to take part in actions against Palestinians and refuse to continue serving as tools in deepening the military control over the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

Israel prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, defence minister Moshe Ya'alon, chief of staff Benny Gantz

R to L: Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, defence minister Moshe Ya’alon and chief of staff Benny Gantz look at maps of Gaza during the recent conflict. Photograph: Ariel Hermoni/Israel Defence Forces/EPA

It is commonly thought that the service in military intelligence is free of moral dilemmas and solely contributes to the reduction of violence and harm to innocent people.

However, our military service has taught us that intelligence is an integral part of Israel‘s military occupation over the territories.

The Palestinian population under military rule is completely exposed to espionage and surveillance by Israeli intelligence. While there are severe limitations on the surveillance of Israeli citizens, the Palestinians are not afforded this protection.

There’s no distinction between Palestinians who are, and are not, involved in violence.

Information that is collected and stored harms innocent people. It is used for political persecution and to create divisions within Palestinian society by recruiting collaborators and driving parts of Palestinian society against itself.

In many cases, intelligence prevents defendants from receiving a fair trial in military courts, as the evidence against them is not revealed.

Intelligence allows for the continued control over millions of people through thorough and intrusive supervision and invasion of most areas of life. This does not allow for people to lead normal lives, and fuels more violence further distancing us from the end of the conflict.

Millions of Palestinians have been living under Israeli military rule for over 47 years.

This regime denies the basic rights and expropriates extensive tracts of land for Jewish settlements subject to separate and different legal systems, jurisdiction and law enforcement.

This reality is not an inevitable result of the state’s efforts to protect itself but rather the result of choice. Settlement expansion has nothing to do with national security.

The same goes for restrictions on construction and development, economic exploitation of the West Bank, collective punishment of inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, and the actual route of the separation barrier.

In light of all this, we have concluded that as individuals who served in Unit 8200, we must take responsibility for our part in this situation and it is our moral duty to act.

We cannot continue to serve this system in good conscience, denying the rights of millions of people. Therefore, those among us who are reservists, refuse to take part in the state’s actions against Palestinians.

We call for all soldiers serving in the Intelligence Corps, present and future, along with all the citizens of Israel, to speak out against these injustices and to take action to bring them to an end.

We believe that Israel’s future depends on it.

Senior Academic Officer Or

First Sergeant Ori

Sergeant Ella

Sergeant ***

Sergeant First Class Amitai

Captain Assaf

Lieutenant Assaf

First Sergeant Ariel

First Sergeant Guy

Sergeant First Class Galia

Lieutenant Gilad

First Sergeant Doron

Captain D

Professional Academic Officer H

First Sergeant T

First Sergeant Tal

Sergeant First Class Yair

First Sergeant Yoav

First Sergeant Yuval

Lieutenant Yonatan

Sergeant First Class Lior

Sergeant Liron

Sergeant Maya

Sergeant Michal

First Sergeant Menahem

First Sergeant Nadav

Sergeant Noa

First Sergeant Sa’ar

First Sergeant Eden

Sergeant Idan

Professional Academic Officer Amir

First Sergeant Amit

Sergeant K

Sergeant Keren

Sergeant First Class Regev

First Sergeant Roi

Sergeant R

First Sergeant Rotem

First Sergeant Shira

Major Shmulik

First Sergeant Schraga

Sergeant Sheri

Senior Academic Officer Tomer

 

Obama Strategy: Splitting ISIS into two dozen “moderately extremist” factions

And Syrian insurgents to be officially trained in Saudi Arabia

And strikes be done without coordinating with Syria State and without UN consent

Another Iraqi reoccupation schemes, including Syria this time around?

Kind of many States trying to embellish their status after supporting the terrorist faction in the last 4 years, like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Israel, the US and many western European states.

With the Ukraine war going on, how this second Cold War will unfold?

A cold war process that started after the western coalition fooled Russia and destabilized Libya and resumed their foolish plans in Syria.

Seven questions related to the new Iraq war and who are participating in this coalition?

1. What International legality this coalition enjoys?

2. What are the objectives of this coalition that exclude Iran and Syria? Already Jordan refused to get militarily involved, as well as Egypt.

3. What of the Palestinian rights for an independent State and Gaza being freed from its concentration ghetto?

4. How the US can convince the world community that the most obscurantist Wahhabi Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is “the good guy”?

5. What role apartheid Israel is to play?

6. How Russia will be frustrated on its southern borders?

7. How Turkey will juggle in this difficult complex coalition?

Politique

Coalition, légalité, moyens… Sept questions sur la nouvelle guerre d’Irak

par Pierre Haski | Rue89.com – Le 11 septembre 2014 à 15h48
 Etat islamique Raqqa EIIL EI ISIS
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Barack Obama a donné le coup d’envoi de la troisième guerre d’Irak, dans un discours télévisé en tant que « commandant en chef ». La France prendra part, malgré l’absence de résolution de l’ONU, à la coalition internationale ainsi formée pour combattre et éliminer la menace des djihadistes de l’Etat islamique (EI), tant en Irak qu’en Syrie.
Le Président des Etats-Unis a exclu l’engagement de troupes au sol, tout comme la France, limitant son intervention à des opérations aériennes, au soutien logistique et à la fourniture d’armes aux forces qui vont combattre les djihadistes.C’est un conflit long qui s’engage quand Barack Obama parle d’éliminer cet adversaire qui, en cette journée anniversaire du 11 Septembre, a remplacé Al Qaeda dans la figure de l’ennemi public numéro un.

Un conflit d’autant plus périlleux qu’il a potentiellement des retombées dans les pays occidentaux eux-mêmes, avec la présence dans les rangs djihadistes de jeunes recrues parties se battre, se former, et peut-être revenir.

Sept questions autour d’une guerre qui ne dit pas encore son nom, mais qui, après celle de 1991, et celle de 2003, constitue la troisième guerre d’Irak, pays martyrisé par les despotes, par ses sauveurs, par ses prophètes.

1/ Quelle légalité internationale ?

Dans sa déclaration martiale, Barack Obama n’a pas évoqué le cadre juridique dans lequel opèrerait la coalition internationale « dirigée par les Etats-Unis » qui va combattre les djihadistes de l’Etat islamique, tant en Irak qu’en Syrie.

Le président américain a indiqué qu’il participerait à une réunion exceptionnelle du Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU, avant la fin du mois, à l’occasion de l’Assemblée générale annuelle. Mais il n’a aucunement conditionné l’intervention de la coalition – de fait, les Américains bombardent déjà l’EI depuis un mois… – au feu vert onusien.

Les Français ont plus d’états d’âme… Lorsque les Etats-Unis ont commencé à bombarder les positions djihadistes en Irak, par drones ou par jets, la France a fait savoir qu’elle n’y participerait pas faute de résolution du Conseil de sécurité l’autorisant. Elle s’est contentée, jusqu’ici, de fournir des armes et de former les Peshmergas, les combattants kurdes, avec l’accord de Bagdad, mais aussi de tenter de contrôler le recrutement de candidats au djihad en France même.

Changement de discours aujourd’hui. La participation française, annoncée mercredi soir par le ministre des Affaires étrangères, Laurent Fabius, interviendrait désormais à la demande du gouvernement irakien, et pourrait s’appuyer sur l’article 51 de la Charte des Nations unies sur la légitime défense.

Guerre froide

Ces contorsions juridiques sont le reflet du monde actuel : difficile en effet d’imaginer un accord des cinq membres permanents du Conseil de sécurité (Chine, Etats-Unis, France, Grande-Bretagne, Russie) quand un climat de guerre froide oppose les Occidentaux à la Russie à propos de l’Ukraine.

La Russie, suivie par la Chine, a systématiquement mis son véto aux résolutions sur la Syrie depuis le début du soulèvement contre Bachar el-Assad il y a trois ans, et on la voit mal s’associer, dans le contexte de bras de fer avec les Occidentaux, à une opération qui s’étend aussi à la Syrie.

Reste donc à faire des contorsions avec le droit international. La paralysie du Conseil de sécurité prive la France du parapluie qu’elle réclame à chaque fois, et qu’elle a obtenu lors des interventions au Mali et en Centrafrique. L’invocation de la « légitime défense » montre que les experts juridiques ont trouvé un moyen de contourner le Conseil de sécurité, et la formation d’un nouveau gouvernement irakien va dans ce sens.

En se rendant en Irak vendredi, François Hollande pourra mettre en avant cette demande des autorités légales du pays pour justifier son engagement.

2 / Quelle coalition pour quel objectif ?

Les contours de la coalition internationale ne sont pas connus avec exactitude, John Kerry, le Secrétaire d’Etat américain, en en tournée au Moyen-Orient pour la constituer. On n’est pas totalement dans la configuration de la première guerre du Golfe, en 1991, ou même de la force internationale en Afghanistan, où les pays s’engageaient à fournir des contingents.

Barack Obama s’est présenté comme le « leader » de cette coalition, dont les participants « naturels » sont les alliés européens des Etats-Unis, sans fausse note cette fois contrairement à la guerre de Georges W. Bush en 2003 qui avait divisé les Européens, France et Allemagne en tête.

Au-delà des Européens, le président américain a bien pris soin d’inclure des pays musulmans dans ce qui ne doit pas apparaître aux yeux du monde arabo-musulman comme une « croisade » anti-islam.

La Turquie, membre de l’Otan, voisine des terrains d’affrontement, et indirectement engagée dans ces conflits depuis le début, ainsi que l’Arabie saoudite (voir plus loin) sont clairement dans la coalition. La Ligue arabe a d’ailleurs apporté son soutien à la lutte contre les djihadistes.

Plus ambigu, le rôle d’Israël dont des informations précises, ces derniers jours, ont indiqué qu’il participait à l’effort contre l’EI en fournissant du renseignement, notamment par une présence satellitaire importante dans le secteur, et un suivi de ce qui se passe en Syrie plus précis que celui des Occidentaux. La participation d’Israël ne sera toutefois pas mise en avant pour des raisons évidentes de susceptibilité diplomatique.

En revanche, le régime de Bachar el-Assad n’est clairement pas inclus, malgré quelques spéculations récentes sur le fait que le soutien à Damas pourrait être le prix à payer pour lutter contre l’EI. Au contraire, Barack Obama a mentionné le soutien aux rebelles syriens modérés, et a souhaité que le Congrès autorise leur armement.

Eliminer les djihadistes ?

L’objectif annoncé par Barack Obama est de combattre et éliminer les djihadistes de l’Etat islamique. Un but de guerre qui devra être clarifié.

  • S’agit-il de reconquérir le territoire conquis par les djihadistes en Irak lors de leur offensive éclair du printemps et qui s’est poursuivie par quelques prises depuis ?
  • S’agit-il de faire la même chose en Syrie, ce qui est une autre paire de manches…
  • S’agit-il d’éliminer l’influence de l’Etat islamique dans ces pays mais aussi au-delà, notamment au Liban ? Ce sera plus difficile à établir.

3/ Qui soutenir en Syrie ?

Après plus de trois ans de soulèvement et de guerre, la situation en Syrie est radicalement différente du point de départ. La carte récente ci-dessous montre le puzzle syrien, sur un territoire que Barack Obama a clairement inclus dans le champs de la nouvelle guerre contre les djihadistes.


Les positions en Syrie : en rouge le régime Assad, en vert les rebelles « modérés », en gris l’Etat islamique, en jaune les Kurdes.. (@arabthomness via @olivbras)

On y voit, en rouge, les zones toujours contrôlées par les forces du régime Assad, concentrées sur la « Syrie utile », en particulier autour de Damas et le « pays alaouite », sur la côte nord-est de la Syrie.

On y voit surtout, en gris clair et foncé, l’étendue de la zone contrôlée par les djihadistes de l’Etat islamique, dans le nord et l’Est du pays, une immense étendue, dont le centre de gravité est à Raqqa, le fief du mouvement.

Les Kurdes contrôlent leurs trois enclaves (en jaune) du nord, à la frontière turque, en étroite liaison désormais avec les forces autonomes kurdes d’Irak, et avec le PKK kurde turc.

L’affaiblissement des modérés

Enfin, et c’est le phénomène marquant, les rebelles historiques de l’Armée syrienne libre (ASL), que les Occidentaux, Français en tête, ont reconnu comme légitimes sans jamais leur donner les moyens de l’emporter, ont vu leur territoire et leurs forces se réduire comme une peau de chagrin.

Les Français estiment qu’il y a eu une occasion ratée lors de la crise des armes chimiques, il y a précisément un an, lorsque les Américains et les Français étaient déterminés à bombarder les positions de l’armée régulière, mais y ont renoncé à la dernière minute en raison de la décision, ou de l’indécision, de Barack Obama.

Aujourd’hui, l’histoire repasse les plats. Obama lui-même veut soutenir ces rebelles dits « modérés », pour leur faire jouer, à l’ouest, le rôle que les peshmergas kurdes jouent à l’est, et prendre l’Etat islamique en tenaille. Mais n’est-il pas trop tard ?

  • Comment faire pour que ces combats à venir ne fassent pas le jeu de Bachar el-Assad qui n’aura qu’à attendre que ses ennemis s’entretuent pour achever le vainqueur épuisé ?
  • Ou encore, éternelle question, pour que les armes livrées n’aboutissent dans les « mauvaises » mains ?

4/ L’ami saoudien ?

C’est un des points-clé de l’intervention télévisée de Barack Obama : l’Arabie saoudite jouera un rôle important dans la coalition, notamment pour équiper et former les rebelles syriens modérés. Une base sera installée à cet effet dans le royaume.

A Washington, la presse américaine rapporte les propos d’un haut fonctionnaire de l’administration Obama :

« Nous avons reçu l’engagement du royaume d’Arabie saoudite d’être un partenaire à part entière dans l’équipement et la formation des rebelles, dans l’accueil de ce programme. »

L’Arabie saoudite était pourtant, jusqu’ici, fortement soupçonnée d’avoir financé le développement de l’Etat islamique, alors l’Armée islamique d’Irak et du Levant, comme une sorte de monstre qui échapperait désormais à ses créateurs. Et, de fait, le nombre de Saoudiens dans ses rangs serait considérable.

La motivation des Saoudiens est connue : bloquer l’influence de l’Iran qui, dans le confit syrien, soutient le régime de Damas, tout comme le Hezbollah chiite libanais, proche de Téhéran, qui a envoyé des hommes prêter main forte à Bachar el-Assad.

Dans cette partie de billard régional, la rivalité Iran-Arabie saoudite, entre la grande puissance chiite et le royaume wahabite, constitue la toile de fond de ces événements. Avec, pour ajouter à la complexité, le jeu trouble du Qatar, bailleur de fonds des Frères musulmans et de leurs déclinaisons nationales, jusqu’en Tunisie, et aussi d’une partie de la rébellion syrienne, du Hamas palestinien…

Les relations américano-saoudiennes ont connu des périodes de grand froid ces derniers temps, à mesure que Washington se rapprochait d’un accord avec l’Iran sur le nucléaire, ouvrant la voie à une réinsertion de Téhéran dans le jeu régional. L’axe Washington-Ryad recomposé ?

5/ Que fait l’Iran ?

C’est l’aspect le plus surréaliste de cette guerre contre les djihadistes. De fait, l’Iran est, dans cette bataille, l’allié objectif des Etats-Unis, le « Grand Satan » d’autrefois.

Téhéran, qui soutient activement le pouvoir chiite de Bagdad, aurait déjà des « conseillers » militaires sur le terrain, afin d’aider l’armée nationale irakienne a surmonter sa déroute du printemps et, au minimum, à contenir l’offensive djihadiste avant, éventuellement, de les repousser.

Pourtant, encore un élément de complexité régionale considérable, l’Iran est à la fois l’ennemi de l’Etat islamique dans le contexte irakien, comme les Etats-Unis, mais aussi l’allié de Bachar el-Assad en Syrie, contrairement aux Etats-Unis.

Barack Obama, dans son discours à la nation, n’a pas mentionné l’Iran. Pourtant, ce pays majeur du Moyen-Orient est au cœur de l’équation à laquelle le Président des Etats-Unis a décidé de s’attaquer.

On retrouve l’Iran dans tous les dossiers régionaux, qu’il s’agisse :

  • du dossier nucléaire ;
  • du sort du régime syrien ;
  • de l’avenir de l’Irak en tant qu’Etat ;
  • des affrontements religieux chiites-sunnites ;
  • de la sécurité régionale.

La guerre contre les djihadistes peut-elle être l’occasion d’un grand deal qui permettrait de refermer, au moins partiellement, la page de plus de trois décennies d’affrontement entre l’Iran et l’Occident ? La succession de coups de théâtre dans cette région est telle qu’on ne doit rien exclure.

6/ L’armée française sur tous les fronts ?

C’est donc Laurent Fabius qui l’a annoncé, dans un discours prévu de longue date à Sciences-Po Paris :

« En Irak, le gouvernement et les minorités ont appelé à l’aide. Nous y répondons par des livraisons de matériels militaires et par de l’aide humanitaire. [...] nous participerons si nécessaire à une action militaire aérienne ».

Au-delà de la méthode étrange et indigne d’une démocratie moderne – pas de discours à la nation du chef de l’Etat et chef des armées, pas un mot au Parlement qui avait sans doute trop à faire avec le sort de Thomas Thévenoud –, cette annonce de Laurent Fabius pose de nombreuses questions.

La France a participé à la première guerre d’Irak, en 1991, avec de solides fondements de légalité internationale, lorsque Saddam Hussein a envahi et « avalé » le Koweit, un Etat souverain. Mais elle a refusé de participer à la deuxième, pas convaincue, à juste titre, par les « preuves » de l’administration Bush (fils) sur les armes de destructions massives irakiennes.

En participant à cette troisième coalition sur le sol irakien, Paris choisit de se ranger derrière le leadership américain proclamé haut et fort par Barack Obama. Ça mérite au moins quelques explications politiques, techniques, stratégiques.

Et en Libye ?

Au même moment, le ministre de la Défense, Jean-Yves Le Drian, déclarait au Figaro lundi que la France « doit agir » dans le sud de la Libye, devenue (depuis le renversement du régime de Kadhafi par… la France notamment) une zone de non-droit dans laquelle prospèrent les apprentis djihadistes.

« Le Sud libyen est une sorte de “hub” où les groupes terroristes viennent s’approvisionner, y compris en armes, et se réorganiser. Leurs principaux chefs, l’émir Droukdel ou Mokhtar Belmokhtar, y transitent régulièrement. Au nord, les centres politiques et économiques du pays sont désormais menacés d’être contrôlés par ces djihadistes. Or la Libye est à la fois la porte de l’Europe et du Sahara. »

Le ministre de la Défense juge que le dispositif militaire français en Afrique de l’Ouest, « Barkhane », pourrait être amené à « “monter” vers la frontière libyenne ».

« Tout cela se fait en bonne intelligence avec les Algériens, qui sont des acteurs majeurs de cette région et dont c’est aussi l’intérêt. »

Ainsi donc, au même moment, les forces armées françaises sont-elles engagées dans des opérations militaires au Mali (même si le dispositif a changé), en Centrafrique, en Irak, et demain peut-être en Libye. Et elles participent, en Pologne, à une opération de présence visible destinée à rassurer les pays d’Europe orientale membres de l’Union européenne inquiets de l’activisme russe.

Ça fait beaucoup pour une armée aux moyens affaiblis, dont on souligne à chaque engagement l’usure du matériel, les limites logistiques, et, évidemment, budgétaires…

Alors que la France traverse un trou d’air économique historique, que le doute traverse l’opinion sur la capacité de ses dirigeants à les conduire à bon port, cet activisme militaire sans précédent se fait sans réelle pédagogie à la nation, et sans débat politique avec le pays et avec ses instances démocratiques. Un autre signe d’épuisement de la V° République et de ce présidentialisme excessif.

7/ Irak-Palestine, deux poids, deux mesures ?

C’est le point faible de cette mobilisation générale, sabre au clair, contre les djihadistes de l’Etat islamique, dans la foulée de l’émotion suscitée par le sort des minorités religieuses irakiennes, chrétiens et yézidis, et par la mise en scène de la décapitation des deux journalistes américains, James Foley et Steven Sotloff.

Comment convaincre les opinions publiques, tant dans le monde arabo-musulman que dans les pays occidentaux eux-mêmes, de la sincérité de cette mobilisation, de la légitimité de cette nouvelle guerre, quand, au même moment, on a laissé faire sans bouger la guerre israélo-palestinienne de Gaza cet été.

Amalgame ? Pas le même problème ?

Sans doute, mais il faudra en convaincre les opinions, marquées par les images, nombreuses, répétées, des enfants-martyrs de Gaza.

Comment le Président des Etats-Unis peut-il constituer une telle coalition contre les djihadistes, et rester passif face au dossier israélo-palestinien qui empoisonne le Proche-Orient, et contamine les sociétés européennes, depuis tant de temps, malgré les résolutions de l’ONU, les plans de paix et les initiatives de paix depuis si longtemps.

On connait certes la réponse à ces questions, aucun Président américain n’étant disposé à « tordre le bras » – la formule est régulièrement employée dans ce contexte – d’Israël, pays allié, disposant d’un gouvernement démocratique (même si sa pratique l’est moins), et bénéficiant de solides appuis et relais dans la société et la classe politique américaine.

Mais cette réponse n’est pas satisfaisante pour les opinions publiques qui ne réclament certes pas la mise sur pied d’une coalition armée pour aller imposer la paix aux protagonistes. Mais la crédibilité occidentale est fragile dès lors qu’on est passif dans un cas, va-t-en guerre de l’autre. Intenable éternellement.

- See more at: http://www.iloubnan.info/politique/82987/Coalition-legalite-moyens-Sept-questions-sur-la-nouvelle-guerre-dIrak#sthash.18vNdIZu.sBeia23J.dpuf

“Social Proof Bias”? How this bias still stand for our survival?

Even a couple centuries ago, it was a survival instinct to cling to the masses: this social instinct gave comfort of being safe from “attacking” enemy or climatic upheavals.

It was safety that made people conglomerate in communities, way before the added values in production and trading goods.

Following the crowd is becoming a dangerous reaction inheritance. What of frequent stampede accidents.

Except for famine plagued regions where it is of great importance to follow the fleeing hordes to UN camps?

Or when in a foreign city and have tickets for a stadium event.

Somerset Maugham wrote: “If 50 million people say something foolish, it is still foolish”

In capitalist systems and uncontrolled financial companies in the hands of the few 1% elite class, social proof bias is the evil behind bubbles and stock market panic.

Social proof bias exists in fashion, management techniques, hobbies, religion and diets, to mention a few fields.

It can paralyze entire cultures in times of upheaval and periods of uncertainty, (such as sects committing collective suicide, or extremist religious movements, Fukushima nuclear melt down…)

Peer pressure warps common sense, a reaction to a survival strategy.

Suppose the fire alarm goes off. How the crowd will exit? Would they select the exit closest to the alarm or the opposite exit?

Logically, the fire sensor detect the closest point of fire. And yet, people would rush toward the exit of the alarm.

This social proof bias was mentioned and explained in “The Art of thinking clear” by Rolf Dobelli

 

A lost Lebanon – in pictures

When artist Ania Dabrowska started working with Diab Alkarssifi, a homeless Lebanese man in London, she made a startling discovery.

Diab was a compulsive photographer with a hoard of unseen pictures from his homeland.

Diab has saved more than 27,000 pictures

To support the publication of this archive, visit

A Lebanese Archive at kickstarter.com/projects/ 723440909/a-lebanese-archive-by-ania-dabrowska

Young men standing by a pool in the 70s
Young men standing by a pool in the 70s Diab Alkarssifi Photograph: Diab Alkarssifi
Millitary skiing championships in the Cedar mountains
Millitary skiing championships in the Cedar mountains Diab Alkarssifi
Posed portrait of an unknown woman
Posed portrait of an unknown woman Diab Alkarssifi Photograph: Diab Alkarssifi
Fatima Hammdo in traditional dress and army uniform in the 1970s
Fatima Hammdo in traditional dress and army uniform in the 1970s Photograph: Diab Alkarssifi
Diab Alkarssifi with a friend in the 1980s
Diab Alkarssifi with a friend in the 1980s Photograph: Diab Alkarssifi
Miss Universe Georgina Rizk visiting Baalbek in 1977
Miss Universe Georgina Rizk visiting Baalbek in 1977 Photograph: Diab Alkarssifi
Diab’s wife, Ietedal, in 1989
Diab’s wife, Ietedal, in 1989 Photograph: Diab Alkarssifi
A state visit of King Saud bin Abdul Aziz to Baalbek Temple in 196
A state visit of King Saud bin Abdul Aziz to Baalbek Temple in 1966 Diab Alkarssifi Photograph: Diab Alkarssifi
Baalbeck festival, 1970s
Baalbeck festival, 1970s Photograph: Diab Alkarssifi
Ashad's Mother, Chlifa village, 1984
Ashad’s Mother, Chlifa village, 1984 Diab Alkarssifi Photograph: Diab Alkarssifi
Political martyrs memorial rally, Almarg village, 1977

Political martyrs memorial rally, Almarg village, 1977 Diab Alkarssifi Photograph: Diab Alkarssifi
More galleries from The Guardian

Are Lebanese on the verge of committing Anti-Syrian pogroms?

(Note: The local news didn’t cover most of these stories and the government is’t coming foreward with news on what it is doing to liberate the over 40 Lebanese soldiers held by the Syrian insurgents)

Abu Gaby’s life (a pseudonym) hasn’t been the same since Saturday evening.

He’s not sleeping properly. He’s changed his daily routine – no longer using taxis after dark; “taking precautions,” as he puts it, “that I never thought about before.”

His work as a filmmaker has ground to a halt. “I’m unable to focus on anything,” he says. “I’m thinking only about how I can stay safe in this situation.”

Alex Rowell published this September 10, 2014 (Myra Abdallah contributed reporting).

Anti-Syrian pogroms point to darker future in Lebanon

With refugees now fearing for their lives, Lebanon is edging closer to breakdown

As NOW’s Rayan Majed reported Tuesday, Abu Gaby was one of dozens of Syrian refugees physically assaulted across Lebanon Saturday after news broke of the execution (slain and head detached) of a second Lebanese Army captive by Islamic State (ISIS) militants.

Hearing his Syrian accent in a shared Beirut taxi, a passenger beside him asked him his name. He replied with a fake Armenian one, hoping it would spare him.

Brandishing a knife, the passenger then grabbed him by the collar and shook him, saying, “I’m letting you go [only] because you’re Armenian.”

Under the circumstances, Abu Gaby was fortunate: many Syrians suffered far worse in the ethno-sectarian pogroms that ensued from Beirut to the south coast to the eastern Beqaa Valley.

Pictures soon surfaced of Syrian refugees and laborers lying on the streets being kicked and beaten by mobs.

In one case, residents in Baalbek tied up two men and left them as human roadblocks facing the traffic at the town’s entrance.

Meanwhile, gunmen set up flying checkpoints on several Beqaa roads, checking motorists’ IDs and detaining Sunni Muslim passengers, leading one columnist to dub it another “Black Saturday,” in reference to an infamous 1975 massacre of motorists at militia checkpoints based on sectarian identity, (and perpetrated by Christian Phalangists and of current Samir Ja3ja3 Lebanese Front).

Notices appeared on walls in numerous neighborhoods demanding the departure of all Syrians within hours, with one in Beirut’s Zoqaq al-Blat threatening those not complying with “slaughter or torture until death.”

Tents in makeshift refugee camps were torched, prompting hundreds of families in Shiite-majority areas of the Beqaa to pack up their tents and flee to Sunni regions.

A sign of how frightened those doubly-displaced Syrian refugees are is the lengths they’ve gone to conceal themselves. I

n Al-Rahma Camp, the largest Syrian refugee settlement in the central Beqaa’s Bar Elias, a representative of the charity running the camp told NOW Tuesday there were no new arrivals as a result of Saturday’s attacks.

“I heard they went to Jeb Jenin,” he said. A half-hour drive later, a camp official in Jeb Jenin assured NOW they weren’t there, either.

“I have no information on their whereabouts,” he said, echoing what the UNHCR, the Ministry of Social Affairs, the municipalities of three major refugee-hosting towns in the Beqaa, and Human Rights Watch had all said as well. “You have to understand, they’re terrified,” said Nabil al-Halabi, a lawyer and activist who runs a local human rights NGO, LIFE, working with Syrian refugees.

“They’re not willing to work with the authorities. They’re not even telling us where they are.”

 

Indeed, with reports Wednesday that the Lebanese Army itself has begun dismantling camps in the southern Tyre region, refugees’ distrust of Lebanese state institutions may yet grow more pronounced.

“I never thought this could happen to me in Lebanon,” Abu Gaby told NOW of his Saturday evening experience. “I had the same feeling as when I was arrested by Syrian intelligence in Damascus. In Lebanon, I now have the same level of fear and worry as I had in Syria.”

Should these events lead to further and long-lasting deterioration in relations between Syrian refugees and their Lebanese hosts, there could be grave social and political repercussions, analysts told NOW.

“What happened on Saturday is a first sign potentially heralding the breakdown of Lebanese society,” said Hussam Itani, columnist at Al-Hayat newspaper. “It’s very dangerous. We’re in a situation of total disconnection between the government, civil society, and all the middle grounds that could unite the Lebanese people.”

The underlying cause of this crisis, argued Itani, was repeated sectarian and political incitement against Syrian refugees by Lebanese political parties.

“These incidents were not spontaneous. They are the result of 3-and-a-half years of a discourse opposing the Syrian uprising and the Syrian people’s right to decide their fate, and categorizing the Syrian people as supporters of the Islamic State and opponents of the so-called ‘resistance.’ This created a tense atmosphere that only needed one reason to explode.”

An especial concern for the longer run is the potential future militarization of some Syrian refugees, emulating the history of Lebanon’s Palestinian refugees in the 1970s.

To be sure, 80% of Syrian refugees in Lebanon are women and children. But the worse the situation becomes, the greater is the chance of a fringe minority developing a desire to take up arms, says Itani.

“This is an important question that very few are thinking of,” he told NOW. “If things get worse, the refugees’ reaction could turn dangerous, and it could turn uncontrollable. The lack of organization of the refugees makes them vulnerable to political manipulation.”

“They might today be occupied with their daily life problems, but this doesn’t mean they might not one day join the political battlefield and defend their interests.”

Note: Lebanon political system is at a standstill for over 3 months. No president to the republic has been selected and the parliament is no longer legitimate since it has extended its tenure for 2 years and expecting to re-extend its stay without election the coming month. Only the army with scarce weapons and ammunition and Hezbollah can keep security for a while.

adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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