Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘israel

A story of a transferred Palestinian since 1948 and other essays

A Palestinian living in New York:

“My grandmother witnessed the following events:

– she lived during the British mandate of Palestine and its turmoil
– the 1948 war and Nakba (Transfer to neighboring States of Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria)
– the 1956 Israeli invasion of Gaza
– the 1967 six days war and Israeli occupation of Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank
– the 1973 war

Then she moved with my grandfather to Lebanon to witness:
– the 1978 Israeli invasion of Lebanon
– Lebanon civil war that started in April 1975
– the 1982 Israel massive invasion of Lebanon and entering the capital Beirut and shipping of Palestinian fighters

Then she returned to Gaza to witness:
– the 1987 first intifada (Mass disobedience movement. It was Not the first: 1935 to 38 against the British mandated power and England had to dispatch 100, 000 soldiers to tame it, along with the latest torture techniques)
– the Oslo peace agreement
– the 2000 second intifada
– the 2006 Israeli operation against Lebanon and the victory of Hezbollah after 33 days of war
– Israel cast lead operation 2008/2009 on Gaza
– Israel pillar of cloud operation of 2012 on Gaza
– Israel protective edge operation 2014 on Gaza

Last time I called her she asked me to take care of myself and to focus on my studies- hoping for a better future.

My grandmother’a calendar is full of war and bloodshed. She is in Gaza now and I’m in New York unable to go see her or see my family and beloved.

Since 1948 when she hears the drums of war, she gets dressed and prepares her papers and precious stuff getting ready to become forth, fifth, or sixth time refugee in her country.

Freedom is precious guys, if you live in freedom and dignity you never need to complain….”

Krys Ta wrote:

I kind of feel sorry for holders of passports that could get them practically anywhere. They never get to experience ‘doing an exam’ every couple of months, waiting for results, nailing your interview questions, perfecting your bank account statements, showing up on time, scheduling appointments months ahead, waiting in line for your number…

It’s horrible what they do experience.

They just go to the country of destination? For us at least when you get the visa you feel like you succeeded. You might not want to travel anymore even.

Khalas (finally) you succeeded in that extremely hard test of perfecting your visa application results that you were worthy.

Worthy enough to get granted access to another country where you will spend YOUR money and help thrive their economy.

In a way, we are heros.

Yalla bye. #fuckBorders #قوم_بقا

The Outrageously Racist
The Stereotypical Sexist
The ‘I don’t care about traffic lights’
The Truly Kind & Wise
The Intellectual 
The Hardworker But ‘There’s no more hope for Lebanon’
The Smart/Skilled But ‘there’s no more hope for anything in life’
The ‘There’s no place better than Lebanon’
The ‘Any place is better than Lebanon’

Chapters from a book I could write about my daily encounters with Taxi drivers in Lebanon this summer.

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ISRAEL’S NEW LEGALIZATION LAW

Cathy Sultan blog

Israel’s new Legalization Law legitimizes under Israeli law dozens of so-called settlement “outposts” that were built without official approval from Israeli authorities but were tacitly supported by successive Israeli governments as part of an effort to colonize as much Palestinian land as possible.

This new law follows Israel’s approval of 6,000 new settlement units in just the last two weeks and the announcement that Israel plans to build its first entirely new settlement on occupied Palestinian land in more than two decades.

According to Jonathan Cook writing in The National on February 8, 2017, the Legalization Law was the right’s forceful response to the eviction in early February of 40 families from a settlement “outpost” called Amona.

The eviction of these families was transformed into an expensive piece of political theatre, costing an estimated $40 million. It was choreographed as a national trauma to ensure such an event is never repeated.

As the evicted families clashed with police, sending several dozen to the hospital, Naftali Bennett, the Education Minister and leader of the settler party Jewish Home called Amona’s families “heroes.” Netanyahu added: “We all understand the extent of their pain,” and promised them an enlarged replacement settlement along with monetary compensation.

The real prize for Bennett and his far right party was the legalization law itself. It reverses a restriction imposed in the 1970s and designed to prevent a free-for-all by the settlers. International law is clear that an occupying force can take land only for military needs.

Israel committed a war crime in transferring more than 600,000 Jewish civilians into the Occupied Territories. (Millions of Palestinians were forced transferred after each war)

Israel’s Attorney General has refused to defend the law should it be brought before Israel’s Supreme Court. Very belatedly the lower courts drew the line in land confiscation in Amona and demanded that the land be returned to its Palestinian owners.

This new law overrules the judges in the lower courts, allowing private land stolen from Palestinians to be laundered as Israeli state property.

In practice there has never been a serious limit on theft of Palestinian land but now government support for the plunder will be explicit in law. It will be impossible to blame the outposts on “rogue” settlers or claim that Israel is trying to safeguard Palestinian property rights.

I saw this injustice for the first time in March 2002 when my Palestinian guide, Naim, on our way to Bethlehem, stopped his car and pointed off to the left.

“My family used to live here,” he said, and began to tell me his story. One of the things which upset me was the part about the ancient olive grove. No one knew how old the hundreds of trees really were. Some of the old-timers swore the olive grove was 300 years old or perhaps even older. The trees probably didn’t need irrigation because they’d been there so long. Their roots intermingled with the rich, dark dirt and delved deeply into the earth. A small village nearby had an olive press and every day during the season the villagers brought their freshly-picked crop to be pressed for oil.

Naim still remembered the exact location of his house, what time the sun shone through the kitchen window, and where each tree was planted. He remembered because he was the one who scurried up the trees and shook the branches at harvest time, carefully aiming for the sheet spread around the base of each tree to catch the olives as they fell.

Now there is no sign of a Palestinian presence. The villagers, if not already dead, have been dispersed to one of the many refugee camps. As for the ancient olive grove, it was uprooted to make way for Har Homa, a massive Israeli settlement. It sits atop Abu Ghnaim Mountain, once a forest of some 60,000 pine trees and a refuge for wild animals and plants.

One the southwest edge of Bethlehem, this entire area was stripped bare to build 7,000 identical red-roofed, multi-storied square housing units, arranged in layers some two kilometers in circumference. When completed, the project looked from afar like asymmetrical Lego blocks. Gilo, another Israeli settlement, dominates the eastern perimeter of Bethlehem, sandwiching the Christian village between these two Israeli colossi. These and other stories can be found in Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with both Sides.

As opposition leader Isaac Herzog said: “The train departing from here has only one stop–the Hague, home of the International Criminal Court. If ICC judges take their duties seriously, we could see Prime Minister Netanyahu tried for complicity in the war crime of establishing illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian land.

This book is available for purchase here: Amazon

A DEADLY DELUSION: WERE SYRIA’S REBELS EVER GOING TO DEFEAT THE JIHADISTS?

AUGUST 10, 2017

President Donald Trump’s decision last month to shutter America’s covert program to arm and train Syrian rebels fighting the regime of Bashar al-Assad was likely inevitable, and in any case overdue.

The program was premised on applying proxy military pressure to realize an unworkable political outcome – a negotiated resolution that removed Assad. And particularly in its late stages, it was feeding al-Qaeda-type jihadists who had infiltrated and co-opted large sections of the opposition.

The end of America’s “massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad” — in Trump’s own words — has sparked sharp debate over whether the move will benefit jihadists in al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

It will not. But the decision has also provoked a second, derivative argument over whether and how much Syria’s rebels were ever willing and able, historically, to stand up to the jihadists who hijacked Syria’s revolutionary insurgency.

This debate has policy implications — at least counterfactual ones — insofar as U.S.-backed rebels were apparently meant to out-compete and counterbalance jihadists. With a few exceptions, they proved unable to do so. (No exceptions so far)

As Syria’s war dragged on, America’s other policy priorities in the war were gradually subsumed by “counter-terrorism” — a shorthand term for the defeat of the jihadists of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Arguments for backing the array of nationalist and Islamist rebel factions collectively termed the “Free Syrian Army” were increasingly recast in those interests-based terms.

Into 2017, some were still retailing U.S.-backed rebels as “an already extremely vetted, truly indigenous, potential counter-terrorism force.” (Vetted by whom? Those Not on the ground for long terms?)

This did not comport with the historical record.

The fact of rebel cooperation with jihadists was consistently excused away as a tactical necessity, or as a function of insufficient U.S. support.

But there were only so many times U.S.-backed rebels could function as jihadists’ battlefield auxiliaries, sit and watch as jihadists liquidated other rebel factions, or prove generally unmotivated to fight jihadists before it became impossible to take them seriously as a counter-terrorism force.

(Actually, the extremist factions waited for the weapons to arrive to the “moderate” and launch an attack and take them away)

Rebels were more interested in going at the Assad regime – even if that meant fighting alongside jihadists, or under their command – than standing up to jihadists.

The factional dysfunction and personal entanglements of the rebels meant that jihadists were more central and powerful within the armed opposition than Washington and other rebel backers appreciated or acknowledged.

In the end, that not only meant that rebels were useless for counter-terrorism, but also that they couldn’t serve as a viable tool of pressure on the Assad regime or represent a realistic alternative to Assad’s rule. The whole logical edifice of U.S. support for Syria’s insurgency was wormy and rotten.

The counter-terrorism case for backing Syria’s rebels was bogus — an implausible claim by the Syrian opposition that was uncritically and irresponsibly repeated by opposition backers. Policymakers and analysts should have taken jihadist entanglement with Syria’s insurgency more seriously, much earlier. Instead, the policy debate was, for years, built on mythology and tall tales.

The Crux: January 2014 and Rebels’ Fight Against ISIL

The historical argument over the rebel fight against jihadists played out recently in an acrid Twitter back-and-forth between University of Oklahoma professor and longtime Syria expert Joshua Landis and the Middle East Institute’s Charles Lister.

The former argued rebels mostly refused to fight al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, and more often fought alongside them. Lister called Landis’s arguments “misinformation” and “lies,” minimizing rebels’ ties with the Islamic State and other jihadists and pointing to their collective fight against the Islamic State in January 2014. (The jihadists had strong backing, financially, in weapons and in logistics through Turkey from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, with tacit support of the western States, particularly France and Britain and USA)

The case for the armed opposition as a counterterrorism force hinges, to a large extent, on this single episode in January 2014. Yet a more critical reading of that one event, especially in the context of rebels’ subsequent fight against the Islamic State, tends to reframe rebels’ utility as a U.S. partner against the Islamic State. Landis’s arguments are an oversimplification, in parts, and occasionally unfair. But the reality sides more with Landis than Lister.

In April 2013, ISIL’s Iraqi predecessor announced it would re-absorb its advance team in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusrah, and expand into Syria.

ISIL quickly got to work abducting opposition activistseliminating smaller, ill-reputed rebel factions, and seizing effective control of border crossings and other sources of revenue. Finally, after months of shocking, brutal provocations and escalating clashes with other rebels, open war erupted in January 2014 between rebels and ISIL in the west Aleppo countryside and then spread across the opposition-held north.

This has been spun, uncritically, into a legend of how rebels expelled ISIL from the northwest. Lister has been among those retailing a fairy-tale version of January 2014. In his 2016 paper, The Free Syrian Army: A decentralized insurgent brand, Lister acknowledges some of the complications in this episode, but nonetheless casts it in hagiographic terms:

The scale of [the opposition’s] success in forcing [ISIL] out of four provinces in 12 weeks is incomparably more significant than what the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have achieved in northeastern Syria in over two years of operations backed by U.S. air support. (Does he means Al Nusra of Al Qaeda faction?)

Yet the reality of January 2014 was substantially more complicated than Lister would have us believe. In retrospect, ISIL’s withdrawal from the northwest now seems less a rout at rebel hands than a decision by an overstretched, exposed ISIL to regroup in Syria’s desert east. From its new strongholds in the east, ISIL consolidated its forces and resurged in all directions, including into Iraq.

Though brigades in some sections of the north such as Jeish al-Mujahideen and Jamal Ma’rouf’s Syrian Revolutionaries Front launched pitched battles against ISIL in January 2014, elsewhere in the northwest, ISIL departed with a mix of local handshake deals and deliberate, tactical retreats.

Other powerful brigades — including Jabhat al-Nusrah and Ahrar al-Sham — absorbed or sheltered ISIL membersand facilitated their passage to safe areas in Syria’s east. The horrific death-by-torture of Ahrar commander Hussein “Abu Rayyan” al-Suleiman at ISIL’s hands had been one of the most proximate sparks for the January fighting, but much of Ahrar still couldn’t accept the idea of fighting fellow Islamist militants.

In Raqqa, Ahrar al-Sham fighters confused by ISIL’s religious slogans left local rebels to face ISIL reinforcements alone, only for those same Ahrar fighters to be executed in the dozens at an ISIL checkpoint north of the city. In the Aleppo countryside, gullible local rebel commanders agreed to parlay with ISIL representatives to halt the bloodshed.

An ISIL negotiator set off his suicide belt in time with a car bomb, killing the local commander and more than a dozen others. Local rebel resistance folded. ISIL captured and held east Aleppo until Turkey launched its Operation Euphrates Shield intervention more than two years later.

In eastern Deir al-Zour province, Jabhat al-Nusrah and other rebels fought a fierce, losing battle from February to July 2014 as the Islamic State closed in around them. Then ISIL overran Mosul and, swollen with new weapons and materiel it had taken from the Iraqi military, turned west towards Deir al-Zour. Faced with an overwhelming ISIL force, the Deiri opposition split and collapsed. Critically — and characteristically — rebels in Syria’s west left Deir al-Zour alone to lose against ISIL.

After summer 2014, and with the exception of some stubborn Deiris who tried to claw their way back, most of Syria’s rebels gave up on the east.

To be fair, rebels in  west Syria’s were trying to fend off the Assad regime and, from 2015, hold out against an overwhelming Russian intervention. But the longer the Islamic State occupied Syria’s east, the clearer it became that western rebels were not sufficiently motivated to liberate what had been revolutionary, opposition-held areas from the Islamic State’s brutality and terror, and the less immediate and compelling the example of January 2014 became.

The whole reason the United States opportunistically struck up a tactical partnership with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) — including, as Lister noted in his paper, providing U.S. air support — was because the SDF’s core Kurdish elements were motivated and able to kill the Islamic State in eastern Syria.

This set them apart in a way that Lister and other rebel boosters have yet to fully acknowledge. Helpfully, the SDF also was not infiltrated by jihadists, which meant it was possible safely deploy combat advisors and forward air controllers alongside them.

Attempts by the U.S. Department of Defense to build a similar partner force out of Syria’s Arab rebels mostly failed. The most capable rebels were already participating in the CIA’s covert arms program and committed to fighting the Assad regime rather than the Islamic State. Many of the remaining rebels available and willing to partner with the United States were refugees who had fled the battlefield.

Deir al-Zour rebels could not be recruited in more than paltry numbers or unified under a single commander. In Syria’s north, the first batch of U.S.-trained rebels to enter the country in 2015 was almost immediately torn apart by Jabhat al-Nusrah. Notably, no other rebel factions intervened to protect them – it was Kurdish-led forces that came to their defense and then sheltered them.

The second batch surrendered its U.S.-supplied weapons to Jabhat al-Nusrah. The Department of Defense counter-Islamic State program was amended to integrate small, Pentagon-trained units capable of calling in U.S. airstrikes into a larger mass of CIA-armed rebels, but even with substantial U.S. air support, rebels proved unable to do more than ping-pong back and forth across the Aleppo countryside until Turkey invaded.

Turkey’s own role inside Aleppo progressively scaled up over the course of Operation Euphrates Shield, until it had committed thousands of regular forces and taken the lead in the battle for the city of al-Bab.

Even then, American and Western officials told me, the Turkish-led capture of al-Bab went poorly enough to push U.S. planners towards alternatives in the battle for al-Raqqa. By the time rebels who had already lost in Syria’s west were appealing for a role in the battles against the Islamic State in Raqqa and Deir al-Zour in 2017, it was too late.

The Long Black Thread, Before and After the Islamic State

The politically convenient timeline for the Islamic State’s incubation inside the Syrian opposition is short. It starts with the Islamic State’s announced entry in April 2013 and ends with its rupture with Syria’s rebels in January 2014, roughly nine months. But this too is a false narrative.

The reality is that the Syrian opposition’s entanglement with the Islamic State and jihadists broadly didn’t start in April 2013, and it didn’t end in January 2014. It’s not a single, bracketed episode. Rather, it is a black thread that’s run through the opposition almost from the start until the present day.

The Islamic State did not just appear from nothing in April 2013. Though it announced itself in 2013, its advance force — Jabhat al-Nusrah — and other future constituent parts were inside Syria and playing an active, leading role in the insurgency from the start of 2012.

And even after the break with the Islamic State, its jihadist derivatives continued to poison the opposition. Again and again, the opposition — and the armed opposition in particular — proved unable to recognize the jihadist threat in their own ranks until it was too late.

From Jabhat al-Nusrah’s first acknowledged operation in Syria — a January 2012 car bomb in Damascus’s al-Meidan neighborhood — and the group’s video debut later that month, it should have been clear that it was either a manifestation of al-Qaeda or something al-Qaeda-like. But as Nusrah pivoted from terrorist bombings to a vanguard role on the battlefield alongside other rebels, it was accepted, only months after its terrorist opening act, as an integral part of the opposition. Important segments of the opposition went from denying al-Qaeda was even in Syria and claiming Nusrah’s early bombings were false flag attacks to closing ranks around an obvious al-Qaeda derivative.

In July of that year, the opposition stormed Aleppo, in their boldest, most ambitious blow against the regime to date. In the aftermath, Jabhat al-Nusrah was one of the four leading Islamist factions that came together in December 2012 to establish the Aleppo Shari’ah Commission, a joint judicial-administrative body to govern the city’s rebel-held east.

When the United States designated Jabhat al-Nusrah a terrorist organization and identified it, correctly, as an alias for al-Qaeda in Iraq, leading voices in Syria’s opposition loudly refused to acknowledge reality. The then-head of the opposition’s political leadership-in-exile said the decision “had to be reconsidered.” The following Friday, opposition activists organized protests across the country under the slogan, “There Is No Terrorism in Syria Except Assad’s.”

It was only the announcement of the Islamic State in April 2013 that obliged Jabhat al-Nusrah — and everyone else — to acknowledge exactly what it was, forcing Nusrah to defensively pledge direct, public allegiance to al-Qaeda (Even then, armed opposition members argued to me, as late as 2016 and 2017, that Jabhat al-Nusrah wasn’t really al-Qaeda).

Between the April 2013 announcement of the Islamic State and the break with ISIL in January 2014, Syria’s rebels coexisted with ISIL and — though it’s true ISIL was never integrated into the mass rebellion the way Jabhat al-Nusrah was — operated alongside them on at least several fronts.

The most prominent instance of rebel-ISIL cooperation was the 2013 capture of Aleppo’s Minagh Airbase, in which an ISIL suicide bomber cleared the way for a joint rebel assault. But rebels also seem to have fought alongside or in parallel with ISIL elsewhere, including in Lattakia, in the northern Damascus countryside, and against Kurdish forces across the Syrian north.

When ISIL began picking off individual half-criminal rebel factions in 2013 — in Aleppo citythe Aleppo countrysideor in Raqqa — other rebels mostly left them to die.

After ISIL was finally run out of Syria’s northwest in 2014 and concentrated in Syria’s east, the northwest became the rebellion’s center of gravity. It also became Jabhat al-Nusrah’s main power base, as the group rallied in the northwest starting in summer 2014.

And when Jabhat al-Nusrah started to eliminate nationalist rivals, not unlike ISIL had, northern rebels again sat on their hands. Northern rebels suffered from the same weaknesses and contradictions that plagued rebels nationwide. They had limited, local horizons. They were divided by faction, geography, and individual personalities. And they had problematic ideological sympathies and interpersonal ties with jihadists.

Altogether, they were incapable of mounting a collective resistance to a predatory Jabhat al-Nusrah. It is unclear how more U.S. support would have fixed that, particularly when the United States started targeting al-Qaeda external operations cells and Nusrah began targeting factions it deemed “Western tools.”

Jabhat al-Nusrah wiped out Jamal Ma’rouf’s ill-reputed Syrian Revolutionaries Front in October 2014, plus an assortment of Ma’rouf-linked factions. Other local factions, including Ahrar al-Sham, either joined in or were quietly complicit.

When CIA-backed Harakat Hazm tried to intervene to slow Nusrah’s campaign on Ma’arouf, Nusrah eliminated Hazm’s Idlib section. After escalating tensions between Nusrah and what was left of Hazm in Aleppo, Hazm defensively joined a larger Islamist faction. But Hazm kept causing problems, so its Islamist patron and other local factions decided Hazm had run its course. In February 2015, they stood aside while Nusrah snuffed it out.

Jabhat al-Nusrah was abetted in liquidating these factions by an ultra-extreme, Islamic State-leaning splinter called Jund al-Aqsa. Nusrah sheltered Jund al-Aqsa as it assassinated other rebels and — as what rebels called “[ISIL’s] Embassy in the North” — ferried would-be foreign fighters from Turkey to the Islamic State’s home base in al-Raqqa.

When Ahrar al-Sham attempted to uproot Jund in late 2016, it suffered heavy losses and accepted a face-saving settlement brokered by Jabhat al-Nusrah. In February 2017, Jabhat al-Nusrah (by then renamed Hayat Tahrir al-Sham) finally moved on what was left of Jund al-Aqsa — but, even then, Nusrah “defeated” Jund by giving its fighters safe passage to Islamic State-held Raqqa.

In March 2016, Nusrah broke a locally popular Free Syrian Army faction. In January 2017, it broke several factions that agreed to attend the Astana talks co-sponsored by Turkey, forcing the remaining fragments to join Ahrar al-Sham.

And in July 2017, Nusrah broke Ahrar al-Sham, its sole remaining rival for power in Syria’s northwest. Ahrar had historically been a key ally and enabler of Jabhat al-Nusrah, and it had played a central role in bringing the same extremist foreign fighters into Syria who would later repeatedly betray it.

The dust has yet to fully settle, but it seems as if enough of Ahrar’s local subfactions stuck to their home areas — cutting deals to declare their towns neutral, or only running Nusrah out of their own sectors — that Nusrah was able to overwhelm Ahrar at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing. Bab al-Hawa had been Ahrar’s stronghold and its main source of revenue and power. No longer.

The next-biggest rebel factions said they’d send a buffer force to interrupt the fighting around Bab al-Hawa, then didn’t, then blamed each other. One has already endorsed Jabhat al-Nusrah’s planned “civil administration” in the Syrian north.

CIA-backed Free Syrian Army factions played no part in the fighting between Nusrah and Ahrar al-Sham, except as a tame buffer force. The CIA had encouraged them to unite to form a counterweight to Jabhat al-Nusrah months earlier. They refused, recognizing, correctly, that Nusrah would view their unification as a menace and destroy them. Instead, they formed a nonthreatening “operations room” meant solely to fight the regime.

From 2012 to 2017, all these rebels continued to coordinate with and fight alongside Jabhat al-Nusrah. And the intra-rebel power dynamic had been inverted in ways outsiders seem to have misapprehended. By some point — certainly from 2015, but probably earlier — most northern rebels were not operating alongside either Jabhat al-Nusrah or Ahrar al-Sham as autonomous peers, but rather as jihadists’ fire support and force-multiplying auxiliaries. Nusrah was also siphoning off these factions’ U.S. material support, either by taking a regular cut or crushing these factions and pillaging their weapon stocks.

Lister has claimed that “[Free Syrian Army] groups who fought [al-Qaeda] were abandoned to lose.” But there’s only so much the United States could do when fragmented, basically local rebels abandoned each other, over and over again.

Flawed, Nationwide

Syria’s northwest — which, as rebels lost more of Aleppo, became increasingly centered on Islamist- and jihadist-dominated Idlib province — has been the most extreme example nationwide of how jihadists have run roughshod over Syria’s opposition. But rebels nationwide suffered from the same flaws, only to lesser degrees. It’s those flaws that, even when they didn’t leave other rebels vulnerable to outright jihadist control, meant they also couldn’t really expunge pernicious extremist actors and tendencies.

The closest thing to an anti-jihadist success story has been the rebel southwest, where Jordan’s tight management of its northern border with Syria and of its local rebel clients seem to have kept Jabhat al-Nusrah from blossoming the way it did in Syria’s north.

“Southern Front” rebels officially renounced cooperation with Jabhat al-Nusrah in 2015, and the group has apparently been kept mostly isolated and small. It also seems to have suffered because of one particularly bloodthirsty, unlikeable Jordanian emir, now since moved elsewhere in the country.

But even in the south, Jabhat al-Nusrah has survived, protected by its members’ local clan ties and their tactical utility to other rebels as shock troops, and it has continued to play a key role on hot fronts. There have been reports that local rebels have told Nusrah to either dissolve itself or leave the south, against the backdrop of the United States and Russia imposing a “de-escalation zone” over the area, but it remains to be seen how convincing rebels are and how willing Nusrah is to be convinced.

Under the de-escalation agreement, southern rebels will likely have to fight the local Islamic State force that stubbornly holds the area’s valley corner and against which they have been unable to mobilize effectively.

The “Euphrates Shield” northern Aleppo countryside is mostly free of Jabhat al-Nusrah because of Nusrah’s 2015 withdrawal from the area, the presence of Turkish forces on the ground, and a geographic accident — this rebel enclave is disconnected from the Nusrah-dominated rebel northwest, and really from anything other than Turkey’s Gaziantep province. Still, there is some reason for concern.

In June, dozens were reportedly killed in intra-rebel clashes that erupted — according to one party to the infighting — after one rogue rebel sub-faction starting chanting Nusrah slogans and then opened fire on residents who objected. And rebels have struggled to deal with continuing Islamic State infiltration. Local rebels told me in interviews that Islamic State cells in this area continue to commit acts of sabotage and carry out bombings.

In the besieged East Ghouta pocket outside Damascus, dominant local Islamist faction Jeish al-Islam eliminated the Islamic State in 2014 and, in 2016, turned its fire on Jabhat al-Nusrah. But that seemed to have as much to do with local factional balancing and economic interests as with anti-jihadist religious doctrine. And the rest of the Ghouta’s factions just balanced back, as Jabhat al-Nusrah opportunistically partnered with a local Free Syrian Army faction against Jeish al-Islam.

In terms of extremist influence and relative moderates’ inability to effectively organize against jihadists, Idlib and the rebel-held northwest have been the worst. But these are not Idlib problems; they are problems with Syria’s revolutionary opposition writ large.

Policy Implosion

This accounting of when Syria’s rebels did and did not resist jihadists is by no means a complete or comprehensive one. If someone wanted to get maximally granular — to dig down to the individual or village level — it’s probably possible to produce unlimited examples of rebels’ tangled-up relationships with jihadists.

The Assad regime itself had a hand in engineering jihadist influence within the opposition. From releasing dangerous jihadist detainees early in the uprising, apparently deliberately, to dumping rebels from elsewhere in the country into jihadist-dominated Idlib, Assad seems to have done everything he could to make his opposition toxic and unpalatable.

But Syria’s rebels themselves never really proved capable of policing themselves and purging their ranks of extremists. And by the time Trump had decided to end the CIA’s covert arms program, the geographic and numerical core of the armed opposition in Syria’s northwest was unsalvageable. It was dominated by factions like Ahrar al-Sham that were problematic, ideologically confused, and incapable of being productive counter-terrorism partners, and by Jabhat al-Nusrah, which is itself a counter-terrorism problem.

That meant rebels were never a really useful implement of U.S. or allied policy. So long as the most powerful factions espoused either Islamist, sectarian-majoritarian chauvinism, or straight black-flag jihadism, rebels could not represent an alternative political vision for a diverse Syria or be used effectively to press for a negotiated end to the conflict. The opposition also could not be a reliable counterterrorism partner, and support for opposition rebels was in fact boosting jihadists militarily and materially.

The conventional wisdom that the Syrian opposition was indispensable for counter-terrorism was a product of sentimentality and addled thinking. In particular, many opposition backers fell into a sort of over-reading of sectarian identity politics. They allowed themselves to be convinced that Syria’s jihadists had to be defeated by a force that looked basically like those jihadists, drawn exclusively from a demographic community defined in jihadists’ own sectarian terms.

One report called for America to stand up “the moderate Sunni Arab resistance needed to defeat the ISIS and al-Qaeda insurgencies,” a “partner by, with, and through which to conduct a population-centric counterinsurgency.” Another set of analysts and activists argued Washington needed to support Syrian opposition “indigenous counter-terrorism forces” in the most simplistic sectarian terms: “This counter-terrorism force needs to be led by moderate Sunni Arab fighters as Syria is a majority Sunni Arab country.”

This uncomplicated sectarian logic meant recommitting to a Syrian opposition force that had demonstrated consistently that it could not challenge jihadists and that, in any case, did not have a monopoly on Sunni Arab representation in Syria. Counting on the Syrian fighting force that, besides the Islamic State itself, was most riddled with jihadists to combat jihadists did not make sense.

And when rebels repeatedly made clear that their priority was fighting the Assad regime instead of jihadists, opposition backers rewrote their own interests and objectives to suit their clients’ needs. They tied themselves up in contortive logical knots to explain how, if they wanted to defeat jihadists, first they had to give the opposition everything it wanted.

These counter-terrorism-appropriate rationales for supporting the opposition should not have been taken seriously. The idea that Free Syrian Army rebels could somehow outcompete jihadists on the battlefield, or that they had to backfill and provide fire support for jihadists just to maintain their own independent relevance, was not real.

The idea that opposition rebels, if delivered to victory or to a negotiated solution on their preferred, victorious terms, would then team with the Syrian military to eliminate their jihadist cousins and comrades-in-arms was similarly unreal. And finally, the idea that if the opposition won, jihadists would just demobilize and rejoin anything like a normal, safe society was also not real.

Take this section of Lister’s policy opus for War on the Rocks, in which he argued for a compulsory ceasefire and political transition imposed at the end of America’s superpower arsenal:

Assuming that the credible introduction of an enforcement mechanism did guarantee a more durable period of calm in Syria, the influence of extremist groups would almost certainly decline after a period of months. As that trend developed, the likelihood for tensions to develop between Syria’s mainstream opposition and extremists alongside them would rise, thereby presenting opportunities to encourage their isolation.

Over an undeterminable period of time, this process could eventually “re-sort” insurgents, whereby all those willing to abide by a continued ceasefire and engage in an eventual political process would become more and more distinguishable from those who would not. It would only be after such a process played out that external military strikes could be considered against those unsalvageable extremists more clearly delineated on the ground.

“An undeterminable period of time” is a Syrian opposition-dictated fantasy, not policy.

There were non-counter-terrorism-related reasons to like and support the Syrian opposition. But as counter-terrorism gradually crowded out America and the West’s other priorities in Syria, the interests of the opposition terminally diverged from those of their Western backers, including the United States.

I don’t blame the opposition for these sorts of rationalizations, although we shouldn’t infantilize them or deny them agency, either. They certainly bear their share of responsibility. Still, as events turned against them, these arguments were all they had left.

I am angry at outsiders who affirmed and repeated these sorts of excuses, and particularly government officials and decision-makers. These people should have known better, and they should have communicated the political realities and consequences of the opposition’s extremist links clearly to their Syrian clients. They did the Syrian opposition, and Syrians broadly, a terrible disservice.

The opposition was not, with time, learning usefully, and its backers were not obliging it to learn. When rebels took Aleppo’s eastern half in summer 2012, lazily disguised Syrian al-Qaeda and other unacceptably hard factions assumed control of its governance. When rebels took Idlib in spring 2015, openly avowed Syrian al-Qaeda and other unacceptably hard factions assumed control of its governance, again.

When rebels broke the siege of Aleppo in summer 2016, it was the same radioactive, jihadist-led coalition that blazed the path. The same patterns kept playing out, only more intense and worse, and still enabled by opposition sponsors.

In retrospect, optimism among rebel backers about the Jeish al-Fateh (Army of Conquest) coalition’s 2015 offensive in Syria’s northwest — channeled by The Washington Post’s David Ignatius, for example — seems to be where the opposition’s backers really worked themselves into peak delusion.

It is mind-boggling that anyone was bullish about the political leverage to be gained from a provincial capital’s fall to a force jointly led by Ahrar al-Sham and al-Qaeda, which then blazed a path south into the regime’s sectarian heartlandmassacring Alawite villagersand featuring their children in hostage videos.

The “al-Fateh” in Jeish al-Fateh literally means “open.” Historically, it connotes a Muslim army’s “opening” of new, non-Muslim lands to Islam. A Sunni-supremacist, foreign fighter-laden “Jeish al-Fateh” — reinforced by U.S.-supported Free Syrian Army factions — rampaging through the minority farming villages of Hama’s Ghab Valley should have been deeply alarming. It certainly seems to have alarmed Russia, which directly and decisively intervened in Syria on behalf of the regime months later.

Opposition backers probably should have figured this out. Instead, they repeated their opposition clients’ rationalizations and superstitions, which conveniently flattered those backers’ own policy preferences and analytical misapprehensions.

The opposition’s state backers and friendly analysts did not take the problem of jihadist infiltration of the opposition seriously. And in part because they coddled the opposition instead of forcing a real, corrective reckoning, things got out of hand.

Ultimately, it fell on Trump to kill U.S. support for Syria’s opposition rebels and to state the obvious: “It turns out it’s — a lot of al-Qaida we’re giving these weapons to,” he told The Wall Street Journal last month.

Opposition backers’ magical thinking helped lead their clients into a dead end. But those foreign opposition boosters can at least disengage and walk away, even if they’ll feel some angst about it. It’s mainly the opposition itself — the admirable parts of it, and some good people who made mistakes — who are going to pay.

Sam Heller is a fellow at The Century Foundation and a Beirut-based writer and analyst focused on Syria. Follow Sam on Twitter: @AbuJamajem.

Note1 : Since January 2017, 700,000 Syrians returned to their hometowns, mostly to Aleppo. Hezbollah kicked out Al Nusra from Lebanon eastern mountain chains and over 8,000 Syrians returned to Syria. The fighters were dispatched to Edleb, Al Nusra fiefdom in north west Syria by Turkey, the main supporter of this faction, along with Qatar.

Note 2: ISIS will be done with within a few months, But Al Nusra (backed by Turkey) will be there in north west Syria by the border.

Note 3: The US is still delaying the defeat of ISIS in Syria and obstructing the Syrian army to liberate all the eastern desert. to reach the Iraq borders.

Israel’s (24-7) War on Palestine Rights Movement Advances Anti-boycott Legislation, Torpedoes Events

By Alison Weir. July 14, 2017

An Israeli newspaper reports that a special office in Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs is advancing anti-boycott, pro-Israel legislation around the world.

Israel’s Ynet News reports: “The State of Israel is waging one of its most important and difficult battles: The war on delegitimization and on the boycott movement.”

The Ministry has mapped 150 entities and has implemented what it calls a “combat doctrine” against them.

According to Ynet, the ministry has created a $70 million unit that works “24-7” to monitor and counter activism in support of Palestinian rights.

The unit, named “The Battle,” has worked to advance legislation, torpedo events, block bank accounts, thwart funding, and organize counter protests. It has also placed agents in Israeli embassies around the world.

The Ministry’s Director-General Sima Vaknin-Gil says that in order to win, Israel must “must use tricks and craftiness.”

According to Ynet, the office monitors “all protests, conferences, publications calling for an anti-Israel boycott and international bodies’ boycott initiatives. It then transfers the information to the relevant people to provide a proper response to these activities, whether through a counter-protest or through moves to thwart the initiative behind the scenes.”

Israel’s justice department has agreed to exclude the unit from Israel’s Freedom of Information Law.

Gilad Erdan, Minister of Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Information, states:

“Since the ministry began leading the war on the boycott movement, boycott organizations have been under constant pressure.

“Legislation is being advanced in Israel and in the world, the organizations are under financial pressure which includes closing bank accounts and thwarting donations, and the hypocrisy of bodies disguised as ‘human rights organizations’ is being exposed.

My policy of moving from the defense to the offense has proved itself, but there’s a lot more to be done.”

Numerous anti-boycott, pro-Israel bills are making their way through U.S. governmental bodies.

The U.S. Congress passed anti-boycott legislation in 2015, at least 22 state legislatures throughout the country have enacted anti-boycott bills, and anti-boycott legislation in other states is in process.

In addition, legislation calling criticism of Israel “anti-Semitic” is being advanced at both the federal and state levels, and similar regulations are being adopted on college campuses. Related laws and resolutions are also being promoted internationally.

Israel’s 24-7 ‘War’ on Palestine Rights Movement Advances Anti-boycott Legislation, Torpedoes Events

The 29th floor of Tel Aviv’s Champion Tower is the nerve center of a 24-7 ‘war’ against Palestinian rights supporters around the world. Israeli agents working behind the scenes advance legislation, torpedo events, organize counter-protests, close bank accounts.

The Director says: ‘In order to win we must use tricks and craftiness.’


Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew, president of the Council for the National Interest, and author of Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel

Israeli efforts to influence events in the U.S. are not new. In 1994 a former Mossad agent described on C-Span how the Mossad used pro-Israel organizations to plant claims that individuals critical of Israel are “antisemitic.”

In 1963 Senator William Fulbright discovered that Israel had given more than $5 million ($40 million in today’s dollars ) to organizations and individuals in the U.S. to influence public opinion in favor of Israel.


Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew, president of the Council for the National Interest, and author of Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel

It’s a privilege to report through Mondoweiss’: risks of working as a foreign-based journalist in Palestine

FeaturesIsrael/Palestine Israel Fear The Truth: We Report It

Foreign journalists and reporters who have an Israeli Government Press Office (GPO) card have to comply with Israeli government gag orders, and have to submit their work for review and/or censorship before publishing

Tova Perlmutter on July 1, 2017

MEET “ALAA,” A JOURNALIST who has covered events in Israel/Palestine for Mondoweiss.

Alaa is of Palestinian descent, but she is an American citizen and, as she puts it, doesn’t “look Arab.”

This gives her a particular perspective on Israel’s treatment of Palestinian journalists. Alaa agreed to answer my questions about her experiences reporting in Israel/Palestine but requested that we not use her real name. This could put me in a very difficult situation as far as visas go.

I am here precariously, and anyone working in the country answering questions along these lines risks being kicked out for good.

One entire side of my family lives in the West Bank so risking my access to the country by using my real name with this interview is more than I am willing to do.

While other stories in our series “They Fear The Truth: We Report It” have described direct violence against journalists, Alaa provided more information about Israel’s efforts to control reporting using legal requirements, surveillance, censorship and restricted access.

Every example of clampdown on journalists is further evidence that the work Mondoweiss presents daily, from hundreds of brave reporters and photographers, makes a real difference. As a reader-supported nonprofit, we are able to pay Alaa and other dedicated, talented reporters only because of contributions from people like you.

Mondoweiss: What challenges have you faced as a foreign-based reporter in entering or residing in the Palestinian territories?

Alaa: Israel’s approval of visas for those working in the West Bank is complicated and inconsistent. Every time I leave the country I fear that I will not be allowed back in, even if I have a visa that has a long expiry date. Once I flew in with nine months left on my work visa, and at the airport my work visa was canceled and I was given a three-month tourist visa. Other times the work visa has been honored. I never know if my visa will be revoked, making me scared to leave the country. I am also held for hours and questioned every time I enter or leave.

Mondoweiss: Can you describe legal controls the government exerts on your reporting once you’re in Israel/Palestine? An Israeli soldier restrains a journalist during a demonstration demanding free movement of journalists and Palestinians at the Qalandia checkpoint July 17, 2013.

Alaa: Israel requires journalists to register and obtain a Government Press Office (GPO) card. I have not been able to obtain a GPO card, so I am unable to report within Israel. This limits my work, of course, since so many stories have elements on both sides of the Green Line.

On the other hand, journalists who have a GPO card have to comply with Israeli government gag orders, and sometimes they have to submit their work for review and/or censorship before publishing. That’s written explicitly in the GPO requirements, and is true even if you report for the New York Times or other mainstream outlets.

Mondoweiss: So the lack of a GPO prevents you from reporting within Israel. Do you have greater journalistic freedom when you’re in the West Bank?

Alaa: Officially, a GPO card is not required in the West Bank. Many times, though, while covering stories in the West Bank, I’ve been denied access or detained by Israeli soldiers demanding I show a GPO card. In one case when I pointed out the law doesn’t require a press card in the West Bank, the soldier holding me said this was a closed military zone and so it was now required.

I asked when it had been declared a closed military zone and he said he had declared it himself right now as he was speaking to me. He then threatened to check all the other journalists’ credentials and make anyone without a GPO card leave. I knew the others did not have GPO cards—most were Palestinian citizens and at much greater risk than I. So I kept silent, and he released me on condition that I leave the area.

Not only was I prevented from covering the news, but everyone present saw that an ordinary soldier took upon himself the authority of “declaring a closed zone”—and was ready to impose collective punishment to quash any challenge. Talk about a chilling effect on the press!

This kind of incident leads to effective self-censorship. Even if you are working in the West Bank, Israel still has to approve your visa, so journalists are careful not to write something—for publication or even on social media—that could get them kicked out of the country and/or banned for five or ten years. We censor ourselves even in phone conversations.

The paranoia is palpable because of Israel’s reputation as an all-knowing, all-seeing, security power. (Just paranoia: Israel doesn’t know much, and fakes knowing by harassment tactics)

Mondoweiss: What other experiences have you had where Israel’s forces prevented you from practicing your profession as journalist? Israeli soldiers close a barrier blocking the road at the West Bank Al-Fawwar refugee camp, July 3, 2016.

Alaa: Israel often closes down villages, and journalists are not allowed to go through these blockades. On occasion, my driver and translator have sneaked me in illegally. As Palestinian citizens, they are taking a much greater risk than I am. I respect immensely their choice as it reflects their dedication to the journalistic mission of informing the world. Once when I was leaving a closed village, the way we had sneaked in was blocked. After a while we realized the only way out was a dirt path guarded by Israeli military.

We stopped the car a couple hundred meters away as the soldiers yelled. They pointed their guns at the car and gestured for us to retreat. I slowly got out of the car, with my hands in the air. I stood there, screaming “American” and “English” at the top of my lungs. Finally, the soldiers called me over. I pretended I didn’t know I was not allowed in the village. Eventually, they let us go.

Mondoweiss: Have you ever been frightened while doing your job by elements of Israeli society other than the government?

Alaa: Once I was interviewing a Palestinian with my translator in Hebron when a settler walked up with a large dog and an M16 slung on his shoulder. He asked what we were doing, and I said we were about to leave. I could see the person I was interviewing was scared. Settlers are not often held accountable when they commit violence.

The settler walked on to speak to the soldiers up the street at the checkpoint where we needed to exit. Once he had left, the three of us headed to the checkpoint. The soldiers detained my translator and me, took our I.D.s and questioned us for a while.

When they let us go, one of the soldiers yelled obscenities at the Hebron resident we had been interviewing. Another time, I was reporting a story about foreign workers in northern Israel. The conditions were absolutely horrible, the workers lived like animals. During the interview, one of the Israeli farm owners came driving by, and we all ran and hid.

Partly, we were frightened that this private citizen—like so many in Israel—might be carrying a machine gun, and might use it. Mostly, though, we were concerned with getting the workers in trouble with their employer. As it turned out, the owner drove away without seeing us. This is just another example, though, of how the typical concerns of an investigative journalist are magnified by the pervasive violence of Israeli society.

It is hard to focus on your reporting when you know the limits of the rule of law when it comes to violence against Palestinians and others considered “less than.”

Mondoweiss: How does your identity as a Palestinian affect your life and work?

Alaa: I have a sort of in-between status. On the one hand, I actually am Palestinian and my name, history and family connections can make me vulnerable. On the other hand, my appearance gives me free passage in many cases—I’m what you might call “white-looking” and when my name isn’t checked I definitely don’t get hassled as much as people who can’t pass as non-Palestinian.

One time I stumbled into an anti-Arab protest in Jerusalem. People were screaming death to Arabs, waving Israeli flags, and holding racist signs. It was bizarre and yes, a bit scary. I pass for non-Arab, but I knew that if for some reason I was identified as an Arab, things could go bad quickly. So that’s a pretty ordinary example of how my identity can put me at risk even when I’m not covering the conflict.

On a more mundane level—but one that affects me every day—I am subject to the same material restrictions as other Palestinians living in the West Bank. For example, we do not have access to cellphone data. This means I can only access the internet through wifi, and that definitely limits my ability to report in a timely manner.

Mondoweiss: Thanks so much for sharing these glimpses of your world. Are there other aspects of your work as a journalist in the West Bank that you would like Mondoweiss readers to understand?

Alaa: I think that when you’re far from Israel/Palestine it can be easy to forget how far the invasion and destruction of basic, fundamental rights has gone. Even while experiencing these constraints on freedom of the press ourselves, those of us here on the ground start to accept as obvious and mundane the challenges we have to face.

It often feels like little things, normal and everyday. But it’s not, and we can’t let ourselves take these restrictions for granted. I am grateful every day that Mondoweiss continues to spread the news about human rights violations in Israel/Palestine.

For me, it’s a privilege to report through Mondoweiss, where I know that thoughtful people see the information I work hard to obtain for them. I would just like to close by asking readers to continue supporting the essential outlet that Mondoweiss provides for accurate news coverage from territories where the authorities are working very hard to prevent accurate information from getting out.

The name you chose for the current campaign rings very true to me. They fear the truth–we report it. I urge those who value the truth to contribute so we can keep defying censorship and awakening the world to injustice.

Palestinian Prisoners End Hunger Strike in Israel After 40 Days

 

Israel DIME Weapon effect on Gaza-Article and Gallery

JANUARY 18, 2009

What’s DIME ?!

Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) : is an illegal weapon that had been tested in Iraq (Fallujah ) USA , and used in 1996 by Israel , then 2008-2009 again by Israel on Gaza .

Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) : It produces lower pressure but increased impulse in the near field.

Upon detonation of the explosive, the casing disintegrates into extremely small particles, as opposed to the shrapnel which results from the fragmentation of a metal shell casing. (They are irradiated too with “low nuclear” by-products)

Those shrapnel enter the body , which is very lethal at close range ( 4 meters or 13 feet ).

Survivors close to the lethal zone may have their limbs amputated (as the micro shrapnel can slice through soft tissue and bone).

One more Israeli ( IsraHelli Surprise ) :

It’s Carcinogenic , cause the effect of heavy metal tungsten , along with depleted uranium , as USA used before in IRAQ and Afghanistan .

DIME wounds are considered to be untreatable because the metal is delivered in the form of a fine powder which is can’t be removed by surgery .

Is it Legal ?

DIME , is illegal but that’s didn’t hold USA from using it in Iraq and Afghanistan , along with IsraHell ( Israel ) ,  2006 , 2008-2009 .

Question: Since when IsraHell ( Israel ) and USA pay an attention to UN and Legality of their ways ?!

Why Israel is using it over civilians  at Gaza ?

IsraHell is using those kind of weapons not for the first time , they have a long log from using such Illegal weapons on Palestinians , without fear of consequences .

The right answer would be a Genocide , for the Palestinians at Gaza .
If IsraHell ( Israel ) is using those type of illegal weapons to test it , thats immoral .

If Israhell (Israel ) is trying to terrorize Gaza civilians , thats would be the prove anyone can ask for about How IsraHell ( israel ) is terrorist .

If IsraHell ( israel ) is using those type of illegal weapons to cancerize Gaza people , that`s even unethical an immoral .

and , if IsraHell ( israel ) attended to Genocide the Palestinians at Gaza , ( as we all believe now ) , that would be inhuman .

Therefor , we can’t say was what IsraHell hidden goal of using those kind of weapon , so lets by what IsraHell ( israel ) did in Gaza

IsraHell ( israel ) is Inhuman , a Racismic nation , immoral and unethical . and thats how we see it . and thats what gave it ( IsraHell ) the right to do so , that its Illegal country built on blood and dead bodied .

Gaza: Israel under fire for alleged white phosphorus use

Israel uses experimental genotoxic weapon (DIME) against civilians in Gaza

Italian TV Exposes Experimental IDF Use of U.S. Weapon Which Severs and Burns Limbs Below Genitals


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