Blogger 'ban' lifted in Syria
Some Blogger blogs seem to be working again in Syria on their main URL (web address).
They had been difficult to access for the past few months.
Some Blogger blogs seem to be working again in Syria on their main URL (web address).
They had been difficult to access for the past few months.
The Lebanese Army has shot dead 2 Palestinian civilians, who were stuck at a checkpoint, trying to get back into their homes in the Nahr Al Bared refugee camp.
The Lebanese Army has been harassing and abusing Palestinian civilians at checkpoints throughout this crisis. For more, read EI.
A terror suspect deported from Britain has been defending Al Qaeda and blaming Syria for the violence in Lebanon.
Omar Bakri Mohammad was expelled from the UK, and given safe haven in Lebanon. He is originally Syrian but had to flee Syria for similar reasons. He has finally found a home in Lebanon.
He is accused of inciting terrorism in Britain, and now says Al Qaeda-linked Fateh Al Islam is innocent, and that Syria is behind the attacks.
What a great friend to have, ay Hariri? Well, he is your guest I guess.
Gulfsands is going to invest almost $25 million after a discovery at oil fields near the Iraqi border.
The company thinks the Khurbet East field can produce 100,000 barrels-per-day.
Lebanon's Information Minister Ghazi Aridi says Fateh Al Islam are to blame for the murder of 6 UN peacekeepers.
"There is a link between the attack which targeted the Spanish contingent of UNIFIL and the combat between the Lebanese army and the terrorists of Fatah al-Islam in Nahr al-Bared,"
On Sunday, Fateh Al Islam spread their fight outside the Nahr Al Bared camp for the first time - killing a dozen people in Tripoli. Just hours later, they killed 6 UN peacekeepers miles away, in the south of Lebanon.
"If any agreement was reached, it's very likely that the Jewish population would be forced to leave the territory."
Sami Khyiami, Syria's Ambassador to London last week said the settlers would be allowed to stay. It's unlikely many would accept that offer.
A bomb has killed 5 UN peacekeepers near the Israeli border.
3 of the victims were Colombian, 2 were Spanish.
Fateh Al Islam have been threatening to target UN troops, and the Lebanese government says members who have been arrested have confessed to a plan to kill peacekeepers.
It happened in the south, in a clear attempt to frame Hizbollah - arch enemies of Fateh Al Islam. It comes just days after rockets were fired from south Lebanon into Israel - a Hizbollah tactic in last summer's war. But Israel and Hizbollah both say a Palestinian group was behind this attack.
Fateh Al Islam was created last year, after breaking away from a pro-Syrian group. It was funded by Hariri to act as a counterbalance to Hizbollah.
Ten people have died after clashes between Fateh Al Islam and the Lebanese Army, in Lebanon's second city.
It comes forty-eight hours after the government declared the battle over.
The fighting has now spread out of the Nahr Al Bared camp and into the neary city of Tripoli.
Two civilians, one soldier, a policeman and at six Fateh Al Islam members are dead. It happened when the Army raided an apartment in the Abu Samra district of the city.
Syria has closed all borders with Lebanon as fears grow that the fighting will escalate and spread across Lebanon and overflow into Syria. Only the Masnaa crossing - on the Beirut-Damascus highway - is open. But there are long queues as people fear that crossing will soon be closed.
The first response to my call for articles is from Wassim - thanks Wassim, read his blog here.
In "A choice of words", Wassim looks at the way the sympathies of Western analysts show in the language they use. He picks the example of the Hamas-Fateh conflict in Palestine.
A choice of words
While commuting to work this morning, I was reading an article in the Economist on the situation in Gaza between Hamas and Fatah. As most articles written on the matter lately, they have been tinged with a sorrowful 'Whither to now Palestine' attitude. Apart from the fact I have reservations about whether I should feel sad as to what is happening (I don't) I have a few observations which might be useful to anybody else reading Western media. The Economist presents Hamas as 'failing to meet the conditions' set by the 'great outside powers'.
We hear this often, but why do we (myself included) uncritically accept the framework of the argument. 'Failing to meet the conditions' is when somebody eager for something is expected to jump through all sorts of loops to receive something from another: A student in school 'fails to meet the conditions' necessary for a pass; An immigrant 'fails to meet the conditions' for a visa; so on and so forth, you get the picture. Now, Hamas did not 'fail to meet the conditions' of anybody, it refused the demands of the 'International Community' (otherwise known as the West), there is a crucial difference.
I don't necessarily agree with Hamas' ideology or methods, but the reason I bring this up is because this framework of description of events is presented often in news and analysis and can misguide the layperson reading them in the Western world to think they come from countries which are somehow superior to those they are dealing with, a throwback to the days of Empire? That I don't know. We see the same framework with Iran, Syria and Hezbullah amongst others. These actors always seem to 'fail' to meet 'requirements', 'conditions', 'criteria' etc etc. The language instantly tells you who is setting the conditions and who these are 'set' upon. This logic is flawed and unacceptable. When somebody you don't like wants to make you do something and you refuse, you do not 'fail to comply'. You refuse and stand your ground, 'go ahead, make my day' basically. The same applies with what is happening in the Middle East at the moment.
These 'outside powers' the Economist is referring to have helped create Israel, arm it and continue to fund and support some of the most corrupt regimes in the region (Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia), yet these countries are labelled with terms which make them softer for the reader, 'secular', 'moderate' etc. In stark contrast, actors opposed to the 'international community' (remember, this stands for the West) are portrayed as 'hardline', 'Islamist' , 'authoritarian' etc etc, even though in terms of human rights abuses and governance, they are no better than the so called 'moderate' countries. However, the criteria for judgement is never about the benevolence and effectiveness of government or human rights, it is always the position of these countries with regards to the 'international community' and in particular Israel, which is the basis for judgements. Under the illusion of objectivity, you are presented with a framework which, if accepted, can only lead you to one viewpoint.
Finally, the token bogeyman. The article also included a fleeting implication that a Gaza under Hamas would allow al Qaeda another fertile ground, " If the Islamists of Hamas win this round, the spectre will loom of a failed statelet where al Qaeda," etc etc. No mention is made of the fact that the 'statelet' might fail precisely because the 'international community' will blockade and starve it while funding and arming the pro-Israel Abbas (remember he is a moderate, never mind about corrupt). I assume that Hamas in such a scenario would again 'fail' to meet the stringent 'requirements' of these countries and so it, as well as the people who elected it, have only themselves to blame. That is the picture we can expect to be presented with at some stage if not already.
The Syrian opposition, and US policy in Syria:
Battling the Lion of Damascus, by Seth Wikas.
"He sheds light on past and potential missteps -- from strengthening already potent Islamist factions to mismanaging initiatives aimed at funding worthwhile opposition efforts -- that U.S. policymakers must avoid if they hope to help rather than hinder the Syrian opposition."
Israel has rejected peace talks with Syria.
Syria has been offering talks on full recognition for the past seven years - and hasn't even got a response.
That was until recently. Israel announced it would 'test' Bashar, and call his bluff by offering peace talks.
But Olmert set the bar so high that it knew Syria would say no - and that would paint Syria as the obstruction to peace in the region. Israel demanded that if the Occupied Golan Heights were returned to Syria, Syria would have to 'rent' the Golan Heights back to Israel.
So when Syria didn't immediately say no, some in Israel - and Washington - started to get a bit jittery. Olmert has now retracted his offer, saying simply that the time "isn't right".
Interesting to see where Ehud Olmert made the announcement. During talks with President Bush at the White House.
"Two hours north of Amman, Jordan, an Arab Hollywood is emerging, in Damascus, Syria. Along with it, a flurry of digital filmmaking activities is starting to give Syrian New Cinema shape.
Syria is the Arab country with the most developed cinema and audiovisual production infrastructure east of the Mediterranean. Syrian TV drama has dominated Arab TV screens over the last decade with no contender on the horizon."
If you think there's a big hole in my coverage - or any stories I'm missing, please email me on email@example.com
I especially want to hear about things not covered elsewhere on the net.
Also, if there's anything you'd like to write for the Syria News Wire, I'd love to hear from you. Drop me a line.
Syria is rejecting rumours of behind-the-scenes peace talks with Israel. Syria's Ambassador to the UN says there are no secret talks, and Syria isn't ashamed of negotiating with Israel.
It has called for Israel to return to the negotiating table and talk publicly. Syria clearly fears more broken promises from Olmert.
Syria has been calling for peace talks for the past seven years - they were ignored. Now Israel suddenly comes up with the idea of peace talks and it is portrayed as a 'test' of Syria's commitment to peace.
Well, here's the real test. Come out and talk publicly, oh Olmert the peacemaker, instead of living in the shadows that you have inhabited for so long.
In the original post, yesterday, I said:
"Second - how close Syria's Ambassador came to justifying dictatorship. Of course, he wasn't referring to Syria. It was in the abstract. Of course. The argument is that democratically elected leaders aren't held accountable for four or five years (we were talking about the Iraq war - 2 million people marching in the streets of London couldn't change Blair's mind). In a dictatorship, his argument went, leaders have to be much quicker in reacting to public opinion to maintain the frail mandate they cling on to.
It's a valid claim and an interesting critique of democracy. I'm not sure if that justifies dictatorship though."
Two rockets have been fired from Lebanon into Israel.
But both Hizbollah and Israel say it wasn't Hizbollah which did it.
Israel is blaming Palestinian groups inside Lebanon: "It seems that it was Palestinians, not Hezbollah," and Israel thinks it was aimed at getting Israel to attack Hizbollah in retailiation. Israel insists it will "not be drawn in".
Could it be allies of Fateh Al Islam trying to get Israel to attack their arch-enemies* Hizbollah, and force the Lebanese Army to halt their assault on the Nahr Al Bared camp?
(*Fateh Al Islam claim they are defending the Sunnis, and Abu Musab Al Zarqawi - who was close to Fateh Al Islam's leaders - accused Hizbollah of 'protecting' Israel because they didn't allow Al Qaeda-linked groups to attack Israel from South Lebanon.)
Syria swamped by Iraqi refugees: Nearly 1,000 arrive a day, driven from homes by violence. By Hannah Allam
"Nobody used the word "crisis" when the first wave of Iraqis fled the war and settled here."
"The Syrian state offers public services to Iraqis, including free access to schools and emergency health care. No evidence was found to show that some groups received preferential service. Fortunately, for the time being, sectarianism has not spilled over the Iraqi-Syrian border. Except for the predominantly Shi'a district of Sayyida Zeinab, most Iraqis live in mixed neighborhoods.
The sudden population influx has created a drastic increase in demand for goods and services. As many basic needs are subsidized by the state, the refugee crisis has placed a large financial burden on the Syrian government. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in 2006 the state had to foot the bill for a 35% increase in subsidized bread ($34 million) and the influx of 30,000 Iraqi students ($18 million).
Many Syrians blame the Iraqi refugees for recent rises in unemployment, the cost of basic goods and, above all, rent prices. In some Damascus neighborhoods apartment rental prices have doubled or even tripled since the outbreak of the war. The perceived impact of the Iraqi refugees is such that many Syrians in everyday conversation will say that there are between three and six million Iraqis in Syria."
The silence. On the blogosphere. On the streets.
Today, London held one of the first events dedicated to the Syrian Golan Heights for a long time. There was a day-long series of talks and discussions by journalists, diplomats and Syrianists at SOAS.
The Golan - chaired by Fawaz Akhras, British-Syrian Society
-Roots of the conflict (George Joffe, Cambridge & KCL)
-Colonisation of the Golan (Neil Quilliam, Control Risks)
-Personal stories (Dr. Ghassan Shannan, from the Golan & Ata Farhat, Syria TV, from the Golan and formerly imprisoned by Israel)
Strategic Signifcance of the Golan - chaired by Patrick Seale
-Water resources (Dr. Mark Zeitoun, LSE)
-The military balance (Tim Collins OBE, former colonel)
-Economic value of the Golan (Abdelkader Husrieh, economist)
Legal Perspectives - chaired by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC
-International law and the Israeli occupation of the Golan (John McHugo, lawyer, CAABU board member)
-Israel, the Golan Heights and International Humanitarian Law (Guy Goodwin Gill, expert in International Refugee Law, former UK High Commission for Refugees)
Prospects for Peace - chaired by Charles Glass
-The Golan: the key to peace or a cause of war? (Dr. Sami Khiyami, Syrian Ambassador to the UK)
Roundtable on the Golan and the Media
-Ghayth Armanazi (Syrian Media Centre)
-Patrick Seale (Writer)
-Ian Black (The Guardian)
-Sharif Nashashibi (Arab Media Watch)
Ammar Abdul Hamid says he is leaving the Baath/Muslim Brotherhood party, the National Salvation Front.
"I think I just can’t think of any other way to say that I am severing my association with the National Salvation Front. The Reason? A loss of faith really," he says.
After a guessing game - is he, isn't he part of the NSF, he revealed that he would work as one of their representatives, and open an office for them.
Now, he has become disillusioned, and says he is going to focus on his empowerment project Tharwa, instead of the politicking of Khaddam. From negative to positive.
"Oppositional politics per se have always been more of a distraction than the real deal for me" he says.
But he does hint at a personality clash within the NSF in his parting swipe: "It’s not the lack of ideas and possibilities that is the problem here, but the lack of necessary means and the right personalities".
It would be interesting to hear why this NSF-exile is bailing out. Leaving the sinking ship perhaps?
83 Egyptians who entered Syria illegally are on their way back home.
The group was arrested, and it's claimed they were on their way - illegally - into Turkey and then to Italy. They entered Syria through the Jordanian border, and were detained a week ago.
Syrian, Jordanian and Egyptian gangsters helped them through. And it was claimed the gangsters were demanding a ransom from the families - that's being denied by Egyptian authorities.
An Egyptian newspaper says the father of one of the men claimed his son went to work in Jordan where a Jordanian convinced him to travel to Italy. The gang demanded $1700 which the father paid. He promised him the boy would be released in Lebanon. He has not been heard of since.
The UN is funding a project with the Syrian government in the Kurdish area in the north-east of the country.
The $58 million work will provide easier access to clean water in the Jazeera, helping almost 200,000 families.
Part of the money will go towards farmers’ and craftworkers associations, and some of the money will be given in low interest loans to farmers in the region.
Far be it from me to praise Hamas - who don't seem to be shy of playing their part in Palestine's civil war - but who is carrying out a coup against who?
Hamas controls the government after a landslide election. Abbas sacks Haniyeh and dismisses the government and takes total control himself.
A political party (Fateh) still controls Palestine's security departments, even though it was voted out of power. And Hamas's takeover of these buildings is called "seizing control".
This misreporting is because anyone can call themself a Middle East Expert just because they spent a week in Tel Aviv.
If Hamas ends up with Gaza, and Fateh with the West Bank - these two self-serving parties will have done more to kill the Palestinian dream than Israel.
It's reassuring to see Lebanon can still mourn.
I thought they'd lost that ability, after seeing the cheering for the Army's slaughter of dozens of Palestinians in Nahr Al Bared.
But at least the Lebanese Police have found Eido's killers: they rounded up a bunch of Syrians (remember when the same Lebanese Police ordered all the Syrians in one apartment block OUTSIDE Beirut to surrender themselves, blaming them for setting fire to the Danish Embassy in Beirut WHILE the Embassy burning was still taking place):
"The status of Syrians and Palestinians in Lebanon is comparable to the status of African-Americans in the deep south in the 1920s. Yesterday, they rounded up all those Syrian workers just because Walid `Idu was assassinated. As if Lebanese are not capable of murder." via Asad.
Meanwhile, Hariri thugs have set fire to tents belonging to poor Syrian workers in two different places in Lebanon.
And Siniora says he will expel all Palestinians from Nahr Al Bared (didn't Israel also expel them 60 years ago?).
At least eight people, including Walid Eido - a Mustaqbal MP - has been killed in a car bomb in Manara, on the Beirut corniche.
The explosion in Hamra is one of the biggest since Rafiq Al Hariri was killed 2 years ago. It happened at 5.30pm between two beach resorts: the Long Beach and the Sporting Club.
It is the latest in a series of attacks since the Lebanese Army began fighting Fateh Al Islam militants in northern Lebanon. Fateh Al Islam has been threatening to spread the violence across the country. There have been six identical bomb attacks in the past month, most in Beirut.
The man who wrote "Why I Admire Israel" has been visiting Israel. And he spoke in the Israeli Parliament.
He received a warm welcome from the Israeli Parliament's Palestinian MPs (photo via Wassim).
Palestinian MK Ahmad Tibi: "Aren't you ashamed of yourself? You come here as a cheap tool in the hands of Netanyahu and ask the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee not to cede the Golan, your homeland, when more than half the Israelis want to withdraw. This is despicable." (via George - well worth reading)
After seven years of asking, Israel finally agreed to launch peace talks with Syria. Israel made the offer to Damascus, and Syria's deputy Foreign Minister Ahmed Arnous has unsurprisingly said yes:
"Syria is prepared to renew talks based upon the land for peace principle, without preconditions, to bring about stability and security in the region ... President Assad is perfectly straightforward regarding Syria's aspirations to renew negotiations based on the rubrics of the Madrid Conference."
My name is Antony Loewenstein and I'm an Australian about to hit Damascus. I'm keen to meet Syrian bloggers. Can you help?
My website is: antonyloewenstein.com
My email: antloew (at) gmail.com
Look forward to hearing from you.
Is Emile Lahoud, as President of Lebanon, the nominal head of the Lebanese Army? (In a similar way to US President Bush being Commander in Chief of the US Army?)
If - as I suspect - he is, it is interesting that he has not intervened in the Nahr Al Bared bombardment. He seems to be giving his tacit support to Hariri's war on the refugee camp.
...is the deceptive headline.
Yes, Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he is willing to give Syria sovereignty over the Syrian Golan Heights IF Syria 'leases' the territory back to Israel for 25 years.
So, Israel is saying, we are prepared to keep your land, but admit that it is yours.
40 years of waiting - for that.
Israel says it has launched secret talks (so secret Israel has already made them public). And today, Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz says Syria has failed to respond to its generous offer.
Israel is setting Syria up to be the 'obstruction' to peace in the region.
Syria - don't forget - has been offering unconditional peace talks for the past seven years, but with no response.
Last year, the Saudi government ordered Britain to drop its Serious Fraud Office investigation.
The SFO was days away from revealing that the Saudi government and a senior member of the Lebanese government had received bribes of $240 million every year.
Now, the BBC has done the work the Saudi government thought it had killed.
Hariri thought he could keep it quiet. Just like he thought he could keep his funding of militant groups like Fateh Al Islam quiet.
But when you play with fire, it often comes back to burn you.
One person has been killed by a car bomb in an industrial area of Beirut.
It happened in the industrial area of Zouk Mosbeh, 20km north of Beirut - 3 others were injured, and police say it would've been higher if it happened in the daytime.
It comes just days after Hariri-funded militant group Fateh Al Islam vowed to spread its fight across Lebanon.
Fateh Al Islam is currently battling the Lebanese Army in Nahr Al Bared in the north of Lebanon. A related group, Jund Ash Sham - which is responsible for dozens of attacks inside Syria - began fighting soldiers in the south of Lebanon this week.
Four bombs have exploded since the civil fighting began.
I waited yesterday to see who would mention the fortieth anniversary of the Israeli occupation of Syria's Golan Heights, plus Gaza and the West Bank (including east Jerusalem).
The blogosphere is silent.
But we go mad when a handful of people are wrongly imprisoned, or when we have silly elections.
And Syria is silent too. We have parties for Bashar, but no memorial for the Golan.
So are the 'activists' in the West. The biggest event in London yesterday was a kite-flying protest organised by Jews for Justice for Palestinians. It was an awareness raising thing, and highly commendible. But it was a drop in a very very calm ocean.
Wassim has done a great job though. And Dubai Jazz (NEW LINK - apologies for missing you first time round) has an excellent personal tale. Thank you also to Yazan for republishing the Creative Syria discussion. And Phillip and the Syrian Brit have mentioned the anniversary in the past month (thanks Yazan).
I hope there are others I've missed. Please let me know.
EDB in Beirut, writes about the arrest of a suspect in the Beirut bus bombing:
"Suddenly a commotion ensued, as four plain clothes men handcuffed a young man-- perhaps twenty-years old-- and escorted him to a white civilian car with Saida license plates. They shoved him into the backseat and closed the door. He sat in the backseat, straining his neck to peer out of the rearview window, terrified. A group of 10 to 12 men stood around the car. Occasionally they opened the door of the car and said something to him. I walked over and asked one of the younger men, who was wearing a T-shirt with "Jesus Soldiers" blazoned across the back, why they arrested the young man. He declined to respond, but his friend replied, matter-of-factly, "Because he's Syrian.""
Soliders and militants from Jund Ash Sham are fighting in the Ein Al Helwa camp in the south of Lebanon near Sidon. Ein Al Helwa is the largest camp in the country.
It happened after militants threw a grenade at an army checkpoint.
Jund Ash Sham has carried out a number of terror attacks across Syria, and also in Qatar, over the past decade.