Assad Undermines Palestinian Cause For His Own Petty Gains

According to reports on Syrian television, 23 people were killed along the border with Israel as they tried to go across the border with Israel.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) disputed the numberand the circumstances.

Syrian President Bashar Assad

Considering the sources of both the accusation and the denial, both highly dubious with long track records of dissembling, I’m keeping my mind open on this. But there are some very important points to be made about the violent confrontations on the northern border.

Let’s start with this: Uri Avnery was right when he said the IDF used disproportionate force. The IDF itself said all the injuries were on the Syrian side of the border—this is why they say they cannot confirm any casualties. The IDF also says they shot live fire at the legs of protesters heading toward the border fence, but still on the Syrian side. Hard to see how that can be called proportionate force. And at least one witness, a journalist, said that the Israelis are understating the severity of their response.

Let’s also be clear about another point: Israel is not defending its borders here. The Golan Heights, which is the area Israel is defending in these incidents, is occupied territory, internationally recognized as Syrian. Unlike the West Bank, which is claimed by the Palestinians but was not previously part of any sovereign state (it was occupied by Jordan from 1949-1967 and part of Mandatory Palestine before that), the Golan is Syrian, and Israel’s annexation of it in 1981 is illegal and recognized by no other country, including the United States.

So, Israel is not defending its borders here, but is defending its occupation. And herein lies the problem, because what is happening on the Syrian border, though certainly heartfelt and significant, is counter-productive for the Palestinians. Continue reading

Thoughts for the Day I: Are You Kidding With Suleiman? and Waiting for the Islamophobic Ravings

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s end is now inevitable, and his appointment of Omar Suleiman as Egypt’s “first vice president” shows his desperate flailing and lack of realistic options. Suleiman is very close to Mubarak and has always supported his policies, domestically and internationally. He has been heading Egypt’s intelligence services for almost two decades. But he has also been Mubarak’s most prominent emissary in dealing with the Israelis and in strategic discussions with the United States. One can only interpret this as an attempt to pander to the US, in the hope that they can and will do something to rescue Mubarak, or at least try to sustain the current government’s policies with his successor. It won’t happen….

So far, it seems the Western anti-Muslim hysteria has not been able to latch onto anything to promote irrational fear of “radical Islam” taking over in Egypt, despite the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in these protests. The MB, which, contrary to its frequent portrayal in the US, is actually a moderate Muslim group these days who, in Egypt and elsewhere, have forgone violence and embraced popular activism and political agitation, has been used as a frightening specter in the West in the past. But both the fact that this is clearly a struggle for freedom and the fact that the protests were not sparked by the MB (indeed, they were probably a little late in joining in support) and have featured an astonishing cross-section of Egyptian society have prevented this. But the fact is that whatever emerges in Egypt is likely to be more independent-minded than  Mubarak and certainly less willing to be complicit in Israel’s policies vis a vis the Palestinians. When that becomes apparent, the demonization is sure to begin…