Dorothy Online Newsletter



1 This is an important statement by Hithabrut-Tarabut.  I have seen it in Hebrew, but not yet in Arabic.
There is no doubt that international solidarity has for the time being failed the Syrian people.  The impotent “anti-imperialists” have done absolutely nothing to advance the cause of peoples’ liberation.

In the absence of international solidarity, the imperialists, the Zionists, and the Gulf kings and emirs are intervening to the best of their ability, in Syria, against the revolutionary interests of the peoples of Syria, Iran, and Palestine.
We must be very clear that we support the Syrian people’s revolution against Bashar Assad, and that we support a Middle East without nukes, without kings, and without dictators.

We must never lose sight of the fact that, in this situation, the “main enemy” is “in our own country”.


Henry Lowi


Supporting the Syrian People Fighting for Their Freedom—A Response to Widespread Objections


We, the Tarabut-Hithabrut movement, support unequivocally the Syrian people in their struggle for their liberty and their rights.


There are those who say that the situation in Syrian and the wider regional reality is complex, and they are right. However, we want to directly address the various objections raised against taking a position in favor of the democratic uprising of the Syrian people:


       There are those who say that the Syrian regime is anti-imperialist and comprises the last barrier to Western domination in our region.


The Baath Party in Syria is a corrupt regime of a small group of super-wealthy and powerful people who control enormous amounts of capital, which was stolen directly out of the pockets of the Syrian people. This ruling junta is not motivated by anti-imperialist ideals and can serve neither as a model for these ideas or as a defender of socialism. Although this regime is in a confrontation with Israel and the United States, a series of event such as the Gulf War show that the regime’s positions on international affairs are not consistent or principled but opportunistic. In addition, the Cold War is long over and the regime has since become friendly to Putin’s Russia, which is, as should be emphasized, a capitalist, authoritarian government with its own imperialist ambitions in addition to being a regime supported by the new empire, China, which is equally devoid of scruples or constraints.


       Protesters against the regime are peons in an imperialist plot


The uprising in Syria started in Dar’a when a group of parents who protested when the security forces jailed and tortured their children, who dared to write “the People Demand to Depose Bashar” on their school building’s wall. Insults and humiliations directed toward the children’s parents and local leaders triggered the mass protests. The protests that spread throughout the country were inspired by the successful democratic uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. We cannot forget this.


There are also foreign forces that are trying to take advantage of the situation and ride the wave of Syrian protesters, but this does not turn the protesters themselves into peons or agents of imperialism. The source of the protest is in the Syrian situation itself. Syria has no official statistics and no trustworthy data, but Syrians are well aware that even before the protests the unemployment rate was incredibly high and since then it has only worsened. Many people could only make a livelihood by joining the oppression and investigation apparatus of the regime or by supplementing their income by collaborating with them. Most of the population can only survive their day-to-day lives through bribery, where they must receive and take bribes in order to live and get a hold of basic good and services. Syrian voices demanding fundamental change have grown steadily louder and the masses started to shake free from the fear. The Syrian people are the source of the present protest and any consideration of this issue must begin with them, their rights, their suffering and their legitimate demands.


       The Syrian regime defends the Palestinian resistance


The Syrian regime has a special security force whose purpose is to monitor and oppress the political activism of the Palestinian refugees who live there. The regime does not allow any political organizing that does not conform to the regime. Regime dissidents are disappeared and murdered. Syria has 19 different security forces who have one goal: to eliminate any threat to the Syrian regime. From a historical point of view, the Asad family’s support of Palestinian organizations always came with preconditions. The Syrian Army massacred Palestinians several times during its wars in Lebanon (Tel AlZaatar, Tripoli) and of course, the regime acted again and again to divide the Palestinian national movement (their support for Abu Musa in Lebanon and their encouragement of the war between Hamas and Fatah are only two of the most obvious cases) and by doing this they blocked the Palestinian national movement’s ability to make decisions independently.


       The social protest is primarily a struggle between ethnic groups. The regime defends ethnic minorities and especially the Alawi group, which might suffer from a Sunni takeover.


There are inter-ethnic tensions in Syria, which sometimes result in hate crimes and revenge attacks. But the current regime is not an Alawi regime. The security force known as “AlShabiha” (literally “ghosts,” thugs that drive Mercedes cars that the regime pays for) is a security force established by the Baath party whose goal is to suppress resistance and political activity among the Alawis. Because Asad finds it complicated to use the standing army and the official security forces against his own community, he established an additional security force which is above the law. Many Alawi opposition leaders have been murdered by the regime and its agents, and many Alawis are in the opposition’s ranks today. “AlShabiha” have been trying to exacerbate inter-ethnic tensions in recent months, and this is also the purpose of the recent attacks in Christian neighborhoods, whose perpetrators are not known. This has no connection to the protests against the regime, in which members of all ethnic groups took part.


       A large part of the Syrian people supports the regime, as many as oppose it if not more.


In a dictatorial regime, there isn’t much meaning to citizens protesting in favor of the regime. Decades of dictatorial rule break social structure down and prevent the emergence of local leadership. Every citizen who shows signs of leadership is in danger of being eliminated by the government. Other citizens know this and live in fear. The same TV networks that broadcast the “support protests” also broadcast citizens kissing Bashar AlAsad’s photograph and declaring that “There is No God but Bashar” while soldiers are stepping on their backs and pointing a gun to their head. If we examine our own history, we will remember that, before the First Palestinian Intifada, Israeli TV would film Palestinian merchants and passers by in the West Bank answer “yes” to a question by an Israeli journalist about whether they are happy, and a determined “no” when they were asked if there were any political problems. To see these expressions of support as something authentic is to be blind to the deep fear and oppression in Syrian society in light of these forced expressions of support by frightened citizens.


It s important to emphasize how paralyzed the political system is, even though it is dependent on the regime: until now, after a whole year of protests, there was not a single published statement of support for the regime by any local branch of the Baath party or the artificial parties affiliated with it under the “National Progressive Front.”


       Opposition to the Asad regime is armed and therefore not popular and not legitimate


Among the protesters there are those that use weapons. However, the strongest and clearest voice that emerges from the protests in Syria from their very beginnings is one that speaks of nonviolent revolution and resistance. There are testimonies of armed groups of rebels that also commit war crimes and murder citizens—we condemn these crimes to the same degree that we condemn the regime’s crimes. Behind these crimes there may be different interests, but their background is a decades-long oppression that has prevented the establishment of a democratic political culture.


Concerning the question of the legitimacy of the armed resistance movement: let us not forget that Syria, like the countries that support it, arms and supports other armed organizations in other countries. Those who oppose the Syrian resistance because it is armed and support other armed resistance movements unconditionally are operating under a double standard.


It is not our purpose in this article to pass moral or ideological judgment as to whether the use of violence in order to rebel against an even more violent regime is justified or not, but history has proven to us numerous times that the weapons of the resistance have eventually been turned onto citizens, whether after the victory or on the way to it.


       What about international intervention?


Today, after months of widespread protest and economic crisis, the current regime is being held alive today only through the generous assistance of other states such as China, Russia and Iran. This is also a form of international intervention in the matters of the Syrian people.


We oppose international military intervention. Every place where such intervention took place, the consequences have been dire. The powers that intervene militarily do not do this out of their dedication to the good of the world’s freedom-seeking people, but rather out of economic and strategic interest. There are numerous examples in both space and time: Iraq and Libya. Nothing good comes to the world’s people from imperial military intervention, and there has never been a “Robin Hood” armed with combat jets that will faithfully prevent massacres without massacring and plundering himself. This has been true especially for the US and NATO, but not only them. Obviously, Turkish intervention would also not be for the Syrian people but rather for the suppression of the Kurds and the interests of the Turkish establishment. Different competing local organizations can invite foreign imperialist intervention—that’s the way that it’s always been. Every foreign military intervention is always under the cover of a local organization that invites them.


The question is not who is more cruel in bombing civilians—the Western powers or the local dictators. From a humanitarian point of view, all bombings are equal. But from the point of view of the long-term consequences of military intervention, the consequences of the initiation by local and foreign powers of pseudo-legitimate military activity in the region are totally different. It is a terrible blow to a people fighting for their freedom. Since at least the 19th century, Western powers have been invading different countries to save the poor indigenous peoples from themselves. The argument about the cruel locals who slaughter each other is not new. This is how it was done in Africa, in Asia and even Israel tried it. We cannot fall into the trap of foreign military intervention in the name of the humanitarian ideals of an enlightened elite.


       What will happen when the regime falls? A worse regime will rise in its place.


It is not for us to decide in the place of the Syrian people. The masses have flooded the streets and they are demanding the end of the current regime. There is no way of knowing what happens the day after the regime’s fall. It is very likely that there will be additional, painful struggles.


We too are concerned by a potential rise of an Islamic, intolerant regime or a puppet regime ruled by the US, or perhaps a regime that will continue the current state of affairs under a different cover. There is a big chance that this is exactly what will happen. However, it is the Syrian people’s prerogative to create the alternative and to judge its merit.


Many revolutions erupted to promote certain ideas, but after the revolution, a regime totally opposed to the revolution’s ideas arose. For example, the Algerian revolution ended with the establishment of an oppressive and dictatorial regime, and the revolution in Iran, which promoted freedom for Iranians, ended up being an oppressive and murderous regime. The final result does not undermine the justice of the struggle against colonial France in Algeria or the Shah’s rule in Iran.


In Syria, more than 10,000 citizens have already been murdered by the regime. This fact on its own is enough to call for this regime’s immediate end. Even if certain aspects of the current regime are better than some possible alternatives, that doesn’t mean that this regime has any legitimacy to continue to exist.


Of course, we prefer that a civilian, democratic, non-ethnic regime will be formed in Syria, one that respects the lives of its citizens and their social rights—a regime that expresses the will of the people, an independent regime free of external influence of the US, China, Russia, Turkey, Iran or others, which would express the Syrian people’s goal to free the Golan Heights from Israeli occupation and which will be friendly to the peoples of the region. But as we have said, this is the Syrian people’s decision, and only they have the authority to decide which regime and what government to have.


We are sure that a people that has bravely opposed a murderous regime will never again accept oppression and dictatorship from any new regime that arises. The Syrian people have begun a path to freedom from which there is no going back, and they will continue to struggle until they achieve their demands.


2 Gershom Gorenberg  reviews ‘The Law in These Parts’

March 30, 2012


The Law in These Parts asks tough questions about the role of the courts in Israeli settlement policy.


This time, it seems, justice has won: The West Bank settlement outpost of Migron must be demolished. So ruled the Israeli Supreme Court this week.


Migron is the best known of the outposts, small settlements set up across the West Bank since the ’90s with the help of Israeli government agencies—but without the government approval required under Israeli law since official approval would drawn too much publicity. The outpost stands entirely on privately owned Palestinian property. The landowners, with the help of Israel’s Peace Now movement, went to court in 2006. In this week’s decision, the court rejected a government proposal to put off evacuating the settlers for three years until new homes could be built for them elsewhere. The ruling blasts the proposal as “egregiously unreasonable” in light of the “grievous and ongoing harm to the rule of law.”


Prima facie, the court upheld the rights of Palestinians over the government’s fear of enforcing the law against settlers. The Israeli judiciary reined in the executive; the system worked.


Or did it? Certainly court approval of the government’s proposal would have been much worse. Yet perhaps the ruling should be seen as part of a wider picture in which the Israeli courts have permitted greater injustices in the occupied territories. Perhaps an occasional Supreme Court ruling against government actions legitimizes the occupation before the Israeli public by making it seem subject to judicial oversight. Perhaps the word “justice” is hollow in the context of “occupation.” Those are questions that one can’t help asking after seeing the superbly disturbing new Israeli documentary, The Law In These Parts {link:}, an indictment of the legal system Israel created in the West Bank.


Actually, the film is not just an indictment. It is very deliberately framed as the case for the prosecution against the military justice system, and against Supreme Court review of that system, in the land under Israeli military rule. The Law In These Parts opens with men assembling a desk in a film studio. Former members of the Israeli military’s legal corps—including Meir Shamgar, who went on to become chief justice of the Israeli Supreme Court—sit at the desk and answer questions from the unseen narrator-interviewer, Ra’anan Alexandrowicz, who is also the director. The wall behind them is a screen that shows documentary footage.


Alexandrowicz begins by raising the question of whether a documentary objectively portrays reality—a question that he explicitly links throughout the film with the question of whether courts objectively determine truth. The ageing ex-judges, it becomes clear, are now defendants.


The narrator comments in a dry voice that he has not presented all the evidence. If this makes you uncomfortable, you should be all the more uncomfortable that Palestinians in occupied territory can be imprisoned under administrative orders if military authorities believe they endanger public order—and that the judges who review the orders see only the secret evidence presented by Israel’s security services. Lawyers for the detainees remain in the dark, on the grounds that revealing the evidence in court would endanger the sources—usually informers. The evidence presented to the judges, like the film we are watching, does not tell the whole story. This is a brilliantly unsettling gambit by the director—and a reminder that the viewer should leave the movie with questions, not verdicts.


It was Shamgar who set the policy that residents of occupied territory could challenge government actions before Israel’s Supreme Court. As the narrator notes, this went beyond the requirements of international law. Judicial review of military measures taken outside the country’s borders may be unique to Israel. A 1979 decision seemed to demonstrate how enlightened the policy was: The Supreme Court overturned a decision by Menachem Begin’s government to requisition private Palestinian property for a new settlement. The whole settlement enterprise appeared stymied for lack of land.


Alexander Ramati, a former military lawyer, describes the next chapter: In a meeting called by Ariel Sharon, then in charge of settlement policy, Ramati proposed exploiting an Ottoman-era law to declare that uncultivated rural land belonged to the state, and then using it for settlement. That led to another suit filed by Palestinian farmers, arguing that an occupying power could not establish settlements on public property in occupied territory. Justice Shamgar wrote the decision rejecting that suit.


On camera, Shamgar does not recall that decision. He does declare that the “Supreme Court is … totally impartial” in ruling on policy in the territory, a claim that appears absurd to the viewer sitting in judgment: However well intentioned Israeli justices may be, they represent the occupying power. Alexandrowicz’s off-camera voice reads Shamgar the challenge raised by an Israeli legal scholar in 2002: In almost all cases, the Supreme Court has sanctioned the military’s actions. Without the threat of judicial review, the army and government would have acted with less restraint—but it’s possible that the occupation would have lost legitimacy more quickly and political pressure to end it would have grown. In the courtroom atmosphere of the film, Shamgar’s dismissal of the challenge only makes it more convincing. Yet the scholar himself had no definite answer. Without concern for defending their actions in court, military authorities might have committed much worse violations of rights.


If the interviewees are the defendants, we find that we can’t judge them equally. Some see themselves as having simply done their jobs, others make the case for the system even as historical evidence shown on the screen behind them undercuts their testimony. An ex-judge named Jonathan Livny describes the task he had to perform with a furious, unforgiving honesty.


“You know, sometimes I look at the court rulings and I ask myself, when you write a judgment, the purpose is not only to punish but also to correct. But of course you can’t correct a population that sees you as an occupier and views its own actions as morally justified. All the philosophy of criminal punishment turns into, ‘You did this to me, I’ll get you back, I’m going to put you away,'” Livny says.


Near the end of The Law In These Parts, Livny makes his own indictment sharper. “When you’re a military judge, you don’t just represent justice … As a military judge you represent the authorities of occupation against people who see you as the enemy. You’re conducting a trial against your enemy… It’s an unnatural situation,” he says. “As long as it’s only temporary, fine. But when it goes on 40 years? How can the system function? How can it be just?”


So the charges are really being brought against the ongoing occupation. But the occupation is only a condition. It is the offense, not the perpetrator. In Hebrew, the narrator’s voice speaks in first person: We did this. This is being done for us. By “us,” he means Israeli society, which is actually sitting in the dock, and sitting as well at the judge’s bench, and in Alexandrowicz’s voice is conducting the prosecution.


When Livny is asked whether he’d accept the job if he had it to do over, he says firmly, “Yes.” We don’t hear his explanation. I imagine he’d say that if he hadn’t served as judge, someone less concerned with justice might have, and that he would therefore have borne responsibility for greater injustice. The system is unjust but pays tribute to justice; it is internally inconsistent. Opting out may make one feel pure, but may not result in doing good.


The Israeli human rights lawyers who represent residents of occupied territory before the Supreme Court face a variation on this dilemma: What if they are legitimizing the system? And yet, how can you not seize an opportunity for change?

Let’s return to the Migron ruling. If implemented, it will give people their land back. Perhaps it also creates an illusion that West Bank settlement is restrained by law and fits standards of justice. And yet, the opposite is at least as likely: The long, heavily reported court case and the government’s unending efforts to avoid doing the right thing may have made more Israelis ask, “If this goes on 45 years, how can it be just?” The Law in These Parts does not provide an answer to this dilemma, but does a very good job of raising the question.


3 Today in Palestine

April 01, 2012


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