Fake Activist Exposed: The Real Linda Sarsour

She is still active so I thought to share. Ikhras is never wrong and neither is Jonathan Azaziah. Myself, I haven’t been paying attention but it’s actually easy to spot the fakes, they are always full of dead giveaways. For example when she said “I do believe Israel has a right to exist”.  A decent, right thinking  person who knows the subject would never say that! I wouldn’t need anymore. But here is more information for total validation.

The following report is partly based on a visit by Ikhras to Brooklyn, New York late last year and interviews with local community activists, former friends and colleagues of Sarsour, and Sarsour family members.]

May 10, 2016
Linda Sarsour is the Executive Director of the local taxpayer-funded Arab-American Association of New York (AAANY) where she began her “activism” over ten years ago. A Sarsour family friend and AAANY founder, Basemah Atweh, invited her to join the organization and assured her if she volunteered she will eventually be offered a paid position

. Less than two months after her “volunteer work” helping newly arrived immigrants get settled and adjust to life in the U.S. Sarsour was hired in a paid, full-time capacity.

Even in those very early years former colleagues who worked with Sarsour noticed she was driven exclusively by personal interests and eager to insert herself in the forefront, especially if an opportunity to meet with members of the local political establishment and power elite presented itself. After surviving a car crash in which Atweh was killed, Sarsour took over the organization.

It was at this time that she reached an arrangement with her husband and family members providing her with the luxury of devoting all her time and attention to transforming herself into a full-time, career activist of the worst kind.

Many poor and working class men and women with far more talent and potential to contribute to their communities do not have the luxury of devoting any amount of time to causes they genuinely believe in, let alone a full-time career as a fake activist without even requiring the services of a paid babysitter.

With the increased media exposure she has been recently receiving, her entire public persona has now become a masquerade inundated with pretense and exaggeration. While much of it has provided entertainment for Arab-Americans in NY, activists are now concerned the activities of this fraudster have become politically corrosive to the issues and causes of concern to the community.

Israel has a right to exist”

Early Years At AAANY

Early Years At AAANY

 

So what’s the first thing a self-described Arab-American activist does when she decides to run for local public office? For Sarsour the answer to that question was obvious, you declare your acceptance of and support for the Zionist colonial project in Palestine.

Sarsour, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, is planning a run for the NY City Council. In preparing the groundwork for her 2017 campaign, the ambitious Palestinian-American revealed she is ready and willing to abandon her own Palestinian community and betray her tormented country of origin.

In this interview with a local news channel Sarsour states “I do believe Israel has a right to exist”, a euphemism for normalizing and legitimizing the Zionist entity, ethnic cleansing and settler-colonialism.

In the same interview Sarsour is also quoted as rejecting “violence” [armed resistance in Palestine], as if someone sitting in the comfort and safety of their NY home has a right to lecture a colonized people on the other side of the world on the appropriate and acceptable strategies and methods of their own self-defense and resistance to military occupation.

  Sarsour does not deviate very far from the rigid Zionist narrative that dominates discourse on Palestine in this country. Always careful to not offend the political sensibilities of the U.S. ruling class, she maintains her mild criticism of Israel within strictly defined parameters.

She has repeatedly attacked Palestinian resistance fighters including members of her own family living under occupation in Palestine. One especially disgraceful example of this can be found here. In another appearance as part of a “focus group” of Muslim Americans Sarsour reiterated her support for Israel’s so-called “right to exist.

When pressed by the professional manipulator Frank Lutz the political adolescent was oblivious to the racist implications of the questions. With her political ambitions clearly foremost on her mind, she strained to provide answers that do not deviate from acceptable public discourse.

In doing so, she played into the Zionist narrative and revealed a complete lack of conviction and inability to defend the cause of Palestinian liberation in any forceful or coherent fashion. She was, however, able to exploit her Palestinian background in order to claim some type of native insight or legitimacy which is a common tactic among many establishment Arab-Americans.

Sarsour, who now regularly invokes the Palestine cause and claims “Palestine has always been my passion”, has never been active on Palestinian issues until relatively recently and only when it became a bit safer to do so as a result of the hard work of many other courageous Palestine solidarity activists.

These same activists have shunned Sarsour for her exploitation of the Palestine cause and labor theft of other people’s solidarity work which she claimed as her own. Sarsour also earned the ire of Palestinian-Americans after describing Palestinians protesting in NY as “thugs”, an epithet she had exclusively reserved to describe a certain segment of African-Americans. Sarsour’s racism will be fully addressed below.

Sarsour does not speak for Palestinians in NY, across the diaspora or under occupation, and her views do not reflect the Palestinian consensus or their national aspirations. She also does not represent the views of the larger Arab-American community.

The political exigencies of running for NY City Council require Sarsour to pursue her amateurish version of a political triangulation strategy, posing as a champion of Palestine while reaffirming Israel’s “right to exist.”

However, there are 11 Million Palestinians and over 300 Million Arabs who are not running for NY City Council in 2017. Their position and the position of the Palestinian and Arab-American communities remains unchanged.

The structures and institutions of the Zionist entity created in 1948 must be fully dismantled, and all Palestinian refugees and their descendants have an inalienable right to return to their homes and lands of origin with full restitution of all their confiscated property in a single, unified, and liberated Palestine.

“Iftar” At Gracie Mansion With Mayor De Blasio During 2014 Ramadan Massacre

 

“Iftar” At Gracie Mansion

During the first year of his term NY Mayor Bill de Blasio gave an outrageous, but not unusual, speech at an AIPAC conference in which he expressed his full support for Israel.

By that time Sarsour was already featured on the White House website as a “champion of change”, a sure indicator an Arab or Muslim-American has been vetted, approved, and attained that coveted entry into the American mainstream.

Rather than being featured on US government websites or invited to government-hosted “Iftars”, truly dedicated activists that defend Palestinian rights have usually been persecuted by the government.

See here, here, and here. Framing herself as a radical champion of the people while working with the Muslim Democratic Club of New York to advance her career, she decided to maintain close ties to the Democratic Mayor.

Later that same year, July 2014, Israel launched its third onslaught on Gaza since dismantling its illegal, Jewish-only colonies and occupation coordination centers and repositioning its occupation army outside the narrow coastal strip of Palestine.

The massacre, which happened to coincide with the month of Ramadan, resulted in the wholesale slaughter of over 2100 defenseless Palestinian civilians.

The same week de Blasio came out in support of the massacre he also extended an invitation to Sarsour to attend an “Iftar” at Gracie Mansion as the ostensible representative of the NY Muslim community.

Sarsour accepted the invitation and as she sat down to enjoy her breaking of the fast (Sarsour does not fast and is hardly religious although she does invoke religion when it serves her purpose) the bombs were still falling on the children of Gaza.

Sarsour later tweeted a picture of herself with de Blasio adding the words “honored to dine with Mayor de Blasio at Gracie Mansion.” At the time ikhras still maintained a cordial relationship with Sarsour and expressed directly to her our disappointment.

She responded by saying she had to ignore it because she was trying to “play politics and its dirty” and she had “two campaigns [Muslim school holidays and NYPD intelligence practices] she needed to see through.” (We later learned she was known to have previously been very cooperative with NYPD intelligence practices).

When we pressed her she became very defensive, said something indecipherable about an “inside out strategy”, and attacked other Palestinian “activists” (she used the quotes) and organizations.

She specifically mentioned Al-Awda and Adalah suggesting they were not doing anything and that she cannot be expected to do it all herself. We asked her to consider the impact she could have had and imagine how our community would have supported her had she declined the invitation and publicly stated it was due to the de Blasio’s endorsement of the massacre.

In the end, the seduction of a photo-op with the Mayor and the perceived petty prestige that comes with it was apparently just too much to resist. The willingness of a second generation Palestinian-American to ignore de Blasio’s endorsement of an ongoing massacre goes well beyond the ordinary, unprincipled political pandering in the interest of careerism. It is downright immoral and speaks volumes about the character and motivations of such an individual.

 “Brooklyn Homegirl In A Hijab”

Former friends of Sarsour tell us with her rising public profile came a remarkable change in her private and public behavior. Her unabashed, self-serving approach has alienated many people and her early connections to the community and former colleagues are now virtually non-existent.

She has also cultivated a public persona that those who knew her tell us is dramatically unlike the Sarsour they had encountered and previously worked with. Even Palestinian-Americans who do not know Sarsour personally recognize a caricature type quality to her public behavior.

In what is apparently an attempt to adhere to some stereotypical Brooklynite image, complete with an exaggerated and pretentious accent, she now comes across as an Arab parody of Rosie Perez. While most of it is amusing, at least for a short while, one public stunt was very troubling.

"Brooklyn Home Girl"

“Brooklyn Home Girl”

 

In September of 2014 Sarsour claimed she was the victim of a hate crime, but in the Brooklyn neighborhood where the alleged incident took place there is a consensus this was nothing but an attention-seeking hoax and media ploy.

Sarsour claimed she was attacked by a man who hurled slurs and threatened to behead her. It turned out the alleged assailant was a well-known 45-year old mentally ill, local homeless man.

Residents of the Bay Ridge neighborhood where Sarsour maintains her office and the alleged incident took place told ikhras he has been a permanent fixture in the neighborhood for years and is totally harmless. He is so well known, in fact, he has been dubbed “the bum of Bay Ridge.”

Local residents were shocked when they heard her story because he has never attacked anyone in the past. Among those who were most skeptical of Sarsour’s story were local Mosque attendees and members of her own family.  “He would always be drunk and say stupid things”, one resident said, “but he has never attacked anyone.”  

The alleged attacker did have a previous arrest record for non-violent, petty misdemeanors, but we could not find a single person in the neighborhood who considered him a threat. Another interesting fact casts more doubt on Sarsour’s story.

On the day of the alleged incident Sarsour had called the police before the alleged attack reporting the alleged assailant as a “suspicious person” as if he is unknown.

This is rather strange given that the “suspicious person” was a regular fixture in the neighborhood well-known to Sarsour and the rest of the residents by name. In all likelihood, the homeless, neighborhood drunk was, as usual, making stupid comments and kicking around a trash can.

Instead of providing him with a hot meal and helping him find shelter, Sarsour decided to exploit his presence near her office to fabricate a hate crime casting herself as the fearless defender of the community under attack for her work on our behalf.  

Sarsour took to Twitter and Facebook assuring everyone she was doing fine, thanked them for their concern and condolences, and pledged to never be intimidated or back down. After all, she is tough and everybody knows you “don’t mess with Brooklyn.”

In post 9-11 America Muslim women wearing the hijab are the most vulnerable segment of our community. They have endured everything from shaming and suspicious gazes to harassment to outright violence and murder.

Last year’s shooting deaths of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, N.C. was undoubtedly a hate crime. It was only because two of the three victims were women wearing the hijab that the ignorant murderer was able to identify the otherwise all-American-looking students as Muslims.

For Sarsour to exploit the current environment of Islamophobia and the very real dangers encountered by Muslim women wearing the hijab to engage in a publicity stunt is not only manipulative and unethical, but outright disgraceful. It also provides further insight into her motivations while revealing a complete lack of a moral compass.

Image result for ayaan hirsi ali books

Roll me another one, just like the other one. Sansour is bashing Hersi recently, it’s a red herring. They are working for the same puppet master

Black Lives Votes Matter

In addition to her cynical manipulation of the Palestine cause, Islamophobia, and other issues of specific concern to the Arab and Muslim communities, Sarsour has recently began peppering her Rosie Perez imitation with the stereotyped affectation attributed to Black inner-city youth by the racist White media and attached herself to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

With its growing strength, Sarsour has calculated that deepening her ties to the movement will serve her well in any future campaign for public office.

She has all but declared she is running for NY City Council next year and has publicly stated it is a “small first step” towards being the “first hijabi in Congress.” Although the African-American community is not heavily represented in the city council district she would be running to represent, it does compromise about 35% of the district she would be running for in any future Congressional bid.

Here again, we see the amateurish version of political triangulation at work as she strives to ingratiate herself with the racist White system while simultaneously posing as a friend of the Black victims of that same system.

Sarsour Getting Arrested At BLM Protest

Sarsour Getting Arrested At BLM Protest

 

When Trayvon Martin was murdered Sarsour penned an article titled “My hijab is my hoodie” and declared herself “among the millions mourning the killing of Trayvon”, but had this young black youth been living in Sarsour’s neighborhood he would not have been allowed into her home or anywhere near her own kids and family.

And when Michael Brown was murdered Sarsour found the time and resources necessary to fly to Ferguson, MO and position herself strategically in front of the media cameras. S

ince then she has continued with her shameless, attention-grabbing tactics including periodic orchestrated arrests. African-Americans did not endure police brutality including getting beaten, hosed down, attacked by police dogs and killed during the Civil Rights Movement so a second generation Arab-American in the early 21st Century can joyfully get arrested in front of the cameras before being released a few minutes later to continue the “revolution.”

In our visit to NY we encountered a strong backlash against this aspect of Sarsour’s activities among those who know her best. It turns out Sarsour is known to harbor an ugly racism towards African-Americans which makes her latching onto the BLM movement all the more galling.

She rarely associated with or interacted with African-Americans (this explains why she views African-Americans through the prism of racist, media stereotypes) until the “activist” with political aspirations realized it can be to her benefit.

Sarsour’s racism which she is now trying to hide is common knowledge among the Arab-American community in NY, and it is members of this community that have a moral obligation to point out the foul racists and two-faced hypocrites.

Given the close familial and social ties that exist among Palestinian-Americans in NY does not absolve us of this responsibility and failing to do so makes us complicit in their racism.

Although not all activists within the BLM are familiar with the real Sarsour, many have, nevertheless, begun expressing reservations about her current role in the movement:

We’re concerned that the group’s liberal politics and their ties to the mayor’s office, and for instance, someone like Linda Sarsour, with political aspirations, will prioritize being conciliatory at a time when liberal gatekeepers must be challenged and held accountable,” the activist said. “Despite their rhetoric, their actions are already interpreted as watering down progressive and human rights work in the city.”

BLM activists can be certain that for the Palestinian-American who was “honored to dine” with the Mayor during an ongoing massacre of Palestinians that he endorsed, nothing matters more than returning for another meeting or photo-op. And Sarsour has managed to use the BLM movement precisely for that purpose:

After two NYPD Legal Affairs Bureau officers were assaulted on the Brooklyn Bridge in December after a large demonstration, Mayor de Blasio met with members of the Justice League, who, the mayor said, agreed to identify anybody who “seeks to harm the police or harm anyone and undermine their non-violent peaceful progressive movement.”

The mayor seemed to be positioning the Justice League as a wedge between him and more radical elements of the movement. The Justice League issued a press release right after the meeting that did not address this assertion.

Still, some members of the group began to vehemently deny the mayor’s claim on Twitter. Sarsour blamed the “corporate media,” not de Blasio, for trying to discredit and spread division between protesters. The next day, the group tweeted a statement saying they would not work with the NYPD to identify protesters.

Sarsour is increasingly on the defensive but we must ensure that pressure is maintained and she is fully exposed. We need real solidarity between Arab and Black and all communities of color, especially among the poor and working class. Excellent solidarity relations have already been established and a solid foundation has been laid as we move forward: see here, here, here, and here.

We must continue to broaden, deepen and strengthen Arab-Black solidarity and that requires us to extirpate the unprincipled opportunists motivated by personal ambitions from exploiting and manipulating our joint struggle. Failure to do so will eventually undermine and reverse the achievements that have already been made in this area.

Sarsour At Sanders Campaign Rally

Sarsour Raises The Clenched Power Fist At Sanders Campaign Rally

 

Feign The Bern

More recently Sarsour has attached herself to the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. Sarsour, like others within the Arab and Muslim communities, has been fawning over Sanders for his mild criticism of Israel and conceding Palestinians are human beings deserving of respect and dignity.

We are not as impressed with Sander’s position on Palestine and disagree with his Arab and Muslim supporters in this country, but that is a discussion beyond this blog post. We do recognize that many of his Arab and Muslim American supporters, which include many of our own friends, support him in good faith and deserve our respect. However, unlike his good-faith supporters that genuinely “feel the Bern”, Sarsour’s support is disingenuous, opportunistic, and, like all her “activism”, motivated by self-interest.

Her role in the Sanders campaign in NY has been invaluable in preparing for her own campaign next year. It provided her even more media access and presented her with yet another opportunity to latch on to an independent phenomenon in the name of the Arab and Muslim communities.

But Sarsour simply cannot reconcile her claim that her support for Sanders is partly based on his recognition of the humanity and dignity of the Palestinian people with her support for other Democratic politicians that wholeheartedly support the Zionist project in Palestine and endorse Israeli massacres.

Anyone willing to ignore the wholesale slaughter of Palestinians cannot subsequently claim their support for another politician is based on his condemnation (what Sanders actually said is that Israel acted “disproportionately” in responding to “terrorism”) of the same slaughter you were willing to disregard when it served your self-interest.

We do not support Sanders and are not interested U.S. electoral politics (see ikhras FAQs #9), but it is the members of our community who support Sanders that should be most concerned with the role Sarsour has played in his campaign.

“Uncle Nihad”, CAIR And The War On Syria

Sarsour claims her support for Sanders is also based on his opposition to the criminal U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. Ironically, Sarsour has recently joined with U.S.-based Islamist organizations and activists to call for a U.S. war on Syria.  Sarsour, of course, is not an Islamist nor does she have any knowledge or understanding of any political parties or movements in the Arab world.

In the earlier stages of the war on Syria Sarsour expressed some kind sentiments towards Syrians and told us she “does not support any side” and was only concerned about the suffering of the Syrian people.

She also asked questions and showed a desire to be educated and learn about what is actually happening. Knowing she was born and raised in the U.S. and had little knowledge of Syria and Arab politics, we did what we can to help her understand and warned her about the false narratives that were being peddled by U.S regime media and the U.S.-based Islamists she had begun to flirt with at the time.

All this changed in 2013 when the ikhras-shoe-of-the-month-award-winning Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) presented Sarsour with their first “American Muslim of the Year award.” The following year CAIR invited her to MC their 20th Annual Banquet.

At that banquet Sarsour referred to CAIR Executive Director and Muslim Brotherhood supporter Nihad Awad as “Uncle Nihad.” Since then “Uncle Nihad” and the Islamists at CAIR have been able to easily manipulate the gullible, second generation Arab-American when it comes to U.S. foreign policy advocacy.

She has now begun parroting talking points fed to her by the Muslim Brotherhood contingent within CAIR and engaging in pseudo-moralistic ranting while calling on the U.S. regime to “intervene” in Syria. Sarsour is one of those clueless Arab-Americans that feign knowledge of the Arab world by invoking their ethnic heritage, another common tactic often used by members of our community.

Regardless of one’s interpretation of events in Syria, it is not the role of Arab or Muslim Americans to be calling for more imperialist wars on any Middle Eastern countries, especially when they lack even the most basic knowledge about the region, its political actors and current events.

Community Backlash  

Arab and Muslim Americans are appalled that very serious issues and challenges facing our community are being used in such a cynical and manipulative way to further the petty ambitions of a political dilettante. By now it is clear Sarsour has no genuine convictions or principles nor is she actually committed to any cause other than her own full-time hobby.

To that end she has demonstrated no hesitation to exploit any cause whether it is Palestine, combatting Islamophobia, fighting racism, police violence and surveillance, immigration reform, mass incarceration, and a myriad of other social justice issues.

In addition to a lack of conviction and principles, Sarsour has also demonstrated a very shallow understanding of her own favorite topics. Her knowledge of U.S. history, politics, and society does not extend beyond a Middle School curriculum and she approaches these subjects without any serious thought or critical analysis. Nevertheless, Sarsour has acquired important skills and abilities that have served her well.

She has, for example, demonstrated an ability to memorize and regurgitate pseudo-revolutionary rhetoric and various slogans for specific causes. She has also been adept at exploiting her different identity markers such as Palestinian, Arab and Muslim, and depending on the topic or event, is capable of offering herself as a useful prop. She has also shown a great deal of skill in latching onto independent phenomena such as the BLM or a presidential campaign when she perceives it to serve her long-term interests.

Sarsour Ignored Mayor De Blasio's Vocal Support For Israeli Massacres

Sarsour With Mayor De Blasio, A Vocal Supporter Of Israeli Massacres

 

For Sarsour, like all establishment Arab-Americans, there has been a direct inverse relationship between her access to government and media and her links to the community. Her relations with grassroots Palestinian and Arab-Americans are virtually non-existent at this point.

The few activists that once worked with Sarsour are refusing to deal with her and have been turned off by her cynical manipulation of legitimate causes and issues of concern to our community. The initial entertainment value of the “homegirl from Brooklyn” shtick has grown stale and taken on a parodic quality.

Sarsour will undoubtedly continue her ego-driven, one-person circus act. She recently hired a professional videographer to produce a self-promotional video in which she explains she is very modest and humble.

She will also continue to present herself to the Democratic establishment as someone with influence within our community and will present herself to the community as someone with influence within the establishment.

In reality, she will remain irrelevant within both, with no grassroots support within the community and no influence within the establishment. This will not, however, prevent her from pursuing her full-time career by ostensibly representing each one to the other (James Zogby has been playing this same role for decades). This irrelevance within her chosen sphere of activities should not be conflated with a lack of impact.

Her activities, especially when conducted in our collective community name, do have a corrosive impact on the causes and concerns of the Arab and Muslim communities, and undermine the hard work of dedicated activists.

When we launched the ikhras project we explained to our community and readers it was made necessary because U.S.-based Arab and Muslim “activists” and self-declared representatives hijacked our collective community name for their own self-aggrandizement and in furtherance of personal ambitions unrelated to our communities’ agenda, interests, and well-being.

Clearly enjoying a rising public profile, Sarsour is the latest manifestation of this behavior and represents a new generation of the same opportunists and careerists ikhras was launched to expose.

Hillary said that. Obama said that.

Bashar’s Days Are ‘Numbered’

 

“We have been wedded for a long time to the mantra that Assad must go, and we have not been able at any stage to make that happen.” UK’s foreign secretary acknowledged that the inauguration of the new US president meant all sides needed to rethink their approach to Syria. -26 January 2017

Hillary Clinton: Bashar’s Days Are ‘Numbered’
Secretary of State Clinton has again stated that it is only a matter of time before the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad collapses. Speaking in Tokyo to reporters, she said: “The sand is running out of the hourglass,” and went on to say, “There is no doubt that the opposition is getting more effective in their defense of themselves and in going on the offense against the Syrian military and the Syrian government‘s militias. So the future, to me, should be abundantly clear to those who support the Assad regime: the days are numbered.”

Assad’s ‘days are numbered’ says Obama Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s “days are numbered,” President Barack Obama said in an interview published Friday, adding Washington was working to accelerate the transition to democracy there.
 

Hate of Israel is truly a mental illness

A Commentary by Yoel/

I’ve looked at both antisemitism and what I’ve called misoziony (irrational hatred of Israel) for a long time, and yet I’m still astonished at stories like this (I edited the two stories together):

Syrian opposition figures making a rare public appearance in Israel called Tuesday for stepped up Israeli assistance to the Syrian opposition, including help in establishing a safe zone for rebel elements in southern Syria along the  occupied Golan Heights.

Speaking to a packed auditorium at an event sponsored by the Hebrew University’s Truman Institute, Germany-based opposition activist Issam Zeitoun made a blunt appeal for help. “All Syrians have suffered under this regime. Something must be done. The Syrian people are too weak. We need the help of the international community.”

As the conference progressed, several Arab students began yelling at the Syrian speakers and reprimanding them for entering a dialogue with Israel. “The Golan has been occupied since 1967; you’re a traitor and a conspirator!” yelled one of the student protestors. Zitun answered the students by saying, “Shame on you; you live in paradise compared to Syrians.”

Kajjo and Zeitoun’s remarks were repeatedly interrupted by Arab students angry that they were breaking a taboo and according a kind of recognition to Israel. “You are a disgrace to Syria” one student shouted at Zeitoun.

After a tense few moments, she and another student left the hall, and she said outside.

“They shouldn’t ask for this help from Israel. Our people are dying here, we are Arab.”

But the shouting continued: “You should be giving voices to the voiceless, not pandering to the occupation,” a woman shouted.

Zeitoun defended the appearance. “We should be everywhere including Israel to explain the Syrian problem to the world, to convey their voices,” he said.
These Arabs are complaining that Syrians who are desperate to save thousands of lives and are willing to ask anyone for help are “conspirators” with Israel and “traitors” to Syria.

 This goes beyond political positions. It is beyond deranged.  The irrational, hypocritical hate of Israel and Jews goes way beyond any normal explanation.

It is a psychosis, and it should be studied as such.

Everyone who assumes that these young people are just expressing their considered opinions on a matter are wrong. These students are engaging in a public expression of insanity and hypocrisy that goes so far beyond normal that it can only be described in psychological terms, not as an understandable reaction to reality.

Everyone who has tried to explain historic antisemitism and its more modern version of anti-Zionism has missed the issue. The real answer is that some people simply are consumed with hate that is so pervasive that it overrides any other human attribute including self-preservation. It cannot be explained any more than schizophrenia can be explained. It may be chemical.

It is time that psychiatrists started to look at the hate shown by anti-Zionists and antisemites from a clinical viewpoint. Because it sure isn’t going to be solved with facts, logic, or anything less than full-blown intervention into the sick mental processes of the haters.

Over 50,000 children have been killed in Syria so far. Why?

“Israel’s ambition has long been to weaken Syria, sever its strategic alliance with Iran and destroy Hizbullah. Israel has great experience at “targeted assassinations” — not only in the Palestinian territories but across the Middle East. Over the years, it has sent hit teams to kill opponents in Beirut, Tunis, Malta, Amman and Damascus.” — Who killed Rafik Hariri?

NO MORE WARS FOR ISRAEL

Shimon Peres long time terrorist responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian villages in 1947-49, during the Nakba and more. Netanyahu is a megalomaniac war criminal. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak , war criminal is named in “Lolita Express” pedophile little black book.

NO MORE WARS FOR ISRAEL

An American friend who knows Washington well recently told us that “everybody” there knows that, as far as the drive to war with Syria is concerned, it is Israel that directs U.S. policy.

Why then, we replied, don’t opponents of war say it out loud, since, if the American public knew that, support for the war would collapse?
Of course, we knew the answer to that question.

They are afraid to say all they know, because if you blame the pro-Israel lobby, you are branded an anti-Semite in the media and your career is destroyed.

The U.S. government were pushing for a war with Syria as early as 2003, Congress documents reveal. 

Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell demanded that Syria sever its connections with organizations aiding Palestinians pursuing self-determination on May 2, 2003 – threatening the government with military action if they did not comply.

In September 2003 the US Under Secretary Of State John Bolton warned that Syria may be pursuing a WMD program, urging the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that action needed to be taken.

Image result for john bolton warmonger

John Bolton Zionist Agent

Gowans.wordpress.com reports:

Documents prepared by US Congress researchers as early as 2005 revealed that the US government was actively weighing regime change in Syria long before the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, challenging the view that US support for the Syrian rebels is based on allegiance to a “democratic uprising” and showing that it is simply an extension of a long-standing policy of seeking to topple the government in Damascus.

Image result for amy goodman democracy now

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now It seems that Amy Goodman and the Saudi Foreign Minister see eye-to-yet on Syria. Those two are the last people still speaking about “a Syrian revolution”.

Indeed, the researchers made clear that the US government’s motivation to overthrow the government of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is unrelated to democracy promotion in the Middle East. In point of fact, they noted that Washington’s preference is for secular dictatorships (Egypt) and monarchies (Jordan and Saudi Arabia.)

The impetus for pursuing regime change, according to the researchers, was a desire to sweep away an impediment to the achievement of US goals in the Middle East related to strengthening Israel, consolidating US domination of Iraq, and fostering free-market, free enterprise economies. Democracy was never a consideration.
We are about to witness what we long anticipated, to wit: a Turkish-led NATO attack on Syria to remove the present Syrian regime and replace it, Libyan-style, with another so-called Islamic regime. How else will Israel be able to claim that a ‘rising Islam’ now menaces that country, and that Israel is being surrounded by that menacing Islam and must wage pre-emptive war in order to survive? How else will Israel be able to replace USA as the next ruling State in the world unless she wages great wars – particularly against her Arab neighbors who surround the Zionist State?”Imran Hosein

The man who shot me now works for the CIA

Assad did it. Also ISIS did it. The solution is to send in 5000 dudes to create a democracy in Syria.

Assad did it. Also ISIS did it. The solution is to send in 5000 guys to create a democracy in Syria.

New ally in fight against Isis is Syrian kidnapper who called Times journalists spies

ISIS = Islamic State of Israel & Saudi

The Times

The man who shot me now works for the CIA ~ report from The Times:

It was with some surprise watching a video of a victorious band of western-backed rebels that I noticed the face of America’s newest ally in the war against Isis in Syria.

It was the face of a man I last saw in May 2014 when he leant forward to shoot me twice in the left ankle at almost point-blank range while my hands were tied.
It was punishment for having attempted to escape his gang of kidnappers in northern Syria who had hoped to sell me on.

He shot me in the middle of a crowd of onlookers, after a savage preliminary beating, denouncing me as “a CIA spy”.
Now, it seems, he works with them.
Hakim Abu Jamal is now part of a CIA-backed Syrian rebel group

The grainy footage of the video — posted last month on Facebook — showed Hakim Abu Jamal waving his Kalashnikov in the air to proclaim a small victory, courtesy of US air power, on a dusty street in the border town of al-Rai.

I remember him well from across the years. Now, Hakim, forage cap on his head, was standing in the middle of a group of ten other Syrian rebel fighters all belonging to a CIA-vetted group.

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The reason Obama and Kerry are trying so hard to sell a fabricated thesis for war, is because the real culprits and criminals in Syria are the armed rebels who are allied with, and armed by Washington, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. In addition to this, Washington’s chief ally Israel has played a role in this deception, in order to have the US wipe out the air force and air defenses of its only military rival in its immediate vicinity.

Hakim Abu Jamal, who also goes by the names Abdel Hakim al-Yaseen and Hakim Anza, was among the hundreds of other Syrian rebels who crossed from Turkey into Syria two weeks ago to purge Isis.

Such men are the latest of the West’s allies against Isis in Syria. The rules which allow them American air support, money, weapons and ammunition have relaxed since early US attempts to train and equip rebel groups in the country became log- jammed with impossibly complex vetting procedures. They collapsed almost entirely last year.

Consequently, the new generation of coalition-backed rebel groups inside Syria, some 70 in all, may look a little more rough and ready than some of their supporters would choose, with shoddy human rights records to match.

Even so, I was surprised to see how Hakim, celebrating a short-lived victory in al-Rai on August 17, passed even the most rudimentary vetting by US or Turkish intelligence officers.
Anthony Loyd was beaten and shot twice by Hakim

In May 2014 I was kidnapped along with Jack Hill, a Times photographer, and two Syrian staff while driving between the Syrian town of Tal Rafat and the Turkish border after a week inside Aleppo.

Though aware that the area around Tal Rafat was renowned for its kidnap threat, at first we had no idea that Hakim, whom we had known for two years and who had hosted us the evening before, was behind our abduction.

But then, during a desperate and violent escape we found ourselves pursued by a gang of kidnappers led by the man whom only hours before we had assumed to be our friend: Hakim Anza.

Though our Syrian staff escaped, Jack and I were recaptured and beaten before I was shot twice in punishment. At the time he had boasted that he wanted us as kidnap bounty to fund the buying of anti-aircraft weapons.

His file is held by at least three separate intelligence agencies, including MIT, of Turkey, and MI6. His extremist links are well documented. Two of his brothers joined the al-Qaeda affiliate the Nusra Front.

One of them spoke on record about his loyalty to al-Qaeda to The Times. Meanwhile The New York Times ran a story about a war crime committed by Hakim Anza in 2012.

Hakim Anza’s activities were brought to the attention of John Kerry, the US secretary of state, who spoke publicly of his concern for our ordeal. “We are keeping up a very focused effort to try to secure their release,” he said.

In his own words: Anthony Loyd recalls his abduction in Syria at the hands of Hakim

Last month, however, video surfaced of Hakim Anza proving that he was not only free, but was also serving in a CIA-vetted Syrian rebel group, First Regiment (al-Fawj al-Awwal), which was receiving US weaponry, including Tow missiles, as well as air strikes in support of their operations.

In between times he appears to be based in southern Turkey, where he takes orders from the Hawar Kilis Operations room.

Four US hostages were murdered in Syria in 2014. Two British hostages were also beheaded there. The memories of Britain and America must be short, for yesterday sources in the Free Syrian Army and US confirmed Hakim Anza’s membership of the CIA-backed group, in which he is sub-commander.

Centom, the US Central Command, did not respond to Times requests over three days this week to explain how such a well-known hostage taker with family connections to extremists could have passed US vetting procedures.

However, a Pentagon official, who preferred not to be named, described repeated US air support for a recent mission conducted by vetted Syrian rebel groups, where Hakim Anza was filmed with his men on August 17.

He has apparently transformed effortlessly from criminal pariah to a worthy foot soldier allied to Operation Inherent Resolve, the 60-nation coalition, motto “One Mission, Many Nations”, in the Middle East to fight Isis.

“The coalition executed multiple airstrikes in the vicinity of al-Rai from August 13 to 19 in support of vetted Syrian opposition forces and counter-Isil operations,” the US officer said.

Some Syrian activists familiar with Hakim Anza’s history were furious to see him on Facebook and Twitter, bragging of his exploits. “It’s amazing,” said one, speaking on condition of anony-mity, who knew Hakim and confirmed his identity in the video, “how a man like Hakim, with such a well-known criminal past, gets held up by America now as some kind of new hero, getting money and receiving airstrike support, while all the honest people from Tal Rafat live as refugees without any outside help in Turkey.”

Amnesty International finds it less surprising. Their briefing published in July this year on abductions, torture and summary killings by rebel groups in northern Syria — as well as the shelling of civilian areas by opposition forces — noted that at least two of the groups responsible for the worst offences in Aleppo and Idlib, including the al-Shamia Front with whom Hakim Abu Jamal recently served, were US backed.

Another group, the Nour al-Dine Zinki Movement, received US Tow missiles while part of an American-backed rebel alliance until last year, when its rights abuses, including likely involvement in the kidnapping of two Italians, cost the group western backing.

It most recently came to prominence in July this year, when one of its fighters was filmed cutting the head off a sick boy in a killing described by Amnesty as having “truly plumbed the depths of depravity”.

Nevertheless, members of Nour al-Dine Zinki were part of the operation backed by Turkish and American airpower to capture Jarabulus on August 24.

Vetting procedures have changed since America’s first cautious steps to train and equip selected Syrian rebel groups began in 2013. Then, coalition sources insist, each rebel candidate had to be vetted for any previous connection with radical groups, as part of a process that took up to three months.

The result of such tentativeness was disastrous. Coalition cash, as well as lethal and non-lethal support, came in a trickle, and before the programme gained momentum some of the first US-trained groups had been routed.

Parallel to this failure, however, a more strident co-ordination body was established in Turkey by the US and its allies with which to support selected groups.

The Northern Operation Command, Musterek Operasyon Merkerzi, is usually referred to by its Turkish acronym, MOM, and appears to be primarily responsible for vetting armed groups and co-ordinating the supply of lethal and non-lethal equipment, such as ammunition and fighters’ salaries.

Yet Syrian insiders say that vetting was the first casualty of the need to speed up support of coalition-backed armed groups. Individual vetting by coalition officers was eschewed for generalised assurances from commanders.

“There should be a human rights component to the vetting,” said Diana Semaan, Amnesty Syria researcher. “Eligibility [for support] should not just be a matter of who is ready to fight against Islamic State or Jabhat al- Nusra [the Nusra Front].”

This summer Amnesty has made recommendations to foreign powers, including Britain and the US, giving military backing to Syrian rebel groups, suggesting that they halt the flow of weaponry and money to groups responsible for human rights abuses. The US has yet to make a response.

The conflict between Turkey and the Kurds further entangled vetting procedures. Turkey considers the Kurdish YPG, America’s prime ally in Syria, as a terrorist threat and as much of an enemy to Turkish interests as Isis. Consequently, Turkey sees the US as having sided with one terrorist group, the YPG, to fight another one, Isis.

The recent Jarabulus operation was a case in point. Turkey was said to have used 1,800 Syrian rebels as infantry forces: rebels whose names had simply been reported as “cleared” by the Turks to the Americans. Hakim’s small group, whose affiliates often fought Kurds, was most likely among them after appearing earlier in al-Rai.

“The fact that someone like Hakim Anza has been able to slip through the cracks is certainly a means for concern,” said Charles Lister, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute and author of The Syrian Jihad: Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and the Evolution of an Insurgency.

“But there’s equally a possibility that Turkey may have pushed to have him personally involved from the start. Inevitably, anyone that a government ‘wants’ to have involved in a certain operation or to successfully pass through the vetting process, will do so with minimal obstruction.”

Recalling that day in 2014, I remember saying to Hakim as he drew the gun: “I thought you were my friend.” He replied: “No friends,” and squeezed the trigger. America would do well to consider Hakim’s past betrayal as it embraces its newfound ally.

It was with some surprise watching a video of a victorious band of Western-backed rebels, that I came upon the face of America’s newest ally in the war against Isis in Syria. For the face I came…
thetimes.co.uk

 

Stealing Palestine: Who dragged Palestinians into Syria’s conflict?

 

Stealing Palestine: Who dragged Palestinians into Syria’s conflict?

Read this article in Arabic and French.

Palestinian "volunteer forces" stand guard while NGOs tend to Yarmouk camp residents receiving food aid, medical assistance and evacuation.Palestinian "volunteer forces" stand guard while NGOs tend to Yarmouk camp residents receiving food aid, medical assistance and evacuation. - Photo by Sharmine Narwani

Palestinian “volunteer forces” stand guard while NGOs tend to Yarmouk camp residents receiving food aid, medical assistance and evacuation. -All photos by S. Narwani

My first visit to Yarmouk took place a few days after 20 people were killed in the Palestinian camp’s first major shelling incident on August 2, 2012. Residents showed me the damage caused by the first mortar – which hit the roof of a small apartment building not far away from Tadamoun, a Damascus suburb where rebels and security forces were clashing daily.

As bystanders rushed to investigate the damage, a second shell hit the narrow street outside where onlookers had congregated, killing and injuring dozens.

Foreign media headlines suggested the Syrian government was shelling Yarmouk, but Palestinians inside expressed doubt. Some said these were rebel mortars from adjacent neighborhoods, but it was clear nobody could provide definitive answers to what may simply have been a series of stray shells.

Yarmouk, once home to around a million Syrians and 160,000 Palestinian refugees, was an oasis of calm that summer day of my visit.

By contrast, driving through rebel-occupied Tadamoun, Yalda and Hajar al-Aswad on my way in and out of the camp, one could only gape at the burned buildings and vehicles, shuttered shops, rubble in the streets and makeshift checkpoints dotting these new conflict zones.

A year and a half later, in March 2014, I visited Yarmouk again. The camp is unrecognizable now, and the pictures we see do not do the damage justice.

Palestinian fighters flank a corridor in Yarmouk on our way to visit refugees receiving aid.

Palestinian fighters flank a corridor in Yarmouk on our way to visit refugees receiving aid.

At the entrance of the camp, I was greeted by armed Palestinians who are part of a 14-group ‘volunteer force’ formed for the purpose of protecting Yarmouk and ejecting the rebel fighters deep inside the camp. The group falls under the umbrella of Lijan Shaabiyeh Falastiniyya Li Tahrir al Yarmouk – the Popular Palestinian Committees for the Liberation of Yarmouk.

When I ask them where they’re from, in rapid-fire, one after the other, they tell me: Safad, Lubya, Haifa, Tiberias, Jerusalem, Acca – though, of course, they are too young to have ever been to any of these places. That’s where their parents or grandparents hail from. That’s where they intend to return one day.

There’s a lone Syrian among them. He was raised in Yarmouk and is a Palestinian as far as he’s concerned.

A sheet is draped in a Yarmouk passage to protect against snipers gaining visual targets.

A sheet is draped in a Yarmouk passage to protect against snipers gaining visual targets.

The stories these fighters tell me is nothing I have read in English, in any mainstream publication, outside Syria. Theirs is a story that is black-and-white. Thousands of Islamist fighters invaded and occupied Yarmouk on December 17, 2012 and Palestinians and Syrians alike fled the camp, literally beginning the next day.

The militants, they say, systematically destroyed the camp, killed people, looted homes, hospitals – anything they could get their hands on. They insist that the rebels could not have captured Yarmouk without the help of Hamas, and are convinced that Hamas supporters are still inside the camp, now members of Jabhat al-Nusra, Aknaf Beit al-Maqdes, Ohdat al-Omariyya, Ahrar al-Yarmouk, Zahrat al Mada’en and other rebel groups they say occupy the camp.

They claim Hamas employed and provided financial assistance to displaced Syrians who escaped conflict elsewhere and settled in Yarmouk. “They hired them for this conflict,” says one.

The finger-pointing at Hamas persists throughout all my conversations with refugees in the three separate camps I visit in Syria. While all Hamas officials exited the country early on in the conflict, the fact remains that many Palestinians affiliated with Hamas did not.

On the outside, we understand Hamas is not there, but within the camps, Palestinians identify the individuals they accuse of sedition as “Hamas people.” This blurred line has provided Hamas’ political leadership with plausible “deniability” against accusations that it has aided Islamist rebels in the camps.

The fuzzy lines first became clear to me in the autumn of 2011 when a Hamas official confided that they were having to “remove some people” from these areas who were displaying increasing sympathy with the Syrian opposition.

Back to the Palestinian fighters in Yarmouk.

My attention is diverted by the stories one of them tells me about members of the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) assassinated in the lead-up to the occupation of Yarmouk.

From the age of 18, all male Palestinian refugees in Syria take part in compulsory military service in the PLA for a period of 18 months. They are trained directly and solely by the PLA, but weaponry and facilities are provided by the Syrian army. Once upon a time, the PLA was also based in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon where their mandate was to cooperate with the host government – today, the only PLA base left in the entire Arab world is in Syria.

I head over to the makeshift headquarters of the PLA to find out more. They have temporarily relocated from Moadamiyah in West Ghouta, a rebel-occupied suburb of Damascus. There, I meet with General Hassan Salem and General Nabil Yacoub, two senior officials who report directly to PLA commander Major-General Tariq al-Khadra.

The PLA’s mission is “to liberate Palestine” and the generals tell me they “do not play a role in defending (Palestinian) camps during the Syrian conflict.” By all accounts, this appears to be true.

But in 2012, the PLA was dragged into Syria’s crisis quite unwillingly. On January 5, Major Basil Amin Ali was assassinated by an unknown assailant in Aarbin – east of Jobar in the Damascus suburbs – while he was fixing his car by the side of the road.

Colonel Abdul Nasser Mawqari was shot dead inside Yarmouk the following month, on February 29.

A week later, on March 6, Colonel Rida Mohyelddin al-Khadra – a relation of PLA commander, General Khadra – was assassinated in Qatna, 20 kilometers south of Damascus, while driving home in his car.

On June 5, PLA Brigadier-General Dr. Anwar Mesbah al-Saqaa was killed in Aadawi Street in Damascus by explosives planted in his car, under his seat. He had left his home in Barzeh and was dropping his daughter off at university. Both she and the driver of the car were injured.

A few weeks later, on June 26, Colonel Ahmad Saleh Hassan was assassinated in Sahnaya, also in the Damascus suburbs.

General Abdul Razzak Suheim, his son, and a soldier guarding them were killed on July 26 in rebel-occupied Yalda, the neighborhood adjacent to Yarmouk – a week before those first mortars killed 20 residents of the camp.

On July 11, in a full-on attack against the PLA, opposition militants kidnapped and killed 14 Palestinian soldiers heading back to Nairab camp on a weekend break from training exercises in Mesiaf, 48 kms southwest of Hama. According to the PLA generals I interviewed, the soldiers were divided into two groups – half were shot, while the other half were tortured and then beheaded.

Many Palestinians I interviewed told the story of the driver of the PLA van – who was not a soldier himself. Ahmad Ezz was a young man from the Nairab camp in Aleppo. The rebels spared him – temporarily – then strapped him into a vehicle rigged with massive explosives, and ordered him to drive into a Syrian army checkpoint.

According to multiple Arabic news reports, at the very last minute, Ahmad veered sharply away from the checkpoint. The rebels detonated the explosives and Ahmad died, but by changing course he spared the Syrian soldiers.

In what perhaps speaks to Palestinian sentiment about the Syrian conflict more than many of the ‘contested’ incidents, the residents of Nairab camp turned out en masse for Ahmad’s funeral. Says Mohammad, a young Palestinian whose family lives outside Yarmouk in one of the neighboring suburbs – and who first told me the story of Ahmad – “we saw him as a hero for saving the (Syrian) soldiers.”

This isn’t such an odd sentiment. After all, the majority of male Palestinian refugees in Syria have undergone military training by the PLA – under the auspices of the Syrian armed forces.

The international media has tended to focus on events in Yarmouk as the ‘one’ Palestinian story inside Syria, but this is far from accurate. There are about 14 different refugee camps in the country, each with its own experiences in this Syrian conflict.

I visit Jeramana camp next. It is a small camp on the outskirts of Damascus that blends into the larger Jeramana neighborhood, both now bustling with refugees from other camps and from conflict-hit parts of Syria.

Jeramana is peaceful, though mortars, rockets and rebels from nearby Beit Saham, Jobar and Ein Terma break the calm every so often. Because militants intermittently try to storm the camp entrances, Jeramana residents also have a ‘volunteer force’ like Yarmouk’s – this one manned by armed men from three Palestinian factions: the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC – led by Ahmad Jibril), Fatah Intifada and as-Sa’iqa. One of the fighters that met me at the camp entrance has a broken arm from a recent skirmish with rebels.

This is the camp made famous by Angelina Jolie in October 2009, when she came to visit Palestinian refugees displaced by conflict in Iraq. At Jeramana’s entrance lies a monument dedicated to the camp’s martyrs killed by mortars from neighboring areas. Syrian flags hold sway alongside Palestinian ones here.

In Jeramana camp, kids prepare to put on a show in honor of Yom al-Ard.

In Jeramana camp, kids prepare to put on a show in honor of Yom al-Ard.

Further into the camp, I spot several dozen children in festive mode, sporting nationalist clothing and hoisting Palestinian and Syrian flags. One carries a large poster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The kids are about to perform in a ceremony for Yom al-Ard – or Land Day – to commemorate the day in 1976 when Israel confiscated thousands of dunams of Palestinian land. They do an impromptu dress rehearsal for me before going on stage – here is the video.

I follow them around the corner to their destination and am startled at what lies ahead.

A large, colorful tent has been erected to house a crowd attending the Yom al-Ard activities – but flanking the podium inside are massive posters of Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, his predecessor Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and Syrian President Assad.

Jeramana residents attend a Yom al-Ard ceremony to honor teachers, sponsored by the Palestinian-Iranian Friendship Association.

Jeramana residents attend a Yom al-Ard ceremony to honor teachers, sponsored by the Palestinian-Iranian Friendship Association.

The event, which used to be held in Yarmouk camp, has been organized by the Palestinian-Iranian Friendship Association, and has been around for at least ten years. The event’s focus is not political, however – its mission is to honor teachers volunteering in the camps with gifts and awards.

I am curious about the Syrian flags though – they are everywhere. A camp resident tells me: “you rarely saw this before the crisis.” He thinks there are two reasons for the flags: “To show solidarity – we now believe that Palestine is over if Syria falls – and maybe also to show loyalty because there’s doubt been sown.”

In 2012, all the Palestinian political factions – with the exception of Hamas – signed onto two separate letters/declarations that essentially pledged neutrality in the Syrian conflict. So this visible support for the Syrian government is unexpected.

The Syrian state continues to support Palestinian refugees in various ways: inside Jeramana, the Syrians have established a supply store that provides food basics – lentils, jam, beans, tomato paste, yoghurt, etc – at substantial discounts for camp residents and displaced persons. An elderly woman sits at her makeshift stall elsewhere in the camp, distributing state-subsidized bread for literally pennies.

(In Yarmouk, I had also observed government-donated bread and jam sandwiches handed out to refugees awaiting UNRWA food aid boxes.) Inside the camp’s main marketplace, an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables are on display in the narrow street. Even though the camp’s population has swelled to 4-5 times its pre-conflict numbers, residents have adapted to the new realities in Jeramana. They, at least, still have their homes.

Unlike Yarmouk, there is no visible presence of UNRWA – the UN agency dedicated to Palestinian refugees – and I am told they do not have an office here. Palestinians from other camps – and Syrians too – have flooded Jeramana in this crisis, so local “committees” step in to provide food, often daily. A committee truck passes by at lunchtime – it carries industrial-sized metal pots of home-made rice and stew to hand out to the new residents.

Palestinian "committees" organize home-cooked food for displaced people inside their camps.

Palestinian “committees” organize home-cooked food for displaced people inside their camps.

Jeramana is one of at least 14 Palestinian refugee camps and areas in Syria, both official and unofficial. In every interview with Palestinian officials, aid workers and regular civilians, I ask for status updates on each of the camps. The responses varied sufficiently to suggest that events on the ground keep shifting, especially in rebel-occupied or surrounded camps where clashes take place between militants and Palestinian forces – or with the Syrian army on the outskirts.

In the Damascus area alone, there is Husayniyya (rebels occupied and ejected, destroyed), Yarmouk (rebel-occupied, 18,000 civilians still inside), Seyyeda Zeinab (no rebels), Jeramana (no rebels), Khan Danoun (no rebels), Khan Shieh (partly rebel occupied, some civilians remain) and Sbeineh (reportedly 70% destroyed).

In Aleppo, you have two hard-hit camps – Handarat, where refugees fled long time ago, has collapsed, as has much of Nairab camp. Both camps have armed Palestinian volunteer forces battling rebels.

The camp in Daraa has been leveled and there have been no civilians there for much of this conflict. The al-Ramel camp in Latakia has had two major clashes in 2011 and is now fine. There is Al Wafiddine camp next to Douma, which nobody mentions or seems to know much about. The refugee camps in Homs and Hama are rebel-free and thriving – surprisingly, given that these provinces have been major anti-government hubs.

I travel to the Homs camp next to see for myself.

The Palestinian camp here is the only one where there is a quasi-functioning Hamas office. The resistance group and its entire official encampment in Syria left the country in 2011, so technically the Hamas reps in the camp do not serve in any official capacity.

I ask a pro-government PFLP-GC official about Hamas’ presence in the camp, and he says: “There is a ‘different’ group of Hamas here who are in agreement with cooperation to keep this camp quiet.” I ask him if he can set up a meeting with these Hamas representatives. He makes several calls in my presence, but they turn him down “because they don’t want to get in trouble with their leadership.”

The Homs camp is starkly different from Yarmouk and Jeramana for one main reason: there is not an armed person in sight. The main thoroughfare is crowded with shops and one has to weave through the throngs of people going about their daily chores. Nothing much to see here – Palestinians in Homs have taken “neutrality” to heart.

My main stop in the Homs camp is to the Bissan Hospital, named after a city in Palestine and run by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS). Bissan’s chief executive is Mahmoud Darwish, whose simple office features only four pictures on its walls – two of deceased PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, one of Bashar al-Assad and a map of al-Aqsa in Jerusalem.

Bissan promised neutrality at the start of the Syrian conflict, and as such, provides medical treatment to pro and anti government fighters alike: “their background makes no difference to us.” The hospital backs onto a Syrian neighborhood where clashes have taken place – Bissan treats Syrian army soldiers too.

When I meet Darwish, he has visitors already, and they remain for the interview. The talk turns political as some of them weigh in with their thoughts and opinions. I am told the reason the camp has managed to stay out of the fray is because “between Baba Amr (about 1.5 kilometers away) and the camp there was the Syrian army, which is why rebels couldn’t come into the camp.”

Another tells me: “Dialogue really helped this camp. There was a lot of dialogue here. Some of the Palestinian leaders have been involved in reconciliation efforts and facilitating between rebels and the Syrian government.”

Hamas crops up again. The men talk about being repelled at the speeches of sectarian Islamist preacher Yusuf Qaradawi and others “who showed no remorse over Syrian deaths.” But, says one, “the Hamas section in this camp refused to have any part in the Syrian crisis. Hamas officials here – their families are here, they grew up here. In Yarmouk, some of them came from as far away as Gaza.”

Darwish steps in to explain their interest in keeping the peace: “We (Palestinians) have all the rights in Syria. We are like Syrian citizens here; we study in schools together… Very few Palestinians were drawn into this conflict – only really marginal people.”

I ask if the Syrian army ever entered the camp in Homs. This is a charge that has made the media rounds throughout this conflict, and it is a question I ask in every camp I visit. The answer is a decisive “no.”

Back in Damascus, I meet with the head of the Syrian Red Crescent Society (SARC). This is the group that functions as the hands and feet of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) inside Syria. It is a neutral group and goes to great pains to stay impartial so that it can operate within both rebel and government controlled areas.

In Yarmouk and other camps, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) is supposed to take the field lead, but PRCS supplies and equipment were so completely ransacked by militants, that SARC has provided ambulance, medicines and aid workers to keep up with demand. SARC workers were in Yarmouk during my visit, and helped in evacuating several residents who had been approved for medical treatment. Some of the ill and injured are transported to PRCS medical facilities, but most are treated at Syrian hospitals.

I meet Dr. Abdul Rahman Attar, the president of SARC, and ask him if the Syrian army ever entered Palestinian camps while civilians were still in residence.

“In my opinion, no.” he says.

“Everything happening in Yarmouk is in the hands of Palestinians, not Syrians,” says Attar. “The Syrian role is only in facilitation.”

That theme continues with everyone I ask. The only exception to this, say Palestinians of all backgrounds, is when camps are entirely empty of civilians – as in Daraa and Handarat. Only then does the Syrian army enter to fight rebels.

Dr. Shaker Shihabi is the PRCS’s director in Syria and a member of the executive council of the parent organization, headquartered in Ramallah, Palestine. The PRCS runs three large hospitals in Syria: Bissan in Homs, Yaffa Hospital in el-Mezzeh, Damascus, and Palestine Hospital in Yarmouk camp. Some of the smaller clinics they used to run in Nairab, Sbeineh, Khan Danoun and Douma were destroyed in the Syrian conflict.

The PRCS is one of the few NGOs that still operates inside the rebel-occupied part of Yarmouk camp. They run the only functioning, non-rebel medical facility inside the camp, the Palestine Hospital. Says Shihabi: “We only have two doctors and some volunteer workers left there. We lost two doctors and five staff members in this crisis – they were killed. The last one was a few months ago – Diab Muhanna, an assistant pharmacist – he was shot outside the hospital.”

Access to medical care inside Yarmouk was further crippled when “about eight cars, six ambulances, were stolen (after rebels occupied the camp), they robbed our biggest storage facility for drugs and medical supplies.”

Earlier this year, PRCS helped in the evacuation of “more than 3,000” civilians in Yarmouk. The Syrian government gives final approval for who gets out – “they screen for fighters,” Shihabi says.

“Hunger,” he says, is a problem in the camp, and while civilians receive food boxes from UNRWA and other international NGOs, Shihabi explains that the food situation has improved since February/March 2014 when “both sides opened borders with Yalda and other neighborhoods. Before that rice was 15,000 Lira (per kilo), now it is 500 Lira.”

Fresh food is available and accessible in Jeramana, Homs and all Palestinian camps that have not been overrun by rebel fighters.

Fresh food is available and accessible in Jeramana, Homs and all Palestinian camps that have not been overrun by rebel fighters.

My trip to Yarmouk coincides with the arrival of an UNRWA food van at the camp. In the past year, the UN agency has relentlessly publicized the Palestinian starvation story, but left out key details.

For example, food scarcity hasn’t been the issue as much as accessibility and cost. There are vulnerable populations inside the camp who cannot fend for themselves, including children, the elderly, and single parents like the woman I met whose husband vanished at the start of the crisis and who has to tend to all the needs of her two young daughters alone.

In Yarmouk, food has always been smuggled in from neighboring rebel-held areas, but sellers have milked the opportunity to profit from the instability by charging staggering prices for food staples.

And then there are other problems. A PRCS aid worker inside Yarmouk tells me: “At the beginning of the aid distribution, rebels took the majority of boxes from people. But civilians inside formed committees against this and have minimized it.”

While I was interviewing aid recipients, two separate women, one with a child, complained to the UNRWA rep that rebels had confiscated their food boxes in the past week, and asked for a replacement. UNRWA initially refused, citing an obligation to provide its limited boxes to all residents equally, but then relented, perhaps because of media on the scene.

The small UNRWA food van that delivered food aid to Yarmouk during my visit. Bread donated by the Syrian government sits atop the boxes.

The UNRWA food van that delivered food aid to Yarmouk during my visit. Bread donated by the Syrian government sits atop the boxes.

UNRWA told me they hand out approximately 400 boxes each day they are present in Yarmouk. Armed clashes prevent them from being able to access delivery points inside the camp on most days though. On the day of my visit, their food van did not have more than 100 boxes, and during the time I spent there, I did not see more than several dozen civilians line up for these boxes.

Yet UNRWA spokespeople have hit social media channels with a vengeance, loudly suggesting that 18,000 civlians inside Yarmouk are somehow dependent on their food aid. This is simply false. UNRWA has not had the financial or material capability to expand and extend its operations to meet Palestinian needs during this conflict.

They continue to assist with schooling, provide food supplies and medical kits, but everywhere you turn in Yarmouk, Jeramana or Homs, there is also now a Palestinian ad-hoc committee doing the fieldwork and cobbling together assistance.

The main UNRWA rep in charge of food distribution inside Yarmouk offers up one interesting fact: “The Syrian government is doing its best to make this operation smooth. They do not put a cap on the number of (food) parcels to come in the camp.” He specifically credits Kinda Chammat, Syria’s female minister of social affairs, for much of this.

How did things get so bad for Palestinians in Syria? This is the one Arab country, after all, where Palestinians are entitled to an equal range of rights enjoyed by their hosts, with the exception of citizenship and the vote.

Over the course of Syria’s conflict, Palestinian refugee camps have become active targets in every area rebel fighters could gain access. But why? What was the strategic value of entering the camps?

It begs the question: were Palestinians dragged into this crisis for political reasons – to split their allegiances and wrest the Palestinian cause from the Syrian government? Or were they dragged into this crisis because many of the camps were situated in strategic areas – as in Yarmouk, a key gateway to Damascus, or Handarat, providing supply-line access to Aleppo? The answer, according to all the political factions I interviewed is: a bit of both.

But first, let’s correct some misinformation. Contrary to mainstream narratives, Palestinian refugees did not participate in any significant demonstrations either against the Syrian government or in favor of the Syrian opposition. Throughout the crisis, Palestinians worked in earnest to maintain neutrality and stay out of the conflict.

The largest demonstrations against the government never numbered more than a few hundred people and were often populated by displaced Syrians who had moved to these camps. In fact, the most significant Palestinian demonstration during the crisis took place in Yarmouk in June 2011, after Palestinians were killed and injured by Israeli security forces during Naksa Day protests on the Golan Heights border.

Events in Yarmouk that day are heavily contested. There were clashes during the funeral processions where large crowds amassed, many angry for the human loss needlessly suffered. Foreign media blamed the Syrian government for urging and assisting Palestinians to participate in the Naksa protest, but they overlooked one fact: the Syrian government, like its Lebanese counterpart, cancelled the Naksa protest – most likely because of the deaths and injuries caused by Israelis the previous month during Nakba Day border protests.

During the funeral procession in Yarmouk, Palestinians were mostly angry at their various Palestinian political faction leaders for encouraging – and not stopping – the Naksa incident. After that, the story diverges. Some charge the pro-Syrian government PFLP-GC with firing into crowds, but the fact remains that three PFLP-GC members were killed that day and their offices burned down.

Now for a twist. A Hamas official interviewed on background tells me an unexpected version of the story. He says: “Some Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters went to Ahmad Jibril’s offices – the Khalesa compound – during the funeral and started shooting.”

He does not absolve the PFLP-GC from its role in the Syrian crisis, however. He blames Jibril’s group for not respecting the neutrality pact that Palestinians agreed upon from the beginning. By all accounts, the PFLP-GC policed the outskirts of various Palestinian camps – they say, to protect the camps from infiltration by rebel militants. Detractors insist this kind of activity instead fueled clashes and drew militants into the camps.

But at the end of the day, it was Hamas that was the lone Palestinian faction not to sign the Palestinian neutrality declaration – the PFLP-GC signed on with all the other factions.

There is little doubt that the PFLP-GC’s decision to take on a defense role in Palestinian camps irked the other groups. However, today, Palestinian politicos appear to be in lockstep with Jibril on the Syrian conflict.

At the faction level – and even among Palestinian refugees I spoke with – there is absolute consensus on the fact that the rebels have reneged on their promises to leave Palestinians out of the crisis. Says Maher Taher, a member of the political bureau of George Habbash’s PFLP (different group than the PFLP-GC): “There have been attempts by all Palestinian groups to help broker peace in Yarmouk.

We reached agreements, but they (rebels) have a problem with implementation. The deal is essentially that armed groups should leave the camp and Palestinians should return. The Syrian government is being cooperative with these operations and has granted chances to feed civilians inside. But at the moment of implementation, the rebels break the agreement.”

Even Palestine’s Ambassador to Syria Anwar Abdul-Hadi, who essentially reports to the Palestinian Authority, sounds just like the PFLP-GC these days:

“We asked them to leave Palestinians alone and the rebels said ‘this is Syrian land’ and they refused. We got a promise from the Syrian army never to go into the camps and the Syrian government kept its word. Till now we keep trying to ask rebels to leave, but have not succeeded because of al-Nusra, Jabhat al-Islamiyya and Hamas.”

Hamas, I ask? “Yes,” he says. “Hamas, Hamas, Hamas, Hamas.”

That may be self-serving. The dominant Fatah faction that controls the PA has been trying to undermine Hamas for years.

“The rebels,” Abdul-Hadi continues, “keep preventing (food aid) operations and they use hunger as a way to keep the Syrian government under pressure.” In the first few months of the year, “all (Palestinian) groups sent 12,000 food baskets and evacuated 4,000 Palestinians. And each few days, rebels make a fight to interrupt and stop this operation.”

Abdul-Hadi explains the politics behind these actions: “Rebels killed some PLA officers to force Palestinians to help the Syrian revolution – to intimidate them. And they blamed the Syrian army. The target of this crisis is the Palestinian case. They think when they occupy Palestinian camps in Syria and divide them, they will forget Palestine.”

“Before this crisis,” he admits, “ Fatah was against the Syrian official state. But now there is more understanding between Syria, Iran and the Palestinian Authority.”

Anwar Raja, the PFLP-GC’s media director, has a lot to say about the reaction of other Palestinian factions when things first kicked off in Syria:

“We warned Palestinians in 2011 and 2012 about rebels coming to occupy Yarmouk, and increased these calls as rebels took control of surrounding areas in Tadamoun, Hajar al-Aswad, Yalda. We said the groups should arm themselves in defense of the camp, but they ignored us.”

Raja explains why the other factions have now come around: “The view of developments is clear now – for Palestinians and Syrians both. People discovered it is a foreign program to destroy the state and divide society.

 

Now we have knowledge and our brains are working again. Even simple, uneducated people have changed their opinion. At the beginning they could not read between the lines – it has been 18 months since everyone realized this. They saw there has been no advantage to this crisis – they lost everything.”

As the Arab uprisings took a sledgehammer to authoritarian governments in 2011, Palestinian refugees – like many Syrians who supported protest movements to wrench more liberties from their government – hoped for better times. There is little doubt that some were supportive of Syrian opposition aspirations – they mirrored, after all, Palestinian ambitions to achieve liberty and establish good governance.

But between my two trips to the camps – in 2012 and 2014 – there has been a marked hardening of Palestinian sentiment. These populations, many of them displaced several times over now, have washed their hands off Syria’s “rebellion.” They have at times felt exploited and bullied by all parties, but have suffered most at the hands of opposition rebels. Neutrality is their mantra today. And like Syrian civilians everywhere, they want some peace.