Leading Palestinian writer: Syrian detention facilities are “human slaughterhouses”

May 23, 2012

* Hath not an Israeli actor eyes? Does he not bleed?


Herbert Beerbohm Tree (1852-1917) as Shylock (in a painting from London’s Victoria and Albert museum)


There is another dispatch today here: What really upsets Hamas; & Saudis “ban use of English language in hotels”

(You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please first press “Like” on that page.)



1. Leading Palestinian writer: Syrian detention facilities are “human slaughterhouses”
2. Al Arabiya: Syrian Deputy Defense Minister assassinated
3. Obama administration resumes arms sales to Bahrain, while crackdown there continues
4. English Queen hosts royal tyrants at Diamond Jubilee
5. Leader of Yemen’s remaining Jewish community murdered by Islamist
6. Was al-Megrahi in effect the 271st victim of the Lockerbie bomb?
7. Hath not an Israeli actor eyes? Does he not bleed?

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


Salameh Kaileh, 56, a prominent Palestinian writer who was jailed in Syria for just under three weeks from April 24, described the detention facilities there as “human slaughterhouses” in an interview with the Associated Press.

“I felt I was going to die under the brutal, savage and continuous beating of the interrogators, who tied me to ropes hung from the ceiling,” said Kaileh.

He said security agents beat detainees with batons, crammed them into stinking cells and tied them to beds at night. “It was hell on earth,” Kaileh said after being released and deported to Jordan. He had bluish-red bruises on his legs, which he said were the result of beatings with wooden batons that were studded with pins and nails.



The leading Arabic language satellite broadcaster Al Arabiya reported yesterday that Syrian officials said that Deputy Minister of Defense Assef Shawkat, 62, was killed in an attack by the Free Syrian Army near Damascus.

Shawkat is also President Bashar Assad’s brother-in-law and a former head of military intelligence.

Al Arabiya said Assad and his wife Asma visited a Damascus Hospital on Monday where Shawkat was receiving treatment before succumbing to his wounds.



Despite Bahrain’s continuing bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protestors, the Obama administration has announced that it would be resuming arms sales to the Gulf dictatorship.

They suspended them last October after the Sunni-led Bahraini regime continued its suppression of peaceful demonstrators from the downtrodden majority Shia population. The U.S. State Department sent a notification to Congress that the items were for maintaining Bahrain’s “external defense capabilities,” and that it would still hold back on the delivery of military supplies used for “crowd control”.

Over 100 people have been killed and thousands injured and tortured since the uprising by Bahrain’s marginalized and often impoverished native Shia majority against the ruling Sunni elite began in February 2011.

Bahrain has invited in Saudi special forces to help suppress the protests. Clashes are continuing daily. Every night dozens of injured people find refuge in a network of private homes, where they are treated for gunshot and other wounds in secret medical clinics set up there. As is the case in Syria, doctors risk lengthy prison terms for treating the injured in hospitals.

Bahrain is home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet and the naval headquarters for Central Command.



Queen Elizabeth II hosted a number of dictators at her Diamond Jubilee celebrations last Friday treating them to lunch at Windsor Castle and then dinner at Buckingham Palace.

Among the tyrants she hosted were the leaders of Bahrain, Brunei, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland and the United Arab Emirates. They preside over regimes with some of the worst human rights records in the world. They detain high numbers of political prisoners who are tortured and subjected to other abuses, and they practice gross discrimination against women, homosexuals, minority faiths, and often severely ill-treat foreign guest workers.

On the advice of the British Foreign office (ministry) her Majesty has made over 250 official overseas visits to 129 countries during her 60-year reign, but neither she nor any British royal has ever officially set foot in one particular country: Israel.

To the best of my knowledge the head of state of every other country in Europe has visited Israel at some point.



Harun Yusuf Zindani, 50, a Jewish community leader in Yemen, was stabbed to death at a market in the capital Sana’a yesterday by a Muslim assailant who accused him of “not believing in Allah”. Less than 300 Jews remain in the country, once home to a flourishing 2000 year Jewish community of close to 100,000. Most Yemenite Jews moved to Israel as soon as the Jewish state was created but a handful opted to stay and look after the synagogue and other communal property.

Zindani’s son Yehya said his father received stab wounds to his neck and stomach and later died in hospital.



As readers will no doubt have heard by now, the only man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, died in the Libyan capital Tripoli on Sunday. The bombing four days before Christmas in 1988 of a Pan Am London-to-New York air flight above the small Scottish town of Lockerbie, killed 270 people, including eleven on the ground. Al-Megrahi was convicted by a special court in the Netherlands in 2001. He volunteered to go the court, he said, “to once and for all prove my innocence”. He was found guilty but then freed from a Scottish jail in 2009 on compassionate grounds after being diagnosed with terminal cancer and given only a few months to live.

While many of the relatives of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing greeted his release with fury, others welcomed it. Together with a number of respected legal and anti-terrorism experts they believe that al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer, who always denied any involvement in the bombing, was innocent, and that most of the evidence points to a Syrian-backed PLO splinter group (the PFLP) having carried out the attack in return for payment by Iran. Iran was said to be seeking revenge for the accidental downing of an Iranian passenger jet by America some months earlier.

Britain and America, they believe, didn’t want to point the finger of blame at the regimes in Syria and Iran in the run-up to the 1990 war to liberate Kuwait after it was invaded by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The western countries thought they needed the cooperation of the Assad regime in their efforts and therefore instead scapegoated Colonel Gaddafi’s Libya (which had definitely been responsible for other acts of terrorism).

One relative of an American victim of the Lockerbie bomb said after al-Megrahi died on Sunday that al-Megrahi was in effect “the 271st victim of the Lockerbie bomb”.

For more, please see:

* Lockerbie: Has an innocent man been locked up? (Aug. 13, 2009)


Henry Irving as Shylock



This is a follow-up to this dispatch.

Below is an email sent yesterday by the Globe Theatre Festival in London to all those planning to attend next week’s performances of The Merchant of Venice by Habima, regarded by many as the world’s leading Jewish theatre company. (Three subscribers to this list have sent it to me.)

As I noted before, among those singling out Israel as the only country unworthy of performing Shakespeare are the two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson. She and her fellow objectors have no qualms about the National Theatre of China performing “Richard III” in Mandarin at the same festival, or the Palestinian Ashtar Theatre company performing “Richard II” in Arabic there. Nor do they care that the Globe Shakespeare festival will host Iranian, Russian and Turkish theater groups. They seem unconcerned by women getting stoned or being raped in Iranian jails, or by the Russian occupation of Chechnya, or the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus and Kurdistan.


Incidentally, my late father John Gross wrote an award-winning book on the uses and misuses of the character Shylock, and this latest act of prejudice and attempted exclusion in London might have made an interesting footnote to it.

The book discusses reactions to and writings on Shylock from people as diverse as Heine, Proust, Joyce, Marx and Hitler – who made great use of the play, staging grotesque performances in Germany and Austria to whip up anti-Semitism.

It is published in America under the title “Shylock: A Legend and Its Legacy” and in Britain as “Shylock: Four Hundred Years in the Life of a Legend”.

My father notes that Habima – the theatre company originally founded in Moscow before Stalin banned it and which first toured Britain in 1926 – first performed The Merchant of Venice in Tel Aviv in 1936.


From: info@shakespearesglobe.com
To: info@shakespearesglobe.com
Date: Tue, 22 May 2012 15:44:48 +0100
Subject: Important information regarding performances on 28 & 29 May

Dear Globe to Globe Festival-goer,

In advance of your visit to Shakespeare’s Globe to see Merchant of Venice on Monday 28 or Tuesday 29 May we are writing to advise you of conditions of entry we have in place for these performances.

We will have enhanced security processes in place on the date of your visit including extensive checks of bags and audience members. The site will be open at 6pm and we strongly advise you arrive at this time to avoid a delayed start of the performance. If the majority of the audience arrive after 7pm the show will be significantly delayed.

Please note that no food or drink will be allowed on site. Food and drink will be available in the Swan bar, restaurant and catering kiosks on the Piazza prior to the performance and during the interval; all catering facilities will be exclusively available to our Theatre customers during these times. Food and drink will not be allowed inside the auditorium. The restaurant may be pre-booked on 020 7928 9444 (option 1) and we will be open to customers from 5.30pm, entry to which will also be via our main New Globe Walk entrance. Please click here to view The Swan’s website - www.loveswan.co.uk/shakespearesglobe/bar/index.html

All entry to the theatre will be via the New Globe Walk entrance, including standing tickets. The groundling queue will be formed on the theatre piazza instead of the groundling gates entrance.

We advise you not to bring bags with you and to only bring items essential to your theatre visit. No professional filming or photography equipment will be permitted onsite.

We will be operating a free left luggage service which all bags/luggage exceeding 20cm x 15cm x 10cm will need to be checked into.

Please be aware that the Globe reserves the right to refuse admission to anyone we have reason to believe may cause a disruption to the performance. Any objects or material which could be used in disrupting the performance will be deemed prohibited items.

Any individuals who attempt to disrupt the performance will be asked to leave the theatre.

Both of the performances are sold out and therefore the Box Office will be closed on the evenings of the performance. Please ensure you have collected your tickets in advance of 4pm on the day of the performance.

For further details of the conditions of entry for these performances and Swan menus for these dates please refer to our website - www.shakespearesglobe.com/your-visit - or contact info@shakespearesglobe.com

Yours faithfully,

Shakespeare’s Globe Box Office


[All notes above by Tom Gross]

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.