Children play in front of damaged buildings in the Arabeen neigborhood of Damascus
* Columnist Carol Hunt, writing in The Sunday Independent (Ireland): “Of those Irish citizens questioned, over 1/5th would deny citizenship to Israelis, with 11.5 per cent stating they would deny Irish citizenship to all Jews, and less than 60 per cent saying they would accept a Jewish person into their family. Bloody hell – what did the Jews ever do to us?”
* Peyvand Khorsandi, writing in The Independent (UK): “Hopes that Iran will get sweeter with Rouhani in power are naive, to say the least… if he is a moderate or a reformer, I’m the Jolly Green Giant. You can’t be a moderate in Iran. Protecting the sanctity of the Islamic Republic’s founding Khomeini-ist principles, and its resulting injustices, is your raison d’etre and if you’re not up to the task, you’re dead.”
* “It’s all very Cosa Nostra – you can’t stray; you can’t pull the wool over anyone’s eyes and thuggish credentials are a must: it’s a gangster regime, pure and simple… You can understand more about how the Iranian regime operates by watching the 2008 Italian mafia film Gomorrah than by reading the reportage of some Western newspapers, whose journalists seem to believe Rouhani is about to unveil Scandinavian-style social democracy.”
* A major Western paper finally reports on the extent of Israeli help in treating wounded Syrian children: “The 3-year-old girl cried ‘Mama, Mama’ as a stranger rocked her and tried to comfort her. She had been brought alone from Syria to the government hospital in this northern Israeli town five days earlier, her face blackened by what doctors said was probably a firebomb. In the next bed, a girl, 12, lay in a deep sleep. She had arrived at the pediatric intensive care unit with a severe stomach wound that had already been operated on in Syria, and a hole in her back. Another girl, 13, has been here more than a month recovering from injuries that required complex surgery to her face, arm and leg. She and her brother, 9, had gone to the supermarket in their village when a shell struck. Her brother was killed in the attack.”
* Below: Link for photo, video and lie of the day
* You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.
1. Photo of the day: The end of Ramadan, as viewed from a Tel Aviv beach
2. Video of the day: A Muslim Israeli soldier keeps watch over Israel’s Gaza border
3. Lie of the day: Official Syrian News Agency reports Syrians are celebrating the end of Ramadan “amid an atmosphere of brotherly friendship and tremendous joy”
4. “Across forbidden border, doctors in Israel quietly tend to Syria’s wounded” (By Isabel Kershner, New York Times, August 5, 2013)
5. “Iran’s new president? I see only an old and vicious regime” (By Peyvand Khorsandi, The Independent, UK)
6. “I’ll ask this only once: What has Israel ever done to us?” (By Carol Hunt, Sunday Irish Independent)
[All notes below by Tom Gross]
PHOTO OF THE DAY
The end of Ramadan, as viewed from a Tel Aviv beach.
This photo appeared in the Irish Examiner newspaper in Dublin.
VIDEO OF THE DAY
A Muslim Israeli soldier keeps watch over Israel’s Gaza border
LIE OF THE DAY
One of the Syrian subscribers to this list (he is in Aleppo, is reliable and wishes to remain anonymous) writes:
Please tell your subscribers that according to the government-controlled Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), Syrians are celebrating Eid al-Fitr to mark the end of Ramadan “amid an atmosphere of brotherly friendship and tremendous joy.” No kidding, check out SANA’s reports.
Tom Gross adds: Over 9 million Syrians have now been displaced (7 million internally and over 2 million externally), one third of all buildings in Syrian cities have been damaged or destroyed, well over 100,000 people have been killed and tens of thousands of others “disappeared” – taken to be tortured in one of the regime’s vast, decades-old network of underground and overground dungeons and torture centers, or disposed of in marked graves.
Just from the official figures alone, we learn that over 4,400 Syrians were killed during the holy fasting month of Ramadan. Many Syrians have also joined family abroad. Oxfam estimates that 25 % of the population of Lebanon is now Syrian.
The lack of response by the West (both military, but even more important humanitarian) to the Syrian crisis, will I fear, mark the darkest chapter in the Obama presidency. It is worse than Bill Clinton’s failure to show leadership and to intervene in the Rwandan genocide because Clinton had limited time to do so before the genocide was complete.
Among recent dispatches on this list on Syria, please see: The twisted reality of an Italian freelancer in Syria
I attach three articles below. In the first piece, Isabel Kershner, who is The New York Times’ number Two correspondent in Jerusalem (and like other New York Times foreign and op-ed staff, is a subscriber to this list) reports on the Israel government’s help for the Syrian war wounded, an issue I have reported several times on this website over the last 6 months.
The other two articles are by Iranian and Irish commentators.
-- Tom Gross
A RARE POSITIVE STORY ABOUT ISRAEL IN THE NEW YORK TIMES
An Israeli girl, left, and a wounded Syrian girl, meet at the Western Galilee Hospital in Israel, where scores of Syrians have been taken for treatment (NY Times)
Across Forbidden Border, Doctors in Israel Quietly Tend to Syria’s Wounded
By Isabel Kershner
New York Times
August 6, 2013
NAHARIYA, Israel — The 3-year-old girl cried “Mama, Mama” over and over as a stranger rocked her and tried to comfort her. She had been brought from Syria to the government hospital in this northern Israeli town five days earlier, her face blackened by what doctors said was probably a firebomb or a homemade bomb.
In the next bed, a girl, 12, lay in a deep sleep. She had arrived at the pediatric intensive care unit with a severe stomach wound that had already been operated on in Syria, and a hole in her back.
Another girl, 13, has been here more than a month recovering from injuries that required complex surgery to her face, arm and leg. She and her brother, 9, had gone to the supermarket in their village when a shell struck. Her brother was killed in the attack.
As fighting between Syrian government forces and rebels has raged in recent months in areas close to the Israeli-held Golan Heights, scores of Syrian casualties have been discreetly spirited across the hostile frontier for what is often lifesaving treatment in Israel, an enemy country.
Most are men in their 20s or 30s, many of them with gunshot wounds who presumably were involved in the fighting. But in recent weeks there have been more civilians with blast wounds, among them women and children who have arrived alone and traumatized.
Israel has repeatedly declared a policy of nonintervention in the Syrian civil war, other than its readiness to strike at stocks of advanced weapons it considers a threat to its security. Officials have also made clear that Israel would not open its increasingly fortified border to an influx of refugees, as Turkey and Jordan have, given that Israel and Syria officially remain in a state of war.
But the Israeli authorities have sanctioned this small, low-profile humanitarian response to the tragedy taking place in Syria, balancing decades of hostility with the demands of proximity and neighborliness.
“Most come here unconscious with head injuries,” said Dr. Masad Barhoum, the director general of the Western Galilee Hospital here in Nahariya, on the Mediterranean coast six miles south of the Lebanese border. “They wake up after a few days or whenever and hear a strange language and see strange people,” he said. “If they can talk, the first question is, ‘Where am I?’ “
He added, “I am sure there is an initial shock when they hear they are in Israel.”
The identity of the patients is closely guarded so they will not be in danger when they return to Syria. Soldiers sit outside the wards where the adults are to protect them from possible threats and prying journalists. But doctors granted access to the children in the closed intensive care wing, on the condition that no details that could compromise their safety were published.
Like many Israeli hospitals, this one serves a mixed population of Jews and Arabs; its staff includes Arabic-speaking doctors, nurses and social workers. In the lobby, a glass display case contains the remnants of a Katyusha rocket that was fired from Lebanon and hit the hospital’s eye department during the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. The rocket penetrated four floors but nobody was injured because all the north-facing wards had been moved underground.
With more than 100,000 people estimated to have died in the Syrian civil war, Dr. Barhoum, an Arab Christian citizen of Israel, acknowledged that the Israeli medical assistance was “a drop in the ocean.”
But he said he was proud of the level of treatment his teams could provide and proud to be a citizen of a country that allowed him to treat every person equally. He said the cost of the treatment so far had amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars and would be paid for by the Israeli government.
Since late March, almost 100 Syrians have arrived at two hospitals in Galilee. Forty-one severely wounded Syrians have been treated here at the Western Galilee Hospital, which has a new neurosurgical unit as well as pediatric intensive care facilities. Two of them have died, 28 have recovered and been transferred back to Syria, and 11 remain here.
An additional 52 Syrians have been taken to the Rebecca Sieff Hospital in the Galilee town of Safed. The latest, a 21-year-old man with gunshot and shrapnel wounds, arrived there on Saturday. A woman, 50, arrived Friday with a piece of shrapnel lodged in her heart and was sent to the Rambam hospital in the northern port city of Haifa for surgery.
Little has been revealed about how they get here, other than that the Israeli military runs the technical side of the operation. The doctors say all they know is that Syrian patients arrive by military ambulance and that the hospital calls the army to come pick them up when they are ready to go back to Syria.
The Israeli military, which also operates a field hospital and mobile medical teams along the Syrian frontier, has been reluctant to advertise these facilities, partly for fear of being inundated by more wounded Syrians than they could cope with.
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, said that “a number of Syrians have come to the fence along the border in the Golan Heights with various levels of injuries.”
He added that the military has, “on a purely humanitarian basis, facilitated immediate medical assistance on the ground and in some cases has evacuated them for further treatment in Israeli hospitals.”
Now, efforts are under way to bring over relatives to help calm the unaccompanied children.
When the 13-year-old arrived, she was in a state of fear and high anxiety, according to Dr. Zeev Zonis, the head of the pediatric intensive care unit here.
“A large part of our treatment was to try to embrace her in a kind of virtual hug,” he said.
Days later, the girl’s aunt arrived from Syria. She began to care for the Syrian children here, living and sleeping with them in the intensive care unit. The staff and volunteers donated clothes and gifts.
The aunt, her face framed by a tight hijab, said a shell had struck the supermarket in their village suddenly, after a week of quiet. A few days later, she said, an Arab man she did not know came to the village.
“He told us they had the girl,” she said. “They took me and on the way told me that she was in Israel. We got to the border. I saw soldiers. I was a little afraid.”
But she added that the hospital care had been good and that “the fear has passed totally.” She was reluctant to speak about the war back home, saying only, “I pray for peace and quiet.”
Sitting up in bed in a pink Pooh Bear T-shirt, the niece, who was smiling, said she missed home. She and her aunt were expected to return to Syria later this week.
Asked what she will say when she goes back home, the aunt replied: “I won’t say that I was in Israel. It is forbidden to be here, and I am afraid of the reactions.”
“IT’S ALL VERY COSA NOSTRA: IT’S A GANGSTER REGIME, PURE AND SIMPLE”
Iran’s new president? I see only an old and vicious regime
By Peyvand Khorsandi
August 5, 2013
Hopes that Iran will get sweeter with Rouhani in power are naive, to say the least
Since his election in June, I’ve been asked a number of times what I think of Hassan Rouhani, the new Iranian president.
As an Iranian exile, I don’t think much – or I’d be on the first plane home (for a visit, anyway).
For what it’s worth, I think he’s atrocious, and I was surprised when Iranians voted him in; by all accounts they were petrified at the prospect of four years under one of his even more reactionary rivals.
I say even more reactionary because there should be no doubt the man is one of ‘Them’ – an unabashed Islamist: if he is a moderate or a reformer, I’m the Jolly Green Giant.
You can’t be a moderate in Iran. Protecting the sanctity of the Islamic Republic’s founding Khomeini-ist principles, and its resulting injustices, is your raison d’etre and if you’re not up to the task, you’re dead.
It’s all very Cosa Nostra – you can’t stray; you can’t pull the wool over anyone’s eyes and thuggish credentials are a must: it’s a gangster regime, pure and simple.
For years this guy was the Secretary of Iran’s feared Supreme National Security Council.
Countless killings occurred under his watch; not least during the student uprising of 1999 which Rouhani vowed to “crush mercilessly and monumentally”.
Gunning down students is par for the course in the Islamic Republic. A few dead young people who sought democracy are no big deal to Iranian Islamists.
July 1999 was the precursor to the protests of June 2009. Then, the original smiling mullah – the Colonel Sanders of the Islamic Republic, Mohammad Khatami, stood by as government forces attacked his supporters who were protesting the closure of a reformist newspaper. There is no reason to expect any more integrity from Rouhani.
Iran has to be viewed in terms of bloodshed. You can understand more about how the Iranian regime operates by watching the 2008 Italian mafia film Gomorrah than by watching Newsnight or reading the reportage of some Western newspapers, whose journalists seem to believe Rouhani is about to unveil Scandinavian-style social democracy in Iran.
So the fact that Rouhani promises to be a bit friendlier to the West doesn’t mean much, because human rights in Iran are not a concern of Western governments any more than they are in Bahrain or in Saudi Arabia. (The last thing we want to do is upset such allies.)
From politicians such as Jack Straw, who has visited Iran a number of times, and George Galloway, who had his own show on the Islamist regime’s broadcaster, to the arms dealers who make a packet selling weapons to Tehran – no one cares to remember the victims of Iran’s mullahs when they chomp on chelo kebab with them.
Have no doubt, as the Supereme Leader’s PR machine offers up a cutesy, smiling cleric keen to work with the West, inviting us to see him as no more harmful than the Cookie Monster, deals will be done; oil, gas, and guns will be sold; but not much will change on the ground for Iranians.
Four years ago, people were being shot in the street. Now they are effectively washed from public consciousness in the West as the press focuses on Washington’s preoccupation with nuclear weapons – and yes, by the way: regardless of the charade being played out about whether Rouhani has referred to Israel as a sore, or a wound, or other chronic medical condition, it’s in the interests of both sides to speak to each other – and it won’t be their first time.
When Israelis were selling arms to Iran in the early 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war, Rouhani was the protégé of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who at that time was head of the Iranian military. So the president may just need to dust down his old contacts book to overcome the nuclear impasse.
“Just how will Iran’s new ruler keep his people’s spirits up?” Newsnight presenter Anita Anand asked chirpily the other night, outlining the concerns of the electorate as if she were talking about Belgium and not an Islamist dictatorship. (People’s desire for freedom of speech, women’s rights and the freeing of political prisoners were not put to this particular henchman of Mr Rouhani, and no member of Iran’s opposition party was invited to contribute an alternative perspective).
Ms Anand’s use of the word ‘ruler’ here was interesting – the president in Iran is known as ‘the President’, not ‘the ruler’. The ruler is ‘the Supreme Leader’. So it was wrong for Newsnight, in the run-up Rouhani’s inauguration, to say that “eight years of Ahmadinejad’s rule is coming to a close” and worse still, to consider what the “new regime” will bring.
What new regime? Indeed, what new president?
“BLOODY HELL – WHAT DID THE JEWS EVER DO TO US?”
I’ll ask this only once: What has Israel ever done to us?
Demonised by many, the embattled state treats Palestinians better than most, says a puzzled Carol Hunt
August 4, 2013
Sunday Independent (Ireland)
It’s a tough one to figure out. So I’ll put it out there and all answers on a postcard please.
The Tanaiste was off this week, doing sterling work in China. As I write I’m hearing reports that the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) and Beijing International Airport (BCIA) are now “Sister Airports”, UCD announced that they have agreed to establish a new international college with Shenzhen University – in addition to the other collaborations it has with other universities. Eamon Gilmore has stressed how Ireland and China want to strengthen their economic, trade and education ties and how “person to person” interaction between the two countries – such as exchange students – does much to foster better relations all round.
And who can argue with any of that?
Well, defenders of human rights can, one presumes. In an interview last week Gilmore looked decidedly uneasy as the elephant-in-the-room question was put to him regards doing business with China. An unelected regime, let us remember, which executes well over 2,000 of its own people every year and imprisons those who dare to speak against it. And let’s not forget – oh, you already have? – China’s occupation of Tibet where it’s estimated over a million people have died as a result.
To be fair, Gilmore gave a cogent reply, saying that, “doing business with a country strengthens your ability to have dialogue on human rights”. And while it’s laughable to think China will take a blind bit of notice, the premise of Gilmore’s answer has merit.
But see, I’m confused. If encouraging greater trade and academic ties and “person to person” interaction is so great for forging human rights dialogue, then why is Israel, seemingly alone of all countries in the world, singled out for no-holds-barred censure and boycott?
If academic and cultural communication is good, then why did the TUI become the first trade union involved with education and academia in the EU to adopt a resolution calling on its members to “cease all cultural and academic collaboration with Israel”?
‘Doing business with a country strengthens your ability to have dialogue on human rights’
If Eamon Gilmore has repeatedly said he is against cultural boycotts (and he showed admirable support for the Israeli Film Festival last year in the face of thuggish intimidation), why does Labour Youth call Israel an “apartheid state” (an insult to all people who have suffered under one) and profess support for BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions)?
“Duh”, says everyone I speak to, “it’s because of Palestine!”
You see, I’ve read all the histories, so I am aware that after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Britain and France divided up the Middle East – creating Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. I know that in 1921 80 per cent of what was called the “Palestinian Mandate” was made into (Trans) Jordan (where currently two million Palestinian refugees live yet only 167,000 are allowed citizenship or are eligible for education and healthcare).
I am aware that in 1948 the UN voted to halve the remaining 20 per cent; Israel was born and immediately invaded by five neighbouring Arab countries whose objective was – and still is – to annihilate it. In 1967, when tiny Israel was forced to pre-empt a massive Arab invasion, the West Bank was occupied by Jordan and the Gaza Strip by Egypt. I know that all current facts and statistics show that Palestinians are treated far better by Israel than other Arab nations –where they are subjected to apartheid discrimination. And I’m aware that if I am to be accepted in polite, liberal society I should keep my mouth shut and just agree – Israel bad, Arabs good.
But in all conscience I can’t. I need to know why so many Irish politicians and groups are only “pro-Palestinian” “against Israel”, as it were, and say, not Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan or the Arab League?
I emailed queries to both the TUI and Labour Youth and, at time of writing, am awaiting a reply. There are, however, a few politicians who are not in the Bash-Israel brigade and I spoke to a couple this week, just to reassure myself that I wasn’t completely bonkers.
Labour TD Joanna Tuffy said; “I agree with your premise, Israel is singled out for more than just criticism but demonisation ... I think the right approach is to be a critical friend of Israel, to be an honest broker, supportive of both sides in this conflict, but it’s difficult to take that approach with the very polarised debate, driven by the IPSC and their tactics which are stressful to experience.” Ambassador Boaz Modai seems to be on the same page as Tuffy as he says: “We have no problem with criticism – every country can be criticised for something – but we are bothered by the fact that Israel alone is all too often singled out, and treated unfairly when it comes to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
In contrast TD Gerald Nash, chair of the large Oireachtas Friends of Palestine Group, rejects the notion “that Israel is alone in being held up to a particular standard of behaviour that we do not apply to other states”. “The recent record of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs & Trade challenges that notion”, he says. He insists that in his experience he has “encountered a range of views in the Oireachtas and in the media around the issue of Palestine and Israel”.
Hmm, FG chairman Charlie Flanagan doesn’t think so. “Israel”, he told me, “has been demonised by an Irish media slavishly dancing to the Palestinian drumbeat for decades [yet] Israel has a far better and more progressive record on human rights than any of its neighbours.” He added: “The truth must be told.”
Disturbingly, the truth is that a study conducted in May 2011 revealed that, of those Irish citizens questioned, over 1/5th would deny citizenship to Israelis, with 11.5 per cent stating they would deny Irish citizenship to all Jews, and less than 60 per cent saying they would accept a Jewish person into their family.
Bloody hell – what did the Jews ever do to us? As I said, answers on a postcard please.