Solidarity with Syria

Published at the Global Campaign of Solidarity with the Syrian Revolution, this petition in support of the Syrian people’s struggle against dictatorship and genocide has been signed by leftist luminaries such as Norman Finkelstein, Gilbert Achcar and Tariq Ali (how good it is to welcome the latter back), academics of the stature of Frederic Jameson, Syrian intellectuals such as Yassin al-Haj Saleh, novelists such as Khaled Khalifa, and on the ground activists such as Razan Ghazzawi.

Who we are

As intellectuals, academics, activists, artists, concerned citizens, and social movements we stand in solidarity with the Syrian revolution and people’s struggle against dictatorship. Join us on Facebook.

Solidarity With the Syrian Struggle for Dignity and FreedomWe, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with the millions of Syrians who have been struggling for dignity and freedom since March 2011. We call on people of the world to pressure the Syrian regime to end its oppression of and war on the Syrian people. We demand that Bashar al-Asad leave immediately without excuses so that Syria can begin a speedy recovery towards a democratic future.

Since March 2011, Asad’s regime has steadily escalated its violence against the Syrian people, launching Scud missiles, using weapons banned by the Geneva Convention such as cluster bombs and incendiary munitions, and using aerial bombardment. The regime has detained and tortured tens of thousands of people and committed untold massacres.

It has refused political settlements that do not include Asad in power, and it has polarized the society through strategic acts of violence and by sowing seeds of division.  The regime has also, since the early days of the uprising, sought to internationalize the crisis in order to place it within geopolitical battles that would only strengthen the regime.
Staying true to the logics of an authoritarian regime, Asad could never accept the legitimate demands of the Syrian people for freedom and dignity. Thus, there is no hope for a free, unified, and independent Syria so long as his regime remains in power.This is a revolt that was sparked by the children of Deraa and the sit-ins and demonstrations of the youth in the cities, the peasants of the rural areas, and the dispossessed and marginalized of Syria. It is they who rallied non-violently through protests and songs and chants, before the regime’s brutal crackdown.

Since then, the regime has pushed for the militarization of the Syrian nonviolent movement. As a result, young men took up arms, first out of self-defense. Lately, this has resulted in attempts by some groups fighting the regime to force a climate of polarization, and negation of the Other politically, socially and culturally. These acts that are in themselves against the revolution for freedom and dignity.Yet, the revolution for freedom and dignity remains steadfast.  It is for this reason that we, the undersigned, appeal to those of you in the global civil society, not to ineffective and manipulative governments, to defend the gains of the Syrian revolutionaries, and to spread our vision: freedom from authoritarianism and support of Syrians’ revolution as an integral part of the struggles for freedom and dignity in the region and around the world.

The fight in Syria is an extension of the fight for freedom regionally and worldwide.  It cannot be divorced from the struggles of the Bahrainis, Egyptians, Tunisians, Libyans, Yemenis, and other peoples who have revolted against oppression and authoritarianism as well as against those seeking to usurp or destroy the uprisings and divert them for their own agendas. It is connected to the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom, dignity and equality.

The revolution in Syria is a fundamental part of the North African revolutions, yet, it is also an extension of the Zapatista revolt in Mexico, the landless movement in Brazil, the European and North American revolts against neoliberal exploitation, and an echo of Iranian, Russian, and Chinese movements for freedom.The Syrian revolution has confronted a world upside down, one where states that were allegedly friends of the Arabs such as Russia, China, and Iran have stood in support of the slaughter of people, while states that never supported democracy or independence, especially the US and their Gulf allies, have intervened in support of the revolutionaries. They have done so with clear cynical self interest. In fact, their intervention tried to crush and subvert the uprising, while selling illusions and deceptive lies.

Given that regional and world powers have left the Syrian people alone, we ask you to lend your support to those Syrians still fighting for justice, dignity, and freedom, and who have withstood the deafening sounds of the battle, as well as rejected the illusions sold by the enemies of freedom.

As intellectuals, academics, activists, artists, concerned citizens, and social movements we stand in solidarity with the Syrian people to emphasize the revolutionary dimension of their struggle and to prevent the geopolitical battles and proxy wars taking place in their country. We ask you to lend your support to all Syrians from all backgrounds asking for a peaceful transition of power, one where all Syrians can have a voice and decide their own fate.

We also reject all attempts of any group to monopolize power, and to impose its own agenda, or to impose unitary or homogenous identities on the Syrian people. We ask you to support those people and organizations on the ground that still uphold the ideals for a free and democratic Syria.
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The Wall

wallThis review was published at the Independent.

Joshua lives in a brand new town called Amarias. He shares his brand new house with his mother who, since his father’s death in battle, has been “like a pane of glass riddled with cracks that was still somehow sitting there in the frame,” and also with tree-killing Liev, the “anti-father” whose cloying unpleasantness is a great pleasure to read.

One day, chasing a lost football and propelled by an overbearing curiosity, Joshua discovers a tunnel which leads under a wall to an entirely different world – one containing both danger and kindness, and a beguiling young girl. As storytellers from CS Lewis to Philip Pullman know, there’s something archetypal about holes in walls opening onto entirely unexpected realms; and tunnels to wonderland have been evoking rebirth since ancient cave painters squeezed through crevices to make their sacred art. William Sutcliffe employs all this rites-of-passage symbolism with a very light touch, and crafts his novel with sustained suspense.

The new world is not named (not until page 80 is it called “the Occupied Zone”; and the words ‘Israel’ and ‘Palestine’ are never mentioned) – in this way the book avoids being self-professedly ‘political’ – yet the place is described with great accuracy and atmospheric precision. An “aftertaste of violence is hanging in the air, like a bad smell.” The houses are close-packed, unpainted, unfinished. The shops spill onto cracked streets which are “both enticingly alive and strangely depressing.” Those who know will recognise “the mournful wail of a solo voice backed by violins” as the Egyptian diva Um Kalthoum, but Joshua doesn’t know. He doesn’t even speak the language, though the inhabitants speak his.

Amarias, on his side of the wall, with its lawns and pools and rows of identical houses, is clean and fresh “as if a magic spell has conjured it up out of thin air.” Once Joshua has tasted forbidden knowledge, the town, and the fact that no-one around Joshua seems to recognise the absurd ephemerality of its situation, become darkly surreal.

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Ten Months of the Muslim Brotherhood

Sarah Eltantawi sums up a disappointing ten months in Egypt. This was published at Fair Observer.

As I write this, a Coptic cathedral in Cairo’s Qalioubiyya has been attacked by masked gunmen during a funeral for victims of an earlier sectarian clash. If you had told me one year ago that I would be writing such a sentence about Egypt, I would probably not have believed you. It is not that there hasn’t been a long and worsening problem with sectarian attacks in Egypt – we only need to remember the horrific attack on the church in Alexandria on New Year’s Eve, 2010-2011, which foreshadowed the revolution to put this serious problem in perspective. But masked gunmen firing automatic rifles during a funeral? These were the problems, for example, of post-invasion Iraq, or a Pakistan which has been bedeviled for years now by a steadily failing state.

The Egyptian Government’s Performance

The unelected public prosecutor’s recent issuance of an arrest warrant for the country’s most famous satirist, Bassem Youssef, known as Egypt’s “Jon Stewart” (of the popular American television show “The Daily Show”) for allegedly insulting Mohammed Morsi and insulting Islam is another recent ominous event, not least because there appeared to be little attempt to distinguish the two offenses. What has happened to bring Egypt to this point, just under ten months after the Muslim Brotherhood took power?

Before commencing a short review of the Muslim Brotherhood’s performance thus far, a word on the analytic frame employed to analyze the government’s performance. In what follows, I will list a number of important issues facing Egypt, and give a short synopsis of the progress that has been made or the lack thereof. There are observers of Egypt who would not find such an exercise useful in the first place. Their contention is that it is unrealistic to expect a transitional government to have accomplished much, especially under worsening economic conditions and in the context of a polarized country with a recalcitrant and unfocused opposition.

This is how I felt for the first six months. And while it remains utterly unrealistic to expect the government to have solved the massive problems facing Egypt, it is certainly fair enough to note what the government has been focusing on, what the government has been neglecting, and certain patterns of their actions.

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A.J.P. Taylor: How Wars Begin, and How Wars End

Historian A.J.P. Taylor, author of the famous and controversial Origins of the Second World War, gives a series of talks for the BBC on the causes of war, titled How Wars Begin; and for Channel 4 on How Wars End.

How Wars Begin

From French Revolution To French Empire

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Israel: Morality and History, Arnold J. Toynbee

In a public debate in Montreal, the famous historian Professor Arnold Toynbee defends his positions on Israel, from  an Israeli diplomat, Dr. Yaacov Herzog, who unfortunately also chairs the meeting.

The debate was held on January 31, 1961 at the Bnei Brith Hillel House at McGill University, before an audience of students, faculty and news reporters.

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Clive Stafford Smith on the Guantanamo hunger strikes

Clive Stafford Smith on the outrageous case of Shaker Aamer who has been detained for 12 years without charge and tortured systematically. Guantanamo, he argues, is in many ways worse than death row or Soviet gulags.

Jose Saramago: A Life of Resistance

Jose Saramago, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, is here interviewed by the BBC in a Profile episode titled Jose Saramago: A Life of Resistance.

“His novels are an instrument of our liberty. A liberty that includes the right to resist conformity, to resist being sold a life at the price of our humanity; put it another way, to resist barbarism. Always remembering that the point of resistance isn’t to win, but to outlast the opposition.”

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Syria: Across the Lines | Dispatches | Channel 4

If the film is blocked in your region try here.

Syria: Across the Line, Channel 4 Dispatches:  Olly Lambert has spent weeks living deep inside Syrian territory – with both government and opposition supporters – to explore how the two-year-old conflict is tearing communities apart.

The solutionist impulse and digital theology

My review of Evgeny Morozov’s To Save Everything, Click Here, published in The National

In her celebrated January 2010 statement on “internet freedom”, Hillary Clinton chided countries such as China, Tunisia, Uzbekistan and Egypt for placing restrictions on internet access. The then-US secretary of state affirmed her government’s conviction that “the more freely information flows, the stronger societies become”, because “access to information helps citizens hold their own governments accountable, generates new ideas, encourages creativity and entrepreneurship”.

Not long after, the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks obtained a trove of information revealing US military and diplomatic conduct in Iraq, Afghanistan and the rest of the world. Information flowed freely. But the US government appeared somewhat less convinced of its capacity for strengthening society. Access to WikiLeaks was restricted in many government agencies; Amazon, MasterCard, Visa and PayPal were persuaded to withdraw their services; and students and government employees were discouraged from sharing Wikileaks information on pain of jeopardising career prospects.

Internet freedom, it turned out, was not a sacrosanct principle. It failed to resist the intrusion of profane political concerns. As an analytical category independent of political and social constraints, the internet produced stirring rhetoric, but shorn of its obfuscating theology, it proved subject to the imperatives of power as much in the United States as in Uzbekistan.

This disconnect between the reality of the internet – the physical infrastructure, with its platforms, protocols and utilities; its promises, perils and limitations – and the idea of “the internet” – as a fixed, coherent and unproblematic phenomenon that is open, public and collaborative – enables two dangerous tendencies that are the subject of Evgeny Morozov’s To Save Everything, Click Here: Technology, Solutionism, and the Urge to Fix Problems That Don’t Exist.

The first he calls “solutionism” – a preoccupation with spectacular and narrow solutions to complex social and political problems. The second is “internet-centrism” – a conviction that “the internet” heralds a revolutionary era, a time of profound change in which old truths have become obsolete.

You can read the rest here.

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